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Monsignor Alfred Newman Gilbey (1901 – 1998) was a Roman Catholic priest and the longest-serving chaplain to the University of Cambridge, described as the best-known Roman Catholic priest in England during the last quarter-century.[1][2]

Early life (1901–1932)

Gilbey was born in Harlow, Essex on 13 July 1901 to Victoria and Newman Gilbey, wealthy gin and wine merchants. Educated by Jesuits at Beaumont College, he went on to study Modern History at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1920, during which time he became chairman of the Fisher Society at the chaplaincy. He funded his own training as a priest at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome, being ordained "under his own patrimony" by Bishop Doubleday of Brentwood in 1929.[2]

Fisher House and retirement (1932–1998)

In 1932, Gilbey became Catholic chaplain to the University of Cambridge, residing at Fisher House. Gilbey exerted a quiet but considerable influence around the university, maintaining links with the colleges and overseeing many converts to Catholicism. He was instrumental in defending Fisher House, as from 1949 Cambridge City Council planned to demolish the buildings in the area to make way for the Lion Yard development. After petitioning led by Gilbey, who maintained that the chaplaincy would be demolished "over his dead body", Fisher House was spared from the compulsory purchase order and remains standing to this day.[3]

Gilbey retired from the chaplaincy in 1965, the final year of the Second Vatican Council. Unhappy with the Fisher Society's decision to admit women to the chaplaincy, who had been allowed to be full members of the University in 1947, Gilbey decided to leave rather than compromise his traditionalist beliefs. He took up permanent residence at the Travellers Club in London, remaining active into his nineties.[3] During this time he wrote the catechetical book, We Believe (1983), making a trip to the United States in 1995 to promote it.[1]

Death and legacy

In early 1998, Gilbey moved to Nazareth House in Hammersmith, a nursing home. He died two months later, on 26 March 1998. His funeral was held in St Wilfrid's Chapel in the Oratory on 6 April, conducted in the Tridentine Rite. He is buried in the courtyard of Fisher House, in Cambridge and a requiem Mass is held in his honour, again in the Tridentine Rite, annually at Trinity College.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Gerard Noel (28 March 1998). "Obituary: Monsignor Alfred Gilbey". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alfred Gilbey: a memoir by some friends. Michael Russel. 2001. ISBN 0 85955 270 5. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rogers, Nicholas (2003). Catholics in Cambridge. Gracewing Publishing. ISBN 978-0852445686. 
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Further reading

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