From the Archives: new material for William Amherst SJ

POST BY RSomerset

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Sepia photograph showing Father William sitting outdoors
New photograph of Fr William Amherst SJ

Last month (May 2016) the Jesuits in Britain Archives received a new accession for the archives. Five items concerning William Amherst SJ (1820-1904) had been found in a book by Fr Amherst and had been sent to the archives by Brentwood Diocesan Archives. This inspired further investigation into Fr Amherst.

William Joseph Amherst was born on 17 July 1820 of honourable and ancient lineage on both parents’ side and ‘was the last representative of a staunch old Catholic family that traced its lineage back beyond the Norman Conquest into Saxon times’. 

William entered the Society of Jesus on 12 November 1853 at Hodder. He was ordained in 1859 and said his first Mass in the family chapel at Kenilworth, on August 15, 1859. He died 12 April 1904, aged almost 84.

Among the items received was a photograph of Fr Amherst himself, taken, if the label on the back is accurate, a year before his death in April 1903. Two photographs of him were already in the archive collection but it is nice to have another one.

The other photograph included bears the label ‘Fieldgate House, Kenilworth, front view, the home of the Amhersts’. This place is mentioned in the obituary notice as it was here that he was ordained and said his first Mass in the family chapel in August 1859. After the requiem at Stonyhurst, his body was taken to Kenilworth and he was buried in the family vault on 15 April 1904. It is therefore a place with an important connection for Fr Amherst and so it is correct to have a photograph of it to add to his personal papers.

Sepia photograph of a house covered in ivy

There is also a newspaper clipping of unknown origin or precise date, though from its contents this will have appeared shortly after his death as it is a tribute to Fr Amherst.

The final two items received are handwritten extracts by two distinct authors of items that appeared in the Tablet in April 1904.

Image of the documents

His obituary in Letters and Notices (27, 485), which begins

‘Although the name of Father Amherst comes before us as the latest of those more prominent members of the Province whose deaths have recently occurred, he was the most advances in age of any on the list,…It is more than ten years since he retired for a permanent rest to Mount St Mary’s; but he retained all his mental powers in their full clearness and energy, as well as his bodily faculties, save that of hearing, up to the last.’

continues

‘For the history of his life we are greatly indebted to an exceedingly complete and sympathetic notice of him, in the pages of the Tablet newspaper, published on 23rd of April, and written by a member of the Society.’

As the Tablet have generously put their archive online, the notice discussed above can be read here. (You will need to scroll down a bit to get to Fr Amherst’s notice.)

We are grateful to Brentwood Diocesan Archives in supplying us with these added items.