The death of Bishop Bidwell – 1930

Manuel Bidwell is a first cousin (once removed) of Marie Bidwell, and officiated at her wedding

This is his obituary from The Tablet,  Page 11, 19th July 1930


Bishop Manuel Bidwell (3)
Bishop Manuel Bidwell

By the sudden and much lamented death of Monsignor Manuel Bidwell, C.B.E., D.D., titular Bishop of Miletopolis, the Cardinal Archbishop has lost a valued Auxiliary, and a number of Catholic interests and good works are deprived of a helper whose worth had long been proved in their regard. When Catholics learned last Saturday morning that his lordship had died on the previous day, the news came as a sorrowful surprise, for nothing had previously appeared in print to indicate that the Bishop was not in his customary health. He was, in fact, to have fulfilled a diocesan engagement on Saturday afternoon, by laying the memorial stone of the new school at Burnt Oak, and it was only a day or two beforehand that the rector, Father Armitage, received word that illness would keep his lordship away.

Monsignor Bidwell died at St. Mary’s, Cadogan Street, Chelsea, of which parish he had been in charge since 1913. His career, now to be outlined, will be seen to have embraced many offices, both in the Westminster Archdiocese and—for a time—in Rome. Added to the record of these various posts, and indicative of the Bishop’s constant zeal and activity in the promotion of Catholic interests, were such things as his lordship’s work for the Catholic Truth Society as Chairman of its General Committee since 1922; his services as a member of the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies; his appearance, occasionally, as a speaker at deputations to the Government on social questions; and more recently his care for the promotion of the Catholic Stage Guild, on which body he acted as His Eminence’s representative. His lordship’s work for education is referred to in another column by The Tablet’s Educational Correspondent.

Born in 1872 at Majorca, Dr. Bidwell was the son of the late Charles Toll Bidwell and of Amelia his wife, daughter of Don Jose Manuel Hurtado, first Minister of Colombia in London. In 1890 he took the degree of B.Sc. in Paris, and then studied Applied Science in this country, at King’s College. His studies for the priesthood were made at the French Seminary, and the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics, in Rome, where he was ordained in 1898. A short period of service followed in Gibraltar ; and later, after some time spent at St. Mary’s, Hampstead, he went to St. Mary’s, Chelsea, in 1902, as assistant priest, remaining there for about two years. The year 1904 saw the beginning of his connection with official diocesan affairs; he was made Diocesan Secretary and Archivist; and in 1907 he became Chancellor.

The next phase of Bishop Bidwell’s activity was in the Eternal City, whither he was called in 1908, to serve for some months in the Papal Secretariate of State, being made a Privy Chamberlain soon afterwards; and he was Auditor of the late Cardinal Vannutelli’s special mission to London on the occasion of the International Eucharistic Congress in the same year. In 1909 he resumed duty at Westminster as Diocesan Chancellor, and later as Procurator-Fiscal. Two years later found him a Domestic Prelate; in 1917 he was elevated to the Episcopate as Bishop Auxiliary ; and finally he received, in the following year, the C.B.E. honour.


Cardinal Bourne presided on Tuesday at the requiem Mass at Westminster Cathedral, celebrated by the Bishop of Cambysopolis, the Right Rev. Monsignor Butt. Other Bishops present included their lordships of Portsmouth and Brentwood; Mgr. Brown, Bishop of Pella ; and Mgr. Keatinge, C.M.G., Bishop of Metellopolis. Monsignor Canon Howlett was assistant priest to the Cardinal, with Mgri. Canons Brown and Evans as deacons. Among many other prelates and clergy attending the requiem were the Right Rev. Abbot White, C.R.L.; Mgr. Canon Surmont, V.G.; Mgr. Provost O’Grady, V.G. (Brentwood); and Mgr. Duchemin (rector of the Beda College). The family mourners included the Misses Bidwell, Mme. Santa Maria, and Mme. d’Abbadie d’Arrast (sisters); Surgeon-Commander L. Bidwell; Mrs. L. A. Bidwell ; Mr. T. L. Bidwell; Mr. E. R. Bidwell; Miss K. Taunton; Miss M. Taunton; Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Finch; Mr. and Mrs. O’Leary and Miss O’Leary; and Miss Lucy Mark.

Of the very large lay congregation, many attended in a representative capacity. These included Mr. H. Vischer, representing Lord Passfield, Secretary of State for the Colonies; M. Roger Cambon, representing the French Ambassador; John P. Boland, K.S.G., and Mrs. Boland (Catholic Truth Society); the Earl of Iddesleigh (Catholic Emigration Society); Mr. H. Norman (Catholic Council for International Relations); Major Wegg Prosser, K.S.G. (Society of St. Vincent de Paul); Mrs. Passmore (St. David’s Home); Miss Balfe (Catholic Women’s League); Mr. Ernest Oldmeadow (Editor of The Tablet); Major W. Arkwright (League of Nations Union, Chelsea); the Rev. H. Browne, S.J., and Miss Mary O’Farrell (Catholic Stage Guild); Mrs. Liveing (Public Service Committee, C.W.L.); Mr. C. Cary-Elwes (for the Italian Hospital); Mr. L. J. Magnani (St. Joseph’s Old Boys’ Association); Mrs. Allom (Bureau of Social Service); Miss Forster (University of London Catholic Society); Sir Henry Jerningham and Mr. J. S. Franey (Catholic Union of Great Britain, in the unavoidable absence of the President, Lord FitzAlan); Mr. Eric Hall (Chelsea Housing Committee); the Mayor of Chelsea ; and representatives of Nazareth House, Hammersmith, and other communities.

After the absolution, given by the Cardinal, the body was taken, for interment, to St. Vincent’s, Eastcote.


The following letter from His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop will appear in the August number of the Westminster Cathedral Chronicle:— I desire to offer my sincere thanks to the clergy and laity who have expressed their sympathy in the great grief and loss which have come to the Diocese, and to myself, in the death of his lordship Bishop Bidwell. That sympathy, even where unexpressed, has been universally felt, for the loss is indeed a heavy one. To me personally he stood for more than a quarter of a century in a relation of close, valued, and ever loyal friendship and service. The full worth of his life to the Diocese was known to few beyond myself, because a great deal of his work was of a private character, dealing with matters which attract no public attention. By his knowledge of Spanish, French, and Italian ; by his course of study abroad as well as at home; by his inherited diplomatic gifts ; by his keen, clear, logical intelligence; by his accurate knowledge of Theology and Canon Law ; by his patient understanding of complicated difficulties, he was fitted to render, and actually rendered, conspicuous service to the Church in diocesan, national, and international affairs. In all these ways his assistance was most precious to me in the very varied business that claims the attention of an Archbishop of Westminster.

He was deeply attached to this, his Diocese, in the administrative work of which he had a part, except during a brief interval, for nearly twenty-seven years. Of this attachment I will give two examples which are not generally known. In 1907 the late Cardinal Merry del Val, who had known him intimately from youth, unexpectedly and insistently summoned him to a post in the Secretariate of State in Rome. He obeyed, but his heart remained in London, and at the earliest opportunity he _sought, and ultimately obtained, release from a position which, honourable and responsible in itself, would have led to wider responsibilities and higher honours, in order to return to Westminster.

Again, in 1917, he showed clearly the same clinging to his work among us. During the War he had been my principal assistant in the immense work of safeguarding and making provision for the spiritual needs of the Catholic soldiers engaged in the British Armies in that tragic period. More than six hundred Chaplains had been obtained for this important, strenuous, and exacting service—a number greater, I believe, in proportion to the clergy of the country than in any other army. In 1917 the then Cardinal Secretary of the Consistorial Congregation, for reasons which it is not necessary to discuss today, thought it essential that in future the oversight of the Military Chaplains should be entrusted to a prelate wholly detached from any parish, diocese, or hierarchy. This honourable position was offered to Mgr. Bidwell; but, finding in it a severance from the Diocese of Westminster, he earnestly begged that he might be allowed to decline it. His wish was granted, but his great merits were recognized by the Holy See in the bestowal upon him of the Episcopal character. The War Office, in parting with his assistance, emphatically expressed its estimation of the services which he had rendered, and its deep regret at their involuntary withdrawal, and at the end of the War secured to him the decoration C.B.E.

Since then, for seventeen years, he had shared with me, and with my other devoted Auxiliary Bishop, the Episcopal duties of the Diocese. And now God, in His adorable wisdom, has called him to his rest and reward at the comparatively early age of fifty-eight, leaving to other hands many interests which he was so specially fitted to control. May that most Holy Will be done. Our duty is to thank God for all that He enabled His servant to accomplish; to beg His pardon for the human frailty that may have marred His servant’s endeavours and accomplishments; to ask His blessing and consolation for those who, on account of the ties of blood, are in special grief as this life passes into eternity.

May he rest in peace, and may God reward him abundantly for all that he has done for the Church, for this Diocese, and for its Archbishop.

FRANCIS CARDINAL BOURNE. Archbishop of Westminster. • July 15, 1930.


From the Colonial Office and the Admiralty messages of condolence on the death of Bishop Bidwell have been received as follows :— COLONIAL OFFICE, DOWNING STREET, S.W.1. July 14, 1930. MY DEAR CARDINAL BOURNE,—I write on behalf of Lord Passfield and myself to say that we have learned with great regret of the death of Bishop Bidwell, on the 11th of July. Bishop Bidwell rendered valuable services for many years as a member, first, of the Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa, and then of the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies. His death will be a very real loss to the Committee, and will be deeply regretted by all its members. Mr. Hans Vischer, one of the Joint Secretaries of the Advisory Committee, will represent Lord Passfield at the funeral to-morrow.

Yours sincerely, (Signed) T. DRUMMOND SHIELS, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies.

ADMIRALTY, S.W. July 14, 1930. DEAR MONSIGNOR EVANs,—The Board of Admiralty have seen with deep regret—in which I have special personal reasons for sharing—the announcement of the death of Bishop Bidwell, who for so many years represented His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop in matters affecting the ministrations to Roman Catholics in the Royal Navy.

In all his intercourse with the Admiralty, Bishop Bidwell showed himself a most helpful and sensible adviser, and the Board realised that any proposals and suggestions which he made were always well thought out and calculated to promote the best interests of the men. No one, moreover, could be brought into contact with him without being impressed by the sincerity and charm of his personality.

It would be very kind of you if you would bring to the notice of His Eminence the very great respect and regard which the Board of Admiralty entertained for Bishop Bidwell, and the sense of loss which we feel by reason of his death.

Believe me, Yours sincerely,

0. A. R. MURRAY.

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