A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
Being an avid reader and collector of the works of Peter Anson, I have always been fascinated by his ‘Call of the Cloister’, in which he studies the history of the development of monastic life in the Church of England. One of the communities which he traces is ‘The Brothers of the Common Life’, which was established at Stroud in 1912 by the Reverend Charles Henry Sharpe. Anson concludes his chapter on this Community with these words: ‘Father Sharpe subsequently joined the Roman Catholic Church’. (According to the Stroud RC Registers he was received on 7th September 1919 by Father Lionel Goodrich at Farmhill. R.J.B.) Why, I wondered, and what happened to the Community?
Charles Henry Sharpe was born c 1859 into the Gloucestershire family of that name at Longhope. In 1883 he gained his B.A. at Oxford and the following year he was ordained Deacon, serving his title at St Helen’s Ryde, Isle of Wight. He was priested in 1885 and remained at St Helen’s until 1887 when he was appointed to the staff of Saint Mary’s Church, Southampton, remaining there until 1890.
From his earliest years he had a yearning for the religious life although he was not certain which form it should take. Private tutors at home, private and then public schooling followed by Oxford did not dampen his enthusiasm to enter the Church. However, after receiving deacon’s orders, he almost lost his faith but was supported in his struggles by a fellow priest. He soon realised that he had a wonderful gift – that of extempore speech and this gradually developed in him the desire to work as an evangelist in the mission field. All this took place in the Isle of Wight. As he increased in spiritual awareness and became more involved in the ‘career’ he had chosen, so also he was brought into contact with people who subscribed to traditions within the Church which were not part of his experience.
One evening, he happened to start reading the life of Pere Lacordaire who had re-established the Dominican Province in France in 1840. Inspired by his own High Church acquaintances, he began attending courses run by well-known Anglo-Catholics of the time – Father Stanton of Saint Alban’s Holborn who had been born in Stroud; Father Body and Father Ignatius, the Monk of Llanthony – all of whom seemed to direct him towards the Catholic movement within the Anglican Church, with evangelism through the Sacraments.
In 1887 Charles Sharpe spent some time at Llanthony with Father Ignatius and while there he celebrated ‘Dr Cranmer’s version of the Mass’ and for the first time in his life he wore Eucharistic vestments. His visit to Llanthony re-kindled his desire for the religious life and on his return to his curacy in Southampton, he turned his room into an oratory and observed the ‘Hours’, at the same time ‘renouncing property and marriage’.
From 1890 to 1893 Father Sharpe was acting chaplain to the Forces at Aldershot and during this period he came into contact with Archbishop Benson, the Cowley Fathers at Oxford and Aelred Carlyle, founder of the Anglican Community of Benedictines on Caldey Island which later was received into the Roman Catholic Church and became what we know today as Prinknash Abbey.
In 1885 a Mission College had been founded at College Green, Gloucester, and from 1894 the Reverend C.H. Sharpe was one of the four assistant Missioners, a post with which he was still credited in 1913. It is probable that he held this position even after he had started the Community at More Hall, which he may well have ‘inherited’ as early as 1906. From an Appeals brochure of c1968, issued by the Benedictine Sisters of Our Lady of Grace and Compassion, I learned that ‘Moor Hall’ (sic) was occupied by Father Sharpe’s Community from 1912 to 1916, and during this time a small Chapel was added to the western corner of the 1582 main building. It was a Miss Lee, of the Lee and Perrins family, who restored the once dilapidated house at the turn of the century and gave it to Father Sharpe. (Actually it was Frances Isabel Seddon (nee Perrins) R.J.B.) According to J.N. Langston, the Manor was built in 1460 and derives its name from the fact that Saint Thomas More wrote there, part of ‘Utopia’ in 1516, but there is no evidence to support this.
Most of the information so far obtained came from the More Hall Journal, bound copies of which I found by chance on the shelves of the Local Studies Room in Gloucester Library. In the Journals’ Community Letter, Father Sharpe began to outline for the reader the story of his early years in the Church and the events which led him to found the Community at More Hall. Unfortunately before he could accomplish this task, financial difficulties made it necessary for the Journal to cease publication in October 1916 and what one can learn about the Community at More Hall must be pieced together from the jottings and notes on other pages of the Journals, and from any correspondence which may exist.
The Community was established in 1912 and appears never to have been large in numbers nor very prosperous. Frequent appeals for funds appeared in the pages of the journals and every quarter grateful acknowledgements were made of gifts received from benefactors, some of whom were titled and influential High Church Anglican.
In a letter to one of the Caldey monks who had not been received into the Catholic Church and who was obviously still trying his vocation, Father Sharpe wrote:
“We aim at the Religious life, perhaps especially for laymen, three months probationship before novitiate, two years novitiate before profession, life vows not before thirty – though exceptions may be made in exceptional circumstances. We rise at 5.45 a.m. and all the 7 ‘Hours’ are said through the day and Compline – the last service, is at 9 p.m.. Professed can give themselves to lives of prayer or prayer and study or to mission and parochial work. If you think of the matter further I would like to ask you if you have some references especially as to vocation as well as your characteristics etc; and also whether you realise what the calls are, especially to religious poverty, celibacy and obedience; the life is impossible to those who have not the call, while no other life is happy, or endurable, to those who have. It would do you as well no harm if you come without previous hopes of having a vocation.”
In this same year Father Sharpe was in correspondence with Aelred Carlyle and later in the year he offered More Hall as a refuge to those of the Caldey Community who had not gone over to Rome, showing his obvious desire to make More Hall the rallying point for the Caldey remnant.
From More Hall Father Sharpe travelled far and wide conducting Missions at Wotton-under-Edge, Swindon, London, Oxford, Cardiff and Nottingham, to name but a few of the places which called on his services. At home, the Hall was in constant use as a retreat centre, often providing a place of rest and quiet for those who were trying to escape the horrors of war in the industrial towns. In 1913, Ronald Knox, then still an Anglican, stayed at More Hall on retreat. In his ‘Spiritual Aeneid’ (1918), he describes More Hall as…
‘…a beautiful country house, the centre of a religious community and an admirable place for use during the last three weeks of August. I lived in complete solitude apart from the presence of a lay brother who looked after all my wants. I had a Chapel where I could celebrate daily with the Blessed Sacrament reserved.’
In fact the Hall was used as a Christmas, Lent and Easter preparation centre and the hearing of confessions appears to have been introduced in 1913.
All the above information deals with Father Sharpe’s Anglican days but what still intrigued me was what persuaded him to become a Roman Catholic. Where could I go for this information? The More Hall Journal revealed nothing, no clues existed in the parish magazine of Randwick, More Hall’s nearest parish, and searches in the Stroud newspapers had nothing to add to what was already available. Surely there had to be some correspondence at Clifton or even at the Gloucester Records’ Office. I tried the latter first and learnt that some of the Sharpe papers were in fact deposited at Prinknash Abbey. A visit there showed that there was quite a collection consisting mainly of correspondence dealing mainly with matters relating to the conversion of the Caldey Community. I was excited, but this elation soon turned to disappointment. I was in sight of the treasure so to speak only to discover that someone else had found it before I had. Dr Don Withey of Charlton Kings had also been researching Father Sharpe and the results of his research had been accepted by the Catholic Archives Society to be published later this year.
Shortly before he died, Father Sharpe offered More Hall to the Prinknash Community, but the offer had to be declined. Prinknash did, however, obtain some of the library, the rest being bought by Downside. Father Sharpe was received into the Church in 1917 and ‘thereafter worked energetically by pen and voice for the Catholic cause, though the latter years of his life were spent quietly in retirement at More Hall.’ He became a close friend of Bishop Burton and Abbot Butler of Downside. The Bishop gave him minor orders and allowed him to continue to be known as Father Sharpe.
Langston records that his death occurred at the nursing home of the Sisters of the Temple at Clifton and burial took place at the Cemetery of the Holy Souls, Arnos Vale, Bristol, after a Requiem at the Pro-Cathedral, Clifton.
The Stroud News and Advertiser, 18.3.1932, published a lengthy notice of his death on 11th March in which he is described as the eldest son of the late J.C. Sharpe of Messrs Gosling and Sharpe, Bankers of Fleet Street, and of Grenville House, Byefleet, Surrey. He was a well-known Litterateur, an early evangelical associated with Benson and his companions in the austere days of the first years of Cowley. While at More Hall, the paper states, he was diocesan Missioner, going forth from his retreat, fortified by prayer and study, to carry his message to rich and poor to whom he preached in the churches, halls and open air throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain. Locally he was greatly loved and the poor and needy have lost a generous benefactor, and kindly friend to all who knew him.
The Stroud Journal in its obituary notice said:
‘Father Sharpe was a ripe scholar. His mind was saturated with all the best that Greece and Rome have contributed to intellectual progress. The articles he contributed to ‘The Nineteenth Century’ and other periodicals, disclose the solid formation of his mental equipment and his intimate acquaintance with the works of the Greek philosophers and dramatists. But he clung fast to what he considered to be revealed truth, and preached it with sincerity and energy.’
I look forward to reading Dr Withey’s article in the Catholic Archive and hope that he will be able to provide answers to the many questions that this article has left unanswered.
Peter Anson ‘Call of the Cloister (1955)
More Hall Journal, 1913-1916, Gloucester Local Studies Library
J.N. Langston, Post Reformation Catholic Missions in Gloucestershire
Prinknash Abbey, The Sharpe Papers
Stroud News and Journal
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
More Hall Convent, Appeal Brochures 1968, 1983
Gloucester Diocesan Year Books 1886-1913
Brian Torode December 1987
Published in Journal 5 of the Gloucestershire and North Avon Catholic History Society, spring 1988
‘While on the subject of Father Sharpe, I received two very interesting pieces of correspondence after the publication of the article in the last issue of this Journal. One of the correspondents was Dr Donald Withey whom I mentioned in my article. He raised two questions which perhaps I should clarify in this editorial. The statement that some of Father Sharpe’s library found its way to Prinknash was based on information received from one of the present Community at Prinknash. The bulk of the Library did in fact go to Downside. The information concerning the restoration of More Hall was taken from an Appeal Brochure issued by the occupants at the time in the last decade.
Teresa Cullis, one of our members, has written to say that she wished she had kept a diary of her childhood. She remembers Father Sharpe. Her father came to Stroud in 1915 thereabouts and became interested in the More Hall Community as he did in Prinknash. Teresa does remember being taken to tea at More Hall and she played cricket with Father Sharpe. She also remembers that she was allowed to tap out a message on his typewriter, being at the time, aged about seven. One of Father Sharpe’s friends was Mrs. Seddon, the convert Catholic wife of the Vicar of Painswick whose granddaughter Patricia was a pupil at St Rose’s School Stroud, while Teresa was there also as a pupil.
This interesting piece of information about Mrs Seddon links up most appropriately with work being done at the present time by another of our members. Mrs Usher of Painswick who is putting into print her research into the Painswick story.’
Brian Torode, Editor
Published in Journal 6 of the Gloucestershire and North Avon Catholic History Society, summer 1988
No collection of essays examining the development of Catholicism in Painswick would be complete without a consideration of the life of Isabel Seddon and the contribution she made to it. The late Mrs Ursula Usher was apprehensive about mentioning her for fear that it might appear un-ecumenical. I hope that these few pages will reveal a personality who, although a proud convert, was determined to support her husband in his role as Vicar of Painswick.
Frances Isabel Seddon was born in 1857, the daughter of James Dyson Perrins and his wife Frances Sarah (nee Perrins). Her grandfather, William Henry Perrins (1793-1867), worked as a pharmacist in the Evesham area before entering into partnership in 1823 with John Wheeley Lea, a Worcester chemist. They worked successfully together in the City and developed a particular interest in making up special prescriptions. Out of one of these prescriptions developed one of Worcester’s major industries – Lea and Perrins’ ‘Worcestershire Sauce’.
‘A request came from Lord Sandys, (the former Governor of Bengal) who asked for a special sauce recipe to be made up. This they duly did and on completing the recipe and tasting it, found it to be perfectly foul, although the customer was apparently satisfied. They dumped the excess amount in the vaults of their business premises. Some two years later, when searching for space and removing rubbish, they found the sauce and discovered it had matured into an exquisite table sauce.’ (Guidebook to St John’s Church, Barmouth)
The Perrins became wealthy manufacturers and they lived at Davenham Bank in Great Malvern. James Dyson Perrins is remembered as a generous benefactor and one of Malvern’s secondary schools bears his name. Two years after serving as High Sheriff of Worcestershire he died on 26th February 1887, leaving a personal estate of over £660,000.
His son, Charles Dyson Perrins, succeeded to the family business and residence at Malvern and Isabel and her three sisters were well provided for. During 1881 she had married the Reverend William Herbert Seddon (1855-1924), one of the first pupils to attend Malvern College. Herbert Seddon had studied at Oxford and served his curacy at the Church of St Mary Magdalen in that city. At about the time of his marriage Herbert was appointed Vicar of Long Aston in Staffordshire, where he remained until his appointment to Painswick in 1886. The advowson of Painswick had been purchased by James Dyson Perrins for £5,000 so he was able to present Herbert Seddon to the living.
Other members of the Perrins and Seddon families also became involved with Painswick life. The Vicar’s sister, Emily, became warden of the convalescent home and later married the assistant curate, the Reverend C. Williams. Isabel’s mother, who had by this time married the Reverend T.J. Williams, the Rector of Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire, was a great benefactress. Besides largely financing the fine Church of St John at Barmouth she contributed generously towards a new church organ at Painswick and she also erected the Painswick Institute.
During the year 1890 Herbert Seddon resigned the living of Painswick and moved to London with his wife and seven children. Sir Francis Hyett, a personal friend, wrote in his book – ‘Glimpses of the History of Painswick’ – “It was not long before the parishioners of Painswick were aware that their new parson was a man of no common type. His main interest was their welfare, and for this he worked unobtrusively and unremittingly. Unfortunately for Painswick, a rural parish, was too narrow a field for his missionary zeal. … For the next seven years his energies were mainly expended in furthering the Church Army movement”. Herbert Seddon became incumbent of St. Mary’s Church, Hatfield, from 1891-1893; during 1894 the family was living at 134 Edgeware Road, London, and in 1897 he became chaplain of St Saviour’s Home in Hendon.
During this period the Reverend Herbert and Mrs Seddon became exposed to personalities influential in the Anglo-Catholic movement within the Church of England. Whilst living in Hendon the Seddons became close friends of the Reverend Frederick William Pakenham Gilbert M.A. (T.C.D.) who was at that time assistant curate at Hendon and priest-in-charge of Christ Church, Hendon, in whose district was St Saviour’s Home. The Reverend F.W. Pakeham Gilbert had previously been curate at All Saints’ Margaret Street and St John the Baptist, Holland Park, before he was appointed to Hendon. Clearly he made an impact on Mrs Seddon and at Christmas in 1897 she presented him with a vellum bound English Missal in which she wrote – ‘The Reverend F.W. Pakeham Gilbert with every good wish for a very happy Christmas. In grateful remembrance of much spiritual help and faithful Catholic teaching. F.I.,S.’.
Isabel Seddon was certainly a wealthy woman and she used her wealth to the good of her Church. When the Reverend F.W. Pakeham Gilbert was appointed as Vicar of St Clement’s Church, Notting Hill, in 1908 Isabel Seddon presented to his church many fine gifts including a set of Stations of the Cross from Oberammergau.
During the year 1897 the Seddon Family returned to Painswick and purchased ‘Gwynfa’ (now the Painswick Hotel), a fine house which they gradually extended. The former Vicarage (‘Verlands’) was leased out. Extensions were added to ‘Gwynfa’ in 1903 and again in 1909. Date stones are initialled with I.H.S. which recall the names Isabel and Herbert Seddon besides having the more obvious religious significance. The I.H.S. motif was continued in the decoration of the ceiling of the first floor oratory or chapel. Much of this decorative work is retained in what is now the hotel reception area. This little family oratory was beautifully furnished and the ornaments included candlesticks with bases designed in the form of beehives – similar ones exist at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Rogate, in West Sussex. Here Mrs Seddon conducted family prayers for the ‘Gwynfa’ household which included at that time six or seven servants.
It was probably during their years in London that the Seddons became acquainted with the Reverend and Honourable James Addersley. He was associated with Aelred Carlyle in restoring the Benedictine life to the Church of England. During September 1901 St Mark’s Home for Boys, which he had established in London, was moved to More Hall, near Stroud. This property had been purchased by Isabel Seddon during that year. At the time the house was described as being in a terrible state of repair and it is believed that she carried out a certain amount of external restoration work. Two years later the property was mortgaged to a Miss A.E. Rodway and others who held it until May 1907 when the ownership of the property reverted to Mrs Seddon. The children’s home was moved from More Hall to Birmingham during this period.
From about this time More Hall was occupied by the Reverend Charles Henry Sharpe M.A., a member of the Gloucester Diocesan College of Missioners. The story of Charles Sharpe’s religious community of men and his eventual reception into the Roman Catholic Church in 1919 has been discussed in a previous edition of this journal (Issue 5 – spring 1988). It may have been through the Mission College that Sharpe became acquainted with the Seddons as Herbert Seddon was a council member of the college in 1911. Clearly Isabel Seddon became closely associated with him and from 1912 until the spring of 1914 she is regularly referred to in the pages of the More Hall magazine – particularly making the arrangements for the annual retreat for women. On 13th September 1912 More Hall was conveyed from Mrs F.I. Seddon to the Reverend C.H. Sharpe.
It is not known how Isabel Seddon first became involved with the Roman Catholic Church. At that time local Catholic families included Sir Francis and Lady Howard who had taken up residence at Castle Godwyn and Mrs Montresor, widow of Captain Montresor, who lived at Rose Cottage, Stamages, until shortly before her death in Evesham during December 1914. These individuals and their families would have been cared for by the Dominican Fathers at Stroud and Woodchester. Father Sharpe was in correspondence with Father Hugh Pope, Prior of Woodchester, so she may have been acquainted with the Dominicans through contact with Charles Sharpe,
The Seddons also enjoyed travelling abroad and no doubt visits to Italy and Oberammergau would have made an impact. Their visit to Oberammergau for the 1900 Passion Play resulted in the erection of the beautifully carved crucifix which hangs to this day in the Chapel of St Andrew in Painswick Parish Church. During that year Anton Lang played the part of Christus for the first time and it may have been on that occasion that they first became acquainted with him. For many years after they stayed at Daheim, the home of Anton Lang and his family.
Whilst contact with local Catholics, as well as those further afield, may have influenced Isabel Seddon in her conversion it was a Dominican friar, Father Bernard Austin Barker, whom she later spoke of as having the most significant role. Whilst it may have been the Reverend F.W. Pakenham Gilbert who should be credited for his influence on her change of churchmanship within the Church of England it was Father Austin Barker who influenced her conversion to Roman Catholicism. Many years later she wrote to her grandson-in-law, the Reverend Tim Tiley, concerning her reception – ‘I found what I had long sought – and have been content ever since – it was Father Barker who helped me to find it and I have been grateful to him ever since.’
Father Austin Barker received the Dominican habit at Woodchester in 1902 and shortly after his ordination, six years later, he was sent to the Dominican School of Scripture in Jerusalem where he remained until 1911 when he was appointed professor at Hawkesyard Priory in Staffordshire. It is believed that Mrs Seddon was received into the Catholic Church during the latter part of 1914 or early in 1915 but the event is not recorded in either the Stroud or Woodchester registers. If Father Barker received her the ceremony may have taken place at Hawkesyard. Her obituary in the Times merely commented: ‘Mrs Seddon had joined the Roman Catholic Church when Mr Seddon resigned the living of Painswick in 1917’.
One wonders what affect her conversion would have had on relationships with her husband and his parishioners. People who remember them say that they remained as close as ever and that she continued to support him in the role of Vicar’s wife. It is likely that Mass was celebrated in the oratory at ‘Gwynfa’ by Father Barker and other Catholic clergy and in later years, after the death of her husband, Mrs Seddon often arranged for Father Barker to celebrate Mass for her in the homes of her Anglican relatives. Herbert Seddon is remembered by some as being both ecumenical and ahead of his time. He is described as celebrating the Eucharist facing the congregation and he readily associated with Free Church ministers and attended their places of worship.
The local newspaper for 11th September 1914 reported that a party of Belgian refugees had arrived in the village of Painswick. The first party of 32 grew to 87 by the end of November but the number reduced to 65 shortly afterwards. The Roman Catholic Community in Stroud had a particular role in welcoming them although people of all denominations in the neighbouring villages set to work, housing, clothing and feeding them. In Painswick they were mostly resident in private houses and, as the local newspaper reported, they ‘give very little trouble, their courtesy and good temper being appreciated’. The Seddon Family, along with other leading Painswick families including that of Sir Francis Howard, became involved in caring for the refugees. In October 1914 Mrs Seddon is mentioned in connection with a tea for them at the Painswick Institute, to which they had been admitted to honorary membership shortly after their arrival. In December of that year extensive reports were published of the work of the Painswick Welfare Committee particularly in connection with their achievements in relation to finding local employment. A chair-making business was set up for them at King’s Mill besides tailoring and basket-making.
Most of the Belgian refugees were Roman Catholics and newspaper reports refer to visits by priests from Stroud and Woodchester, ‘who have been most kind and helpful’. By December 1914 Mass was being celebrated every Sunday in ‘The Vicarage Room’ at Painswick. The Stroud Parish Register reveals that at least eight baptisms were conducted between 21st November 1914 and 31st December 1918 by Father Henry Bouveroux C.S.S.R.. We also find that the sponsors for the March 1916 Confirmations at Stroud were Loudovicus Bouveroux and Isabel Seddon.
During 1916 Mrs Maureen Phillips, the daughter of the Reverend F.W. Pakenham Gilbert, visited ‘Gwynfa’ with her father. Although she was only twelve years old she clearly remembers Father Bouveroux, a Belgian priest. She recalls that he was living with the Seddon Family at ‘Gwynfa’ and that he celebrated Mass in the oratory there. Mrs Phillips also recalls a wooden hall within the grounds which she believes was erected by Mrs Seddon for the Belgian refugees. This may well have been ‘The Vicarage Room’, referred to in the newspaper account, where Mass was celebrated. Naturally her father had been disappointed to hear of Isabel Seddon’s change of religious allegiance but inspite of this he developed a close friendship with the Belgian priest who gave him a fine lace alb which remained in Mrs Phillips’ possession until quite recently. From 1915 the Belgian refugees featured far less in the local press and it is difficult to ascertain any further details about them from that source. Clearly both Herbert and Isabel Seddon worked hard at making them feel welcome in Painswick.
The local newspaper reported during 1915 that the Reverend Herbert Seddon was considering resigning from the living of Painswick but, in the event, he remained as incumbent until the early part of 1917. Certainly his health had deteriorated and Mrs Seddon also underwent a serious operation. His brother, the Reverend Richard Seddon, who was the Vicar of Pontesbury in Shropshire died and he decided to move there so as ‘to confer a lasting benefit on his brother’s widow’ (Hyett). The people of Painswick were clearly disappointed by this announcement and 657 parishioners signed a petition urging him to re-consider his decision. This very popular incumbent had also served as Vicar of Sheepscombe from 1911 – 1915 as a result of the villagers there finding the clergyman he had appointed there in 1908 too ‘high church’.
In the event the Seddon Family remained in Shropshire for four years before moving to Weston-Super-Mare. They had intended to return to Painswick for Herbert’s retirement but his health continued to deteriorate. In 1923 he suffered a paralytic stroke. Eventually, during a visit to his son Herbert Seddon, he died at Fairhaven Nursing Home, Malvern, on 5th October 1924. His funeral took place at Painswick and he was interred in the parish cemetery. It is interesting to note that both Father Austin Barker and Sir Francis Howard attended the service at St Mary’s Parish Church.
After the death of her husband Isabel moved to a flat off Kensington Church Street before taking up residence at 23 Kensington Square, London – the Convent of the Sisters of the Assumption. The sisters ran a school as well as offering accommodation to elderly ladies. Mrs Seddon occupied a single room there which, she later wrote, contained all her worldly possessions. She remained a close friend of Father Barker and he was often seen in her company. Many recall family expeditions to Oberammergau and elsewhere led by Father Austin and Father Reginald, a fellow Dominican from Hawkesyard. For many years Father Barker was Sub-Prior of that community although he was for a time the Prior. The visits to Oberammergau are remembered by Mrs Phillips who accompanied them to the 1934 Passion Play when Anton Lang made his last appearance as the Prologue. She remembers Father Austin as being a very likeable and jovial man, full of humour and fun. One can only speculate as to Isabel Seddon’s personal anguish as the rise of Hitler and Nazism intruded into the life of Anton Lang and his family culminating in his death in 1940. The year before, at the age of 82 years, Mrs Seddon visited South Africa for a family wedding.
Isabel Seddon also maintained links with local people and from time to time she visited Father Sharpe at More Hall up until his death in 1932. Interestingly the Catholic priest who received Charles Sharpe into the Roman Catholic Church in 1919 was Father Lionel Goodrich who lived in retirement for a time in Kensington Square. Even after Father Sharpe’s death Mrs Seddon still visited More Hall and, in a letter written shortly after Father Barker’s death in 1947, she mentions spending Easter at More Hall Convent. Mrs Seddon also corresponded with an old friend, Dom Raphael Davis of Prinknash Abbey. In 1939 she expressed her opinions of the Goodhart-Rendel plans for the proposed monastery – ‘a glorious building, very clever design – not too modern but very original’.
Mrs Seddon remained close to her family and surviving correspondence reveals a deep yearning for members of the family to be received into the Roman Catholic Church. In 1930 she sponsored her grand-daughter, Patricia, who was received at Stroud whilst being a pupil at St Rose’s School. In 1939 she spoke of her delight at her ‘beloved nephew and his Russian wife’ being received into the Catholic Church through her daughter being educated at Kensington Square Convent. She also wrote regularly to Sister Nora (Kathleen Thornhill), the sister-in-law of her daughter Meg, who was a sister in a Belgian convent.
Eventually Isabel died in a home belonging to the Sisters of the Assumption at Fitzjohns Avenue, Hampstead. Her death came on 2nd April 1951 at the age of 93 years. Her Requiem Mass was celebrated at the Church of St Thomas More, Maresfield Gardens, Swiss Cottage, before her body was brought back to Painswick for interment with her late husband, Herbert.
Throughout her life she had used her wealth for the benefit of her Church and the community at large. After the death of her husband she had established a nursing home at Weston-Super-Mare named ‘Herbert House’.
Mrs Seddon did not seem to have involved herself with Alice Howard and the Catholic mission at Painswick. Her own impact on Catholic life in Painswick was in the long term not significant. One can only wonder what she might have done if the family had not moved out of the village in 1917. I suspect that the love and support she gave to her husband would have made her reluctant to open a Catholic church within his parish.
Memoirs of Mrs Maureen Phillips
Memoirs of Mr Michael Tiley
Family trees etc. belonging to Mr H.J.D. Seddon
Archives of Sheepscombe Local History Society
Prinknash Abbey Archives (letters of Mystica Tiley and Frances Isabel Seddon)
Painswick Cemetery Records
Registers of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Stroud
More Hall Convent Archives
Archives of the diocese of Clifton (letters of Sharpe and Goodrich)
Letters of F.I. Seddon belonging to Mr Michael Tiley
G.R.O. Register of Wills
F.A. Hyett: ‘Glimpses of the History of Painswick’
W. Gumbley: Dominican Obituary Notices
E. Corathiel: ‘Oberammergau and its Passion Play’
D. Withey: ‘The Sharpe Papers: More Hall, Prinknash Abbey, and Father Sharpe’ – Catholic Archives, Volume 8
Catholic Directories, Catholic Who’s Who, Crockford, Who’s Who, Burke’s Landed Gentry, Kelly’s Directories, More Hall Magazines, Stroud News and Journal.
St John’s Church, Barmouth – Centenary brochure 1889 – 1989
Richard Barton 1990
Published in ‘Catholic Painswick’, Journal 15 of the Gloucestershire and North Avon Catholic History Society, autumn 1990.
Further to the article on Frances Isabel Seddon in Journal 15 which contained details of Father Bouveroux, I have recently come across an enlightening letter amongst the Bishop’s correspondence deposited in the Bristol Record Office. The letter was sent to the Bishop by the Parish Priest at Stroud and is dated October 1917. He refers to the Belgian School for Boys managed by Father Bouveroux for his brother Mons Bouveroux which was started at New Mills Court. The numbers had increased from 40 to 70 pupils and the school had moved to Stratford Park. By the time the letter was written the Parish Priest speaks of the school as having three large houses and three small ones and that the number of pupils was 150 and still growing. It was noted that Father Bouveroux intended to add a priest and deacon to the staff.
The reason for the letter was a request from the Parish Priest to his bishop requesting that Father Bouveroux be asked to celebrate Mass for the pupils in the school premises rather than utilizing his church.
Published as Notes and Queries XIV, Journal 16 of the Gloucestershire and North Avon Catholic History Society, winter 1990.