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Acland, John (1699–1796), Church of England clergyman and writer on social issues, was the second son of John Acland (d. 1703), of Beerford, Devon, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Acland of Fremington, Devon. His father was MP for Callington, Cornwall...

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Alex, (Edward) Ephraim (1800–1882), founder of the Jewish Board of Guardians, was born on 12 December 1800 in St Katherine in the City of London. He was the eldest surviving son of Solomon Alex, dentist, of 11 Finsbury Place, Finsbury, and 21 Jewry Street, Aldgate...

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Alleyne [Allyn], Thomas (c. 1488–1558), clergyman and benefactor, was probably a native of Sudbury, Staffordshire, where he later made provision for the commemoration of his parents. A suggestion that he originated in the diocese of Salisbury and studied at Oxford seems to be without foundation. His father's name was most probably ...

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Ashton, Hugh (d. 1522), Catholic ecclesiastic and university benefactor, apparently never himself had a formal university education, his main expertise lying in administration and estate management. He probably first encountered Lady Margaret Beaufort, countess of Richmond and Derby, in Lancashire, his native county, and rose to prominence through this association. On 7 January 1496 he was admitted to the rectory of ...

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Hugh Ashton (d. 1522) by unknown sculptor © Crown copyright. NMR

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Balsham, Hugh of (d. 1286), bishop of Ely and benefactor, took his name from Balsham, Cambridgeshire, one of Ely Priory's manors. Nothing is known of his background, except that during the controversy aroused by his election as bishop it was alleged that he was of servile origins. He became a monk at ...

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Bannerman, Patrick (1715–1798), Church of Scotland minister and writer on religious and civil liberties, was born at Inveravon, the son of James Bannerman (1670–1758), minister of Inveravon and then of Forglen, Banffshire, and his wife, Ann Cunningham (d. 1758), a minister's daughter. Educated at ...

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Barnett, Samuel Augustus (1844–1913), Church of England clergyman and social reformer, the elder son of Francis Augustus Barnett (d. 27 Dec 1883) and his wife, Mary Gilmore (d. 6 Nov 1880) of Bristol, was born at 5 Portland Square, Bristol, on 8 February 1844. His father was a wealthy manufacturer of iron bedsteads; his mother came from a long-established ...

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Bateman [Norwich], William (c. 1298–1355), diplomat, founder of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and bishop of Norwich, was probably born in Norwich (from which he was sometimes named), the third son of William and Margery Bateman. His father was many times bailiff of the city, and in 1326–7 its member of ...

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Becher, John Thomas (1770–1848), Church of England clergyman and poor-law reformer, was born in Cork, the son of Michael Becher. Educated at Westminster School, he proceeded to Christ Church, Oxford, where he was elected to a Westminster studentship in 1788. He graduated BA in 1792 and MA in 1795. He married on 6 January 1802 ...

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Bedford, Arthur (bap. 1668, d. 1745), Church of England clergyman and moral reformer, was baptized on 8 September 1668 at Tiddenham, Gloucestershire, the son of Richard Bedford, who was himself a Church of England clergyman. He was educated in 'grammar learning' (Bodl. Oxf., MS Rawl. J, fol. 2, fol. 160...

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Bedi, Sir Khem Singh [Khem Singh Bedi Baba] (1832–1905), religious leader and social reformer, was born on 21 February 1832 in the village of Kallar, the Punjab, India, the second son of Baba Atar Singh Bedi (d. 1839), holy man and landowner. The family was descended from ...

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Bell, William (1731–1816), Church of England clergyman and benefactor, was born in Greenwich, the son of William Bell. He was educated at Greenwich School, and admitted pensioner at Magdalene College, Cambridge, on 26 May 1749. He graduated BA, as eighth wrangler, in 1753, the year in which he was elected fellow of ...

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Bingham [Byngham], William (d. 1451), ecclesiastic and founder of Christ's College, Cambridge, may have been the William Byngham who was presented to the vicarages of Hutton, near Beverley, Yorkshire, and Alverstoke, Hampshire, by Henry IV in 1401–2. More probably, the future founder of ...

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Blackley, William Lewery (1830–1902), Church of England clergyman and social reformer, was born at Dundalk, Ireland, on 30 December 1830. He was the second son of Travers Robert Blackley of Dublin and Bohogh, co. Roscommon, and Eliza, daughter of Colonel Lewery, who was taken prisoner by the French at ...

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William Lewery Blackley (1830–1902) by unknown photographer, pubd 1891 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Blair, James (1655/6–1743), Church of England clergyman and founder of the College of William and Mary, was the son of Peter Blair (d. 1673), Church of Scotland minister of St Cuthbert's parish, Edinburgh, and his wife, Mary Hamilton (d. in or after 1696)...

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James Blair (1655/66–1743) by Charles Bridges Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William and Mary

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Blount, Edward (1769–1843), campaigner for Roman Catholic civil rights, was born on 18 July 1769, the second of the three children of Sir Walter Blount, sixth baronet (d. 1785), of Sodington, and his wife, Mary Aston, daughter of James, fifth Lord Aston of Forfar...

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Bray, Charles (1811–1884), freethinker and social reformer, was born in Coventry on 31 January 1811, the son of a wealthy ribbon manufacturer. Ill as a child, Bray was sent out of the city at an early age and attended a boarding-school from the age of nine to fourteen, after which he went to a school at ...