John Parsons (bishop)

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The Right Reverend
John Parsons
Bishop of Peterborough
Bp John Parsons by William Owen.jpg
Diocese Diocese of Peterborough
In office 1813–1819
Predecessor Spencer Madan
Successor Herbert Marsh
Other posts Dean of Bristol (1810–1813)
Personal details
Born baptized (1761-07-06)6 July 1761
Died 12 March 1819(1819-03-12) (aged 57)
Buried Balliol College, Oxford
Nationality British
Denomination Anglican
Spouse Elizabeth Parsons
Education Magdalen College School, Oxford
Alma mater Wadham College, Oxford

John Parsons (baptized 6 July 1761 – 12 March 1819) was an English churchman and academic, Master of Balliol College, Oxford from 1798, and Bishop of Peterborough from 1813.


He was son of Isaac Parsons, butler of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and his wife Alice; born in the parish of St Aldate's, Oxford, he was baptised in St Aldate's Church on 6 July 1761. He received his early education, first at the school attached to Christ Church, Oxford, and subsequently at Magdalen College School. In his 16th year, he was admitted to Wadham College on 26 June 1777, and was elected a scholar of the college on 30 June 1780. He graduated B.A. in 1782, and M.A. in 1785. His other degrees were B.D. and D.D., both in 1799. He was elected Fellow of Balliol College on 29 November 1785, and in July 1797 was presented by the college to the united livings of All Saints and St Leonard's, Colchester. On the 14 November 1798, he was elected Master of Balliol, an office he held till his death.[1] From 1807 to 1810, he was Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.[2]

An academic reformer, he made college examination a reality, and in conjunction with John Eveleigh, Provost of Oriel College he gave a lead to the University, elaborating the examination Statute of 1801, by which university honours were for the first time awarded for real merit; and he was one of the first examiners, the earliest class list under the new system appearing in 1802. He was for many years a leading member of the Hebdomadal board. Richard Jenkyns, who succeeded him as Master, was tutor under him, and when Parsons was made a bishop was appointed Vice-Master, seconding his administration of the College. In national politics, he was a strong Tory, firmly opposed to Catholic emancipation. He was the senior of the three heads of houses who, on the death of William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland in 1809, proposed John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon for the chancellorship of the university, to which William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville was elected.

In 1810, he was appointed to the deanery of Bristol, and in 1812 he was presented to the chapter living of Weare in Somerset, which he held in commendam till his death. In 1813, he was raised to the bishopric of Peterborough, on the death of Spencer Madan, helped by the influence of Lord Eldon. He supported the National Society for the Education of the Poor, with Provost Eveleigh; and Parsons, together with Joshua Watson, is credited with drawing up in 1812 the terms of union for the district committees of the provincial schools.

In the House of Lords he seldom spoke, but was active on committees. He died at Oxford on 12 March 1819, and was buried in the chapel of Balliol College, where a monument was erected.


Only two of his sermons were printed; all his manuscript sermons were burnt after his death, by his express desire. In the acrimonious controversy concerning the 1784 Bampton Lectures of Joseph White, the Arabic professor, of which Samuel Badcock was asserted to have been the author, and portions of which were claimed by Samuel Parr, Parsons was appointed one of the arbitrators, but declined to act; and it was believed that he also had a share in the lectures, as Parr knew.


On 22 January 1798, Parsons married Elizabeth Parsons, probably a cousin, at St Aldates church. He left no children by his wife, who survived him.


  1. ^ H. E. Salter and Mary D. Lobel, ed. (1954). "Balliol College". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford. Victoria County History. pp. 82–95. Retrieved July 15, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Previous Vice-Chancellors". University of Oxford, UK. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 


Academic offices
Preceded by
John Davey
Master of Balliol College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Richard Jenkyns
Preceded by
Henry Richards
Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University
Succeeded by
John Cole
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Bowyer Sparke
Dean of Bristol
Succeeded by
Henry Beeke
Preceded by
Spencer Madan
Bishop of Peterborough
Succeeded by
Herbert Marsh