The Very Revd Charles Taylor Obituary

The Very Revd Charles Taylor (C3 1967-70) has died aged 70 after a long illness. He came to Marlborough having been Head Chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral and was one of Graham Smallbone’s first music scholars. Many years later, when Charles was Dean of Peterborough, Graham was chairman of the Cathedral’s Fabric Advisory Committee. Charles read Theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge where he was a Choral Scholar; and he performed in the G&S Society, including playing Frederic in a production of The Pirates of Penzance at the Minack Theatre, Penzance. He studied for the ministry at Cuddesdon and CDSP, Berkeley, California.

Energetic and gregarious, Charles had a great sense of fun as well as a profound sense of mission and ministry. He was a liturgist, a theologian, a renowned preacher, and a kind pastor to his congregations in the parishes and cathedrals in which he served. Worship in the cathedrals of Lichfield, where he was Precentor for twelve years, and Peterborough, where he served as Dean from 2007-16, had to be the best possible offering to the glory of God. Special services and simple funerals were prepared with equal care for those directly involved and with meticulous attention to detail and timing.

Ordained deacon in 1976, he served his curacy at the Collegiate Church of St Peter in Wolverhampton where he was priested in 1977. In 1979-84, he was the first Chaplain to the congregation of Westminster Abbey where he helped with Precentor’s duties and worked closely with the then director of Music, Simon Preston who directed the Abbey choir at the wedding of Charles to Catherine in 1983. Catherine survives him with their two children, Rachel and Benedict.

From 1984-90, he was Vicar of Stanmore with Oliver’s Battery, Winchester, and from 1990-95 Rector of Stoneham and Bassett, Southampton and a tutor in Liturgy at Salisbury and Wells Theological College. In 1995, he was appointed Canon Residentiary and Precentor of Lichfield Cathedral and in 2007 he became Dean of Peterborough.

Leaders of the many communities and people of all faiths in Peterborough delighted in working closely with him to regenerate the city and its life. Looking towards the Cathedral’s 900th anniversary in 2018, facilities and accessibility were greatly enhanced, new doors installed at the west front, the mosaic pavement in the Presbytery beautifully restored and the organ re-pitched. A Visitor Learning centre was created along with a Community Music Centre. At the Deanery, hospitality, for which Charles and Catherine did all the catering and washing-up themselves, was extended to some 2,000 people a year. The manner of Charles’s departure from Peterborough was controversial at the time. It was raised in Parliament and his farewell sermon widely reported. His obituary in The Daily Telegraph  referred to this in some detail.  In early 2018, Charles was diagnosed with advanced cancer and he fought it tenaciously to outlive the initial prognosis by some 6 years. From 2017-2022 he was Chaplain to the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers, an appointment that provided opportunities for the memorable graces he composed.

After a year supporting a decanal interregnum at Salisbury Cathedral, Charles and Catherine moved to Northumberland and like many ‘retired’ priests, he assisted in rural ministry. On a snowy Advent Sunday 2023, parish priest to the last, he walked to Felton church for the final time and took the 8am Holy Communion service. He was hospitalised when his hip broke a few weeks later. The hip was replaced; but a move to another hospital for rehab before returning home exposed him to the fate of so many in recent years, an outbreak of Covid on the ward from which he did not recover. He died on 21 February. His Honour Judge Philip Head (TU 1966-70), a close friend from Marlborough days, read the epistle at the Requiem Eucharist that was attended by a large congregation in Lichfield Cathedral on 14 March. A full obituary was published in The Daily Telegraph on what would have been his 71st birthday, 16 March 2024.