Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parkinson, Richard (1797-1858)

PARKINSON, RICHARD, D.D. (1797–1858), canon of Manchester, the son of John Parkinson, by his wife Margaret Blackburne, came from a yeoman family long settled in North Lancashire, and was born at Woodgates, Admarsh, near Lancaster, on 17 Sept. 1797. He was educated at the grammar schools of Chipping, Hawkstead, and Sedbergh, and at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in December 1815. At Sedbergh he was the last pupil who studied mathematics under the well-known John Dawson, and at Cambridge his tutor was Dr. Thomas Calvert, afterwards warden of Manchester. He graduated B.A. in 1820, proceeding M.A. in 1824, B.D. in 1838, and D.D. on 10 Dec. 1851. On leaving Cambridge in 1820 he was for a short time master of Lea School, near Preston. He edited the ‘Preston Sentinel,’ a conservative newspaper, during its one year's existence (1821), and was a frequent contributor to its successor, the ‘Preston Pilot.’ He wrote also for ‘Blackwood's Magazine,’ one of his pieces (November 1820) being an amusing parody on ‘Young Lochinvar.’ In 1823 he was ordained, and became curate of St. Michael's-on-Wyre, Lancashire. Three years later he was appointed theological lecturer or tutor at St. Bees College, Cumberland, of which institution he was, twenty years afterwards, promoted to be principal. He obtained the Seatonian prize at Cambridge in 1830 for his poem on the ‘Ascent of Elijah,’ one of the unsuccessful candidates being W. M. Praed. In the same year he was appointed perpetual curate of Whitworth, near Rochdale, Lancashire. This living he resigned in 1841, in favour of his curate, who was a descendant of ‘Wonderful Walker,’ the Seathwaite patriarch, commemorated by Wordsworth, and by Parkinson himself in his ‘Old Church Clock.’ In 1833 he preached at Bishop Sumner's visitation at Manchester, and the sermon had the effect of obtaining for the preacher election (on 20 May 1833) as fellow of the collegiate chapter. In 1837, and again in 1838, he was Hulsean lecturer at Cambridge. At Manchester he was very popular, but his retention of the fellowship (afterwards canonry) of the collegiate church after his appointment in September 1846 as principal of St. Bees College and incumbent of St. Bees Church led to some bitterness of feeling. This discontent arose, it was said, because the people so highly valued him that they wished to keep him all to themselves. Under his governance the college of St. Bees attained a celebrity which it never previously possessed. He was a liberal donor to church objects, and defrayed a large portion of the cost of rebuilding the vicarage-house and the old conventual abbey of St. Bees.

On 1 March 1857 he was suddenly seized with an attack of paralysis while in the pulpit of the Manchester Cathedral, and, although he resumed his duties, his constitution received a permanent shock. On 28 Jan. 1858 he had a second paralytic seizure at St. Bees, and died on the same day. His portrait, by Charles Mercier, was presented to St. Bees College by his friends shortly before his death. It was subsequently engraved.

Parkinson married, in 1831, Catherine, daughter of Thomas Hartley of Gill Foot, Cumberland (she died in 1860), and had two sons and two daughters.

Parkinson was one of the founders of the Chetham Society, and its vice-president from the commencement in 1843. He edited for the society: 1. ‘The Life of Adam Martindale,’ 1845. 2. ‘The Autobiography of Henry Newcome,’ 1851–2, 2 vols. 3. ‘The Private Journal and Literary Remains of John Byrom,’ 4 vols. 1853–8. The notes to the last-named were contributed by Canon Raines and James Crossley. In addition to these works, and many separate sermons and pamphlets, he published:

  1. ‘Sermons on Points of Doctrine and Rules of Duty,’ 1825.
  2. ‘Poems Sacred and Miscellaneous,’ Whitehaven, 1832; reissued with Appendix in 1845.
  3. ‘Rationalism and Revelation: Hulsean Lectures,’ 1837.
  4. ‘The Constitution of the Visible Church of Christ: Hulsean Lectures,’ 1838.
  5. ‘The Old Church Clock,’ 1843; 4th edit. 1852; 5th edit. 1880, with memoir and notes by John Evans. This interesting story, in which is interwoven a narrative of ‘Wonderful Walker,’ was originally issued in the ‘Christian Magazine.’

[Evans's Lancashire Authors and Orators, 1850, p. 198; Evans's Preface to 5th edit. of the Old Church Clock; Raines's Fellows of the Collegiate Church of Manchester (Chetham Soc.), 1891, ii. 361; George Huntington's Random Recollections, 1893 (a pleasant picture of a ‘genial principal’); Gent. Mag. May 1858; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

C. W. S.