Open main menu

DORNFORD, JOSEPH (1794–1868), rector of Plymtree, Devonshire, born 9 Jan. 1794, was the son of Josiah Dornford of Deptford, Kent, and the half-brother of Josiah Dornford, miscellaneous writer [q. v.] His mother, Mrs. Thomason, was a Cambridge lady who has been described (Mozley, Reminiscences, chap. lxxviii.) as the chief lady friend of the evangelical leader, Charles Simeon [q. v.], and as pouring out the tea for his weekly gatherings. Dornford entered young at Trinity College, Cambridge, which in 1811 he suddenly left to serve as a volunteer in the Peninsular war. Mozley says: ‘He would rather fly to the ends of the earth and seek the company of cannibals or wild beasts than be bound to a life of tea and twaddle.’ He saw some service, and on his return home he entered at Wadham College, Oxford, where he proceeded B.A. in 1816. In 1817 he was elected to a Michel fellowship at Queen's, and in 1819 to a fellowship at Oriel, where he graduated M.A. 1820. In that year he joined Dr. Hamel on the well-known ascent of Mont Blanc in which three guides were killed. He was successively elected tutor, dean, and proctor of his college. Succeeding Keble in the tutorship, ‘Keble's pupils felt it a sad let down. … Yet they who came after, as I did, found Dornford a good lecturer, up to his work, ready, precise, and incisive’ (ib.) In 1832 he was presented by his college to the rectory of Plymtree, and in 1847 he was collated by Bishop Phillpotts prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. He published nothing save a few sermons. One of these, on ‘The Christian Sacraments,’ is contained in a volume edited by the Rev. Alexander Watson, ‘Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, and other Liturgical Occasions, contributed by bishops and other clergy of the church’ (1845). In his bearing Dornford was more of a soldier than a priest, and his talk ran much on war. He was a man of strong will, generous impulses, and pugnacious temper. He died at Plymtree on 18 Jan. 1868, aged 74.

[Gent. Mag. 1868, p. 391; Mozley's Reminiscences, chiefly of Oriel College and the Oxford Movement, chaps. lxxviii. lxxix. and lxxx.]

J. M. S.