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Longley, Charles Thomaslocked

  • J. R. Garrard

Charles Thomas Longley (1794–1868)

by Mayall, c. 1863

Longley, Charles Thomas (1794–1868), archbishop of Canterbury, was born at Boley Hill, Rochester, Kent, on 28 July 1794. He was the fifth son of John Longley, recorder of Rochester and a magistrate of the Thames police court, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Bond, a London timber merchant. He was the last but one of seventeen children born to the couple, several of whom died in infancy. He was educated at Cheam School before his election as a king's scholar at Westminster School in 1808 and as a Westminster student of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1812. He graduated BA in 1815 with a first in classics; he proceeded MA in 1818, and BD and DD in 1829. He held several offices at Christ Church, where he was tutor and censor between 1825 and 1828, and was a university proctor in 1827, leaving the first proctor's handbook for his successors. He was genuinely popular throughout the university. He was ordained deacon in 1818 and priest in 1819, and served as curate to Thomas Vowler Short, incumbent of Cowley (and later bishop of St Asaph). He became vicar of the parish in November 1823, and in August 1827 rector of West Tytherley in Hampshire, which involved resigning his Christ Church studentship. He was much in demand as a tutor for the sons of the aristocracy and gentry. Bishop C. R. Sumner appointed him rural dean. In March 1829, after Vowler Short had canvassed his name among the governors, Longley was invited to become headmaster of Harrow. The roll increased and Longley enlarged the syllabus, but his regime's lack of discipline was notorious. He was also believed to have become very wealthy through capitation fees.

On 15 December 1831 Longley married Caroline Sophia, eldest child of Henry Brooke Parnell, first Baron Congleton. Parnell was paymaster-general in Melbourne's administration and he suggested Longley's name for a bishopric to the prime minister. Longley was appointed bishop of the newly created see of Ripon in October 1836. Despite the method of recommendation for appointment, Melbourne agreed that Longley need not be constrained to vote with the government on matters of Irish church policy. Longley actually voted against the government on other issues besides the Irish church, to Melbourne's pain and displeasure.

Longley threw great energy into engendering diocesan spirit in what was the first new diocese in England since the Reformation. Initially he had the practical problem of finding a suitable episcopal residence. He was given permission by the ecclesiastical commissioners to look for a suitable site for a new palace. Eventually land at Bramley Grange Farm, close to Ripon, was purchased from the lessee, and the archbishop of York, its ultimate landlord, passed the property to the see of Ripon. The minster in Ripon became the new diocese's cathedral church. The diocese included the countryside of the North Riding as well as the growing industrial towns of Barnsley, Bradford, Dewsbury, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, and Wakefield. There was a glut of school and church building during his twenty-year episcopate, W. F. Hook's legendary efforts in Leeds being merely the most prominent. Stephenson (Victorian Archbishops, 23) calculates an increase in churches from 307 to 432, in vicarages from 170 to 301, and in curates from 76 to 146.

The controversy over the church of St Saviour's, Leeds, remains the most famous issue of his episcopate. In 1839 Hook, vicar of Leeds, had tried to persuade both J. H. Newman and E. B. Pusey of the need for more churches in Leeds and of the opportunity that this would give to the Oxford men for widening their influence. Pusey's wife had recently died and he conceived the church as both a memorial to her and a testimony to his church principles. Pusey's church would serve a very deprived part of the city, where brothels were numerous and which was later to suffer appallingly from cholera. Pusey was an anonymous donor. Both Longley and Hook soon became concerned about Pusey's ideas. In particular Pusey insisted on an inscription exhorting prayer for the builder of the church—himself. Longley and Hook both protested that when he died such an inscription would encourage prayers for the dead, which they found unacceptable.

The foundation-stone of the church was laid in 1842 and the next three years until its consecration were filled with disagreements. Longley refused to dedicate the church to the holy cross, as Pusey wished; he objected to a stone altar and there were many other minor disputes. It was agreed to dedicate the new church to St Saviour. Although Longley did consecrate the church in October 1845, unhappiness about its practices and its clergy continued throughout Longley's time at Ripon. Naturally these altercations gave Longley a poor reputation among advanced Tractarians and even led to him being wrongly described as low-church by the intemperate W. H. B. Proby. Longley, like Hook and many fellow bishops, was a staunch high-churchman, whose support for the Tractarians diminished as they became ever more ‘Romish’.

Longley opposed the Oxford University Bill of 1854 which, among other things, reduced the proportion of clerical fellows in each college and reconstituted the central government of the university. In 1854 Longley was named as one of two churchmen who would join the executive commissioners empowered to revise the statutes of the university and colleges of Oxford. He was later one of the five referees who produced a new constitution for Christ Church, Oxford, in 1867.

On Palmerston's nomination Longley was translated to the see of Durham on 13 October 1856. He had previously declined a move to Lincoln. Here he began again the work of church building. His wife died in October 1858 at Auckland Castle. After four years he succeeded Thomas Musgrave as archbishop of York on 1 June 1860. In the brief time that he was at York the Northern convocation was revived (1861). Archbishop Musgrave had refused to let the convocation transact active business. One of its first acts was to condemn Essays and Reviews, to Longley's satisfaction.

Longley stayed only two years at York before Palmerston nominated him to his fourth see. He succeeded J. B. Sumner at Canterbury on 20 October 1862. Doctrinal disputes figured large. Longley and William Thomson, the archbishop of York, were dissenting members of the judicial committee of the privy council which overturned the verdict of heresy in the court of arches against the authors of Essays and Reviews. The law lords on the committee and Bishop A. C. Tait of London had exonerated them. The two archbishops issued pastoral letters which explained that the committee had only judged extracts of the book. Longley was also firmly convinced of the unsoundness of Bishop J. W. Colenso's writings, and thought him properly deposed from his Natal bishopric by Bishop Gray of Cape Town, his metropolitan. At the same time Longley dissuaded W. J. Butler, vicar of Wantage, from agreeing to election in Colenso's place.

By far the most important event of Longley's primacy was the first Lambeth conference, which met in London on 24–27 September 1867. The furore over Colenso was but one of the pressures that necessitated a meeting of Anglican bishops. J. B. Sumner had resisted calls for a meeting of bishops as he had resisted the revival of the Canterbury convocation. Longley, by contrast, had welcomed visits by American and Scottish bishops while still at Ripon. On 24 September seventy-eight British, colonial, and foreign bishops inaugurated the Lambeth or Pan-Anglican synod. Longley insisted that the meeting was a conference not a synod: no declaration of faith was to be made nor were canons to be enacted.

Even the description of the faith held by Anglicans was a subject of haggling. Reference to the first four ecumenical councils was finally included. Initially the case of Colenso was not scheduled for discussion, but pressure from the colonial bishops overturned this. A large majority of the bishops were united in condemnation of Colenso, although Longley forestalled a proposition to do so formally by appointing a committee to consider the matter. Nevertheless Samuel Wilberforce had a statement of support for Colenso's deposition signed by fifty-six bishops. The whole issue of appeal from the colonies to a spiritual tribunal in England was discussed. There were many who were suspicious of the whole proceeding, including William Thomson, the archbishop of York, who stayed away along with most bishops from the northern province, fearing that the Thirty-Nine Articles would be compromised. Dean A. P. Stanley refused the use of Westminster Abbey for the closing service because he was afraid that the bishops would censure Colenso.

Longley had to contend with the constant pressure of Lord Ebury, who wished to amend the form of clerical subscription. Ebury believed that many were deterred from ordination because they could not assent to every word in the prayer book and the articles. Eventually a royal commission on subscription (1864–5), of which Longley was inevitably a member, was conceded and minor changes were enacted. Henceforth clergy gave assent that the prayer book and articles were 'agreeable' to the word of God. Ebury's attempts to change the burial service were quashed.

Longley was also faced with the increase of ritualism during his primacy. Ebury's continuing attempts to reform the liturgy were included in the remit of the commission on ritual which was set up in 1867 and of which he was part. The first report, in August, condemned eucharistic vestments.

Although the bishops still had great influence over internal church affairs, the state got its own way more and more. In 1868 compulsory church rates were abolished and disestablishment of the Irish part of the United Church of England and Ireland, which Longley had opposed in parliament and at public meetings, became imminent. A fatigued Longley developed bronchitis after a holiday intended for recuperation and died at Addington Park, Croydon, on 27 October 1868. He was buried in the churchyard there. Longley had three sons and four daughters; his eldest son, Sir Henry Longley (1833–1899), became chief charity commissioner. Longley's personal charm and striking good looks (he was C. L. Dodgson's most photographed male subject), and his intellect and energy, served him very well throughout his life. His fame, though inflated by virtue of being primate when the Lambeth conference was first called together under his chairmanship, is not undeserved.


  • A. M. G. Stephenson, The Victorian archbishops of Canterbury (1991)
  • A. M. G. Stephenson, The first Lambeth conference, 1867 (1967)
  • A. M. G. Stephenson, Anglicanism and the Lambeth conferences (1978)
  • D. A. Jennings, The revival of the Convocation of York, 1837–1861, Borthwick Papers, 47 (1975)
  • N. Yates, The Oxford Movement and parish life: St Saviour's, Leeds, 1839–1929, Borthwick Papers, 48 (1975)
  • M. A. Crowther, Church embattled: religious controversy in mid-Victorian England (1970)
  • W. H. B. Proby, Annals of the ‘Low Church’ party, 2 vols. (1888)
  • The Guardian (28 Oct 1868)
  • The Guardian (4 Nov 1868)
  • The Times (29 Oct 1868)
  • The Times (30 Oct 1868)
  • The Times (3 Nov 1868)
  • The Times (4 Nov 1868)
  • E. G. W. Bill and J. F. A. Mason, Christ Church and reform, 1850–1867 (1970)


  • Bodl. Oxf., corresp.
  • Harrow School, corresp. and papers as headmaster of Harrow School
  • LPL, corresp. and papers
  • U. Leeds, Brotherton L., notebooks relating to Ripon diocese
  • BL, corresp. with W. E. Gladstone, Add. MSS 44361–44412, passim
  • BL, corresp. with Sir Robert Peel, Add. MSS 40399–40607
  • Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Samuel Wilberforce
  • Durham RO, letters to Lady Londonderry
  • LPL, corresp. with Angela Burdett-Coutts
  • LPL, corresp. with A. C. Tait
  • LPL, corresp. with Christopher Wordsworth
  • NRA, priv. coll., letters to S. H. Walpole
  • Pusey Oxf., corresp., mainly relating to St Saviour's, Leeds
  • U. Durham L., letters to third Earl Grey


  • H. P. Briggs, oils, exh. RA 1838, Christ Church Oxf.
  • E. Davis, marble bust, exh. RA 1844, LPL
  • F. Grant, oils, 1849, Bishop Mount, Ripon, North Yorkshire
  • portrait, 1859, repro. in Church of England photographic portrait gallery (1859)
  • G. Richmond, chalk drawing, 1862, NPG
  • Mayall, carte-de-visite, 1863, NPG [see illus.]
  • G. Richmond, oils, LPL
  • carte-de-visite, NPG
  • portrait, repro. in ILN, 41 (1862), 381
  • portrait, repro. in Illustrated News of the World, 8 (1861)
  • portrait, repro. in Illustrated Times (25 Oct 1862), 417

Wealth at Death

under £45,000: resworn probate, July 1869, CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1868)

, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
F. Boase, , 6 vols. (privately printed, Truro, 1892–1921); repr. (1965)
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]