10 June 2009

Pastoral outlook: Richard Cartwright in his Bristol study, in 1961 VEALE & CO., BRISTOL

Pastoral outlook: Richard Cartwright in his Bristol study, in 1961 VEALE & CO., BRISTOL

The Very Revd Richard Eyre writes:

THE Rt Revd Richard Cartwright, known to many as Dick, who died on 10 April, aged 95, was Suffragan Bishop of Plymouth for nine years, but the heart of his ministry was in the 20 years which he spent as Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol.

Born in 1913, a son of the parsonage, his father was Vicar of Plumstead in the diocese of South­wark. After his education at King’s School, Canterbury, and Pembroke College, Cambridge, he trained at Cuddesdon, and was ordained in 1936. After two curacies in South­wark, he became Vicar of St Andrew’s, Surbiton, and stayed for seven years. His work there, in the austerity years after the war, brought him deserved attention, and in 1952 he moved to become Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, allegedly called by Elizabeth I “the fairest and goodliest church in the land”.

Bristol had been hard-hit by wartime bombing, and the city was only slowly recovering. Much of its centre, especially parts near to the docks, had been severely damaged. The consequent rebuilding of larger units, where blocks of flats replaced streets of houses, had a marked social effect, and Cart­wright worked hard to counter the adverse results. He displayed a sure pastoral instinct and imagin­ative flair, allied to a good ad­ministrative mind.

Armed with a band of curates, of whom he usually had four, he ensured that those moving into the strange and unfamiliar flats had a visit on the very day of their arrival — a visit that often included prac­tical help. He also organised teams of lay visitors, an innovation in this period. By this time, he had a young family of four, having married Rosemary Bray in 1947. For the 55 years of their marriage, she would be a carefully judged support to him while being ready to express her own often robust views.


St Mary Redcliffe is a natural focus for many of the charitable foundations and schools in which Bristol abounds. Primarily a pastor and teacher, Cartwright also saw hospitality to such bodies as a way to influence parts of the city’s life in a manner that was proper to its leading parish church. His natural gift for dignity in worship, and in himself, was also valued, as was his shrewd judgement in many fields, not least social and educa­tional.

His ministry of 20 years at the heart of Bristol was creative and influential. He fostered many vocations to the priesthood and trained a long line of curates.

In 1972, he was consecrated Suffragan Bishop of Plymouth. Once more, he moved to a city that had suffered wartime devastation. Here, however, the post-war recon­struction had largely been ac­complished. In the Church there was much call for Cartwright’s pastoral outlook. He saw the work of a bishop as that of a parish priest writ large, and his clergy knew that he spoke from long parochial experience. He supported and tended them well, not least those newly ordained.

A lover of beauty and beautiful things (he and Rosemary had a fine collection of china), he also unashamedly enjoyed the cere­monial aspects of episcopacy; but he was a true man of prayer, and good at conducting retreats.

He remained active long into retirement, serving as an assistant bishop in the diocese of Truro. He loved to know what was going on, and to be fed bits of current gossip. Last Advent, he celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination, attending the service in Exeter Cathedral in a wheelchair. Rosemary died in 2002, and he leaves a son and three daughters.

Trinity ordinations will be listed in the Petertide supplement on 10 July

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