Who was Bishop Thomas William Wilkinson?
Thomas William Wilkinson was born in 1825. He was a priest for 60 years and a bishop for nearly 21 years. His father was a well-known barrister who was appointed as the county court judge of Northumberland in 1847. Wilkinson was educated at Harrow before entering the recently established University of Durham. He was ordained there in 1845 and was appointed to a clerical position at the Anglo-Catholic and semi-monastic community of St Saviour’s, Leeds. Within eighteen months both he and his other companions had converted to the Catholic Church. Wilkinson spent the next two years at Oscott College training for the priesthood although he was actually ordained at Ushaw in 1848. His first appointment following ordination was as a missionary at Wolsingham where, for the next four years, he not only ministered to the population of the town but also to the rapidly expanding mining community of Crook, as well as engaging in directing building at Ushaw. In 1865, and in recognition of his work, he was appointed as a canon of the chapter of the diocese of Hexham. Following a breakdown in health five years later, Wilkinson was forced to retire from active work and, for the next 20 years, he spent most of his time directing his estate at Thistleflatt. In 1889, Wilkinson was appointed bishop of Hexham and Newcastle but he also spent a great deal of time exercising jurisdiction over Ushaw, with the result that he was appointed president there in the following year. During his presidency, Wilkinson was able to place the college finances on a proper footing and, through an excellent relationship with the procurator, raise enough money for repairs, alterations and improvements, including the building of a new dormitory, the reconstruction of the sanitary block and the modernising of the system of gas lighting. He remained president and bishop until his death on April 17th 1909 at the age of 84. He died and was buried at Ushaw College.