Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bennet, William (1746-1820)

BENNET, WILLIAM (1746–1820), bishop of Cloyne, was born in the Tower of London 4 March 1745-6. He was educated at Harrow School, where he made the acquaintance of Dr. Parr, Gilbert Wakefield, and Sir William Jones, proceeding afterwards to Emmanuel College, Cambridge. The dates of his degrees were: B.A. in 1767, M.A. in 1770, and D.D. in 1790. In 1773 a fellowship was conferred upon him, and for many years he was the chief tutor at the college. Among his pupils was the Earl of Westmorland, who, on his appointment as lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1790, nominated his old tutor as his chaplain. Bennet's promotion was then assured, and it came quickly: from 12 June 1790 to 1794 he held the see of Cork and Ross, and in the latter year was translated to the more lucrative bishopric of Cloyne. It was at one time proposed to appoint Bishop Bennet to an English see, and he was put in nomination for the provostship of Trinity College, Dublin, but was rejected in favour of another candidate. Among the pulpit orators of his day he took a high place, and his services were in frequent requisition. His exertions whilst preaching a charity sermon at St. Michael's, Cornhill, are supposed to have hastened his death. He died at Montagu Square, London, 16 July 1820, and was buried at Plumstead, Kent, a monument to his memory being erected in Cloyne cathedral. In 1791 he married Frances, daughter of Rev. Nathaniel Mapletoft, of Boughton, in Northamptonshire, by Anna Maria, only daughter of Charles, fifth Viscount Cullen.

Though they were of opposite politics, the friendship of Parr and Bishop Bennet lasted from school to college, and from college until the latter's death. The bishop's critical knowledge of the classics and his liberality towards the Irish peasantry are highly praised in Parr's 'Remarks on the Statement of Dr. Charles Combe' (1795), pp. 25-6. To the ill-fated Gilbert Wakefield the bishop showed his regard 'with uniform benevolence.' He was elected F.S.A. in 1790, but does not seem to have contributed to the 'Archæologia.'His favourite pursuit was to trace the Roman roads in his native country, and he is said to have walked over nearly the whole of them from the north of England to the south. The brothers Lysons, in their advertisement to the 'Magna Britannia,' acknowledge their indebtedness to the bishop for his communications on the Roman roads and stations in each county. This work came to an end with the county of Devon, and the fate of the bishop's observations on the other shires is not known. His paper 'On the Roman Architecture and Castrametation is printed in Polwhele's Cornwall, supp. to vol. iii. 82- 87, and to Nichols's 'Leicestershire' he contributed some remarks on its Roman roads (i. pp.cxlix-cl), and his views on the Jewry wall of Leicester (i. 7). The translation of the work known as Richard of Cirencester's description of Britain, which was published in 1809, contained the bishop's opinions on the same subject. The register of Emmanuel College which he compiled is described in the 'Fourth Report of the Hist. MSS. Commission,' pp. 417-20. Bishop Bennet's probity and amiability were the subject of frequent praise.

[Johnstone's Parr, vols. i. passim, and viii. 574-648; Field's Parr, i. 20-43, ii. 288-93; Lord Teignmouth's Sir W. Jones, i. 114; Wakefield's Memoirs, i. 106, 200; Mant's Church of Ireland, ii. 718-20; Cotton's Fasti Eccl. Hibernicæ, i. 191. 276-8; Gent. Mag. 1791, p. 1061, 1820, pt. ii. 104, 184; Nichols's Lit. Illustrations, iv. 703-12, vi. 164-6. 444-54, vii. pp. xxxv, 64-5; Corresp. of Rt. Hon. John Beresford, ii. 44.]

W. P. C.