Hobart crypt ready for bishop

Bishop Robert Willson

The remains of Tasmania's first Catholic Bishop, Robert William Willson, will be flown to Hobart after being exhumed from a crypt at Nottingham's St Barnabas Cathedral, ABC News reports.

More than 10 years after the official request was made, it is hoped Bishop Willson will be laid to rest in a newly completed crypt at St Mary's Cathedral later this month.

Born in Lincoln, England, in 1794, and ordained in 1824, Bishop Willson worked in Nottingham as a pastor for 18 years before travelling to Hobart in 1844.

Upon hearing of his departure to Tasmania, the people of Nottingham petitioned the Pope saying the news was "very upsetting", said Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous.

"Such was the recognition by people right across the religious divide," he added.

"When Bishop Willson came to Hobart he found it to be a very depressing place ... he was immediately struck when he saw convicts in chains led through the streets."

Bishop Willson is recorded in the Archdiocese of Hobart's history as "a leader in advocating reforms in penal discipline and a more humane treatment of insane persons".

He also campaigned against the use of the lash and partial suffocation torture of convicts.

Hobart's Catholic history credits Bishop Willson of lobbying London politicians to close "the most horrible penal settlement of Australia", Norfolk Island.

Bishop Willson had planned to live out his retirement in Hobart, where he had purchased a pub near St Mary's Cathedral.

During one of his regular visits back to England, he suffered a severe stroke and died a year later, in 1866.

In 2005, an official request was made by the Archdiocese of Hobart for Bishop Willson to return to the place he had hoped to retire.

"It was always his intention and his wish to come back to Tasmania," Archbishop Porteous said.

"He very much saw himself as living out his retirement here in Tasmania."


Hobart crypt ready to receive Bishop Robert William Willson (ABC News)


Bishop Robert Willson (ABC News)

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