Thomas Secker

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Thomas Secker
Archbishop of Canterbury
Term ended1768
Predecessor Matthew Hutton
Successor Frederick Cornwallis
Other posts Bishop of Bristol (1735–1737)
Bishop of Oxford (1737–1758)
Personal details
Born(1693-09-21)21 September 1693
Sibthorpe, Nottinghamshire
Died3 August 1768(1768-08-03) (aged 74)
Lambeth Palace, London
Alma mater Leiden University
Exeter College, Oxford

Thomas Secker (21 September 1693 – 3 August 1768) was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England.

Archbishop of Canterbury Senior bishop of the Church of England

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. The current archbishop is Justin Welby, who was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013. Welby is the 105th in a line which goes back more than 1400 years to Augustine of Canterbury, the "Apostle to the English", sent from Rome in the year 597. Welby succeeded Rowan Williams.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.


Early life and studies

Secker was born in Sibthorpe, Nottinghamshire. In 1699, he went to Richard Brown's free school in Chesterfield, staying with his half-sister and her husband, Elizabeth and Richard Milnes. According to a story in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1768, Brown congratulated Secker for his successful studies by remarking, "If thou wouldst but come over to the Church, I am sure thou wouldst be a bishop."[ citation needed ] Under Brown's teaching, Secker believed that he had attained a competency in Greek and Latin.

Sibthorpe village in the United Kingdom

Sibthorpe is a village in Nottinghamshire, England. It is part of Sibthorpe civil parish. It is in the civil parish of Shelton.

Free education is education funded through government spending or charitable organizations rather than tuition funding. Many models of free higher education have been proposed. Primary school and other comprehensive or compulsory education is free in many countries, including post-graduate studies in the Nordic countries. The Article 13 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ensures the right to free education at primary education and progressive introduction of it at secondary and higher education as the right to education.

Chesterfield Town & Borough in England

Chesterfield is a large market town and borough in Derbyshire, England. It lies 24 miles (39 km) north of Derby and 11 miles (18 km) south of Sheffield at the confluence of the rivers Rother and Hipper. Including Whittington, Brimington and Staveley it had a population of about 103,800 in 2011, making it the second largest town in the ceremonial county after Derby. Archaeologists trace it back to a Roman fort built in the 1st century AD, but soon abandoned. Later an Anglo-Saxon village developed. The name derives from the Old English ceaster and feld. It has a street market of some 250 stalls three days a week. The town sits on a coalfield, which was economically important until the 1980s. Little visual evidence of mining remains. The best-known landmark is the Church of St Mary and All Saints with its crooked spire, originally built in the 14th century.

He attended Timothy Jollie's dissenting academy at Attercliffe from 1708, but was frustrated by Jollie's poor teaching, famously remarking that he lost his knowledge of languages and that 'only the old Philosophy of the Schools was taught there: and that neither ably nor diligently. The morals also of many of the young Men were bad. I spent my time there idly & ill'. [1] He left after one and a half years.

Timothy Jollie,, was a nonconformist minister and notable educator in the north of England.

The dissenting academies were schools, colleges and seminaries run by English Dissenters, that is, those who did not conform to the Church of England. They formed a significant part of England’s educational systems from the mid-seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.

Attercliffe suburb of Sheffield, England

Attercliffe is an industrial suburb of northeast Sheffield, England on the south bank of the River Don. The suburb falls in the Darnall ward of Sheffield City Council.

In 1710, he moved to London, staying in the house of the father of John Bowes, who had been one of Jollie's students and would one day become Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Whilst here, he studied geometry, conic sections, algebra, French, and John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding .

John Bowes, 1st Baron Bowes Irish politician

John Bowes, 1st Baron Bowes PC (I) was an Anglo-Irish peer, politician and judge. He was noted for his great legal ability, but also for his implacable hostility to Roman Catholics.

The office of Lord High Chancellor of Ireland was the highest judicial office in Ireland until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. From 1721 to 1801, it was also the highest political office of the Irish Parliament: the Chancellor was Speaker of the Irish House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor was also Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Ireland. In all three respects, the office mirrored the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.

John Locke English philosopher and physician

John Locke was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.

Tewkesbury Academy and Samuel Jones

Also boarding at Bowes's house was Isaac Watts, who encouraged Secker to attend the dissenting academy in Gloucester set up by Samuel Jones. There Secker recovered his ability at languages, supplementing his understanding of Greek and Latin with studies in Hebrew, Chaldee and Syriac. Jones's course was also famous for his systems of Jewish antiquities and logic; maths was similarly studied to a higher than usual level.

Isaac Watts English hymnwriter, theologian and logician

Isaac Watts was an English Christian minister (Congregational), hymn writer, theologian, and logician. He was a prolific and popular hymn writer and is credited with some 750 hymns. He is recognized as the "Godfather of English Hymnody"; many of his hymns remain in use today and have been translated into numerous languages.

The Dissenting academy in Tewkesbury was an important centre of learning for the Protestant Non-conformists in the early 18th century. It was run by Samuel Jones, and its students included both Dissenters such as Samuel Chandler and those who became significant Establishment figures such as Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Secker and Joseph Butler.

Samuel Jones was an English Dissenter and educator, known for founding a significant Dissenting academy at Tewkesbury.

Also at Jones's academy contemporaneously with Secker were the later Church of England bishops Joseph Butler and Isaac Maddox and also John Bowes; other luminaries included the future dissenting leaders Samuel Chandler, Jeremiah Jones and Vavasour Griffiths. In 1713, Jones moved his academy to larger premises in Tewkesbury, partly financed by £200 from Secker. But Secker soon became involved with the clandestine correspondence between Butler and a Church of England cleric, Samuel Clarke, concerning Clarke's A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (1705). Secker's role was to deliver Butler's letters personally to Gloucester post office and to pick up Clarke's replies. Meanwhile, Jones had acquired a reputation as a heavy drinker and the standard of his teaching may have decreased. Both Butler and Secker left his academy shortly afterwards, Butler in February 1714 and Secker in June of the same year.

An academy is an institution of secondary education, higher learning, research, or honorary membership. Academia is the worldwide group composed of professors and researchers at institutes of higher learning.

A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.

Joseph Butler English bishop, philosopher

Joseph Butler was an English bishop, theologian, apologist, and philosopher. He was born in Wantage in the English county of Berkshire. He is known, among other things, for his critique of Deism, Thomas Hobbes's egoism, and John Locke's theory of personal identity. Butler influenced many philosophers and religious thinkers, including David Hume, Thomas Reid, Adam Smith, Henry Sidgwick, John Henry Newman, and C. D. Broad, and is widely considered "as one of the preeminent English moralists." He also played an important, though under appreciated, role in the development of eighteenth-century economic discourse, greatly influencing the Dean of Gloucester and political economist Josiah Tucker.

He studied medicine in London and Paris before receiving the degree of MD from Leiden University in 1721. Upon his return to England, he entered Exeter College, Oxford and was ordained, by special letters, in 1722 from the Chancellor of Oxford University.


In 1724 he became rector of Houghton-le-Spring, Durham, resigning in 1727 on his appointment to the rectory of Holy Cross Church, Ryton, County Durham, and to a canonry of Durham. He became rector of St James's Westminster in 1733 and Bishop of Bristol in 1735. About this time George II commissioned him to arrange a reconciliation between the Prince of Wales and himself, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

In 1737 he became the Bishop of Oxford and then the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, London, in 1750. On 21 April 1758, a month after the death of his predecessor, he became Archbishop of Canterbury.

His advocacy of an American episcopate, in connection with which he wrote the Answer to Jonathan Mayhew's Observations on the Charter and Conduct of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (London 1764), raised considerable opposition in England and America.

Death, burial and legacy

Secker died at the age of 74 at 3 August 1768 in Lambeth Palace. Church records of the medieval parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth have revealed that Secker had his viscera buried in a canister in the churchyard. [2] Secker left a substantial bequest to Ann and Thomas Frost of Nottingham. After Secker died his will was disputed by Thomas Frost and he managed to persuade the court that £11,000 intended by Secker for charity should be redirected to his family. [3]


His principal work was Lectures on the Catechism of the Church of England (London, 1769).

A sermon preach'd before the University of Oxford, at St. Mary's, on Act Sunday in the afternoon, 1733, 1734
A sermon preached before the Right Honourable the Lord-Mayor, the Court of Aldermen, the sheriffs, and the governors of the several hospitals of the city of London [...], 1738
A sermon preached before the House of Lords, 1739
A sermon preached at King's Street chapel, in the parish of St James, 1741
A sermon preached before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1741, 1752
A sermon preached in the parish-church of Christ-Church, London, 1743
A sermon preached on occasion of the present rebellion in Scotland, 1745
A sermon preached before the governors of the London Hospital, 1754
A sermon preached before the Society corresponding withe Incorporated Society in Dublin, 1757
Nine sermons preached in the parish of St. James, Westminster, 1758, 1771
The recommendation of William Smith, A.M., 1759
An answer to Dr. Mayhew's Observations on the charter and conduct of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1764
Fourteen sermons preached on several occasions, 1766
A sermon preached in the parish-church of Christ-church, London, 1766
Eight charges delivered to the clergy of the dioceses of Oxford and Canterbury, 1769
Lectures on the catechism of the Church of England, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1774, 1777, 1778, 1786, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1794 [Dublin], 1799
A letter to the Right Honourable Horatio Walpole, Esq; [...] concerning bishops in America, 1769
Sermons on several subjects, 1770
Eight charges delivered to the clergy of the dioceses of Oxford and Canterbury, 1770, 1771, 1780, 1790, 1799
Sermons on several subjects, 1771, 1772, 1790, 1795
Five sermons against popery, 1772 Dublin, 1773 Cork and Dublin Six sermons on the liturgy of the Church of England, 1773, 1784 Cork
The works of Thomas Secker, 1775 Dublin, 1792 Edinburgh
Four discourses on self-examination, on lying, on patience, and on contentment, 1777
Nine sermons preached in the parish of St. James, Westminster, 1780, 1795
A brief confutation of the errors of the Church of Rome, 1781, 1785, 1796
On the relative duties between parents and children, and between masters and servants, 1787, 1790
Against evil-speaker, lying, rash vows, swearing, cursing, and perjury, 1787
A sermon on confirmation, 1788, 1790
Of the Lord's supper, 1788
Catechism of the Church of England, 1789
Questions extracted from Archbishop Secker's Lectures on the church catechism: for the use of schools and young persons in private families, 1790
Instructions given to candidates for orders, after their subscribing the articles, 1791
Familiar explanation of the service of confirmation, used by the Church of England, abridged from Archbishop Secker's sermon on confirmation, 1795
A sermon on confirmation, 1795

See also John Sharp, [...] Archbishop Sharp's and Archbishop Secker's sermons against perjury and common swearing, with some alterations, Dublin, 1771

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  1. Manuscript autobiography
  2. "How the remains of five 'missing' Archbishops of Canterbury were found by accident". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  3. Adrian Henstock, ‘Gawthern, Abigail Anna (1757–1822)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 8 May 2017
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Charles Cecil
Bishop of Bristol
Succeeded by
Thomas Gooch
Preceded by
John Potter
Bishop of Oxford
Succeeded by
John Hume
Preceded by
Joseph Butler
Dean of St Paul's
Preceded by
Matthew Hutton
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
Frederick Cornwallis