The Reverend Canon Sir James Erasmus Philipps 1824 -1912
Sir James was a Victorian of aristocratic background, a man with great vision and energy. He was driven by his Christian faith to care for those in need. He is one of Warminster’s greatest benefactors; yet there is no memorial to him in the town. Sir James founded the Warminster Memorial Hospital, opened in 1866 as the Cottage Hospital providing vital nursing and medical care for people of the town, all free of charge. The Hospital itself is a memorial to him; but he did so much more.
Sir James wrote a quarterly journal entitled Warminster Work (at Home and Abroad). His articles reflect his passionate missionary zeal in responding to the needs of people here in Warminster and across the British Empire. In 1860 he founded the Mission House of St Boniface in Church Street to train young men to offer their lives in bringing the Christian Gospel to the British Empire and beyond, including China. In 1948 until 1969 St Boniface College became the final year for those training for priestly ministry at King’s College, London. Over 1,100 men passed through the college; they owe their gratitude to Sir James. St Boniface College closed in 1969 but its work continues, as the legacy of Sir James, through the St Boniface Trust which offers grants for ministerial training in the Anglican Communion as well as for sabbatical leave for those in ordained ministry in the Church of England.
In 1868 he founded St Denys’ College, later run by the Sisters, to prepare women for the mission field abroad; he also founded St Monica’s school for girls. Responding to the dire poverty of homeless children he opened Orphanages of Pity in West Street for motherless children. In 1864 the Warminster School (then the Lord Weymouth Grammar School) was at the point of closure, but was saved by Sir James appointing a new headmaster, Dr Charles Alcock.
Sir James was Vicar of Warminster from 1859 until 1897. In 1888 he oversaw a major renovation of St Denys the Minster as commemorated in the fine stained glass of Lady Chapel. In 1865 he founded St John’s Boreham Road as a daughter church of the Minster; he also founded St John’s Church of England School.
What a legacy to live up to, for our town and for its churches!
Warminster in the Twentieth Century – Celia Lane and Pauline White
The Warminster Journal 28th December 2012
The Warminster Venture – David Wilding
Warminster Work – At Home and Abroad 1890-94