Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback

Thomas Grant

First Bishop of Southwark; b. 1816; d. 1870

Click to enlarge

Grant, Thomas, first Bishop of Southwark; b. at Ligny-les-Aires, Arras, France, November 25, 1816; d. at Rome, June 1, 1870. He was the son of Bernard Grant, an Irishman who enlisted in the British army, became sergeant, and finally purchased a commission. His mother, Ann MacGowan, was also Irish by birth. In January, 1829, he was sent to Ushaw College, where he studied until 1836, when he went to the English College at Rome. There he was ordained priest, November 28, 1841, was created doctor of divinity and appointed as secretary to Cardinal Acton, a position in which he acquired a thorough knowledge of canon law, and an intimate acquaintance with the method of conducting ecclesiastical affairs at Rome. In October, 1844, at the early age of twenty eight, he became rector of the English College, and was made agent for the English bishops. In this capacity he was of great assistance to Dr. Ullathorne, who was then negotiating for the restoration of the English hierarchy. He also translated for Propaganda all English documents relating to the matter, and furnished the materials for the historical preface to the Decree of 1850. A year later, he was appointed to the new Diocese of Southwark, and was consecrated bishop on July 6, 1851. Though he came to England almost as a stranger, he soon won the confidence of Catholics and others. As the Government was shy of transacting business directly with Cardinal Wiseman, many negotiations were carried on by Dr. Grant, who was specially successful in obtaining from the Government the appointment of military and naval chaplains, as well as prison chaplains.

To the newly appointed hierarchy he was, as Bishop Ullathorne testified, most useful: “His acuteness of learning, readiness of resource and knowledge of the forms of ecclesiastical business made him invaluable to our joint counsels at home, whether in synods or in our yearly episcopal meetings; and his obligingness, his untiring spirit of work, and the expedition and accuracy with which he struck off documents in Latin, Italian, or English, naturally brought the greater part of such work on his shoulders.” In the administration of his diocese he proved equal to the task of organization, which was necessary in an age of rapid expansion, while the remarkable sanctity of his private life led to his being generally regarded as a saint, and caused Pius IX, when he heard of his death, to exclaim “Another saint in heaven!” The virtues of charity and humility in particular were practiced by him in an heroic degree. The last years of his life were spent in great suffering, caused by cancer, and when he set out to attend the Vatican Council at Rome in 1870, he knew that he would not return. He was appointed member of the Congregation for the Oriental Rites and the Apostolic Missions, but was too ill to take an active part in the proceedings. After death his body was brought back to England for burial. His works were a translation of the “Hidden Treasure” of Blessed Leonard of Port Maurice (Edinburgh, 1855), and “Meditations of the Sisters of Mercy before Renewal of Vows” (London, 1874).


Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!