The Julian Watts-Russell monument, Rome, April 1894

San Tommaso Canterbury, Via di Monserrato, Roma,

I stumbled across this recently, and it is one of those nice curiosities that happen from time to time. The initial interest was sparked by the fact that two of the contributors to the monument are Mgr O’Bryen, and the then Rev. Manuel Bidwell.  Almost thirty years later Manuel, by then the rather grand sounding Bishop of Miletopolis, married the O’Bryen great-grandparents [his first cousin (once removed) and Uncle Henry’s nephew.]

The two churchmen were at either end of their church careers, and at least a generation apart in age.  Henry was fifty nine at the time, having spent almost twenty years as a papal diplomat, and would be dead eighteen months later. Manuel was only twenty two, and had just started studying in Rome at the French Seminary, and the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics, having already gained a B.Sc. in Paris, and then studied Applied Science, at King’s College, London.  He was ordained in Rome four years later in 1898, where the assistant priest at his first mass was Mgr, and later Cardinal, Merry del Val.

So the initial spark was the curiosity of a great great uncle, and a first cousin three times removed both having been connected together, but the more one looks at the list of donors to the memorial, the grander they become, and the more it shines alight at the still glittering peaks at the top of the church. I’ll come back to that in another post. But for now, a simple explanation of who Julian Watts-Russell was.

He was a Pontifical Zouave, who was killed in the battle of Mentana, Nov. 3, 1867. The Papal Zouaves  were an infantry force formed for the defence of the Papal States in 1860. The battle of Mentana was “the last victory of the Church in arms,”  [ a interesting choice of words from the Tablet in 1967]  three years before the capture of Rome by the Italian army ending eleven hundred years of temporal papal rule. Julian Watts-Russell aged seventeen, was the youngest casualty of the battle,  “one who may be called the last of the English martyrs” [ The Tablet 1894]


The monument is now finished, with the  exception of the Mentana medal-cross, and will be placed in the English College Church  during the coming week. By a singular coincidence, Captain Shee has recently come to Rome. He is a hero of Mentana, and received nine wounds in 1870, and is one of those who buried the body of Julian Watts-Russell after his death, and exhumed it when brought to Rome. In connection with present events, it may be well to record the inscription on Julian’s tomb in the Campo Verano :











The above text was found on p.17, 7th April 1894 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

” The Julian Watts-Russell monument is now completed. The expenses have been defrayed  by the contributions of the following persons,  chiefly members of the English-speaking colony in Rome : His Grace the Archbishop of Trebizond [the Hon. and Rt. Rev. Mgr. Stonor,],  Monsignori Merry del Val, Stanley, Giles, and O’Bryen ; the Very Rev. Joseph Bannin, S.M., the Rev. John L. Prior, D.D. (Vice-Rector of the English College), the Rev. Michael Watts-Russell, C.P. ; the Rev. G. Phillips and the Rev. Dr. Preston, of Ushaw College ; the Rev. C. R. Lindsay, the Rev. Manuel Bidwell, the Rev. Students of the English College, Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, Mr. E. Granville Ward, Miss Watts-Russell, Mr. C. W. Worlledge, Dr. J. J. Eyre, Mr. C. Spedding, Mr. C. Astor Bristead, and Mr. W. Cagger.

The Mentana monument, which has been already described, has been erected upon a base of white Carrara marble and surmounted with a Mentana medal-cross in exact imitation of that which it replaces. The whole has been placed in the Church of St. Thomas, in the corner of the Gospel side of the altar, near the memorial slabs of distinguished modern English Catholics buried in the church. The inscription on the base succinctly recalls the history of the monument:


The letters of the original inscription, which were badly damaged, have been restored and made legible even from a distance. The restoration of the monument has cost 300 francs, and it is proposed to apply the remainder of the money contributed to restoring his grave.”

The above text was found on p.17, 12th May 1894 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .



The monument is now finished, with the  exception of the Mentana medal-cross, and will be placed in the English College Church  during the coming week. By a singular coincidence, Captain Shee has recently come to Rome. He is a hero of Mentana, and received nine wounds in 1870, and is one of those who buried the body of Julian Watts-Russell after his death, and exhumed it when brought to Rome. In connection with present events, it may be well to record the inscription on Julian’s tomb in the Campo Verano :











The above text was found on p.17, 7th April 1894 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Admission of Sheriffs of the City of London, 1896

I like the fact that this one has two great,great grandfathers at it even though neither of them would have known it, and by the time they were interlinked, one [Alfred Purssell] had been dead twenty seven years, and the other [John Roper Parkington] dead four months. This is from The Times, on Tuesday, September 29, 1896.

Admission of Sheriffs

Yesterday Mr. Alderman James Thompson Ritchie and Mr. Deputy Robert Hargreaves Rogers, who were elected by the Livery at midsummer as Sheriffs of the City of London for the year ensuing, were formally admitted to office at Guildhall. The proceedings were conducted with all the ancient and quaint ceremonial customary on the occasion. The Lord Mayor, accompanied by Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Pound and Mr. Sheriff Cooper, the retiring Sheriffs, and attended by the Sword and Mace Bearers and the City Marshal, went in state from the Mansion-house, and on arriving at Guildhall were escorted to the Aldermen’s Chamber, where the Aldermen, the Recorder, the Chamberlain, and the other high officers had assembled.

The Great Hall, Guildhall, London

There they were joined by the new Sheriffs, with whom were the masters, wardens, and courts of the Bakers’, Ship-wrights’, and Loriners’ Companies, to which they belong. The Sheriffs-Elect were formally introduced to the Aldermen by Alderman Sir Stuart Knill and Alderman and Colonel Davies, M.P. A procession was then formed and the civic dignitaries passed to the hustings in the great hall, where a considerable number of persons, including many ladies, had gathered to witness the ceremony.

The Common Cryer (Colonel Eustace Burnaby) having called upon Mr. Alderman Ritchie and Mr. Deputy Rogers to come forward and take upon themselves the office of Sheriff, these gentlemen presented themselves amid cheers. The Town Clerk (Sir John Monckton) then administered to each the declarations prescribed by the Promissory Oaths Act and couched in the quaint language of former times. In these they promised loyalty to the Sovereign and protection to the franchise of the City of London.

They would well and lawfully keep the Shire of the City “ and right they would do, as well to poor as rich, and good custom they would none break, nor evil custom arrere.”  They would not tarry the judgments and executions of the Sheriffs’ Court without reasonable cause ” nor right would they none disturb.” They would promote the Queen’s profit in all things that belonged to their office as far as they legally could or might, and they would not respite or delay to levy the Queen’s debts for any gift, promise, reward, or favour where they might raise the same without great grievance to the debtor. They would do no wrong to any man for any gift, reward, or promise, nor for favour nor hatred. Finally, they would truly and diligently execute the good laws and statutes of the realm, and in all things well and truly behave themselves in their office for the honour of the Queen and the good of her subjects and discharge the same according to the best of their skill and power.

Tho Sheriffs-Elect having signed the declarations, the late Sheriffs took off their official robes and chains and placed the chains of office upon each of the new Sheriffs- Mr. Alderman Pound investing Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Bitchie and Mr. Cooper discharging a similar function for Mr. Sheriff Rogers. The ceremony then ended and the civic authorities left the hall.

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, who is an elder brother of the President of the Board of Trade, is the head of the firm of Messrs. W. Ritchie and Sons, jute spinners and merchants, of Lime-street and Silver- town, and has been Alderman of the Ward of Tower since 1892, when he succeeded the late Mr. Alderman Gray. His colleague Mr. Sheriff Rogers is a member of the firm of Messrs. R. H. and S. Rogers, linen manufacturers, of Addle-street, City, and Coleraine, in Ireland, and has been a Common Councilman for Cripplegate Ward since 1886 and Deputy-Alderman since 1890. Their Under-Sheriffs are Mr. Webster Glynes, solicitor, of 29, Mark-lane, and Mr. Clarence Richard Halse, solicitor, of 61, Cheapside, and their chaplains are the Rev. C. J. Ridgeway, vicar of Christ Church, Paddington, and the Rev. J. S. Barrass, rector of St. Michael Bassishaw.

Clothworkers Hall, Mincing Lane, London

After the ceremony of their inauguration, Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie and Mr. Sheriff and Deputy Rogers proceeded to Clothworkers’-hall, in Mincing- lane, where they entertained a large company at breakfast. Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie presided, and his colleague in the shrievalty occupied the seat on his left. The guests included Mr. C. T. Ritchie, M.P., Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, Alderman Lieutenant- Colonel Davies, M.P.. Mr. Alderman Newton, Alderman Sir J. C. Dimsdale, Mr. Alderman Truscott, Alderman Sir J. V. Moore, Mr. Alderman Green, Mr. Alderman Samuel, Mr. Alderman Bell, Mr. Aldelman Alliston, Mr. Alderman Halse, Sir W. J. R. Cotton (the Chamberlain), Sir Forrest Fulton, Q.C. (the Common Serjeant), Mr. Alfred Lyon, Mr. Matthew Wallace (the Chief Commoner), Mr. Walter H. Harris, Mr. T. K. Freeman, Mr. J. S. Phené (warden of the Clothworkers’ Company).Mr.W. M. Bickerstaff, the Rev. R. H. Hadden (Lord Mayor’s chaplain), the Rev. C. J. Ridgway, the Rev. J. S. Barrass, Mr. Under-Sheriff Glynes, Mr. Under-Sheriff Halse, Dr. R. T. Pigott, Mr. Deputy Pepler, Mr. Deputy Cox, Mr. Deputy Pimm, Mr. Deputy Atkins, Mr. Deputy Baddelley, Mr. Deputy Edmeston, Mr. Deputy Dowling, Lieutenant-Colonel Milman, Major Roper Parkington, Mr. W. H. Collingridge. Colonel Browne, V.C., Mr. A. Purssell, Mr. W. J. Johnston, Colonel Davies Sewell, Mr. A. B. Hudson, Mr. J. A. Britton, Mr. J. H. Lile, and Mr. Graham King .

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, who was warmly received, in proposing ” The Health of the Queen,” after reminding them that if her Majesty were spared until next June she would have reigned over them for 60 years, remarked that the historian of the future, when describing the events of the Victorian era. would write it down as the most glorious in the annals of history. (Cheers.)

Mr. Sheriff and Deputy Rogers, who also received a cordial greeting, afterwards proposed ” The Prince and Princess of Wales and the other Members of the Royal Family.”

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, in proposing    The Houses of Parliament, “ remarked that Englishmen were proud of their ancient institutions – institutions which had come down to them through the ages, and which had been moulded and fashioned by successive generations to meet the requirements of the people and of the times. They had at the present time a House of Lords and a House of Commons – and he might add, by way of parenthesis, a Corporation of the City of London (Cheers) – which at once excited the envy and the admiration of the world. (Cheers.) The House of Lords, as they were all aware, was composed of a body of men of high culture, marked ability, and great patriotism, and he believed that the verdict of the public was generally in its favour. With regard to the House of Commons, it was elected by the people themselves, and it was good or bad as the people themselves made it. Opinions differed, no doubt, with respect to the quality of the present House, but they all had an instance not long since that it considered the country superior to party. (Cheers.)

Mr. Ritchie, M.P., in responding to the toast, observed that the House of Lords differed in one essential respect from the House of Commons. The House of Commons came and went, while the House of Lords went on for ever; and he confessed that that was one of the characteristics of the House of Lords which members of the House of Commons envied most. (Laughter.) Reference had been made to the peculiar position of the House of Lords with respect to its constitution, and he had no doubt that the constitution of the House of Lords was what was usually called an anomaly. As far, however, as he was concerned, he was not frightened at the word ” anomaly.” Our constitution was full of anomalies, which, as the proposer of the toast had said, had grown up from year to year in order to meet the times; and it was a remarkable fact that, anomalous as was the position of the House of Lords, there was not a country in the world which did not regard it as the very embodiment of excellence for a second Chamber. (Cheers.)

There was this other anomaly in connexion with the House of Lords-that although the House of Commons was an elected body and the House of Lords was not – it so happened that the latter sometimes more adequately represented the opinion of the people than the elected Chamber. (Hear, hear.)

That, however, was an anomaly which had been of great service sometimes to the people of this country. Again and again the House of Lords had saved the country from unreflecting legislation by the House of Commons which might have had disastrous consequences; and he ventured to think that if they were to look back to the last occasion on which this had taken place it would be found that members of the party to which he belonged were not the only men in the kingdom who said “Thank God, we have a House of Lords.” (Cheers.)

The people of this country were satisfied with the patriotism of the House of Lords, believing that no unselfish aims, no pledges to constituents, warped the judgement of its members when matters of importance came before them,but that their decision was given in an unbiased way, and in a manner which they thought would best serve the interests of the country. (Cheers.) There had been times when the House of Lords had been attacked,but he had not of late heard very much said against it, nor did he think they were likely to for some time to come. So far as the House of Commons was concerned, he believed that some of them were quite satisfied with its present composition, while, no doubt, there were others who were not so satisfied ; but he assumed that the toast had been drunk so heartily because they believed that the House of Commons, however it might be constituted, deserved well of the country as a rule. (Hear, hear.)

The present House of Commons had already done some good work, and it would do more in time ; and he believed the probabilities were that when it came to its end it would have reaped as many laurels as any House of Commons that had preceded it. (Cheers.) There was one thing which the House of Commons and the country were fully aware of – that the House had not been elected for the purpose of carrying out revolutionary or sensational legislation or to pass into law all the fads of the various sections of the community. (Cheers.)

They had had a clear mandate from the country that the days of legislation of that kind – at least for the present – were over, and that the people expected the present House of Commons to devote itself to legislation which would be for the benefit and the interest of all classes of the community. (Hear, hear.)

He believed that that was the legislation which the House of Commons would devote itself to, and that this would meet with the approval of the people of this country. He was returning thanks for the toast in circumstances somewhat peculiar. It had been proposed by one of the Sheriffs, who was a very near relative of his (Cheers), and he need hardly say, therefore, that he responded to it with special pleasure. Some of them who desired to take part in public life took one path and some of them took another. Some chose the path of municipal life, others the path of Imperial work. Both paths were equally honourable, and both led to the same end, but he believed that if there was a choice between the one and the other, it would be found that municipal work, well and honestly done, did more for the welfare and happiness of the community than Parliamentary work did. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)

Mr. Sheriff and Deputy Rogers, afterwards proposed  “ The Lord Mayor and the Corporation of the London.”  Having referred to the dignified manner in which the present Lord Mayor (Sir Walter Wilkin) had discharged the duties of his high office, the speaker observed that the Corporation of London was the oldest and most Democratic body in the world. It had always been to the front in protecting the interests and the freedom of the citizens of London, while in quite recent times the Corporation had proved its usefulness in such works as the Holborn Viaduct and the Tower Bridge.

Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, in responding to the toast, said they all felt that the atmosphere had of late cleared, and the great benefit which had been rendered by Lord Mayors and the Corporation in ancient times as well as in the present day was now acknowledged. He felt it a special privilege to respond to the toast, because the present Lord Mayor honoured him during his term of office by being one of his sheriffs. (Cheers.)

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, next proposed ” The Livery Companies.” They were assembled, he said, in the hall of one of the greatest of the City guilds –  a company which stood high in the ranks of the livery companies, and which was also one of the greatest in its charities. (Hear, hear.) The Cloth-workers’ Company spent large sums yearly on technical education, but he believed that all the City companies were doing what they could in their different ways to promote the education of the people. He was convinced that if another commission investigated their affairs the conclusion it would arrive at would be that the funds which were at the disposal of the City companies could not be better dealt with than they were at the present time. (Hear, hear.)

Captain James Watson (Master of the Bakers’ Company) responded to the toast.

Alderman Lieutenant-Colonel Davies, M.P., in proposing ” The Sheriffs, “ referred to the antiquity of their office, and wished them a pleasant and agreeable year.

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, in acknowledging the toast, said that, as those present were aware, his colleague and himself did not play the principal parts in “ this Corporation annual.” The chief role was to be taken by another, who had not yet been chosen; but as he was somewhat behind the scenes, he might tell them a secret -the gentleman who was to be chosen was Mr. Alderman Faudel Philips (Cheers), to assist whom his colleague and himself would do their very best.

Mr. Sheriff and Deputy Rogers, also responded, and subsequently proposed ” The Retiring Sheriffs,”  warmly testifying to the able way in which Mr. Alderman Pound and Mr. Cooper had discharged their duties.

Mr. Alderman and Ex-Sheriff Pound responded. The company shortly afterwards separated.

PROVIDENCE (ROW) again – 1898

Providence Row

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sir Stuart Knill 1824 – 1898

Stuart Knill was the first Catholic Lord Mayor of London since the Reformation.


It is with deep regret that we announce the death of Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, which occurred early on Saturday morning at his residence, The Crosslets, The Grove, Blackheath, after an illness of about a month’s duration. We have dealt elsewhere with the lesson of his life, and we here avail ourselves of the source used by most of our contemporaries for the main facts of his career.

Sir Stuart was the son of Mr. John Knill, of Blackheath, and was born in 1824. He succeeded his father as head of the firm of Messrs. John Knill and Co., wharfingers and warehouse-keepers, of Fresh Wharf and Cox’s Quay, London Bridge. He took no part in municipal or official life until 1885, when, on the death of Sir Charles Whetham, he came forward in response to an influential requisition as a candidate for the Aldermanry of the ward of Bridge Within, in which his business was carried on. His opponent was Mr. (now Sir) John Voce Moore, the present Lord Mayor, and after a keen contest Mr. Knill was successful. He served the office of Sheriff of London in 1889, in the mayoralty of Sir Henry Isaacs, having as his colleague Mr. Walter H. Harris, C.M.G. In the ordinary course of civic rotation his turn for being elected Lord Mayor arrived in 1892.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Prior to the election an angry controversy was set up as to the desirability of electing as Chief Magistrate so fervent a Catholic as Mr. Alderman Knill, (who carried his religion to the extent of abstaining from attending official services at St. Paul’s Cathedral and other churches of the Establishment while holding high municipal position. Mr. Alderman Knill, however, in a letter to the then Lord Mayor (Sir David Evans) made it quite clear that to this conscientious attitude of his he intended scrupulously to adhere, whatever might be the consequences, but he promised, if elected, to appoint a clergyman of the Church of England as chaplain to the office of Lord Mayor—and in every other way to carry out the ancient duties and traditions of his position. At the election Mr. Alderman Knill was severely catechized on behalf of the Protestant citizens, but he never flinched from his decision. His name and that of Mr. Alderman (now Sir) George Faudel-Phillips—the one a Catholic, the other a liberal-minded Jew—were selected by the Livery for submission to the Court of Aldermen, who chose Mr. Alderman Knill.

Duke and Duchess of York 1897

His term of office was useful and dignified, and though he never attended church in state he escorted the Judges to the doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral and received them on their return from service. He paid a state visit to Dublin on New Year’s Day, 1893, for the inauguration of the Lord Mayor of that city, and was enthusiastically received by the Catholic populace. On the occasion of the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs met the Royal couple at St. Paul’s, and escorted them through the City. The King and Queen of Denmark, who were in London for the wedding of their grandson, visited the Guildhall and were received by Lord Mayor Knill on the part of the Corporation. The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs also paid a state visit to Edinburgh in connection with the Congress of the British Institute of Public Health, and while there his lordship received the honorary degree of LL.D. of Edinburgh University.

A painful national event in Sir S. Knill’s mayoralty was the loss of her Majesty’s ship Victoria with over 400 lives, necessitating the raising of a Mansion House fund for the relief of the widows and orphans, to which £ 68,000 was subscribed. The Lord Mayor was appointed a Royal Commissioner of the Patriotic Fund for the administration of that and other kindred subscriptions. His hospitality was unbounded. Among other entertainments out of the usual sort he gave a dinner to M. Waddington, the French Ambassador, another to Field-Marshal Lord Roberts on his return from the Indian command, a third to the members of the Comedie Francaise, then visiting London, as well as a banquet in honour of music.

A notable banquet was that to Cardinal Vaughan and the Catholic Bishops of England. It was an exclusively Catholic gathering, but the Lord Mayor got into trouble over it with the Corporation and others for proposing as the first toast “The Holy Father, and the Queen.” No one doubted his loyalty, and his explanation that it was the usual Catholic formula—equivalent to the time-honoured toast “Church and Queen ” —was generally accepted. The almost concurrent announcement, through Mr. Gladstone, that the Queen had conferred on the Lord Mayor the honour of a baronetcy, in celebration of the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York, showed at all events that no permanent, if any, umbrage was taken at the incident in high quarters. In 1897, on the death of Sir William Lawrence, Sir Stuart Knill accepted the sinecure aldermanry of the ward of Bridge Without, and the electors of his old ward—Bridge Within—paid him the compliment of choosing as his successor his son, Mr. John Knill. Father and son were thus aldermen of two adjoining wards.

Sir Stuart was a distinguished archeologist and antiquary, and a considerable traveller. He was last year president of the dilettanti society known as “The Sette of Odd Volumes.” He was a magistrate for Kent and London. At the first election of the London County Council he was a candidate for the Greenwich Division, but was unsuccessful. He was a leading member of the Plumbers’ Company, of which he had been Master, and took a principal part in the scheme for the examination of plumbers which has had such good results in sanitation. He was also on the Court of the Goldsmiths’ Company, and would have been Prime Warden (had he lived) next year, which would have been also the year of his golden wedding. As will have been gathered, he was a distinguished and respected member of the Catholic laity in this country, and he supported the charities of his faith with great liberality.

The Pope created him a Knight of St. Gregory, and the King of the Belgians an officer of the Order of St. Leopold. He was married nearly fifty years ago to Mary,daughter of Mr. Charles Rowland Parker, of Blackheath, and by her (she still survives him) had several children. His only surviving son and successor in the baronetcy is Mr. Alderman John Knill, who was born in 1856 and educated at Beaumont College. He is a magistrate for the City and County of London, and, like his father, a Catholic and a Conservative. He married, in 1882, Mary Edith, daughter of the late Mr. John Hardman Powell, of Blackheath, and grand-daughter of Augustus Welby Pugin, the distinguished architect and antiquary. They have one son.

Sir Stuart Knill’s death has occasioned great regret in the City, where he was universally popular and highly esteemed. The vacancy in the Ward of Bridge Without will be filled by one of the present aldermen, and in his ward, whichever it may be, an election of a new member of the Court will be necessary. In consequence of Sir Stuart’s death the annual banquet of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, which had been fixed for the 23rd, was postponed. The Master and Wardens felt that to hold a social meeting under the shadow of such a loss would be alike repugnant to the sentiments of the members of the Livery and the guests who revered and admired Sir Stuart in his personal and public relations, especially those connected with the technical education and registration of plumbers, which Sir Stuart greatly aided in fostering in the interests of the health and comfort of the community.


On Sunday at the different Masses in all the churches of the archdiocese of Westminster and the diocese of Southwark the customary prayers for the dead were offered up for the repose of the soul of Sir John Stuart Knill; and at St. Mary’s, Moorfields, which, during his year of office as Lord Mayor the deceased regularly attended from the Mansion House, St. Mary’s being the only Catholic place of worship in the city proper. Before the sermon at High Mass, which was celebrated by the Rev. Father Power, the Rev. Father M. Condon referred to the great loss which the Catholics and the Catholic charities of London had just sustained by the lamented death of Sir Stuart Knill, who was probably best known to his co-religionists throughout the British Empire as the second Catholic Lord Mayor of London since the Reformation. Exalted and coveted as that position was, it should not be forgotten that his entry upon such a distinguished civic office in a city like London, the largest and most Protestant city in the world, was, as it was only reasonable to suppose under the circumstances, beset with many difficulties and many embarrassments. But great as these difficulties were, the new Chief Magistrate of London successfully overcame them all ; and his manly fortitude and sterling independence of character, but more especially his uncompromising fidelity to the principles of his religion and unswerving obedience to her laws and mandates won for Sir Stuart Knill the respect and admiration of his fellow-citizens, Catholic and Protestant alike. And whilst expressing their deep sympathy with his sorrowing family in their sad bereavement, Father Condon said he could not help thinking that the best tribute they could pay his memory was the tribute of their sincere and earnest prayers to Almighty God for his eternal repose. May he rest in peace. The deceased baronet and alderman was a liberal supporter of the various charitable institutions connected with the Catholic Church in the metropolis, the preacher mentioning particularly his munificent contributions to the Providence-Row Night Refuge and the generous aid he always rendered its founder, the late Right Rev. Mgr. Gilbert, in the maintenance of that very useful charity. R.I.P.


His Eminence Cardinal Vaughan has addressed the following letter to the clergy of the diocese of Westminster : “There is special reason why I should commend the soul of Sir Stuart Knill to the prayers of the faithful. He stood forth in public life, a bright and conspicuous example to his fellow-countrymen of a fervent an consistent Catholic. Raised by the confidence and good will of the Corporation of the City of London to the pinnacle of civic honour, he never at any time sacrificed, or even compromised, perfect uprightness and loyalty to his religion in order to win worldly favour. It is as honourable to the character of the City of London as to himself to say that the simplicity and consistency of his Catholic conduct, far from alienating, won public admiration and esteem. Sir Stuart Knill as Lord Mayor of London has left us this lesson— that the English people appreciate thoroughness in religion and unswerving fidelity to principle, when not dissociated from kindliness and consideration for the feelings of others ; and that, in England, there is no reason why any man should abate his Catholicity in order to discharge efficiently the highest duties in public or civic life. ” The Times, in its obituary notice, records that Sir Stuart Knill carried his religion to the extent of abstaining from attending official services at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and other churches of the Establishment, while holding high municipal position; and it states that he got into trouble with the Corporation and others for proposing at a Catholic festivity in the Mansion House, as the first toast, “the Holy Father and the Queen.” But it generously and truly adds that no ones doubted his loyally: and his explanation that it was the usual Catholic formula, equivalent to the time-honoured toast “Church and Queen,” was generally accepted ; and the almost concurrent announcement that the Queen had conferred on the Lord Mayor the honour of a Baronetcy showed at all events that no permanent, if any, umbrage was taken at the incident in high quarters.

“While deploring the loss of one whose long life was marked by charity to the pour, generous support of Catholic works, and many conspicuous civic and public -virtues, such as the Church delights to honour, I beg that Masses and prayers be offered to the all-merciful God for the eternal repose of his soul, if it be still in need of our suffrages.

“I take this opportunity to recall to your minds, Rev. Fathers, if it, be necessary-to do so that, in accordance with the directions given in the 32nd Diocesan so, of Westminster, page 40, a Novena or a Triduo for the souls in Purgatory is to take place during the month of November in every public church. Do not fail in this great act of charity towards those who suffer.”

The Bishop of Southwark has also asked the prayers of the faithful in the following circular to his priests : “We beg the prayers of the faithful for Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, who passed from this life yesterday. The noble Catholic life that he always led, the zeal that he ever manifested for Catholic interests, and the special ties that attached him, to our Cathedral and our diocese, so often and in so many ways befriended by his charity, make it a grateful duty for us all to remember him in our prayers, and to beg our Lord to grant him everlasting peace, and to console those who are left to mourn him.”

The above text was found on p.27, 26th November 1898 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Princess Mary at Crispin Street 1931

The Providence (Row) Night Refuge was founded in 1860, and heavily supported by Alfred Purssell, and his children, and sons-in-law almost from its foundation. Wilfrid Parker, Alfred Purssell’s  son in law, was chairman of the committee in 1931, Wilfrid’s nephew George Bellord was also on the committee. George’s father, Edmund Bellord (Agnes Purssell’s husband) had also chaired the committee. Frank Purssell had also been on the committee, and deputised for his father at times.

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.

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 .