Dolling was born in Magheralin, County Down, and educated at Harrow School and Cambridge University. From 1878 to 1882 he was warden of one of the houses of the Postmen's League, started by Father Arthur Henry Stanton of St. Alban's, Holborn. He was ordained in 1883 to a curacy at Corscombe, Dorset, but resided in London as head of St Martin's Mission, Stepney.
In 1885 a difficulty as to the relation of his mission to Holy Trinity Parish, Stepney, led to his resignation, and he next accepted the charge of St Agatha's, Landport, the Winchester College mission. The reforms he accomplished there were described in his Ten Years in a Portsmouth Slum (London 1896). In 1895 he again resigned owing to the refusal of Randall Davidson, Bishop of Winchester, to sanction the extreme ritual used in the service at St. Agatha's. During his time at the mission he spent a little over £50,000. Despite extensive fundraising when he resigned there was still an outstanding debt of £3,090, for which Dolling was responsible. He paid this off through sales of his book and further fundraising.
In 1897 Dolling visited the United States, where his preaching made an impression. He returned to the UK in the following year as vicar of St Saviour's, Poplar, and retained the living until his death.
- Dolling, Robert (1896). Ten years in a Portsmouth slum. Swan Sonnenschein & Co.
- "The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church" Cross,F.L (ed): Oxford, OUP, 1957, rev 2005 ISBN 9780192802903
- Bell, G. K. A. (1935) Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury. London: Oxford University Press
- Bryant, Roger (1995). Don't touch the holy Joe: Father Dolling’s battle for Landport and St Agatha’s church. Ragged Right. pp. 58–59. ISBN 1-898269-05-X.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dolling, Robert William Radclyffe". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Owen, W. B. (1912). "Dolling, Robert William Radclyffe". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Kollar, Rene. "Dolling, Robert William Radclyffe (1851–1902)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press.
|last2=in Authors list (help) (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
An account of Dolling's person and missionary work among the poor is given in The Life of Father Dolling (London, 1903) by the Rev. C.E. Osborne.