John Parsons (bishop)

Last updated

John Parsons

Bishop of Peterborough
Bp John Parsons by William Owen.jpg
Portrait by William Owen
Diocese Diocese of Peterborough
In office1813–1819
Predecessor Spencer Madan
Successor Herbert Marsh
Other post(s) Dean of Bristol (1810–1813)
Personal details
Bornbaptised (1761-07-06)6 July 1761
Died12 March 1819(1819-03-12) (aged 57)
Buried Balliol College, Oxford
Denomination Anglican
SpouseElizabeth Parsons
Education Magdalen College School, Oxford
Alma mater Wadham College, Oxford

John Parsons (baptised 6 July 1761 – 12 March 1819) was an English churchman and academic, Master of Balliol College, Oxford from 1798, and Bishop of Peterborough from 1813.



He was son of Isaac Parsons, butler of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and his wife Alice; born in the parish of St Aldate's, Oxford, he was baptised in St Aldate's Church on 6 July 1761. He received his early education, first at the school attached to Christ Church, Oxford, and subsequently at Magdalen College School. In his 16th year, he was admitted to Wadham College on 26 June 1777, and was elected a scholar of the college on 30 June 1780. He graduated BA in 1782, and MA in 1785. His other degrees were BD and D.D., both in 1799. He was elected Fellow of Balliol College on 29 November 1785, and in July 1797 was presented by the college to the united livings of All Saints and St Leonard's, Colchester. On 14 November 1798, he was elected Master of Balliol, an office he held till his death. [1] From 1807 to 1810, he was Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. [2]

An academic reformer, he made college examination a reality, and in conjunction with John Eveleigh, Provost of Oriel College he gave a lead to the University, elaborating the examination Statute of 1801, by which university honours were for the first time awarded for real merit; and he was one of the first examiners, the earliest class list under the new system appearing in 1802. He was for many years a leading member of the Hebdomadal board. Richard Jenkyns, who succeeded him as Master, was tutor under him, and when Parsons was made a bishop was appointed Vice-Master, seconding his administration of the College. In national politics, he was a strong Tory, firmly opposed to Catholic emancipation. He was the senior of the three heads of houses who, on the death of William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland in 1809, proposed John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon for the chancellorship of the university, to which William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville was elected.

In 1810, he was appointed to the deanery of Bristol, and in 1812 he was presented to the chapter living of Weare in Somerset, which he held in commendam till his death. In 1813, he was raised to the bishopric of Peterborough, on the death of Spencer Madan, helped by the influence of Lord Eldon. He supported the National Society for the Education of the Poor, with Provost Eveleigh; and Parsons, together with Joshua Watson, is credited with drawing up in 1812 the terms of union for the district committees of the provincial schools.

In the House of Lords he seldom spoke, but was active on committees. He died at Oxford on 12 March 1819, and was buried in the chapel of Balliol College, where a monument was erected by John Bacon. [3]


Only two of his sermons were printed; all his manuscript sermons were burnt after his death, by his express desire. In the acrimonious controversy concerning the 1784 Bampton Lectures of Joseph White, the Arabic professor, of which Samuel Badcock was asserted to have been the author, and portions of which were claimed by Samuel Parr, Parsons was appointed one of the arbitrators, but declined to act; and it was believed that he also had a share in the lectures, as Parr knew.


On 22 January 1798, Parsons married Elizabeth Parsons, probably a cousin, at St Aldates church. He left no children by his wife, who survived him.

Related Research Articles

Shute Barrington 18th and 19th-century Anglican bishop in Britain

Shute Barrington was an English churchman, Bishop of Llandaff in Wales, as well as Bishop of Salisbury and Bishop of Durham in England.

Richard Cumberland (dramatist) English dramatist and civil servant (1732–1811)

Richard Cumberland was an English dramatist and civil servant. In 1771 his hit play The West Indian was first staged. During the American War of Independence he acted as a secret negotiator with Spain in an effort to secure a peace agreement between the two nations. He also edited a short-lived critical journal called The London Review (1809). His plays are often remembered for their sympathetic depiction of characters generally considered to be on the margins of society.

James Woodforde English diarist and cleric, 1740–1803

James Woodforde (1740–1803) was an English clergyman, mainly in Somerset and Norfolk, remembered as the author of The Diary of a Country Parson. This vivid account of parish life remained unpublished until the 20th century.

Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford

Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford was a British politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1761 until 1784 when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Camelford. He was an art connoisseur.

John Andrews (priest)

John Andrews was an American Episcopal priest; 4th Provost of the University of Pennsylvania (1810–1813), 3rd Vice Provost (1789–1810), and Professor of Moral Philosophy (1789–1813) of the same college; Principal of the Episcopal Academy of Philadelphia (1785–1789); Rector of St. Thomas Church in Garrison Forest, Baltimore County, Maryland (1782–1784); founder of the bases of York College of Pennsylvania (1776); Minister of St. Peter's Episcopal Church (1767–1770); lecturer; and author of published textbooks and sermons.

Archibald Acheson 1st Viscount Gosford PC (Ire), known as Sir Achibald Acheson, 6th Bt from 1748 to 1776, was an Irish peer and politician.

Henry Penruddocke Wyndham (1736–1819) MP JP FSA FRS, was a British Whig Member of Parliament, topographer and author.

George William Hall

Rev. George William Hall D.D. (1770–1843) was Master of Pembroke College, Oxford (1809–1843) and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University (1820–1824).

Richard Howland (1540–1600) was an English churchman and academic, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and of St John's College, Cambridge, and bishop of Peterborough.

William Cleaver

William Cleaver (1742–1815) was an English churchman and academic, Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford, and bishop of three sees.

Folliott Cornewall

Folliott Herbert Walker Cornewall was an English bishop of three sees.

Peter Peckard was an English Whig, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, Church of England minister and abolitionist. From 1781 he was Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was incorporated at Cambridge in 1782, appointed vice-chancellor in 1784, and created Doctor of Divinity (DD) per literas regias in 1785. In April 1792 he became Dean of Peterborough.

George Fothergill, DD was a British academic and Anglican priest. He was principal of St Edmund Hall, Oxford between 1751 and 1760.

Benjamin Parsons Symons

Benjamin Parsons Symons was an academic administrator at the University of Oxford in England.

Richard Jenkyns

Richard Jenkyns was a British academic administrator at the University of Oxford and Dean at Wells Cathedral.

Theophilus Leigh

The Revd Theophilus Leigh, D.D. was an 18th-century Oxford academic of aristocratic descent.

John Eveleigh (Oriel)

John Eveleigh (1748–1814) was an English churchman and academic, Provost of Oriel College, Oxford, from 1781.

Richard Griffin, 2nd Baron Braybrooke

Richard Griffin, 2nd Baron Braybrooke was an English politician and peer. He was known as Richard Aldworth-Neville or Richard Aldworth Griffin-Neville to 1797.

Edward Pearson (theologian)

Edward Pearson (1756–1811) was an English academic and theologian, Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge from 1808.

John Davey, D.D. was Master of Balliol College, Oxford from 1785 until his death.


  1. H. E. Salter and Mary D. Lobel, ed. (1954). "Balliol College". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford. Victoria County History. pp. 82–95. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  2. "Previous Vice-Chancellors". University of Oxford, UK. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  3. Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 by Rupert Gunnis


Academic offices
Preceded by Master of Balliol College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Preceded by Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University
Succeeded by
Church of England titles
Preceded by Dean of Bristol
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Peterborough
Succeeded by