A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
The Reverend Jerome Mathew D.D. – His Background and his Roman Catholic Years
Arnold Harris Matthews went under various names and titles during his life time and I have chosen to use the one that he was known by whilst serving as a Roman Catholic priest. Having been consecrated a bishop in 1908 by the Old Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht, in his Cathedral Church of St Gertrude, he became a notorious figure dabbling with different sects and, later on, unsuccessfully courting reconciliation with both the See of Canterbury and the See of Rome.
Father Jerome Mathew was complex; his Roman Catholic years, which span the period 1875 to 1889, were pretty hectic as my timeline will demonstrate. During these years we can also detect a pattern emerging in which he would blame the immorality of another for a sudden change in direction.
As a Roman Catholic this manifested itself first, in 1879, when he left Woodchester Priory and again, ten years later, when he left St Mary’s Bath, ‘owing to the difficulties consequent upon the circumstances of the enforced retirement of his predecessor at St Mary’s’ This pattern continued long after he left the Roman Catholic Church. His biographer, Peter Anson, commented on his sudden departure from the Dominicans:
‘The reason appears to have been thought that he had discovered immoral behaviour between two of his brethren. This was not the only occasion when a similar moral shock caused him to make a sudden decision to break off relations with individuals.’
All of this is unattractive and it is exacerbated by a tendency to ‘whitewash’ events. When he left St Mary’s in Bath to become a Unitarian he spoke of serious doctrinal difficulties and I am sure that some may even have applauded him for his honesty and integrity. However, in later years, he denied having done this and blamed his Unitarian mentor, the former Dominican, Robert Suffield, whom, he claimed, had acted on his behalf. He pleaded that he had only denied the Papal claims and also used the indiscretions of his predecessor to justify his departure.
Father Jerome claimed that he was born at Montpellier, Herault, France on 7th August 1852 (Peter Anson has 6th). He further claimed that he was baptised by a French Roman Catholic Priest but this seems extremely unlikely as a member of the Benedictine Community at Belmont in Herefordshire decided to baptise him conditionally when he was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 1875.
The first solid fact is that on 7th May 1854 Arnold Harris Matthews was baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone Road, London. His parents were referred to in the register as Arnold and Emma Matthews. Their address was given as Nottingham Terrace and his father was described as a ‘Gentleman’.
Interestingly, on the previous day his parents were married by licence at Old Saint Pancras Church. In the register we find the following details: Arnold Henry Ochterlong Matthews, a bachelor of full age and Gentleman of St Pancras Parish and Emma Weelands, a spinster of full age, from Paddington. The groom’s father was given as Arnold Nesbitt Matthews, deceased, and the bride’s father as William Weeland, also deceased. The witnesses were Stephen and Marian Stratton who were, in fact, Emma’s mother and stepfather. The celebrant was Lawford William Torriano Dale, the Curate, a son of the Rector of St Pancras, Dr Thomas Dale, who it was alleged by Father Jerome, was the man who had married his parents in Rome three years earlier!
The Paris Embassy Marriage Register, for the period finishing in 1851, has a curious insertion:
Arnold Henry Ochterlong Matthews, Bachelor of the age of Twenty one years and upwards, a Retired Captain in the 15th Regiment of the Bombay Native Infantry, of the City of Paris and Emma Weelands of the age of Twenty one years and upwards, Spinster, a British Subject of the City of Paris, was duly married in the House of Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador at Paris according to the rites of the Church of England in the presence of witnesses on the sixteenth day of May 1851 by Thomas Dale, D.D., Chaplain to the Embassy.
The above entry is made by order of the Judge after hearing in camera the petition of Arnaldo Girolamo Povideri, formerly Arnold Harris Matthews, the eldest son of the above named Arnold Ochterlong Matthews and Emma his wife (such petition being dated July 26th 1895 and filed in the Registry of the Consistory Court of London) and having examined the Petitioner on Oath and proved certain authentic documents produced by him and now filed in the said Registry and after perusing an entry made by the above Emma Matthews deceased in her own handwriting on the fly leaf of a Family Bible belonging to her and produced before the judge in the terms following: “Marriage Emma Weeland Married to Arnold Henry Ochterlong Matthews by Dr. Dale at the Embassy, Paris, May 16 1851” and after the Judge had declared that he was satisfied upon the evidence produced before him that the said Marriage was celebrated as stated by the said Petitioner and in the said Entry in the said Family Bible that both the said parties to the said Marriage were dead, that the record or Certificate of the said Marriage had been according to the practice observed at the British Embassy at Paris deposited in the British Consulate at Paris had been destroyed in the Civil Commotions in Paris in 1871 and that no Certificate of the said Marriage had been lodged in the Bishop of London’s Registry. And the Judge maid the said Order to secure the perpetuation of Evidence of the Solemnization of the said Marriage. Harry W. Lee Registrar
N.B. No Documents or Registers in the British Embassy at Paris were destroyed or in any way injured in the Commotions in 1871 as here stated. British Consulate January 13, 1896.
Looking further at the events surrounding his parents’ marriage we find evidence from the census return. On 30th March 1851 the young couple were still in England, Arnold Ochterlong Matthews was lodging with his future mother-in-law in Albion Street, Paddington, and Emma Weetland was in Hastings with her brother, William, a Pawnbroker:
34 Albion Street, St John’s, Paddington:
Stephen Stratton, Master Tailor employing 6 men and 2 apprentices, aged thirty-nine, from Bedford
Marian Stratton, aged forty, from Newhaven, Sussex
Alfred Weelands, son-in-law, 22, unmarried, Journeyman, born in the Parish of St George’s in the East
Arnold H. O. Matthews, Lodger, unmarried, 60 (?), Captain in the East India Company service Retired. Born at Sea off of St Helena. British Subject.
5 York Place, Hastings
William Weeland, Unmarried, thirty, Pawnbroker, Born Mile End, Middlesex
Emma Weeland, Unmarried, twenty-seven, Born London
In summary, it would appear that Father Jerome’s father, Captain Matthews, who was staying with the Strattons, impregnated the daughter of the house and then took her abroad for her confinement, presumably to France. Two years later the couple returned to London and were probably frog marched down to Old St Pancras by Emma’s mother to tie the knot so that when their infant was baptised the next day the stigma of having ‘bastard son’ written in the register would be avoided. The stories of the marriage and baptism in France were no doubt fabricated by Father Jerome’s parents, both of whom came from respectable middle class backgrounds. Perhaps they too convinced their son that he was the de jure 4th Earl of Llandaff and that his Povoleri ancestors were deliciously aristocratic.
Arnold Henry Ochterlong Matthews was the son of Arnold Nesbitt Matthews who married Eliza Povoleri at Futtyghur in Bengal during the year 1806. He was born on 1st February 1808 and his baptism took place at Old St Pancras, London, on 8th June 1808.
It seems highly likely that Arnold Nesbitt Matthews, was, in turn, the son of Richard and Anne Matthews as there is a baptism entry at Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, dated 20th October 1767. In the register Richard Matthews was given the title of ‘Mr’ and was described as being the brother of the parish bailiff.
Emma, Father Jerome’s mother, was the daughter of William Wealands or Weelands, a Revenue Officer who was living at 30 Lower John Street, St George’s, Middlesex, when he died in 1830.
According to church records, Father Jerome’s eldest sister, Lucy Emma Matthews, was born on 19th December 1855 and baptised on 5th September 1856 at St Stephen’s Paddington. Her parents were described as living at 8 Westbourne Terrace North, and her father was a Captain in the Army. On 30th July 1896, Lucy Emma Povoleri Matthews married Frederick George Fuller, a Gentleman of Blackheath, at West Chelborough. Her father was referred to on the certificate as a Major.
The third child, Jessie Eliza Marian Matthews, was baptised at St Stephen’s, Paddington, on 2nd October 1857.
By 1861 the Matthews Family was living in Marden and the age of the father was (correctly) given as fifty-two, the mother as thirty-six, and the children were eight, five and three. The place of birth for both Arnold and Lucy was given as France which is confirmed by there being no birth record in England.
On 27th June 1862 their fourth child, Rosa Eleanor Matthews, was baptised at All Saints’, St John’s Wood and, at that time, they were then living at 22 Wilton Place.
TIMELINE (Based upon Peter Anson’s account in ‘Bishops at Large.’
1866: Arnold Harris Matthews was educated at Cheltenham College which certainly favoured the sons of army officers.
‘Matthews, Arnold Harris (afterwards Mathew), son of Captain Arnold Henry Ochterlony Matthews, late Bombay Army, Cheltenham: born 7th Aug., 1852. Day Boy. Left Dec., 1866. At Univ. of Bonn and Stuttgart. D.D. Consec. Bishop of the Old Catholics in England, 1908. Author of “Life and Times of Lucetia Borgia,” etc. Died at South Mimms, 19th Dec., 1919.’ (College Register)
In later years he spoke of attending St Mary’s Prestbury, an Anglo-Catholic Parish Church, and the Benedictine Church of St Gregory, whilst he was a schoolboy in Cheltenham, and finding little difference between them.
1871: The Census finds the family at 48 Alexander Road, Willesden. Arnold was listed on the return as an eighteen-year-old Clerk and his parents were aged sixty-three and forty-five respectively.
1874: Training for the Scottish Episcopal Priesthood at the College of the Holy Spirit, Millport, Great Cumbrae.
1875: Conditionally baptised and received into Full Communion with the Roman Catholic Church at Belmont Abbey, Herefordshire.
1876: In the January he began training for the Roman Catholic Priesthood at St Peter’s Seminary, Patrickhill, Glasgow.
1877: On 24th June he was ordained Priest by Archbishop Charles Eyre in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow. He later received his D.D. from Rome which was conferred by Pope Pius IX.
1877-78: Ten months as Curate of St Andrew’s Glasgow
1878: During June of that year he joined the Dominicans and was sent to Woodchester Priory, the Noviciate.
1879: Simple Profession as Brother Jerome on June 5th. However, he left the Dominican Order by the end of the year but continued to be known during his Roman Catholic years as ‘Father Jerome Mathew’.
1880: Appointed Missioner at Dunston-on-Tyne, in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, where in the February of that year he commenced a School-Chapel which he furnished at his own expense. He left before the chapel was opened.
1881: Curate at Plymouth Cathedral where he gained a reputation for being a fine preacher. Whilst here he suggested that the exiled Benedictines of Pierre-Qui-Vire should settle at Buckfast.
1884: Curate at Worksop in Nottingham Diocese.
1885: Transferred to Clifton Diocese where he was appointed as resident Missioner at the new Church of St John the Baptist, Trowbridge. The church by Scoles had been opened on 27th June 1876.
1888: Appointed to the Church of Our Lady, Help of Christians, Bath, in succession to Canon Francis Loughnan who had been responsible for the erection of the building which was opened on 3rd May 1881. In Bath, Peter Anson, relates the story of the tiger cub or monkey being used as a visual aid in the pulpit.
1889: In July members of the congregation received postcards from him explaining that he was leaving as he ceased to believe in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and had repudiated Papal claims (something of an 1870’s issue). He joined the Unitarians.
1892: On 22nd February he married Margaret Duncan whilst serving in the Anglican Parish of Holy Trinity, Sloane Street.
His story afterwards as an Old Catholic bishop has been widely told…
Bishop Mathew died suddenly on 19th December 1919 and was buried in the churchyard at South Mimms.