How, William Walsham (DNB01)

HOW, WILLIAM WALSHAM (1823–1897), first bishop of Wakefield, born 13 Dec. 1823 at College Hill, St. Chad's parish, Shrewsbury, was eldest son of William Wyberg How, who belonged to an old Cumberland family and practised at Shrewsbury as a solicitor. He was educated at Shrewsbury school, and on 19 Nov. 1840 entered at Wadham College, Oxford. He was Goodridge exhibitioner in 1842, Warner exhibitioner 1842–3, and graduated B.A. with third-class honours in lit. hum. on 10 May 1845, and M.A. on 26 May 1847. He then passed through the theological course at Durham, was ordained deacon December 1846, and became curate at St. George's, Kidderminster, under Thomas Legh Claughton, afterwards bishop of St. Albans [q. v. Suppl.], from whom he received an excellent training for his ministerial work. He was ordained priest in December 1847, and in 1848, for family reasons, returned to Shrewsbury, where he acted as curate in the parish of Holy Cross. In 1849 he married Frances Anne, daughter of Henry Douglas, rector of Salwarpe and residentiary canon of Durham. In 1851 he became rector of Whittington in Shropshire, and remained there, an exemplary parish priest, for twenty-eight years. In 1854 he was appointed rural dean of Oswestry, in 1860 honorary canon of St. Asaph, in 1868 proctor for the clergy in convocation, and in the same year select preacher at Oxford.

How soon became known as a devotional writer, an efficient conductor of parochial missions, quiet days, and retreats, and a congress speaker. He was offered and declined the bishoprics of Natal (1867), New Zealand (1868), Montreal (1869), Cape Town (1873), and Jamaica (1878), besides a canonry, with superintendence of home mission work, at Winchester (1878), and the important livings of Brighton (1870), All Saints', Margaret Street (1873), and Windsor, with a readership to the queen (1878). The first offer he accepted was that of suffragan to the bishop of London, with episcopal supervision of East London. He had to assume the title of bishop of Bedford, because the only titles which could then be used by suffragan bishops were those specified in the Suffragan-bishop Act of Henry VIII. He was consecrated on St. James's day, 1879, and on the following day was instituted to the living of St. Andrew Undershaft, which supplied the income for the bishop, and a prebendal stall in St. Paul's Cathedral; in the same year he was created D.D. by the archbishop of Canterbury, and on 15 June 1886 by Oxford University. He resided at Stainforth House, Upper Clapton, which was generously put at his disposal by the owner, and became, as a co-worker said, 'the leader of an East London crusade.' He availed himself of the general feeling that the spiritual destitution of East London was appalling, and enlisted agencies for remedying the situation from all quarters. His first policy was 'to fill up the gaps in the ministry, both clerical and lay,' and for this purpose he founded an 'East London Church Fund,' which met with a ready response. The Princess Christian evinced the deepest sympathy with his work. He secured pulpits and drawing-room meetings in the rich west end to help the poor east, and awakened an interest in the subject in rich watering-places like Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, and Eastbourne, and also in the public schools and universities. Being recognised as a spiritual force, he attracted all spiritually minded people round him, and especially the clergy and laity in his own diocese. He received his clergy daily at Clapton, visited them at their own homes, and spent every available Sunday with one or other of them. But perhaps the work he loved best was that among children. There was no title that he valued more than that of 'The Children's Bishop,' which was popularly accorded him, and no one of his compositions which he wrote with greater zest than his volume of sermons to children.

The bishop's wife, who had taken a large share in the London work, died on 28 Aug. 1887, and the loss doubtless affected Walsham How's decision when in 1888 he accepted the offer of the new bishopric of Wakefield. He soon became as great a power in the north as he had been in the south. He met, perhaps, with more troubles in his new sphere than in his old, but his earnestness, tact, and geniality soon enabled him to overcome them, and his death, which took place during his August holiday in the west of Ireland on 10 Aug. 1897, was as much regretted in Yorkshire as in London. He was buried at Whittington, and the enlargement of Wakefield Cathedral was decided upon as a fitting memorial to him. He left a family of five sons and one daughter. An excellent portrait of him was painted by Mr. H. L. Norris for Wadham College in 1887, shortly before his death, and there is also one painted by Edward Taylor and presented to him by the clergy of St. Asaph diocese in 1879.

How was a keen fisherman and an accomplished botanist, and a most popular writer, both in prose and verse. His writings include 'Plain Words,' four series of admirable short sermons, the first of which appeared in 1869, and is now in its forty-eighth edition; several other volumes of 'Sermons,' published at various times; a 'Commentary on the Four Gospels' for S.P.C.K., begun in 1863 and finished in 1868, which has had a sale of 223,000; 'Pastor in Parochiâ' (1868, 5th ed. 1872) and 'Pastoral Work' (1883), which have also had a very large sale; 'Manual for the Holy Communion,' S.P.C.K., 1868, of which 657,000 copies have been sold; 'Daily Family Prayers' (1852, 4th ed. 1872), which are very widely used. In 1854 he published, in conjunction with the Rev. T. B. Morrell, a compilation of 'Psalms and Hymns;' he was one of the original compilers of 'Church Hymns,' brought out by S.P.C.K. in 1871, and Mrs. Carey Brock's 'Children's Hymn Book' (1881) was published under his revision. His own original hymns are very popular. His last was the hymn for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, written at the request of the Prince of Wales in 1897, not many weeks before his death. He also wrote some good sonnets and poems on miscellaneous subjects.

[Memoir of Bishop Walsham How, by his son, F. D. How; Bishop How's own writings; Gardiner's Reg. Wadham Coll. ii. 400; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886; Crockford's Clerical Directory; private information and personal knowledge.]

J. H. O.