Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stanley, Edward (1779-1849)

632094Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54 — Stanley, Edward (1779-1849)1898Rowland Edmund Prothero

STANLEY, EDWARD (1779–1849), bishop of Norwich, second son and seventh child of Sir John Thomas Stanley, sixth baronet, of Alderley Park, Cheshire, and of Margaret Owen, of Penrhos, Anglesey, was born in London on 1 Jan. 1779. His elder brother, John Thomas, was first Baron Stanley of Alderley, and father of Edward John Stanley, second baron Stanley of Alderley [q. v.] Edward's natural inclination was for the sea; but he was not allowed to enter the navy. Educated partly at private schools, partly by tutors, he was sent in 1798 to St. John's College, Cambridge, knowing nothing of Greek, almost equally ignorant of Latin, and possessing only a smattering of mathematics. His industry to some extent remedied these deficiencies. In 1802 his name appears in the mathematical tripos as sixteenth wrangler.

Ordained in 1802, he was for three years curate of Windlesham in Surrey. In 1805 he was presented by his father to the family living of Alderley, where he remained for thirty-two years. An excellent parish priest at a time when the standard of parochial duty was low, he devoted himself earnestly to his work. In education he was keenly interested, introducing into his schools gymnastic exercises, and such subjects as elementary botany, English history, and geography. Infant schools, temperance societies, mechanics' institutes, and statistical societies found in him a zealous patron. He was also instrumental in founding a clerical society among the neighbouring clergy. A natural aptitude for science, and a conviction of its intimate connection with religion, made him a student of such subjects as ornithology, entomology, mineralogy, and geology. His ornithological observations were embodied in his ‘Familiar History of Birds, their Nature, Habits, and Instincts’ (2 vols. published in 1836). He was one of the first clergymen who ventured to lecture on the then suspected science of geology. A whig in politics, and by nature a reformer, he took up a position towards questions of the day which was rare in his profession. He endeavoured by pamphlets, published in 1829 and 1836, to allay the animosities between Roman catholics and protestants. In 1831, in the midst of the Reform Bill agitation, he promoted a petition for church reform. When the new and unpopular poor law came into operation in 1834, he offered his services as chairman of the board of guardians called on to administer the act in his union.

In 1837 Dr. Bathurst, bishop of Norwich, died at the age of ninety-three. The vacant see was offered by Lord Melbourne to Stanley, and was accepted by him. He had previously declined overtures of a similar kind with regard to the bishopric of Manchester, the immediate creation of which was then contemplated. He now entered upon episcopal work in a diocese which was a by-word for laxity and irregularity. Non-residence, pluralities, scarcity of services, neglect of schools, carelessness in admission to holy orders, were some of the abuses by which he was confronted. By vigorous enforcement of the Plurality and Non-residence Act, he added during his episcopate 173 parsonage-houses. During the same period he increased the number of Sunday services by 347. He doubled the number of schools and rendered them more efficient. The examinations for ordination were carefully conducted, and the bishop made himself personally acquainted with the previous career of every candidate. At great personal expense he prosecuted and removed those clergymen whose lives had brought them within the reach of the law. By the appointment of seventy rural deans, each of whom was every year entertained at the palace, he made himself acquainted with what passed in every part of his diocese. Instead of the old septennial confirmations at a few large centres, he confirmed annually at convenient stations. He assisted all the charitable institutions of the county, especially in Norwich, interested himself in the working of the poor laws, and personally inspected the efficiency of the local schools. In the House of Lords he was a regular attendant, and a staunch supporter of whig principles. His most telling speeches were delivered in defence of the government scheme of education in 1839, on behalf of relaxing the stringent terms of clerical subscription in 1840, and on the endowment of Maynooth in 1842. He took part, with especial pleasure, in such movements as bible societies, city missions, British and foreign schools, which brought together on neutral ground churchmen and nonconformists. The same feeling led him to support in the National Society in 1839 such changes as would open the doors of schools to the children of nonconformists. He was also the first bishop who interested himself in the movement for ragged schools. Always an eager advocate of temperance, he appeared on the platform with Father Mathew, who in 1843 was his guest at Norwich.

Stanley's liberal views, fearlessness of obloquy, and vigorous reforms at first created ill-feeling in the diocese. Before the close of his episcopate, however, he not only changed the whole atmosphere of religious life throughout his see, but won the affectionate esteem of all classes, whether lay or clerical. In August 1849 he started for a tour in Scotland with his wife and daughters. At Brahan Castle in Ross-shire he was taken ill, and, after a few days, died from congestion of the brain on 6 Sept. 1849. His body was brought by sea from Invergordon to Yarmouth, and on 21 Sept. was buried in the nave of Norwich Cathedral.

By his wife Catherine (1792–1862), daughter of the Rev. Oswald Leycester, rector of Stoke-upon-Terne, whom he married in 1810, Stanley had, besides other issue, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley [q. v.] and a daughter Mary (1813–1879), who in 1854 was entrusted by Sydney Herbert, secretary of state for war, with the charge of fifty nurses during the Crimean war. Subsequently she assisted her brother in charitable work at Westminster, and in 1861 was active in relieving the distress in Lancashire during the cotton famine. She became a Roman catholic in 1856, and died on 26 Nov. 1879. She wrote ‘True to Life: a simple Story,’ 1873, 8vo.

[Addresses and Charges of Edward Stanley, D.D., late bishop of Norwich, with a Memoir by his son, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, London, 1851. The Memoir is reprinted, with some additions, in the Memoirs of Edward and Catherine Stanley, by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, London, 1879.]

R. E. P.