Exeter Civic Society

Exeter Civic Society

Hooker, Richard

Richard Hooker, 1554 – 1600, Writer and theologian

The statue, which stands prominently on Exeter Cathedral Green, dates from 1907 and is sculpted from white Pentilicon marble from Greece. The artist was Alfred Drury RA (1856-1944), whose work can be seen also at the entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and in other towns and cities. The statue was paid for by a distant descendant of Hooker’s uncle. Richard Hooker is seated holding an open book depicting his famous work, Of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Politie. The base is made from granite from Blackingstone Quarry, Moretonhampstead.

The incised inscription on the base reads:

Richard Hooker 1553 – 1600

A good place to begin to appreciate RICHARD HOOKER, one of Exeter’s most illustrious sons, is to go to Heavitree, his birthplace, and view the public art project, Voices of Heavitree, in Fore Street, especially the highly visible “Heavitree Arch”, erected in 2008 on the end wall of a shop in Gordons Place. An interpretation panels explains:

“Born in Heavitree in 1554, Hooker became an Anglican priest and influential theologian.
Hooker was exceptional in promoting religious tolerance. His words on the arches speak of man and nature living harmoniously together within a framework of divine order.”
A quotation from Hooker merges into the pavement and re-enters the glass arches, before continuing on the paving and pointing across the road.

The words give a flavour of the man and his thought:

If the world should lose her qualities. If the celestial spheres should forget their wonted motions. If nature should intermit her course and leave altogether the observations of her own laws. If the moon should wander from her beaten way, the times and seasons blend themselves by disordered and confused mixture, what shall become of man who sees not plainly that obedience unto the law of nature is the stay of the whole world?

The quotation, from Hooker’s masterwork, Of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Politie, shows that Hooker’s philosophy, that was intended to cement the Elizabeth Reformation, has relevance today. They also illustrate the quality of his style that makes the book one of the finest works of Elizabethan prose.
Richard Hooker’s uncle, John Hooker (c1525–1601), was Chamberlain of Exeter and wrote an early history of the city. JM