Maurice Harland

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Maurice Harland

Bishop of Durham
Diocese Diocese of Durham
In office1956–1966 (retired)
Predecessor Michael Ramsey
Successor Ian Ramsey
Other posts Bishop suffragan of Croydon (1942–1947)
Archdeacon of Croydon (1946–1947)
Bishop of Lincoln (11 July 1947 {confirmed}–7 July 1956 {translated})
Ordination1922 (deacon)
1923 (priest)
Personal details
Born(1896-04-17)17 April 1896
Malton, North Riding of Yorkshire
Died29 September 1986(1986-09-29) (aged 90)
Chichester, West Sussex
Nationality British
Denomination Anglican
ParentsWilliam & Elizabeth Harland
SpouseAgnes Harland MBE (née Winckley)
Childrentwo daughters
Profession airman
Education St Peter's School, York
Alma mater Exeter College, Oxford
Leeds Clergy School

Maurice Henry Harland (17 April 1896 – 29 September 1986) was a 20th-century Anglican bishop, his most significant appointment being Bishop of Durham from 1956 to 1966. [1] He was one of nine Diocesan bishops in England in the 1950s who had served as combatants in the Great War [2]


Early life

Harland was born on 17 April 1896, the son of the Revd William George and Clara Elizabeth Harland and educated at St Peter's School, York. [3] He went straight from school in 1914 as a volunteer to the West Yorkshire Regiment soon after the First World War broke out. He joined the Royal Field Artillery as a lieutenant in France in 1915, and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. [4] He was a Flying Officer Observer from June 1917, then a Flying Officer and from April 1918 a Lieutenant. He was on anti-submarine patrol duties in August 1918, and was with No. 212 Squadron RAF when he was demobilised in 1919. [5]

Marries and begins ministry

On demobilisation he went to Exeter College, Oxford, [lower-alpha 1] graduating BA in 1922, MA 1927. [lower-alpha 2] After a period of study at Leeds Clergy School he became a curate at St Peter's Leicester, during which time he married Agnes Winckley. [lower-alpha 3] They had two daughters.

Career progresses

After five years he was appointed successively priest in charge of St Anne's Conventional District, [6] Perpetual Curate [lower-alpha 4] of St Matthew's Holbeck, Leeds, Vicar of St Mary's, Windermere and Rural Dean of Ambleside. Harland's reputation in Windermere was considerable and, with the support of the influential Bishop of Carlisle, [8] he was considered for the Diocesan bishopric of Blackburn before his appointment as suffragan Bishop of Croydon [9] In 1946, Archbishop Fisher named him as his second choice for the vacancy at Bristol but George Cockin (Fisher's third choice) was appointed [10] In 1947, Fisher pressed the case for Harland to go to Lincoln whose recent bishops had proved fragile in health. Harland, noted Fisher, was physically strong although not a scholar in the Lincoln tradition. Harland, therefore, was surprised to be offered the post.

'I have seen the Archbishop today and he has been so kind as to make it clear that I must accept your proposal to submit my name to the King for the Bishopric of Lincoln', he wrote to the Prime Minister. [11]

He was even more surprised to be offered Durham in 1956 since traditionally the post had been filled by a scholar who could comfortably blend with the University. The post had been offered to Kenneth Warner DSO, bishop of Edinburgh and, like Harland, a Great War combatant but Warner refused it. Harland wrote again that he had been pressed to accept the post by Archbishop Fisher. [12] Harland made no secret of his limitations in a letter to the diocese.

'The announcement of my prospective translation comes as a quite staggering surprise to my wife and me. It fills me with trepidation.' He noted that Durham had a long history of bishops famous 'for saintliness, scholarship and learning. I am afraid I am quite outside that tradition' [13]

Harland suffered a curious habit of easily forgetting names which did not endear him to his clergy. But he excelled at being a 'layman's bishop'. [14] Administratively and managerially competent, and admired for his pastoral work, he was a contrast to his successor, the dynamic, charismatic academic but rather disorderly Ian Ramsey. [15]

He was alone amongst the episcopate in opposing the abolition of the death penalty for murder in debate in the House of Lords. This was his conclusion having spent many last nights with condemned men while at Lincoln.


Harland resigned his see in 1966 and retired to West Wittering, living another 20 years before dying on 29 September 1986.


  1. Made Honorary Fellow in 1950
  2. Unlike other universities this is essentially the same degree, a period of time and a small payment securing the higher degree
  3. She was awarded the MBE in 1967
  4. When a new parish was created from a larger rectoral or vicarious parish, the incumbent, or parish priest was styled a “perpetual curate". [7]

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  1. The Times, Thursday, 19 July 1956; p. 6; Issue 53587; col A Introduced as Bishop of Durham
  2. 'What did you do in the Great War, Bishop?' by Tom Scherb in Stand To!, number 99, Western Front Association.
  3. "Harland, Rt. Rev Maurice Henry". Who's Who . 1920–2014 (April 2014 online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. Retrieved 17 September 2014.(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  4. The Times obituary, 1 October 1986. The Times Digital Archive. Accessed 23 July 2012.
  5. TNA AIR76/210/5
  6. Leicester Churches
  7. Faith, History and Practice of the Church of England, Eaton, W.A. (London, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1954 rpnt 1972 p. 37, ISBN   0-340-00718-4
  8. TNA PREM5/262. According to a file note, Bishop Williams was regularly consulted by Churchill on church business and PMs were the key figures in episcopal appointments at that time.
  9. Lambeth Palace Library. W. Temple 17
  10. Lambeth Palace Library. Fisher 13
  11. TNA PREM5/259
  12. TNA PREM5/473
  13. University of Durham Library. DDR/DA/PUB/6/16. The Bishoprick, April, 1956
  14. 'Memories' you CHG Hopkins, D Brown and Sons, p89
  15. 'The Improbable Bishop' by John S Peart- Binns, Memoir Club, 2010
Church of England titles
Preceded by
William Anderson
Bishop of Croydon
Succeeded by
Cuthbert Bardsley
Preceded by
Leslie Owen
Bishop of Lincoln
Succeeded by
Kenneth Riches
Preceded by
Michael Ramsey
Bishop of Durham
Succeeded by
Ian Ramsey