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Barrow, Isaac (1614-1680) (DNB00)


BARROW, ISAAC, D.D. (1614–1680), bishop successively of Sodor and Man and of St. Asaph, was the son of Isaac Barrow, a Cambridgeshire squire, and born at his father's seat of Spiney Abbey, near Wickham in that county. He became a fellow of Peterhouse in Cambridge, and took holy orders. His loyalty to the royalist cause resulted in his ejection from his fellowship in 1643, the very year in which Isaac, his famous nephew and namesake [q. v.], the future master of Trinity, entered Peterhouse. In company with his friend and colleague, Gunning, Barrow went to Oxford, where Dr. Pink, warden of New College, appointed him a chaplain of that society. But the fall of Oxford in 1645 drove Barrow away from his new home, and he lived on in quiet retirement until the Restoration gave him back his fellowship at Peterhouse. He was in addition made fellow of Eton College and rector of Downham in his native county. But in 1663 the Earl of Derby appointed him bishop of Sodor and Man, to which office he was consecrated on 5 July in Westminster Abbey, his nephew, already winning fame as an orator, preaching the sermon. To the spiritual supremacy of Man Lord Derby added the temporal, by making Barrow governor of the island in April 1664. He became one of the most respected of Manx bishops, and a great benefactor of the land. He raised by subscription a sum of over 1,000l., with which he bought from Lord Derby all the impropriations in Man, and applied them to augment poor vicarages. He was equally zealous for education, built and endowed schools, and required his clergy to teach in the schools of their respective parishes. Partly from a royal grant, partly from his own purse, he established three exhibitions tenable by Manxmen at Trinity College, Dublin, with the object of raising the tone of clerical education and creating a learned clergy. Though he had left Man many years before his death, he remembered his old flock, and bequeathed in his will 100l. to ‘buy such books yearly as should be more convenient for the clergy.’ As governor he ruled wisely and firmly, built a bridge over a dangerous stream, and did many other good works there. ‘The bread the poor clergy eat,’ cries the historian of the remote and neglected island, ‘is owing to him, as is all the little learning among the inhabitants.’ No Manx bishop but the saintly Wilson can approach Barrow in beneficence and liberality. In March 1669–70 Barrow was translated to St. Asaph, and remained there till his death. Until October 1671 he continued to hold the see of Man in commendam, but then resigned it along with his governorship. His government of his new bishopric was marked by the same solid devotion to schemes of practical utility as had characterised his work in Man. He repaired his cathedral; wainscoted the choir; put new lead on the roofs; repaired and added to his palace; established an almshouse in St. Asaph village for poor widows and endowed it himself; and left 200l. in his will to establish a free school. His greatest exertions were devoted to obtaining in 1678 an act of parliament for uniting several sinecure and impropriate rectories in his diocese with their impoverished vicarages, and for devoting the proceeds of another sinecure to form a fund to maintain the cathedral fabric, hitherto unprovided for. He died on Midsummer day, 1680, at Shrewsbury, and was buried in the churchyard of his cathedral.

Barrow was a rigid ‘high-churchman,’ if we may anticipate that convenient phrase. He was celebrated by those like-minded with himself for being almost the only celibate bishop of his generation. The inscription on his tomb, written by himself, excited much scandal among protestants, as it implored all who entered the cathedral to pray for his soul. Wood is amusingly angry with those who imputed popery on so slight a pretext to so sound a churchman. His character, as gathered from his acts, is that of a benevolent, practical, and religious man.

[Willis's Survey of St. Asaph; Thomas's History of the Diocese of St. Asaph; Wood's Athenæ Oxonienses; Sacheverel's History of the Isle of Man.]

T. F. T.