John Wordsworth

John Wordsworth

The Right Reverend John Wordsworth (1843-1911) was an English prelate. He was born at Harrow on the Hill, to the Reverend (later Right Reverend) Christopher Wordsworth, nephew of the poet William Wordsworth. He was born into a clerical family: his father was to become Bishop of Lincoln, his uncle, the Right Reverend Charles Wordsworth, Bishop of Saint Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, and his grandfather, the Reverend Dr Christopher Wordsworth had been Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

John Wordsworth was a precocious child, the third in a family of seven and the elder of two brothers. His younger brother Christopher was to become a noted liturgical scholar, and his eldest sister Elizabeth a pioneer of women's higher education. He studied at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, where he was awarded a First in Classical Moderations (1863) and a Second in Greats (1865) (MA 1868). He became an Assistant Master at Wellington College in 1866. In the following year he was elected Craven Scholar and a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford and was ordained in the Church of England. He was Select Preacher before the University of Oxford in 1876 and 1888, Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint 1876–78, and Bampton Lecturer in 1881. From 1883 until 1885 he held concurrently the positions of Oriel Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture and Fellow of Oriel at Oxford and Canon of Rochester Cathedral. He had already been appointed a Prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral in 1870 and Whitehall Preacher in 1879.

In 1885, at the age of 42, he became Bishop of Salisbury.

Three years into his term of office at Salisbury, Bishop John inaugurated the Salisbury Church Day School Association. Salisbury had reached a time of educational and political crisis and the Association set about the task of raising the £14,000 necessary to build three new primary schools and to add an infants department to the existing St Thomas’ School, thus accommodating another 1121 children. In addition the Bishop founded his own school at a cost of £3,000, entirely at his own expense. He purchased a piece of land adjoining the grounds of the palace and started building in 1889. Whilst building work was being completed, the Bishop started his school in January 1890 in his own palace, the pupils moving to their new building in April 1890 when the new school was officially opened. The school was known at the time as the Bishop’s School, being renamed the year after the Bishop’s death as "Bishop Wordsworth's School".

John Wordsworth was married twice, first to Susan Esther Coxe (1870) who died at the palace in 1894 and then to Mary Anne Frances Williams (1896). There were four sons and two daughters to this second marriage. The Bishop undertook three major foreign visits during his episcopacy, the first to New Zealand as he recovered from the death of his first wife and the others to Sweden in 1909 and to America in 1910. He died at the palace on the 16th August 1911, working right up to the very end. A friend, Canon Woodall, remembering a conversation held some years before recalls:"Some years ago.....when walking with him on the site of the present St Mark’s School he said ‘I should like to see Salisbury a great educational centre. I should like to found a school which shall be equal to the greatest and best of our public schools.’ " However, it was perhaps his care for and love of children which underpinned his foundation. The school’s motto "Veritas in Caritate", surely remembered from his father’s epitaph in 1885, survives him to this day.


* [ King's College London College Archives: WORDSWORTH, Rt Rev John (1843-1911)]

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