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4th Master: Joseph Louis Whitfield (1918-1921), 1914 - 1962

Reference Code: GBR/1935/EDAR 1/4

Scope and Contents

Whitfield's papers include a general correspondence series together with some papers relating to the time he spent as an army chaplain during World War I.


  • Creation: 1914 - 1962


Biographical / Historical

The birthplace of Joseph Louis Whitfield is given variously as Forest Gate and Hackney. He was born 16 December 1876 and is said to have been of Jewish descent. He was educated at St Edmund's, Ware (1891-97), and the came up as a seminarist to St Edmund's House (1897-1900). He read for the Natural Sciences Tripos as a non-collegiate student, took a Second, and proceeded BA in 1900. From Cambridge he went to study for the priesthood at Oscott and was ordained 24 September, 1904, for the Diocese of Westminster by Archbishop Bourne. There followed four years on the staff of St Edmund's College, Ware (1904-08), two years as parish priest of Boxmoor (1908-10), and four years as Vice-Rector of Oscott College (1910-14), where he was thought to have a 'rather forbidding appearance and old-fashioned ways'. On 29 August 1914 he was commissioned Chaplain 4th Class (Temporary) to the Land Forces. He was not a man to talk about himself and the details of his war service are not readily accessible. But on 7 November 1917 he was mentioned in Dispatches and on 8 March 1918 was awarded the DSO. He never disclosed the reason for this award and parried all enquiries by saying that 'it was for not getting killed'. He arrived at St Edmund's House as Master on 27 June 1918 and put in his resignation in the early months of 1921. He left the House 1 April, 1921. As the Diocese of Brentwood had been carved out of Westminster in 1917, he was now, by reason of his place of birth, a priest of the recently formed diocese and his first brief appointment after leaving Cambridge was to the parish of Chelmsford, Essex (1921-22). He spent the remaining thirty-one years of his active life as parish priest at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Southend-on-Sea (1922-53). His resignation from the House, although prompted by student troubles, had left no scars. He continued a series of major benefactions to the House which had begun with the donation to the chapel of the altar of SS Michael and George in 1916 and was to end with the gift in 1947 of £1,600 Treasury Stock to provide a bursary with preference to a student from the Brentwood diocese. The Old Secular Brotherhood, to which he had been elected, were appointed the Trustees of this bursary. His election to this body, which had been founded in the 17th century to provide for the needs of priests suffering under the penal laws, must have been gratifying to one of his conservative temperament. In 1945 he was nominated to the Cathedral Chapter of Brentwood. In 1953, with eyesight failing, he retired from his parish to be chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy at Frinton-on-Sea where he died 8 March, 1961, after a minor operation. [Notes courtesy of Garrett Sweeney, 'St Edmund's House, Cambridge: The First Eighty Years'.]


5 file(s) : paper

Language of Materials


Date information

DateText: 1914-1921, 1961-1962..


Whitfield, Joseph Louis, 1876-1961

Finding aid date

2007-04-03 10:41:26+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the St Edmunds College Archive Repository

St Edmund's College
Mount Pleasant
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0BN United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 760873