A Brief History of the CPG

The Guild would not be in existence had it not been for the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Canon Martin Howlett who was the administrator of Westminster Cathedral on the feast of Corpus Christi, 11th, June 1914.

Mg. Canon Howlett was born 3rd, May 1863 in Kilkenny, Ireland, and was appointed Administrator in 1905-1947 (42 years). Whilst there he noticed many young Police officers attending Masses and this inspired him to ask them to form a Police Guild. This of course could not have been done without full approval of the then Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Bourne. In addition to this for the Guild to have been formed within the Metropolitan Police and to receive the name of “The Metropolitan and City Catholic Police Guild” also required permission and authority from the Commissioner of Police, Sir Edward Henry.

It was interesting to note that Sir Edward Henry was himself a Catholic and when he died in 1931 he was buried from a Franciscan Friary in Ascot. His only son died at the age of 22 years and is buried at Downside School and his two daughters left their estate to the Diocese of Portsmouth and many other Catholic charities. Sir Edward Henry also became a Vice President of the Guild in 1920 when he had retired from the Police Service.

Of course the formation of the Guild needed members and a committee to organise and structure
its founding and in this regard three names back in 1914 are prominent, Sub. Divisional Inspectors Edward Brennan, William Lee, and the Honorary General Secretary Patrick Palmer.

The first Mass and breakfast was said on Corpus Christi 11th, June 1914 when 105 Police Officer members attended and so the Guild was formed. By 3rd, July 1915 there were 400 members when the three committee members were received by Cardinal Bourne in the Throne Room of Archbishop’s House when he agreed to be the Patron of the Guild. Since that date the Guild has always had the honour of having the Cardinal Archbishop Westminster as their Patron.

However because of the great War the Guild was held in abeyance in 1915/16/17/18 when only a small committee watched over affairs.

On Friday 31st, January 1919 at Daganis Restaurant, Great Portland Street, an annual general meeting was held with 90 members and the new reorganised committee was formed and elected.
The Chaplain was Rev. Father A Reardon, although he would be replaced by Rev Father William Wood in 1920 who would remain Chaplain until 1936.

Mrg Canon Howlett resigned from being President following the annual requiem Mass on 13th, November 1947, after 33 years as President. He died fifteen months later on 17th, February 1949.. He stated that one of his proudest days was when the Guild was received by Pope Pius XI during the Guild Pilgrimage to Rome in 1927. The Guild is the oldest vocational Guild in the U.K. The Guild was to return to Rome to celebrate its 50th, Anniversary in 1964 and of course to celebrate its Centenary in 2014.

Both Patrick Somerville our present President and Maurice Smith our Treasurer are the only two members who were present at both these Pilgrim events.

In what we believe was November 1923 the first annual Requiem Mass was offered for the deceased members of the Guild and this Mass has been said annually since that date. On 5th, November 2014, the 91st, Mass will be offered at the Cathedral and includes all Police Officers in England & Wales and not solely Guild Members.

In 1926 it was stated that the membership was 650 and by 1932 membership was recorded as 1004.
the second world war was to have an immediate effect on membership and during the 40s  50s the Guild was to struggle maintaining its membership and subscriptions but by 1960 enthusiasm was to be rekindled and with a Pilgrimage to Rome in 1964 and other prayerful matters the Guild maintained a reasonable level of support.

In 1974 the Metropolitan & City Catholic Police Guild was renamed “The Catholic Police Guild” and endeavoured to broaden its appeal by incorporating members from other Constabularies throughout England and Wales. Once again with Pilgrimages arranged in the Holy land, Fatima, Santiago, Padua, Assisi, the membership began to grow slowly. Today with life membership, retired members and the Guild has just over 400 members and with the great help of a very good web-site its membership grows every month.

Upon Mgr. Howlett’s retirement in 1947 the new administrator of the Cathedral Mgr Canon Cuthbert Collingwood was accepted as the second President of the Guild and helped to steer the Guild to 1974 and its new name of the Catholic Police Guild of England & Wales. Because of poor health he was to retire. He died 11.09.1980 and is also buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery near the grave of Mgr Canon Howlett, flowers were also laid at both their graves in June 2014.

Crisis is not far away when dealing with the Guild and once again in 2008 it was very very difficult to find members who were willing to take on duties of the N.E.C. After Mgr. Canon Collingwood died it was decided at that time to not appoint a President of the Guild as it was found the Chairman role was sufficient to guide the committee. However in 2011 Patrick Somerville was asked to take on the role of being President changing with the tradition from 1914 to 1979 of having a member of the clergy. Patrick accepted the role for three years once again to support and advise the NEC committee. During our centenary year he was asked to continue in this support role as our President.

At the CPG AGM on Thursday 10th July 2014 Patrick Somerville stood down as President of the Guild having successfully steering it back to health and growth over the last few years. We are enormously grateful to him for all he has done for the Guild over many years.