IT WAS IN THE late 1800s that Christian Science began to take root in the British Isles. Among the early workers was Mrs. E. Blanche Ward, whose portrait has recently come into the Longyear collection, a gift of the Association of Mrs. Ward’s Students of Christian Science. This attractive portrait, showing Mrs. Ward as a young woman, was painted by Eileen Ayrton of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and now hangs in the International Room of the Mary Baker Eddy Museum.
Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Ward of Belfast were living in New York in 1889 and there they first heard of Christian Science. So receptive were they to this teaching that they soon had class instruction with an authorized teacher, and were participating in church activities, including attending the last of the annual conventions of the National Christian Scientist Association, held in May 1890 in New York. When they returned to Belfast in 1891 they held informal Christian Science talks in their drawing room. After Mr. Ward’s passing, Mrs. Ward, an Englishwoman, moved to Liverpool, where she was joined by Miss Catharine Verrall of Brighton who had become interested in 1890 by reading the textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. In June 1892, while living in Liverpool, Mrs. Ward distributed Christian Science literature and placed the sixty-second edition of the textbook in the Picton Reading Room (library) , a part of the Municipal Buildings.
In 1893 they journeyed to Boston to learn more about this new religion and Mrs. Ward had class with a second teacher, which was permissible at that time. She and Miss Verrall remained five months and had a joint card as practitioners in The Christian Science Journal from March to July 1893. On the advice of friends in Boston, Mrs. Ward then returned to England and settled in Bedford.
In the years ahead the question of daily supply was often to be an acute one for her. She had renounced a settled income and a sheltered life that she might continue in the healing work and bring up her little sons in Christian Science. When she moved to Bedford, she had no patients, but more than all else she desired to impart the truth of Christian Science to others. “I felt impelled to say nothing audibly but to preach the gospel continuously, silently, mentally, alone.” She realized, as she said in her biographical sketch, that this truth could not be withheld from the people. Within a short time she had a large practice, with many patients coming from London seeking healing and knowledge of Christian Science. It soon became clear to her that she must move to London.
In 1894 she took a house at Hammersmith with a drawing room large enough to accommodate meetings. Christian Science services began the same year in that room. There were many healings and the interest in Christian Science reached to the highest levels of British society. A larger drawing room for services was soon needed and she moved to 142 Portman Mansions which was more centrally located. In 1896 this drawing room was overflowing and Mrs. Eddy advised taking a hall, and opening services to the public. The first services held in Portman Rooms were in February 1896 with Mrs. Ward as First Reader and three other Scientists taking turns as Second Reader.
London was ready for this move and within a year a Jewish synagogue at Bryanston Street was secured through a generous gift from Mrs. Marjorie Colles. Mrs. Colles and her husband, Graves Colles, lived in Dublin, Ireland in 1887 when they first became interested in Christian Science through reading the textbook. Wishing to learn more about this truth, they made a trip to Boston, and in March 1888 Mrs. Colles attended Mrs. Eddy’s Primary Class. On returning to Dublin, Mrs. Colles entered the practice. She was an Englishwoman, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, and a few years later she moved to Monmouthshire in Wales and later to London. During these years she saw Mrs. Ward frequently and was a great help to her.
After Mrs. Colles had purchased the lease held by the Jewish synagogue, friends in America as well as in London, together with a gift of $1,000 from Mrs. Eddy, made possible the reconstruction of the synagogue and its dedication on November 7, 1897 — the first Christian Science church home in the British Isles. At the time the church was not organized. This was done in 1899 with the help of Mr. William Nicholas Miller, who had been sent by Mrs. Eddy to London to lecture on Christian Science.
During these pioneer years of Mrs. Ward, there was no teacher in the British Isles and Mrs. Eddy sent Mrs. Julia Field-King to London in 1896. She taught a number of classes and in 1897 was elected First Reader of the new church. Mrs. Ward served as Second Reader with her. In 1898, however, Mrs. Ward came to Boston again and was enrolled in the first Normal Class taught by Edward A. Kimball in January 1899 for the newly organized Board of Education. She began to teach that year. On this trip, she had her first visit with Mrs. Eddy about which she wrote, “Immediately before, during and after my visit, I experienced a deep, and marvelous peace. Never before had I experienced such an entire absence of fear, and I received abiding inspiration from her every word.” Mrs. Eddy said to her, “Child, I have known of your faithful work all these years,” and she advised her to go home and teach.
Mrs. Ward taught from 1899 to the time of her passing in 1955, contributing through her effective healing and teaching to the growth of Christian Science in the British Isles and on the Continent.
This article was originally published in the 1971 spring Quarterly News.