The Times/1924/Obituary/James Britten
Mr. James Britten
We regret to announce that Mr. James Britten died suddenly on Wednesday at his residence at Brentford, at the age of 78. Mr Britten was one of the best known Roman Catholic laymen in the country, and for many years had rendered invaluable service to the Church of his adoption. He was also an expert botanist, and an authority on Old English dialects and folklore.
Born at Chelsea on May 3, 1846, he was educated privately and intended to become a doctor. At the age of 21 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, and two years later, having been offered a post in the Kew Herbarium, he gave up his medical studies. In 1871 he was transferred to the Botanical Department of the British Museum a volume of illustrations of the Australian plants collected by Banks and Solander; he edited Turner's "Names of Herbs"; he started a catalogue of the Sloane Herbarium; with R. Holland he compiled a dictionary of English and Irish botanists; and for eight years he edited Nature Notes, and was editor of the Journal of Botany from 1880 till his death. Britten was made a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1870m and was an original member of the Folklore, English Dialect, Bibliographical, and Catholic Record Societies. Besides actively helping in the work of these societies he published "Old Country and Farming Words," and an edition of Aubrey's "Remaines of Gentilisme."
As a young man, Mr. Britten did much social work at Brentford, forming there a flourishing boys' club, and also at Isleworth under Mgr. Weld. There also he acquired experience in organizing and training church choirs, and in temperance work he edited for four years the League of the Cross Magazine. Later, at St. George's Southwark, he was one of the founders of the Newman House Settlement, and with the late Mr. Costelloe started and conducted a boys' club in Drury-lane.
But his principal work was the Catholic Truth Society, which he was chiefly instrumental in restarting in 1884. To it he devoted his very considerable organizing ability, serving it faithfully as hon. Secretary until 1922, when he became vice-president. He wrote himself a great deal of the society's controversial literature, including a volume entitled "Protestant Fictions," and a pamphlet, "Why I Left the Church of England," which has had a very large circulation. The society's steady progress for the last 40 years is chiefly due to him. Mr. Britten also started the annual conferences which, after 21 years, were merged into the National Catholic Congress. For his services Pope Leo XIII. made him a Knight of St. Gregory in 1897, and 20 years later he was promoted to Knight Commander con placea.