John Sheepshanks (bishop)

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The Right Reverend

John Sheepshanks

Bishop of Norwich
Bp John Sheepshanks.jpg
ChurchChurch of England
DioceseDiocese of Norwich
In office1893–1910
PredecessorJohn Pelham
SuccessorBertram Pollock
Personal details
Born(1834-02-23)23 February 1834
Belgravia, London
Died3 June 1912(1912-06-03) (aged 78)
SpouseMargaret Ryott
EducationCoventry Grammar School
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge

John Sheepshanks (23 February 1834 – 3 June 1912) was an English Anglican Bishop in the last decade of the 19th century and the first one of the 20th.[1]


Born on 23 February 1834 in Belgravia, London to Thomas Sheepshanks (1796–1875), rector of St John's, Coventry and his wife, Katherine (née Smith, 1804 or 1805–1869). Sheepshanks was educated at Coventry Grammar School, then at Christ's College, Cambridge.[2]

Ordained in 1857,[3] Sheepshanks became a curate at Leeds Parish Church, under Walter Hook.[4][5] Hook had previously been the incumbent at Holy Trinity Church, Coventry, and was on good terms with his father Thomas Sheepshanks.[6]

Sheepshanks then moved to Canada as a missionary, working in British Columbia at the time of the Cariboo Gold Rush.[7] He was responding to an invitation in 1859 from George Hills, the Bishop of Columbia and formerly a fellow-curate under Hook at Leeds.[5] Sheepshanks was made Rector of New Westminster. Since New Westminster was then little more than a forest clearing on the banks of the Fraser River, this was a rugged life.[8] He was also chaplain to the Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment. He returned to England in 1864, to raise funds, via San Francisco and Utah; his church had burned down by the time he reached New Westminster in 1866. His father then fell ill, and planning to visit him, Sheepshanks set off once more; the trip turned into an extended Pacific and Asian journey.[5]

Returning finally to England via Moscow in November 1867, Sheepshanks settled down to life as a parish priest.[5] He held incumbencies in Bilton, Yorkshire and Anfield, Liverpool before his elevation to the Episcopate as Bishop of Norwich in 1893,[9] a post he held until 1909. A noted author,[10] he died on 3 June 1912.[11] During his time in Liverpool, he founded St Margaret's School, which is now based in Aigburth and known as St Margaret's Church of England Academy.


Sheepshanks was a High Church Anglican, much influenced by Walter Hook in adopting ideas from the Tractarians. He supported votes for male agricultural workers, suffragan bishops (his diocese had 900 parishes), and the ultimate division of the Diocese of Norwich. He was noted for pastoral work, and attention to his clergy, who were affected directly by the Great Depression of British Agriculture.[5]

On the level of personal comfort, Sheepshanks was austere. His daughter Dorothy wrote about life in the episcopal palace, where carpets had been replaced by linoleum.[5]


Sheepshanks married in 1870 Margaret Ryott, daughter of William Hall Ryott M.D. of Thirsk, whom he had seen in a bookshop there.[12][13] They had 17 children, of whom 12 reached adulthood. Those were:[14]


  1. ^ “Who was Who” 1897–2007 London, A & C Black, 2007 ISBN 978-0-19-954087-7
  2. ^ "Sheepshanks, John (SHPS852J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ "The Clergy List, Clerical Guide and Ecclesiastical Directory" London, Hamilton & Co 1889
  4. ^ The Times, Tuesday, 4 June 1912; pg. 7; Issue 39916; col A Death Of Bishop Sheepshanks
  5. ^ a b c d e f Groves, Nicholas. "Sheepshanks". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/100457.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Stephens, William Richard Wood (1878). "The life and letters of Walter Farquhar Hook D.D., F.R.S". Internet Archive. London: R. Bentley. pp. 27 note. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  7. ^ Stangoe, Irene (2000). History and Happenings in the Cariboo-Chilcotin: Pioneer Memories. Heritage House Publishing Co. p. 10. ISBN 9781895811995. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  8. ^ Ferguson, Julie H. (1 April 2006). Sing a New Song: Portraits of Canada's Crusading Bishops. Dundurn. p. 30. ISBN 9781770702196. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  9. ^ The Times, Saturday, 8 July 1893; pg. 14; Issue 33998; col A Ecclesiastical Intelligence New Bishop of Norwich
  10. ^ Amongst others he wrote "Confirmation and Unction of the Sick", 1889; "Charge, Eucharist and Confession", 1902; "My Life in Mongolia and Siberia", 1903; and "The Pastor in his Parish", 1908 > British Library web site accessed 17:04GMT Saturday 1 August 2009
  11. ^ New York Times, 4 June 1912; "Bishop Sheepshanks Dead; Noted Ecclesiastical Writer Was Bishop of Norwich, 1893 to 1909."
  12. ^ Churchill, John (1870). The Medical Times and Gazette. p. 483. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  13. ^ Muir, Dorothy Erskine (1955). Life behind the Curtain. London: Jonathan Cape. p. 90.
  14. ^ Muir, Dorothy Erskine (1955). Life behind the Curtain. London: Jonathan Cape. pp. 11, 18.
  15. ^ "Sheepshanks, Richard (SHPS890R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  16. ^ Oldfield, Sybil. "Sheepshanks, Mary Ryott". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38534.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  17. ^ "Sheepshanks, John (SHPS893J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  18. ^ "Wilberforce, Samuel (WLBR893S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  19. ^ Neill, Patrick. "Wilberforce, Richard Orme, Baron Wilberforce". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/89469.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  20. ^ a b c "Sheepshanks, William: Winchester College at War". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  21. ^ ",Second Lieutenant Sheepshanks, William". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  22. ^ Lowe, Rodney. "Sheepshanks, Sir Thomas Herbert". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36057.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
Church of England titles
Preceded by
John Pelham
Bishop of Norwich
Succeeded by
Bertram Pollock