James Spencer Northcote

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James Spencer Northcote (born at Feniton Court, Devonshire, 26 May 1821; d. at Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, 3 March 1907) was an English Catholic priest and writer.

James Spencer Northcote
James Spencer Northcote

(1821-05-26)26 May 1821
Died3 March 1907(1907-03-03) (aged 85)
OccupationWriter, Priest


He was the second son of George Barons Northcote.[1] Educated first at Ilmington Grammar School, he won in 1837 a scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he came under John Henry Newman's influence. In 1841 he became B.A., and in the following year married his cousin, Susannah Spencer Ruscombe Poole. Taking Anglican Orders in 1844 he accepted a curacy at Ilfracombe; but when his wife was received into the Catholic Church in 1845, he resigned his office. In 1846 he himself was converted, being received at Prior Park College, where he continued as a master for some time.

From June, 1852, until September, 1854, he acted as editor of the Rambler, and about the same time helped to edit the Clifton Tracts. After his wife's death in 1853 he devoted himself to preparation for the priesthood, first under Newman at Edgbaston, then at the Collegio Pio, Rome. On 29 July 1855, he was ordained priest at Stone, where his daughter had entered the novitiate.

He returned to Rome to complete his ecclesiastical studies, also acquiring the learning in Christian antiquities which was later to be enshrined in his major work, Roma Sotterranea. In 1857 he was appointed to the mission of Stoke-upon-Trent, which he served until 1860, when he was called to Oscott College as vice-president, and six months later became president, a position he held for seventeen years. Failing health caused him to resign in 1876, and he returned to the mission, first at Stone (1868), and then at Stoke-on-Trent (1881).

He had been made a canon of the Diocese of Birmingham in 1861, canon-theologian in 1862, and provost in 1885. In 1861 the pope conferred on him the doctorate in divinity.


His scholarly works include the authoritative Roma Sotterranea, on the Catacombs, written in conjunction with William R. Brownlow, afterwards Bishop of Clifton.

Other works were:

  • "The Fourfold Difficulty of Anglicanism" (Derby, 1846);
  • "A Pilgrimage to La Salette" (London, 1852);
  • "Roman Catacombs" (London, 1857);
  • "Mary in the Gospels" (London, 1867);
  • "Celebrated Sanctuaries of the Madonna" (London, 1868);
  • "A Visit to the Roman Catacombs" (London, 1877);
  • "Epitaphs of the Catacombs" (London, 1878).


  1. ^ Dictionary of National Biography


  • Barry, The Lord, my Light (funeral sermon, privately printed, 1907;
  • Memoir of the Very Rev. Canon Northcote in The Oscotian (July, 1907);
  • Report of the case of Fitzgerald v. Northcote (London, 1866).

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.