The Reverend Canon William Cave-Browne-Cave: 1954-2022

We are sorry to announce that The Reverend Canon William Cave-Browne-Cave has passed away. The following obituary is courtesy of an old friend.

William Cave-Browne-Cave, or Bill Cave as he was called by those who knew him in Cambridge, sadly died last year at the age of just 67. He came up in 1973 to read Economics, but after his first year he decided to change to Theology and Religious Studies for the remainder of his degree. As he would say, tongue in cheek, after a year of Economics he had decided on God rather than Mammon. During his latter two years, as he studied Theology in detail, he also came round to the conviction that his future lay in that subject, and specifically felt called to a ministry within the Church of England. Following graduation he initially spent a year gaining some very different experience, at Christ Church Spitalfields in East London. Here, the crypt was used to help the homeless and destitute, providing them with food and a bed to sleep in, and helping them to return to a better life. In 1977 he then returned to Cambridge, this time to Westcott House, to train for the Church. Whilst there, he continued his involvement with the homeless at the Cambridge branch of The Cyreneans, of which he became chairman. After completing his training, he became a Curate at the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Arbury Estate, a 1950s council housing area in the north of Cambridge of which most people in the University are wholly unaware – and this is another example of how Bill’s mission was to help the disadvantaged, rather than climb the ladder towards a prestigious position within the Church.

After completing his Ordination, Bill decided it was time to move on. However, rather than taking a conventional appointment in another parish, he chose in 1983 to become Chaplain to the University of Lancaster. He wished both to take on a more ecumenical rôle, with the opportunity to develop links with the representatives of other faiths, and to combine his duties as Chaplain with a secular function to serve the needs of students, whether religious or otherwise. Not only were the issues arising much more varied here, but there was a constant change in the people he helped, as they graduated and moved on, and new ones arrived. The decision was clearly a good one, as he remained at Lancaster for twelve years. Whilst there, he also started to take a strong interest in the resolution of human conflict, particularly those in Northern Ireland and in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle and spent some time visiting both regions. As part of this concern, he also did a great deal of work in the area of Peace Studies, at the University of Bradford.

In due course, Bill decided to make another profound change of direction, by moving to become a Chaplain with HM Prison Service in 1995. After a period with some London prisons, he moved to work on the Isle of Portland, partially with the prison ship in Weymouth harbour, but mainly at the Verne Prison on the island itself. He worked with a multi-faith team to meet the many and varying needs of prisoners, which was again only partly a religious activity. He was responsible for the organisation and administration of this team. He also had great respect and concern for those running the prison itself, who undertook heavy responsibilities which most people would shun. Alongside this, he nevertheless spoke out and confronted inhumanity and injustices when they arose and undertook in his own time studying Law at the Open University, to ensure he fully understood how the system should operate. He completed both an LLB and an LLM, in the latter case with Distinction. He taught himself other languages to communicate with many refugee prisoners and helped them find their way through the legal forms they had to complete. He was also involved in organising an International Prison Chaplains Association Conference, held in Cambridge. He finally retired from the Prison Service in 2017, after 22 years.

He did not then (as most of us do) settle down to a life of developing his personal interests. He had already become Canon and Prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral in 2015, and on retirement from the Prison Service took on a part-time position as Chaplain to the Wiltshire Police. The following year he also became Salisbury Diocesan Inter-Faith Adviser. Every summer, for most of his time in the Prison Service, he did an interchange with the Scottish Episcopal Church at St Michael and All Angels Ballintuim, to the north of Perth, and he continued to do so after his retirement. He also undertook responsibility for looking after six Dorset parishes from his home in Sherborne. And as if he were not busy enough, he became Chairman of the Cave Family History Society.

Despite dedicating his life to the service of others, Bill nevertheless had a passion for music, which he never neglected.  He was a first-rate trumpeter, playing the Haydn and Hummel concertos with ease, and others including Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, which makes most trumpeters go pale. He followed the trumpet discipline rigorously, practising nearly every day to retain his embouchure, and away from home he would seek out a place where he could do so with the least disturbance to others. He also played non-solo parts with many different orchestras and was in regular demand.  He was a tenor singer, and did so in many different choirs, from the Trinity Hall Chapel Choir to in later years the choir of Sherborne Abbey. Away from music, he was also a very keen walker and mountain climber, both in the Lake District and in the Highlands of Scotland, where he almost always reached the peaks first – and as his fellow climbers all agreed, did so like a mountain goat, making the rest of the group feel decidedly inadequate.

Following his early decision to be ordained, Bill never wavered from his resolve that his life was to be dedicated to God and to the service of others.  Whatever he did, whether within the Church, in a university environment, in the Prison Service, or with family and friends, he was a man of conviction who always placed the wellbeing of others ahead of his own; and he always had time to listen to the needs of others with an open mind, regardless of the circumstances. Such people are rare indeed.

He leaves behind his widow Anne, his son James (also a Hall man) and daughter-in-law Bethan, his daughter Lucy, and three grandchildren. He also leaves behind many close friends and is sadly missed by all.