Dolling, Robert William Radclyffe (1851–1902), Church of England clergyman and social reformer, was born 10 February 1851 at the Old Rectory, Magheralin, Co. Down, the sixth child of nine and the elder of two sons of Robert Holbeche Dolling (d. 1878), a landowner in Co. Down and Londonderry, and sometime high sheriff of Londonderry, and his wife Eliza (d. 1870), third daughter of Josias Du Pré MP, who was a nephew of James Alexander (qv), 1st earl of Caledon. Dolling spent his early childhood at Kilrea, Co. Londonderry, where his father had become a land agent, but in 1861, aged only ten, was sent to England to be educated at a preparatory school at Stevenage, Hertfordshire. From 1864 he attended Harrow School and in 1868 matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge; but he left the university in spring 1869, suffering from general ill health and an eye condition, and spent a year travelling in Europe. His mother's death in 1870 took him back to Kilrea, where for several years he helped his father in running the estate. He spent much of his leisure time in providing Bible study classes, night schools, and social clubs for young people and working men; like his father, he became locally very popular. His biographer suggests that Dolling's later Anglo-Catholic emphasis on the importance of vestments and ritual in worship may have been fostered by his youthful familiarity with the sashes and banners and ‘florid ceremonial’ of the Orange order (Osborne, 6).
When his family moved to Dublin in the mid-1870s, Dolling went with them. His father died 28 September 1878 and soon afterwards the young man moved to London. Working among the poor in the parish of St Alban the Martyr in Holborn, he came under the influence of the charismatic Fr Arthur Stanton and Alexander Heriot Mackonochie, Anglo-Catholics whom he already knew from his days at Cambridge. Thanks to their support he became, in 1879, warden of the south London branch of the St Martin's Postman's League, and in that capacity undertook much philanthropic and religious work. While Dolling became popular with the postmen, most of his time was spent working among the Holborn poor, earning their respect and confidence and the affectionate nickname ‘Brother Bob’.
In 1882 Dolling enrolled at Salisbury Theological College, and a year later was ordained deacon, becoming curate of Coscombe, Dorset. But with his vicar's permission, he resided in London as head of St Martin's Mission at Holy Trinity, Stepney. In 1885 he was ordained priest, but illness and differences with the bishop of London, Frederick Temple, over church organization and regulations led to his resignation from Stepney. In November 1885 he accepted the charge of St Agatha's, Portsmouth, a mission in the dockyard part of the town, which had been founded by Winchester College. There he spent the next ten years, campaigning for reforms to mitigate the evils of slum life. Known for his strong build and intolerance of delinquent behaviour, Dolling used his authority to improve living conditions in the area, and he campaigned on issues such as improved wages and better working conditions. He instituted an evening dinner at the vicarage, at which every day scores of people from widely varying backgrounds were his guests – MPs alongside the destitute. He collected over £50,000 in ten years to support the work of the mission, founded parish social organizations, day schools, a gymnasium, and public baths, and in 1895 rebuilt St Agatha's church and parsonage. His curious mixture of evangelical passion, somewhat socialist convictions, and insistence on ritualist practices in church worship frequently upset his ecclesiastical superiors, especially Randall Davidson, newly appointed bishop of Winchester, who in 1895 forced Dolling to resign from St Agatha's. The bishop refused to grant a licence for the new church building because Dolling planned to say requiem masses, in defiance of church of England liturgical and theological tradition. During the ensuing period of enforced leave Dolling wrote Ten years in a Portsmouth slum (1896), in which he vividly described his experiences in a parish where there were numerous brothels and public houses and many sailors on shore leave; he also wrote frankly of his disagreements with his bishop.
While staying at his sister's London home in 1896–7, Dolling continued to work in slum areas. In 1897 he visited the United States, where his emotional and fervent preaching made a great impression. Bishop McClaren of Chicago even offered him the deanery of the cathedral there, but Dolling refused, having already agreed to become vicar of St Saviour's, Poplar, in the east end of London. Dolling returned to England in 1898, and at Poplar, as at Portsmouth, attempted to ameliorate the social and civil troubles of his parish, especially the overcrowding and poor housing, which exacerbated the horrors of the outbreak of smallpox in 1901. The stresses of that year undermined Dolling's health and he died 15 May 1902 at the home of his sister Elise in South Kensington. He was buried, after requiem masses, at Woking cemetery. He never married. In 1903, as a memorial, his friends and supporters purchased a government annuity in Dolling's name, and opened a seaside rest home for the girls of Poplar and St Agatha's, at Worthing in Sussex. It was managed by his sisters Elise and Geraldine Dolling, whose energy and commitment to the work among the poor and the prostitutes of London and Portsmouth are said to have equalled or even surpassed their brother's.