John Gilbert (archbishop of York)

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John Gilbert

Archbishop of York
John Gilbert portrait.jpg
Portrait by Thomas Hudson
Province Province of York
Diocese Diocese of York
In office1757–1761 (death)
Predecessor Matthew Hutton
Successor Robert Hay Drummond
Other post(s) Dean of Exeter (27 December 1726 {elected} [1] –?)
Bishop of Llandaff (28 December 1740 [1] –1749)
Bishop of Salisbury (October 1749 [1] –1757)
Chancellor of the Order of the Garter (1750 [1] –?)
Clerk of the Closet (October 1752 [1] –?)
Lord High Almoner (c.1757 [1] –?)
Personal details
Born(1693-10-18)18 October 1693 [1]
Died9 August 1761(1761-08-09) (aged 67)
Twickenham, Middlesex, Great Britain
Buried Grosvenor Chapel
Nationality British (formerly English)
Denomination Anglican
ParentsJohn Gilbert & Martha [1]
SpouseMargaret Sherard
 married 2 May 1726 at St James's, Westminster
 she predeceased him
ChildrenEmma Countess of Mount Edgcumbe
Education Merchant Taylors' School, City of London [1]
Alma mater Magdalen Hall, Oxford [1]
Trinity College, Oxford
Merton College, Oxford
Ordination history of
John Gilbert
Episcopal consecration
Date28 December 1740

John Gilbert (18 October 1693 – 9 August 1761) was Archbishop of York from 1757 to 1761. [1]


Early life

Gilbert was the son of John Gilbert, fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, vicar of St Andrew's, Plymouth, and prebendary of Exeter, who died in 1722.

He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School. He matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford in July 1711, aged 17, but moved to Trinity College, Oxford, where he graduated BA in 1715. He became a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford in 1716, proceeded MA in February 1718, and received a Lambeth LL.D. in January 1725. [2]


Owing to his connection with the cathedral of Exeter and his aristocratic connections, Gilbert began early to climb the ladder of preferment. On 1 August 1721 he was appointed to the chapter living of Ashburton; on 4 January 1723 he succeeded to the prebendal stall vacated by his father's death; on 4 June 1724 he was appointed subdean of Exeter, which he vacated on his installation to the deanery, on 27 December 1726; on 8 January 1724 he was granted the degree of LLD at Lambeth. In January 1726, he received from the crown a canonry at Christ Church, which he held in commendam with the bishopric of Llandaff, to which he was consecrated on 28 December 1740.

In 1749, he was translated to Salisbury where he was also ex officio Chancellor of the Order of the Garter . In 1752, he succeeded Bishop Joseph Butler as Clerk of the Closet, and in 1757 the archiepiscopate of York, to which the office of Lord High Almoner was added, crowned his long series of ecclesiastical preferments.

Archbishop of York

Gilbert was mostly a place-holder archbishop. His health had begun to deteriorate prior to his appointment and he lived "through a pontificate of four years, when he sank under a complication of infirmities." [3] Gilbert seems to have possessed few qualifications to justify his high promotion in the church. He was neither a scholar nor a theologian. Nor were these deficiencies compensated by graces of character. A friendly witness, Bishop Thomas Newton, speaks of his being regarded as "somewhat haughty;" while Horace Walpole, describes him as "composed of that common mixture of ignorance, meanness, and arrogance." John Newton, William Cowper's friend, when seeking to obtain ordination from him, found Gilbert "inflexible in supporting the rules and canons of the church."

His imperious character is illustrated by his refusal to allow the civic mace to be carried before the mayor of Salisbury in processions within the cathedral precincts, for which he claimed a separate jurisdiction, disobedience to which, it is said, caused an unseemly personal scuffle between him and the mace-bearer. According to Newton, Gilbert was the first prelate to introduce at confirmations the practice of the bishop laying his hands on each candidate at the altar rails, and then retiring and solemnly pronouncing the prayer once for the whole number. This mode was first observed at St. Mary's Church, Nottingham; it "commanded attention, and raised devotion," and before long became the regular manner of administering the rite.

Personal life

Gilbert married Margaret Sherard (sister of Philip Sherard, 2nd Earl of Harborough and daughter of Bennet Sherard of Whissendine and Dorothy, daughter of Henry Fairfax, 4th Lord Fairfax of Cameron), who predeceased him. They were the parents of:

He died at Twickenham on 9 August 1761, aged 68, and was buried in a vault in Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street.


Gilbert's only publications were occasional sermons. There are portraits of him, in the robes of the chancellor of the Order of the Garter.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Gilbert, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10692.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. Foster, Joseph (1891). Alumni Oxonienses 1500–1714: Gilbert, John. pp. 542–568. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  3. W. Dickinson Rastall, History of Southwell (1787), p. 328


Church of England titles
Preceded by Bishop of Llandaff
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Salisbury
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of York
Succeeded by