One day in October 1884 James Britten, a Catholic convert and prominent Botanist, was walking along Paternoster Row, near St Paul’s cathedral, when he came across a shop selling a number of anti-Catholic books. Surveying the books Britten reflected that there was no reply to the misinformation and accusations that were printed. Buying a couple of the books he took them home to show to his friends who donated money towards the cause of printing simple booklets in response.
A meeting was held at the house of Lady Herbert of Lea, under the Chairmanship of Cardinal Vaughan (then the Bishop of Salford). Lady Herbert of Lea and Cardinal Vaughan were among the founding members of Catholic Truth Society in 1868, however it had published only a few pamphlets and a monthly magazine. Inspired by Britten’s enthusiasm and energy, Cardinal Vaughan decided to re-establish the society.
Among the first books to be published was the Simple Prayer Book which many readers will know as one of our best sellers! As well as books to help Catholics grow in their spiritual lives the Society published a number of books that tried to clear the suspicions against Catholics which had grown up in the years since the Reformation.
How to get the booklets into the hands of the public?
It was decided that the easiest way to provide ordinary Catholics and visitors to Catholic churches with cheap and high quality booklets was to set up racks in churches which would be open for buyers to browse and buy whenever they wanted. The racks (or Church Cases as they were known) would be looked after by a volunteer, a Parish Rep- known in those days as a Box-Tender.
In 1924 Mrs Eilleen Boland, who was the wife of John Boland (Secretary of the CTS from 1926-1947 and a gold medallist at the Athens Olympics!) set up the Association of Box Tenders.
Mrs Boland was a devoted to her work for the CTS and was a Box-Tender at Westminster Cathedral. She was also the author of three CTS pamphlets dealing with the job of being a Box-Tender. Reps today may find some of her insights and stories quite familiar and perhaps enlightening!
Mrs Boland’s Top Tips for Running a Successful Rack
5. Every Case requires at least weekly care