Flowers, Pictures, and Crosses:
Criticisms of Priscilla Lydia Sellon's
Care of Young Girls
Priscilla Lydia Sellon founded one of the first Anglican sisterhoods in 1848 at Devonport, near Plymouth. She soon opened an orphanage for girls, but this enterprise came under attack by some Anglicans, who believed that Sellon's sisterhood encouraged Roman Catholic devotions that could harm the faith of the impressionable orphans. As proof of her questionable loyalty to the Anglican Church, her enemies drew attention to the placement of flowers, a cross, and a picture of the Virgin Mary on the communion table. Sellon's orphanage survived this attack owing to the backing of the bishop of Exeter, Henry Phillpotts, and the support of the religious and secular press, which praised her work among the orphans. This article argues that different religious practices and devotions can produce strong emotions which can divide a church, but it also shows the important role that the Anglican Church has played in addressing social problems.