Richard William Church

Richard William Church

Richard William Church (25 April 1815 – 6 December 1890) was an English churchman and writer. He was son of Christopher Church, brother of Sir Richard Church, a merchant, was born in Newport, his early years being mostly spent in Bulwark, part of Chepstow, Monmouthshire. In later life he was commonly known as "Dean Church".



After his father's death in 1828 he was sent to a school of a pronounced Evangelical type at Hartridge, Ringland, Newport and went in 1833 to Wadham College, Oxford, then an Evangelical college. He took first-class honours in 1836 and, in 1838, was elected fellow of Oriel College. One of his contemporaries, Richard Mitchell, commenting on this election, said: "There is such a moral beauty about Church that they could not help taking him."[citation needed] He was appointed tutor of Oriel in 1839 and was ordained the same year. He was a close friend of John Henry Newman in this period and closely allied to the Tractarian movement. In 1841 Tract 90 of Tracts for the Times appeared and Church resigned his tutorship.

From 1844 to 1845, Church was junior proctor and, in that capacity and in concert with his senior colleague, vetoed a proposal to censure Tracts publicly. In 1846, with others, he started The Guardian newspaper and he was an early contributor to The Saturday Review. In 1850 he became engaged to H.F. Bennett, of a Somersetshire family, a niece of George Moberly, Bishop of Salisbury. After again holding the tutorship of Oriel, he accepted in 1858 the small living of Whatley in Somerset near Frome and was married in the following year. He was a diligent parish priest and a serious student and contributed largely to current literature.

Dean of St Paul's

In 1869 he refused a canonry at Worcester, but in 1871 he accepted, most reluctantly (calling it "a sacrifice en pure perte"), the deanery of St Paul's, to which he was nominated by WE Gladstone.

His task as dean was a complicated one. It was

  1. the restoration of the cathedral;
  2. the adjustment of the question of the cathedral revenues with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners;
  3. the reorganization of a conservative cathedral staff with anomalous vested rights.

He described the intention of his appointment to be "that St Paul's should waken up from its long slumber." The first year that he spent at St Paul's was, writes one of his friends, one of "misery" for a man who loved study and hated pomp and business. But he worked tactfully. Though of unimpressive stature and monotonous, he had a strong influence. He was a High Churchman, but of a rational type, and with an enthusiasm for religious liberty. He said of the Church of England that there was "no more glorious church in Christendom than this inconsistent English Church." He was regarded in 1882 as a possible successor to Archbishop Tait, but his health made it out of the question. While Dean of St. Paul's, he was patron of Saint Martin's League for letter carriers.

Death and legacy

In 1888 his only son died; his own health declined, and he appeared for the last time in public at the funeral of Henry Parry Liddon in 1890, dying on 9 December in the same year, at Dover. He was buried at Whatley.

The dean's chief published works are a Life of St Anselm (1870), the lives of Spenser (1879) and Bacon (1884) in Macmillan's "Men of Letters" series, an Essay on Dante (1878), The Oxford Movement (1891), together with many other volumes of essays and sermons. A collection of his journalistic articles was published in 1897 as Occasional Papers.

His style is lucid but austere. He stated that he had never studied style per se, but that he had acquired it by the exercise of translation from classical languages; and that he employed care in his choice of verbs rather than in his use of adjectives.

Further reading


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links

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