Diocese History

The diocese in which we are based, The Diocese of Nottingham, spans the East Midlands counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, and Rutland. Its history is recounted here...

It was amongst the twelve original designated English Dioceses at the time of the restoration of the hierarchy of Pope Pius IX in 1850.

These were within the old Midland District or 'vicariate', at the time when, as Pope James II had requested in 1685, the Vatican divided England into four Catholic districts: the London, the Northern, the Midland, and the Western.

Prior to 1840 when the number of vicars Apostolic was doubled from four to eight, the Midland District had consisted of fifteen counties. In 1850, Nottingham could count only twenty-four permanent missions, with many of these being little better than villages. Many originated from chaplaincies which had through harsh times been maintained by the Catholic nobility and gentry, or had been founded independently by them. Among these there existed foundations of several religious orders: in Derbyshire, the Jesuits had missions at Chesterfield and Spink Hill in Lincolnshire at Lincoln, Boston, and Market Rasen; the Dominicans were based in Leicester; the Fathers of Charity continued several missions in Leicestershire; and the Cistercians resided in their newly established Abbey of Mount St. Bernard in Charnwood Forest.

From the appearance of the Jesuits in England in 1580 (at the special request of Dr. Allen), they had done much through their dedicated work to preserve the faith in the Nottingham diocese. Of their missions mentioned above, some were among the earliest in the Society in England (dating back some three hundred years). Derby was included in the district or college of the Society called the "Immaculate Conception", founded by Father Richard Blount, about 1633, first Provincial of the English Province. Extinct for many years it was partially revived in 1842 as Mount St. Mary's College, when the present college and convictus was established by the then provincial, Father Raudal Lythegoe. After the Reformation, the English Province of the Friars Preachers ceased to exist, until resuscitated at Bornhem in Flanders by Philip Howard (q. v.) later cardinal, who became the first prior of the Dominicans in 1675. The first introduction of the English Dominicans from Bornhem was at Hinckley, whence for many years Leicester was served by them at intervals. Their mission at Leicester was made permanent in 1798 by the purchase of a house by Father Francis Xavier Choppelle.

The present church of the Holy Cross was set up by Father Benedict Caestrick in 1815 and was opened in 1819. The title of Holy Cross was adopted, no doubt, on account of the celebrated relic of the Holy Cross brought from Bornhem, which is now in London. After three centuries had passed, a monastery of the Cistercian Order was resuscitated in England by the foundation of the Abbey of Mount St. Bernard in Leicestershire, made possible by the assistance of Ambrose Phillips de Lisle of Grace Dieu Manor, who after being converted in December, 1825, spent much of his time on the spread of the Faith in England. He hoped to accomplish this through the re-establishment of monastic institutions in England. In 1835 he purchased around two hundred and twenty-seven acres of wild, uncultivated land in Charnwood Forest and presented this to the Cistercians. Beginning with one brother who lived alone in a four-roomed cottage, the community rapidly increased, and a larger building was erected as well as a small chapel, opened by Dr. Walsh 11 October, 1837. This also in a short time proving insufficient, the Earl of Shrewsbury generously offered them £2,000, but on condition that a new monastery should be erected, choosing for that purpose the present site of the abbey. It was built from designs by Augustus Welby Pugin. In 1848 by Brief of Pius IX the monastery of Mount St. Bernard was raised to the dignity of an abbey, and Father Bernard, the first mitred abbot in England since the Reformation, was consecrated 18 February, 1849.

In introducing the Cistercians into England, de Lisle had hoped that they would undertake missionary work and with this view he had built three chapels, at Grace Dieu, Whitwick, and the abbey. On the score of their rule, however, they declined to take charge permanently of the missions. De Lisle then decided to bring from Italy members of the Order of Charity. After much negotiation with the head of the order, Father Gentili came to Grace Dieu as chaplain. This was the commencement of the settlement of this order in the diocese. In 1841 Dr. Walsh made over to them the secular mission of Loughborough founded in 1832 by Father Benjamin Hulme. The buildings were too small to permit of a novitiate and a college of their own which they were desirous to establish. To carry out this twofold object, about nine acres were purchased; here the foundation stone of the new buildings was laid in May, 1843, and in 1844 was opened the first college and novitiate house of the institute in England. The Sisters of Mercy had come to Nottingham in 1844, and in 1846 entered their convent in close proximity to the cathedral.

The first Bishop of Nottingham was the Rt. Rev. William Hendren, O.S.F., born in 1792, consecrated 10 September, 1848, as Vicar Apostolic of the Western District, transferred to the Diocese of Clifton, 29 Sept., 1850, and to Nottingham, 22 June, 1851. The cathedral church of St. Barnabas is of the lancet style of architecture, and is considered one of the best specimens of the work of Augustus Welby Pugin. Owing to ill-health Dr. Hendren resigned in 1853 and was succeeded by Dr. Richard Roskell, born at Gateacre near Liverpool, in 1817. He was sent to Ushaw and afterwards to Rome, where he took his degree and was ordained in 1840. He was consecrated in the cathedral by Cardinal Wiseman on 21 September, 1853. During his episcopate a number of missions were founded in the various counties of the diocese. In Lincolnshire, through the generosity of Thomas Arthur Young of Kingerby Hall, not only was there a church and presbytery built at Gainsborough and Grimsby, but the Premonstratensian order was re-introduced into England at Crowle and Spalding. In 1874, owing to Dr. Roskell's ill-health, the pope appointed the Rev. Edward Gilpin Bagshawe of the London Oratory his coadjutor. The same year, however, Dr. Roskell tendered his resignation and Dr. Bagshawe was consecrated at the London Oratory 12 November, 1874. Numerous missions necessitated by the development of the mining industry were opened during his administration, and various communities of nuns introduced into the diocese, which he ruled for twenty-seven years. He resigned in 1901 and in 1904 was transferred to the titular Archbishopric of Seleucia. Rt. Rev. Robert Brindle, D.S.O., his successor, was born at Liverpool, 4 November, 1837. The first Catholic chaplain to receive the pension for distinguished and meritorious service, as well as Turkish and Egyptian orders and medals, he was, his retirement from the army in 1899, on the petition of Cardinal Vaughan, appointed his assistant, and on the resignation of Dr. Bagshawe, received his Brief to the See of Nottingham 6 November, 1901.

By 1910 there were in the diocese 32,000 Catholics; 84 secular, and 44 regular, priests; 75 churches with missions attached, 31 without missions; 6 convents for men, and 9 for women.

Extracted from newadvent.org

Diocese Statistics:

Total number of Catholics in The Diocese of Nottingham: 134,470
Diocesan Priests: 130
Religious Priests: 46
Permanent Deacons: 26