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Henry Phillpotts

Henry Phillpotts (1778-1869), or "Henry of Exeter," as he was commonly called, was one of the most striking figures in the English Church of the 18th century.

He was born at Bridgwater on May 6 1778, and was educated at Gloucester College school and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He became a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1795, took holy orders in 1802, and was select university preacher in 1804. In 1805 he became vicar of Stainton-le-Street, County Durham, and in addition was appointed to Bishop Middleham, Durham, in the succeeding year. For twenty years he was chaplain to Shute Barrington, Bishop of Durham. He was appointed vicar of Gateshead in 1808, prebendary of Durham in 1809, and vicar of St Margaret, Durham, in 1810. After holding the rich living of Stanhope, Durham, from 1820, and the deanery of Chester from 1828, he was consecrated Bishop of Exeter in 1831, holding with the see a residentiary canonry at Durham.

His published works include numerous speeches and pamphlets, including those connected with his well-known Roman Catholic controversy with Charles Butler (1750-1832). He was an energetic supporter of the Tory party, even when it acted contrary to his views in passing the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. He died on September 8 1869.

His position was that of the traditional High Churchman, with little sympathy either with the Evangelicals or with the Tractarians. On the one hand the famous Gorham judgment was the outcome of his refusal to give the living of Brampford Speke to George Cornelius Gorham (1787—1857), who had expressed disbelief in rebirth through baptism; on the other hand, he denounced the equally famous Tract XC in his episcopal charge of 1843. As bishop he was a strict disciplinarian, and did much to restore order in a diocese whose clergy had become extraordinarily demoralized. Though accused of avarice and pluralism, Phillpotts was generous in his gifts to the church, founding the theological college at Exeter and spending large sums on the restoration of the cathedral.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.