OBITUARY : Canon Peter Penwarden

Peter Penwarden spent his retirement in a flat with a view of Salisbury Cathedral, sipping dry sherry and sharing his dry humour with friends as he delighted in the well-manicured lawn. But for 25 years he had been a parish priest in south London and for 20 he had administered the daily life of Southwark Cathedral, a building not entirely unfit to be placed in the same category as Salisbury but surrounded by traffic, offices and a market. Whether relishing beauty or working hard to create it, he was typical of the Church of England at its most attractive.

Penwarden's childhood in Devon was followed by an education in what were then strongholds of a moderate Anglo-Catholicism, Keble College, Oxford, and Lincoln Theological College. His long spells in parishes in New Eltham and South Wimbledon developed him as a pastor in the steady, central tradition of Anglicanism: he drew people to dignified worship by taking great care of it and of individuals and by thoughtful, well-phrased preaching. But his real fulfilment came when he was appointed Vice-Provost of Southwark in 1971.

He was a number two who never let anyone down - not the staff under him or the voluntary helpers or the regular congregation, and certainly neither of the two Provosts in his time. Harold Frankham had been a businessman who after ordination had transformed Luton Parish Church. Now he began a campaign to raise a million pounds to restore and extend a great church which had grown dirty and inadequate. I had been Dean of Norwich with a habit of writing. Penwarden kept a busy church going very happily under the two of us.

And he lived to be rewarded. Inch by inch, the historic fabric was cleaned and beautiful thingsadded. A restaurant, meeting places, vestries, offices, toilets, arose between the church and the river bank. Concerts and meticulously organised services for national or local bodies became regular. The consecrations of bishops held there were reckoned to be not only better but also quicker than elsewhere. The choir rose to very near the level expected in much richer cathedrals. And the heart of this life was the Eucharist - every Sunday for a gathered congregation, every weekday lunchtime for those working nearby or visiting.

Penwarden was an efficient churchman. But the Glaziers' Company enjoyed him as their chaplain. Through friendship with him the accountants in Price Waterhouse came to sing carols. People who wanted a good meal knew who would be fun to be with and people in distress knew where they could find a sensitive counsellor. He was more than a churchman. He was a much- loved priest.

Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest: born Walthamstow 10 April 1921; Curate, All Saints, New Eltham 1944-49; Vicar, All Saints, South Wimbledon 1949- 61; Vicar, Benhilton 1961-71; Vice-Provost of Southwark 1971-91; Canon Residentiary, Southwark Cathedral 1971-91; died Salisbury 25 March 1995.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style