James Talbot (priest)

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The Right Reverend
James Robert Talbot
Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Appointed 10 March 1759 (Coadjutor)
Installed 12 January 1781
Term ended 26 January 1790
Predecessor Richard Challoner
Successor John Douglass
Other posts Titular Bishop of Birtha
Ordination 19 December 1750
Consecration 24 August 1759
by Richard Challoner
Personal details
Birth name James Robert Talbot
Born (1726-06-28)28 June 1726
Isleworth, Middlesex
Died 26 January 1790(1790-01-26) (aged 63)
Hammersmith, Middlesex
Nationality English
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents George Talbot and Mary FitzWilliam
Alma mater English College, Douai

James Robert Talbot (1726–1790) was the last English Roman Catholic priest to be indicted in the public courts for saying Mass.


He was born in Isleworth, Middlesex on 28 June 1726, a younger son of the Honourable George Talbot and Mary FitzWilliam. James' eldest brother George succeeded his uncle as the 14th Earl of Shrewsbury[1] in 1743, and his younger brother Thomas became Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District in 1778.

James was educated at Twyford School, then the English College, Douai, to which he was a great benefactor, establishing a school for younger students at Equerchin.[2] He was ordained to the priesthood on 19 December 1750. At the age of thirty-three, he was appointed the Coadjutor bishop to Dr Richard Challoner, on 10 March 1759. On the same day, Talbot was appointed Titular Bishop of Birtha, and consecrated to the Episcopate by Bishop Challoner on 24 August 1759. During his episcopate he was twice brought to trial, on the information lodged by the well-known informer William Payne, in 1769 and 1771 respectively. In each case he was acquitted for lack of evidence, but the judge, Lord Mansfield, was seen as being on Talbot's side, in consequence of which, although he was no friend to Roman Catholics in general, his London house was sacked during the Gordon Riots of 1780.[1]

On the death of Bishop Challoner in 1781, Talbot became Vicar Apostolic of the London District, which he ruled for nine years. The London district included ten counties, besides the Channel Islands and the British possessions in America—chiefly Maryland and Pennsylvania and some West Indian islands. The closest bishop was in Quebec. In 1873, Talbot refused to grant faculties to preach and hear confessions to two priests returning to America. On June 9, 1784, Carroll was appointed and confirmed by Pope Pius VI as provisional "Superior of the Missions in the thirteen United States of North America", with faculties to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation.[3]

He lived a retired life in Hammersmith, his charitable nature gaining for him the title of "the Good Bishop Talbot". His chief work during these years was the completion of the purchase of the property at Old Hall, Hertfordshire, where he had a preparatory academy which afterwards developed into St Edmund's College.[4] The penal laws against Roman Catholic schools still existed, and Talbot was again threatened with imprisonment; but he contrived to evade punishment. During the last years of his life the Catholic Committee was already threatening trouble. In order to control it, Bishop Talbot allowed himself to be elected a member; but it was soon evident that the laymen were beyond the control of the hierarchy. The crisis however had not yet arrived when in 1790 Talbot died at his house at Hammersmith.[1]

Bishop Talbot was buried in the cemetery of the parish church in Hammersmith. In 1901 his body was moved Mortuary Lane at Old Hall, which leads to the St. Edmund's College Chapel.[4]


One of the houses at St. Edmund's College is named in honor of James Talbot.[4]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "James Talbot". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Richard Challoner
Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Succeeded by
John Douglass