Bramston, James Yorke (DNB00)

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BRAMSTON, JAMES YORKE, D.D. (1763–1836), catholic bishop, was born 18 March 1763 at Oundle in Northamptonshire. He came of an old and well-to-do race of landowners in that county, his family being staunch protestants. He was educated at a school near his birthplace, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was first intended for the Indian civil service and then for the navy, which latter intention was abandoned at the desire of his invalid mother. On 26 April 1785 he was entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn. Although he was never called to the bar, he studied for nearly four years under the distinguished catholic, Charles Butler. He frequently conversed with Charles Butler on religious matters, and in 1790 publicly joined the catholic church. Bramston was bent upon at once becoming an ecclesiastic. He yielded, however, to his father's entreaty that he should remain at least twelve months longer in England. In 1792 he went to Lisbon, where he entered himself as a theological student at the English college. He remained between eight and nine years in Portugal. In 1796 he was ordained to the priesthood. His last five years at Lisbon were given up entirely to his missionary labours, chiefly among the British then in garrison there. While he was thus engaged, early in 1800, a terrible epidemic broke out in the city. For six weeks together Bramston never once took his clothes off to retire to rest. His father died while he was yet at Lisbon. In 1801 he returned to England, and in 1802 had entrusted to him, by the then vicar apostolic of the London district, Bishop Douglas, the poorest of all the catholic missions in the metropolis, that of St. George's-in-the-Fields. There he remained as the priest in charge for nearly twenty-three years. In 1812 Bishop Poynter, then vicar-apostolic of the London district, appointed Bramston his vicar-general. During that same year he acted as theologian and counsellor at the synodal meeting convened in the city of Durham by Bishop Gibson. In 1814 Bramston went to Rome with Bishop Poynter, and on 5 April 1815, at Genoa, the latter asked Pope Pius VII to constitute his vicar-general his coadjutor. Eight years elapsed, during which Bramston again and again declined the proffered dignity. On 29 June 1823 he was solemnly consecrated by Bishop Poynter at St. Edmund's College, Hertfordshire, as bishop of Usulæ in partibus infidelium. On the death of Bishop Poynter, 27 Nov. 1827, Bramston succeeded him as vicar-apostolic of the London district. Nearly the whole of Bramston's life was embittered by a cruel disease, and from 1834 be was yet further afflicted with constantly increasing weakness. Added to this, in the spring of 1836 he began to suffer from erysipelas in the right foot, which from that time forward rendered walking an impossibility. He died at Southampton in his seventy-fourth year, 11 July 1836. His conversational powers were very remarkable. His discernment was acute and his knowledge profound, but his chief characteristic was his tender charity. His singularly large acquaintance with the national life of England, his exceptional experience and skill in the conduct of business, and his intimate familiarity with the laws and customs of Great Britain peculiarly fitted him to conduct the affairs of the catholics of that period with discretion.

[Gent. Mag. July 1836, 221; Annual Register for 1836, 209; Ordo Recitandi pro 1837, 1-7; Brady's Episcopal Succession, 187, 189, 191, 195-200, and 231.]

C. K.