Edward Caswall

This reminiscence by Fr Denis Sheil is taken from the Oratory Parish Magazine for January 1961.

Fr. Edward Caswall was a most attractive man. An Oxford graduate during the hectic times of the Movement in 1835-45, he early came under the influence of Newman. He took Orders in the Anglican Church and married. At the crisis in October 1845 he and his wife followed their leader into the Church. His wife died very soon after this and is buried at Cotton. Cotton was at that time in the charge of Father Faber.

Fr. Edward was no mean poet. A number of the Westminster Hymns are his translations and there are several original ones in our own hymn book, now out of use. He wrote a particularly beautiful Christmas hymn, “Sleep, Jesu, sleep”, but this is perhaps not entirely joyous as we expect a Christmas Hymn to be.

After his ordination Fr. Edward became parish priest and he busied himself with the foundation of an elementary school. This was before the days of Education Acts or Board Schools. The children of the poor of the district were mostly educated in this school. Later came the Hyde Road foundation.

Fr. Edward was constantly in and out, encouraging the teachers and the children. Mrs. Arnold of Aston Street had been a pupil there and she often described to me, fifty years ago, how Fr. Edward and even the Cardinal himself took a keen interest in the school. Dr. Newman often looked in and chatted to the children about the work they were doing.

An interesting aside about Mrs Caswall was that she had been presented to Queen Victoria at a time when the court was in mourning. Her presentation dress, instead of white satin was of ornamented black silk with an immense train some yards long. This was later made up into our present set of Solemn Requiem vestments and these show no sign of wear even after a hundred years.

Fr. Edward’s premature death in 1878 was a grievous loss, not only for the parish work of the Community, but even more for the Fathers personally, endeared as he was to each for his charm and kindness.