New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
New Advent
Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > W > Archdiocese of Westminster

Archdiocese of Westminster

Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...


Erected and made metropolitan in 1850, comprises the Counties of Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Essex, and London north of the Thames. Its suffragan sees are Northampton, Nottingham, Portsmouth, and Southwark. In 1911 the Province of Westminster, which included the whole of England and Wales, was divided into three; but certain privileges of pre-eminence over the new provinces were granted "for the safeguarding of unity, to the already historic Church of Westminster". The subject will be treated in the following order:

I. The Making of the Diocese;
II. The Rule of the Archbishops;
III. Diocesan Institutions.

The making of the diocese

The Archbishop of Westminster today represents two offices of the Pre-Reformation Church. As ordinary of the Diocese of Westminster his jurisdiction extends over much the same area as that of the Bishop of London. As chief metropolitan, he occupies a position similar to that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England. Edmund Bonner, the last Catholic Bishop of London, died in prison in 1569. Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, was dead before Elizabeth's Parliament had finally broken the continuity of episcopal succession in the English Church. Nearly three hundred years passed away before the hierarchy was restored. Nevertheless, as early as 1622, a vicar Apostolic was appointed for all England; and the country was divided into four vicariates in 1688. The state of Catholicism in the Archdiocese of Westminster today is a development on the foundations laid by the succession of eleven vicars Apostolic in the London District (see LONDON).

The beginning of the progress that has made the modern diocese must be dated from the passing of the Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791, which brought freedom of teaching and worship. Throughout the ninety years previous the Catholic population of London remained steady at about 20,000; while in the country parts of the London District, the numbers dropped from 50000 in 1746 to 4000 in 1773, the low-water mark of English Catholicism. Even towns in the London District, like Canterbury and Colchester, did not possess a chapel. The venerable Bishop Challoner laboured on the London mission for the last fifty years of this depressing period, and died in the midst of the ruin wrought in his district by the Gordon Riots of 1780, occasioned by the first Relief Acts. He will ever be memorable as the devoted pastor who guided the Church in England through the long, dark hour before the dawn. Though his end came in troublous times, a better day was already breaking. For in the very year of the second Relief Act, Bishop Douglass was able to say in a report to Rome: "The Church is now beginning to flourish in our metropolis"; and in the twenty years that followed, the Catholic population of the London District was considerably more than doubled.

The development of the missions and the provision of more decent places of worship were the most obvious external results of the Relief Acts. The old chapels were rebuilt on a larger scale, and the next thirty years saw the rise of many new ones in places hitherto impossible. The arrival of the French emigres in Bishop Douglass's time, while helping to spread the spirit of toleration, gave a further stimulus to the starting of missions and the building of chapels. London had always enjoyed a unique advantage over the rest of the country in respect of Catholic worship. This was due to the existence of the embassy chapels and, in the reigns of Charles I and Charles II, to the chapels maintained by the Catholic queens, Henrietta Maria and Catherine of Braganza. Even from Elizabeth's reign Catholics seem to have been able to worship with immunity in the embassy chapels. The Spanish Embassy possessed, in the time of Elizabeth and James I, the old monastic church attached to the town-house of the Bishops of Ely (this pre-Reformation church, probably built about 1339, was once again restored to Catholic worship in 1879). In 1670, several Masses were said daily in the chapels of the Spanish, Portuguese, and Venetian embassies; and Airoldi reported: "I was edified by the crowds of worshipers. Masses were said from eight o'clock to twelve, and during those hours the chapels were never empty". Several of these chapels were open to the public in the latter part of the seventeenth and throughout the eighteenth centuries. Bishop Petre pointed out to Propaganda their importance, and begged Rome to persuade the Catholic Powers to provide larger chapels in convenient places. They suffered with the rest during the Gordon Riots, but were repaired or rebuilt, and some of them have remained to our own day the parish churches of important London missions. The Sardinian Chapel, Lincoln's Inn Fields, which has registers dating from 1729, and which is said to have been founded in 1648, was doubled in size. At one time in the eighteenth century seven priests were attached to it, serving a Catholic population of nearly 14,000; in 1814 there was a Catholic population of 7000 served by four or five priests. In 1799 Bishop Douglass took over the lease of the chapel and converted the ambassador's house into a presbytery, the mission being henceforward supported by the congregation. The old church, built by Inigo Jones and enlarged by Sir Christopher Wren, was standing until 1909, when it had to be abandoned to make room for the London County Council improvements in connection with the new highway Kingsway, and the present church was built a short distance off. The Spanish Embassy always provided a public chapel. The present mission of Spanish Place was set on a permanent footing in 1792, when Father Hussey, F.R.S. (afterwards Bishop of Waterford and first President of Maynooth), built the chapel which was used until the new Gothic church, one of the most beautiful in London, was opened in 1890. The Warwick Street Chapel was first built in 1730 for the Portuguese Embassy. Its registers date from 1747, about which year it was attached to the Bavarian Embassy. It was rebuilt some eight years after the Gordon Riots, and still stands today as the parish church of London's most aristocratic quarter. The French, Portuguese, Venetian, and Neapolitan Governments also maintained chapels were public worship was carried out more or less attractively during the eighteenth century.

Other mission that had been conducted in fear and trembling through the eighteenth century now found their opportunity. Soho is one such. It was "Little Ireland", the Catholic centre of the London Irish, and also contained the town houses of the Catholic gentry, who "formed each spring one united colony of the faithful", hence known as "The Holy Land". A large hall in Carlisle House was fitted up by Father O'Leary in 1792, and continued in use for a hundred years until Canon Vere opened the present St. Patrick's Soho. One or more "Mass-houses" existed at Moorfields, close to the City of London, from the beginning of the eighteenth century. The old chapel, along with the schools, was utterly destroyed in the Gordon Riots, and a new one, St. Paul's Moorfields, was fitted up in a dwelling house. The Catholic population increased so rapidly, from 4200 in 1791 to 12,700 in 1816, that a large church had to be built. It was opened in 1820, and became the principal church of the vicars Apostolic, three of them being buried there. In 1852 it was enlarged, and served as Wiseman's pro-cathedral. Manning was consecrated there in 1865. Ten missions have been formed from the original one. In 1899, the district around St. Mary Moorfields having long ceased to be a residential quarter, the church was sold and replaced by a smaller one. The old riverside chapel at Virginia Street in the East end was replaced by a new one in 1780. Its Catholic population increased from 7000 in 1805 to 16,000 in 1850, and many new missions have since been established in its neighbourhood. The principal church of the district is now the beautiful Gothic church of St. Mary and St. Michael, in Commercial Road, opened in 1850.

Great numbers of the French clergy and nobility came over to Bishop Douglass's district after the outbreak of the French Revolution. At one time there were as many as 5 archbishops, 27 bishops, and 5000 priests in London. Eight chapels were opened for their use, toward the building of which Protestants and Catholics alike subscribed. All but one were closed by 1814, on the return of the exiles to France. This one, the chapel of St. Louis in Little George Street, opened in 1799, was later given the title of "Chapel Royal of France", and continued to be served by French priests until it was closed in 1911, shortly after the death of Mgr. Toursel. The exiled French clergy also opened churches for English Catholics, and thus laid the foundations of permanent London missions. Such are the missions of Tottenham, opened by the Abbé (afterwards Cardinal) de Chevereux in 1794; Somers Town, opened by the famous Abbé Carron in 1808; Cadogan Terrace, Chelsea, opened by the Abbé Voyaux de Franous in 1812; and Hampstead, opened by the Abbé Morel in 1815.

Catholic Emancipation, which placed Catholics civilly and politically on a level with their fellow-citizens, marks the next epoch. "It is especially since 1829", as Cardinal Wiseman pointed out in 1863, "that the exterior expansion of Catholicism has been most visibly manifested." The next twenty years witnessed remarkable progress all round, which made the establishment of a hierarchy a necessity. The number of churches in London was doubled; the number of priests trebled; while the number of convents increased from one to nine. Ten years after Emancipation, the Catholics of London numbered close on 150,000, about one-tenth of the total population of London; and the churches were quite inadequate in size and number to the needs of the congregations. There were 400 conversions in London in 1836, and ten years later the harvest of the Oxford movement was already being gathered. Because of the recent growth, the Bull "Muncris Apostolici Ratio" was published in 1840 to increase the vicariates from four to eight, as a first step towards a regular hierarchy.

The rule of the archbishops

Cardinal Wiseman

On 29 September, 1850, the Bull "Universalis Ecclesiae" was issued, restoring a hierarchy with territorial titles. England and Wales were formed into one ecclesiastical province. Westminster was raised to the dignity of metropolitan, the twelve other sees being made suffragan to it. The old London Vicariate gave place to the dioceses of Westminster and Southward, the former retaining Middlesex, Hertfordshire, and Essex. Nicholas Wiseman, the last Vicar Apostolic of the London District, was appointed first archbishop and raised at the same time to the sacred purple. The new cardinal's letter "From out of the Flaminian Gate of Rome", announcing the reorganization of the English Church, aroused a storm of opposition in the country against what was termed "Papal aggression". On his return from Rome he made it his first business to allay the storm. How well he succeeded is attested by Cardinal Newman. "Highly as I put his gifts, I was not prepared for such a display of vigour, power, judgment, sustained energy..." The Ecclesiastical Titles Act, indeed, passed into law, but it was a dead letter from the beginning.

On Wiseman fell the task of beginning the reconstruction of the Church in England. The constitution given to the vicars Apostolic was out of date, and a new code of legislation had to be laid down in the three provincial Synods held at Oscott in 1852, 1855, and 1859. The principal decrees of those Synods defined the status of cathedral chapters and the position of the rectors of missions, and regulated the government of the colleges and seminaries. In London much had to be done in the way of remodeling and reorganizing the missions. Wiseman gave a great impetus to the spread of popular devotions, introduced the Forty Hours' Adoration, and obtained more decorum and regularity in church services. Before his time daily Mass was regularly celebrated only in twelve churches in London. Benediction and Vespers were very rare, and seem to have been intermingled with English prayers and hymns at the will of the celebrant. In 1849 only one church in London possessed a statue of Our Lady. Wiseman also took the initiative in obtaining the appointment of Catholic army chaplains on an equality in all respects with the Protestant, and in making some provision for the spiritual needs of Catholics in the navy. Both the military and naval chaplains' departments are now administered from Archbishop's House, Westminster (S.C. de Prop. Fide, 15 May, 1906).

The question of the education of the poor was in very sad condition. Wiseman applied his energies to every new move. The Government started reformatory schools for juvenile offenders in 1854, and Wiseman at once secured that one should be reserved near London as the first Catholic reformatory. In 1857 he opened an industrial school for homeless children; and at the time of his death he was busy with negotiations for providing the Poor Law children with Catholic instruction. Several new schools were also opened for the poor children in the missions. One of the great means to which Cardinal Wiseman looked for the carrying out of his schemes was the formation of religious communities, especially of religious communities, to help in the work of evangelizing the poor. When he first came to London "there was not a single community of men". The Jesuits indeed had a "splendid church" at Farm Street, opened in 1849; but could not provide a community of the nature that Wiseman required. In a few years, however, the Redemptorists, the Passionists, the Marists, and the Oratorians had come. By the end of his life he had seen the establishment of fifteen communities of men, and the number of communities of women increase from nine to thirty-two. These figures, taken in conjunction with the increase in number of churches from 46 to 120, and of priests from 113 to 215, testify amply to the wonderful development of the diocese under the first archbishop.

But by 1852 Wiseman had already arrived at the conclusion that the regular communities could not give to the diocese the manifold activities he expected from them. He therefore determined to form a community of secular priests "ready to undertake any spiritual work which the Bishop cut out for them". The work was entrusted to Henry Edward (afterwards Cardinal) Manning, and resulted in the formation of the Oblates of St. Charles in 1857. Unfortunately, this brought the cardinal some of the saddest days of his life. The new foundation aroused a strong opposition, at the head of which Archbishop Errington, coadjutor with right of succession to the see, was found. The controversy resulted in Archbishop Errington's resignation of his rights of succession in 1862. He had been associated with Wiseman in all his undertakings, supplying the business capacity that Wiseman lacked; and in his retirement, it is recorded of him that "he nursed no resentment in his heart...His tongue left no sting or stain behind". Cardinal Wiseman died in 1865, after several years of failing health. Always regarded on the Continent as one of the greatest personalities of the age, his popularity grew steadily in England among all classes of the population. How thoroughly he had conquered was made known by an almost unique demonstration of public sympathy at the time of his death.

Cardinal Manning

Mgr. Manning had been appointed provost of the Westminster Chapter under Cardinal Wiseman in 1857, and now succeeded him as metropolitan. The contrast between the roles of the first and second archbishop has been drawn by the latter's biographer. "If Wiseman's was the pilot's venturesome arm to steer the bark of Peter through heavy seas to a safe anchorage, it was Manning's part to make smooth the way by tact and skill and intimate knowledge of the land, for the advance of the Church into the fullness of English life." Manning's qualification in this respect were his Oxford training and his intimacy with English life and society. The first thing to which the archbishop turned his attention was the education of the poor. "Our weak side is the education of our children", was Wiseman's lament in 1863, and he estimated that there were 17,000 poor Catholic children unprovided for. Manning, in the first year of his episcopate, put the figures at 20,000, and saw that the difficulty could only be overcome by continual and organized effort. With this end in view, he established the Westminster Diocesan Educational Fund in 1866. The success of the new undertaking was all that he desired. Some fourteen years later he was able to say: "The work for the poor children may be said to be done...There is school room for all". A critical moment for Catholic education in England was caused by the passing of the Education Act of 1870, which established the School Boards. It was met by the crisis fund, started by the Committee under Lord Howard of Glossop, which eventually provided accommodation for 70,000 children at a cost of £350,000.

For the higher education of the laity, Manning, even as early as 1864, considered that something in the nature of a Catholic University was necessary and feasible. For a moment he had entertained the idea of an academy for young laymen in Rome. But at the Provincial Council of 1873, he returned to the plan of a college of higher studies in London, under the control of the bishops of the province. In 1874 a Catholic University College was opened at Kensington, and, much against Manning's wishes, a Senate was established to represent the dioceses, colleges, and laity of England. Men of distinction, including Prof. Barff, Dr. Mivart, Father Clarke, Mr. Gordon Thompson, Mr. Paley, and Mr. Seagar, were appointed to act as professors under the rectorship of Mgr. Capel. The college proved a failure. After costing the cardinal £10,000 it was eventually united to St. Charles's College (started by the Oblates in 1863 and transferred to a new site in 1874) as a higher department. Manning then reconciled himself to "the postponement of any college for higher studies to the indefinite future". Cardinal Manning had all through his life the education of the clergy much at heart. In 1866 he undertook the reorganization of the English College, Rome, and arranged for the nomination of one of the Oblates of St. Charles as rector. In 1869 he transferred the students in theology from Ware to Hammersmith, where he began what he considered "a true Tridentine Seminary". New buildings were erected by 1884 at a total cost of £37,000. Dr. Weathers was rector until it was closed in 1892. He became bishop auxiliary to Cardinal Manning in 1872, and died in 1895 in his eighty-first year.

Meanwhile the development of the diocese, begun under Wiseman, was maintained. New missions were founded; and ten churches built, two of them being among the principal churches of the diocese, viz., the pro-cathedral at Kensington, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1867, and the Brompton Oratory, which was consecrated in 1884. The development of the missions was facilitated by the growth in the numbers of the clergy during Cardinal Manning's episcopate from 215 to 358. In managing the business of the diocese, the cardinal relied greatly on his vicar- general, Mgr. Gilbert, founder of the Providence Row Night Refuge. Mgr. Gilbert was provost of the Chapter at the time of the cardinal's death, and his name was put on the terna then submitted to Rome.

In matters of social reform Cardinal Manning was one of the leading men of all time. The foundation of the League of the Cross did more than any prohibitive legislation could for the promotion of temperance amongst the masses. he played an active part in the Royal Commission appointed in 1884 to enquire into the question of housing the working classes. (It was on this occasion that the Prince of Wales, afterwards Edward VII, decided that "the name of the Cardinal should appear immediately after his own" in the list of commissioners.) Mansion House committees might always count on his active support in any charitable undertaking. He warmly espoused the cause of labour. The energy, insight, and skill which he displayed in imposing "the Cardinal's peace" on masters and men alike at the end of the Dock Strike of 1889 will not be easily forgotten. The Fourth Provincial Council of Westminster was held at St. Edmund's College in 1873. Archbishop Manning was made a cardinal in 1875, with the title of Sts. Andrew and Gregory on the Caelian Hill. Within the next four years, two other eminent English ecclesiastics were admitted to the Sacred College: Edward Howard and John Henry Newman.

Cardinal Vaughan

Cardinal Manning died 14 January, 1892, and was succeeded by Herbert Vaughan, Bishop of Salford, who became cardinal-priest with the title of Sts. Andrew and Gregory on the Caelian Hill, in Jan., 1893. The foundation of St. Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions and his work in the Diocese of Salford pointed him out as the man most eminently suited for the See of Westminster. He had the same educational problems to face as Cardinal Manning, though under different conditions. The problem of the education of the clergy in England he thought could only be solved by "the concentration of labour and resources into one or two central seminaries". He therefore closed the seminary at Hammersmith, and, with the co-operation of seven bishops of southern and midland dioceses, converted Oscott into a central seminary. To give facilities for the higher education of the laity, he removed the prohibition against attendance at the national universities and formed the Universities Board. St. Edmund House was also opened at Cambridge for ecclesiastical students. All through Cardinal Vaughan's time the struggle for the better education of the poor continued, until the passing of the Education Bill of 1902, which placed existing denominational schools on an equality in maintenance with the Board schools.

As a result of an inquiry instituted in 1896, the cardinal found that there were 1720 destitute Catholic children in non-Catholic homes. These agencies made no attempt to disguise their purpose: charity was given on the one condition that the faith of the children was sacrificed. The cardinal saw that he must take steps to provide a home for every Catholic child who was really destitute. He therefore founded the Crusade of Rescue. In 1901 the care of the rescue work was transferred to Father Bans, who had for some years been in charge of the homes for destitute children started by Rev. Lord Archibald Douglas in 1859. The work has prospered, until today (1912) the society provides for 1000 children at a cost of £16,000 a year.

The chief and closing event of the episcopate of Cardinal Vaughan was the erection of Westminster Cathedral, of which the first stone was laid, 29 June, 1895. Owing to its special function and scope, this foundation may truly be said to have marked a new epoch in the life of the Catholic Church in England. In it the cardinal realized a project which he had deeply at heart, namely that the cathedral of the chief metropolitan see should be not only a large and stately building, but one in which should be revived the cathedral life and work, as in Catholic times, according to the Church's ideal, and in which, as the "House of Prayer", the voice of the Church in the daily round of her Divine Office and sacred liturgy should ascend continually to God in thanksgiving and intercession on behalf of the people. All this he was wont to express by saying that it must be "a live cathedral". For this purpose, he obtained permission from the Holy See that the number of the canons of the metropolitan chapter should be increased from twelve to eighteen, and as these are for the most part non-resident, he made provision for a body of eighteen cathedral vicars or chaplains, whose main duty is the celebration of the daily High Mass and the choral recitation or chanting of the Divine Office. In this they are assisted by a choir composed of choristers, and also of boys who are maintained and trained in the song-school attached to the cathedral. The cathedral has thus been able to fulfill, under the fostering care of Cardinal Bourne, what its founder regarded as its missionary object — that it should not only a fitting centre and summit to the structure of the Catholic Church in England, but that it should stand in the midst of the capital of the British Empire as a worthy presentation of the dignity and beauty of Catholic worship in liturgy, music, and ceremonial. Its success and the multitudes which assemble within its walls have attested the public appreciation of the lofty ideal which entered into its erection, and have more than justified the wisdom of Cardinal Vaughan and his predecessors. The cardinal also organized the researches which led to the decision given at Rome in 1896 on the subject of Anglican Orders.

During his time the number of priests was increased by 90, and the number of churches by 14 in London and 20 in the Home Counties. Mgr. Michael Barry succeeded Mgr. Gilbert as vicar-general and provost of the chapter in 1895. Bishop Robert Brindle, D.S.O., was auxiliary bishop from 1899 till his appointment to the See of Nottingham in 1901. He was succeeded as provost by Bishop Patterson, who had been Wiseman's intimate friend.

To the college at Mill Hill, which he had founded as a young priest, and from which the Faith had since been spread to so many wild places of the earth, the cardinal would retire from time to time to pray for blessing on the work of his later years in the archdiocese; and there he breathed his last on 19 June, 1903.

Cardinal Bourne

Leo XIII died a month after Cardinal Vaughan, and one of the first acts of Pius X was the translation of Bishop Bourne, then in his forty-third year, to the See of Westminster. The new metropolitan, a Londoner by birth, had been Bishop of Southwark since, 1897, having been consecrated Bishop of Epiphania, as coadjutor with the right of succession, in the previous year. He was early marked as a leader of men by the ability and energy with which he conducted St. John's Seminary, Wonersh, from its very foundation, endowing it with his high ecclesiastical ideals, and placing it amongst the leading colleges of England with a distinctive spirit of its own. It is almost the only seminary in England which is strictly Tridentine, i.e. which educates the priests of the diocese from boyhood in a purely ecclesiastical college in the diocese. His training had fitted him to take the lead in ecclesiastical education; for his student days were passed in the long-established English colleges at Ushaw and Old Hall, in the seminaries of St. Thomas in London and St-Sulpice in Paris, and finally, in the theological side of Louvain University. His six years' government of the Diocese of Southwark is especially memorable for the development of rescue and social works and for the opening of a very large number of new missions. It was already manifest that he possessed the great administrative ability, power of organization, and apostolic zeal which he has since displayed in a larger sphere of activity as Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Church in England. He was created cardinal on 27 Nov., 1911, and received the same titular church, of St. Pudentiana, as Cardinal Wiseman.

The rule of the fourth archbishop has been noted for the gathering together and organization of forces. Westminster Cathedral, opened in 1903 and consecrated in 1910, has become the focus of diocesan activities and the great centre of English Catholicism. It witnessed the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Hierarchy in 1910; and secured the wonderful success of the Eucharistic Congress of 1908, at which seven cardinals, seventeen archbishops, and over seventy bishops assisted. The diocesan seminary has been restored to its ancient home at Ware, and housed in a commodious modern building. The annual general meetings of the Catholic Truth Society have developed into national congresses, in which all the Catholic works of the country unite. The Catholic Women's League, founded in 1907, has banded Catholic women together for the furtherance of religious and intellectual interests, and of social work. The altar-servers of the country have been united in the Archconfraternity of St. Stephen, founded by Cardinal Bourne in 1905. The Catholic Federation has been established, with the object of enabling Catholics to take combined action in securing the due representation of Catholic interests in public bodies; and thus concrete form has been given to the principles laid down by the first archbishop. At length, also, Catholic prison chaplains have, through the influence of Cardinal Bourne, been placed on an equality with the Protestant.

Cardinal Bourne has spoken with the voice of a great churchman who commands attention, on subjects of the first importance, e.g. the crisis of the French Church (1906), the Congo question (1909), temporal power (1911), present social unrest (1912), and the language question in Canada (1910 and 1912). "His is the straight word — wise, conciliatory, never shrinking from a full statement, but only from an unfair one." Two events in particular have revealed him as a statesman capable of rising superior to any emergency. One was the tactful, but firm and decisive, handling of the Government's eleventh-hour prohibition of the Eucharistic Congress procession. The other was the conduct of the campaign against the Education Bill of 1906. The climax of this campaign was reached in the monster demonstration at the Albert Hall, where the archbishop, supported by the Duke of Norfolk and Mr. John Redmond, rallied Catholics of every political creed to the defence of the schools.

The publication of the Apostolic Constitution "Si qua est" on 28 October, 1911 marks a new epoch in the history of the Church in England. Hitherto the whole of England and Wales had formed one ecclesiastical province, composed of one metropolitan and fifteen suffragan sees. In 1911 three provinces were formed: Westminster in the east, Birmingham in the west, and Liverpool in the north. Westminster retains the Churches of Northampton, Nottingham, Portsmouth, and Southwark, as suffragan. "Moreover, for the preservation of unity in government and policy, to the Archbishop of Westminster are granted certain new distinctions of pre-eminence. He will be permanent chairman at the meetings of the bishops of all England and Wales . . . he will take rank above the other two archbishops, and will, throughout all England and Wales, enjoy the privilege of wearing the pallium, of occupying the throne, and of having the cross carried before him. Lastly, in all dealings with the supreme civil authority, he will in his person represent the entire episcopate of England and Wales." The progress that the Church has made in England since the establishment of the hierarchy may be realized from the fact, pointed out by Cardinal Bourne, that two of the new provinces "each possess more churches and larger bodies of clergy than were contained in the whole country in 1850; while the third and smallest province falls very little short of the same degree of expansion". In the Diocese of Westminster alone the number of priests has been multiplied by five, the number of churches by four, and the Catholic population has been increased by one hundred and fifty thousand, during the same period of sixty years.

Mgr. William A. Johnson, Bishop of Arindela, died in 1909. In the words of Cardinal Bourne, he had been "the main pivot in the government of the archdiocese for forty-four years". Born in London in 1832, he became assistant secretary to Cardinal Manning in 1865, and chief diocesan secretary two years later, in succession to Canon John Morris, the well-known writer, who then entered the Society of Jesus. He was made provost under Cardinal Bourne in 1903, and vicar-general in 1904. On the petition of the Bishops of England, he was consecrated Bishop of Arindela in 1906. After his death he was succeeded as provost of the chapter by Mgr. Patrick Fenton, who had been president of St. Edmund's College from 1882 to 1887, vicar general from 1900, and auxiliary bishop from 1904.

Diocesan institutions, etc.

The Cathedral, built in the Byzantine style, was begun in 1895, opened in 1903, consecrated in 1910 (see WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL). The Westminster mission was started in 1792, with a Catholic population of about 500. The Horseferry Road Chapel, opened in 1813, served this very poor district until 1903.

Colleges and Boys' Schools. — Besides the diocesan college and seminary at Ware, and the foreign missionary college at Mill Hill, there are: a training college for men teachers in elementary schools, and nine other institutions engaged in secondary education, all but two of which are conducted by clergy or religious. For girls, there are 37 convent schools, three schools under secular teachers, and one training college for teachers.

Public Elementary Schools number 116, of which 104 (including 199 departments) receive Government grants. In 1910-11 there were 36,902 children on the books of these schools. In 1900 the numbers were 27,779; 21,315 in 1890; 11,145 in 1865. In 1849 the year before the establishment of the hierarchy, there were only 8445 in all the Catholic schools in England.

Residential Institutions for Poor Children. — (1) Schools certified by Government: one reformatory, two industrial schools, ten schools for Poor-Law children, and five schools for ophthalmic, feeble-minded, crippled, or epileptic children. (2) Homes and Orphanages under the Rescue Society: four homes for boys and one for girls, with one home in Canada for emigrated children, under the Catholic Emigration Association. (3) Other Homes: three for boys and ten for girls.

Charities. — There are 35 homes and orphanages for poor children, nine refuges for penitents, one night refuge, four asylums and three almshouses for aged poor, and six hospitals. Much work is done amongst the poor by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Ladies of Charity, and other organizations of the laity. Other societies watch over the interests of certain classes. Such are: the Converts' Aid Society (for convert clergymen), the Catholic Soldiers' and Seamen's Association, the Prisoners' Aid Society, the International Catholic Society for befriending girls.

Periodicals. — "The Tablet", a weekly newspaper and review, is the chief Catholic paper in England. Founded in 1840 by Mr. Frederick Lucas as the organ of the English Catholics, it emigrated to Dublin for a time in 1849. Mr. John Wallis brought it back to London and edited it until 1868, where it was bought by Father Herbert (afterwards Cardinal) Vaughan. The "Dublin Review" was started in 1835, as "the Catholic rival of the Whig "Edinburgh" and the Tory "Quarterly". Cardinal Wiseman was to all intents and purposes the literary editor until 1863, when it passed into the hands of W.G. Ward. Bishop (afterwards Cardinal) Vaughan became owner in 1879, and Bishop Hedlwy edited it until 1884, when Bishop Vaughan took over the editorship himself. Mgr. Canon Moyes was editor from 1892 until the appointment of Mr. Wilfrid Ward by Cardinal Bourne in 1906. The "Catholic Directory", published annually in Westminster, supplies a guide to the varied activities of the Church in Great Britain. It is a development of the "Ordo recitandi", and the "Laity's Directory" (started in 1793), and appeared for the first time in its present form in 1838.

Religious Communities. — Men: Augustinians, Augustinians of the Assumption, Benedictines, Canons Regular of the Lateran, Discalced Carmelites, Catholic Missionary Society, Congregation of the Mission, Dominicans, Fathers of Charity, Friars Minor, Hijos Missionarios del Corazon Immac. de Maria, Institute of St. Andrew, Jesuits, Marist Fathers, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Oblates of St. Charles, Oratorians, Passionists, Pious Society of missions, Redemptorists, Fathers of St. Edmund (Pontigny), St. Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions, Salesians, Salvatorians, Servites, Alexian Brothers, Brothers of Mercy, Marist Brothers.

Women: Adoration of the Sacred Heart, Adoration Reparatrice, Assumption, Bon Secours, Bon Secours (of Troyes), Canonesses of St. Augustine, Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, Carmelites, Dames Bernardines, Dames de Nazareth, Daughters of the Cross, Dominicans, English Institute of the B.V.M., Faithful Companions, Filles de Jesus, Franciscans, Good Shepherd, Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, Helpers of the Holy Souls, Holy Child, Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of the Retreat, Institut Normal de Paris, Jesus and Mary, Little Company of Mary, Little Sisters of the Assumption, Little Sisters of the Poor, Marie Auxiliatrice, Marie Reparatrice, Marist Sisters, Most Holy Cross and Passion, Most Holy Sacrament, Notre Dame, Notre Dame de Sion, Poor Clares, Poor Handmaids of Jesus, Poor Servants of the Mother of God, Poor Sisters of Nazareth, Filles de La Sagesse, Sainte Union, Servants of the Sacred Heart, Servites Siervas de Maria, Sisters of Charity (4 congregations with 17 convents), Sisters of Hope, of Mary and Joseph, of Mercy, of Providence, of St. Chretienne, of St. Joseph, of St. Martha, of St. Martin, of St. Mary, of the Christian Retreat, of the Holy Family, of the Poor Child Jesus, of the Sacred Heart, of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Society of the Sacred Heart, Soeurs de Misericorde, Ursulines, Ursulines of Jesus, Visitation.


Priests, 540 (180 regulars), 184 churches, 30 communities of men, 161 communities of women. Catholic population, 250,000 out of a total population of 5,467,768.


Archives of the Diocese of Westminster; Laity's Directory, and Catholic Directory (London, 1793-1912); BRADY, Episcopal Succession in England (Rome, 1876); BURTON, Life and Times of Bishop Challoner (London, 1909); B.WARD, Dawn of the Catholic Revival (London, 1909); IDEM, Eve of Catholic Emancipation (London, 1911); IDEM, Catholic London a Century ago (London, 1905); HARTING, Catholic London Missions (London, 1903); WISEMAN, Religious and Social Position of Catholics (Dublin, 1864); WAUGH, These my Little Ones (London, 1911); W. WARD, Life and Times of Cardinal Wiseman (London, 1900); PURCELL, Life of Cardinal Manning (London, 1896); PRESSENSE, Life of Cardinal Manning (1896, tr. 1897); SNEAD-COX, Life of Cardinal Vaughan (London, 1910); Sayings and Doings of Cardinal Bourne (London, 1911); Report of the 19th Eucharistic Congress (London, 1909); FITZGERALD, Fifty Years of Catholic Life and Progress (London, 1901).

About this page

APA citation. Hetherington, A. (1912). Archdiocese of Westminster. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hetherington, Arthur. "Archdiocese of Westminster." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to the Catholics of England.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2023 by New Advent LLC. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.