Church Focus: Revd. Charles Burney

The key figures to a church community are the wardens who are elected annually by their parish and appointed to care for the church and its community. The duties of a church warden at S. Paul’s Deptford usually extend beyond this. One of the key responsibilities however is to maintain the fabric of the church and its contents. We recently completed an up to date inventory of the contents of the church. The terrier and the inventory are generally published together as the ‘church property register’ and are submitted by the PCC (parochial church council) annually. Furthermore, an annual written report  is produced on the fabric, fixtures, fittings and furniture of the church summarizing all the maintenance and repairs, which can include proposals and plans to carry out any future repair works.

It was really quite amazing putting together an inventory for S. Paul’s Deptford and realising once again what a fascinating and important building S. Paul’s is and has been for generations. I would like to share some of these items and the people connected to them, by publishing a series entitled ‘Church Focus’ each week.


Charles Burney the Younger.jpg

Description: Carrara marble portrait bust of Revd. Charles Burney the Younger (1757-1817) by Joseph Nollekens RA (1727-1823) British Museum. Collection No. 1944.0704.2

Rev. Charles Burney (Born in 1757, died 1817) was a school master, a classical scholar and a rector of S. Paul’s Deptford from 1811 – 17. He was the son of the eminent music historian, Charles Burney and the brother of the novelist Fanny Burney. His brother, James, sailed with Captain James Cook on his second and third voyages and became an admiral.

Music historian Charles Burney by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1781

Burney was a pupil at a school in Chiswick run by Dr Wiliam Rose, a translator of Sallust. Burney later married Dr Rose’s daughter. He moved the school to Hammersmith and then to Greenwich in 1793 where he established a private academy. Many eminent naval and military officers were educated at the academy.

Burney had an important collection of rare books and manuscripts, mostly 16th and 17th century editions, which he left behind and are now kept at the British Museum for the nation. The question however remains how Revd. Burney acquired these, especially when many books went missing when he was attending Cambridge University!


S. Paul’s Church Deptford, Portrait of Revd. Charles Burney

The memorial in the sanctuary of the church records that Revd. Burney was a Doctor of Divinity and a Fellow of the Royal Society, a prebendary of Lincoln and a Chaplain Ordinary to His Majesty (George III).

After his death a number of Burney’s most celebrated scholars assembled immediately and subscribed for a monument to his memory in Westminster Abbey. This, the noblest tribute that can be paid and was completed by Mr Gabagan and placed in the South aisle of the church, between Dr Knipe and Stepney, and consists of a tablet and bust, copied from the excellent likeness taken by Nollekens.

In the varied and important duties of a Parish Priest Dr. Burney proved himself thoroughly qualified and a monument to his memory was completed by Goblet and the inscription was provided by his friend, the Rev. Josiah Thomas, Archdeacon of Bath stating:

In him was united the highest attainments in learning, with manners at once diginified and attractive, peculiar promptitude and accuracy of judgment, with equal generosity and kindness of heart, his zealous attachment to the Church of England was tempered by moderation and his impressive discourses from the pulpit became doubly beneficial from the influence of his own example..

– Excerpts from Rev. Charles Burney’s Obituary, The Gentleman’s Magazine Vol. 125, 1819


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