Herbert Croft (bishop)

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Herbert Croft, bishop of Hereford, painted about 1670 by an unknown artist. This portrait is in the hall at Croft Castle in Herefordshire.

Herbert Croft (1603–1691) was an English churchman, bishop of Hereford from 1661.


Croft was born 18 May 1603 at Great Milton, Oxfordshire, his mother being then on a journey to London, the third son of Sir Herbert Croft and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Anthony Bourne of Holt Castle. Margaret Croft (d. 1637), a lady in waiting to Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, was his sister. He married, before 8 April 1645, Anne Browne, the only daughter of the Very Rev. Dr. Jonathan Browne and Anne Barne Lovelace. Her half-brothers were Richard Lovelace (1618–1657) an English poet in the seventeenth century and Francis Lovelace (1621–1675), who was the second governor of the New York colony appointed by the Duke of York.[1]

After being for some time, like his father who had converted, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, he returned to the Church of England about 1630. He then studied at Christ Church, Oxford, graduating B.D. in 1636 and D.D. in 1640.[2]

In 1644 he was appointed chaplain to Charles I, and obtained within a few years a prebendary's stall at Worcester, a canonry of St George's Chapel, Windsor (1641–1662), and the deanery of Hereford (1644–1661), all of which preferments he lost during the Civil War and Commonwealth.

By Charles II he was made bishop of Hereford in 1661 and also dean of the Chapel Royal (1668–1669) from which position he preached to the King, who praised him as a man from whom he never heard a bad sermon. He was one of only three bishops who voted for the impeachment of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon in 1667: for this he gained much credit at Court, but was accused by Clarendon himself of "signal ingratitude" , as Clarendon had been a good friend to him. Becoming disillusioned with court life he returned to his Hereford see.

Despite his youthful adherence to that faith, he was noted for his exceptional severity towards Roman Catholics, especially during the Popish Plot. No doubt for this reason, at the outset of the Plot its inventor Titus Oates claimed that the Jesuits had specially marked Croft for assassination. Why the Jesuits should be so anxious to kill a man who lacked any influence at Court and almost never went there was a question which probably did not occur to Oates, who was a stranger to the Court and to polite society generally.


Croft was the author of many books and pamphlets, several of them against the Roman Catholics; and one of his works, entitled The Naked Truth, or the True State of the Primitive Church (London, 1675), was celebrated in its day, and gave rise to prolonged controversy.


His son Herbert was created a baronet in 1671, and was the ancestor of Sir Herbert Croft, 5th Baronet, the 18th century writer.

He died in 1691 and is buried inside the Hereford Cathedral: the tomb slab of Bishop Croft on the south-east transept is joined by clasped hands with that of Dean George Benson, who died in 1692.[3]


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Croft, Sir James". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 480.
  • Burke's Peerage and Baronetage
  1. ^ She was also the great granddaughter of Cicely Wilford and the Most Reverend Dr. Edwin Sandys, an Anglican church leader who successively held the posts of the Bishop of Worcester (1559-1570), Bishop of London (1570-1576), and the Archbishop of York (1576-1588). He was one of the translators of the Bishops' Bible. She was also the grand nephew of Sir Francis Walsingham and a 2nd cousin of Frances Walsingham.
  2. ^ Foster, Joseph (1891). Alumni Oxonienses: Croft, Herbert. p. 351. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  3. ^ Aylmer, G. E.; Tiller, John Eric (2000). Hereford Cathedral: A History. A&C Black. p. 121. ISBN 9781852851941. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Jonathan Browne
Dean of Hereford
Succeeded by
Thomas Hodges
Preceded by
Nicholas Monck
Bishop of Hereford
Succeeded by
Gilbert Ironside