by Marguerite Cook
Bedford Cemetery has become one of the prettiest cemeteries in England, and is beautifully cared for by the ground-staff and the Friends of Bedford Cemetery. It was opened in June 1855 by the Victorians of Bedford who loved to walk among its beautiful woodland trees. The cemetery is set on a sloping hillside with views over the adjoining Bedford Park and Great Ouse Valley.
In Bedford Cemetery are buried six Catholic priests. These priests lie in pairs in the cemetery. They all served the Catholic Church faithfully, and in doing so became loved and respected by the people of Bedford.
Canon John Warmoll
For two centuries after the Reformation, Bedford had no Catholic Church. However, the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 allowed the Church to grow again.
In 1863 Father John Warmoll from Norwich was sent by Bishop Amherst to Bedford to restore the Catholic Church. Virtually penniless, Father John called at the home of two Catholic ladies, the mother and daughter Eleanor and Ellen Tandy at Grove Place, Bedford. Father Warmoll said Mass in the Tandy’s front parlour on Christmas Day 1863. Fourteen Catholics attended that first Mass. Father Warmoll overcame huge problems, and begun the building of Bedford’s Catholic Church which he named The Holy Child and St. Joseph in memory of that Christmas Day in 1863.
Canon Warmoll (as Father John became) died aged 55, February 14, 1885; and was buried in Bedford Cemetery. Canon Warmoll’s funeral was attended by thousands of people, Catholics and Protestants together showing respect and affection for this holy man.
Father Robert Middleton
Close to the grave of Canon Warmoll lies Father Robert Middleton, who died aged 53 on October 14, 1906. Father Robert served St. Joseph’s for 16 years. He was described as one of the kindest of men, and in St. Joseph’s Church by Our Lady’s Altar is a lovely brass memorial which shows his form outlined with an inscription which describes Father Robert’s congregation as devoted parishioners.
Monsignor John Freeland
At the far end of Bedford Cemetery lies Monsignor John Freeland who was priest of St. Joseph’s Church (1906-1924). Mgr. Freeland was born in Portslade, Sussex, and died in retirement at Shefford aged 79. He died on December 7, 1940.
It was said he was a fine scholar. Mgr. Freeland on arriving in Bedford found St. Joseph’s less than half-built, so he set about building the tower and the portion fronting Midland Road. Mgr. Freeland also had a great deal to do with the interior furnishing of St. Joseph’s. Sadly, members of his flock were killed in WWI. He dedicated two beautiful windows to their memory, which were The Annunciation, and The Adoration of the Magi.
To the right of Mgr. Freeland is the grave of Father Thomas Fitzgerald, who died on April 23, 1940. Father Fitzgerald was born in Northampton in 1883. The Bedfordshire Times quoted, “He was a keen student of theology, philosophy and social questions and was greatly respected by non-Catholics as well as Catholics”.
He served St. Joseph’s for two years, and died aged 57 making a courageous fight against serious illness. The death of this fine priest was a great loss.
Canon Gerard Hulme
Canon Gerard Hulme lies in the same plot with his twin brother Mgr. Anthony Hulme. They were born in Salford, Lancashire. Their brother, Len, also became a priest. Interestingly, all six Catholic priests lying in Bedford Cemetery were born in England.
Canon Gerard Hulme tragically was killed in a car crash aged 69. He was a priest of Walsingham (1951-1968); a position he held with great love. When Canon Hulme died he was priest of Our Lady’s church at Kempston.
Monsignor Anthony Hulme
I had the privilege of knowing Mgr. Hulme. He died May 7, 1987. For 25 years (1959-1984), he was parish priest of St. Joseph’s. Mgr. Hulme helped establish St. Gregory’s and St. Thomas More Catholic schools.
It was said he was a highly intelligent man who collected degrees for a hobby. One of his claims was he had said Mass over the tombs of the twelve Apostles, and this took him to many places including Russia.
Mgr. Hulme was a kind and compassionate man. As Prison Chaplain at Bedford Prison, he looked after James Hanratty who went to his execution with dignity.
Mgr. Anthony Hulme in his retirement prepared to meet his Heavenly Father. He wrote to the local undertaker his plans for his funeral. I am told he signed the letter “Yours ultimately”. Mgr. Hulme died peacefully in his sleep aged 78, with a smile on his face.
“A Man of God and the People”
Most days I walk through this lovely cemetery. Each season brings its own beauty. I especially enjoy looking at the wildlife, flowers and the many varieties of trees. Also I stop and say a prayer, for the six Catholic Priests, who served St. Joseph’s parish in Bedford who are buried in this cemetery.
Parishioner of St. Joseph’s,