Canon Francis Dobson
1909 - 1991
from… the Bentwood News in 2009
This year marks the centenary of the birth of Canon Francis Dobson, a much loved priest of the Diocese. He was born at Hall Farm, Goldhanger, Maldon on 4 June 1909, although his family later moved to Great Whitmans Farm, Purleigh, His father's family was originally Lancashire Catholic, while his mother was a convert, received into the Church at Maldon in 1906 by the then Parish Priest, the celebrated liturgical scholar, Dr Adrian Fortescue.
Francis Dobson was educated at the Ursuline Preparatory School, Brentwood, and the Salesian School, Farnborough. Fr John Petit, Parish Priest of Maldon (and later Bishop of Menevia), recommended him as a student for the priesthood and in 1924 Bishop Doubleday sent him to Ushaw College, Durham. Writing to Bishop Doubleday, just before Francis Dobson's ordination at Maldon on 24 July 1932, the President, Monsignor Brown, recommended him with these words: “He is a good young man and I feel sure he will make you a good priest; he has always been a most satisfactory student. I wish I could send you a dozen like him.” After a short supply at Southend-on-Sea he was appointed as assistant priest at Colchester. In 1938 he was appointed Parish Priest of Stock and part-time Secretary to Bishop Doubleday, also assisting Canon Wilson in the Finance Office at Bishop's House, Brentwood.
During the Second World War he served as an A.R.P. warden in Stock. In 1951 Bishop Beck entrusted him with the task of establishing the Brentwood Diocesan Travelling Mission. In his black Austin motor car Fr Dobson visited those parts of rural Essex most distant from a Catholic church and celebrated Mass in a variety of halls, private homes and even public houses. He then served as Parish Priest of Warley (1956-1958), Shoeburyness (1958-1965), Westcliff-on-Sea (1965-1972) - during which time (1966) he was appointed a Canon of Brentwood - and Kelvedon (1972-1986), where he built a chapel-of-ease at Tiptree.
A true son of Essex, he always served in the Essex rather than the London part of the diocese, and he was greatly attached to the Catholic heritage of his native county, publishing short studies of the history of two of the parishes he served (Westcliff-on-Sea and Kelvedon). He also collected material on the history of his own family, was a keen gardener, and loved to acquire all the latest gadgets. In 1986 he retired to the Convent of the Little Company of Mary at Westcliff-on-Sea, and thereafter moved to nearby Nazareth House where he died on 12 January 1991. He is buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Stock.
From… 1914 Kelly’s Directory for Goldhanger
At the outbreak of WW1 George Dobson was also tenant farmer of Gardeners Farm on the Maldon Road, which was used as the Goldhanger “flight Station” during WW-1. This picture could be either the young Francis Dodson who would have been seven years old in 1916, or his brother James…
The picture would have been taken between 1916 and 1919
In 1938 Father Davidson was succeeded by Father Francis Dobson….
One night a badly damaged Lancaster came down near Fristling Hall. All the crew but the rear gunner had got out safely. Father Dobson went to the crashed aircraft and gave the last rites to the dead man. Some time later he had to go to a meeting with some other priests, where he met a priest from Lancashire in whose parish was the fiancée of the young man who had died in bomber.
The English Martyrs Catholic Church, Danbury
…before 1961 the only provision of Mass had come from the Diocesan Travelling Mission under the care of Canon Francis Dobson. The Canon was familiar with the area as his grandfather farmed near Purleigh Village. The nearest church had been in Chelmsford and it was said that travelling by horse and cart, his beard froze on Danbury heights!
The Goldhanger British Legion Hut built after WW2 in Fish St. was used for a period the 1950s for monthly Catholic services. It was almost certainly Father Dodson who took these services as part of his Travelling Mission.
A booklet entitled: “St Mary Immaculate and the Holy Archangels - Parish History”, by Canon Francis Dobson 1910-1991…
from… Essex Recusant, Volume 17, Essex Recusant Society., 1975
A booklet entitled: “One Hundred Years at Kelvedon”, by Canon Francis Dobson
Parish of St. Joseph the Worker, Hutton, Essex - “We pray for those whose anniversaries occur at this time especially... Canon Francis Dobson 1991”
This Weeks Anniversaries: Sunday 12th ... Canon Francis Dobson
newsletter for the Holy Family, Benfleet: “please pray for the departed whose anniversaries occur in January... Canon Francis Dobson”
While based at Kelvedon, Fr Dodson was largely responsible for the creation of the Tiptree Chapel of Ease now known as the St John Houghton Chapel…
the chapel was a self-build project by a large group of parishioners and was opened in 1980
The Catholic Herald, 6th August 1982…
Canon Francis Dobson has been presented with a free trip to Rome in celebration of his golden jubilee year by his parishioners at Kelvedon, Essex.
Also while at Kelvedon, Fr Dodson told this story to a visiting Goldhanger resident…
His parents told him that they went on their honeymoon from Hall Farm in a pony and trap. Several days later on their return to the village, they found the road back to the farm alarmingly blocked by a large crowd on villagers. On approaching, they discovered that it was a “welcome home” party.