Great great Granny gets a picture.

Her Majesty the Queen of Montenegro has forwarded officially a signed photograph to Lady Roper Parkington, in recognition and appreciation of the services she, as Hon. Treasurer, has rendered to the Montenegrin Red Cross and Relief Fund.

The above text was found on p.29,4th August 1917 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

St. Anselm’s Society For The Diffusion Of Good Books 1885

At first sight this seems to be rather dull, but worthy.  The more one reads on however some of the wording weaves between barking mad and rather sinister  “selecting such books as were free from danger to faith and morals”,…..  “their suitability to different kinds of readers”… “all would agree with him that the increase of infidel and harmful literature was unprecedented.”.. “Such literature was abhorrent to every Christian soul”…  Still at least it gave great great granny something to do.


The General Meeting of this Society was held on Wednesday afternoon, at Archbishop’s House, Westminster. His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop presided, and amongst those present were the Bishop of Emmaus, the Marquis of Ripon, Lord Herries, the Very Rev. W. Lockhart, Inst. Char., the Revv. J. Bagshawe, D.D., G. Akers, H. Bittleston, J. Biemans, E. Lescher, S. McDaniel, H. Arden, Sir John and Lady Marshall, Colonel Prendergast, Mrs. Roper Parkington, Mrs. and Miss Clerke, Mr. Wegg-Prosser, Mr. Allies, Mr. Lyall, Miss Pownall, Mr. Bell, Mr. Britten, Mr. George Blount, Dr. Laing, Mr. Bellasis, &c.

The REV. CANON WENHAM, the Hon. Secretary, read the Report.

Its First Establishment.—St. Anselm’s Society was first set up in the year 1860. The original design of it was mainly due to the late Father Formby, who did not, however, continue long in connection with it, but left it to others to carry the design into execution. Those who were most instrumental in this were the late Lord Petre and the late Father Knox, of the Oratory, the present Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, with the Very Rev. Father Morris, the Very Rev. Father William Eyre, Mr. Lloyd, the secretary, and the present secretary. The Society continued for several years in its work, collecting subscriptions and making grants of good books free, or at half price, and was in this way the means of putting several thousands of pounds’ worth of such books into circulation. But after a time the support given to it fell off, and the applications made to it became fewer and fewer. One cause of this was that the Society was expected to make a reduction to subscribers on all its books to an extent which, especially under the altered conditions of the book trade, it was not possible to make. That it did not entirely fall to the ground has been due to the support given to it by the President of the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul, Mr. Blount, who undertook the office of secretary, and kept it going during many years of discouragement.

A Fresh Start.—It may be well to explain briefly the circumstances that have led to its making a fresh start. It was partly because during the last two or three years the mischief done by indiscriminate reading of the books of the day has become more apparent and more frightful. Those who watch over us, as they that must give account of our souls, do not cease in pastorals and sermons and synodical letters to insist and enlarge on this danger. And the Holy See has repeatedly spoken on this subject in the strongest terms. With this conviction on their minds, the spirit of some who were well acquainted with our schools and colleges was stirred within them on seeing how little was being done to form in our young people a taste for wholesome literature and a conscience about indiscriminate reading, and that even the few books that were lent to the pupils to read or given them as prizes were often not of the kind that would be likely to cultivate their taste or excite their intelligence. It appeared on investigation that those who had to select the books oftentimes did not know what to order. They could not tell the character of books from their titles, and were at the mercy of booksellers and publishers, who, if not without knowledge of the books, were without knowledge of their suitability to the classes for whom they were ordered, and who were under special temptations to supply their own books, whether suitable or not. Here, then, it was thought, was a useful work for a Society like that of St. Anselm. If it could do little with the world at large to check unwholesome literature, yet at least it might give a helping hand to the hundreds and hundreds of our own convent schools and colleges throughout the country, that the money they laid out—and it must amount to a large sum each year —in books for prizes and school libraries, might be well laid out in books of the best sort for each class of readers It might be useful not only in selecting such books as were free from danger to faith and morals, but were the best of their kind, the most elevating and invigorating. And further, it might classify them according to their subject and character, and their suitability to different kinds of readers. With this view, then, the Council of St. Anselm’s Society set to work about a year ago to make a fresh start. It began by seeking for a local habitation in a central position, and had the good fortune to find, after some little search, its present premises, which, though not large, are sufficient for the purpose, and are in the neighbourhood of nearly all the similar institutions of London, and only five doors from the Strand at Charing Cross. And it has also been fortunate in finding a competent person, and experienced in bookselling, in the present manager. Busi; ness was thus commenced in a quiet way last June. The premises were fitted up sufficiently to make a beginning, and the Depository furnished with the books set down on its first lists.

Lists of Books.—These lists consist of the names of books selected from the catalogues of different publishers for their suitability to particular classes of readers. Nine such lists have now been issued ; the first was a list marked (C), of books suitable for libraries in elementary schools, with a second part (D), for the more advanced classes. For now that the education department recommends the establishment of such libraries, and takes them into account in awarding the mark of merit to the school, it seemed important to furnish lists of books that could be recommended for such libraries in Catholic schools. The next lists were (K), prize books for colleges, and (L), for convent schools, for it seemed deplorable that the large sums of money that are spent in this way should be laid out in books taken by chance or as the interest of the bookseller might direct, and not rather books such as we should really desire the pupils to make a study of. Two more lists (E and F), were next got out, the first for parochial libraries, and the second for more general and advanced readers. A short list (H) was printed of the best books of spiritual reading, with a supplement (G) of books of religious ‘instruction. But this last, at the suggestion of a high authority, has been expanded into a list of books of doctrine and controversy on the subjects of the day. This list is intended to answer, as far as may be, the questions so often asked as to what book is the best to explain particular doctrines and difficulties, to answer particular questions on religion, or to lend to people in particular states of mind or stages of advance towards faith and submission to the Church. The last list just published (M) requires a little special notice, as it differs from all the others in consisting, not of books selected and recommended as good books, but of books that may he read. People, it was urged, do not now buy the books they read, but hire them. If you wish, it was said, to direct their reading, you must look over the lists of books in the subscription libraries and tell them which they may read, and you must remember that if you attempt to restrain their reading too much about the subjects of the day, because these are dangerous, the most weak and least virtuous will only seek to emancipate themselves from a control which leaves them, as they think, behind the rest of the world. This was the argument, and the Society thought that at all events it would be doing a good work in forming a list selected from the subscription libraries of books which were the most safe and the least objectionable, while of course there are a large number of these books which are not only unexceptionable, but excellent.

Advantages.—The question is sometimes put to us, What advantage do we get by going to St. Anselm’s Society for books? Do you give a greater reduction than we can get elsewhere ? The answer is that we do not want to oppose or undersell the trade, but help to encourage it by making known the best works of all publishers. Nor could we undersell booksellers if we would, for the reduction made on cash sales is already as large as can be borne. While, therefore, St. Anselm’s Society invites readers to come to it for knowledge and choice of books, it does not ask that other booksellers should be left, and all orders should be sent to itself. Yet while it makes no profession—as at the time of its first establishment— of reducing the price of books below that of the trade, yet it is quite ready to reduce it as much, and in fact it makes a reduction of 25 per cent. all round, including those hooks which are dealt with exceptionally by the trade. Any one may take one of St. Anselm’s lists of selected books and tick off those he desires to have, and may send the list and a cheque for three-fourths of the whole sum to which the marked prices amount, and the Manager will send him the books, carriage free. There are publishers who will do as much with regard to their own books ; but St. Anselm’s Society will do this about the books of other publishers—about all good books—taking upon itself all the incidental expenses that may be the result of so doing. So far as this, then, the Society does offer some special advantages to those who order parcels of selected books.

Reprinting and Publishing,.—Lastly, the Society is ready to under-take the publication of books. There are not a few very good works which are out of print and cannot be obtained, and there are books indifferently translated and edited of which new editions are much wanted. The Society will readily enter into terms for reprinting such books, or publishing new works, so long as they are of a kind that falls within its scope, And as its great aim and end is not to make money, but to encourage and spread good books, it can afford perhaps more than others to be ” sweetly reasonable “ in dealing with editors and authors.

Officers and Associates.—Since the re-establishment of the Society it has had the misfortune to lose its President, Lord Petre. The members of the Society have reason to cherish his memory, of one who always endeavoured to attend its meetings, and showed great interest in its work, which he did his best to promote. The Council at their last meeting in January elected Lord Herries to fill his place, which he has kindly consented to do. At the same time the Council elected as permanent members of i is body a number of distinguished literary men, in order that it may have the benefit of their guidance, as well as their support, in any important questions of their. policy or work. The Council also elected eight members to manage the ordinary business of the Society, half of whom are to retire each year by rotation and their places to be filled up by election. Besides the permanent Council of authors, the Society has been able to obtain a valuable addition to its influence and working power in its Associates. When it began its fresh start a certain number of ladies, who felt the great importance of its work, engaged to give it their help, and united in an Association for Promoting the Reading of Good Books in Mission and School Libraries and Charitable Institutions. The Society now numbers forty of such associates, and is grateful to them for the valuable assistance they have given, especially in the selection of books. It has no better hope of success in its work than through the co-operation of these ladies, who will use their personal influence in their own localities to prevail on those about them to feed on good and wholesome literature, instead of what is poisonous.

Finance.—And now, in conclusion, something must be said as to the condition of the Society’s finances. And here we regret to have to make an admission which will have the tendency to set every right-minded Englishman against us. But the truth must be told—we have no balance at our bankers. The Society’s expenditure, indeed, during the past year, has, notwithstanding great economy, been fairly respectable. It has had the rent of the depository to pay for, to fit it up and furnish it with a decent amount of books ; it has had to pay for the printing of lists and circulars; to keep a manager and his assistant; to meet the expenses of advertising, petty cash, and sundries. We fear to injure our character in the world’s estimation by saying for how little all this was done. But it has not been done fur nothing; and—this is the disgraceful part of the story—it has not been done on our income. Our income is not respectable. We are surrounded by Societies like the Christian Knowledge Society, the Pure Literature Society, and others, whose income is counted by thousands. But St. Anselm’s Society set out last year with the modest sum of £86 13s. 8d., handed over by the late secretary. It has now about one hundred subscribers. Its total receipts from them during the past year and a quarter have amounted to £300. If St. Anselm in those old days, when he used to come to Mortlake to keep the feast of Easter, could have had a vision of the financial position which the Society bearing his name would hold in comparison with the non-Catholic Societies, he might have perhaps prophesied worse days for the Church in England than even those of William Rufus.

And now what is to be said in extenuation of the offence of having allowed expenditure to outrun income? This much. First, that no one need be under any apprehension for the Society, as care has been taken that the liability for this extra expenditure should fall entirely on those that are responsible for it. Secondly, a large portion of the expenses are incidental to the setting up of the Society’s business, and will not recur. Like every business it has to make a venture, but a reasonable venture, in order to get into working order and make itself known. Thirdly, the standing expense of the Depository is ono that may be expected to be met by the business done, and this though small as yet is increasing, and has begun to contribute towards current expenses. There is no reason why the business of St. Anselm’s Society in bookselling should not pay its expenses as well as any other bookselling business if it succeeds ; and it is beginning to succeed. But no doubt it must, at least in the first instance, depend on the support it receives from subscriptions. At the outset it must appeal for help towards its working expenses. And it appeals earnestly also for assistance to furnish the Depository with specimen copies of books, to make grants of books to charitable institutions, and to enable it to reprint and publish books that are called for. Other institutions of this kind are liberally supported by their own adherents, and the Society of St. Anselm appeals to the Catholic body to give it liberal aid for one or more of these objects, that it may be able worthily to represent Catholic interests in the literary world.

The MARQUIS OF RIPON, in moving the adoption of the Report, said his task was a very easy one, because he was sure that those who had listened to it while it was being read—giving as it did so clear a history of the objects and proceedings of this Society—would feel that the Society was well worthy of the support of English Catholics. The main object of the Society, as set forth in the Report was this : ” If it could do little with the world at large to check unwholesome literature, yet at least it might give a helping hand to the hundreds and hundreds of our own convent schools and colleges throughout the country, that the money they laid out—and it must amount to a large sum each year—in books for prizes and school libraries, might be well laid out in books of the best sort for each class of readers.” Any one who had had to select prizes for schools and colleges, especially in the country, must have felt the difficulty of making anything like a good selection. What happened generally was this—they went to the nearest bookseller, and chose those books which were nicely bound, and at the same time within the amount they had to spend. Generally there was very considerable difficulty, and the result was that the prizes were not always of the character they ought to be. The selection depended upon the extent of the bookseller’s stock, and this was particularly the case when they wanted books suitable to Catholic societies. Not only was the value of the prizes diminished, but there was the risk that no small amount of mischief might be done. It must always be remembered that prize books were not only to be admired for their bindings, but they were to be read and studied, and they came into the hands of the students with all the authority of the school to recommend them.

It seemed to him, therefore, that the work this Society was doing in issuing the lists of which the Report spoke, was very useful and valuable work indeed. It performed for Catholics a work which was done for Anglicans by the wealthy societies like the Christian Know-ledge Society and others. It was most important that those who have the management of the education of the young, should have a ready means of obtaining suitable books for children. Another important branch of the work was the list of books in circulating libraries  and looking over that list, he could not help remarking that it was drawn up in no narrow or restricted spirit. He did not think he need detain them any longer. He moved the adoption of the Report, and in doing so he commended St. Anselm’s Society to the continued support of its friends and of Catholics at large, confident that it was doing a very valuable work, while the state of its funds was not creditable to those who ought to sustain it with liberality.

The REV. G. AKERS, in seconding the motion, said : No one could mix as the clergy and many of the laity did with the people, and especially with the poor, without seeing the taint cast into their lives and their faith by reading books, not actually bad, but which contained the suggestion of what was evil. Many books were based upon false principles, and, although admired by all for their artistic merit, yet were as a snake in the grass. Who was to help them in the selection of books ? To make a right selection one had to look into the books, and for each of them to do that separately for themselves was rather a waste of good labour, while the result was, after all, unsatisfactory. That being so, these lists became very valuable to those who felt keenly the curse of this bad literature, and yet who found the work of selection a great difficulty. They wanted some one to help them in that matter, and to tell them which books were safe from the insidious danger of hidden wrong. The British spirit was inclined to resent any interference in matters of this kind, so that this work must be done very gently. It was impossible to have it done more gently than it was by this Society. They had to protect their people and children in their words as well as in their acts, and he did not see how any one could find fault with so excellent a Society as this. He hoped that they would not forget that the work of the St. Anselm’s Society was not merely the keeping of a store—its aim and ends was the diffusion of good books. They had to make a new start, and new work must be carried out. He hoped that fresh ways would be found by which good books might he diffused amongst the people, and he was certain that the work would grow immensely. They must take it up in a solid and earnest way worthy of the Church, and so check the spreading of the curse and poison of bad literature. The motion to was then agreed to nem. con.

LORD HERRIES, in moving the second resolution, said he must preface the few remarks he was about to make by saying how honoured he felt some months ago when he was elected President of this Society. He had taken great interest in the Society, and was attracted to it at first by the name of St. Anselm. He thought he ought, as President, to tender his thanks to his Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop for allowing them to come there for the meeting, and for his kindness in taking the chair on this occasion. The resolution he had to propose was really one to inform the public what the Society was. He proposed : ” That while the diffusion of good books is at all times a useful_and desirable object, it becomes especially important at the present time when immoral, heretical, and infidel publications are circulated to an unprecedented extent amongst all classes.” When the Society was founded some twenty years ago, the circumstances were not so bad as they were at present, and all would agree with him that the increase of infidel and harmful literature was unprecedented. Such literature was abhorrent to every Christian soul, and it was time for a Society like this to spread in Catholic society books which had a healthy tone ; the spread of healthy literature not only would prevent people reading bad books, but it would have a still greater effect in keeping the seeds of faith in the minds of our countrymen. They wanted the support of the clergy in this matter, and he believed that if the clergy took an interest in the formation of parish libraries they would be doing a great deal of good. In Yorkshire there was a mechanics’ union of village libraries, including 180 villages with 200, ow books. He did not see why they should not have Catholic village libraries, with this Society as the headquarters of such a movement.

The REV. DR. BAGSHAWE seconded the resolution. There was, he said, no doubt about the increased power of the press in these days, but while its power was increasing its tone was growing worse. The only way to meet this state of things was to descend into the field, and by producing and circulating good books use the same weapons as their enemies, provide good sound literature for the poor, not only for their own people, but for the masses of the population generally.

The motion was agreed to.

COLONEL PRENDERGAST next moved : ” That since the tendency of the popular literature of the day has become a subject of earnest solicitude to the Holy See ; and since the Bishops of England, in a Synodical Letter, have called on the Catholic laity to aid in counteracting the evil agencies at work through the medium of cheap publications, it becomes an urgent duty on the part of the faithful at large to take measures for responding to their appeal.” He confessed that he had been very much struck by the Report that had been read to the meeting, and he congratulated the Secretary, Canon Wenham, upon its production. It opened up so large a scope for this Society, that he could only venture to make a few remarks upon one or two points in it. He could not conceive how any class could be excluded from the operations of the Society, and he would therefore put in a claim for young persons of the higher classes. In middle and higher class schools there was a great disposition to reading, such as hardly existed some years ago. He remembered the formation of a school library at Eton, which at the time was regarded as an extraordinary thing, but now all large schools had their libraries. They were creating amongst the youth of the country a great appetite for reading, and with that came a certain responsibility upon those interested in young people to see that when they left school they would know how to choose the good and leave the evil books. He thought the circulating library list was especially valuable, and he said that more particularly as the father of a family.

In this country they had a wonderfully good literature, they had a mass of good books, and he was delighted to find that Canon Wenham had been at the trouble of preparing these useful lists. They wanted to know in some accessible way what to order from the circulating libraries which in modern days were powerful organisations. He believed that Mudie’s Library first came into existence to supply a clientele of evangelical proclivities, and that that was the making of that celebrated library. He was not sure that they could not get some lending libraries to order books to suit Catholics. He was delighted to find that general literature was not to be discouraged, because every now and then a book would appear—a book perhaps trifling apparently, but which would effect a revolution. They all knew that some years ago the places of worship in the Established Church were not what they ought to be, but now it was frequently difficult to know at once whether they were in a Catholic or an Anglican Church. He believed that the change was to be attributed, in a great measure, to a little book published some years ago called St. Autholicus. It was not, he thought, beyond the scope of this Society to encourage some kinds of ephemeral literature which would have a powerful effect for good. One word more : there was a slight note of despondency which perhaps was not to be wondered at, in the concluding sentences of the Report, but he did not think that they could always judge of the work of a Society, or of its true value, by the state of its funds. The officials no doubt were apt to take that view, but work like that of this Society had means of touching people of which the Society itself had no conception. A general effect was produced even by small means. He could only hope that the words of his resolution would find a response in the hearts of Catholics, and that the laity of the Church would rouse themselves and put themselves in contact with this Society to their own advantage and for the promotion of education in this country.

The VERY REV. W. LOCKHART, in seconding the motion, said he should confine his remarks for the most part to cheap literature. Colonel Prendergast very properly pointed out the importance of wholesome literature for the educated classes, but there was one thing which must be weighing on every Catholic who comes into contact with the masses of the people. He was sure it weighed on the heart of his Eminence and on the hearts of many priests who have to do with the people. That was that they were being ruined in thousands by cheap and bad literature. It was clearly one of the objects of this Society to do what could be done for all classes. It was the one Society they had for promoting Christian knowledge—the one Society which had the right to that high title. They had heard what it had been able to do in the course of its twenty years’ existence, and while they gave all credit and praise to those who had been foremost in the work of the Society, yet he thought they must all feel a tingling of shame when they considered that it bad done no more. Twenty years or more of life and that was all that it had been able to do. How was it that Catholics could do no more ? He spoke of the laity, for the clergy were so full of work. The Church of England and the dissenting bodies were examples in this respect which they ought to imitate. They were put to shame by what the Protestants—the Samaritans—were doing. He heard it said by Mr. Spurgeon that when a man went to him reproach-ing himself with his wasted life and neglected opportunities, that eloquent preacher would say : ” What are you going to do for other people, if you turn to God you must love your neighbour, for how can you love God, whom you have not seen, if you love not your neighbour whom you have seen.” Mr. Spurgeon puts his people into harness, and those who knew what was being done at Newington amongst a debased population, know the immense amount of good that was being done by the laity—both men and women—gathered round that preacher. There were many other instances to be found to show what the Samaritans were doing to shame the true Church. The country was being ruined and souls were being destroyed in thousands by bad literature. What were the Catholics doing to prevent this circulation of garbage, and to give better books in its stead ? His experience was this, that the laity did not sufficiently co-operate with the clergy. The Church of England laity and others supported their large societies for promoting Christian knowledge, &c., by large subscriptions and donations. He would be pleased if this meeting put into their hearts a practical and persevering zeal to imitate what was being done by others outside the true Church.

The resolution was agreed to unanimously.

The CARDINAL ARCHBISHOP said be had listened with great interest to the Report of this Society, which was founded nearly twenty-five years ago. There was, however, one great omission in the Report, and that was the name of Canon Wenham amongst those who have been associated with the Society from the beginning. The importance of this Society was immense, and he felt that to be so when twenty-five years ago he was asked to support it. He was very glad to be reminded of a fact he had quite forgotten. Four years after the foundation of this Society—in 1864—it fell to his lot to obtain the sanction of the Holy Father Pope Pius IX. to this Society. He had forgotten the fact. He was afraid that he had done very little but sympathise with this work. Lord Herries had been kind enough to thank him for receiving them that day and for presiding. He hoped that this Society from this day would meet there—this house would always be open to It seemed to him that a Society of this sort could not be under a better roof than his house. So many things had been touched upon that he would confine what he had to say to the importance of a society for the dissemination of good books. He was very often asked questions which perplexed him as to whether this or that book would be on the Index or not. He could not answer such questions, but it was perfectly certain that in this country all they could do was to sail at the Index without any hope of ever reaching it, just as a sailor sailed for the North Pole. Although it was impossible to lay down definite rules in this matter, yet they should keep the rules of the Index before their minds, and that was what this Society had done. He was glad to find that there was a large amount, of innocent and instructive literature before them, and Canon Wenham had exercised a wise discretion in issuing these lists of books. He could recollect the history of the Christian Knowledge Society. It was originally in the hands of a Protestant firm, but it was found that that firm were deriving a very large profit. It was determined to take it out of their hands, and to create a Society to carry on the whole machinery of a large trade. The effect of that was to enormously increase the circulation of the books, and good authors were attracted to the Society. The books the Christian Knowledge Society published were most beautiful and instructive, and they were written by some of the best men of the day. Books they could get for eightpence were valuable beyond anything they possessed in other ways. It fell to his lot to go into this subject, and he had received a proposal upon this subject which possibly might be accepted with advantage. When he saw that the St. Anselm Society had discernment and discretion in the selection of books—when he saw that they lacked nothing but capital, it struck him that the Society might make terms with some large firm of publishers, and so enormously increase the operations of the Society. They did not want to make a profit, but only to multiply good books. The proposal before him which he thought the Society would accept, might enable them to begin a Catholic Literary Society something like the Christian Knowledge Society. He would ask Canon Wenham to confer with him on the subject.

The BISHOP OF EMMAUS in moving a vote of thanks to the Cardinal Archbishop, said that the meeting had gladdened his heart. The work of the Society might have been a small work, but it was good work. The work of selecting books was indeed most important. With regard to the Christian Evidence Society, when he recently went into that Society’s shop he was amazed with what he saw. He had noticed with regret the death of Mrs. Ewing, whose little book called Jack-a-Napes, he regarded as an admirable work, and he had recently given no fewer than twenty copies of it away.

The vote of thanks having been seconded by CANON WENHAM, it was briefly acknowledged by his Eminence, and the proceedings then terminated.

The above text was found on p.26, 23rd May 1885 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

John Roper Parkington’s obituary – The Times, January,1924


The funeral of Sir John Roper Parkington took place yesterday at Mortlake Cemetery. Before the interment Solemn Requiem Mass was sung at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Edge-hill, Wimbledon, to which the body had been removed from Broadwater Lodge over- night. The celebrant was the Rev. Father Ignatius O’Gorman, assisted by the Rev. Father R. Dalrymple, as deacon, and Mr. Rogers, as sub-deacon. Lady Parkington was unable to be present owing to ill-health, and the chief mourners were Lady Sherston Baker | (daughter), Miss Sherston Baker (grand- daughter), Mrs. Bidwell (daughter), the Misses Bidwell (granddaughters), Mr. Thomas and Mr. Edward Bidwell (grandsons), Mr. and Mrs. Cary-Elwes (son-in-law and daughter), the Misses Cary-Elwes (granddaughters), and Mr. Evelyn, Mr. Eustace, and Mr. Oswald Cary- Elwes (grandsons). Others present included Bishop Bidwell. Miss Faudel-Phillips. Mr. G. H. Barton,, Mr. W. N. Osborne Miss Hardy, Mr. C ffennell. Mr. L. Constable. Father Bampton. S..J.. representatives of City Companies and organizations with which Sir Roper Parkington was connected. and of the 3rd Battalion East Surrey Regiment and the 7th (V.B.) Essex Regiment, of which he had been a maJor and honorary colonel respectively.

The Times, January 18, 1924. p 15

Dinner at Claridge’s for the Montenegrin Peace Delegates, 1913

Claridge’s, Brook St, W.1

Sir Roper and Lady Parkington gave a dinner last~ night at Claridge’s Hotel to meet the Montenegrin Peace Delegates. Among those present were M. Lazare Miouchkovitch, M. de Voinovitch, and M. Jean Popovitch (Delegates), the Greek Minister and Mme. Gennadius, M. Grouitch (Servian Charge d’ Affaires), M. de Fleuriau (French Embassy), Lord and Lady Rotherham, Sir Alfred and Lady Newton, Lady Meiklejohn, Sir Edward and Lady Boyle, Lady McGregor, Sir Benjamin and Lady Franklin, Sir Albert Rollit, and Sir Horatio and Lady Shephard.

The Times, January 23, 1913. p.9

Captain Windsor Cary-Elwes. 1839 – 1916

Windsor Cary-Elwes is Uncle Charlie’s father, and Aunt Dede’s [Edythe Roper Parkington] father in law.


Brompton Oratory

We regret to record the death on Tuesday in last week of Capt. Windsor Cary-Elwes. Born in 1839 he joined the Scots Guards in 1856 and shortly after was received into the Church. [He was the first of his family to be received into the church in 1857]  He married in 1862, Augusta C. L. Law (who survives him), daughter, of the Hon. William Towry Law, by whom he had a family of four sons and two daughters. Of his sons the eldest, Dom Luke, O.S.B., is a monk at Fort Augustus ; the second, Cuthbert, is a Jesuit now on the mission in British Guiana. The Requiem was celebrated at the Brompton Oratory by the Very Rev. Canon Dudley Cary-Elwes,( a cousin) assisted by the Rev. H. S. Bowden. The interment, at which Father Driscoll, S.J. officiated, assisted by Dom Luke Cary-Elwes, was at Mortlake. Amongst those present were Mrs. Windsor Cary-Elwes,  Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cary-Elwes, Mr. Wilfrid Cary-Elwes (grandson), Mrs. Edward Chisholm (daughter), Miss Edith Elwes (sister), the Misses Law (sisters-in-law), Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Law, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Algernon Law, Major and Mrs. Adrian Law, (all brothers in law, and their wives)  Mr. Ernest Chapman, Theodosia Countess of Cottenham, the Hon. Mrs. A. Fraser, Mrs. Edward Walsh, Mr. Gervase Elwes, Mr. Rudolph Elwes, (cousins)  Sir Roper and Lady Parkington, (Charles Cary-Elwes’ parents in law)  Lieut. General G. Moncrieff, C.B., Col. McGuire and others. Amongst the many flowers sent was a lovely wreath from the officers of the Scots Guards.—R.I.P.

The above text was found on p.28, 22nd April 1916, in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Grevel House, Chipping Campden


Captain Windsor Charles Cary-Elwes, late Scots Guards, of  Grevel House, Campden, Glos., who died on April 3, at 3 York Place, W., aged 76 years, has left unsettled estate of the value of £8,287 14s. 11d., the whole of which he leaves in trust for his wife and children.

The above text was found on p.26, 22nd July 1916, in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

John Roper Parkington – fund-raising for St. Austin’s, Wimbledon Park.

ST. AUSTIN’S, WIMBLEDON : A GENEROUS OFFER.—A bazaar in aid of St. Austin’s, Wimbledon Park, for the new church, was opened on Wednesday, by Miss Hood, daughter of Sir Joseph Hood, Bart., M.P., at the Welcome Hall, Wimbledon. Colonel Sir Roper Parkington, who, unfortunately, was prevented by illness from attending, requested that his speech should be read, in which he said : ” Since I have taken a house in this parish I have been deeply interested in the building of the new church of St. Austin’s at Wimbledon Park. When I arrived I went to the present temporary church, but I found that there was no proper seating accommodation. I was convinced that a new church was much needed, and I promised Father Rector to give £500 [a present day value of almost £ 150,000] as soon as the new church was begun. At the request of Father O’Gorman, our district priest, I undertook to lay the foundation-stone of St. Austin’s. I was encouraged to do this because my old and much esteemed friend, Father Bernard Vaughan, promised to speak on the occasion. I regret that he has not lived to add this good work to a life of good work for God’s glory. I earnestly appeal to you, the Catholics of Wimbledon, to come generously forward to-day to assist in collecting such a sum of money as may enable Father Rector to start the building of St. Austin’s without delay. I am looking forward to the day when I shall be able to take sittings in the new church for myself and my wife, Lady Parkington, who, as a member of the altar society and sodality, has taken the greatest interest in the parish and in the building of our new church.”

The above text was found on p.30, 16th December 1922 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

The Roper Parkingtons: the early years

John Roper Parkington

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s actually true?

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

Civil Birth Index 1843

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

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

Civil Registration Birth Index 1849

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

Bar Convent, York

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

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

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

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


Turnham Green

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

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

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

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

Melbourne House, Chiswick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St Anne, Limehouse

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

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

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

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

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

A Dutch ” Kermese,” 1913

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

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

St Monica’s , Palmers Green

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

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

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

Sir John Roper Parkington

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

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

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


Col. Sir John Roper Parkington. 1843 – 1924.

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

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

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

Major John Roper Parkington.

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

Claridges lobby

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

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

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

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

Sacred Heart, Wimbledon

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

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

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

Good old Great, Great Granny RP

32 Curzon Street W.1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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