HAROLD DAVIDSON Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Name: Harold Francis Davidson                                                       
Born: 14 July 1875                                                                   
Died: 30 July 1937                                                                   
Harold Francis Davidson (July 14, 1875 - July 30, 1937), sometimes known as "the     
Prostitute's Padre", was a Church of England priest, who was famous as "the         
Rector of Stiffkey" defrocked in 1932 for his licentious lifestyle.                 
Davidson had 27 relatives in the clergy (including his father and uncles),           
reaching as high as the Archbishop of Canterbury, under whose auspices he worked.   
Davidson ministered to the homeless in London in the split ministry he had when     
he was appointed as the Rector of Stiffkey in Norfolk.                               
His father, the Revd Francis Davidson came from a wealthy Birmingham family but     
poured his money into building the new parish of St Mary's in Sholing,               
Southampton to which he had been appointed in 1866, and on his wife, who was         
severely ill all her life. When the time came to educate his son, there was         
little money to finance his studies.                                                 
Davidson was educated at the Banister Court School in Southampton and the           
Whitgift School in Croydon, moving there to live with his maternal aunts and         
grandmother (who had moved to Croydon after his grandfather's death). During his     
years at Whitgift he formed a small group of amateur actors with other boys;         
they would organise fund raising charity events for his father's parish, and,       
later, for the other churches in and around the Southampton area.                   
When Davidson left Whitgift in 1894, he and his friends decided to spend their       
pre-university gap year becoming professional entertainers. They toured the         
provinces where they became quite successful in the first six months and they       
were invited to appear at the Steinway Hall in London in 1895.                       
Davidson then became a professional actor, touring the world with some of the       
great acting companies of the day such as the Trees'. On several occasions, he       
appeared with Sarah Bernhardt (who would be a close friend the rest of her life)     
inviting his whole family to France for her opening night performances and           
asking that he be put on the bill when she appeared in London at the Palladium.     
His forte was comedy mime though he also did the classics and comedies such as       
Charley's Aunt.