Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Rodney Bennett-England

We are sad to report the death of Rodney Bennett-England, a Past-President of the Chartered Institute of Journalists and my predecessor as Editor of this Journal.

A veteran journalist who spent most of his Fleet Street career with the Daily Telegraph, Bennett-England was President of the Institute from 1985 to 1986, a long-serving member of the Institute’s Council, and served as the Hon. Treasurer (although usually referred to as “Bursar”!) from 1988 to 2004, and as Journal Editor from 1996 to 2003. From the 1970s to the early ‘00s he was a familiar face and voice at Institute conferences, and was an entertaining host at post-conference parties in his hotel room, which invariably involved the consumption of copious quantities of alcohol by all concerned!

The Institute was not the only focus of Bennett-England’s energies and he also had a longstanding involvement with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), on whose governing council he served for many years and of which he became Chairman in 1993, and with both the Media Society and the London Press Club. He also had a number of books to his name, and was the editor and principal co-author of the seminal work Inside Journalism (first published in 1967, with a foreword by Lord Devlin and contributors including another Institute stalwart and sometime President, William Rees-Mogg) as well as authoring the books Dress Optional: The Revolution in Menswear and As Young as You Look: Male Grooming and Rejuvenation!

Traditionalist

Bennett-England was active in the Church of England, and was very much on the “High Church” wing of Anglicanism. As well as being a regular churchgoer at home in Norfolk and a prominent member of the interdenominational Christian chivalric order, the Order of St Lazarus, he was active in groups such as the Friends of St George’s Church, Paris, He was also heavily involved in various conservative Anglican organisations resisting what he saw as threats to the traditional Church of England, and was a founder of the pressure-group Church In Danger.

As an illustration of Bennett-England’s thinking, it is worth quoting from an article that he co-authored in the 1990s with then Tory MP John Selwyn Gummer: “It is easy to be dismissive of Traditionalists, label their fears ‘ill-founded’ and accuse them of resenting change. Yet the facts speak. The Church of England, the Church of the English people, is being hijacked by a group intent on reforms at any cost which mock at revealed truth, the faith for which our ancestors fought and died, and which even deny scripture. We believe the Church of England must stand firm in scriptural orthodoxy and resist changes which will be divisive.”

Yet, Bennett-England’s theological conservatism was not matched by similarly reactionary views on other matters. Indeed, on the question of homosexuality he was an arch-liberal and for a time chaired the Albany Trust, a charity promoting homosexual equality. His progressive opinions on such topics, and willingness to stick his head above the parapet to champion controversial causes such as lowering the homosexual age of consent, attracted considerable criticism at the time. Being a high-profile campaigner as much as a journalist he was often under fire – from liberals for his Church traditionalism and from conservatives for his advocacy of the “gay rights” agenda.

Rodney Bennett-England passed away in Walsingham, Norfolk, on April 16, 2015, after a long illness. A funeral mass was held at The Shrine, Walsingham on May 21. CIoJ Chief Executive Dominic Cooper and Journal Editor Andy Smith represented the Chartered Institute of Journalists.

Andy Smith