This obituary for the Rev. William James Early Bennett was originally published in The Annual Register. A review of public events at home and abroad for the year 1886
Rev. William James Early Bennett, Vicar of Frome-Selwood, who died in his 82nd year, on Aug. 17, at the Vicarage, Frome-Selwood, Somerset, was born Nov. 15, 1804. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated with honours, and where he came under the influence of Newman and Pusey, and the other leaders of the “Tractarian movement.” He first came into public notice on his appointment to Portman Chapel, London, where he soon attracted attention by his vigorous denunciations of ostentatious display on the part of those attending church, and about the same time he published some “Lectures on the Errors of Romanism.” In 1849 he was appointed permanent curate of St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, and collected a sufficient sum to build the church of St. Barnabas, Pimlico, which was consecrated in June 1850, the ceremony attracting much attention from the number of High Church bishops and other ecclesiastical dignitaries who attended in full canonicals. In his new church Mr. Bennett made a new departure in the work of the Tractarian party, and in addition to the enunciation of its doctrines he exemplified them by a revival of ritual in the services. This innovation naturally attracted widespread attention and aroused intense opposition, finally involving him in a protracted lawsuit with certain members of his congregation. The services, moreover, were marked by disturbances, which at length reached such a pitch that it was thought prudent that Mr. Bennett should retire. In 1851 he was appointed to the vicarage of Frome- Selwood, in Somerset, where he devoted himself with the most exemplary zeal to the restoration of the church, and to the improvement of the spiritual anil temporal life of his parishioners. He continued to advocate earnestly the principles now included under the term Ritualism, and in 1871-72 one of his pamphlets on the Tractarian movement led to a charge of heresy, the case being decided first in the Court of Arches, and afterwards by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the judgment of the former being given in his favour, and the latter dismissing the appeal made by the Church Association against it. Mr. Bennett was the author of numerous works of a theological and devotional character, and also of many pamphlets and letters on ecclesiastical subjects.