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Charles Richard Sumner (1790-1874)

Charles Richard Sumner was born at Kenilworth in Warwickshire. He was a cousin of William Wilberforce and a member of a family with strong Anglican and evangelical links - his brother John Bird Sumner was Archbishop of Canterbury. Sumner was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge. He was ordained into the Anglican ministry and served as curate of Highclere in Hampshire between 1816 and 1829.

Sumner was introduced to King George IV by an aristocratic patron and impressed the King so much that he was appointed Historiographer Royal, chaplain to the King's household, librarian and private chaplain at Windsor.

In 1826 Sumner became Bishop of Llandaff and Dean of St Paul's. After just eighteen months he was appointed Bishop of Winchester where he remained for forty years. Sumner saw as his main task the revitalising of a diocese that had not had a visitation for forty years. He stressed the need for new parishes, churches and schools and quickly established branches of the Church Missionary Society. He set up a Diocesan Church Building Society in 1837 and a Board of Education in 1838. By 1861, one hundred and seventy-six new churches had been built and one hundred extended. Between 1830 and 1851, four hundred and eighty-six schools had been erected and seventy-eight enlarged.

Sumner's political views were staunchly Tory. He opposed the 1832 Reform Act and displayed some anti-Catholic prejudice. He was resolutely opposed to Tractarianism and acted decisively to oppose it within his diocese.

Sumner resigned the see in 1869 after suffering from a stroke.

Source: Dictionary of National Biography and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)

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