John Roche of Aghada

John Roche was a mystery right from the start, and remains so. But it’s probably time to put together some bits of the jigsaw. He’s a great, great, great, great, great grandfather to the youngest generation.

Aghada Hall

We know a few documented bits; from the “Barrymore Records” [1902]  he “amassed great wealth during the French wars, and built Aghada House.”  Aghada  Hall was, apparently, a large  Georgian house designed by the Cork architect  Abraham Hargrave (1755-1808); though it seems to bea comfortable gentleman’s residence rather than a vast mansion.” It was completed in 1808. John Roche was also responsible for building  the Aghada National School in 1819. The house remained in the family until 1853.

He seems to have made quite significant efforts to establish some sort of Roche dynasty to maintain the family name, and the house that he had built for himself.  From Henry Hewitt O’Bryen and Mary Roche’s marriage settlement of 1807, we know that John Roche had at least one child, Mary, and can speculate, probably, a son called John. The two trustees of the settlement are “John Roche the younger, and Stephen Laurence O’Brien,” but by the time John Roche [senior] drew up his will in January 1826, there is no reference to John Roche the younger, and we can probably conclude he had died. It would be likely that family members were the trustees of the settlement, and also likely that John Roche the younger, and Stephen Laurence O’Brien, were the brothers of the bride and groom respectively.

There were three significant beneficiaries of John Roche’s will of 1826, with a later codicil. They were his nephews James Joseph Roche, and William Roche; they seem to be cousins rather than brothers. The third main beneficiary was John Roche’s eldest grandson, John Roche O’Bryen. The total estate amounted to about £ 30,000 when John Roche died in 1829, the modern day equivalent of £45,000,000.

The house and land was left to James, and his male heirs, first of all, and then William, who also inherited £ 10,000, “in case of his not coming into possession of the estate by the means before-mentioned,  I leave him  £6,000″ plus John’s grand-daughter, Jane O’Brien’s ……  £4,000 £4 per cent. stock ;” . Jane O’Bryen, John Roche’s granddaughter was married to his nephew William Roche, and their daughter Pauline Roche inherited their share as a one year old orphan. The final third was John Roche O’Bryen’s  £ 10,000, presumably in the expectation that a male Roche heir would inherit the house and land.

John Roche O’Bryen,  and Jane O’Bryen were Catholic. All their  five remaining younger siblings were Church of Ireland. JROB and Jane/William Roche are the only O’Bryen beneficiaries of John Roche’s estate. The O’Bryen siblings seem to be John Roche’s only grandchildren.

John Roche also left  a series of £ 100 legacies (present-day £ 150,000)  to various sisters, and nephews and nieces, and “To the parish of Aghada, I leave the school-house, and £20 ( £ 30,000) a-year for its support, and also the chapel and priest’s house  I leave to the parish rent-free for ever, as long as they shall be used for such qualified purposes ; the five slate houses I built in the village, I leave to five of the poorest families rent free ; to David Coughlan I leave the house he now lives in during his life ; to my servant, James Tracy   I leave the house his wife now lives in;  and to my wife’s servant, Mary Ahearne, otherwise Finne, her house rent-free during their lives ; and to each of those three, viz.,David Coughlan, James Tracy, and Mary Ahearne,  otherwise Finne, I leave £10 (£15,000) a-year during their lives :”

So working from the above, we know that John Roche [c.1755 – 1829] is the father of Mary Roche, [1780 – 1852] who married  Henry Hewitt O’Bryen (1780 – 1836) in Nov 1807; and the grandfather of John Roche O’Bryen, Jane Roche (nee O’Bryen), and their siblings, Hewitt O’Bryen, Robert Hewitt O’Bryen, Henry Hewitt O’Bryen Junior, Stephen Hewitt O’Bryen, and Mary O’Bryen .  At the same time, he is both the great-grandfather, and great uncle of Pauline Roche. Pauline Roche’s mother is John Roche’s grand-daughter Jane O’Bryen, and her father is his nephew William Roche.

 John Roche appears to have two brothers, and two sisters:

  • Hugh, who is the father of James Joseph Roche and Hugh Roche  
  • Lawrence who is the father of William who married Jane O’Bryen and is the father of Pauline Roche
  • Ellen m. John Verling and mother of Bartholomew Verling, Dr James Roche Verling, Catherine Ellis (nee Verling), and Ellen Verling Jnr.
  • Julia m. ? Enery [the surname is unclear from the transcript of John Roche’s will]

At this stage there are only hints, rather than facts, but John Roche (Senior) seems to be part of the merchant class in late C18th Cork, and the family’s marriages appear, at least in part, strategic. Bartholomew Verling,[the non-doctor one] was also a Cork merchant, and the Spanish Consul in Cork. He also seems to have been politically linked to Daniel O’Connell, and slightly ironically, to have been responsible for getting Cobh renamed Queenstown when Queen Victoria visited Ireland in 1849. There is also the mercantile/political connection between John Roche and the Callaghans with James Joseph Roche’s marriage to Catherine Callaghan, where JR provided her marriage settlement fund of £4,000, and left instructions in the codicil to his will that she should receive the money even if the marriage didn’t go ahead. So he really did have a lot of money or was really keen on a deal going through.


From     What is clear is our Bartholomew Verling isn’t this one “In the 1870s Bartholomew Verling, Springfield Lodge (Oxclose), Newmarket, county Cork, medical doctor owned 883 acres in county Limerick and 110 acres in county Cork. He appears to have acquired his county Limerick estate post Griffith’s Valuation. Bartholomew Verling (1797-1893) was a naval surgeon of Oxclose, Newmarket, county Cork. He was the son of Edward Verling and his wife Anne Ronayne. The Verlings were established at Newmarket by the late 18th century.” But they are almost certainly relations.

From the Irish Journal of Medical Science, January 1971, Volume 140, Issue 1, pp 30-44 – regarding the Irish doctors who attended Napoleon on St Helena including James Roche Verling. Dr James Roche Verling is the Doctor Verling referred to in John Roche’s will. The source references  (Ellen Verling) and her brothers John and Laurence Roche of Aghada as members of the council of Cork. It also refers to James Roche Verling having a brother Bartholomew who was a J.P.

From Roche v O’Brien, and his will, we know that John Roche has two sisters

Julia Enery [though the spelling and therefore the name is unclear], Ellen Verling

And at least four nephews

James Joseph Roche, William Roche, Bartholomew Verling, and Doctor (James Roche) Verling

And at least two nieces

Ellen Verling jnr, and Catherine Ellis (nee Verling)

From Burke’s Landed Gentry 1847 entry we know there is another brother Hugh, who is the father of James Joseph Roche, and Hugh Roche Junior. 

Roche Of Aghado 

Roche, James Joseph Esq of Aghado House, co Cork b. 12 May, 1794 m in Nov 1821 Catharine youngest dau of the late Daniel Callaghan Esq of Lotabeg in the same county and has issue

  1. Maria Josepha
  2. Emily

Mr Roche, a magistrate for the co. Cork s. his uncle, the late John Roche Esq in March 1829. He and his brother Hugh, an officer in the navy, are sons of Hugh Roche, Esq by Anne, his wife dau. of Daniel McCarthy Esq, a Spanish merchant son of John  McCarthy Esq.  Seat. Aghado House co. Cork.

We know William Roche is the son of Laurence Roche from  “Barrymore Records of the Barrys of County Cork from the Earliest to the Present Time, With Pedigrees. London:” published 1902

“Patrick Barry, of Cork, gentleman, died 1861, having married Mary Anne, daughter of Stephen Murphy, of the city of Cork, draper, and had with an elder son, Stephen Barry, of H. M. Customs, Cork, and a daughter, Kate, who both died unmarried, a younger son, William Henry Barry, of Ballyadam, gentleman, J.P., who was heir to his uncle, Henry Barry, of Ballyadam, and was for many years post­master of Cork. He married in 1857 Pauline Roche, only child of William Roche, son of Lawrence Roche, whose brother, John Roche, amassed great wealth during the French wars, and built Aghada House. John Roche’s only daughter, married to [Henry Hewitt] O’Brien, of Whitepoint, Queenstown, J.P., left a daughter [Jane O’Bryen], who married her cousin, William Roche, and with her husband died shortly after the birth of their only daughter, Pauline, who was entrusted to the guardianship of her uncle, Dr. O’Brien, of Liverpool [sic], and at marriage had a fortune of £7,000.

The Papal Jubilee – Rome 1893

As with most of the Roman posts this one is included a. because it’s fun, and b. because  Uncle Henry  –  Mgr HH O’Bryen was there.




our lady of victories 1The Irish pilgrims to Rome had anticipated our day of departure. Therefore it is that I must take up the thread of our combined Roman chronicle after our own arrival in Rome. We met then, English and Scottish pilgrims, some five hundred strong, at the Pro-Cathedral, Kensington, on Monday night, February 13. The Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh delivered an address on the object of our journey, and the fitting spirit in which we should go, and Benediction concluded this opening ceremonial. On the following morning, at II a.m., we began our journey from Victoria, two special trains containing the pilgrims travelling in succession the one to the other. Of our crossing the Channel I need say no more than that we were compelled to endure considerable mortifications ; it was very rough, and the special boat was crowded to repletion ; nevertheless the pilgrim train arrived in Paris not more than two hours late. The Gare du Nord, immediately after our arrival, was thrown into unexampled confusion. Nobody was able to find, much less identify, his luggage, and the French officials were perfectly apathetic to our distressful condition. After much struggling, however, and perspiring exertion, we reached our several destinations in Paris safely.

crown of thorns parisOn the following morning we assembled in strong force at Notre Dame, where, after Mass and the distribution of ashes, the great relic preserved in the Cathedral (the Crown of Thorns of Our Lord) was, by special favour, offered for the veneration of the pilgrims. The reliquary is in the form of a cross, about two feet long, and a circular case in the centre contains the precious relic.

At 11.45 we left Paris, and dinner was served at Dijon. Here in truth we learned a sorrowful necessity of patience. There was a rapid raid made on the Buffet, which, in effect, nearly developed in a free fight. By the vigilance of the Committee, however, all disastrous effects were avoided ; we consumed a certain quantity of food, and were quickly back in our train making preparation for the night journey. This was accomplished without mishap, and the morning sun rose as we travelled down—down—from the bleak hills into the most gracious levels of Italy. We went with the sweep of a wind from this bleakness into this hospitality ; and enjoyment was once more a visitor to our souls when we reached Modane, and were compelled to endure another scene of turmoil by reason of the enforced examination of our lesser baggage. Steadily keeping unpunctual by the two hours to the bad which had marked our arrival at Paris, we reached Genoa at half-past five, and left the train to take some rest within sight of the curving Mediterranean, and the lean sloping hills of Italy. Rain greeted us in the morning, and it was in a deluge that we left Genoa at halfpast eight ; but the weather quickly cleared up, and, by the time we had arrived at Pisa, with its extremely modern looking station, the sun was shining.

Duke of Norfolk c.1908
Duke of Norfolk c.1908

Some of us took the opportunity of an hour’s delay at this town to take a hasty glance at the famous leaning tower, but the effect of this curiosity was to retard still more the heavily laden train, which arrived at half-past eleven, three hours after the appointed time. I may add in passing that, owing to the lateness of the hour, no luggage could be obtained that night. We were met by quite a crowd of the English colony, and by a deputation of the Circolo di San Pietro accompanied by the Vice-President of the General Pilgrimage Committee in Italy ; while the Rector of the Scots College and many of the students, with their purple cassocks and black ferraiouli, were present to welcome the Scottish pilgrims. On the arrival of the train, a deputation was presented to the Duke of Norfolk, who returned formal thanks for the attention.


Irish College, Rome

Meanwhile it is now necessary for me to return to the Irish Pilgrims who arrived on the Tuesday, and to chronicle their doings, as I have them by hearsay, down to our own arrival in the Eternal City. The Irish pilgrims, then, arrived on Tuesday night, and were met at the station by the Rector of the Irish College and by a deputation of the Circolo di San Pietro. On the following morning they all assembled in the chapel of the Irish College to assist at the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Logue, who also distributed the ashes to them, the, pilgrims singing together several parts of the Mass. At the end of it they sang the hymn, “God bless the Pope,” and then “Faith of Our Fathers.” Dr. Kelly, the Rector, while his Eminence was unrobing after Mass, delivered a little discourse, describing the chapel and its antiquarian interest. He also drew the attention of the pilgrims to the beautiful monument erected there to the memory of O’Connell, which encloses his heart. He recalled O’Connell’s words on his death-bed, when he said that he gave his soul to heaven, his body to Ireland, and his heart to Rome.

The pilgrims then assisted at the unveiling of a commemorative slab to the memory of Cardinal Cullen. The slab is on the wall of the first landing of the big staircase leading inside the College. The Cardinal, surrounded by pilgrims, had just taken his seat opposite the slab, and the ceremony was about to begin, when the venerable figure of Archbishop Kirby, the late Rector, who for many years had held that post, appeared through the crowd of pilgrims. He is indeed just recovering from rather a bad illness ; yet in spite of his being ninety years of age he determined to make the exertion of appearing amongst the pilgrims and welcoming them to Rome. The pilgrims received him with hearty cheers. The Rev. P. Maguire recited an ode in the Irish language, dedicated to the Cardinal, who in reply delivered a few pleased and appreciative words. On the Thursday morning, the day before our arrival, the Irish pilgrims assisted at Mass in the Church of San Clemente, after which Father Hickey, Prior of the Irish Dominicans, showed the pilgrims over the celebrated underground Church of San Clemente, which, being the first basilica dedicated to this saint, was discovered and excavated in 1857 by the late Father Mullooley.

santa-maria-della-pace-1024x676On the same afternoon Cardinal Logue took possession of his titular Church of Santa Maria della Pace. The pilgrims were all assembled in the church by four o’clock. At a quarter after the hour, his Eminence entered the church, accompanied by the procession, and took his seat on the throne erected in the sanctuary on the gospel side of the altar. The different Bishops that have come with the pilgrims were seated in reserved seats immediately before the sanctuary. There were also present several Italian Bishops, and the Rectors and Priors of the different Irish communities in Rome. The Cardinal was assisted by the Rector of the Irish College and by Mgr. O’Bryen, while Mgr. Cocci acted as master of ceremonies. Mgr. Pericoli, the Apostolic Notary, read the Pontifical Bull conferring the church, and the Rector of the church, after the reading of the Bull, delivered a speech congratulating the Cardinal on the occasion. The Cardinal returned thanks, and stepping from the throne, addressed the pilgrims from the sanctuary rails, giving, in fact, an interesting account of the Church assigned to him by the Pope. A Te Deum closed the ceremony, and the same evening the Cardinal gave a reception of the pilgrims in the Halls of the Arcadia. Cardinal Vaughan, Cardinal Macchi, Archbishop Stonor, the Bishops of Clifton and Emmaus, the Austrian Ambassador, and many distinguished personages were present. The reception was, I am assured, a brilliant success.


Borghese chapel Santa Maria Maggiore
Borghese chapel Santa Maria Maggiore

I return now to our own fortunes. We all assembled on Saturday morning in the Borghese Chapel of Santa Maria Maggiore, having wended our way to the great church from all the points of the compass. My own way led me, with several others, past the Palazzo Barberini, and the Quattro Fontane, by the Via Nazionale. Climbing the great exterior steps, then, and entering the church, we met, as I have said, in the Borghese Chapel. The altar was for the time, occupied by a Neapolitan Bishop ; but after he had finished Mass, the Bishop of Clifton began to vest, and Mass began shortly after ten o’clock. The picture of the famous Madonna, said to have been painted by St. Luke, was exposed to view, and kneeling in front of the sanctuary was our Cardinal, in purple, with scarlet zucchetto.

During the Mass the Litany of Loretto and “Hail Queen of Heaven” were sung, and I cannot easily describe the devotional effect of those five hundred English voices uplifted and echoing among these springing Italian arches, and amid this gay and florid decoration. I think that even Mr. Francis Whitgreave, Jun., might have been persuaded, for the moment, into the tolerance of this noble and most unsinning architecture, and for the moment have overlooked the immoral sins of commission which have been heaped upon these poor stones. At the end of Mass Cardinal Vaughan delivered a short discourse upon the relics which this Church contains, and afterwards accompanied the pilgrims upon a visit to the crypt.

When this ceremony was concluded, we all repaired to the Hotel de Rome, the head-quarters of the Pilgrimage, to receive our tickets for the great function on the following day. We received injunctions to be at St. Peter’s, if possible, by five o’clock on the following morning, on account of the crush that was expected. Personally, having some little knowledge of the ways of Roman functions, I suspected my ticket ; and, observing that it had no encouragement endorsed upon it for any entrance to a tribune, only serving (as I supposed) for the body of the Church, I made subsequent effort to exchange it for a tribune ticket. This, by a stroke of good fortune, I was enabled to effect.


I am told that pilgrims began to gather round the Facciata of the great Cathedral as early as three o’clock in the morning, and that cafes and restaurants were up betimes with their fires lit in busy provision of breakfasts. I started with my tribune ticket for the Apse at half-past six, and having resolved to avoid crossing the Tiber by the temporary iron bridge near St. Angelo, which the Romans in satire call the Gabbthne (huge cage), over which the new tram lines run, I drove a long but clear round across the new Ponte Margherita and through the Prati di Castello quarter, and so effected an entrance into the Piazza of St. Peter’s at the Colonnade of Constantine. St.PetersSq

Here lines of Italian soldiers were drawn across the middle of the vast space, and further progress was only granted to those who were in the possession of tickets, whether for the tribunes near the high altar, or for standing room in the nave The doors had been opened at 6.30, and I learn that much disappointment was expressed by many of the Irish and English pilgrims on the discovery, for the first time, that no special places had been reserved in the Basilica for them. “It caused,” writes one, whose letter I have permission to quote, “a certain amount of dissatisfaction amongst the pilgrims who, having undergone all the fatigues of the long journey for the special purpose of attending this Mass, considered themselves entitled to rather more consideration than they received on this occasion. Nevertheless we resigned ourselves to standing in the seething crowd for some three hours, a resignation which the splendid function that followed amply justified.”

st-peters-arnolfo-di-cambioThe Irish pilgrims, I should here remark, marched into the Basilica four abreast, displaying great spirit, bearing a banner aloft, and carrying all before them. Father Ring acted as Captain of the Irish forces. Most of these were stationed near the statue of St. Peter, which had been arranged for the Jubilee in the pontifical robes, and wore a tiara and ring—a ritual usually restricted to the Feast of St. Peter in June. The pilasters of the great nave and the dome were draped, as usual, with rich crimson brocade, bordered with gold lace, not tinsel or fine copper wire, as some contemptuously suppose, but real gold-woven work. By seven o’clock the tribunes in the apse were filled with various ladies and gentlemen, together with many religious, priests, and sisters—the English Nuns, founded by Lady Georgiana Fullerton (the Servants of the Mother of God), and the Nottingham Sisters (the Little Company of Mary), with their blue lined veils, the ladies of the Sacre Coeur, and others.

St Peters Basilica

The High Altar was illuminated with many tall wax lights and immense bouquets of natural flowers were massed between the Altar and the “Confession.” In the long three hours before the function began—appointed for nine, it was delayed till a quarter to ten—the tribunes gradually filled chiefly with members of the Roman aristocracy and of the Diplomatic Corps. Some of the uniforms were gorgeous, and some curiosity was aroused by the appearance of three German Catholic students arrayed in black velvet braided jackets, white leather breeches, and long boots ; they carried large black velvet caps with white feathers, and silk scarves of the Papal and German colours, white and yellow, black and white intermingled. Down the great Church the view was most impressive. The heads of the crowd were packed together from altar to great door, and it is calculated that from sixty to eighty thousand people were gathered in the building. The black lace veils worn by the women set against the black and white of the men’s evening dress contrasted with the gay red and yellow of the Swiss guards, with their halberds and baggy knickerbockers, and again with the white and blue of the Guardia Nobile. Two men, I have been credibly informed, overcome by the crush had to be lifted insensible over the palisade in the centre of the nave and carried to one of the five ambulances prepared in various parts of the Church for emergencies of the kind. From where I sat, in one of the Apse tribunes, the 150 choristers perched aloft in the Dome seemed like black and white dolls moving about in the vague spaces of the giant cupola.


At last, after long waiting, a thrill of emotion swept through the dense crowds, for the Pope had descended from his apartments, and knelt at prayer in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament ; he was not yet to be seen, for the right nave was screened by heavy crimson damask curtains down to the Chapel of the Pieta, where all the Canons of St. Peter’s, with the Cardinal Archpriest Ricci Paracciani,, received his Holiness. Here he was robed in the white and gold chasuble presented by the Roman ladies for his Sacerdotal Jubilee, and the precious mitre offered on the present occasion by his Noble Guards. The Holy Father wore also the great white fala’a, reserved exclusively for the Sovereign Pontiff, clasped with jewels, and the train held by the two Monsignori, who are his camerieri partecipanti.

GestatorialChair1The tiara was placed on his head, and when the Pontiff was seated in the sedia gestatoria, the procession up the great nave slowly began ; and the silver trumpets sounded from the Loggia of the Beatifications above the great central door of St. Peter’s. The Pontifical choir led the way, singing Tu es Petrus, but their voices had scarcely broken into the air when a great burst of cheering went up from the immense concourse of people. It was like the roar of the sea breaking on a strand. The enthusiasm was unbounded, and deafening cries of “Viva il Papa Re,” “Viva il Vicario di Cristo,” arose as the seated figure of the Pontiff, leaning gently from side to side in benediction of his flock, was borne up the nave. The progress to the High Altar, the enthusiasm ever growing greater and greater, till at length that vast congregation seemed almost beside itself with emotion.


Calm was only restored when Leo XIII. stood before the altar of the Confession to begin the Holy Sacrifice. He said a Low Mass, and was assisted by the two Archbishops of the Chapter of St. Peter’s, Monsignori Tamminiatelli and Cassetta, his Auditor, Mgr. Fausti, and the Sacristan, Mgr. Pifferi. During Mass the choir of the Sixtine Chapel, led by their old Maestro, Mustafa, sang the Jubilate Deo. Every eye was fixed upon the venerable white old man absorbed in prayer, who celebrated with the same touching reverence and humility as if in his own private chapel. There was a solemn hush through the whole multitude, and many were moved to tears at the moment of the elevation, when the cool liquid strains of the silver trumpets streamed through the building, and the choir chanted the chorus by Mustafa, Domine Salvum fac, re-echoed by the fresh young voices in the cupola.

Mass being ended, the Holy Father recited the usual prayers and thanksgiving; then for a few minutes he retired to a pavilion under the choir to partake of some slight refreshment, having, of course, fasted from the preceding evening. Meantime, the choir sang the prayer of the Holy Father, Sancte Michael, &c., to music composed by Mustafa. Then his Holiness returned to the foot of the altar, and the Pontifical robes, including the tiara, being again put on, the Te Deum was intoned and taken up by the choirs, and the responses joined in by thousands of voices in every part of the church. Although the Holy Father did not himself intone the great hymn, he joined with all the people in the responses, greatly to the distress of his attendants, who trembled lest the fatigue should overcome him. In fact, the great emotion did overcome His Holiness and he became quite faint for a few moments. But quickly rallying his strength Leo XIII. was again borne in the sedia gestatoria, in the same order of procession as before round the altar to the front of the Confession. Here His Holiness gave the Papal Benediction, standing up and reading it from the Pontificale Romanum held before him. The prayers and Indulgences are as follows : Sancti Apostoli Petrus et Paulus de quorum potestate et auctoritate confidimus, ipsi intercedant pro nobis ad Dominum. Precibus et meritis beatae Mariae semper Virginis, beati Michaelis Archangeli, beati Joannis Baptistae, et sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et omnium Sanctorum, misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus, et dimissis omnibus peccatis vestris, perducat vos Jesus Christus ad vitam aetemam. Amen. Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem omnium peccatorum vestrorum, spatium verae et fructuosae poenitentiae, cor semper poenitens et emendationem vitae, gratiam et consolationem Sancti Spiritus, et finalem perseverantiam in bonis operibus, tribuat vobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus. Amen.

These prayers being read, the Sovereign Pontiff blessed all the people, making three times the sign of the Cross, and saying : ” Benedictio Dei omnipotent’s, Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti descendat super vos, et maneat semper.” Then three solemn “Amens” were uttered, and Cardinals Mazzella and Verga promulgated the Plenary Indulgence attached to this solemn Papal Benediction. Another indescribable ovation greeted the Holy Father as he was carried down the centre of the nave and returned to the Chapel of the Pieta.


It was a considerable time before this great multitude could emerge from St. Peter’s. The exit seemed more difficult than the entrance, and standing on the steps, looking out through the pillars of the Great Colonnade, the whole Piazza appeared black with human beings, who, however, dispersed in the most orderly manner. Nothing, in a word, occurred to mar the splendour of that function, which was probably one of the finest of its kind ever seen.

Benediction was given in the afternoon by Cardinal Vaughan at the English Convent in the Via San Sebastianino, and his Eminence held a reception there afterwards. In the evening the city was illuminated. I must, in closing my letter, add that on Tuesday the Pope received the Irish pilgrims, headed by Cardinal Logue, in the Grand Hall of the Consistory. On this occasion Cardinal Logue read an address in which the pilgrims congratulated the Pope, and expressed their devotion to the Holy See.

Another address was read by the Bishop of Galway, thanking the Pope for having so honoured Ireland in raising its Primate to the rank of Cardinal, and expressing the devotion of the Irish people to the Supreme Pontiff. The address stated that during Jubilee week prayers were being said in Ireland for the Pope, and that more than 2,000 priests were saying Mass for him. The Pope, who, I am told, seemed exceedingly pleased during the reading of the speech, replied in Latin, and, having said a few words, said that he was suffering from a sore throat, which prevented him from speaking at any length. His Holiness then charged Mgr. Bisleti to continue the reading of the reply, which, like the address from the Irish Catholics, was of an essentially religious character.

The Pope, after expressing his satisfaction over seeing before him the faithful sons of St. Patrick, thanked the pilgrims for having organized in Ireland an Association comprising a million Catholics, who, being unable to come to Rome, combined themselves from afar with the pilgrimage by daily attendance at special Masses for the Sovereign Pontiff. His Holiness went on to refer to the traditional faith and piety of the Irish Catholics, whose devotion to the Holy See had always been the same in good and evil days. In conclusion, the Pope exhorted the pilgrims to persevere in their attachment to the Chair of St. Peter, and not to forget the saying of St. Patrick — Sicut Christiani ita et Romani sills. His Holiness then gave his hand to each person present to kiss the “Fisher’s Ring,” and dismissed the pilgrims after pronouncing the Benediction upon all Catholics, both present and absent.

I have to add that in the evening the Duke of Norfolk held a brilliant reception of pilgrims, both British and Irish, at the Hotel de Rome. The Duke of Norfolk wore the Grand Cross of the Order of Christ, and was assisted in the reception of his guests by his sisters, Lady Mary and Lady Margaret Howard. Amongst those present were the Earl of Gainsborough, and no fewer than fifteen Archbishops and Bishops, including the Archbishop of Edinburgh, the Archbishop of Trebizond, and the Bishops of Nottingham, Clifton, Southwark, Birmingham, and Aberdeen. The reception lasted from 9 o’clock until late. Of the Cardinal’s taking possession of his titular church you will receive an independent account.

Roma, Via del Corso

Meanwhile, it only remains to add that we are doing very well here, and know how to take care of ourselves. Last night I walked down the Corso, from the Piazza del Popolo to the Piazza Colonna, upon which shines the white glare of those Roman Whiteleys, Fratelli Bocconi. The street was indeed Italian, the sky with its stars and moon was Italian ; the skyline of the houses was Italian, despite all the changes which have in these past years sacrificed the picturesque in Italy. But the prevalent voice was the voice of England and Ireland. Above the din of the newsboys rushing out into the streets from the newspaper offices, calling with their inimitable emphasis upon the penultimate syllable—Fanfiella Opinione Din/to /—you heard the murmur of an English accent, or an Irish brogue.

Among the benches of the Caffe Greco Englishmen supped black coffee ; there were English greetings here and there, and little groups of Italians would gather silently to observe English meetings and laughter, and to listen without understanding to our pure native criticism. We lounged at our ease, and we too watched these Italian groups, some gay with the blue-gray cloaks of Italian officers, or strange by reason of an alien costume ; or a group of Bersaglieri would post past us as if their hearts were bursting for the enforced rapidity of their motion. Yet we felt perfectly at home ; for, as I have said, everywhere you heard the echo of English speech or recognized English faces. And our universal feeling was that we had all been singularly privileged to assist at a demonstration so imposing, so impressive and so devotional as that which took place on Sunday at St. Peter’s.

The above text was found on p.8, 25th February 1893  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Imbil Station, Queensland, Australia – 1903


My Great Grandfather John Elworthy left England in 1864, leaving behind his wife Sarah, and  twins,  John  and Sarah, both born in 1863.  He never visited them again before he died in 1887. He married Elizabeth Pritchard in 1876 in Sydney, and then had all my great aunts and uncles. (Well the 1st one was born before the wedding).

He followed his brother William who went to Australia the previous year.  They started logging together on the river Mary near Logan and then moved to Gympie in 1870, to follow the gold rush. They failed to make a fortune in gold (though I still have one piece of gold ore),  but then started rearing beef at Imbil in partnership with two brothers from Devon (Mellor brothers who were butchers) and sold beef to the gold prospectors in Gympie and made a considerable fortune.

I had always been told that Great Grandfather John was a squatter but not in the way you think! Australian squatters were people who ran a fence (normally just a single strand of barbed wire) around an unclaimed piece of land, grazed it for a year and then registered their ownership, which is how the family acquired Imbil and then supplied the miners of Gympie  with beef. How nice they weren’t greedy and seem to have stopped at 34 sq miles. The truth is slightly more prosaic

The first squatter in Imbil was John MacTaggart who acquired about 32,000 acres of land (about 50 square miles, or two-thirds of the size of inner London, or six times the size of the City of Westminster). He sold out his interest in the land to Clement and Paul Lawless in 1857, and in turn, the Lawless family sold on the station in 1873 to John Ellworthy and Matthew Mellor who had a mortgage of £6,000 using 3000 head of cattle as collateral. So they bought the land….. but it was an additional 16 square miles ( or two Cities of Westminster)

Was John a  bigamist? According to English law yes, but in Australia they changed the law to reflect that many wives were left behind in the UK and were unlikely ever to come to Australia. So to start with the law was changed to “if you had no contact with your wife for seven years” you could remarry and then to “if you had contact but she was never going to come to Australia” then after 7 years you could remarry. So, John was probably Ok at least in Australia

These pictures were taken by Uncle Arthur, John and Elizabeth’s son in 1903



Reflections, Yabba Creek












The Purssells and the Providence Row Night Shelter.

The Providence (Row) Night Refuge was founded in 1860 by Mgr Daniel Gilbert, and heavily supported by Alfred Purssell [GG grandpa] almost from its foundation.  There is a slight element of “Noblesse oblige” in the family’s behaviour, but also a great deal of old-fashioned philanthropy.

In the winter of 1857, Fr Gilbert, was walking through the East End and came across a woman sheltering in a doorway. He struck up a conversation with her and discovered that she had no money and nowhere to go. He was so moved by her situation that he decided to create a refuge for people like her. Fr Gilbert called on the help of the Sisters of Mercy in Wexford, Ireland, and in September 1858 five of the Sisters arrived in London. Initially they moved to a house on Broad Street but found it too small for their purposes. Fr Gilbert then found a large stable block at the back of 14 Finsbury Square. The property opened on to a narrow street called Providence Row.

After less than a month of hard work and fundraising by a small group of Fr Gilbert’s friends, Providence Row Night Refuge opened on 7th October 1860. It was the first non sectarian shelter in London, open to anyone regardless of their race or religion. The alternative was the workhouse.

Originally it had only 14 beds but quickly expanded to 45 by February 1861. This still didn’t prove big enough to meet the growing demand and the refuge soon moved to a larger site on Crispin Street, near Spitalfields Market. By1862 it had provided 14,785 meals to homeless and destitute people in London. By the time of his death in 1895, Fr Gilbert had become Monsignor Gilbert and had raised over £100,000 (£74,000,000 at present day values) for the refuge, building work, and improving and expanding the services on offer.

It was later supported  by his children, sons-in-law, and other members of the family.  Both Uncle Edmund (Bellord), and Uncle Wilfred (Parker), were chairmen of the committee,  George Bellord [Uncle Edmund and Aunt Agnes’s son] was on the committee in the 1930’s. Uncle Frank (Purssell)  had also been on the committee, and deputised for his father at times, notably shortly before Alfred’s death in 1897.

The following are a series of extracts from “The Tablet” spanning just over forty years with various members of the family taking part.


AP begging letter
Alfred Purssell’s letter, probably from 1896,



Jamaica Buildings,
St Michael’s Alley,
Cornhill, London

The Honorary Manager of the Providence (Row) Night-Refuge & Home, Mr Alfred Purssell, C.C., presents his respectful compliments to Her Grace The Duchess of Newcastle, and begs once more to plead for this most deserving charity.

During the Winter Months, the Refuge provides every night nearly three hundred night’s lodgings, suppers & breakfasts to homeless wanderers free of cost. From the foundation of the Refuge thirty six years ago by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert, nearly one million two hundred and fifty thousand night’s lodgings suppers and breakfasts have been provided.

The work of the charity does not end at “feeding the hungry” and “harbouring the harbourless”. It is also the means of enabling many of those, who find shelter within the walls of the Refuge, to begin life afresh, and to obtain again a position for themselves in the world. Those, for example, who through dire necessity, to save their families from starvation or worse, have parted with their tools, are enabled to recover them: sellers of fusees (large matches), flowers, newspapers, bootlaces, and the like, without hope or money, are supplied with a little stock: rent is paid and a small allowance granted to mothers and children, when the breadwinner through sickness is unable to work: the ragged are also clothed and situations obtained for them.

It is specially desired to call the attention of the charitable to some distinguishing marks of the Charity. In the first place it is absolutely non-sectarian. There are no questions as to nationality or creed. Whilst there is accommodation in the Refuge, no bona-fide applicant is refused, the sole passport necessary being genuine poverty and want. Secondly no effort is spared to secure the benefits of the Charity for the really deserving. The imposter, the professional beggar is soon detected. All the inmates are called upon to make a statement as to their last employment, and the cause of their misfortune, which is afterwards inquired into. By this means the benefits are secured for the bona-fide poor. It must be distinctly understood however that the poor applicant is not kept waiting for relief, but is lodged and fed, whilst the investigation is proceeding. Nor are the fallen debarred from participating in them, truth being considered a guarantee of desire to amend.

This winter special help is needed. There are no signs of any diminution in the poverty and distress around us. If the weather is severe, the sufferings of the poor will be materially increased. At times so great do their misery and wretchedness become, that those who are attempting to alleviate the distress are well nigh discouraged. The thought that hundreds of men, women and even children have in the depths of winter no home but the streets is simply appalling. There is a worse aspect to the question than this. How many of our poorer brothers and sisters in this vast metropolis are driven to crime. As degradation, by the want of food and shelter. Men and children become thieves; women and girls, alas! Barter their most valuable possession, their priceless innocence for food and shelter. These unfortunate ones find in the Refuge the means of reforming their lives, and of turning their backs for ever on the sinful past.

Will you kindly help the Committee of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home in their great work amongst the poor? If you could pay a visit to it, one night during the winter months, and see for yourself the good that is being done by it, you would willingly do so.

Hear the opinions of some who have visited it:- Mr James Greenwood, the “Amateur Casual”, writing in the “Ludgate Monthly” has said “Outcasts of all kinds and from all parts find shelter there, and all are sure of something for supper and a bed, and a big roll, and a mug of cocoa ‘as a comforter’, “before they start on their way next morning…. The Managers of the Home have been thus unostentatiously engaged for many years, and the good they have effected is incalculable.”

The late Mr Montague Williams Q.C., in “Later Leaves” says of this Refuge: “There is no more Excellent institution…. The place is beautifully clean…. This institution, which is not nearly so well known as it deserves to be, is in the heart of Spitalfields.”

The “Daily Chronicle” has said: “Christianity is certainly not played out at the corner of Crispin St., and Raven Row, although it may be doubled, whether it ever found more depressing material to work upon.”

As an example of the distress, which exists in our midst may be mentioned that in the Refuge last year, amongst those assisted were an Architect, an Optician, clerks, waiters, valets, woodcarvers, ivory-turners, weavers, painters, a professor of music, a linguist, certificated teachers, dressmakers, domestic servants, etc., etc.

In addition to the Refuge, there are two homes, one for Servants, who partially support themselves by work, the other where women out of engagements can board and lodge at a small cost per week, whilst searching for situations.

An especial appeal for help is made this year, in order that funds may be raised to extend the work, which has now been carried on so effectively for thirty-six years. The Refuge was founded by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert in 1860 with fourteen beds. It has now accommodation for nearly three hundred. Will you assist in extending the good work?

The smallest donation will be gratefully acknowledged, and the heartfelt prayers of the hungry you help to feed, of the houseless you help to lodge, the naked you help to clothe, the fallen you help to brighter and happier lives will be bound to.

(2.)  1897 – EASTER SUNDAY AT THE PROVIDENCE ROW NIGHT REFUGE AND HOME. – This is seventeen days before Alfred’s death on the 5th May 1897, and about six weeks before Frank Purssell’s wedding  on the 6th June 1897.

On Easter Sunday at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, Crispin Street, Spitalfields, E., in accordance with the custom of the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special dinner, consisting of hot soup, meat, potatoes, and bread, was provided for the inmates, who numbered over 300. In the absence of the Hon. Manager, Mr. Alfred Purssell, [Great, great-Grandpa]  through illness, his son, Mr. F. W. Purssell [Uncle Frank – technically GG Uncle] , presided, and was supported by the Rev. M. Fitzpatrick, the Misses Purssell, [ probably just Aunt Agnes (Bellord),Great granny, and Aunt Charlotte (Parker) because Laura had married Max Winstanley in 1883 and Lucy had married Henry Grant Edwardes in 1892 ] Miss B. G. Munk, Mr. and Mrs. Secrett, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) &c.

In the men’s refectory, Mr. F. W. Purssell gave a short address. He said that they came there on behalf of the Hon. Manager and the committee to bid the inmates welcome to the refuge. Whilst deeply regretting the misfortune which had forced them to accept its hospitality, he trusted that it might be the means of reinstating them in life. Although it was very hard to be poor, poverty was not necessarily a disgrace. The refuge had been established by the late Mgr. Gilbert to help the deserving poor, and his work was still being continued. There was every prospect this year of a revival in trade owing to the many public celebrations which were to take place, and he (Mr. Purssell) hoped that when Easter came round next year, all the inmates present would have homes of their own. In conclusion, he announced that the Rev. Mother would give each inmate sixpence as an Easter gift on leaving the refuge next morning. Three ringing cheers for the Rev. Mother and the Sisters of Mercy, and for Mr. Purssell were followed by dinner, which was served by the Sisters. The visitors then proceeded to the women’s room and to the servants’ homes, in each of which Mr. Purssell addressed a few kindly words to those present. During the course of the afternoon oranges were distributed, and additional fare was given at the tea in the evening. Altogether the poor people had a very enjoyable day, and the Sisters and visitors must have been gratified at the joy and happiness to which they by their help contributed.

(3.)  1907-THE PROVIDENCE (ROW) NIGHT REFUGE.— Some four hundred poor people, men, women, and children, irrespective of creed, were entertained to a Christmas dinner at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge, Crispin-street, E., which was founded by the late Mgr. Gilbert in 1860. The large refectories were tastefully decorated for the occasion. Mr. E. J. Bellord (Chairman of the Committee) [ Uncle Edmund – well technically GG Uncle ] presided, and was supported by Mr. W. H. Foreman, Mr. J. G. Bellord, [ John Bellord, who is Edmund’s brother]  Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) [John Gilbert – later Sir John Gilbert was the nephew of Mgr Gilbert who founded the Refuge] , Mr. N. S. B. Kidson, Mr. G. Dutton, Mrs. Bellord [presumably John’s wife] , Mrs. E. J. Bellord,[Aunt Agnes] Mr. E. M. Barry, Mrs. Rolph, Miss Gilbert, Mr. G. R. Dutton, Miss Raynes, Mr. R. O’Bryen [Uncle Rex], Mrs. R. O’Bryen [Aunt Florence], Miss Barry, Mr. A. Bellord [John Bellord’s son], Mr. C. Bellord [ Cuthbert,  Edmund’s son from his first marriage], Miss F. B. Goold, the Misses Bellord [ probably Mildred and Margery, Edmund’s daughters from his first marriage], and others.

In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee, wished all the inmates a very happy Christmas. It was a matter of deep regret, he said, to all concerned in the management of the Refuge that they had, night after night during the present severe weather, to send a numbers of applicants for relief through lack of room. He hoped, however, that the severe distress would soon pass away. He asked them all that day to think very gratefully of the founder of the charity, the late Dr. Gilbert, whose work the Committee were carrying on, and he also trusted that they would remember how much they owed to the Sisters of Charity, who devoted their lives to the service of the poor. The dinner, which consisted of soup, beef, potatoes, bread, and plum-pudding, with oranges by way of dessert, was served by the Sisters and visitors. Afterwards each child received a toy, each man a small packet of tobacco and each woman a small packet of tea, all the gifts generous friends of the charity. Later on in the day there was tea with cake, and entertainments were provided both in the men’s and women’s sections by the girls in the boarders’ and servants’ homes and others.

(4.)  1907 – A NEW KNIGHT OF ST. SYLVESTER . MR. J. W. GILBERT’S  INVESTITURE. —On Friday last [4th January] , at the Convent of Mercy, 50, Crispin street, E., the Archbishop of Westminster invested Mr. J. W. Gilbert with the insignia of the knighthood of St. Sylvester, which has recently been conferred upon him by the Holy Father. A large gathering of friends witnessed the ceremony in the guild room of the Convent. The visitors included the Archbishop of Westminster, the Bishop of Southwark, Mgr. Brown, Canon St. John, Canon Murnane, Canon Moncrieff Symth, the Very Rev. Prior Kelly, D.D., 0.S.A., the Revv. T. Ring, D. McCarthy, W. Cooksey, 0. Fitzgerald, A. Walsh, D.D., 0.S.A., P. W. O’Connor, C. Donovan, G. H. Palmer, W. Donovan, H. E. Daly, and B. McFadden, the Rev. Mother and Sisters of the Convent of Mercy, Lady Parker, Messrs. E. J. Bellord [Uncle Edmund] and W. H Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Bellord [John Bellord, Edmund’s brother], Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Parker [Uncle Wilfred and Aunt Charlotte], Mr. and Mrs. W. Towsey, Messrs. J. Arthur Walton [ both Ernest and Rex O’Bryen were at his wedding in 1900] , E. A. O’Bryen [Great-grandpa], R. O’Bryen [Uncle Rex], S. P. Jacques, Wm. J. Price, Mr. T. G. King, K.S.G., and Mrs. King, Messrs. V. M. Dunford, K.S.G., C. J. Munich, K.S.G., J. P. McAdam, W. Keane, Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Ryan, Messrs. J. Fox, J. Fentiman, G. E. Anstruther, P. Johnston, Misses Munk, Gilbert, Pattman, Upton, W. Campbell, H. Barton, Fox, Dunn, Feeney, Goss, Keeffe, Ryan, M. Head, M. S. Weale, K. McCathy, V. Edwards, Lenihan, K. Leithan, M. Dwane, P. McCrudden, and others. The Archbishop of Westminster [ Archbishop, later Cardinal Bourne]  who presided, said that he did not think it would be necessary to say many words as to the object of their meeting that afternoon. Mr. Gilbert’s work for the Catholic cause was known not only in London, but throughout the country. It was most fitting that the presentation of the insignia should be made at Crispin-street, where the chief work of Mr. Gilbert’s life—his work amongst the poor in connexion with the Night Refuge—was carried on. They had all had opportunities of witnessing how the charity, since the death of his uncle, Mgr. Gilbert, had under his care not only maintained its position, but had gradually developed. Mr. Gilbert had also done much for the cause of Catholic education. They would remember that upon him had fallen the greater share of the work in connexion with the organisation of the Albert Hall demonstration in 1906 against Mr. Birrell’s Bill, [ The Education Act 1906, which was intended to end state funding of Anglican and Catholic Church schools. It was defeated in the House of Lords. ] the results of which meeting had been so striking. Mr. Gilbert had also rendered particularly valuable service in London in connexion with their efforts to obtain equal treatment for their schools from the local authority, and in their struggle against the other Education Bills of the Government. He made no reference to work in connexion with the Eucharistic Congress, except in passing. They had felt—and he knew that Mr. Gilbert agreed with him—that the unique success of that gathering, and the public thanks of the Holy Father, were sufficient reward for all those who had taken part in its organisation. The knighthood of St. Sylvester was a distinction which was not easily given. It had been granted to only a few in this country, and the Holy See had had this in consideration in conferring this honour on Mr. Gilbert for his exceptional work. He would like to conclude by expressing his own personal gratitude to Mr. Gilbert for the valuable service he had rendered him both whilst Bishop of Southwark and since he had been Archbishop. He thought he could not put it more strongly than by saying that whenever he had called upon Mr. Gilbert for his help, he had never failed him.

The Bishop of Southwark cordially supported everything that the Archbishop had said. He pointed out that although much of Mr. Gilbert’s work lay within the archdiocese of Westminster, he lived in the diocese of Southwark, and therefore was a subject of his diocese. Catholics in Southwark had a good reason to be grateful to Mr. Gilbert for his work in connexion with their schools since the London County Council had become a local education authority, for his efforts on behalf of the Southwark Rescue Society, and for the valuable assistance he had given in connexion with the Catholic Boys’ Brigade. Mgr. Brown, on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy at Crispin-street, spoke of the happy relations that had existed for more than twelve years between them and Mr. Gilbert in all affairs connected with the conduct of the charity which had been founded by his uncle. He also personally wished to express his thanks to Mr. Gilbert for his work for education in Southwark, attributing his own success at two London School Board elections to Mr. Gilbert’s organising capabilities. Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee of the Providence Row Night Refuge, of which he is Chairman, expressed the thanks of all concerned for the work which Mr. Gilbert had carried on in connexion with the Refuge for the past twelve years. Mr. Gilbert, in reply, expressed his very grateful thanks to the Holy Father for the honour he had conferred upon him. There was no honour more valued by a Catholic than a distinction granted by the Sovereign Pontiff, whom the whole of Christendom regards with the deepest veneration, respect, loyalty, and affection, and who has won universal admiration and devotion by his unique work as priest, Bishop, and Sovereign Pontiff, and by his saintliness and charm of character. Mr. Gilbert also expressed his thanks to his Grace the Archbishop of Westminster, to whom he was indebted, not only for this honour, but for all the marked kindness he had always met with from him, both as Bishop of Southwark and as Archbishop. He attributed any success that might have attended his efforts on behalf of the Catholic cause to the generous encouragement and practical help of the leader of the Catholic Church in this country, who last September was acclaimed by the whole Catholic world as the champion of Catholic liberty, who had not hesitated to join issue with an English Prime Minister, and who came out of the conflict triumphant. He also offered his sincere thanks to the Bishop of Southwark, to Mgr. Brown, to Mr. Bellord, and to the Sisters of Mercy, who were really responsible for the gathering. Mr. Gilbert spoke with the warmest praise of the self-sacrificing zeal and perseverance of the Sisters in their work amongst the poor.

(5.)  1908 – CHRISTMAS DAY AT THE PROVIDENCE (ROW) NIGHT REFUGE.- On Christmas Day at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, Crispin-street, E., which was founded by the late Mgr. Gilbert in 1860, a Christmas dinner was given to nearly 400 destitute poor, men, women, and children, irrespective of creed. The large rooms were tastefully decorated with evergreen, Christmas mottoes and the like. The dinner consisted of hot soup, beef, potatoes, bread, plum-pudding, and oranges by way of dessert. Mr. E. J. Bellord[ Uncle Edmund again] presided, and was supported by a large number of visitors including Mr W.H.Foreman, Mr J.W.Gilbert,[ John Gilbert.. see above]  Mr J.G.Bellord, Mrs Bellord, Mr R. O’Bryen, Mrs O’Bryen, [all see above]  Mr E.A.Mackenzie, Mrs George Blount, Miss Sherrington, Miss Gilbert, Mr Austin Bellord [ see above], Mrs Rolph, Mr Cuthbert Bellord, the Misses Bellord,[ see above] Mr L.M.Barry, Mr J.M.Barry, Miss McCarthy-Barry, Miss F.K. Pollock, Mr A. McDonnell. Mr J. McDonnell, &c., &c.

In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, speaking on ‘behalf of the Committee, wished all the inmates a very happy ‘Christmas. He was very sorry for their misfortune, and trusted that by the time next Christmas came round, they would all have recovered themselves, and would spend Christmas in their own home. The Committee wanted them that day to remember the great Founder of the Refuge, the late Mgr. Gilbert, to whose zeal and self-sacrifice they owed that institution, and whose wishes they were doing their best to carry out. He also asked them not to forget the great debt of gratitude which they were under to the good Sisters of Mercy, who devoted their lives so generously to the services of the poor, and who provided so well for their comfort and happiness.

The dinner was served by the Sisters and the visitors, the latter Including a number of children, who vied with each other in waiting on the poor guests of the charity. After dinner each man received a present of tobacco, each woman a packet of tea, and each child a toy—all the gift of generous friends of the institution. Later on in the afternoon, tea with cake was provided, after which entertainments were given both in the men’s and women’s sections by the girls of the boarders’ and servants’ homes and others.


In 1909, Uncle Edmund (Bellord), Aunt Agnes’ husband, was chairing the committee. The Purssell family attendees on Christmas Day included most of the Bellord family, various cousins from the Winstanley  family [ Aunt Laura and Uncle Max’s children]. Uncle Rex, and Aunt Florence (O’Bryen), not strictly Purssells, but  Uncle Rex is Great-Granny’s brother-in-law, and she’s a Purssell.  J.W. [John, later Sir John] Gilbert the Hon. Secretary was the nephew of Mgr. Gilbert, the founder of the hostel.

On Christmas Day at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge, Crispin-street, E., in accordance with the custom of the Founder, the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special Christmas dinner, consisting of hot soup, beef, potatoes, plum-pudding, bread, and oranges by way of dessert, was given to all the inmates of the Refuge. More than one hundred poor people, for whom there was no room in the Refuge, were admitted to the dinner, the total number of guests, men, women and children, being nearly 400. The two large refectories were gaily decorated for the occasion with holly and evergreen and Christmas mottoes.

Mr. E. J. Bellord (Chairman of the Committee) presided, and was supported by Mrs. E. J. Bellord, Mr. W. H. Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. R. O’Bryen, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Bellord [Uncle Edmund’s brother], Mr. L. J. Winstanley [Laura and Max’s son], Mr. E. A. McKenzie, Mr. A. Bellord [John Bellord’s son], Mr. C. Bellord [ Cuthbert,  Edmund’s son from his first marriage], Mr. E. Kerwin, the Misses Winstanley [probably Margaret, and Dorothy], Mr. G. McCarthy-Barry, Mr. A. McDonnell, Mr. J. McDonnell, Mr. J. Fentiman, the Misses Bellord [Mildred and Margery, Uncle Edmund’s daughters from his first marriage] Miss Gilbert, Miss McCarthy-Barry, Miss Robinson, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary), and many others.

In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee of the Refuge wished all the inmates a very happy Christmas. He greatly regretted that, owing to the abnormal amount of distress, there was so much poverty and suffering. He hoped, however that, with the New Year, there would be a better chance for them to secure work. They must, however, forget their troubles on this great day and enjoy the fare which was awaiting them. He would ask them to bear in memory the name of Dr. Gilbert, the Founder of the Refuge, who had left it in so good a condition that they were able to continue his work up to the present time, and to whom, therefore, they really owed their good dinner that day: He also wanted them always to remember how much they were indebted to the Sisters of Mercy, who devoted their lives to the service of the poor, and who, by their generous help, made the Refuge the useful institution it was.

Dinner was served by the Sisters and the visitors, who were most generous in their attentions to their poor guests. For more than an hour both refectories presented a busy spectacle. After dinner each man was presented with a packet of tobacco and a cigar, which had been sent for them by two anonymous donors ; each woman received a small packet of tea and each child a toy, both of which were again the gifts of friends of the charity. Later on in the afternoon tea with cake was provided for the inmates, and a concert and entertainment were provided in each section for them.

Moving on twenty years to the 1930’s, the family are still involved but everything has moved on. Aunt Agnes (Bellord) had died in March 1925, followed by Uncle Edmund (Bellord)  in December 1927. Uncle Rex (O’Bryen) had died in January 1928. Uncle Wilfred (Parker) has replaced Uncle Edmund as chairman of the committee, and George Bellord [Uncle Edmund and Aunt Agnes’ son, and one of Alfred Purssell’s grandsons] has joined the committee

(7.)  1930 – ANNUAL FOUNDER’S DAY MEETING OF THE PROVIDENCE ROW REFUGE. – Mrs. Wilfred W. Parker [Aunt Charlotte] , whose effective speech at the Annual Founder’s Day Meeting of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge last week, made a considerable impression, is a daughter of the late Mr. Alfred Purssell [Great, great, Grandpa]  a founder of Westminster Cathedral, who was an intimate friend of the late Monsignor Gilbert, and a co-trustee with him of this well-known charity at the time of his death. Mr. Purssell served for many years as a member of the Court of Common Council for the Ward of Cornhill, of which the present Lord Mayor is Alderman. If memory serves, he was Chairman of the Bridge House Estate Committee when the Tower Bridge was opened. [He wasn’t – he was on the committee, but not the Chairman. The Bridge House Estates is a charitable trust, established in 1282 by the City of London Corporation. It was originally established to maintain London Bridge and, subsequently, other bridges; funded by bridge tolls and charitable donations, the trust acquired an extensive property portfolio which made it more than self-sufficient. It paid for and built Tower Bridge]  Another speaker at Crispin Street last week, Mr. J. S. R. Towsey, is a son of the late Mr. William Towsey, another great friend of Monsignor Gilbert. He joined the Night Refuge Committee at its initiation in 1860, remaining a member until his death in 1925, certainly a record. Last Tuesday was the thirty-fifth anniversary of Monsignor Gilbert’s death.


Princess Mary c 1930
Princess Mary c 1930

In the course of its seventy years’ history the Providence (Row) Night Refuge has several times had the honour  of welcoming members of the Royal House within its walls. The Prince of Wales visited the Refuge about four years ago; and on Friday last week Princess Mary presided at the annual Founder’s Day celebration, the third princess to accept the performance of that function; her Royal Highness’s predecessors were Princess Alice of Athlone, who presided in 1913; and Princess Marie Louise, in 1924. Founder’s Day at Crispin Street is always an occasion for enlisting the sympathy, by presence, of a distinguished chairman; no fewer than eleven Lord Mayors of London, it may be noted, and five Chairmen of the London County Council, have been among those presiding in past years. This year, the visit of Princess Mary gave added distinction to the occasion, and the present Lord Mayor, Alderman Sir William Phene Neal, attended among those who welcomed Her Royal Highness and expressed their welcome in words. With the Lord Mayor were the Bishop of Cambysopolis, representing His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop; Viscount FitzAlan, the senior trustee of the charity; Alderman Sir Harold Downer, K.C.S.G.; Sheriff Collins ; the Mayor of Stepney (Mr. M. H. Davis, L.C.C.); Captain W. W. Parker, M.B.E., Chairman of the Committee; Sir John Gilbert, K.C.S.G., K.S.S., Secretary; Adele Countess Cadogan, and others.

Her Royal Highness, attended by Miss Dorothy Yorke as Lady-in-Waiting, took the chair. A bouquet was presented by Bona Leather, of St. Aloysius’ Secondary School, Clarendon Square, N.W. The speeches followed. First of all the Lord Mayor, expressing gratitude to the Princess for the honour of her presence, extolled the work of the Night Refuge and commended as an example the action of market workers in the City who had subscribed fifty pounds to its funds. Lord FitzAlan associated himself with the words of welcome ; and the Bishop, who followed, remarked, as representing the Cardinal, that His Eminence, in whose name he thanked Her Royal Highness for honouring the institution, took a deep interest in that as in all other good works in the Archdiocese. His lordship referred also to the beneficent labours of the Sisters of Mercy at Crispin Street, labours, he said, which included work that in its result often meant more than the value of food and shelter to the poor and needy who sought the Refuge. Monsignor Butt was followed by Sir John Gilbert, who briefly related some salient facts and figures in connection with the work, as, for instance, that since 1860 the Refuge has provided nearly 2,600,000 free nights’ lodgings, and 5,200,000 free meals, upon an organization plan aimed at securing the benefits of the deserving.

Princess Mary and the other guests afterwards paid a visit to the various parts of the Refuge. They found everything in its customary’ order ; the inmates for the night had been admitted as usual at five o’clock, and the only circumstance marking the rejoicing for the visit of Her Royal Highness was a special meal, provided by an anonymous benefactor and more satisfying in its character than any banquet of cakes and ale.

The valuable link between the Home and the Corporation of the City of London may be noted from an examination of the charity’s list of officers in the annual report. Sir John Knill, treasurer and a trustee, was Lord Mayor of London, 1909-10; Sir Henry T. McAuliffe, a trustee, has served for many years upon the Common Council and is Deputy-Alderman for Bishopsgate; Sir Harold Downer, a member of Committee, was Sheriff in 1924 before his election last year as Alderman for Coleman Street Ward. Similarly, an extensive “second generation” of workers for Monsignor Gilbert’s institution will be recognized. Sir John Knill’s offices were formerly held by his father, the late Sir Stuart Knill, London’s first post-Reformation Catholic Lord Mayor; as mentioned above, Captain W. W. Parker, son of the late Sir Henry Watson Parker, a well-known City lawyer, fills the chair of the Committee, as did his father-in-law, the late Mr. Alfred Purssell, a former member of the Corporation and the great personal friend of the Founder ; Mr. George Bellord has succeeded his father, the late Mr. Edmund Bellord, thirty four years a member of Committee and twenty-six years its chairman ; Mr. Joseph Towsey joined the Committee upon the death of his father, the late Mr. William Towsey, an original member with a record service extending from 1860 to 1926; Mr. J. Arthur Walton is the son of the late Hon. Mr. Justice Walton, a trustee for many years. Finally, Sir John Gilbert, a nephew of the Founder, will this year complete thirty-five years’ work as Secretary.

Princess Mary has had a letter sent to Sir John Gilbert expressing her deep interest in all she saw at the Refuge. Her Royal Highness wishes to show that interest by a grant from Queen Mary’s London Needlework Guild.

(9.)  1932 – CHRISTMAS DAY AT CRISPIN STREET.–In accordance with the practice of its founder, nearly three hundred destitute poor were entertained to dinner at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home on Christmas Day. Captain W. W. Parker,Chairman of the Committee, [ Uncle Wilfred – well technically GG Uncle] presided; and the visitors included the Rev. F. D. Healy, M.A., Alderman Sir Harold Downer, Sir John Gilbert, the Revv. C. Flood, P. J. O’Hickey, O.S.A., C. J. Dullea, O.S.A., P. Geisel, S.J. and G. Eldridge; Mrs. W. Parker [ Aunt Charlotte], Mr. George Bellord [ Uncle Edmund’s son, and one of great, great, Grandpa’s grand-sons] , Mr. J. G. Bellord,[ John Bellord, who is Edmund’s brother] the Misses de Zulueta, Mr. R. Bellord [Robert Bellord, George’s brother, and another grand-son of Alfred Purssell.] Miss Margolis, the Misses Parker[ Uncle Wilfred, and Aunt Charlotte’s daughters, so more of Alfred’s grand-children], and others.  In the women’s refectory, Captain Parker unveiled a clock presented to the Refuge by Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood, [George V’s daughter, and the Queen’s aunt]  who presided at the annual Founder’s Day last April. After dinner, which was served by the Sisters of Mercy and visitors, presents were distributed, the gifts of generous friends of the charity.

(10.)  1935 – FOUNDER’S DAY AT CRISPIN STREET.—The thirty-seventh ” Founder’s Day ” celebration took place on Tuesday last at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge at Crispin Street. The chair was taken by the Lord Mayor, Sir Stephen Killik, who was accompanied by the Lady Mayoress and by the Sheriffs. This was the thirteenth occasion when a Lord Mayor has presided on Founder’s Day.

After Sir Stephen Killik had expressed his pleasure at being present, and had pointed out the great help given by the Refuge to those who, sometimes through no fault of their own, fall by the wayside, he deplored the deaths which had so directly affected the institution since the previous year’s gathering. The Court of Common Council had recently made a grant of £100 to the charity.

Father Bernard Hyde, of Moorfields—who replaced his lordship the Bishop of Cambysopolis, prevented by indisposition from attending—followed with an appeal for continued and increased support, financial and moral, for the great charity inaugurated by one of his predecessors at St. Mary’s, Monsignor Provost Gilbert.

Adele, Countess Cadogan stressed the importance of the work being carried on for so long a period by the Sisters of Mercy, who devoted themselves so wholeheartedly to their task in the truest spirit of charity.

The loss sustained through the death of Cardinal Bourne, [he died on New Year’s Day 1935] a frequent Founder’s Day visitor; of Sir John Knill, [he had died in 1934] who for thirty-six years had occupied the post of treasurer, formerly held by his late father; and of the indefatigable secretary, Sir John Gilbert, nephew of the founder, was emphasized by Capt. W. W. Parker, the chairman of committee, and the newly-appointed secretary, Mr. J. R. Walker. Sir Henry McAuliffe proposed, and Mr. J. S. Towsey seconded the vote of thanks to the Civic Visitors, to which Sir Stephen Killik replied. A tour of the premises followed, and the new Hostel for youths between sixteen and twenty-two formally received the name of the Purssell Hostel, in memory of the late Mr. Alfred Purssell, a co-operator with Monsignor Gilbert in the pioneer days. The annual report mentioned that this hostel, developed in premises in Gun Street, had cost upwards of £1,700, towards which sum much was still required. At Gilbert House, the hostel for business girls, specified improvements had been made; and in the servants’ hostel the laundry had been refitted with electrical plant. Regarding the ordinary routine of the shelter, 40,000 nights’ lodging, and about 90,000 free meals had been dispensed from November to May, bringing the total to 2,800,000 nights’ lodging and about 5,000,000 free meals, during the existence of the refuge, to poor persons irrespective of creed.

Among those present, in addition to the speakers and others already named, were Canon Ring and Canon P. McKenna; the Revv. E. King, S.J., V. Baker, Cong. Orat., and A. Reardon; the Earl of Denbigh; Sir Thomas Molony, Bart; Sir James and Lady Connolly; Mr. G. Bellord; and Mrs. Copland-Griffiths.

Sir Harold Downer, K.C.S.G., has accepted the dual office of Trustee and Treasurer, rendered vacant by the death of Sir John Knill, and his place on the Committee has been filled by Mr. Leonard V. Parker. [Uncle Wilfred and Aunt Charlotte’s son]

(11.)  1937 – PROVIDENCE ROW.  The Founder’s Day Meeting of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home was held at the Refuge, on Tuesday, February 16th. Lord Russell of Killowen [Francis Xavier Joseph Russell [Frank], Adah Russell’s brother-in-law. ] was in the chair, and the two principal speakers were the Archbishop of Westminster and Sir Arthur McNalty, who had come in the place of Sir Kingsley Wood, the Minister of Health, who was unavoidably prevented from attending. The Refuge was founded in 1860, by the late Mgr. Gilbert, whose nephew, the late Sir John Gilbert, also was closely associated with it for forty years. As Lord Russell of Killowen pointed out in his speech, the chief work of the Refuge lay in giving the unemployed a place to which they could return after a day’s fruitless search for work, a place where they could find food and shelter and warmth and kindness. The extent of this work can be seen in the fact that last winter, 36,386 nights’ lodging and more than seventy-three thousand meals were provided for the homeless irrespective of creed or nationality. In addition, the Refuge includes Purssell House, a special Hostel for boys and young men ; Bellord House, a special Hostel for women ; Gilbert House, which gives an inexpensive home to young business girls whose own homes are at a distance ; and a Home of Rest for women, at St. Albans. Truly, as the Archbishop of Westminster said, the Refuge has become a worthy monument to its founder. Sir Arthur McNalty reminded his hearers of the fact that it was not until after the Dissolution of the monasteries that the State had to make any provision for the care of the destitute, and added that it was good to know that the Church continued its tradition of charity, for there were aspects of poverty with which the State could hardly deal successfully, and the work of such places as the Refuge was invaluable. This work could not be carried on but for the labours of the Sisters of Mercy, who have been in charge of the Refuge from its foundation, and the generosity of many benefactors. Notable among these recently have been Rosamond, Lady Trevor, who bore the whole cost of refurnishing the women’s dormitory ; and those who responded to Lord Russell of Killowen’s broadcast appeal and enabled many other improvements to be made.

(1.)  From the University of Nottingham manuscripts and special collections.

(2.)The above text was found on p.36, 24th April 1897 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(3.) The above text was found on p.23, 5th January 1907 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(4.)  The above text was also found on p.23, 5th January 1907 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(5.) The above text was found on p.24, 4th January 1908  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(6.) The above text was found on p.38, 2nd January 1909 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(7.) The above text was found on p.22, 22nd February 1930  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(8.) The above text was found on p.22, 2nd May 1931  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(9.) The above text was found on p.23, 2nd January 1932  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(10.) The above text was found on p.25, 23rd February 1935  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

(11.) The above text was found on p.26, 20th February 1937  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Catholics and the law of marriage before 1836

Bridge over the River Garonne in Bordeaux

There are a couple of peculiar entries in a family bible that belonged to John Roche O’Bryen, and subsequently his son Alfred, and then grand-son Bob.  

“John Roche O’Bryen & Eliza his wife (born Henderson July 27th 1805) married Decr 25/32 Janr th 7th /33 by Protestant Curate at Bordeaux” and also in a second entry  on “December 25th 1832 & again (according to the rights of the Protestant Faith) at the British consulate Chapel   Bordeaux  January  7th  1833.”

This has always been intriguing right from the start. All in all, it’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The double ceremony is odd, but, as seen below, for a Catholic marriage to be valid under English law before 1836, it had to be performed by an Anglican clergyman. Canonically, in the eyes of the Church, the first, presumably, Catholic marriage is fine. The second Anglican ceremony would provide the legal certainty of a marriage that would be accepted under both English, and Irish law. Ironically, because there is no evidence of a French civil marriage, neither of the marriages were legal in France

The following from the UK Parliament website sets out the state of English Catholic marriages in 1832- 1833.

Until the middle of the 18th century marriages could take place anywhere provided they were conducted before an ordained clergyman of the Church of England. This encouraged the practice of secret marriages which did not have parental consent and which were often bigamous. It also allowed couples, particularly those of wealthy background, to marry while at least one of the partners was under age. The trade in these irregular marriages had grown enormously in London by the 1740s.

Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke 1690-1764

In 1753, however, the Marriage Act, promoted by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke, declared that all marriage ceremonies must be conducted by a minister in a parish church or chapel of the Church of England to be legally binding. No marriage of a person under the age of 21 was valid without the consent of parents or guardians. Clergymen who disobeyed the law were liable for 14 years transportation.Although Jews and Quakers were exempted from the 1753 Act, it required religious non-conformists and Catholics to be married in Anglican churches.

Hardwick’s Marriage Act 1753 (‘The Act’) applied only to England & Wales and came into force in 1754. Scotland and the Channel Islands were exempt from the legislation. Under Hardwick’s Act, banns were made compulsory and licences were only valid for a specific church. Hardwick’s Act also declared that only marriages held at approved places (i.e. Anglican, Jewish or Quaker churches) were legal. This was a big change as previously couples who made a vow before witnesses, who lived together and who had children were recognised by the church and law as being ‘married’. In order to legalise their marriage, some couples married again in an Anglican church, having first married in a non-conformist chapel. Marriage by other denominations, (i.e. Roman Catholic and Non-Conformist) wasn’t legalised until 1836.

This restriction was eventually removed by Parliament in the Marriage Act of 1836 which allowed non-conformists and Catholics to be married in their own places of worship. The Marriage Act 1836 allowed for non-conformists and Catholics to marry in their own place of worship, ie. chapels and Roman Catholic churches.

The provisions introduced in England and Wales empowered the Established Church to register the marriages but marriages in other churches were to be registered by a civil registrar. In Ireland the Roman Catholic Church was concerned that this latter requirement might detract from the religious nature of the marriage ceremony. Consequently, provisions were not introduced by the government there until 1845 to enable the registration of non Catholic marriages and for the appointment of registrars who were also given the power to solemnise marriages by civil contract. Ireland had legalised exclusively Catholic to Catholic marriages in the late C18th, but the penalties for marrying a mixed Catholic/Protestant couple were extreme to put it mildly.

The death penalty and a large fine were still on the Statute Books in 1830.  In a House of Commons debate on the 4th May 1830, Daniel O’Connell tried to change things: [HC Deb 04 May 1830 vol 24 cc396-401] It was one of the first things he raised, having taken his seat as the first Catholic M.P. since the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 which allowed Catholic M.P.s

Major Edmund Harington Molyneux-Seel 1857 – 1915

We regret to announce the death, at Hanch Hall, Litchfield, of Major Edmund Harington Molyneux-Seel, late King’s Liverpool Regt., of Huyton, Lancashire, aged fifty-eight. The elder son of the late Mr. Edmund Molyneux-Seel, of Huyton Hey, Lancs (Chamberlain to Pius IX and Leo XIII), by his marriage with the daughter of the Duke de Losada y Lousada, he was educated at the Oratory School, and entered the Army in 1878. During the South African War he commanded the 1st Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regt. in the advance through the Northern Transvaal, including the action of Belfast. Major Molyneux-Seel married, in 1894, Clare, youngest daughter of the late Thomas Weld-Blundell, of Ince Blundell, and leaves issue three daughters. His younger brother, Lieut.Colonel Edward H. Molyneux-Seel, D.S.O., was gazetted to a Staff appointment last year ; and his nephew, Captain Louis Molyneux-Seel, Border Regt., was reported ” missing ” last October.

The above text was found on p.21, 14th August 1915 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

House of Commons debate on Catholic Marriage 1830.

HC Deb 04 May 1830 vol 24 cc396-401

Daniel O'Connell
Daniel O’Connell

Mr O’Connell rose, he said, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to render valid, in certain cases, the marriages of Roman Catholics in England by a Catholic Clergyman, and to abolish in Ireland certain penalties imposed on Catholic Priests for celebrating marriages between Catholics and Protestants. He wished, if possible, to earn the approbation of Gentlemen on the other side, or at least to avoid their censure, by being very brief upon this subject at present, trespassing on the attention of the House only to an extent sufficient to make his intentions understood. The object of the proposed measure was, to render valid, in certain cases, the marriage of Roman Catholics in England, and to abolish the penalties imposed on Catholic Priests in Ireland for solemnizing marriages between Protestants and Catholics. There were two different points for consideration, on which the House might be disposed to come to different decisions. The House might be ready enough to amend the law of Ireland, without wishing to interfere with that of England. He did not refer to a law making the marriages of Roman Catholics valid in themselves; in that respect but little alteration was desirable, for marriages celebrated by a Roman Catholic priest, between Roman Catholic parties, were perfectly valid at present. Such marriage entitled a female to dower, and conveyed the ordinary interest in property to the children. That law extended in Ireland also to marriages celebrated between Protestant Dissenters by clergymen of their own communion. There were three distinct laws relating to marriages in Ireland:—first, for marriages celebrated by clergymen of the Established Church; secondly, for marriages by Protestant Dissenting ministers; and thirdly, for marriages celebrated by Roman Catholic priests, which are valid only when both parties are Roman Catholics. That being the slate of the law, his object was to mitigate the penalties for any violation of that law by a Roman Catholic priest. There was no penalty on clergymen of the Established Church for marrying persons of different religious persuasions, none on Dissenters—upon the Roman Catholics alone was any penalty inflicted. He would briefly notice some of the statutes which authorised these penalties. The first Act to which he would allude, was passed for the purpose of preventing the taking away and marrying children against the will of their guardians—a very (it object for a penal law, against which he had no design to make any objections. But in that Act, which was passed a great many years back, after prohibiting Catholic clergymen from celebrating such marriages, it was enacted, that any Roman Catholic clergyman who should celebrate such marriages, or marry any party or parties, knowing that they are of different persuasions, should incur all the penalties attached to the law. The first punishment was death; but a particular clause was introduced, providing that it should only be inflicted when the clergyman knew that one of the parties was not a Catholic. The next Statute to which he would call attention, was the 8th Anne, c. 11, s. 26, which continued these penalties. The House would recollect that the Roman Catholic clergyman was guilty of no offence unless one of the parties was a Protestant. The 26th Section enacted that Roman Catholic priests shall not many parties, when one of them has been of the Protestant religion, unless they get from the Protestant minister a certificate, certifying that the party was not a Protestant at the time of the marriage. This, however, raised a legal presumption that the priest knew that the party had been a Protestant, and to avoid that, he got from the Protestant clergyman a certificate, stating the negative. But the Act gave no means of forcing the Protestant clergy man to give that certificate, and if the priest could not get the Protestant clergyman to certify this under his hand and seal, and he should marry the parties, he fell under the penalties provided by the Act; that was not a state in which the law should be allowed to remain. By the 1st George 1st it was made felony without benefit of clergy for Popish priests to celebrate a marriage between two parties, one a reputed Protestant, and the other a Papist. When he coupled these statutes together, he found that in the one, knowledge was presumed, unless a certificate were produced; and that the other made it a capital felony to marry, not a Catholic and Protestant, but reputed Protestants, unless a certificate were produced, showing that they were not Protestants. This statute enabled Justices of the Peace to summon any persons, suspected of having been guilty of the offence mentioned, before them; and upon refusal to enter into recognizance’s, to punish them by imprisonment for the space of three years. This inquisitorial punishment was of so serious a nature, that it ought to be altered. He knew two instances of it, one of which occurred at Londonderry, and the other at Long ford, where there were now four persons in gaol under the provisions of this section; so that it was by no means a dead letter. The next he would mention was the 19th of George 2nd, c. 13, which declared void every marriage celebrated by Catholic priests, between Catholics and Protestants, where either party had been a Protestant twelve months preceding the Marriage: and by 23 George 2nd it was enacted, that as the marriage was not valid, the clergyman celebrating it should be hanged;—that Act continued in force to this day, with this difference, that by the Relief Bill, 33 George 3rd, c. 21, intended to repeal the former Act, it was enacted, that such a marriage should be invalid, and it ordered that a fine of 500l. should be paid by any Roman Catholic clergyman who should celebrate the marriage of a Catholic and Protestant. He must inform the House, that the question came before the Court of King’s Bench in Ireland, when Lord Kilwarden was sitting as Judge, and he determined that the latter punishment did not remove the penalty of death; and the ground for his opinion was, that the one Act of Parliament had used the word “reputed,” and that the other had not used that expression. So that, according to law, a Popish Priest, guilty of the offence mentioned in the Statute, might be hanged in the first instance, and fined afterwards! This was really too bad. Having thus stated briefly to the House the law on the subject, he might, perhaps, be asked what he proposed to do. To abolish the penalty of death altogether he would answer. He proposed to limit the fine to a small amount, and to remove the penalty in all cases, where the parties were Catholics at the time of the marriage, and not to go back one year previous to the marriage. That was the alteration which he proposed to make in the law of marriage in Ireland. He did not wish to carry the Relief Bill one particle further than it was carried already; but he wished to put out of the Statute-book, that capital felony, which, in his opinion, ought not to remain. He wished further to make the offence punishable only when the priest had a knowledge of the religion of the parties, when the malus animus on his part was manifest. He wished to state to the House, that he had heard of instances in which Catholic clergymen had been betrayed into the performance of the marriage ceremony, by designing persons, from sinister motives, and was acquainted with one of great respectability who was obliged to flee the country for two years precisely under such circumstances. Two persons went to him, and alleged that they were Catholics, and got themselves married, for the mere purpose of afterwards prosecuting him. And it was not until some time afterwards, when the conduct of the parties was discovered, that the clergyman was enabled to return. There was another part of this subject about which he felt considerable anxiety, that was, the marriage of Catholics in England; he did not allude to the marriage of the richer Catholics, but to their poorer brethren, many of whom came from Ireland, and when they were in their own country, had been in the habit of seeing their brothers, sisters, and all their relations married by Catholic priests, and they could not believe that marriages celebrated by Catholic priests in England were invalid. He begged to inform the House, that a Catholic clergyman could refuse to celebrate a marriage, when required, without a breach of the Canon Law. What was the consequence of this in England? Why the husband could desert the wife—many melancholy instances of which had lately occurred, and all the children were illegitimate. He felt, however, that he had said enough on this subject, and would trouble the House no further. He should wish to bring in a bill to allow all Protestant Dissenters, as well as Catholics, to marry according to the forms of their own religion, but he would not introduce a clause on that subject, if the Legislature should be adverse to such a measure. He hoped that he might then be allowed to bring in the Bill, and he would take another opportunity of entering more fully into the subject. In conclusion, the hon. and learned Gentleman moved for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the laws respecting Marriages celebrated by Roman Catholic Priests.

The Solicitor General  expressed his satisfaction at hearing that it was not the intention of the hon. and learned Member to disturb in any manner the Catholic Relief Bill of last year. He differed from the learned Gentleman in supposing that it would not be possible to bring in a Bill to apply to the marriage of Roman Catholics in England, which should not include all Dissenters; and he should object to any bill that was not of a general nature. As the hon. Member had given up that part of his Motion, and as there were many of the regulations which the hon. Member had suggested as to Ireland which appeared likely to be useful, he was not prepared to oppose the Motion. As he understood the matter, the Act of 1793 was intended to get rid of the severe penalties attached to the offence of celebrating illegal marriages, leaving no other penalty than the fine of 500l., but as there was a doubt on the subject, it was proper that that doubt should be cleared up. Nobody, he was sure, would be ready to carry the law into execution, which sentenced the priest to death for celebrating such marriages. Understanding, therefore, that the hon. member for Clare limited the Motion to bringing in a Bill declaratory of the law, he should most certainly not oppose it.

Lord Leveson Gower said, it was not his duty to oppose, but to promote the hon. and learned Gentleman’s Motion. He wished, however, to reserve his opinions on the subject, till a subsequent stage of the Bill, and he should certainly offer no opposition to it in that stage.

Sir J. Brydges said, he would not oppose the introduction of the Bill, but conceiving that after what was called the obsolete Statutes were repealed, there would be some motion to enact different laws, he should certainly oppose the Bill at its subsequent stages.

Mr. North supported the Motion. The Bill was to amend the civil law respecting marriage, and nobody who knew what that law was, whatever political opinions he might profess, would oppose that Bill. The hon. and learned Member, as he understood, did not intend to alter the law. But at present, the punishment to which a Catholic clergyman was supposed to be liable for celebrating illegal marriages was nothing less than death. In the opinion of many celebrated men, and in the opinion of an humble individual, himself, though his was a very conscientious opinion, the Relief Bill passed by the Irish Parliament in 1793 repealed the law inflicting this punishment. The punishment was no longer death—it was not transportation—it was a fine of 500l.; and the first object of the hon. member for Clave was, to reduce that penalty still further. He differed from the hon. member for Clare as to the point of determining the religion of the parties at the moment of celebrating the marriage, for it had happened to him to know that many parties went before the Catholic clergyman, and declared that they were Catholics, when it was known to the priest that they were born of Protestant parents, and had been at Church but a few months before: they said they had been converted. On this point, therefore, he disagreed with the hon. member for Clare; but in the general features of the Bill he concurred with him.

Mr Croker was in hopes, that ere long something would be done to make the marriage law similar throughout the three kingdoms. It was, in his opinion, a most monstrous anomaly, that the marriage law, which was the very foundation of society, on which depended the rights and fortunes of all classes of citizens living under the same general scheme of policy, subject to the same system of Government,—it was a monstrous anomaly that this law, the foundation of the whole society, should not be the same for every part of the kingdom, and every description of persons. At present, however, this law was so extravagant, and so extraordinary, that there was now a case of marriage pending, as the learned Gentleman opposite knew, which, after the highest court of Scotland had declared the couple to be legally married, and their children legitimate, was about, he believed, to be set aside by a still higher authority here; and the children were to be declared illegitimate. He did not mean to enter into the question as to Ireland, but he did hope that his Majesty’s Ministers, or some Gentleman of talents and weight in the House, would bring the state of the marriage-law under discussion, and would enable the people to know, at all times and places, whether they were legally married or not, and whether their offspring were legitimate or illegitimate.

Leave given to bring in the Bill; and Mr. Q’Connell and Mr. Jephson were ordered to bring it in.