Richard Watson (bishop of Llandaff)

Last updated

Richard Watson Portrait of Richard Watson, D.D. Lord Bishop of Landaff (4672127).jpg
Richard Watson

Richard Watson (1737–1816) was an Anglican bishop and academic, who served as the Bishop of Llandaff from 1782 to 1816. He wrote some notable political pamphlets. In theology, he belonged to an influential group of followers of Edmund Law that included also John Hey and William Paley. [1]



Watson was born in Heversham, Westmorland (now Cumbria), and educated at Heversham Grammar School and Trinity College, Cambridge, [2] on a scholarship endowed by Edward Wilson of Nether Levens (1557–1653). [3] In 1759 he graduated as Second Wrangler after having challenged Massey for the position of Senior Wrangler. This challenge, in part, prompted the University Proctor, William Farish, to introduce the practice of assigning specific marks to individual questions in University tests and, in so doing, replaced the practice of 'judgement' at Cambridge with 'marking'. Marking subsequently emerged as the predominant method to determine rank order in meritocratic systems. [4] In 1760 he became a fellow of Trinity [2] and in 1762 received his MA degree. He became Professor of Chemistry in 1764 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1769 after publishing a paper on the solution of salts in Philosophical Transactions .

Watson's theological career began when he became the Cambridge Regius Professor of Divinity in 1771. [2] In 1773, he married Dorothy Wilson, daughter of Edward Wilson of Dallam Tower and a descendant of the eponymous benefactor who had endowed Watson's scholarship. In 1774, he took up the position of prebendary of Ely Cathedral. He became archdeacon of Ely and rector of Northwold in 1779, leaving the Northwold post two years later to become rector of Knaptoft. In 1782, he left all his previous appointments to take up the post of Bishop of Llandaff, which he held until his death in 1816. In 1788, he purchased the Calgarth estate in Troutbeck Bridge, Windermere, Westmorland. The same year he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. [5]

Watson was buried at St Martin's Church in Bowness-on-Windermere.


Watson contributed to the Revolution controversy, with A treatise upon the authenticity of the Scriptures, and the truth of the Christian religion (1792) and most notably in 1796 when he delivered his counterblast to Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason in An Apology for the Bible which he had "reason to believe, was of singular service in stopping that torrent of irreligion which had been excited by [Paine's] writings". [6] In 1798 he published An Address to the People of Great Britain, which argued for national taxes to be raised to pay for the war against France and to reduce the national debt. Gilbert Wakefield, a Unitarian minister who taught at Warrington Academy, responded with A Reply to Some Parts of the Bishop Llandaff's Address to the People of Great Britain, attacking the privileged position of the wealthy.

An autobiography, Anecdotes of the life of Richard Watson, Bishop of Landaff, was finished in 1814 and published posthumously in 1817.

In the 19th century, it was rumoured that Watson had been the first to propose the electric telegraph, but this is incorrect. At the time William Watson (1715–1787) made researches in electricity, but even he was not involved in the telegraph. [7]


  1. Hans J. Hillerbrand (2 August 2004). Encyclopedia of Protestantism: 4-volume Set. Routledge. p. 558. ISBN   978-1-135-96028-5.
  2. 1 2 3 "Watson, Richard (WT754R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. R Percival Brown, Edward Wilson of Nether Levens (1557–1653) and his kin (Kendal, 1930)
  4. Pollitt, A. (2012). Comparative judgement for assessment. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 22(2), 157–170.
  5. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter W" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  6. Anecdotes of the life of Richard Watson, Bishop of Landaff (1817) p. 287.
  7. Bishop Watson and the Electric Telegraph, by Dr. Hamel, of St. Petersburg, in The Journal of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, vol. 9 (25 October 1861), pp. 790–791.

Related Research Articles

Edward Waring English mathematician

Edward Waring was a British mathematician. He entered Magdalene College, Cambridge as a sizar and became Senior wrangler in 1757. He was elected a Fellow of Magdalene and in 1760 Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, holding the chair until his death. He made the assertion known as Waring's problem without proof in his writings Meditationes Algebraicae. Waring was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1763 and awarded the Copley Medal in 1784.

Llandaff Cathedral Church in Cardiff, Wales

Llandaff Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and parish church in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales. It is the seat of the Bishop of Llandaff, head of the Church in Wales Diocese of Llandaff. It is dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and three Welsh saints: Dubricius, Teilo and Oudoceus. It is one of two cathedrals in Cardiff, the other being the Roman Catholic Cardiff Metropolitan Cathedral in the city centre.

John Bird Sumner Archbishop of Canterbury; Bishop of Chester; British Anglican bishop

John Bird Sumner was a bishop in the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury.

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 colonial characters and others generally considered to be on the margins of society.
N.b. Cambridgeshire Family History Society have transcribed his baptism record & quote his birth as 19th Feb 1731, Baptism date 5 Mar 1731.
The Oxford University and City Herald 18 May 1811 : Deaths : Richard Cumberland esq., author of the Observer Aged 80.
The Society of Genealogists have a burial record for Richard Cumberland 1731-1811 buried at Westminster Abbey.

John Nichols (printer) English printer, author and antiquarian

John Nichols was an English printer, author and antiquary. He is remembered as an influential editor of the Gentleman's Magazine for nearly 40 years; author of a monumental county history of Leicestershire; author of two compendia of biographical material relating to his literary contemporaries; and as one of the agents behind the first complete publication of Domesday Book in 1783.

Windermere largest natural lake in England

Windermere is the largest natural lake in England. It is a ribbon lake formed in a glacial trough after the retreat of ice at the start of the current interglacial period. It has been one of the country's most popular places for holidays and summer homes since the arrival of the Kendal and Windermere Railway's branch line in 1847. Historically forming part of the border between Lancashire and Westmorland, it is now within the county of Cumbria and the Lake District National Park.

The Regius Professorships of Divinity are amongst the oldest professorships at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. A third chair existed for a period at Trinity College, Dublin.

Herbert Marsh British bishop

Herbert Marsh was a bishop in the Church of England.

Patrick Duigenan British politician

Patrick Duigenan, KC, FTCD, Irish lawyer and politician, was the son of a Leitrim Catholic farmer surnamed Ó Duibhgeannáin.

Gilbert Wakefield was an English scholar and controversialist.

Sedbergh School school in Cumbria, UK

Sedbergh School is a co-educational independent boarding school in the town of Sedbergh in Cumbria, in North West England. It comprises a junior school for children aged 4 to 13 and the main school. It was established in 1525.

Dallam School is a mixed, 11-18 secondary school with academy status, located in Milnthorpe, Cumbria, England.

Westmorland in North West England no longer exists as a county, the original core of it having merged into the modern district of Eden within the county of Cumbria.

Events from the 1510s in England.

George Henry Law British bishop

George Henry Law was the Bishop of Chester (1812) and then, from 1824, Bishop of Bath and Wells.

St Martins Church, Bowness-on-Windermere Church in Cumbria, England

St Martin's Church stands in the centre of the town of Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, England. It is an active Anglican parish church in the deanery of Windermere, the archdeaconry of Westmorland and Furness, and the diocese of Carlisle. The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building. Its benefice is united with that of St Anne’s Church, Ings; St Cuthbert's Church, Kentmere; St James' Church, Staveley; Jesus Church, Troutbeck and St Mary's Church, Windermere.

Robert Wilson Evans was an English cleric and author, Archdeacon of Westmorland from 1856 until his death a decade later.

Dean and Chapter of St Pauls

The Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral was the titular corporate body of St Paul's Cathedral in London up to the end of the twentieth century. It consisted of the dean and the canons, priests attached to the cathedral who were known as "prebendaries" because of the source of their income. The Dean and Chapter was made up of a large number of priests who would meet "in chapter", but such meetings were infrequent and the actual governance was done by the Administrative Chapter headed by the dean, made up of several senior "residentiary canons", who were also known as the "Dean and Canons of St Paul’s" or simply "The Chapter".

The phrase "hard progeny of the North" was coined c. 1800 by Gilbert Wakefield, a Unitarian tutor at Warrington Academy. He wrote that "[i]t is observed at Cambridge, and is generally true that the hard progeny of the North, from Cumberland, Westmorland and the remote parts of Yorkshire are usually the profoundest proficient in mathematics and philosophy." This article collates information and historical scholarship on these (male) progeny of Northern England who flourished between the mid eighteenth and early nineteenth century, with a focus on those who made significant contributions to mathematics and science. It is based on the catalogue of an exhibition first displayed at Lancaster University in 1976, currently being updated.