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Charles Manners-Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury (1755-1828)

This article was written by John Henry Overton and was published in 1893

Abp Manners-SuttonCharles Manners-Sutton, archbishop of Canterbury, born on 14 February 1755, was the fourth son of Lord George Manners-Sutton (d. 1783) and grandson of John, third duke of Rutland. His father assumed the additional surname of Sutton upon inheriting the estates of his maternal grandfather, Robert Sutton, baron Lexinton, at the decease of his elder brother, Lord Robert Manners-Sutton, in 1762. His mother was Diana, daughter of Thomas Chaplin of Blankney in Lincolnshire. He was educated at the Charterhouse, and proceeded to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1777 as fifteenth wrangler, his younger brother, Thomas Manners-Sutton, lord Manners, being at the same time fifth wrangler; he proceeded M.A. 1780, D.D. 1792. In 1785 he was appointed to the rectory of Averham-with-Kelham in Nottinghamshire, a family living, of which his brother was patron, and also to that of Whitwell in Derbyshire, by his kinsman, the Duke of Rutland. In 1791 he became dean of Peterborough, and in the following year bishop of Norwich, succeeding the well-known Bishop Horne. In 1794 the deanery of Windsor was conferred on him in commendam. His residence at Windsor brought him into intimate relations with the royal family, with whom both he and his wife were great favourites. Accordingly, on the death of Archbishop Moore in 1805, he was, through their influence, elevated to the primacy, against, it is said, the will of Pitt, who designed the post for his old tutor, Dr. Tomline.

In 1797 Thomas James Mathias, the author of ‘The Pursuits of Literature,’ had described him as ‘a prelate whose amiable demeanour, useful learning, and conciliating habits of life particularly recommend his episcopal character.’ ‘No man,’ he added, ‘appears to me so peculiarly marked out for the highest dignity of the church, sede vacante, as Dr. Charles Manners-Sutton.’ While he was bishop of Norwich his liberality and the expenses of a large family seem to have involved him in some pecuniary embarrassment, but he cleared it all off when he became archbishop. During his occupancy of the see of Canterbury the country palace of Addington was purchased (1807) from a fund accumulating from the sale of the old palace of Croydon.

As primate Manners-Sutton took an important part in that revival of church life which characterised the epoch. He was a staunch supporter of the small but very active band of high churchmen of whom Joshua and J. J. Watson, H. H. Norris, and Charles Daubeny were the leading spirits. He presided over the first meeting which issued in the foundation of the National Society, and the speedy and prosperous floating of that great scheme for the education of the poor was in no slight degree due to his efforts. He gave all the strength of his support to the foundation of the Indian episcopate; he guided and animated the reviving energies of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, identifying himself on more than one memorable occasion with those who strove to uphold its distinctly church character, and he chose for his chaplains men who were in the van of the church movement: Richard Mant, afterwards bishop of Down and Connor; Christopher Wordsworth, afterwards master of Trinity College, Cambridge; Archdeacon Cambridge; and Dr. D'Oyly, the biographer of Archbishop Sancroft. His services to the cause, apart from his position, arose from his moral and social influence rather than from his intellectual powers. He was of imposing appearance, liberal almost to a fault, very accessible and affable to his clergy, and exemplary in his domestic life. ‘Seldom,’ writes Archdeacon Churton, ‘has any primate presided over the English church whose personal dignity of character commanded so much deference from his suffragans, or whose position was so much strengthened by their concordant support’.

The archbishop never spoke in the House of Lords except upon ecclesiastical subjects. He steadily opposed all concession to the Roman Catholics, but generally voted in favour of the claims of the protestant dissenters. The very year of his death, when he was too ill to attend in person, he gave his vote by proxy in favour of the latter, and expressed his sentiments through Charles Blomfield, then bishop of Chester. He died at Lambeth on 21 July 1828, and was buried on 29 July at Addington, in a family vault which had been constructed under the church about half a year previously.

In 1778 he married Mary, daughter of Thomas Thoroton of Screveton, Nottinghamshire, by whom he had a family of two sons and ten daughters. The elder son was Charles Manners-Sutton, afterwards Viscount Canterbury. Francis, the second son (1783-1825), was a colonel in the army. Manners-Sutton published two separate sermons, which were published respectively in 1794 and 1797.

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