JOHN DENIS WAKELING
1918 - 2004
When I first went up to St Catherine's College, Cambridge in
1939 one of the first new colleagues I met was Denis Wakeling.
Tall and muscular he was one of the most appealing undergraduates
in the College. He was soon whisked away for war service in the
Royal Marines, and it was nearly a quarter of a century before
our paths crossed again.
In the intervening years he had had a period of distinguished
service in the Marines, culminating in the award of the Military
Cross. He had married Josephine Broomhall, a member of a well
known missionary family linked to the China Inland Mission. He
had felt the call to ministry in the Church of England and after
training at Ridley Hall, Cambridge he had been ordained to a curacy
in Leicester Diocese. A Chaplaincy followed at Clare College,
Cambridge. For seven years from 1952 to 1959 he was the Vicar
of Emmanuel Church in Plymouth, and it was from there that he
came to succeed Frank Chadwick, who had just become Bishop of
Barking, as Vicar of St Margaret's. Six years later he moved on
to become the Archdeacon of West Ham and I came to Barking as
Denis and Josephine coped not only with St Margaret's but St
Patrick's as well when it became vacant in 1960. Christ Church
had been built on the Thames View estate within St Patrick's parish
in 1959 and so that too came under his care. Three churches and
a school and 35,000 people meant that he had as big a load as
any clergyman in Britain. These were the years when Barking's
reputation for youth work was at its height, and the back pews
at St Margaret's on a Sunday night were packed with youngsters
of both sexes.
It was no surprise, therefore, when the letter came from 10 Downing
Street to say that he was to be the next Bishop of Southwell.
A coachload of Barking people went up to York for the Consecration
in the Minster. For the next 15 years he immersed himself in the
community of Nottinghamshire, and he made an outstanding contribution
to the life of the Church. The University of Nottingham have him
the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, and he was held in
the highest esteem in the Church and in public life.
He retired to Salisbury, but his health deteriorated and he had
to go into Nursing care in Dorset. Josephine died a year before
him, and it is fair to say that his last years were sad rather
Now there is a glorious welcome into the courts of heaven and
Barking can look up and say, "Thank God for Denis Wakeling,
our honoured friend and Vicar."
Vicar of Barking 1965-1977
Bishop of Barking 1983-1990