Thomas Roussel Davids Byles was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, in 1870, the eldest of seven children in a Protestant family.
His father Reverend Alfred Holden Byles was a Congregationalist minister who had married Louisa Davids.
After attending Leamington College and Rossall School in Fleetwood, Lancashire, he studied theology in Balliol College, Oxford, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1894.
Byles converted to the Church of England and later to Roman Catholicism, taking the name Thomas.
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