Walter Hook

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Signed photo of Walter Farquhar Hook
Walter Farquhar Hook
Walter Hook circa 1860
Statue in Leeds City Square

Walter Farquhar Hook (13 March 1798 – 20 October 1875), known to his contemporaries as Dr Hook, was an eminent Victorian churchman.

He was the Vicar of Leeds responsible for the construction of the current Leeds Parish Church and for many ecclesiastical and social improvements to the city in the mid-nineteenth century. His achievements, as a High Churchman and Tractarian in a non-conformist city are remarkable. Later in life he became Dean of Chichester.


Early life[edit]

Hook was born the son of James Hook, FRS and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Walter Farquhar MD, in London on 13 March 1798, and educated first at Blundell's School in Tiverton, then Winchester College, and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated in 1821. On taking Holy Orders, he served first as a curate at his father's church, St. Mildred's Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight, later as vicar at St. Mary's Church, Moseley, Birmingham, and, from December 1828, vicar of the Holy Trinity Church, Coventry.


His support for the ideals of the Tractarians exposed him to considerable criticism, but his "simple manly character and zealous devotion to parochial work gained him the support of widely divergent classes", according to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

This was nowhere better demonstrated than in Leeds, which invited him to be its Vicar in 1837. The city was undergoing rapid expansion as one of the seats of the early industrial revolution, much of the commercial drive for which emerged from non-conformists. The established church in the city was a minority denomination – dissenters were even elected as churchwardens (though some became "Churchmen" during their time of office). In 1842 the elections produced a slate of Chartist churchwardens.[1]

One of his earliest acts was to arrange for the rebuilding of the church, to be paid by the church rate levied by the city authorities; this was in the face of understandable objections from non-conformists, who objected to a statutory levy which funded a – for Leeds – minority church. Hook went on to drive through the division of Leeds into 21 parishes, each with its own church. He took a cut in his income and moved to a smaller parsonage-–but only on condition that every ground floor seat in all the parish churches in the town should be bought by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, "the floor of every church to be wholly free and unappropriated" (rather than allowing pews to be rented)[2]

He fostered the building and support of some 30 schools. His interest in the education of children was not without controversy – this at a time long before the Education Acts of the late nineteenth century, and at a time that such bills as the "Ten Hour Act" seeking to limit the working hours of children were being considered. Hook's insistence on the necessity of education and the duty of society in this respect, to some extent, went in the face of some of his richest parishioners. Equally, his success in his endeavours and popularity amongst the people of Leeds reflect the fact that he reflected the Zeitgeist – the spirit of the age – by re-establishing the interest of the church in the affairs of the people of the city.

The Parish Church remains as a physical legacy of Hook's work, being an early, important and influential high church Gothic revival design.


Hook left Leeds to take up the Deanery of Chichester in 1859. He died and was buried in the church yard of St Nicholas Church in Mid Lavant, a small village two miles north of Chichester in October 1875. He had married Anna Delicia, (died 1870) daughter of Dr John Johnstone, physician, of Birmingham.


He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1862 as someone "Eminent as a Divine. Author of the Lives of the Arch-bishops of Canterbury, of The Ecclesiastical Biography, Church Dictionary & several other works."[3]

A memorial to Hook was built in the Leeds Parish Church, and in 1903 a statue was erected to him in City Square, in the company of a select few other leading fathers of the city. What is now All Souls Church in Leeds was built by public subscription as the Hook Memorial.[4]


  • 1842: Church Dictionary (often reprinted)
  • 1845: Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Biography. 8 vols. 1845–1852
  • 1860: Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury. 12 vols. 1860–1876


  1. ^ Stephens (1878) pp. 118–119
  2. ^ Stephens (1878) pp. 170–173
  3. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  4. ^ A Handbook to the Buildings of the Hook Memorial Leeds (1893) The Church Lodge, 26 Blackman Lane (Leeds), transcribed and republished 2011 by All Souls Church, Leeds


  • Leodis: Leeds
  • Stephens, W. R. W. (1878) The Life and Letters of Walter Farquhar Hook. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley & Son
  • Obituary of Dean Hook, The Times, Thursday, 21 October 1875; p. 8; Issue 28452; col F

Further reading[edit]

  • Stranks, C. J. (1954) Dean Hook. London: A. R. Mowbray
  • Harry Dalton Anglican Resurgence under W.F.Hook in Early Victorian Leeds ISBN 0-900741-60-0

External links[edit]

Church of England titles
Preceded by
George Chandler
Dean of Chichester
Succeeded by
John William Burgon