Tom Paine’s Biographer – Thomas “Clio” Rickman, 1761- 1834

We’ve been clearing out cupboards, and this cutting from The Times from 27th July 1961 was in a book, in a tea chest full of papers, letters, and photographs. Thomas “Clio” Rickman is a great, great, great, great, great uncle. [The article is in normal font, comments in italics].

Thomas Clio Rickman 1761- 1834




Thomas “Clio” Rickman, the intimate friend, publisher and biographer of Thomas Paine, who wrote the second part of the Rights of Man in Rickman’s London house, was born 200 years ago, on July 27, 1761. From 1768 to 1774 Paine lived as an exciseman in Rickman’s native town of Lewes in Sussex. It has been stated in the Dictionary of National Biography that their intimate friendship began in Lewes when both were members of the radical “Head- strong Club “, which met at the White Hart and of which Paine was ” the most obstinate haranguer”. But Rickman was only a lad of 12 when Paine left Lewes for good in 1774, and their close association only began when he returned from America in 1787, by which time Rickman had also left Sussex, though he continued to contribute much occasional verse to the Sussex Weekly Advertiser under the pen-name ” Clio “, which he added later to his real name.

DISOWNED BY RELATIVES.  He had left his native town disowned by his Quaker relatives and with a reputation for “revolutionary habits”. According to E. V. Lucas, who was his great- great-nephew, he was refused admission to a house in the neighbourhood where he had “eight impressionable nieces “. Instead, so the family story goes, their father often entertained him at a local inn. The London house where he lived, as bookseller and publisher, until his death at the age of 73, still stands, though the street has been renamed and renumbered, so that No. 7 Upper Marylebone Street is now No. 154 New Cavendish Street. The upper parts still preserve the original structure.

Tom Paine’s table

It was here, in the seventh house from Cleveland Street, that Tom Paine lodged with Rickman and his family in 1792, “playing at some game in the evening: chess. dominoes, drafts, but never cards” and writing part two of the Rights of Man on a table highly prized by Rickman and furnished by him with a brass plate inscription. The table appears to have been last seen in public at a Thomas Paine Exhibition held in 1896 at the Bradlaugh Institute in Newington Green Road. At that time it belonged to the daring publisher Edward Truelove, of Hornsey. Where is it now ? The late Adrian Brunel, a leading authority on Paine. made many unsuccessful efforts to trace it.

Clio was the youngest son of John Rickman (1715-1789) of The Cliffe, Lewes, by his wife, Elizabeth Peters (unknown -1795). He seems to have been the youngest of eight children; five sons, and three daughters. The twin brothers Richard Peters Rickman (1745-1801), and Joseph Peters Rickman (1745-1810) appear to have had the largest families; with Joe, apparently, having had eleven children, of which five had died in infancy. Richard had at least  at least nine, and possibly as many as sixteen children. I’ve traced nine, of which six were girls.The “eight impressionable nieces ” are probably the daughters of Richard Peters Rickman, because Joe only had, at best, three girls who survived infancy. Elizabeth Rickman (1768-1833) the eldest of theimpressionable nieces ” was the mother-in-law of Elizabeth Howard, whose father Luke Howard was the “Namer of Clouds”, and her granddaughter Elizabeth Hodkin was married to Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of amongst  other buildings, the Natural History Museum, Manchester Town Hall, Strangeways Prison in Manchester, and the National Liberal Club in London, among many other buildings.

“The table highly prized by Rickman”……”Where is it now ? The late Adrian Brunel, a leading authority on Paine made many unsuccessful efforts to trace it.”      The answer to the table is it is is the People’s History Museum in Manchester, beside the River Irwell, about four minutes walk away from the old Granada Studios, and about a mile away from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford where Adrian Brunel’s collection of Thomas Paine memorabilia is kept. Adrian Brunel was a playwright and film director whose career started in the silent era, and reached its peak in the latter half of the 1920s. So close, but still not together.

Edward Verrall Lucas

E. V. Lucas, his great- great-nephew was, according to Wikipedia; Edward Verrall Lucas, CH  (1868 – 1938). He was an English humorist, essayist, playwright, biographer, publisher, poet, novelist, short story writer and editor. He joined the staff of Punch in 1904 and stayed there for the next thirty four years, and also became the chairman of Methuen and Co in 1924.  Rather bizarrely, he seems to have been a Companion of Honour serving at the same time, as amongst others, Winston Churchill, Jan Smuts, Lilian Baylis, John Buchan, Frederick Delius, and Lady Astor. The Verrall in the name is the clue, and his great, great uncle and aunt  must also have been Richard Peters Rickman (1745-1801), and his wife Mary Verrall, or great great great granny and grandpa.

ADDITIONAL PUZZLES There are two further Rickman puzzles which the bicentenary of his birth may be an appropriate moment to discuss. What E. V. Lucas rightly called Clio Rickman’s ” finest poetic achievement “ is the epitaph on the scholarly brewer Thomas Tipper which may be seen, excellently preserved, on his tombstone in Newhaven churchyard. This epitaph was greatly admired by Charles Lamb but, according to Thomas Moore’s account (in his Diary) of the “singular dinner party “ at which he heard Lamb recite it on April 4, 1823, in the presence of Coleridge and Wordsworth. he misquoted the fourth line from the end. What Rickman wrote in 1785 was this: “He played through Life a varied comic part, And knew immortal Hudibras by heart.” Lamb changed the original to this: “He well performed the husband’s, father’s part, And knew immortal Hudibras by heart,”  thus spoiling one of Clio’s best lines.

ODD COINCIDENCE The other conundrum which awaits solution arises from a letter written by Rickman to his friend the surgeon Edward Dixon on December 23, 1829, the original of which has been discovered bound up with the copy of Rickman’s Life of Thomas Paine which now belongs to Mrs. Perceval Lucas, widow of another of Clio’s great- great-nephews, to whom I am indebted for her kindness in showing it to me. In this moving but hurriedly penned letter, Clio appealed to his friend on behalf of a poor man called if I have accurately deciphered the writing, ” Telford “, who was “severely ill “ and whose family, two days before Christmas, were ” literally starving”.  By what is presumably only an odd coincidence, John Rickman, the “inventor” of the census, was an intimate friend of Thomas Telford, the famous engineer, but the poor man for whom Clio was begging Edward Dixon’s “kindness, skill, assistance and friendship” can hardly have been that great and wealthy man. Who then was ” poor Telford “ ?

Mrs. Perceval Lucas, is Edward Lucas’s sister in law, and is a third cousin by marriage, probably three times removed. Perceval Lucas (1879-1916) played an important part in the revival of morris dancing in the early twentieth century, and edited the first two editions of “The Journal of the English Folk Dance Society” in 1914, and 1915. Even so, that didn’t stop him enlisting in 1914, being commissioned in the Infantry in 1915, and dying of his wounds in France in July 1916. Perceval and Madeline Lucas were the models for D.H.Lawrence’s characters Winifred  and Egbert in his short story “England, My England” first published in 1915. ” John Rickman, the ‘inventor’ of the census” is a more distant Rickman cousin we’ll come to separately.

IMPOSING LIST Hardly less puzzling is the fact that in 1803 Clio was able to obtain nearly 600 eminent subscribers for the two volumes of his collected verse, which he modestly but only too truly called Poetical Scraps.

Thomas Jefferson

The imposing list of the eminent, headed by the Prince of Wales and including the President of the United States, and, not least, Mrs. Fitzherbert (who had befriended Rickman when he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in 1792) is certainly more enthralling than the very minor verse itself.

Perhaps the most remarkable item is the “free translation” of the “Marseillaise “ which Rickman made in France in 1792 after he had escaped from England and from imprisonment:

Haste, ye noble sons of France

See, the glorious days advance:

Tyrants, and their slavish train,

Raise the bloody flag in vain.

Tuileries gardens

“Occasional” poet seems indeed the apt name for one who admitted having first written his “Picture of Paris ” (” Dirt and splendour here combine, All that’s filthy, all that’s fine “) in pencil on a statue in the Tuileries and an unpleasant attack on Portsmouth with a diamond on an inn window in that “filthy” town itself. In pleasanter vein, some ” pastoral verses “ written at Barcombe Mills on the river near Lewes when he was a boy, go admirably to the tune of  “The Lass of Richmond Hill “, and may well have pleased the then owner of ” Glyndebourne” who was another of Rickman’s distinguished supporters and subscribers.

I rather love the idea of graffitiing poems onto statues, kind of like a poetic Banksy, and also “modestly but only too truly called Poetical Scraps” is a very back-handed compliment, but does make one rather want to seek out the poems.  Maria Fitzherbert (1756-1837) was a mistress of the prince of Wales, and went through a form of marriage to the future Prince Regent on 15 December 1785, in the drawing room of her house in Park Street, Mayfair. She was twenty eight, and twice widowed, he was twenty three. The marriage was considered invalid under the Royal Marriages Act 1772 because it had not been approved by King George III and the Privy Council, and she was a Catholic. The relationship lasted almost ten years.

The Roper Parkingtons: the early years

John Roper Parkington

There has always been a certain amount of mystery about John Roper Parkington. His Catholic Who’s Who entry (1908)  tells us “He was the son of John Weldon Parkington, and received his education at private schools in England and France.”  This has always seemed slightly curious, and a rather convenient way of side-stepping questions about his background. It gives the appearance of some limited pedigree, and a quite clever explanation of why he didn’t attend an English public school whilst still giving the impression of a certain gentility. His entry also says “Sir Roper Parkington was a convert to the Church,”  So depending on when that happened he should really be showing up in the records of either CofE or Catholic public schools of which there were beginning to be quite a few in 1850, except of course he “received his education at private schools in England and France.” 

Marie-Louise Roper Parkington is rather easier to trace back.  This post is really about what we know so far about both their early lives, up to about 1881 where they have been married eight years,  and all four children had been born. The year 1881 was also the year their son Silvester John had died aged four.

The Roper Parkingtons are easy to place in 1881. They clearly appear in the UK census, and are living in Surbiton in a house called South Bank Lodge. Clearly doing well, by this point JRP is calling himself a wine shipper. The household includes two nurses for the three girls, a cook and housemaid, and a gardener and his wife. Oakhill, the part of Surbiton they are in is a leafy, well-to-do area, about 10 miles from central London, but connected to London by the railway which had arrived as early as 1838.

The Gables, Surbiton. This was the house next door to South Bank Lodge

So both of them doing very well, but how did they get there, and what’s true and what needs to be taken with a pinch of salt?  Neither of them are particularly accurate about their ages in the census returns. By 1881, he has knocked two years off his age which he keeps up for the rest of his life. She has knocked four years off hers, she ages somewhat in the 1890’s so she claims to be fifty in the 1901 census rather than fifty two, but the anti-ageing process kicks in again in the 1900’s so she only ages eight years that decade claiming to be fifty eight in 1911.

So what’s actually true?

He consistently states on his census returns that he was born in Ipswich, in Suffolk, and there is a record in the England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index for the second quarter [April – June] of 1843 of a John Roper Parkington’s birth being registered in Ipswich.

Civil Birth Index 1843

As we’ll see slightly later, this will more likely be the registration district that covers  Mendlesham,in Suffolk, about twenty miles north of Ipswich.

Marie Louise Roper Parkington (nee Silvester) is also consistent in stating she was born in Stone, Staffordshire, and again there is a record in the England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index for the first quarter of 1849 of a Marie Louise Silvester’s birth being registered in Stone.

Civil Registration Birth Index 1849

So we appear to have both of them outside London. Him in Suffolk, and her in Staffordshire.

Bar Convent, York

She is easy to track from then on. Her father Abraham Sims Silvester is living in Stone, Staffordshire. He lists his occupation as a drapery manufacturer ” employing 60 heads” so running a substantial business. Abraham Silvester is sufficiently prosperous to send all his children to boarding schools with both Edward, and Louis, Marie Louise’s elder brothers going to Stonyhurst [founded in 1593].  She herself was sent to the Bar Convent in York. It claims to be the oldest surviving Roman Catholic convent in England, established in 1686. Their sister Elizabeth seems to have been educated by Benedictine nuns at Oulton Abbey, near Stone. So all of the children at absolutely blue-chip Catholic schools, well possibly not Elizabeth.

By 1861, Abraham Silvester has switched from drapery to shoe manufacture, or possibly  just extended the business to include shoe manufacture as well; and then by 1871, the family has moved to London. On the 1871 census, Abraham Silvester is describing himself as a “member of the Stock Exchange” and entertainingly Great,Great,Great Granny Silvester is described as a “stockbroker’s wife”. She doesn’t bother with a profession when he’s manufacturing things.

So, in 1871, they are in Chiswick, at no.6, The Terrace, Turnham Green. Now Turnham Green Terrace. The house is also called Stanhope Lodge, (no.6, the Terrace). It must have been demolished, because the current no.6 Turnham Green Terrace is currently Charlotte’s Bistro, with flats above in a very typical late Victorian terrace. Certainly not grand enough for Abraham, Mary, and two adult children, and a servant.

Turnham Green was regarded as a separate village from “old” Chiswick which was the area on the river surrounding St Nicholas’s church, and it was rapidly changing from a village outside London into an almost connected suburb as London expanded hugely, and spread outwards. To quote from “”:


Turnham Green

“Little business was carried on in 1832 at Turnham Green, where many Londoners had country homes or lived in retirement. In 1845 it was thought that the scattered houses around the common, where there were already a few terraces, presented a welcome variety after the unbroken line of building along the road from London, although the common would benefit from inclosure and planting….The opening of railway stations in 1869 confirmed the importance of the area along the high road. From 1871 a furniture depository overlooked Turnham Green common, which by 1876 was surrounded by shops and houses, giving the place a ‘modern look’.”

So the Silvesters are doing well, and living in some style on the outskirts of London, but crucially the railway had arrived two years earlier, allowing train travel into central London.

John Roper Parkington is harder work. Much, much, harder work.

Tracing both of them back from 1881 the next solid detail is actually a newspaper notice from forty two years later in 1923 celebrating their Golden Wedding. “ROPER-PARKINGTON—SILVESTER.—At the Church of Our Lady of Grace, Chiswick, W., on June 21st, 1873, by the Rev. F. Doherty, MR., assisted by the Very Rev. Abbot Burder,   J. Roper-Parkington, J.P., of Melbourne House, Chiswick, to Marie Louise, daughter of the late A. Sims Silvester, Esq., of Stanhope Lodge. Chiswick, and of the Stock Exchange.” It’s a copy of the original marriage notice in the Tablet, and places them both in Chiswick. Her, in Turnham Green Terrace, and him, literally at the end of the road, on the corner of South Parade, and what is now the Avenue, though in 1873 yet to be developed. Melbourne House is still standing, and when last on the market was described as follows:

Melbourne House, Chiswick

“Built in 1794 by John Bedford, Melbourne House is one of the oldest surviving houses in Chiswick. It has been lovingly restored throughout although the original layout has gone relatively unchanged. Beautiful high ceilings, large sash windows, original features and an incredible garden all make this a superb and highly sought after property.    Accommodation:
Reception room, dining room, family room, master bedroom suite with his and hers dressing rooms, en suite bathroom and private dressing room, 5 further bedrooms, 3 further bathrooms, kitchen/breakfast room, cloakroom, utility room, vast garden, off street parking.”

It sold for just over £ 5m. in 2012, though I suspect that the house was either rented, or on a fairly short lease, but still not a bad start to married life. All the children were born in Chiswick, so we can probably assume they were born in Melbourne House, and moved to Surbiton after Aunt Irene was born in June 1878.

So in 1873, John Roper Parkington was well-off, already a magistrate [at least according to the notice from 1923, but with the caveat that his grasp on dates can be hazy].  JR Parkington & Co. has been in business five years, it was established in 1868. At the time of their marriage he is thirty years old, and she is twenty four. They marry at  St Mary’s Church, as it then was. It is now Our Lady of Grace, and St Edward, having been rebuilt in the 1880’s, but still on the same site, – the corner of Duke’s Avenue and Chiswick High Road.  My guess is that this is the point that he converted to Catholicism.

The next record takes us back only another two years to 1871, but it adds to, rather than solves, the mystery. In 1871, the census records a “J R Parkington, 28, Wine Merchant, Ipswich, Suffolk,” living at 18 Clark Street, in Mile End Old Town. He is listed as the stepson of  “M Howell, 60, retired officer Customs [born] Wexford, Ireland” who is the head of the household, and his wife “E H Howell 49, Suffolk”, and a nineteen year old servant Cath Horrigan.

Clark Street is firmly in the East End, running roughly parallel with Whitechapel Road, and Commercial Road. It’s about a mile and a half north of the London Docks, and on the eastern fringes of Whitechapel. It’s not classic Dickensian  “rookeries” i.e absolute slums. It’s more respectable than that. Charles Booth, the English social researcher who mapped poverty levels almost twenty years later described Clark Street as “Mixed. Some comfortable, others poor.”. Poor in the context of 1889 was a family living on 18s. to 21s. Comfortable was as high as Booth’s classification of  “F Higher class labour and the best paid of the artisans. Earnings exceed 30s per week. Foremen are included, city warehousemen of the better class and first hand lightermen; they are usually paid for responsibility and are men of good character and much intelligence.”. That was twenty years later, and the area could , and almost certainly would, have changed, but it is firmly a mixed working class district.

The Howells are unusual,both in occupying the whole house; which appears to be a flat-fronted three storey Victorian terraced house, with probably two rooms on each floor, and a kitchen/scullery extension on the ground floor. They also have a servant, unlike the neighbours who in some cases are servants. In 1871, most all the surrounding houses are shared by a number of families, and the professions range from a schoolmistress, wool machinist, bricklayer, draper’s porter, engine fitter, waistcoat maker to a master bricklayer “employing four men”  to a out of work labourer

The range of neighbours in 1861 is largely similar, including a cooper, a cigar maker. Next door at no. 19 are four separate households with a dock labourer,  the wonderfully named Allen Allen, a tailor from Essex, a lighterman, and a seamstress, whilst next door to them are a dairywoman, and her son, and a silk weaver and a grocer next to them. At no.18 are Michael Howell, 50, Head. Officer in HM Customs, Ireland. Elizabeth Howell, 37, wife, Suffolk, Rendlesham, James(sic)  R Parkington 17 stepson wine merchant clerk Suffolk, Ipswich, and Fanny Roper 35 sister Suffolk ,Mendlesham,”

So we appear to have John Roper Parkington living in the East End for at least a decade between 1861 and 1871 on the fringes of Dockland. The ages are just about right [17 in 1861, and correctly, 28 in 1871]. The profession is right, and by 1871, he had established JR Parkington & Co a couple of years earlier; and the birthplace is right.

This had been a brick wall for ages, and I am very grateful to Peter Agius for some sleuthing where he came up with the next records.

St Anne, Limehouse

On the 31st May 1842, a  John Wilden Parkington and  Elizabeth Rooper”  got married at St Anne, Limehouse. I like the circularity of this because it is where both Roger Purssell (1783-1861) and Charlotte Peachey (1789-1886) were christened, and then later married in 1810. It was also where all their children were christened between 1811 and 1831, starting when Aunt Charlotte was christened, and finishing with Great, Great Grandpa Alfred [Purssell] the youngest  son.

This must almost certainly be JRP’s parents, but it’s just as frustrating. Up until now we had nothing on John Weldon Parkington, apart from the fact he had a son. Now, at least, we know he must have been born before 31st May 1821, because he was “of full age” ,and that his father was called Thomas Parkington [who according to their marriage licence had “died”. No other profession. Her father is John Roper, who is a “victualler” , so running a pub.

The next record that comes up is the census for 1851, where John Roper, aged fifty-five is living in Hunston, Suffolk with his wife Elizabeth [57], twenty-five year old daughter Frances, and a seven year-old grandson J R Parkington. John Roper is described as a “farm bailiff”. All the Ropers were born in Mendlesham, Suffolk, about eleven miles east of Hunston. Ipswich, where JRP was born, or his birth was registered, is about sixteen miles due south. There are too many elements in this for it not to be true. The Roper surname becoming a middle name is standard practice in families, Frances Roper, then aged thirty-five, is living with Michael, and Elizabeth Howell, and her son “James(sic)  R Parkington 17″  in Mile End in 1861. We also have a record of Michael Howell and Elizabeth Ann Parkington marrying in the autumn of 1849 in the Stepney registration district which includes Mile End Old Town.

So, we’ve tracked down JRP, his mother, step-father, maternal grand-parents, aunt, and had a glimpse of his father, and grandfather.

None of this explains how an East End boy gets together with a West End girl within eighteen months of moving to Chiswick, or where his money comes from, or whether he is hiding his background, and if so from whom?

Bishop of Emmaus, (Right Rev. the Hon. Algernon C. Stanley) 1843 – 1928

The starting point for an interest in  the Bishop of Emmaus was that he was the principal celebrant at Aunt Edythe and Uncle Charles (Cary-Elwes)’s wedding in 1897. But pretty rapidly, the more one looks at the Stanleys,  it becomes clear that they are from the look of it absolutely bonkers in a very English upper-class way.

According to the Catholic Who’s Who 1908.   The Right Rev. the Hon. Algernon C. Stanley was born in 1843, the fourth son of 2nd Lord Stanley of Alderley; [he was also the great uncle of Clementine Churchill, and a great great uncle to the Mitfords]. He was educated at Harrow, Rugby, and Trinity College, Cambridge (M.A.); formerly Anglican incumbent of Holy Cross Church, N.W (1);  having become a Catholic, he studied in Rome, where he was ordained; nominated Dom(estic). Prel(ate). to Leo XIII and Protonotary Apostolic; attached to St James’s, Spanish Place, 1883-93, subsequently settling in Rome for a further ten years. After his consecration there he returned to London for a year as Bishop-Auxiliary to Cardinal Vaughan; but since 1904 he has again been resident in the Eternal City. The Bishop is a nephew of Dean Stanley, the famous Broad Churchman, to whom Disraeli wittily remarked ” No dogmas, no Deans ”  [ I have absolutely no idea why this is the vaguest bit witty]; and of Miss Mary Stanley, a convert to the Catholic Church, who devoted her life to the love and service of the poor. Of the Bishop’s brothers, the late Lord Stanley became a Mohammedan, 

Alderley Park

[Henry Edward John Stanley, 3rd Baron Stanley of Alderley  he converted to Islam In 1862 and may have adopted the name Abdul Rahman. Lord Stanley was the first Muslim member of the House of Lords, inheriting his titles in 1869 upon the death of his father As a Muslim, he apparently ordered the closure of all public houses on his estate in Nether Alderley, south of Alderley Edge. He died and was buried on two of the most auspicious dates in the Muslim calendar, 21 and 25 Ramadan (11 and 15 December 1903 respectively).

Liverpool Mosque c.1890

He was buried according to Muslim rites in unconsecrated ground in the garden of the Dower House on his family’s estate, Alderley Park, at Nether Alderley, Cheshire. The chief mourner at his burial was the First Secretary to the Ottoman Embassy in London. Islamic prayers were recited over his grave by the embassy’s Imam. A Janaza service in memory of the deceased was held at the Liverpool Mosque,]


Edward Lyulph Stanley

and the present peer is the great opponent of Catholic education.  [the present peer: Edward Lyulph Stanley, 4th Baron Sheffield, 4th Baron Stanley of Alderley and 3rd Baron Eddisbury PC (1839 – 1925) was an English peer. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1910.]

The Bishop is, moreover, the uncle of Earl Russell, whose quarrel with Christian marriage-laws is well known. [His sister Katharine was the mother of Bertrand Russell.]  The talents of the Stanleys are conspicuous, and the vagaries from which various members of the family have not been saved by their wits, lend a further interest to the recurrence of one of their number to the ancient ways of orthodoxy. During his former residence in Rome Mgr Stanley acted now and again as ” Vatican correspondent “ of The Times.

THE RIGHT REV. BISHOP STANLEY:  A cablegram from Rome on Monday brought the widely-regretted news of the death that morning of the Right Rev. and Hon. Algernon Charles Stanley, titular Bishop of Emmaus, who with the exception of a short period spent at Westminster as Auxiliary to Cardinal Vaughan towards the close of his Eminence’s life, had lived in the Eternal City since 1893. There he was a familiar figure, welcomed for his social qualities and an engaging personality, and in another connection revered by the mendicants and other recipients of his generous bounty. A prelate of the old school, typically English, the Bishop will be greatly missed in the circles where he had his friends and found his recreation ; but to the younger generation of Catholics in this country he was hardly more than a name.

Accademia Ecclesiastica

Bishop Stanley was born on September 16, 1843, the fourth son of the second Lord Stanley of Alderley, and was educated at Harrow, Rugby, and Trinity College, Cambridge;  at the University he took his M.A. degree. Electing for Anglican Orders as a career, he was ordained and served curacies at Kidderminster, West Bromwich, and St. Mary’s, Soho, and afterwards became incumbent at Holy Cross, St. Pancras. About this time Catholic teaching attracted his interest and ultimately won his submission, and in 1879 he was received. into the Church by Cardinal Manning. Conversion brought with it a desire for the priesthood. Mr. Stanley was commended by the Cardinal to the Accademia Ecclesiastica in Rome, where he made his studies. He was ordained in 1880 and was later attached for ten years (1883-93) to old St. James’s, Spanish Place, W. A similar period—really the beginning of what was to be henceforth a practically lifelong residence—was then spent in Rome, where Father Stanley was named a Domestic Prelate and Protonotary Apostolic by Pope Leo XIII. Early in 1903 the continued ill-health of Cardinal Vaughan, whose death took place in June of that year, called for help in the episcopal work of the Westminster diocese, and Monsignor Stanley was appointed Auxiliary. His consecration took place on March 15 at St. Gregory’s on the Coelian, and the new Auxiliary was in London not long afterwards. The Cardinal was near his end ; and although after his Eminence’s death Bishop Stanley remained in the Archdiocese for some months, his heart was with Rome and he sought and found opportunity to return there. In 1907 he was named by Pope Pius X.  Bishop-Assistant at the Pontifical Throne. Since 1911 he had been Consultor to the Consistorial Congregation, and in 1919 he was made a Canon of St. Peter’s. During his earlier period in Rome he had some years’ experience as a newspaper writer. He acted as Vatican correspondent of The Times, and later for the Daily Telegraph.

The funeral requiem was sung on Thursday in the chapel of the English College.—R.I.P.

The above text was found on p.14, 28th April 1928 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

THE RIGHT REV. BISHOP STANLEY:  The Right Rev. the Hon. Algernon Charles Stanley, titular Bishop of Emmaus, a former Rome Correspondent of The Tablet, who died in Rome on April 23 last, left estate in his own disposition of the value of £84,815, with net personalty £84,734. [ a present day value of £24,910,000] He left £1,000 to St. Joseph’s Missionary College, Mill Hill, London, N.W.; £1,000 to the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Cronin, of Oscott College, Birmingham; £500 to the Convent of the Good Shepherd, East Finchley, N.; £500 to the Convent of the Sisters of Charity, Lower Seymour Street, W. £250 to the Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Pietro in Vincoli, Rome; £250 each to the Rt. Rev. Monsignor John Prior, the Rt. Rev. Bernard Ward, Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt. Rev. Joseph Butt, Bishop of Cambysopolis, the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Arthur Hinsley, of the English College, Rome, and the Rev. Herbert Loughton, of St. Andrews, N.B.; £100 each for Masses to the Rector for the time being of the English College, Rome, and the Rt. Rev. Monsignor John Prior; his robes, vestments and sacred vessels (not otherwise bequeathed) to the English College, Rome; his picture of St. Charles Borromeo to the Chapter of St. Mary Major’s, Rome; his picture of St. James’s Church, Spanish Place, W., and a large chalice and paten (and £100 for Masses) to the Rector for the time being of St. James’s Church, Spanish Place, W.;

Arthur Stanley

to his nephew the Hon. Arthur Stanley to devolve as heirlooms to follow the title of Lord Sheffield,and to be retained in the Library at Alderley the large folio Pontificale Romanum in four volumes (given to him by Pope Leo XIII on his consecration as Bishop), the Cross also given to him by Pope Leo XIII, and the Cross given to him by his brother Lyulph; to Viscount Halifax, ” who gave it to me,” his Crucifix on stand by Meyer; to his servant Luigi Campanelli £200, certain furniture and jewellery and a life interest in a trust fund of £3,750 with remainder to his residuary estate; to his servant Maria Pierluca, if still in his service, £300 and certain furniture. He also left £11,000 to his nephew the Hon. Oliver Hugh Stanley, £3,000 to his niece Lady Maude Whyte, £2,000 to his nephew Admiral William Goodenough, and £1,000 to his wife, £1,000 each to Lady Blanche Hozier and Frances Seymour, £250 each to his nephew the Hon. Geoffrey Howard and Herbert Leo John Bliss; and subject to numerous other legacies.

The residue of the property he left to the Right Rev. Joseph Butt, Bishop of Cambysopolis, and the Right Rev. Monsignor John Barry, Vicar-General of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, upon trust for the foundation of new Catholic missions in the dioceses of Westminster and of Shrewsbury, stating ” I request my residuary trustees to remember that my radical intention in making this bequest is that as many new missions as possible shall be from time to time assisted to be founded in the places where they shall be most needed for the saving of souls, and the glory of God, and the interests of the Catholic Religion.”

[By contrast]  His Eminence Cardinal Patrick O’Donnell, Archbishop of Armagh, who died on October 22 last, left personal estate in his own disposition of the gross value of £4,057 [ a present day value of £1,193,000]; this is left to the Right Rev. Monsignor Michael Quinn, the Right Rev. Patrick Segrave, and the Rev. Eugene O’Callaghan, to be disposed of as they may see fit.

The above text was found on p.13, 28th July 1928 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .



St Isidore's RomeThe Church of St. Isidore, the church of  the Irish Franciscans, was crowded on the  17th of March by a fashionable congregation of English-speaking visitors and residents assembled to hear High Mass and a sermon in honour of St. Patrick. The High Mass was pontificated by Mgr. Grasselli, Archbishop of Colosse in fiartibus, and the music was that of Palestrina, sung by the members of the Scuola Gregoriana. The sermon was preached by the Very Rev. Mgr.O’Bryen, lately nominated a Cameriere Segreto to his Holiness, and was listened to with marked attention. It, the sermon, was partly historical and political, and was a defence of the present position of Irish Catholics at home and abroad.

The above text was found on p.29, 26th March 1881 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

A Dutch ” Kermese,” 1913

To be honest, at times it seems that the Roper Parkingtons  will go to the opening of an envelope… Still, at least they’re doing their bit. It’s not quite a grand as the Marylebone Fair in 1916!!

PALMER’S GREEN CHURCH BUILDING FUND BAZAAR.—One of the most successful bazaars—a Dutch ” Kermese,” to give it its proper title—was held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of last week at St. John’s Hall, Palmer’s Green, the proceeds being in aid of the building of a new church and presbytery on the site on which now stands the temporary (iron) church, and which will be dedicated to St. Monica.

St Monica’s , Palmers Green

With the approval of the Cardinal, on July 10th, 1910, Father Heditch opened the mission, Mass being said in the house which served as a chapel and presbytery. In a few months, however, a good nucleus of a congregation had been formed, and it was found necessary to take a larger house, an old-fashioned and somewhat dilapidated mansion, but the congregation steadily increasing, an iron church was recently erected on a plot of land by the high road, and on which the new church and presbytery will, it is hoped, within the next two years be completed.

Father Heditch was succeeded nine months ago by the Rev. Patrick Gallagher, who has now taken the first and most important step in connection with the erection of the permanent buildings, which, if one might judge from the plans, will add to the architectural beauties of Palmer’s Green. A noticeable feature in connection with the bazaar was the generous support given to it by ladies and gentlemen who are not of the Catholic faith, and which Father Gallagher says he gladly acknowledges and is extremely grateful for.

St. John’s Hall was crowded on each of the three days. On Thursday the Kermese was opened by Mr. Sheriff Bower, who attended in state, accompanied by Mrs. and Miss Bower.

Sir John Roper Parkington

Colonel Sir Roper Parkington, D.L., J.P. (Consul-General of Montenegro), accompanied by Lady Parkington, opened the Kermese on the second day (Friday), observing that it was with sincere pleasure they came to Palmer’s Green to take part in the very interesting function which had been so successfully organized to help Father Gallagher.

Father Gallagher presiding on Saturday, the final day of the Kermese, said the attendance on the two preceding days exceeded all forecasts. The lady who was to perform the opening ceremony needed no introduction for she was well known to all and was ever identified with laudable and good works. He ventured to say that nowhere had there been in existence such a spirit of friendship and toleration between non-Catholics and Catholics as there was in Palmer’s Green.

The above text was found on p.19,12th April 1913,  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .


PROVIDENCE (ROW) again – 1898

Providence Row

THE PROVIDENCE (ROW) NIGHT REFUGE AND HOME. —The committee of the above institution, which was founded by the late Mgr. Gilbert in 1860, have again issued their annual report. Not only has the ordinary work of the charity been continued, but a useful addition in the shape of a free soup kitchen has been made during the past year.

In the Night Refuge, every day in the winter months, nearly 300 night’s lodgings, suppers and breakfasts have been provided, free of cost, to the deserving poor, irrespective of creed. Efforts have also been made to start many of the inmates in life again by aid with clothes, tools, stock, situations, and the like. Several persons outside the Refuge have been assisted in a similar manner. In the servants’ home, the twenty places available have been filled throughout the year, whilst during that period in the Boarders’ Home for women out of employment, there have been altogether 100 inmates, 90 of whom have again obtained situations. The free soup kitchen has been opened on three days a week in severe weather, over 600 quarts of soup being distributed each week to poor and needy families in the district around the institution.

This extension, the committee point out, is a fulfilment of the wishes of the late Dr. Gilbert, the founder. In the present year, the buildings are to be enlarged by the addition of a floor to the men’s wing. It is hoped thereby to facilitate the present work, and to leave room for a permanent soup kitchen, a drying room for the men’s clothing in wet weather, and a laundry for the Servants’ Home. This enlargement, too, we believe, is in accordance with the plans of Dr. Gilbert.

Touching references are made to the death of Mr. Alfred Purssell, C.C., for many years a trustee, who was associated in the work from 1860, and who generously undertook the duties of the hon, manager, at the death of Mgr. Gilbert, and to that of Mr. W. F. Jones, the late hon. sec. of the institution.

Certain changes are in consequence announced, which it is felt will meet with the confidence of subscribers. Mr. Joseph Walton, Q.C., and Mr. Stephen White have consented to act as trustees with Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, Bart., and Mr. F. W. Purssell ; Mr. Stephen White has joined the committee, at whose unanimous request Mr. F. W. Purssell has become the hon. manager. Contributions may be sent to the last-named at Jamaica Buildings, St. Michael’s-alley, Cornhill, London, E.C.

The above text was found on p.35, 22nd January 1898 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .


Col. Sir John Roper Parkington. 1843 – 1924.

Medal worn by a Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d’honneur.

The enigma that is Col. Sir John Roper Parkington. 1843 – 1924. [Hon. Colonel of the 7th V.B. Essex Regiment, late Major in the Royal Surrey Militia, a Lieutenant for the City of London, J.P. and D.L. for the County of London, and Vice-President of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, Officier d’Academie Francaise, and of the Royal Orders of Serbia, Montenegro, and the Red Cross of Spain and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.]. This is the first of a series of posts to see if we can uncover who he really was.

John Roper Parkington has been a source of fascination for some time. We have some family stories, though how true they are remains to be seen. But up until now, you run up against a brick wall again and again. One side of the family says the following “ Google him and up comes the Black Hand over Serbia. Why he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Monte Negro is an absolute mystery to me and he was obviously a spy. How much do you know about him? All I know about him from my father is that he was totally bilingual English / French and his Who’s Who entry says educated privately in England and France. He was the absolutely archetype ariviste Victorian, obviously illegitimate, and the first thing we know is that he blew into London as a rich young man of 30 odd. Where he had been previously is unknown. He got the agency for various wine houses particularly champagne Deutz & Gelderman and the Lalliers who owned it was our grandmother’s almost sole topic of conversation, and they were always referred to as cousins. I would not be surprised to find out they actually were.”

Major John Roper Parkington.

“I had no idea that Lady JRP came from Chiswick. I have (I think) his birth certificate somewhere – have you got their marriage certificate? I knew her father was a stockbroker and I wonder where they met and whether he was a rich young man already when they got married. The source of his fortune intrigues me as to me he is the archetypal arriviste Victorian blown in from nowhere. I have thought of writing a book about the multitude of arrivistes like him who made fortunes and then vanished into the dustbin of history.  An idea for you? Without too blatant a name drop, I was chatting to Simon Schama yesterday evening after a talk he had given, and he was saying that the 19th century was becoming a totally neglected period for historians. Perhaps a way of reversing that would be through the study of the achievements of now forgotten plutocratsMy father pointed out the enormous house JRP had lived in in Addison Road before WW1 when he moved into Claridge’s full time as he couldn’t get the staff. He also told me of the agony as a child of having to sit through enormous multi-course Sunday lunches there.”

Claridges lobby

We had a slightly different version of the Claridge’s story; that he and a manservant moved into Claridge’s once he had become a widower. Sadly not true, he died a year before Lady RP. But the wartime stay has some mileage. There are also family stories of them being fleeced by Montenegrin servants at the end, which may or may not be true.

So let’s see what is down on paper. The first is from the Catholic Who’s Who, and the second from his obituary in the Tablet.

Parkington, Colonel Sir John Roper, J.P, and D.L. for the County of London from 1898, and one of H.M.’s Lieutenant’s for the City from 1895; Hon. Colonel of the 4th V.B. Essex Regiment; late Major 3rd Batt. East Surrey Regiment 1891-98 — born 1845, son of John Weldon Parkington; was Ruling Councillor of Primrose League; Member of several City Companies, and of the London Chamber of Commerce; Fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute, and of the Royal Geographical Society; is a convert to the Church; knighted 1902; married (1873) Marie, dau. of A. Sims Sylvester. [From THE CATHOLIC WHO’S WHO & YEAR-BOOK 1908 Edited by Sir F.C. BURNAND ,LONDON. BURNS & OATES, ORCHARD STREET, W.]

COL SIR ROPER PARKINGTON, J.P.; D.L..  We regret to record the death of Colonel Sir John Roper Parkington, who passed away on Monday night at his residence, Broadwater Lodge, Wimbledon, in his eighty-first year. He had been ill since the previous Wednesday. Sir Roper Parkington was a convert to the Church, and had been a Catholic for many years. He was the son of John Weldon Parkington, and received his education at private schools in England and France. For a long period he was Consul-General for Montenegro, and he took an active part in aiding the work of the Montenegrin Red Cross. Among many offices and distinctions held by him, he was Hon. Colonel of the 7th V.B. Essex Regiment, late Major in the Royal Surrey Militia, a Lieutenant for the City of London, J.P. and D.L. for the County of London, and Vice-President of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce. Sir Roper was an Officier d’Academie Francaise, and of the Royal Orders of Serbia, Montenegro, and the Red Cross of Spain and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He founded, in 1896, the Anglo-French Association, l’Entente Cordiale. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Colonial Institute, he was also Past-Master of several City Companies. Sir Roper Parkington was a devoted and generous Catholic, and his death will be widely regretted.

Sacred Heart, Wimbledon

A requiem Mass was celebrated on Thursday at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, in the presence of a large number of mourners, and the interment followed at Mortlake Cemetery.—R.I.P The above text was found on p.19, 19th January 1924 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

So far, so good. On paper he appears to be one of the Catholic great and good, but when you start to look things unravel quite fast, or hit that brick wall. He “was educated at private schools in England and France”.  This just doesn’t ring quite true. But we’ll come back to this in another post.

More Providence Row….

Sir Joseph Dimsdale c.1902

On Thursday (21st September) last at the Cornhill Wardmote, ALDERMAN SIR JOSEPH DIMSDALE nominated MR. FRANCIS W. PURSSELL, C.C., as his Deputy for the year, in succession to the late Mr. Deputy Layton. The new Deputy, who was educated at Downside, is perhaps best known as the hon. manager of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, founded in 1860 by the late Mgr. Gilbert. [The Tablet p.30. 1899]




Providence Row

THE PROVIDENCE (Row) NIGHT REFUGE AND HOME.—The Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home,Crispin-street, E., which was founded by the late Mgr. Gilbert in 1860, opened for the winter on Monday last (1st November 1897). There was a pitiable scene at the men’s entrance, for, owing to the great amount of destitution existing, the number of applicants was so large that quite 150 had to be turned away, through want of accommodation. The Committee were represented by Mr. Francis W. Purssell (Hon. Manager), and Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary), the former of whom addressed a few kindly words of welcome to the inmates. On Tuesday every place in the Refuge was filled by 5.15 p.m., the total number of men, women and children sheltered and fed being nearly 300. The soup kitchen, which was started last year, will be continued in the severe weather this winter. [The Tablet p.35. 1897]

THE MEMORIAL TO MGR. GILBERT.—The Committee for the “;Gilbert Memorial ” to be placed in the Church of St. Mary’s, Moorfields, includes his Eminence Cardinal Vaughan, the Bishop of Emmaus, the Vicar-General of Westminster, the Right Rev. Mgr. Provost Talbot, the Very Rev v. Canons Johnson, Fenton, Purcell, Akers, O’Callaghan, Graham, and Pycke ; the Very Rev. Father Procter, Provincial of the Dominicans ; the Revv. Deans Fleming and Norris, the Earl of Denbigh, the Count de Torre Diaz, Sir Stuart Knill, Messrs. Edward Bellasis (Lancaster Herald), Alfred Purssell, C.C., S. Ward, Charles Robertson. Antonio Sefi, and Herman Lescher. Those who wish to take an active part in the work of the Memorial will oblige by communicating with the Rev. Dean Norris, Brentwood. The monument for Mgr. Gilbert’s grave at Kensal Green is being executed by Messrs. Cusworth and Sons. The work will be finished before Easter. [The Tablet p.36. 1896]

The above text(s) was found on p.30, 23rd September 1899, p.35, 6th November 1897, p.36, 15th February 1896 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Women’s Work for Catholic Prisoners: Catholic Lady Visitors to Prisons. 1908

Good old Great, Great Granny RP

32 Curzon Street W.1

About a year ago a Subcommittee of Catholic Ladies was formed, under the presidency of the Duchess of Newcastle, to work under the Catholic Prisoners’ Aid Society. It has issued its first report, which shows a record of good work already accomplished. We give below an account of a meeting held by the Society : Miss Van Wart was “At Home” last Friday, June 12, when a large number of people assembled at 32, Curzon-street, to listen to an account of the work of Catholic lady visitors to prisons. Among those present were the Very Rev. Mgr. Grosch (in the chair), the Rev. Francis Scoles, S.J.., Viscountess Encombe, Lady Mary von Hugel, Lady Chichele-Plowden, Lady Roper Parkington, Mrs. Arthur Langdale (Vice-President of the Subcommittee), Mrs. Arnoux, Mrs. Pulsford Hobson, Mrs. Wegg-Prosser, Mrs. Allpress, Mrs. Blount, the Misses Wentworth, and many representatives of the Ladies’ Settlements.

Mgr. Grosch apologised for the absence of the Archbishop, who was away engaged in the visitation of Essex, and who had sent his blessing to those present and his good wishes for the success of the meeting. Turning to the report, Mgr. Grosch said that he was struck with one fact, namely, that during the past year—the first of its existence—the Subcommittee had dealt with 150 remand cases, and that of these 150 no less than 53 refused the help offered to them. He felt that this fact must strike everyone, and it might perhaps give people a wrong impression and induce them to believe that these 53 were so degraded, and lost as to refuse the hand stretched out to help them.

But this was far from being the case. It meant that probably through lack of sufficient workers these cases had been inadequately dealt with. If there had been more workers there is little doubt that the majority of these 53 would have eventually accepted the help offered. It is not the first visit that tells—never that wins. The work demands extraordinary qualifications on the part of those engaged in it. From a human point of view such qualities as patience, self-discipline, self-sacrifice were the most necessary. There must be the genuine desire to do this work,-the determination to overcome repugnance, and, above all, a deep humility on the part of the worker. It must make no difference to us where the case is, and we must be ready to take it up whether it is convenient or inconvenient to us. We must endeavour to cultivate the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, who taught us that those we serve are conferring a favour upon us, and we must learn to see in these poor prisoners our dear Lord whom we desire to serve.

He felt sure that if there had been many more workers we should not have this blot upon the report—that 53 of the remand cases refused the help that was offered. The convicted cases were, he understood, visited by the Sisters of Charity most usefully and holily. There were, unfortunately, no reports to hand of these convicted cases, and he had heard that such as were in existence were irregular and meagre. He thought that regular and full reports of the work of the Sisters of Charity would be most desirable, and that we should learn a great deal from them. In the case of many of the prisoners, Mgr. Grosch went on to say their whole moral nature had in many instances broken down long before the actual commencement of crime. But we must always remember that they could never go beyond the teach of the grace which is sufficient for all. We owed these poor prisoners human sympathy, care, and personal service.

Mrs. Arnoux, Catholic Visitor to H.M.’s Prison, Preston, was the next speaker, and she gave a long and most interesting address. It was, she said, seventeen years since she had first received her appointment, and she felt that she was still on the fringe of the work. Her advice to the prison visitor was never to despair. There were so many disappointments, and one must remember that God counts the effort and the earnestness of the work, not its failures. She mentioned, with great appreciation, that since Adeline Duchess of Bedford had taken up the work of prison-visiting, she had by her influence overcome many difficulties which used to handicap the visitor. Until she used her influence in the matter, it had never been possible to see the prisoner without a third person in the shape of a warder being present.

Now it was always possible to see a prisoner quite alone, and it was much -easier to win their confidence and to help them. She had found from her own experience that time was needed to win their confidence. At first they seemed afraid and on the defensive and hard. She had found an almost infallible method of softening them, and that was by mentioning the mother. All responded to that. She tried to show them at first how useless was the life they had been leading : to make them ask themselves in what way they were the better for such a life. And afterwards she endeavoured to make them wish to reform for the sake of pleasing God.

First offenders were as a rule easy to deal with. Yet she had found quite young girls often unwilling to go to a home. She was convinced after many years that it was useless to try to get a woman work before she had been to a home. The discipline of a home was absolutely necessary. Sometimes with a very promising case it seemed almost a a pity to do it, especially when the girl herself was reluctant. It was for this reason that she urged the necessity of having a Catholic Shelter as a temporary home for the girls on remand or waiting to be sent to convents.

A Catholic Refuge with a Catholic atmosphere where the girls were brought under the good influence of Catholic women was most necessary in order to carry out the work. There was such a refuge at Preston, and many of the girls who came there for a day or two often pleaded to be allowed to remain. Of course the older women were much more difficult to deal with, but even with these she never despaired, and she was glad to say that they were able to save 50 per cent. even of the old ones. She felt sure with reference to Mgr. Grosch’s speech that had there been such a Catholic Shelter in London those 53 cases who refused help would have been very greatly diminished.

When the women came to her shelter at Preston they were treated as voluntary inmates and made to feel that they had a home to which they could return. She thought that such a shelter should be in the charge of a matron—a voluntary worker, if possible. She did not advise that it should be kept by nuns. In the first instance the girls would not speak much about themselves to a nun, but would do so much more readily to a lady. It was often caused by their deep humility, and because they felt they were too bad to speak to a nun. And when they were in the Shelter they should be made to feel happy and at home, and that they would be welcomed when they returned there after their time at the Convent was over. It was necessary to be very particular as to the kind of situation they were sent to. It should be preferably near the home and with old people. On their free nights they could then spend their time at the shelter where they were given coffee and bread and butter before leaving. The first year of freedom often decided their whole future, and it was most important that they should have a home to which they could go—a Catholic home with a Catholic atmosphere.

The Rev. Francis Scoles, S.J. urged the necessity of prudence on the part of prison visitors. This particular work demanded great prudence, zeal, self-sacrifice, and patience, to wait for the effect of one’s work. A great change had of late years come over the attitude of the authorities towards lady visitors to prisons. When he was working at Millbank in 1881, he had often heard it said that women were no use—they did nothing but talk. In contrast to this he would read an extract from The Times of that morning which gave an account of the Conference that took place on June 10 at the Home Office. It was a Conference of the Association of Lady Visitors to prisons, and it stated that during the past year these lady visitors who numbered about 160 had paid 3,253 visits to the goals and interviewed 15,431 prisoners.

The Chaplain-Inspector of Prisons had said that there was no prison in which the lady visitor was not warmly welcomed by both prisoners and officials; and Mr. Herbert Samuel, M.P., Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs, had expressed on the same occasion his high appreciation of the services which the lady visitors had rendered in the prisons, and remarked with satisfaction that it was one of the features of the time that the State and the voluntary institutions, instead of standing aloof from each other as they did formerly, were joining in mutual help. He pointed out that lady visitors could co-operate with the State and afford most useful and acceptable help in carrying out many of the provisions of the Children’s Bill. He hoped that Catholics would not be behindhand in this most useful and necessary work.

They were no longer labouring under the disadvantages which he remembered in 1881. Then he could remember that all London was in an uproar because Father Hathaway, who served the female prison at Tothill Fields where women undergoing short sentences were detained, gave a prayer book to a poor Irish girl. She was discharged and sent to Jamaica. In those days the Catholic chaplain received no pay ; he had to give his services ; but now he was practically on an equality with other chaplains, at any rate in the arrangements made in convict prisons. If there was a desire on the part of the State to assist voluntary institutions there was also a feeling in the country that if Catholic societies and institutions were worthy they also should be helped. If we lacked a Shelter for women in London the necessity for which Mrs. Arnoux had so warmly advocated, he also wished to point out that a very great deal of useful preventive work was being done in London by the Ladies’ Settlements which, by holding clubs and classes for girls, kept them from the streets, gave them a lift and thus prevented the prisons from being filled.

Mr. Lister Drummond said that after the eloquent address of Mrs. Arnoux to which they had all listened with such deep interest any words from him would seem superfluous. He hoped the work of the lady-visitors to prisons would prove as successful in London as it had been in Preston. He warmly endorsed Mrs. Arnoux’s suggestion for the establishment of a Catholic Shelter. However good other institutions might be, and however well managed, they could not give that Catholic atmosphere which was so necessary. There would be need of many more workers in the near future for it was extremely probable that the Probation Act would be shortly extended to girls, and the Children’s Bill would also open a new field for the work. It seemed to him that it was a question of vocation and be hoped that many ladies possessing leisure and good will would come forward and assist the subcommittee.

Mr. Nolan in proposing a vote of thanks to Mrs. Arnoux said that the Catholic Prisoners’ Aid Society valued very much the help of ladies, and their civilising influence could do a great deal with men prisoners.

Mgr. Gosch moved a vote of thanks to Miss Van Wart for the kind hospitality she had extended to the meeting.

At the conclusion of the proceedings Lady Plowden’s two little girls made a collection in aid of the funds of the Subcommittee, and Miss Van Wart subsequently entertained all who were present to tea.

The above text was found on p.28,20th June 1908 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .


The Delegate-Apostolic to The Philippines – Gathering of Old Augustinians – 1904.

This one doesn’t have too many members of the family in , but it does have Uncle Edmund (Bellord), Agnes Purssell’s husband; and from a completely separate part of the family great,great, grandpa RP.  Commendatore Agius, is Edward Tancred Agius , who was a very old friend of the Roper Parkingtons going right back to both their early married days in Chiswick. Father Ambrose is ET Agius’s younger brother. We’ll let the Tablet take up the story


Hotel Cecil, the Strand 1910

A dinner in honour of the Most Rev. Ambrose Agius, 0.S.B., Archbishop of Palmyra and Delegate-Apostolic to the Philippines, was given at the Hotel Cecil on Wednesday evening by the Society of Old Augustinians. On the previous day his Grace held a reception at the College at Ramsgate. The President of the Society, the Abbot of Ramsgate, was in the chair, and amongst others present were the Archbishop of Westminster, the Bishops of Newport, Clifton, and Southwark, the Mayor of Ramsgate, Count Rivarola, the Marchese Mattei, the Abbot of Downside, Sir Roper Parkington, Dom T. E. Egan, 0.S.B., Rector of St. Augustine’s, Ramsgate, Canon Pycke, Commendatore Agius, Commendatore Eck, Commendatore Hicks, Mr. Leonard, Lindsay, Mr. Hugh Burns, and many others,old students of St. Augustine’s. After dinner the Abbot of Ramsgate read a letter of regret at inability to be present from Mr. Choate, the American Ambassador, and proposed the loyal toast of Pope and King. The company was then photographed by Messrs. Fradelle and Young.

St Augustines, Ramsgate

The Lord Abbot next proposed the health of the Archbishop of Palmyra. His Grace was not only an Archbishop and a Delegate-Apostolic, but an Old Augustinian, and whilst he rejoiced at his being raised to so high a dignity, he could not but regret having to say farewell to an old friend and associate of 30 years. The College might well be proud of one who, after being the first boy of his year, became a worthy priest and a model monk of St. Benedict. He had watched over the College finances and they had been all the better for that, and later as their Procurator in Rome he had always devoted himself to the interests entrusted to his charge, and with tact and obligingness had succeeded. The Pope had been drawn to him by his care of, and labours for, the poor, and now he was going as the representative of his Holiness to a people of faith, under a nation amongst whom liberty was supreme. They wished him long life and success in his new sphere of labour. The Abbot then presented his Grace with a beautiful travelling clock from the members of his old school.

Archbishop Agius. courtesy of the Agius family

The Archbishop of Palmyra, in reply, thanked all for the good will and kindness they had shown to him. He would be glad to have as many to help him in his work as possible. There were 1,400 islands, and 8,000,000 Catholics to look after. Some sees there were vacant, doctors and lawyers would be useful, and so would a financier, for the American Government had been, very generous. Military men he should only want as friends, for he was going out with the old Benedictine motto of “Pax,” and to carry out the Pope’s policy of restoring all things in Christ. The Holy Father had told him to do in the Philippines what he had been doing during recent years in Rome. After some words to show the greatness of heart and loveable disposition of the Pope, his Grace thanked the past students for their hand some present of a clock. Another present he had received was a portable altar. He accepted the omen ; he would “watch and pray.”

The next toast, that of ” the Archbishop of Westminster and Bishops of England” was proposed by Mr. Edmund J. Bellord, who, speaking as the oldest of the old boys of St. Augustine’s, expressed their gratitude at the compliment done their old school by the presence of the Archbishop of Westminster and the other Bishops.

The Archbishop of Westminster [Archbishop, later Cardinal Bourne] , in reply, spoke of the pleasure and gratification he felt at being present on the occasion. He was a debtor in many things to Father Ambrose Agius in Rome, and his gratitude and affection for him were the motives of his hearty wishes of God-speed. He had been successful in Rome, and success would surely attend him in the Philippines. He hoped, too, that his presence there that evening would be taken as what indeed it was—a mark of his affection and esteem for the Abbot of Ramsgate and St. Augustine’s College.

Cardinal Bourne

Mr. Arthur a Beckett proposed the toast of “St. Augustine’s College and Old Augustinians.” The College needed no advertisement, and Sir W. Broadbent had spoken as to the healthiness of the town in which it was situated. Mr. a Beckett then gave interesting reminiscences of the old school plays in which the present Rector had figured so creditably.

Father Egan, the Rector, replied. The school was naturally proud of Archbishop Agius, for in his elevation they recognised the seal of the Pope’s approval of the training given at St. Augustine’s. Mr. Gerald Flanagan also replied on behalf of the Old Augustinians who had entered heartily into the project of doing honour to one who had shed such lustre on their old school.

Father Donald Skrimshire then gave the toast of “The Visitors,” to which the Abbot of Downside, in reply, said that all Benedictines rejoiced with those of Ramsgate in the honour that had been conferred on St. Augustine’s in the person of the Archbishop of Palmyra. Sir Roper Parkington also replied, and congratulated Mr. E. T. Agius on the distinction that had been conferred by the Holy See upon his brother and himself. [ The distinction was that E.T. Agius had been made a papal Chamberlain (Cameriere Segreti di spada e cappa) that year about the same time his brother had been consecrated an Archbishop. It’s a nice touch because Edward Agius and John Roper Parkington had been friends for almost thirty five years.] Commendatore Eck also spoke.

The last toast of the Chairman, “The Abbot of Ramsgate,” was briefly proposed by Mr. E. T. Agius. The Abbot having expressed his thanks, the proceedings terminated.

The above text was found on p., 22nd October 1904 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Previously it had been announced in Rome that Father Ambrose had been appointed the papal Delegate to the Philippines.


Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte

Father Ambrose Agius, 0.S.B., of the Cassinese Congregation of the Primitive Observance, has been appointed by the Holy Father to succeed Mgr. Guidi as Apostolic Delegate to. the Philippine Islands. Mgr. Guidi succeeded in settling with the United States authorities the vexed question of the Spanish Friars and their possessions in the Archipelago, but many other delicate and intricate matters still await solution. The position of Delegate is, therefore, one of much difficulty. Much speculation has been wasted in the American Press as to the successor of Mgr. Guidi, and Father Ambrose’s name has never once been mentioned in this connection. Yet the selection is an ideal one in every way. The new delegate is a native of Malta: he speaks all the principal European tongues with equal fluency ; but English is really his mother tongue, and during his long residence in Rome he was one of the two English Confessors at the Church of Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte. [ In a nicely convuleted twist, a role that Mgr. Henry O’Bryen had fulfilled in Rome for about fifteen years from 1875; albeit at St. Andrea della Valle by the Piazza di Spagna]  He was also spiritual director of the Roman community of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin, better known as the “English Ladies,” and for some time acted in that capacity to the “Little Company of Mary.” Father Ambrose is a young man—not much over forty one would say—full of zeal and energy, and of exquisite tact.  The above text was found on p., 3rd September 1904 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

And then finally, the consecration itself on Sunday, September 18th.

Sant’ Ambrogio della Massima

This morning his Excellency the Most Rev. Ambrose Agius, 0.S.B., Delegate Apostolic to the Philippines, was consecrated Archbishop by Cardinal Merry del Val, Secretary of State to his Holiness, assisted by his Excellency Mgr. Chapelle, Apostolic Delegate to Cuba and Porto Rico and Archbishop of New Orleans, and by his Grace Mgr. Stonor, Archbishop of Trebizond. [ In another nice twist, Cardinal Merry del Val was a student at Ushaw with Father Philip O’Bryen, whilst  Father Philip’s much older half-brother Mgr. Henry O’Bryen was a domestic chaplain in the Vatican at the same time Mgr. Stonor was.]  The solemn ceremony took place in the Church of Sant’ Ambrogio, attached to the monastery in which “Father Ambrose” has spent many fruitful years. Rome is supposed to be empty of English-speaking residents just now, yet the church seemed to be full of them this morning, and whatever space they left was occupied by representatives of the religious orders, with Benedictines naturally in the majority. Mgr. Giles, Bishop-elect of Philadelphia, came from Monte Porzio to be present at the ceremony. A special place in the church was reserved for the Apostolic Delegate’s relatives, many of whom made the journey from England for the occasion.

Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val

Among them were his mother, Mrs. Agius, his sister, Mrs. Edward Vella, his brothers, Mr. Edward Agius and Mr. Edgar Agius, his nieces, Mrs. Salvo Cassar, Miss Agius, Miss C. Agius, and Dr. E. Vella, Captain A. Arrigo, E. Vella, C. Vella, Major Muscat and Mrs. Muscat with their son and daughter, and Father Cartin. Among the Benedictines present were Abbots Krugg, President-General of the Cassinese Congregation, Vagioli, Ciaramella, General of the Vallombrosians, Policari of the Silvestrini, Strozzi of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, besides the Procurators-General of the Capuchins, Carmelites, Dominicans, Servites, Pious Missioners, and Brothers of the Christian schools. The Archbishop will leave for his destination in about a month, the routine work of the Delegation being transacted in the meantime by Father O’Connor, P.S.M., who has acted as secretary to the late Mgr. Guidi for the last four years.

The above text was found on p., 18th September 1904 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .