A commenter below asked, very sensibly, how the Victorians could argue that the Roman Catholic Church was "novel" in comparison to the Church of England. A quick glance at any handy timeline would, indeed, seem to suggest that Catholicism came first. There was, however, a very different historical narrative available to our Victorians--one that they had in fact inherited from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries . Let's see how my sermonizers explain what appears to be a paradox.
First, everyone posits that there was a "pure" (a favorite keyword) and Apostolic Church--a Church immediately plagued by "corruptions." The corruptions in question were borrowed from Judaism (in particular, the Levitical rule of law) and the older pagan traditions of Greece and Rome. By contrast, as F. Close argued in 1835,
...The doctrines which we hold are derived immediately from our Lord himself, or from the writings of his apostles; the peculiar tenets of Romanism, were taught and received after the canon of Scripture was closed, and its writers were deceased; it follows, of necessity, that the faith we profess is the primitive faith, and that most agreeable to the word of God. Our doctrines and discipline are not innovations; they are as old as Christianity itself. Our enlightened ancestors rejected indeed those “traditions of men” which made “the word of God of none effect,” and swept away those superstitions which defaced the venerable structure of the Church; but all that was founding her according to the revealed God remains, even as it was in the apostolic times. We are not “setters forth of strange gods,” we worship “the God of our fathers.” 
Notice the word "innovations" here, because it's one of the linchpins of anti-Catholic argument. Roman Catholic doctrines add on to what the Apostles taught; the Reformers return Christianity to the original apostolic doctrines. If it isn't in Scripture, it isn't actually Christianity. In the words of Nugent Wade, "we retained our Catholic standing, and the great Catholic verities, the primitive truths and practices of the Church of CHRIST, as sanctioned by GOD’s Word, we removed those incrustations of deadly error under which they were well-nighed buried..."  Again, "removed" and "incrustations": Catholicism covers the original truths. We are told over and over again that the Reformation is not a "novelty," but a removal, restoration, or return--not a new form of Christianity, in other words, but Christianity as the Apostles would have understood it. Some authors further held that the Roman Catholic Church they knew only dated back to 1564.
This explains why the Victorians thought that Protestantism was, in fact, older than Roman Catholicism, but what about the Church of England? Here, the debate rests on St. Augustine's mission to Canterbury in the late sixth century. (No, not that Augustine; this one.) Did Augustine bring Christianity to England, or not? High Church (and Catholic) authors argued that Augustine was responsible for converting England; Evangelicals, however, argued that Christianity had already been established--perhaps by St. Paul, perhaps by Joseph of Arimathea. Granted, things were not in the most Christian of states when Augustine arrived, but that was the fault of the Anglo-Saxons. In any event, for evangelical authors, Augustine didn't bring Christianity--he brought Roman Catholicism. Thus, from this point of view, just as Protestantism ("Apostolic Christianity") predates Catholicism, so the Church of England predates the Catholic Church in England.
 For the relevant background, Anthony Milton is enormously helpful.
 The Rev. F. Close, The Protestant Faith, or “The Way Called Heresy.” Being the Substance of a Sermon... (London: J. Hatchard and Son, 1835), 7-8.
 The Rev. Nugent Wade, Romish Aggression: The Spirit in Which We Should Resist It. A Sermon... (London: John Masters, 1850), 7.