A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

Gloucestershire’s links with Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle


Largely extracted from the writings of James Newton Langston (1886-1959)

In 1816 Abbe Bernard Giraud (or Girard), a priest of the diocese of Dax, in south-west France, was appointed as the Missioner at Gloucester after the departure of Abbe Duchemin. Like his predecessor, Giraud supported himself and the Catholic Mission by teaching languages. In 1820 he was the French master at a school kept by an Anglican priest, the Reverend George Hodson, at Maisemore Court, near the City. The Bishop of Gloucester’s confidence in Hodson was such, that on his translation to the See of Lichfield and Coventry in 1824, he appointed Hodson as Archdeacon of Stafford and caused the school at Maisemore to be moved to Edgbaston. When this happened the Abbe set up on his own account as a teacher of the French and Italian languages in the City, where he had many pupils.

Catholics still laboured under various disabilities and clamouring for emancipation, met with much opposition. In March 1821, it was reported that the Anglican clergy of the Gloucester diocese had passed a resolution against the Bills then pending in Parliament, ‘for the removal of the Political Disabilities which effect the Members of the Roman Catholic Communion in this Country.’

Regarding Doctor Henry Ryder (1777-1836), the Bishop of Gloucester from 1815-1824, although regarded as the first evangelical to be appointed a diocesan, ‘he spoke several times in favour of the Catholic Relief Bill, and when the final division was taken, voted for the third reading.

He was very kind also to an émigré priest whose distressed circumstances were brought to his notice. He sent for him and arranged that he should teach his sons French, a step that in those days must have required some courage on the part of an Anglican prelate. In 1845 his son, George, and daughter, Sophia, were to become Roman Catholics. (‘A Conversion and a Vocation’)

Abbe Giraud died on 4th November, 1825, aged sixty-four, at his residence in Northgate Street, after a painful illness borne with true Christian resignation. The local newspaper commented that ‘in the fulfilment of the various duties of life his conduct was most exemplary, whilst by his truly polite manners, his acquirements, and his great kindness and benevolence of heart, he secured the cordial esteem of all who knew him. His last acts and words were expressive of the gratitude he felt for the reception, which, as a stranger, he had experienced in this country; and the sincerity of the sentiment was proved by a legacy of £100 which we understand he had left for the benefit of our Infirmary.’ He was interred in the burial ground of St John the Baptist, in St John’s Lane, Gloucester.

Whilst engaged in teaching at the Maisemore Court School, the Abbe Giraud paved the way for a remarkable conversion, which in turn led to one still more notable. In 1820 a new pupil, aged 11 years, arrived at the school in the person of Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle, of Garendon Park, Leicestershire, and later of Grace Dieu Manor. He had been brought up as a Protestant, and used to spend his Sundays with his uncle, the Honourable Doctor Ryder, then Bishop of Gloucester. Also attending the school at Maisemore was Samuel, a son of William Wilberforce.

Young Ambrose was drawn to Abbe Giraud and his charming and benign character together with his simplicity and holiness filled the boy with the desire of knowing something more of the Catholic Faith. Seizing an opportunity, he approached the kindly Abbe, who recommended him to procure several books of instruction.

Margaret Pawley, in her biography of Ambrose, mentions that the Abbe Giraud also lent him books and realised more wisely than ‘Hod’ (Hodson, his headmaster) that the intellect is only part of a man. He produced ‘Mrs Herbert and the Villagers’ by Countess de Bodenham, a cosy set of homilies in which Roman Catholic dogma and the duties of various stations of life were set out. These made an impression on the boy and drew him into more difficult religious discussions with his uncle and with others responsible for his well-being.

On a half holiday from school, Ambrose and some school fellows visited Abbe Giraud’s chapel in Gloucester:

‘the devout crucifix over the altar; the altar itself on which was engraved the figure of the Lamb of God, the vestments adorned with gold and embroidered flowers: all spoke to my heart. Everything showed such an appearance of holiness and of separation from all profane uses and associations, as was calculated to impress the mind with high and holy notions of God.’ (Purcell and Margaret Pawley)

Soon after the school removed to Edgbaston, he wrote to the Rev T. M. McDonnell, then priest at St Peter’s Catholic Chapel in Birmingham, and who became, more than twenty years later, the resident priest at Gloucester, asking to be received into the Church. The priest, to his great surprise, found the youth perfectly instructed on every point of doctrine, and later made arrangements for his reception, which took place on 21st December 1825.

In the autumn of 1829, Ambrose met the Reverend and Honourable George Spencer, an Anglican clergyman, son of Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, and after a talk lasting for five hours, Spencer went to stay at Garendon with a view to bringing back to the Church of England the youthful heir to that estate. After a week’s discussion, Ambrose alone on one side, and several Anglican clergymen and one bishop (Doctor Ryder) on the other, George Spencer (made his move) and, at Leicester, on 30th January 1830 he was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church by the learned Dominican, Father Benedict Caestryck, who in the following year, went to Hartpury Court as Chaplain to the English Dominicanesses there. George Spencer afterwards joined the Passionists and was known as Father Ignatius Spencer, one of the most remarkable religious figures of the nineteenth century.



In later life, Charles March Phillipps (1779-1862), the father of Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle, settled in Cheltenham and by the time of the 1851 census he was living at Kenilworth House, Segrave Place. Two of his sisters and various children of his brother, the Reverend Edward Thomas March Phillipps (1784-1859), also lived in Cheltenham and in death they were buried together at Swindon Village. Finally, Esther March Phillipps, who died in the Malvern area in 1977, was laid to rest in this churchyard. Esther was a great granddaughter of the Right Honourable March Phillipps, P. C. (1780-1862), another brother of Charles March Phillipps.

  1. Very large cross on base, with raised kerb once with railing surround.

East Face: (Father of Ambrose. He was buried in St Lawrence’s Churchyard on 1st May 1862)

Charles March Phillipps Esqre.

7th Lord of Garendon and Grace Dieu

Born May 28th 1779

Died April 24th 1862

+ On whose soul Jesu have mercy +

+ Amen +

West Face: (Aunt of Ambrose – died 4th in Burke L.G. 1921. She and her sister, Frances, lived at Lisle Villa, Clarence Square, Cheltenham)

Harriett March Philipps

Daughter of the Late

Thomas March Phillipps Esqre.

of Garendon Park


Who died 5th September 1859

Aged 76.

North Face: (Aunt of Ambrose – born 1791 in Burke L.G. 1921)


Frances Anna March Phillipps

Fourth and Last surviving daughter

of the Late

Thomas March Phillipps Esqre.

Born 20th Sept. 1786.

Died 9th Augst. 1863.

South Face: (Great Great Niece of Charles March Phillipps)

Esther March Phillipps

Born 15th July 1897.

Died 13th May 1977

No 90. strangely shaped cross on headstone this and No 91 within kerb surround.  (First Cousin of Ambrose. Both his father, the Reverend Edward Thomas March Phillipps, and his uncle, William March Phillipps (1815-1818), served as domestic chaplains to their brother-in-law, Bishop Henry Ryder of Gloucester, and his father was also Chancellor of the Diocese of Gloucester from 1820-1859. William Frederick Phillipps, of 4 Wellington Square, married Emily Katharine Leeds, of 12 Pittville Parade, at St Paul’s, Cheltenham, on 21st August 1866. In 1881 he was described as a Civil Engineer of 52 High Street, Tewkesbury and ten years later he had retired to Chaceley Lodge. He died in Cheltenham at Vittoria-house, Vittoria-walk.)

Here lies the body


William Frederick,

3rd Son of the Late

  1. E. T. March-Phillipps,

Rector of Hathern Leicestershire

He died Sep. 27. 1891

Aged 66 years.

“The eternal God is thy refuge,

And underneath are the

Everlasting arms.”

Deut. XXXIII 27. Verse.

No 91. Cross on headstone, as 90, this and 90 within kerb surround.

(First Cousins of Ambrose. In 1851 Rose was living with her aunt at Lisle Villa in Clarence Square with her aunt. In 1871 she and her sister, Lucy, were at No 4 Wellington House West.)

Here lies the body


Rose 2nd daughter of the Late

  1. E. T. March-Phillipps, Rector of Hathern, Leicestershire

She died Aug 3rd 1900.

Aged 82 years.

“She hath done what she could”


Lucy Frances,

Her last surviving sister. Born 2nd May 1820,

Died 30th Janry 1908

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.”



A prayer card thrown in for good measure – but with no obvious Gloucestershire link!


Edwin de Lisle, seventh son of Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle

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