Rt. Rev. William Robert Brownlow, D.D. [Obituary]

Trans. Devon. Assoc., vol. XXXIV, (1902), pp. 33-34.


J. Brooking-Rowe (Ed.).

Prepared by Michael Steer

The obituary was read at the Association’s July 1902 Bideford meeting. Dr Brownlow was a prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Clifton, part of Bristol, from 1894 to 1901. During his many years of Devonshire Association membership he became a major contributor at its meetings and to the Transactions. He was also an active supporter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. His reasonably brief biography may be accessed at Wikipedia. Bishop Brownlow’s obituary, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

The Right Rev. William Robert Brownlow, D.D., was born at Wilmslow, Cheshire, July 4th, 1830, his father, the Rev. William Brownlow, being the rector of the parish. He was educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1852. After his ordination, in 1853, he became curate of Great Wyrley, Staffordshire; afterwards of St. Bartholomew's, Moor Lane, London; of Tetbury, Gloucestershire; and, lastly, at St. John's, Torquay. In 1863 he seceded from the Church of England, and was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Father Newman. He went to Koine to study at the English College there, and received Roman orders in December, 1866. He was sent as missioner to St. Marychurch, where he remained for several years. In 1878 he was made Canon of Plymouth, and in 1888 he removed to that town as Vicar-General to Bishop Vaughan. In 1893 Dr. Brownlow became Provost, and was appointed one of the domestic chaplains to the Pope; and on the death of Bishop Clifford he was appointed Bishop of Clifton, to which see he was consecrated in 1894 at the Pro-Cathedral. In October, 1901, the Bishop was in London, and there he caught a severe cold. Returning to his residence, Bishop's House, Park Place, Clifton, he developed bronchitis and pneumonia. Serious symptoms showed themselves, and he died on Saturday, 9th November. He was buried in the Cemetery of Holy Souls, Arnos Vale, Clifton, on the following Tuesday, a large number of mourners and a vast concourse of people following the body to the grave. Dr. Brownlow was elected a member in 1882, and before he became Bishop he was a constant attendant at our meetings, and the author of papers of value, and his removal from the county was much felt by the officers and his fellow-members. He was the author of several works — a History of the Early Church, Christian Antiquities, Slavery and Serfdom in Europe — and, in conjunction with Dr. Northcote, a volume on the Catacombs, Roma Sotteranea.

Mr. Harvey was elected a Town Commissioner in 1839, and continued in that capacity until the adoption of the Public Health Act in 1850, when he was elected a member of the Local Board of Health, on which he served up to the year 1872, when he retired on the expiration of his term of office. He also represented the parish as Guardian of the Poor for a great many years, and was for a long time architect to the Torwood Manor. He had a great aptitude for business, and on all questions appertaining to matters of local interest his opinion carried great weight. In politics he was a Conservative, and worked actively for his party.

He became a member of the Torquay Natural History Society in 1872. He joined this Association in 1873, when he at once became a life member; and he was one of the Vice-Presidents at his decease. He rarely was absent from the annual meetings, and his pleasant smile and hearty shake of the hand will be missed by many who knew him well.

For some years past his health had greatly failed; and although he rallied for a time, he finally succumbed, and died at his residence, Aberfeldie, Torquay, on Wednesday, the 16th January, 1884, at the age of 69.