Thomas Rennell

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The Very Reverend Thomas Rennell FRS (1754–1840) was an English churchman, dean of Winchester Cathedral and Master of the Temple.

Royal Society National academy of science in the United Kingdom

The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national Academy of Sciences. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as "The Royal Society". It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, recognising excellence in science, supporting outstanding science, providing scientific advice for policy, fostering international and global co-operation, education and public engagement. It also performs these roles for the smaller countries of the Commonwealth.

Winchester Cathedral Church in Hampshire, United Kingdom

Winchester Cathedral is a cathedral of the Church of England in Winchester, Hampshire, England. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with the greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral.

Temple Church Church in London

The Temple Church is a Royal peculiar church in the City of London located between Fleet Street and the River Thames, built by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters. It was consecrated on 10 February 1185 by Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem. During the reign of King John (1199–1216) it served as the royal treasury, supported by the role of the Knights Templars as proto-international bankers. It is jointly owned by the Inner Temple and Middle Temple Inns of Court, bases of the English legal profession. It is famous for being a round church, a common design feature for Knights Templar churches, and for its 13th- and 14th-century stone effigies. It was heavily damaged by German bombing during World War II and has since been greatly restored and rebuilt.



He was born on 8 February 1754 at Barnack in Northamptonshire, where his father, Thomas Rennell (1720–1798), a prebendary of Winchester, was rector. In 1766 Thomas was sent to Eton, and thence proceeded to King's College, Cambridge, where in due time he became a fellow. He was a diligent student, and though, as a King's man, he could not compete for mathematical honours, he obtained in 1778 one of the member's prizes for bachelors for the best Latin essay on 'Government'. He graduated Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1777, Master of Arts (MA) per lit. reg. in 1779, and Doctor of Divinity (DD) in 1794. [1]

Barnack village in the United Kingdom

Barnack is a village and civil parish, now in the Peterborough unitary authority of the ceremonial county of Cambridgeshire, England. Barnack is in the north-west of the unitary authority, 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south-east of Stamford, Lincolnshire. The parish includes the hamlet of Pilsgate about 1 mile (1.6 km) northwest of Barnack. Both Barnack and Pilsgate are on the B1443 road. The 2011 Census recorded a parish population of 931.

Northamptonshire County of England

Northamptonshire, archaically known as the County of Northampton, is a county in the East Midlands of England. In 2015 it had a population of 723,000. The county is administered by Northamptonshire County Council and by seven non-metropolitan district councils. It is known as "The Rose of the Shires".

A prebendary is a member of the Anglican or Roman Catholic clergy, a form of canon with a role in the administration of a cathedral or collegiate church. When attending services, prebendaries sit in particular seats, usually at the back of the choir stalls, known as prebendal stalls.

Pitt the Younger was impressed with Rennell. Pitt the Younger.jpg
Pitt the Younger was impressed with Rennell.

At Cambridge he made the acquaintance of Thomas James Mathias, and contributed to the notes of his Pursuits of Literature (1794-7). Mathias mentions him in the poem, in conjunction with Bishops Horsley and Douglas. Rennell left Cambridge on taking holy orders, and became curate to his father at Barnack. His ample leisure he devoted to theology. His father soon resigned his prebendal stall at Winchester in his favour, and in 1787 he undertook the charge of the populous parish of Alton. Subsequently, perhaps through the influence of the Marquis of Buckingham, he was presented to the rectory of St. Magnus, London Bridge. When he proceeded D.D. at Cambridge, in 1794, he preached a commencement sermon on the French Revolution which impressed Pitt, who called him 'the Demosthenes of the pulpit'. In 1797 Pitt urged him to accept the mastership of the Temple. He resigned his prebendal stall next year, and devoted himself to his new office. He made friends with the great lawyers of the day, such as Eldon, Stowell, Kenyon, and Erskine, and cultivated the society of the junior members of the bar and the law students. Again, through Pitt's influence, he was appointed in 1805 dean of Winchester, and extensive repairs took place in the fabric of the cathedral under his direction.

Thomas James Mathias, FRS was a British satirist and scholar.

Samuel Horsley Bishop of St Davids; Bishop of Rochester; Dean of Westminster; Bishop of St Asaph

Samuel Horsley was a British churchman, bishop of Rochester from 1793. He was also well versed in physics and mathematics, on which he wrote a number of papers and thus was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1767; and secretary in 1773, but, in consequence of a difference with the president he withdrew in 1784.

Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also deals with religious epistemology, asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.

Death and legacy

In consequence of growing infirmities, heightened probably by the premature death of his only son, he resigned the mastership of the Temple in 1827, when he wrote a touching letter of farewell to the Inns of the Inner and Middle Temple. He died at the deanery, Winchester, on 31 March 1840, in his eighty-seventh year. In 1786 he married at Winchester Sarah, eldest daughter of Sir William Blackstone, the judge, by whom he had an only son, Thomas (1787–1824)

Inns of Court Professional associations for barristers in England and Wales

The Inns of Court in London are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales. There are four Inns of Court – Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple.

Inner Temple one of the four Inns of Court in London, England

The Honorable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as the Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, a person must belong to one of these Inns. It is located in the wider Temple area of the capital, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London.

Middle Temple one of the four Inns of Court in London, England

The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known simply as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers, the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. It is located in the wider Temple area of London, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London.

Rennell's reputation stood high as a scholar and theologian. He was long an intimate friend of Henry Handley Norris and the rest of the high-churchmen who formed what was called the Hackney phalanx or "Clapton sect". Dr Samuel Parr described him as 'most illustrious'.

Henry Handley Norris (1771–1850) was an English clergyman and theologian. He was the clerical leader of the High Church grouping later known as the Hackney Phalanx, that grew up around him and his friend Joshua Watson.

High church Christian denominations which emphasize ritual and form

"High church" Christian denominations are those who emphasize formality in beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy, and theology, and often resist "modernisation". Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term originated in and has been principally associated with the Anglican/Episcopal tradition, where it describes Anglican churches using a number of ritual practices associated in the popular mind with Roman Catholicism. The opposite is low church. Contemporary media discussing Anglican churches tend to prefer evangelical to "low church", and Anglo-Catholic to "high church", though the terms do not exactly correspond. Other contemporary denominations that contain high church wings include some Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches.

Samuel Parr English schoolmaster, writer, minister and doctor of law

Samuel Parr, was an English schoolmaster, writer, minister and Doctor of Law. He was known in his time for political writing, and (flatteringly) as "the Whig Johnson", though his reputation has lasted less well than Samuel Johnson's, and the resemblances were at a superficial level; Parr was no prose stylist, even if he was an influential literary figure. A prolific correspondent, he kept up with many of his pupils, and involved himself widely in intellectual and political life.


He printed nothing except a volume of sermons Discourses on various Subjects (1801), most of which had been previously printed separately. They are scholarly productions, and the writer shows erudition in the notes.

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  1. "Rennell, Thomas (RNL773T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.

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The Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published since 1885. The updated Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes and online, with 50,113 biographical articles covering 54,922 lives.