John Vertue was born on 28th April 1826. He was educated at King's College, London, St. Edmund's, Old Hall Green and, from 1849, the English College at Rome. He quickly gained a reputation for his theological and philosophical studies and was selected to preach the sermon in Latin before the reigning Pope, Pius IX on St. Stephen's Day.
In December 1851 Dr. Vertue was ordained priest and returned to England. He obtained his first post at Poplar where he worked with much zeal before being offered the position of Secretary to the Papal Emissary to the United States. On his return to Rome he was made Monsignor and returned again to England in 1854 where he had charge of a mission in Hackney.
In 1855 he became the Catholic Military Chaplain at Chatham, before being posted to Aldershot where he secured an excellent reputation with the soldiers. He stayed at Aldershot for 6 years before proceeding to Bermuda. Whilst there Yellow Fever broke out but he remained at his post ministering to the population with care and courage. He volunteered to remain in Bermuda when his term of service expired arguing that he had become acclimatised to the local conditions whereas any new appointee would probably succumb to the disease. The War Office awarded him a special Vote of Thanks.
Dr. Vertue returned to England in 1865 and was posted to Colchester where he remained 6 years. In 1871 he was appointed chaplain at Portsmouth where he worked until 1878 and then moved to Malta where he remained until 1882. This was the year that the Diocese of Southwark was split into two with the new Portsmouth Diocese taking the western half. Dr. Vertue was selected to become the first Bishop of Portsmouth Diocese.
In the years preceding 1882 the catholic community, ably led by Reverend John Horan, had been preparing the ground for the construction of a new parish church and by that date the first phase was complete. Thus it was that the new Bishop, who was consecrated on 25th July 1882, was able to open the new cathedral of St. John's, just two weeks later on 10th August. Between this date and the 23rd May 1900 when Dr. Vertue died, he oversaw the construction of 18 new churches in the diocese, together with 2 orphanages and many elementary schools. During his time in Portsmouth Dr. Vertue became a much respected presence in many branches of public life, particularly those engaged in historical research. Such was the esteem in which he was held that after his death people of all classes contributed liberally to the creation of a chapel in his name within the cathedral.
Bishop John Vertue is buried in the Horan Division of Highland Road Cemetery, Row 8, Grave 12.
[Reference: "Diocese of Portsmouth Past and Present" by Gerard Dwyer]