St Anthony of Padua and the Sedley Family

St Anthony of Padua and the Sedley Family

Thanks to John Kilroy and Edwin Gibson for much of the information.

This is one aspect of the history of the Catholic Church, St Anthony of Padua, on Watchbell Street. The house in which the Marquis and his daughter lived, one of the most interesting, best restored and admired in Rye, is still called St Anthony and will be the subject of its own article.

Colonel Frederick Sedley, 5th Marquis of Taflia in Malta and his links with the Alessi Family

Colonel Frederick Sedley, 5th Marquis of Taflia, in Malta is commemorated on a bronze plaque over the iron grill doorway between the Friary and the church of St. Anthony of Padua in Rye.

As can be seen below, the plaque states that ‘he was a benefactor of the Franciscan order in England and of this church’. Historically, it had been suspected that he may have been responsible in some way for influencing the decision of the Franciscan Friars to come to Rye, to build a new church in ltalianate style and to dedicate this new church to St Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan. One major influence perhaps, could have been that an uncle, one of his mother’s brothers, Saverio Alessi, who was born in 1815, had become 3rd Marquis of Taflia and later a Franciscan Friar. Committed though Frederick Sedley may have been to bringing the Franciscans to Rye, he was not to see his wish to fruition, for he died on 13th March 1921 in Badgergate, Rye, home of his daughter and son-in-law.

Why the Sedley family chose Rye as a place of residence is unknown. Frederick and his wife, daughter of an English vicar, had lived in Kensington where his wife died in 1899. What is known is that Frederick Sedley and daughter were out of the country in 1906, and when they landed at Dover they brought with them the Rev. Father Bonaventure M. Scebberas OFM Conventual. as their chaplain; he was a Franciscan. He was given the parish at Portishead near Bristol in 1907 and three years later he accepted the church of St. Walburga in Rye. The Catholic Times of 1st April 1910 records that

A fortnight ago the Very Rev. Fr. Bonaventure, Superior of the Friars Minor Conventual in England, arrived from Portishead to take charge of the new mission, and received a hearty welcome from the congregation, and also from many Protestants.

The earlier church in Watchbell Street at this time,  dedicated to St Walburga, was by 1926 proving to be too small for the growing congregation. By April 1927 definite plans had been drawn up and by July 13th the demolition of the old church started. On August 9th Father Bonaventure laid the first brick. In October, Bishop Brown, the Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark, came on a visitation and blessed the new foundation stone.

The new church of St Anthony of Padua was officially opened on 30th June 1929. The architect of the church, as well as the magnificent high altar was Mr John B.Mendham ARIBA, and at the opening the Italian Ambassador was present. At the reception that followed, in the Mermaid Hotel, it is recorded that among others ‘the Marchesa della Taflia and her husband Captain Williamson-Wearing were present’. No doubt the Marchesa would have wished that her father could have lived to see this day. She and her husband left Rye to live in St Leonards where she was to die without issue in 1953. Hence the title of the Marquises of Taflia died out and the title became extinct.

In 1982 the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility called the title out of abeyance, with Joseph Sammut Testaferrata Alessi becoming the 7th and present Marquis. His daughter, and only child, is his heir, his line of descent being from the first Marquis’s other son.

In July 2006 a decision was taken to attempt research in order to discover more about Frederick Sedley and how he came to have this title.

Initially it was thought that Colonel Sedley was British and his title was British, but this was soon found not to be the case. He had, in fact, been born in Valetta on Malta on 18th September 1836 to a Frederick Sedley senior, a Maltese Government employee who had been born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Caterina Alessi, a minor, daughter of Dr. Francesco Alessi dei Marchesi di Tatlia LL.D. so his later title, as Marquis of Taflia, descended through his mother’s line.

With this information as background it was decided to extend the research to discover more of this family and how they came to have links to Rye and, specifically St. Anthony of Padua Church.

It is acknowledged that the Sedley family were not by any means the only major donors to St. Anthony of Padua Church in these early years. This paper was produced simply in order to explore the background to the Sedley family and the Franciscan links to the church.

The results of this research follow herewith in an article researched and produced in July 2006 by John Kilroy.

Frederick Sedley and His Family

1805 Frederick Sedley born, Colombo , Ceylon now Sri Lanka

1825 A Mr Sed1ey, a clerk to the Chief Secretary, is recorded as living, rent free, at I, Strada Scozzese, Valetta , Malta, by authority of the local government.

 1832 Caterina Alessi, a minor, married with the consent of her Guardian. She was the daughter of Dr. Francesco Alessi dei Marchesi di Taflia and was married to Frederick Sed1ey aged over twenty one years of age, bachelor, from Colombo ,Ceylon employed in the office of the Chief Secretary to the Government. The marriage was on 1st January 1832 and was celebrated by Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy.

10th October 1832 birth of Thomasina Antonia Sed1ey Alessi, later Marchesi di Taflia, to Caterina Sedley nee Alessi and Frederick Sedley.

1st August 1833 death of Fanny Sedley, daughter of Frederick Sedley, Inspector of Police. She had just returned from school in England

18th September 1836 birth of Frederick Sed1ey Alessi, later 5th Marquis of Taflia, to Caterina Alessi and Frederick Sed1ey 1st

28th June 1852 Thomasina Antonia Alessi dei Marchesi di Taflia, daughter of Frederick Sedley, Superintendent of Police in Malta , married Hon. Richard Cornwall – Leigh, Assistant to the Government of Malta, in the British Embassy. Later celebrated at the Church of The Madeline in Paris.

1856 Frederick Sedley II, a clerk in the Customs Department is living at 153, Strada Stretta. He is on the 1852 Electoral Roll.

1860 during the China War of that year it is recorded that there is a ‘Cornet Sedley in B Troop as assistant Surgeon to Edward Mc Sheehy.’

22 November 1866 Mrs Caterina Sed1ey nee Marchesi Alessi died, she was the wife of Frederick Sedley I.

1871 Frederick Sedley II married Edith Fanny Langdon in Marlybone

1872 Daughter Ethel Maud Sedley Alessi born ( later 6th Marchioness di Taflia). in Bellary, central India.

1880 Frederick Sedley II retired with rank of Lieut Colonel.

1899 Wufe Ethel Maud Sedley died in Kensington.

1901 In the 1901 UK Census, Frederick Sedley II is listed as being aged 63, born in Malta , a retired Colonel in the Army. He is living in Kensington.

August 1910 at a Parish Bazaar held at St Walburga’s Church in Watchbell Street , Rye, it is recorded that ‘Colonel the Marquis Sedley (sic) ran the pottery and ceramics stall while the Marchesina Sedley (his daughter) superintended the event and had special commodities ergo Maltese lace, pottery etc. sent by Mr Buggiba of Malta’.

1914 saw the beginning of the World War I and the arrival of refugees in Rye . It seems that the Marchesina Sedley formed a committee arranging for Henry James to make his studio in Watchbell Street available as a recreation room for them. When they arrived at Rye railway station they were greeted by Colonel Sedley, the Marchioness Sedley and the Rev. Father Bonaventure. Special services were arranged and they were accommodated in a hostel in Cinque Ports Street.

1916 Ethel Maud Sedley, Marchioness of Taflia, married Captain James Williamson Waring. JP

1918 & 1922 Kelly’s Directories of Rye for these years show Captain James Williamson – Wearing JP. listed as living at Badger’s Gate, Ferry Road, Rye .

18th March 1921 Frederick Sedley Alessi, 5th Marquis of Tatlia, died in Rye , East Sussex.

Upon the death of her father Ethel Maud Sedley Alessi became 6th Marchioness of Taflia. Not long after the death of the Marquis, the Marchioness moved from Rye and settled in St. Leonards were she was to die thirty years later on in 1953

In 1953 the title went into abeyance. As the direct line was now extinct the next of kin was from the first Marquis’s other son, with the de jure Marquis, Dr. Giuseppe Borg-Falzon-Alessi MD, dying in 1978. Dr Giuseppe was succeeded by his first cousin Joseph Sammut Testaferrata Alessi. In 1982 The Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility called the title from abeyance with Joseph becoming 7th and present marquis. His daughter and only child is his heir.

First posted in Local History Research, Rye Buildings and Defences on 14th August 2010
Last updated: 3rd December 2012
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