Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Cleworth, Thomas Ebenezer

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CLEWORTH, THOMAS EBENEZER (1854–1909), advocate of religious teaching in public elementary schools, eldest survivor of the seven sons and five daughters of Enoch Cleworth of Tyldesley, near Manchester, and Mary Sykes of Heywood, was born at Westminster on 2 April 1854, his father at that date being a London city missionary. Cleworth was educated at the West Ham Pelly Memorial School, and was for some years a teacher there. About 1871 he began mission work under the Evangelisation Society and attached himself to the American missioner. D. L. Moody, for whom he addressed meetings in Dublin and Cork. In 1874 his health broke down. In 1879 he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, whence he graduated as a passman in 1882. He was stroke of one of the college boats. Ordained deacon and priest (1881), he served in the Cambridge long vacations as curate of Kirk German, Isle of Man. In 1882 he joined the staff of the Church Parochial Mission Society under Canon Hay Aitken, in 1884 became on the nomination of the trustees vicar of St. Thomas, Nottingham, and in 1888 rector of Middleton, Lancashire, on the presentation of his father-in-law, Mr. Alfred Butterworth. In 1899 Dr. James Moorhouse, bishop of Manchester, created him rural dean of Middleton and Prestwich, and in 1902 an honorary canon of Manchester. At Middleton he organised many missions and 'instruction services' held, after the Sunday evening service in Lent. His parochial schools, on which he spent much time as well as money, were of unusual efficiency. Cleworth did much for the renovation of the parish church, of which the chancel has since his death been restored in his memory.

Convinced that the efficiency of church life ultimately depended on the schools, Cleworth actively devoted himself to educational controversy, especially resisting, during the discussion of the education bill of 1902, every proposal to diminish the absolute control of the church over the religious teaching of its schools [see Kenyon-Slaney, William Slaney, Suppl. II]. In November 1903 Cleworth formed the Church Schools Emergency League, for the maintenance of church schools as such and of religious education by church teachers and clergy in school and church during school hours. Cleworth acted as secretary and treasurer of the league, which opposed with effect much of the board of education's policy touching church schools, and attacked the passive attitude of the National Society. Ultimately Cleworth's policy, while maintaining the status quo of the church schools, claimed that church teaching should be given in 'council schools by a church teacher on the staff, with parallel rights for nonconformists. He was a member of the Middleton local education authority, a member of the standing committee of the National Society, and a leader of the 'no surrender' party in 1906, when he was largely responsible for the great demonstrations in Lancashire and London against the liberal government's education bill of 1906, which the House of Lords rejected. Speaking incessantly through the country, he compiled the first eighty-four leaflets of the Emergency League, afterwards bound in seven volumes, besides contributing largely to the Manchester and London press, including 'The Times' and the 'Church Family Newspaper.' He published a volume on the education crisis in 1906 jointly with the Rev. John Wakeford. Cleworth died on 5 April 1900 at Middleton Rectory. 'In days of fluid convictions and wavering beliefs Canon Cleworth was pre-eminently "Justus ac tenax propositi vir"' (Dr. Knox, bishop of Manchester, in Manchester Diocesan Magazine, May 1909). In 1884 he married Edith, daughter of Alfred Butterworth J.P., of Oldham and Andover. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.

[Family information; Rev. A. Aspin curate 1903-9; Emergency Leaflet (No. lxxxv.) The Times, 7 April 1909; Treasury (with portrait), March 1905.]

J. E. G. de M.