Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beresford, John George de la Poer

BERESFORD, Lord JOHN GEORGE DE LA POER, D.D. (1773–1862), primate of Ireland, was a younger son of George de la Poer, second earl and first marquis of Waterford. He was born at Tyrone House, Dublin, 22 Nov. 1773, and was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he proceeded B.A. 30 April 1793, M.A. 17 March 1796, and D.D., by diploma, 11 March 1805, in view of his consecration, 24 March, to the bishopric of Cork. He was ordained deacon 2 April 1795, and priest, 17 Dec. 1797; was first preferred to the family rectories of Clonegam and Newtown Lenan in the diocese of Lismore; was presented, 23 Dec. 1799, to the deanery of the cathedral church of St. Macartin's, Clogher; and in 1801 became rector of Termonmaguirk in the diocese of Armagh. He was promoted 20 Feb. 1805 to the bishopric of Cork and Ross, from which he was translated to the see of Raphoe, 10 Aug. 1807, and to that of Clogher, 25 Sept. 1819. On 21 April 1820 he was created archbishop of Dublin, and was enthroned at Christ Church on 6 May following, and on the 23rd of the same month was appointed a privy councillor in Ireland. Finally he was translated to the archbishopric of Armagh and the primacy of all Ireland, 17 June 1822. In 1829 the primate succeeded Lord Manners as vice-chancellor of the university of Dublin, and continued in that office until his election to the chancellorship left vacant by the death of the King of Hanover, 19 Nov. 1851. The archbishop made munificent gifts to the library, erected, at an expense of 3,000l., a campanile in the centre of the great quadrangle 1853, and presented one sum of 1,000l. in 1853 towards founding a chair of ecclesiastical history, and another of like amount in 1861 towards augmenting its income. He also gave over 6,000l. to the college of St. Columba, near Stackallan, which was opened in 1844, to furnish the gentry of Ireland with a school ‘on the model of Eton.’ The archbishop was for several years visitor and patron of St. Columba's, with which he severed his official connection 6 Dec. 1853, on account of a misunderstanding with the warden (Correspondence relative to the Warden of St. Columba's College, 8vo, Armagh, 1853). On Thursday, 29 March 1855, the primate celebrated his episcopal jubilee at the palace of Armagh. An address from the clergy was drawn up by Archbishop Whately of Dublin. Beresford restored the cathedral of Armagh at an expense of nearly 30,000l., and improved the services by his own bounty. He held the patronage of 120 livings, which he administered with great fairness (Addresses, &c. p. 10), and in ordinary times he gave to the clergy, in the way of salaries to curates and augmentations of small incomes, not less than 1,800l. a year. During the ‘tithe war many of the clergy and their families were saved from actual starvation by his generosity’ (Gent. Mag. December 1862). He contributed large sums to the Church Education Society (as president), and to the Armagh Diocesan Church Education Society (Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, 15 Nov. 1862). The prudent desire of Archbishop Beresford to make the best of educational measures which he could not control, and his recommendation to the clergy to accept the aid of the National Board, exposed him not only to misconstruction, but abuse. He was a conservative in politics, and opposed the Roman Catholic Relief Bill of 1829, against which he seconded the motion of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the House of Lords. His speech on that occasion, one of his very few printed productions, was published in 1829. His other publications are: 1. ‘A Speech on the System of National Education established in Ireland.’ 2. A Sermon preached at St. Paul's on 9 June 1836, at the Yearly Meeting of the Children of the Charity Schools. 3. ‘A Charge delivered at his Annual Visitation, 1845,’ &c., 8vo, London, 1846. 4. ‘A Letter to the Bishop of Exeter on the Church Discipline Bill,’ 8vo, London, 1856. Beresford was never married. He died, 18 July 1862, at Woburn, near Donaghadee, the seat of George Dunbar, Esq., D.L., who had married one of his nieces. His remains were taken to Armagh, and buried 30 July in the crypt of the cathedral he had restored. At his funeral the Roman catholic primate, Dr. Dixon, and Dr. Cooke, the moderator of the general assembly of the presbyterian church, walked side by side.

[Cotton's Fasti Ecclesiæ Hibernicæ; Dublin University Magazine, July 1840; Addresses presented to the Lord Primate of Ireland on his attaining the fiftieth year of his episcopate, with his grace's answers, and an account of the proceedings at Armagh on 29 March 1855; Belfast News-Letter, Daily Express, and Record, 21 July 1862; Guardian, 23 July 1862; English Churchman, 24 July 1862; Times, 21, 24, 26, and 30 July, and 1 and 23 Aug. 1862; Christian Examiner, 6 Aug. 1862; Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, 15 Aug. and 15 Nov. 1862; Gent. Mag. December 1862.]

A. H. G.