Henry Godolphin (1648–1733) was an English Provost of Eton College and Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, a position in which he clashed with Sir Christopher Wren in the period when the new cathedral had reached the finishing touches.
He was fourth son of Sir Francis Godolphin, and younger brother of Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, by Dorothy, second daughter of Sir Henry Berkeley of Yarlington, Somerset, and was born at Godolphin House, Cornwall, on 15 August 1648. He was admitted to Eton 8 October 1665. He matriculated from Wadham College, Oxford, 30 August 1664, and took his B.A. in 1668. In the same year he was elected a fellow of All Souls' College, where he proceeded M.A. 1672, and B.D. and D.D. 11 July 1685.
He was made a fellow of Eton College 14 April 1677, and by royal mandate was nominated Provost of the college 16 October 1695, and instituted 30 October. At Eton he was a benefactor to the school, contributing towards the expense of altering the chapel, and erecting at his own cost a copper statue of the founder, Henry VI, in the schoolyard.
He was nominated Sneating prebendary of St. Paul's, London, 13 November 1683, holding the prebend until his death. After the death of William Sherlock he was elected Dean of St. Paul's, 14 July 1707, and installed on 18 July, resigning the deanery in October 1726, when he returned to the duties of the provostship of Eton. During his tenure of office at St. Paul's he had been on the Rebuilding Commission, representing with John Younger and William Stanley the rising generation of the cathedral chapter. On matters of detail there were constant disagreements from 1707 to 1711, when the Commission was wound up, with the imperious Sir Christopher Wren. Eventually Wren used the influence of the Queen to rid himself of the Commission, and there were polemics published aimed at Wren, now in his early eighties; but on the accession of George I of England the Commission was set up again. There were more arguments about the dome, with a balustrade or railing proposed, Godolphin arguing for the latter. Wren's career ended on an unsatisfactory note of bitterness and criticism.
Godolphin died at Windsor, 29 January 1733, and was buried in Eton Chapel.
He married Mary, daughter of Colonel Sidney, son of John Godolphin; she died 30 June 1743. His son, Sir Francis Godolphin, succeeded his cousin Francis Godolphin as second Baron Godolphin of Helston in 1766; on his death in 1785 the title became extinct. His daughter Mary married William Owen of Porkington.
- Leo Hollis, The Phoenix: St. Paul's Cathedral and the Men Who Made Modern London (2008), p. 322 and pp. 345-9.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Godolphin, Henry". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.