Enhancing Public Understanding of the Cultural History and Continuing Civic Role of St Paul’s Cathedral

Submitting Institution

University of Oxford

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Religion and Religious Studies

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Summary of the impact

Peter McCullough's research into the religious literature and history of Early Modern England led to his appointment in November 2010 as Lay Canon (with portfolio for history) of St Paul's Cathedral, London. Through his work as a member of the Cathedral Chapter, public lecturer, preacher, curator, and artistic advisor he has reanimated the cultural heritage of the church, bringing new understanding of it to large numbers of civic groups, church goers, and visitors — this at a period when the `Occupy London' protests brought St Paul's renewed attention as a place historically associated with intense debate about freedom of public speech.

Underpinning research

A large part of McCullough's research published during the assessment period has concentrated on Old St Paul's in its heyday, the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I (with Lancelot Andrewes and John Donne canon and dean, respectively) and in the Wren period. McCullough's first book, Sermons at Court (Cambridge, 1998) took an interdisciplinary approach to the court pulpit. One chapter examined in detail the architectural settings of court preaching, with subsequent chapters exploring the Chapel Royal's institutional history, using manuscript and print sources which allowed for the first time a reading of sermon texts informed by historical and architectural evidence as well as a close literary understanding of genre and rhetoric. The same performance context-specific approach is the defining organisational principle of the major new 16-volume edition of Donne's sermons for OUP, of which McCullough is general editor. (Editorial conventions, outlines of each of the vols., and detailed descriptions of the manuscripts have been published via the website. http://www.cems-oxford.org/donne/the-edition).

Prior to McCullough's biographical research for Lancelot Andrewes, scholarly study of Andrewes' career at St Paul's had been largely overshadowed by attention to his later career as bishop and dean of the Chapel Royal. McCullough's work on his earlier career as cathedral canon (1589-1601) has provided huge amounts of new material for understanding music, liturgy, and personnel at Elizabethan St Paul's. The new interpretations of Cathedral practices and culture put forward in the book were grounded in sustained work in a surviving run of Chapter accounts c. 1550-1640, part of the St Paul's Cathedral Archive, on deposit in the London Metropolitan Archive — a resource never used by scholars before but containing more detail about worship and preaching in early modern St Paul's than any other. (See esp. `Music Reconciled to Preaching'). Using the same sources, McCullough also assembled new information about the history of cathedral preaching during Donne's deanship, including the make-up of Donne's auditory. Study of Donne's sermons through the lens of audience has revealed Donne's acute sensitivity to the fact that his primary listeners were the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the Corporation of London, and his direct engagement with concerns specific to that governing elite. A major research publication on Donne's sermon for the former Lord Mayor Sir William Cokayne (in McCullough, Adlington & Rhatigan eds., Oxford Handbook of the Early Modern Sermon) explored these dynamics in great detail. The concerns — civic, financial, ethical, pastoral — remain startlingly similar today, and were the sharp focus of public and internal scrutiny during the `Occupy' protests of 2011-12.

References to the research

Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Available on request.


The English Sermon Revised: Religion, Literature and History 1600-1750, ed. (and co-written Introduction) with Lori Anne Ferrell (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000). Available on request.


Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures (ed. with an introduction and commentary) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). Available on request.


`Donne as Preacher', in The Cambridge Companion to John Donne, ed. Achsah Guibbory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 167-82. DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521832373.011


ed., with Hugh Adlington and Emma Rhatigan, The Oxford Handbook of the Early Modern Sermon (Oxford University Press, 2011). Available on request.


`Donne and Court Chaplaincy' in Jeanne Shami et al eds., The Oxford Handbook of Donne Studies (OUP, 2011), 554-65. Available on request.

`Music Reconciled to Preaching: a Jacobean Moment?', in Natalie Mears and Alec Ryrie, eds., Worship and the Parish Church in Early Modern Britain (Ashgate, 2012), 109-30. Available on request.

Evidence of research quality:

The Donne edition is supported by a 5-year (2010-15), £514,000 Major Research Grant from the AHRC (Principal Investigator, McCullough).

Details of the impact

In July 2011, Peter McCullough applied for the post of `Lay Canon (History)' of St Paul's Cathedral, London (a voluntary 3-year fixed term post, advertised in the TLS). The further particulars stipulated a person with expertise in the long history of St Paul's, to bring historical insight and scholarship to the Chapter (governing body)'s discussions about Cathedral policy. The new appointee was also to take a lead in the `Interpretation Project', assisting research and planning for a major new permanent exhibition space in the Triforium displaying Cathedral history, artefacts, archives, special collections. McCullough's publications on how liturgy and preaching respond to institutional and architectural realities were a major component in his selection. His research has informed all his contributions to the Cathedral's efforts in 2010-13 to bridge for visitors and worshippers the divide between St Paul's as an architectural monument and as a living church. His knowledge of the period of Andrewes' canonry and (especially) Donne's tenure as Dean has been disseminated in articles in the Cathedral magazine, talks for livery companies, and advance planning for the contents of a major new permanent exhibition under development. As an expert on Donne, the Cathedral's most famous dean, he has brought to St Paul's a re-invigorated sense of the importance of that phase in its history, and of how Donne revolutionised preaching and the relationship between church and community during his deanship.

Chapter policy with respect to how the Cathedral engages with its immediate geographical context, the City of London, and with the wider London diocese has crystallised sharply in the light of the Occupy London movement's making St Paul's the site for an extended non-violent protest against economic inequality and corporate greed. Occupation of the north Churchyard from October 2011 to March 2012 placed considerable pressure on normal operations and confirmed Chapter's already strong sense of the need for St Paul's to be more effective in its outreach. Led by a new Dean in May 2012, the Chapter undertook a full strategy review, including of how best to make the Cathedral's outstanding historical resources and collections more meaningful to visitors. As the person tasked with interpreting St Paul's history, McCullough has played a key role in developing and implementing the new policy. He was appointed to the sub-committee reviewing Education and External Relations, where he has worked with the Canon Chancellor and other internal and external representatives — the latter including the PPS to the Lord Mayor's Office. McCullough was a lead proponent for appointment of a full-time archivist to enable better access to collections for external users (including school parties) and in-house groups (clergy and guides). The proposal was carried unanimously and McCullough served on the appointment committee. He was been at the heart of the process reconfirming implementation of the Triforium exhibition space (temporarily on hold after Occupy London), and was the first Chair of the Interpretation Committee.

As Chair, McCullough had oversight of the development of policy for recommendation to Chapter, for interpretation of the cathedral (as institution and building) to visitors through audio-guides, training manuals for volunteer guides, explanatory publications, special talks and lectures. He drew directly on his research into cathedral fabric, administration, and worship for much of the latest material, including an extended account of the early modern period written by him for the guides' training manual. McCullough liaised directly with the heads of Visitor Services and Collections to ensure that the information going to visitors is correct and will enrich understanding of the building's religious, political, and social, as much as its architectural, heritage. He was a regular contributor of accessible historical essays, all based on original research, for Dome (the magazine of the Friends of St Paul's; circulation 5,000) (Ref. i). He is also a regular contributor on historical matters to the cathedral website. He was appointed to compose the Cathedral's official `Loyal Address' on the occasion of HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, as well as the historical note for the programme for Presentation of Loyal Addresses by Privileged Bodies at Buckingham Palace (27 Mar. 2012). He is periodically invited to preach non academic sermons, characteristically with a historical perspective, in the cathedral and texts are posted on the cathedral website (Ref. ii).

A crucial component of McCullough's outreach work on behalf of St Paul's involves speaking to London educational and political charities. In September 2012, for example, he co-organised and gave a lecture for a public seminar sponsored by St Paul's Institute and the charity Our Democratic Heritage. `St Paul's Cross: People, Preachers, and Power' was a day-long programme of talks and discussion about the history and heritage of St Paul's Churchyard as a place of public speech, marking the first anniversary of the `Occupy London' protests. The audience (c. 50 members of the general public) engaged in vigorous debate about the contemporary context for maintaining St Paul's historic association with free and open discussion of public ethics. Full video coverage of the event was published via the St Paul's website (Ref. iii). Many of these educational events make use of McCullough's knowledge of the religious literature of the Early Modern Period. In May 2012, for example, he spoke for a Wigmore Hall Study Day at the invitation of St Paul's Director of Music Andrew Carwood, and composer Julian Philips (convenor): a 3-hour public (pre-registered) symposium on the historical and religious context of the music of William Byrd (performed by The Cardinall's Musick, dir. Carwood). He gave an invited address on `Pepys and Faith' to the annual Pepys Commemoration Service, St Olav's Hart Street, sponsored by St Olav's, the Pepys Society, and the mariners' guild, Trinity House (attendance c. 100). The talk was privately published for sale in St Olav's, to benefit the work of the parish (Ref. iv).

Many of McCullough's educational engagements as Lay Canon are Donne-specific. In April 2012 he was contributing organiser to a programme of readings, talks, and music, of and about Donne's writings, arranged through St Paul's Forum in partnership with the charity Poet in the City. This was a major free ticketed event attended by 1,700; video online at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaPkcphHzmw (1,820 views; 15 likes). McCullough wrote the text for the accompanying pamphlet (Ref. v). When, in August 2011, St Paul's was invited to supply a member for a Corporation of London Art Commission Panel overseeing the creation of a new statue commemorating John Donne, to be installed in the redesigned Festival Gardens, St Paul's Churchyard, McCullough was the obvious choice. He helped to oversee the competition to select an artist. The winner, Nigel Boonham, FRSPS, took advice from McCullough at the design stage, incorporating his suggestion to extend a conceit of compass points (taken from Donne's poem `Good Friday, Riding Westward'), including, in carved lettering on the plinth, inscriptions of Donne's biographical connections with the four cardinal points (North — Dean of St Paul's; West — Reader, Lincoln's Inn; South — Married Ann More, Losely; East — Born — Bread Street). McCullough spoke at the unveiling, alongside the artist. (Ref. vi)

An important beneficiary group of this impact is the membership of the London Livery Companies. McCullough has increased awareness among guild members that they are the modern equivalents of Donne's primary St Paul's audience. On 20 September 2011, McCullough gave an address on `St Paul's in the Age of Donne' at a Cathedral reception for the Wardens & Masters of the City of London Guilds (major donors to St Paul's). The Cathedral Librarian organised, with McCullough's help, a small exhibition of Donne related material for the c. 50 attendees, drawing on material from his research on Donne. His talk was printed in the Cathedral magazine (Ref. vii.) In similar vein, he spoke to the Bread St Ward of the City of London in March 2013 (major sponsors of the Donne statue) about the literary inheritance of Bread St (the birthplace of Donne, Milton, and Herrick) — reviving, for the current governors of the ward, a forgotten aspect of their cultural heritage.

Through a combination of the Cathedral connection and his academic expertise McCullough is frequently asked to preach at commemorative services: in Lincoln's Inn Chapel, (Nov. 2012) for an annual service to commemorate John Donne; in the Chapel of Merton College Oxford (Jan. 2013), for a commemoration of Sir Thomas Bodley, attended by c. 200, including Friends of the Bodleian); at Southwark Cathedral (11 November 2011) for a commemoration of Lancelot Andrewes, where McCullough spoke in collaboration with the actor Peter Hamilton-Dyer.

Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of the Cathedral Chapter, testifies to the importance of McCullough's research expertise as it has been put to work at St Paul's: `Professor McCullough's contribution... has been invaluable. At a time when the cathedral was celebrating 300 years of Wren's building he reminded us all, and expertly informed us, of the longer history of St Paul's, its pre-Wren life, and consequently developed within the cathedral community and beyond a better sense of our inheritance. This is vital at a time when pivotal discussions about our future life and priorities are underway. His expertise on the history and literature of St Paul's was never kept to esoteric alliances but communicated widely, attractively and understandably at many levels.' (Ref. 1)

Sources to corroborate the impact


(1). Corroborating email from Chancellor, Chapter House, St Paul's Cathedral, 19.9.13.

Other evidence sources

(i). Sample contributions to Dome (St Paul's biennial magazine): `Cathedral, Corporation, and Liveries in the Age of Donne' (Autumn-Winter 2011); `Notes from the Archive' (Autumn/Winter 2012); `Jubile Déjà Vu' (Spring/Summer 2012).

(ii). Sample sermons. (a) `Sermon preached on the First Sunday after Easter' (15 April 2012)
(b) `Sermon preached at Evensong on Sunday 30 January 2011'

(iii). http://www.stpauls.co.uk/News-Press/News-Archive/2012/Seminars-explore-St-Pauls-connection-to-public-discourse-and-direct-democracy

(iv). `Pepys and Faith', privately published by St Olav's Bread Street publication. (Hard copy)

(v). Pamphlet, `John Donne', Poet in the City.

(vi). Unveiling of statue of John Donne: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/News-Press/News-Archive/2012/New-John-Donne-statue-unveiled-in-the-shadow-of-St-Pauls

(vii). `Andrewes and the KJV', Southwark Cathedral. Keynote lecture in the cathedral's year-long programme of public events to mark the KJV anniversary. Coverage and comment:
http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/worship/calendar-detail.php?c=2011-11-11&d=2011-11- 11&id=5481 ; http://www.flickr.com/photos/southwarkcofe/sets/72157628001726915/