When the late Cardinal Hume was buried in Westminster Cathedral, one of the very small group present in the chapel where he was interred was his 'Gentile Uomo', or 'Gentleman at Arms'. Wearing 18th century court dress, he carried a sword and bore a cushion on which reposed the Cardinal's decorations.
This was Anthony Bartlett, the last of his kind, since the office terminated with the Cardinal's death. He had similarly served four previous Cardinals. His father had performed the same office before him.
Anthony Bartlett was born in London on 13 June 1913, the sixth son and tenth child (out of 12) of Henry and Eleanor Bartlett, a couple well known in Catholic circles who came to London from Birmingham just before the turn of the century.
Anthony was educated by the Jesuits at Wimbledon College and, at a very early age, because of his father's retirement due to illness, took on the family business, the 'Art and Book Company'. The firm dealt in religious articles and antiques, as well as church interior decoration. As a young man, Anthony spent a good deal of time travelling around the country, and to Italy and Austria, buying and selling articles of ecclesiastical interest.
He became an excellent driver and never lost his love of cars. Jaguars, when he could afford them, were his preferred marque. When the war came he initially joined the Auxiliary Fire Service and had some exciting and perilous experiences driving a fire engine around London during the Blitz. He subsequently joined the Royal Artillery and became second in command of a battery in an ack ack regiment, shooting at 'doodlebugs' on the south coast. He finished up in Germany at the end of the war and on demobilisation set about rebuilding the family business.
Under his care, the shop flourished until, like the rest of Victoria Street, it was demolished during the Sixties. With the destruction of his premises in Ashley Place (when the Cathedral Piazza was created), he had to find another location. This was at Kemps' artists materials and framing shop in Buckingham Palace Road. He remained running this shop, relinquishing most of the religious and church interior decoration business, until he was over 80.
Together with his brothers Mgr Francis Bartlett, who was for many years the administrator of Westminster Cathedral, and Aelred Bartlett the artist, who contributed much to the later decoration of the interior of the Cathedral, Anthony was very much a feature of the Cathedral scene. By far the most significant part of Anthony's life was the truly outstanding work that he did for a number of charities and welfare organisations. He played a leading part in the development and running of the Passage day centre, which was visited more than once by Princess Diana, and the later Passage night refuge. He was deeply involved with the Providence Row Centre for the East End homeless (as its honorary president, he would have received Her Majesty the Queen at the opening of the new Weaver's Fields Wing, later this month).
He also worked for the Catholic Fund For Homeless and Destitute People, the St Martin of Tours Housing Association and the Catholic Childrens' Society. He was at one time on the National Council of the Society of St Vincent De Paul and virtually until his final illness played a huge role in the Westminster Conference of the SVP. Most Sundays would find him ferrying people considerably younger than himself to church.
On Saturdays he would often drive whole families down to an SVP caravan on the south coast. It was for his charitable work, chiefly among the poor and homeless, that he was created OBE in 1991. Among his Catholic honours, he received the Papal award as a Knight of St Gregory and he was a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. For many years Anthony provided a home for his widowed elder sister Josephine, and then her daughter, Jennifer Paterson, later of 'Two Fat Ladies' fame who, against all odds, predeceased him in 1999.
He was the most loved uncle, great and great great uncle of many many children. Apart from his family, for whom he became a central linch-pin, many others whose lives he enriched will remember him as a man of deep faith, and perhaps the nearest thing they have known to a modern day saint. In an ending worthy of his niece Jennifer, he spent part of the penultimate month of his life, having had serious abdominal surgery only six months previously, touring Bulgaria with a dear friend. Mercifully, like Jennifer, his final decline was very brief and he was comforted prior to his death, by a visit to his bedside by His Grace Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of the Diocese who he served so well. Anthony Bartlett's body will be received into Westminster cathedral today (Monday) at 4.15pm. His funeral Mass is being celebrated by Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor at 11am.
The homily will be given by Fr Bruno Healy, a family friend. Fr Patrick Browne, vocations director for Westminster Diocese said: "Anthony Bartlett was an outstanding example of someone who lived the single lay vocation. He lived life to the full, serenely and lovingly, with great generosity."
Cathedral administrator Mgr George Stack, said: "He was an old English saint. An absolute and utter gentleman. He had extraordinary compassion for the poor and underprivileged, homeless people, single parents. His work was all done in the most gentlemanly way. And it all came out of his profound faith."
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