William Newcome

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The Most Reverend
William Newcome
Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland
Abp William Newcome.jpg
See Armagh
Installed 1795
Term ended 1800
Predecessor The Lord Rokeby
Successor William Stuart
Other posts Bishop of Dromore (1766–75)
Bishop of Ossory (1775–79)
Bishop of Waterford and Lismore (1779–95)
Personal details
Born (1729-04-10)10 April 1729
Abingdon, Berkshire
Died 11 January 1800(1800-01-11) (aged 70)
St Stephen's Green, Dublin
Buried Trinity College, Dublin
Nationality English
Denomination Church of Ireland
Education Abingdon School
Alma mater Pembroke College, Oxford
Hertford College, Oxford

William Newcome (1729–1800) was an Englishman and cleric of the Church of Ireland who was appointed to the bishoprics of Dromore (1766–1775), Ossory (1775–1779), Waterford and Lismore (1779–1795), and lastly to the Primatial See of Armagh (1795–1800).[1]


He was born at Abingdon, Berkshire, on 10 April 1729. He was the second son of Joseph Newcome, vicar of St. Helen's, Abingdon, rector of Barton-in-the-Clay, Bedfordshire, and grand-nephew of Henry Newcome. He was educated at Abingdon School, obtained (1745) a scholarship at Pembroke College, Oxford, migrated to Hertford College, Oxford, and graduated M.A. 1753, and D.D. 1765. He was elected a Fellow of Hertford College in 1753, and afterwards Vice-Principal of Hertford College.

In 1766 Newcome went to Ireland as chaplain to Francis Seymour-Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford, appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Before the end of the year Newcome was promoted to the see of Dromore, which had become vacant in April. He was translated to Ossory in 1775; to Waterford and Lismore in 1779; finally he was made Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland on 25 January 1795, during the short-lived viceroyalty of William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam.

Newcome's elevation to the primacy was said to be the express act of George III. He had no English patron but Fox, who was not then in power. His appointment was described by James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont as the reward of character, principles, and erudition. His private fortune was large; he was able to advance without difficulty a sum of between fifteen and sixteen thousand pounds, assigned by parliament to the heirs of his predecessor, Richard Robinson, 1st Baron Rokeby. In his primary visitation of the province (1795) he strongly urged the neglected duty of clerical residence. He spent large sums on the improvement of the cathedral and palace at Armagh.

Newcome died at his residence, St Stephen's Green, Dublin, on 11 January 1800, and was buried in the chapel of Trinity College, Dublin. He was twice married, and had by his first wife one daughter, by his second wife a numerous family.


He had influence through his work An attempt toward revising our English translation of the Greek Scriptures, and toward illustrating the sense by philological and explanatory notes (1796) (commonly known as Archbishop Newcome's new translation).[2] This is to be distinguished from the revised version of Thomas Belsham published by Unitarians after his death: The New Testament in an Improved Version Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation (1808),[3] which, among other changes, did not include the Comma Johanneum. Newcome worked at a revision of the whole English bible, of which An Attempt was the New Testament portion. The work was withheld from publication until 1800, after Newcome's death; as the impression was damaged in crossing from Dublin, the number of copies for sale was small. In 1808 Unitarians issued anonymously their Improved Version. The adaptations for a sectarian purpose were mainly the work of Belsham, to whom an indignant reply was addressed (7 August 1809) by Newcome's brother-in-law, Joseph Stock, D.D., bishop of Killala and Achonry.

His first major publication was ‘An Harmony of the Gospels,’ &c., Dublin, 1778, on the basis of Jean Le Clerc, the Greek text being given with various readings from Wetstein. In this work he criticised Joseph Priestley's adoption (1777) of the hypothesis (1733) of Nicholas Mann, limiting Christ's ministry to a single year. Priestley defended himself in his English ‘Harmony’ (1780), and Newcome replied in a small volume, ‘The Duration of our Lord's Ministry,’ &c., Dublin, 1780. The controversy was continued in two pamphlets by Priestley and one by Newcome, ‘A Reply,’ &c., Dublin, 1781; it closed with a private letter from Newcome to Priestley (19 April 1782). While he held his ground against Priestley, on another point Newcome subsequently revised his ‘Harmony’ in ‘A Review of the Chief Difficulties … relating to our Lord's Resurrection,’ &c., 1792; in this he recurs to the hypothesis of George Benson. An English ‘Harmony,’ on the basis of Newcome's Greek one, was published in 1802; reprinted 1827.

As an interpreter of the prophets, Newcome followed Robert Lowth. His ‘Attempt towards an Improved Version, a Metrical Arrangement, and an Explanation of the Twelve Minor Prophets,’ &c., 1785 was reissued, with additions from Samuel Horsley and Benjamin Blayney, Pontefract, 1809. In his version he claims to give ‘the critical sense … and not the opinions of any denomination.’ In his notes he makes frequent use of the manuscripts of Thomas Secker. It was followed by ‘An Attempt towards an Improved Version … of … Ezekiel,’ &c., Dublin, 1788 (reprinted 1836). These were parts of a larger plan, set forth in ‘An Historical View of the English Biblical Translations,’ &c., 1792, with suggestions for a revision by authority.

In addition to the above he published three single sermons (1767–72) and a charge (1795); also ‘Observations on our Lord's Conduct as a Divine Instructor,’ &c. 1782; 2nd ed. revised, 1795; 3rd ed. 1820; also Oxford, 1852. Some of his letters to Joshua Toulmin, D.D., are in the Monthly Repository, 1806, pp. 458 sq., 518 sq.


  1. ^ DNB. Oxford Biography Index Number 101019993
  2. ^ Newcome, W. ‘An Attempt towards Revising our English Translation of the Greek Scriptures,’ &c., Dublin, 1796, 8vo, 2 vols.; the text adopted was the first edition (1775–7) of Griesbach, and there were numerous notes. Printed by John Exshaw, for J. Johnson, London.
  3. ^ Edward Nares, Remarks on the version of the New Testament edited by the Unitarians 2nd. Ed. London 1814

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Newcome, William". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

Religious titles
Preceded by
Henry Maxwell
Bishop of Dromore
Succeeded by
James Hawkins
Preceded by
Charles Dodgson
Bishop of Ossory
Succeeded by
John Hotham
Preceded by
Richard Chenevix
Bishop of Waterford and Lismore
Succeeded by
Richard Marlay
Preceded by
The Lord Rokeby
Archbishop of Armagh
Succeeded by
William Stuart