Gordon Selwyn

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The Very Reverend Edward Gordon Selwyn (1885–1959) was an English Anglican priest and theologian, who served as Warden of Radley College from 1913 to 1919; Rector of Red Hill, near Havant; and then as Dean of Winchester from 1931 to 1958. He wrote sermons and other books and was the editor of the liberal Anglo-Catholic journal Theology from 1920.[1]

Early life[edit]

Selwyn was born on 6 July 1885 in Liverpool,[2] the eldest son of the Rev. Edward Carus Selwyn, Headmaster of Uppingham School (died 1918), and his wife Lucy Ada, née Arnold. He had four brothers and two sisters.[3][4] He was son-in-law to Sir Edwyn Hoskyns, bishop of Southwell. His mother died at the age of 36, leaving seven very young children. Gordon was only nine years old.

Ecclesiastical life[edit]

Selwyn was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, he prepared for holy orders at Cuddesdon College before being ordained in 1909.[5] He became a Fellow and Lecturer at Corpus Christi, Cambridge until 1913 when he became Warden of Radley College.[5] He resigned from Radley in 1918 and was appointed Rector of Redhill near Havant.[5]

In 1931 Selwyn became Dean of Winchester, a post which he held until his retirement in 1958, his death following shortly after in 1959.[5] During his long tenure he was noted as a distinguished scholar and preacher. His churchmanship was 'high' by the measure of his times, and he anonymously donated Eucharistic vestments to the Cathedral before becoming Dean.

He was responsible for founding The Pilgrims' School for the choristers of Winchester Cathedral and the Quiristers of Winchester College and was actively involved in the early years of St Swithun's School for Girls. He created the 'Friends of Winchester Cathedral', the first body of that kind, and inaugurated many improvements to the Cathedral's fabric and furnishings with an ambitious programme which included re-casting the bells, rebuilding the Cathedral's 'Father Willis' organ and restoration of the Presbytery vault and roof bosses. He also commissioned heating and the first permanent electric lighting for the Cathedral, appointing the Winchester electrical firm run by Miss Jeanie Dicks to undertake much of the works in 1934.

The brass cross on the High Altar at Winchester Cathedral was designed and made by leading silversmith Leslie Durbin, and was given to the Cathedral in 1966 by the Friends of Winchester Cathedral in memory of Selwyn. It is made of many small brass crosses which catch the light symbolizing the description of the Dean as a many faceted man.[6]

Family life[edit]

In 1910, Selwyn married Phyllis Eleanor Hoskyns, daughter of Rt Revd Sir Edwyn Hoskyns, the Bishop of Southwell.[5] They had a daughter and three sons, Lucy, Edward, Christopher and Jasper.[5] After Phyllis Selwyn died in 1941 as the result of an accident,[6] he married a widow Mrs Barbara Williams (née Crow) in 1942.[5] Christoper Selwyn, a lieutenant in the 13th battalion of the Parachute Regiment, was killed on active service on 1945.[6]

Selwyn died on 11 June 1959 at Shawford near Winchester, he was aged 73.[5]


Essays Catholic and Critical
  • Essays Catholic and Critical; by members of the Anglican Communion; edited by Edward Gordon Selwyn. x, 452 p. London: S.P.C.K., 1926 Contributors: E. O. James, A. E. Taylor, A. E. J. Rawlinson, W. L. Knox, L. S. Thornton, E. C. Hoskyns, J. K. Mosley, E. J. Bicknell, K. E. Kirk, E. Milner-White, J. H. Thompson, N. P. Williams and W. Spens. (three editions: 1926, 1926 & 1929). "An influential volume of fifteen essays by a group of Anglo-Catholic scholars on leading themes of Christian belief, with special attention to the issues raised by recent Biblical studies and philosophy."--Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1957)[7] Selwyn's particular contribution, apart from his editorial role, involved an attempt to uphold the rationality of belief in the Incarnation without accompanying commitment to the dogma of the Virgin Birth.
Other works
  • 1915: The Teaching of Christ: an attempt to appreciate the main lineaments of the teaching of Christ in their historical proportion. London: Longmans, Green
  • 1919: First Christian Ideas; by Edward Carus Selwyn; edited, with an introductory memoir, by his eldest son. London: John Murray
  • 1920: Theology: a monthly journal of historic Christianity (editor) (published bimonthly since 1976)
  • 1923: The First Book of the Irenicum of John Forbes of Corse: a contribution to the theology of re-union; translated and edited with introduction, notes & appendices, by Edward Gordon Selwyn. Cambridge: University Press
  • 1925: The Approach to Christianity. London: Longmans, Green
  • 1934 The Story of Winchester Cathedral Raphael Tuck & Sons
  • 1936: Thoughts on Worship & Prayer. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (based on four lectures given in 1935)
  • 1937: History of Christian Thought: a volume of essays; edited by Edward Gordon Selwyn. London: Centenary Press
    • A Short History of Christian Thought: a volume of essays; 2nd ed., rev. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1949
  • 1938: The White Horseman, and other sermons. London: S.P.C.K.
  • 1940: The Epistle of Christian Courage: studies in the First Epistle of St. Peter. London: A. R. Mowbray
  • 1946: The First Epistle of St. Peter: the Greek text; with introduction, notes and essays by Edward Gordon Selwyn. London: Macmillan


  1. ^ The Encyclopedia of Christianity; vol. 5, p. 424: Erwin Fahlbusch - 2008 "... Essays Catholic and Critical (1926), edited by EG Selwyn (1885-1959) Selwyn... edited the journal Theology, which represented liberal catholicism throughout much of the century under successive editors."
  2. ^ The Selwyn family tree; Edward Gordon Selwyn
  3. ^ Edward Carus Selwyn First Christian Ideas; edited, with an introductory memoir, by his eldest son. London: John Murray, 1919
  4. ^ The Selwyn family tree; Edward Carus Selwyn
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Dr. E. G. Selwyn." Times [London, England] 12 June 1959: 16. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "Selwyn, Very Rev. Edward Gordon, (6 July 1885–11 June 1959), Dean of Winchester, 1931–58, resigned", Who Was Who, Oxford University Press, 2007-12-01, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u242802
  7. ^ Cross, F. L., ed. (1957) Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press; p. 464


Church of England titles
Preceded by
Holden Hutton
Dean of Winchester
Succeeded by
Norman Sykes