Bishop Baines, as vicar apostolic of the Western District of England and Wales, was the first bishop to admit the Oblates to his territory in England.
He was born on 25January 1787 in Kirkby, Lancashire and educated at the monastery at Lampspring, Germany (1798-1802) and at Ampleforth in England. “After his profession in the Benedictines (1804), he held many important offices at Ampleforth Abbey. He took charge of the Benedictine mission at Bath (1817), and was appointed (1823) coadjutor to Bishop Collingridge, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District of England.” [NCE] He succeeded to the vicariate in 1829. “While still a coadjutor he sought to make the District a Benedictine see, with Downside its diocesan seminary. Distrust of the Bishop and disinclination to identify the community with a particular diocese made the monks unanimously reject his proposal…He purchased Prior Park, - a Georgian mansion and a fine specimen of Palladian architecture…The foundation would combine a boys’ school, college, and seminary. He intended it to grow into a University.” (Watkin)
He derived his architectural ideas from a trip to Rome, and on the same trip he was given hospitality by the Founder in Marseilles. This was a big factor in disposing him to entrust the Penzance mission to the Oblates in 1843. He died suddenly in the same year, 6 July 1843: “More than 10,000 persons, it was calculated, visited his body as it lay in state, and four bishops attended his Requiem.” (Watkin p.178.)
While McLelland judges him to have been ‘a man in advance of his times’, others see him as a very difficult man, and the Oblates were probably fortunate not to have had to deal with him when their Penzance mission fell into difficulties.
He was succeeded as Vicar Apostolic by Bishop Charles Michael Baggs, who died within two years and was succeeded by William Bernard Ullathorne, who was transferred to the Central District in 1848. His place was taken by a Franciscan Joseph William Hendren who became the first Bishop of Clifton in 1850. Penzance, however, was not within the new diocese of Clifton but the new diocese of Plymouth. This latter diocese was placed under the temporary administration of Bishop Hendron until George Errington (1804-86) of St. John’s Church, Salford, was appointed first Bishop of Plymouth, and on 25 July, 1851, consecrated by Cardinal Wiseman. On 7 August he was installed. He found in his diocese 17 secular and 6 regular priests, and 23 missions including three institutes of nuns. No railways had reached the diocese except the Great Western to Plymouth, and a short mining railway established between Truro and Penzance at the extreme of Cornwall… In February 1854 he held a synod at Ugbrooke Park, the seat of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and, amongst his synodal acts, established a clerical conference with its dean for each county. By 30 March 1855, he had traversed the whole diocese for purpose of visitation and conferring confirmation, when bulls from Rome of that date appointed him Archbishop of Trebizond and Coadjutor cum jure successionis to Cardinal Wiseman of Westminster. William Vaughan (1814-1902), Canon of the Clifton Diocese, was nominated second Bishop of Plymouth, and on 16 September 1855, consecrated by Cardinal Wiseman in Clifton pro-cathedral.
Thus in their nine-year period of ministry in Penzance the Oblates were subject successively to Bishops Baines, Baggs, Ullathorne, Hendron, and Errington. Of these, Ullathorne brought a good impression of the Oblates with him to the Central District, but when Errington went on to Westminster the same cannot have been true.
The Oblates returned to the diocese of Plymouth in 1946 when they took over St. Aubin’s, Jersey, from the Province of France North.
Michael Hughes, O.M.I.
Sources and Bibliography
Harding, J. A., The
Diocese of Clifton 1850-2000, Bristol 1999.
McLelland, V.A., “Baines, Peter Augustine”, in New Catholic Encyclopaedia. London 1966
Watkin, E. I., Roman Catholicism in England. London 1957.
Beaudoin, Yvon, o.m.i., Father Casimir Aubert, o.m.i., Oblate Writings II, Vol.5, Rome, 1998.