A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

James Bernard Morewood O.P.

James Bernard Morewood O. P.

by Richard Barton (2020)

For many years I have been curious to learn more about the Dominican Priest, Bernard Morewood, who built the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Stroud. Back in the 1980s I corresponded with Father Bede Bailey O.P., the Dominican Archivist, and he shared with me all that he could. Sister Mary Wulstan O.P., of St Rose’s Stroud, also shared further information and she badgered, on my behalf, the archivist at Stone for more details. Today, I have brought together the notes that I made then and placed them in the context of modern genealogical research. It would, of course, be good to explore more records from the Dominicans and also from the relevant Anglican missionary records but that is not possible and I must leave that to others. Many of my notes are not attributed to specific people and much of the material has no references but I think the tale of Father Bernard is worth telling and I apologise for not always crediting those who have trodden this path before.


James Baker Morewood, the Younger, was the son of John Morewood (1801-1859), a Grocer of Atherstone, Warwickshire, and his wife Amy Twill Birkett (-1868), The couple had married in Southwell on 21st August 1823 and James, was born on 1st May 1824 and baptised in the Parish Church of St Peter at Mancetter, on 3rd June.

James’s grandparents, Michael Morewood (-1845) and Elizabeth Baker (-1841), had married by licence at Mancetter on 16th October 1797 and they farmed and lived at Hartshill, then in Mancetter Parish. Michael Morewood had an aunt, Mary, who left money to his children when she made her will in 1835.

Michael and Elizabeth had at least three sons, two of whom entered ministry in the Church of England. Their second son, James Baker Morewood, the Elder (1804-1852), was Chaplain to St George’s Hospital in London and Robert was a Vicar in Westmoreland.

Having studied at the C.M.S. College in Islington, James Baker Morewood was made a deacon by William Howley, Bishop of London, in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, on 11th March 1827. During the June of the following year, he was ordained priest and sent off to Madras to work in the Nilgiris area with the Church Missionary Society.

The Church Missionary Society includes in its records an Instruction to the Reverend James Baker Morewood to set up an educational establishment for the sons of its Missionaries at Ootacamund in the Nilgherry Hills of Madras. These full and fascinating instructions from the Committee are dated 23rd September 1828. From 1830 to 1833 Morewood is listed as Principal of the C.M.S. College at Kottayam.

Perhaps as a result of the legacy that he received from his aunt, James Baker Morewood returned to England and was admitted to Cambridge University.

Adm. sizar at ST CATHARINE’S, Jan. 28, 1833. Adm. pens. at St John’s (age 30), Feb. 3, 1835. Of Warwickshire. Migrated to Queens’, Oct. 10, 1835. Matric. Michs. 1835; B.A. 1839; M.A. 1842.

Following his years at University, he served at St John’s Richmond and, in 1835, he became Chaplain to St George’s Hospital, London the post that he was holding when he died. He was buried back home at Mancetter on 9th January 1852.

Michael and Elizabeth Morewood’s youngest son, Robert (1807-1866), was the Vicar of Burton-in-Kendal and he married Margaret North, at St Philip’s Liverpool, on 27th June 1844.

Adm. pens. at QUEENS’, May 13, 1837. Of Warwickshire. Matric. Michs. 1837; B.A. 1841; M.A. 1847. Ord. deacon (Canterbury) 1841; priest, 1842. V. of Burton-in-Kendal, Westmorland, 1842-66. Hon. Canon of Carlisle. Married Margaret, dau. of John North. Died Apr. 5, 1866, aged 58, at Burton vicarage.

In contrast, the eldest son, John Morewood (1801- 1859), became a Grocer in the little town of Atherstone. His career choice may be linked with his aunt’s husband, John Lambert, being a Grocer of London.

Research has shown that members of the Baker family, probably relatives of his mother, owned the property in Atherstone where John and Amy Morewood conducted their grocery business and, from 1st March 1836, the Post Office.

96, Long Street, Atherstone, see also:

C92 CR103 9/4 Mich 1823 Jno Morewood, Ath, grocer, insures his household goods, utensils, linen, printed books, wearing apparel, plate, watches, trinkets, mathematical & musical instruments in dwelling house (brick and tile), £200. Stock in trade therein in shop, £250. Stock in trade in warehouse adjoining, £250.

C92 Dug 504 1825 James Baker, occ John Morewood ho, out offices grden & c.£18 C92 CR251 1/22 9 Sep 1833 John Morewood, house, £23. 16s.

Besides their son, James Baker Morewood, the Younger, John and Amy also had a child, Amy Elizabeth (1832-1894) who, on 18th August 1853, married Charles Burges Fyfe (1817-1873):

‘Married, at St Mary’s Church, Atherstone, Warwickshire, on the 18th inst., by the Rev Robert Morewood, M A, vicar of Burton, Westmoreland, and uncle of the bride, Charles Burges, eldest surviving son of Captain Fyfe, Garmouth, Morayshire, late of the 92d Highlanders, to Amy Elizabeth, only daughter of Mr John Morewood, Atherstone.’

Sadly, tragedy hit John Morewood during the year before his death and the following advertisement in the London Gazette reveals the story:

‘JOHN BALGUY, Esq, one of Her Majesty’s Commissioners authorized to act under a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, bearing date the 16th day of June, 1858, and filed against John Morewood, of Atherstone, in the county of Warwick, Grocer and Tea Dealer, will sit on the 12th day of November next, at eleven of the clock in the forenoon precisely, at the Birmingham District Court of Bankruptcy, at Birmingham, in order to Audit the Accounts of the Assignees of the estate and effects of the said bankrupt, under the said Petition, pursuant to the Acts of Parliament made and now in force relating to bankrupts.’


According to Dr George Oliver, James Baker Morewood, the Younger, was educated at Shrewsbury School and received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church on Whitsunday 1843, at the age of nineteen. One can only guess at the reasons for this decision. However, it is likely that he had been influenced by the arrival in 1839 of the Dominican nuns from Hartpury, in Gloucestershire. In Atherstone they built a beautiful little monastery called ‘the Convent of the Rosary’, where all the Dominican observances were carried out. According to Bernard W. Kelly, the chapel, which measured only 58ft. by 23 ½ feet, ‘from the very first proved a great attraction, and was described as being, ‘crowded every Sunday’ with persons mostly protestants.’

The Morewood Family was probably not impressed by the young man’s decision and it is noticeable that his uncle, James Baker Morewood, the Elder, in his will dated 4th December 1845, left his books, papers and clerical robes to his brother Robert and provided for his two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth Morewood, but he left nothing to his nephew and namesake. Interestingly, his will mentions the new Episcopal Chapel which was being erected at Hartshill in Mancetter parish. This chapel commenced in 1842, fell down whilst it was in an advanced stage of construction which meant that the opening of Holy Trinity, Hartshill, was delayed until 1848.

In the first week of October 1845, two months before his uncle’s will was signed, the younger James Baker Morewood entered the Dominican Priory at Hinckley. He was professed on 10th October 1846 and ordained priest at St Mary’s College, Oscott, by Bishop Ullathorne on 22nd December 1849.

hinckleybuildings406 (2)

On the night of the 1851 census, Father Bernard was staying with the Hardy Family at Chilvers Coton, Nuneaton. He was listed as the Roman Catholic Priest of St Mary’s Church, a chapel that opened there in 1838.

During his time at Hinckley, Bernard Morewood also served the mission at Weston Hall where Richard Brome de Bary (1813-1858) and his wife Elizabeth Letitia, had become converts in 1842 and had created a small upstairs chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Bethlehem. The de Barys had close connections with the Dominican Order.

Dr George Oliver, writing a few years later, spoke enthusiastically about the young Dominican:

‘Whilst in Hinckley he published some able remarks upon the letters of Joseph Nugent, the apostate, to a Catholic priest. Since his ordinations at Oscott, 22nd October, 1849, he has been indefatigable in his ministry and a vessel of election to many souls.’

 ‘Full of energetic zeal and charity, – and of the spirit of his holy order, – it is wonderful how he multiplies himself in enkindling the fire that Christ came to cast upon the earth. Woodchester and Stroud proclaim his merits; but I forbear, and must leave it to posterity to do him justice.’


Father Bernard was sent to Woodchester within a couple of years of the priory buildings being completed in 1853. The establishment had been canonically raised to a priory in 1854, and it had become the novitiate for the English Province of the Order.

Woodchester Priory plan

Woodchester Priory

Dr George Oliver takes up the story in his ‘Collections’ of 1857:

‘After labouring with apostolic zeal amidst the increasing congregation of Woodchester, he opened a new mission at Stroud, on 8th February 1856; and the prospect is so encouraging, that he is erecting a spacious church in a commanding situation, which will be an ornament and a blessing to that respectable town. May heaven prosper his every undertaking.’

Early in the 1840’s or 50’s a Catholic widow, the Honourable Mrs. Henrietta Lavinia Stapleton (1805-1858) came to reside at the Grange, a house pleasantly situated a short distance from Stroud, near to Beeches Green. Her husband, Thomas Stapleton of Carlton Towers, had died in 1839 but they had had three sons, Bryan, Herman and Robert.  It is likely that Mrs Stapleton moved to Stroud because her youngest son, Fr Robert Paul Dominic Stapleton O.P. (1835-1896), was a member of the Dominican Community at Woodchester. Her eldest son, the Hon. Bryan John Stapleton (1831-1903), married Mary Helen Alicia Dolman (-1918) and, as the years unfolded, Bryan and his wife developed many local connections.

At the time that Mrs Stapleton arrived in Stroud there was no Catholic church nearer than Woodchester, so she had an altar prepared in one of the rooms in the house where Mass was said and it would seem likely that Father Bernard would have first celebrated at this altar.

However, during 1855 another widow settled in Stroud, Mrs Emily Sandys (1812-1878). Emily was the daughter of Richard Francis Cleaveland (1780-1849), a Colonel in the Royal Artillery, and his wife Eliza nee Oliver. She was born in Jersey and we find her listed in the 1841 census return, aged eighteen, and living at home with her family at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.

Emily married the Reverend George William Sandys, son of Richard Sandys, on 10th June 1845 at St Nicholas Plumstead. Her husband, who came from Cheltenham, had served his title in Coleford but was now the incumbent of St John’s Woolwich.

Foster: 1st son of Richard of Cheltenham, arm., PEMBROKE matric. 2 Apr. 1830 aged 18; BA 1834; Ordained 1835, served title at Coleford. MA 1838; incumbent of St John’s Woolwich; killed in a Great Western Railway accident 10 May 1848.

Tragically, George Sandys died at Shrivenham when the express train in which he was travelling collided with a cattle truck and a horse box.

Emily already had strong family connections with the Stroud area and there is a suggestion that she may have lived there before. However, on the night of the 1851 census Emily Sandys was living as an annuitant in Dyer Ward, Cirencester, with her young widowed servant, Mary Walker.

On 10th July 1849, her brother, Lieutenant George Cleaveland R.N. (1818-1855), married her sister-in-law, Georgiana Sandys (1821-1880), at Stroud Parish Church. The Cleavelands settled for a time at Farm Hill, Whiteshill, before moving to Bromley. Their daughter, Emily Georgiana, was baptised at St Paul’s Church, Whiteshill, in 1851.


Mrs Emily Sandys

We cannot be sure when Emily Sandys was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church but Father Reginald Buckler O.P. from St Mark’s Granada, in the West Indies, spoke of his memories of her in a letter to Sister Agnes Teresa Mayo O.S.D. on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee of Religious life, February 14th 1918:

‘You ask me for items of St Rose’s early days, … I remember Mrs. Sandys, who I think, is reckoned the Foundress of St. Rose’s? She was quite an ideal lady, tall, dark, and graceful, very refined in ways and speech, showing a combination of intelligence and heart.’

What we do know is that after her conversion, Emily Sandys was desirous of doing something for the glory of God, in the neighbourhood of Stroud, so she opened a small school for the Catholic children of the town. In this, and other good works, she was assisted by her maid, Jane Daniels, a Dominican Tertiary. They visited the sick and poor and occupied themselves in various deeds of charity.

One of the Dominican Sisters reminisced:

‘The School Chapel was opened in London Road, Albert Buildings, by Mrs Emily Sandys, a Convert lady of ample fortune, widow of a clergyman who had been killed in a Railway accident on the G.W.R. line.

Mrs. Sandys rented the house, No 3 or 5, London Road, furnished it with all necessaries for dwelling house and School Chapel. The two rooms (divided by folding doors) on the ground floor were used as a Chapel on Sundays. But during the week the front room only was used as a little school. The writer of these items was one of the few little girls attending this first Catholic School in Stroud. She well remembers Bishop Clifford of the Clifton Diocese gave his approbation, and the little Chapel was served by Rev. Father Bernard Morewood, a Dominican Priest of the Woodchester Monastery.

Father Bernard was gifted, zealous, of pleasing appearance, kind and sympathetic manners, having also a special aptitude for preaching, so that many were drawn (by desire of hearing the Roman Catholic Preacher) to the Services in the little Chapel, and later on to the new Church in Beeches Green. The crowd of people was frequently so great that the little Chapel and the passage to the front door were filled. “Let’s go and hear the Romans” was often heard in the street by those on their way to the little Chapel.’

‘Father Bernard Morewood, identified himself zealously with the work already in hand, and, from the first, conceived the idea of making it the nucleus of a Convent of Dominican Sisters of the Third Order. It is reported that he had devoutly promised Our Lady that if She would obtain the means of the building of a Church, it should bear the title ‘Church of the Immaculate Conception.’ He had not long to wait for the realization of his hopes, for the present Church at Beeches Green was opened in 1857.’

It seems highly likely that Mrs Stapleton was responsible for acquiring land at Beeches Green suitable for the site of a church and presbytery. A ten year interest free loan was received from Mr Charles La Primaudaye, a convert clergyman, and a legacy of £1,000 was given by Dominic Sandy with Mass obligations attached. Fr Bernard was appointed to act as agent on behalf of Woodchester Priory and Robert Davidson was given the building contract.

‘The Laying of the Foundation Stone of an edifice to be called the Church of Immaculate Conception’ took place on Tuesday 27th May 1856 by Archbishop Errington. The ceremony was fully reported in the local newspaper and amongst the toasts was one was proposed to Father Bernard to which he made response:

‘He said he had a good deal to do, and therefore they could not expect him to make a long speech. The day had been a happy one for him. For a long time he had much wished to see a Catholic Church in Stroud, and now they saw the beginning. Of course the beginning was not the ending, and before the end there would be a great deal of hard work. Before he sat down he had a health to propose, – viz that of Mr Buckler, the architect, who, he said, had three brothers in their community.’

Father Reginald Buckler wrote in 1918, ‘I was at the laying of the Stone of the new Church, by Bishop Errington, but I did not carry the model of the Church, that was my brother (Mr Charles Buckler) the Architect of the Church, who being a Tertiary wore the Habit for the occasion.’


Immaculate Conception, Stroud

The work proceeded smoothly and the Solemn Opening took place on 20th August 1857 when Mass was celebrated by Bishop Clifford and Cardinal Wiseman preached.

Returning to Emily Sandys, she was joined in her endeavour by Miss Elizabeth Matthews, a recent convert, residing in Stroud with the family of Mr Edwin Bucknall. It is said that she was ‘the eldest daughter of Mr. T. Matthews, a Wool Stapler and Mill Owner and born at Wotton-under-Edge, on 17th November 1815.’ However, there is no record of her baptism in either Wotton or Avening and, in the various census returns her place of birth is given as Avening. In the year 1850 she was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church by Father Honorius, a Passionist at Woodchester.

‘It must have been shortly after the opening of the London Road School Chapel that Miss Matthews enters our story. She first made acquaintance with Mrs. Sandys, for naturally she attended Holy Mass there, instead of walking to Woodchester, as she had been obliged to do during the first five years of her life as a Catholic.

On one occasion, while conversing with Mrs. Sandys, Miss Matthews said, “I should like to join you.” This offer was especially pleasing and consoling to Mrs. Sandys, who readily accepted the proffered help.

When Miss Matthews informed Father Bernard Morewood that she felt desirous of joining Mrs Sandys, and had already named the matter to her, he replied: “That is a Call, neglect it at your peril!”

As soon, therefore as home affairs could be settled she joined Mrs Sandys’s little Company of Tertiaries. Father Bernard was not slow in recognising Miss Matthews’ valuable personal qualifications, and soon made use of her in affairs requiring energy, tact and careful management. Mrs Sandys, being a lady of gentle birth and of delicate constitution, most of the hard work fell to the lot of the generous hearted energetic ‘Sister Mary’ as she was then called. The name ‘Teresa’ was given to her later, when, on February 2nd 1857, she was clothed as a Tertiary in the Dominican Habit, taking the name of Sister Mary Teresa.

In the course of this same year 1857, other helpers came to join Mrs. Sandys’s Company, and in the month of November they made a Retreat under the direction of Father Bernard Morewood O.P. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, they were all clothed in the Dominican Habit, before the Altar in the newly erected Church at Beeches Green.’


Mother Mary Teresa Matthews O.P.

‘Father Bernard was greatly loved by the people of Stroud: they cherished affectionate remembrance of him for many years after his departure. Even some who had grown old, and had fallen away from their Catholic duties, continued to speak with regret of the loss of Father Bernard.

Fr Bernard left Stroud soon after 28th December 1859 and Emily Sandys had moved to Gloucester where, in 1861, she was living with her two young Cleaveland nieces in Wellington Parade. Her health deteriorated and it is said that she moved to Pau in the South of France, where she died in 1878.


Having started the mission at Stroud, Father Bernard was then offered the mission of Lanark by Mr Monteith of Carstairs but the Province would not accept that mission.

Robert Monteith was born in Glasgow, the only son of Henry Montieth (d. 1848), twice Lord Provost of Glasgow and MP for Lanark Burghs, and his first wife, Christian Cameron.

He was educated at Glasgow University and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the Cambridge Apostles. He was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 1846 and was a prominent exponent of Christian Socialism.

In the event, in 1859, Father Bernard became the first Dominican to go to Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he started preparing for the building of a Dominican church and priory whilst caring for St Andrew’s mission in the centre of Newcastle.

By August 1860 he seems to be buckling under the weight of this responsibility. Tony Cross in his article, ‘Resuscitation of the English Dominican Province 1850-1870’, refers to a letter from Father Bernard to Jandel, which he has kindly translated:

‘Our mission contains about twelve thousand Catholics, most of them poor Irish, working in the factories and mines …. Unhappily a large number neglect their duties … Six priests … would be insufficient to meet the needs … we are obliged to adapt our Dominican life to the exigencies of our role as Missioners here asks for mitigation of strict observance and ends with an urgent plea for another priest to join the four at St Andrew’s.’


The 1861 census finds Father Bernard listed at St Andrew’s Chapel, Pilgrim Street, where he heads a household which includes three other priests – one from France, one from Ireland and one from Poland – five students, a pupil teacher and an Irish servant.

Pressure of work led to a personal break-down and Father Bernard left the Order and the priesthood in 1863 leaving enormous financial problems for the Dominican Province. Again Tony Cross has found correspondence between two of his colleagues in the English Dominican Provincial Records:

Nickolds to Aylward 18 May 1863:

‘Fr Bern is gone abroad and as he wishes to sink into oblivion I think it is better for us and no worse for him to allow him to do so.’


It has not been possible to piece together Father Bernard’s life after he left Newcastle. But, it would seem that he went off to trace the footsteps of his uncle and namesake, Reverend James Baker Morewood. Certainly, he returns to the name at his christening, James Baker Morewood.

The Freemasonry Records reveal some reference to his time in India. He joined the Lodge of Fidelity on 13th May 1863 and is described simply as a ‘Gentleman.’ On 15th December he joined the Excelsior Lodge in Calcutta and is described as ‘Planter’. On 1st March 1865 he enlisted in St Luke’s Lodge, Dum Dum, as a ’Clerk’. On 30th November 1868 James Baker Morewood, ‘Clerk in Holy Orders,’ joined the Arakan Lodge in Akyab, East Indies. Finally, the ‘Reverend James Morewood’ joined the Lodge of Independence in Allahabad in March 1871.

The Register of Employees of the East India Company and the India Office list him as being the Senior Chaplain at Morar in 1874.

The Reverend James Baker Morewood died in August 1875, aged fifty-two, whilst working as an Anglican priest and it is said that he caught cholera from those for whom he was caring.

It would appear that he was buried in the Cemetery of St John in the Wilderness at Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, which is also the resting place of James Bruce, Eighth Earl of Elgin, Viceroy of India from 1862-1863.

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