Gradwell, Robert (DNB00)

GRADWELL, ROBERT, D.D. (1777–1833), catholic prelate, third son of John Gradwell of Clifton in the Fylde, near Preston, Lancashire, by Margaret, daughter of John Gregson of Balderston in that county, was born at Clifton on 26 Jan. 1777. He was sent to the English College at Douay in 1791, and upon its suppression remained for some time in confinement with the other students. On regaining his liberty in 1795, he proceeded to Crook Hall, near Durham, where the majority of the refugees from Douay College had assembled. On 4 Dec. 1802 he was ordained priest, and for seven years taught poetry and rhetoric at Crook Hall and the new college at Ushaw. In 1809 he was stationed as priest at Claughton, Lancashire. When the English College of St. Thomas of Canterbury at Rome was restored to the English secular clergy, the vicars-apostolic of this country recommended Gradwell as rector. They did this mainly on the suggestion of Dr. Lingard, with whom Gradwell had formed an intimate acquaintance at Ushaw. Gradwell was appointed by Cardinal Consalvi, secretary of state, by letters dated 8 March 1818, and he was formally installed on 10 June following. A colony of ten students soon afterwards arrived from England, and the college flourished exceedingly under its new rector. He was also appointed by the vicars-apostolic their agent in Rome. On 24 Aug. 1821 the pope conferred on him the degree of D.D. on account of ‘the integrity of his life, his learning, probity, zeal, and meritorious discharge of his duties as president of the English College and agent of the clergy’ (Butler, Hist. Memoirs of the English Catholics, 3rd edit. iv. 443).

On 19 May 1828 the Propaganda elected him coadjutor, cum futura successione, to Bishop Bramston, vicar-apostolic of the London district. He was accordingly consecrated on 24 June to the see of Lydda in partibus. He resigned the rectorship of the English College and was succeeded by Dr. ( afterwards Cardinal) Wiseman. In the following August he arrived in London, where his gentle and engaging manner endeared him to the clergy. In 1832 he issued, in conjunction with Bishop Bramston, a pastoral letter to the clergy and laity of the London district prohibiting wakes during the prevalence of the cholera. He died in Golden Square, London, on 15 March 1833. His eulogy is inscribed on a handsome marble monument in the church of St. Mary, Moorfields, where he was buried.

He was the author of:

  1. ‘A Dissertation on the Fable of Papal Antichrists,’ London, 1816, 8vo.
  2. ‘A Winter Evening Dialogue between John Hardman and John Cardwell; or, Thoughts on the Rule of Faith, in a series of letters addressed to the authors of “Letters to the Clergy of the Catholic Church, and more especially to the Rev. Thomas Sherburne of Kirkham, in Lancashire.”’ Published, under the pseudonym John Hardman, in the ‘Catholicon,’ 1817.
  3. ‘The Journals of Dr. Gradwell from his arrival at Rome, 2 March 1817, to 21 March 1825, with various illustrative papers.’ Manuscript thick folio, unpaginated, in the archives of the see of Westminster.
  4. ‘The Journals of Dr. Gradwell from 15 April 1825 to his arrival in London, 23 Aug. 1828, with several papers connected with the History of the Students in the English College.’ Manuscript in the Westminster archives.
  5. ‘Letters and Papers, MS. and printed, being for the most part his correspondence with William Poynter, bishop of Halia, from 1817 to 1828.’

Another thick folio manuscript in the Westminster archives. Gradwell took deep interest in the ancient archives of the English College at Rome, and some of his notes are of great historical value.

His portrait, engraved by J. Holl, was published in the ‘Laity's Directory’ for 1834.

[Brady's Episcopal Succession, iii. 197; Gillow's Bibl. Dict.; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, No. 16426; Laity's Directory, 1834; Whittle's Preston, ii. 284; Gent. Mag. ciii. 378, 652; Catholic Magazine and Review, iii. 332; Edinburgh Catholic Mag. i. 311; Catholic Miscellany, 1829, new ser. ii. 336; Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. pp. 233, 236, 237.]

T. C.