A further question concerning Robert Waddington, former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music

I just came across an important piece of information to which I was directed by Fiona Gardner’s book Sex, Power, Control: Responding to Abuse in the Institutional Church (Cambridge: The Letterbox Press, 2021), which itself references the 2014 article ‘Litany of Failure’ by investigative journalist Amanda Gearing, who has done the most important research into the abuse of children at the hands of Robert Waddington, who was Dean of Manchester Cathedral from 1984 to 1993. Allegations of abuse were made against Waddington dating back to when he was headteacher at a school in Ravenshoe, Australia, in the 1960s, and others followed from when he returned to England in the 1970s and during his time at Manchester. A 2020 report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was sharply critical of the lack of action on the part of the Church of England when allegations about Waddington’s activities were brought to their attention. I am unaware of any specific allegations of abuse on Waddington’s part towards pupils at Chetham’s School of Music, from which many younger boys formed a statutory part of the choir at Manchester Cathedral (the ‘stats’, as opposed to other volunteers not from Chetham’s, known as the ‘vollies’, from which latter group came Eli Ward, who has made allegations about Waddington). However, as I outlined in a 2013 post, the links between the cathedral and the school were numerous, Waddington was close to the then-headmaster of Chetham’s, John Vallins, and was on the board of governors for Chetham’s throughout his tenure as Dean, as well as being a Feoffee (responsible for the wider body including the school and the library). In this earlier post and that which I published on Friday as the second part of my response to the IICSA report on residential schools, I noted the fact that when the grevious case of Chris Ling came to the attention of the school in 1990 after he had left the country for the US together with several students, including a major police investigation (though which did not lead to extradition, which would have to wait until Operation Kiso in 2013-15), Waddington himself was on the governing body. So a governing body facing very serious allegations against a former member of staff contained at least one individual to whom all the evidence points to his having been an abuser himself (this claim is cited in Gardner’s book). The minutes from the governors’ meeting following Ling’s relocation to the US can be read here.

(‘He’ is John Vallins, the Headmaster at the time)

But there is another detail which I missed before. I noted in 2013 that Stuart Beer and Gordon Stewart both also worked at Chetham’s (they were there during my time). Gearing writes the following:

Waddington was promoted to Dean of Manchester in 1984 where he was a governor on several school boards, including Chetham’s Music School.

In the 1980s, Manchester Cathedral master of the choir Stuart Beer reported his concerns about the then Dean’s relationship with Eli Ward, to the cathedral organist and choir director Gordon Stuart, who reported to the Cathedral Chapter.

I had not previously noticed that Ward’s concerns were shared with Beer and Stuart. Considering the close relationship with the school and Vallins, was the latter made aware of any of this at the time? In light of various claims about Vallins knowing about claims of abuse but not acting upon them, this is another relevant question.


One Comment on “A further question concerning Robert Waddington, former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music”

  1. Philip Ward says:

     I was a pupil at the Chethams, and a member of the Voluntary Choir, in the late fifties and early sixties.  I left after the bullying and abuse, by two masters in particular, caused me to truant virtually on a daily basis. I reported my abuse to Operation Kiso, and after being interviewed, my case was recorded as two criminal incidents against Arthur George, Senior Master, and Donald Clark, Chemistry, both deceased by the time of my complaint.  The reason I am writing to you again is that there is a link from my days at the school up until very recently, in the person of Andrew Simpkin, a solicitor, who was in my year at  the school, and who was later involved in the governance of the school. Phil Ward


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