John Sumner (bishop)

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable
John Sumner[1]
Archbishop of Canterbury
Church Church of England
Diocese Diocese of Canterbury
In office 1848–1862
Predecessor William Howley
Successor Charles Longley
Other posts Bishop of Chester (1828–1848)
Consecration 1828
Personal details
Born (1780-02-25)25 February 1780
Kenilworth, Warwickshire, Great Britain
Died 6 September 1862(1862-09-06) (aged 82)
Addington, Surrey, United Kingdom
Buried St Mary's Church, Addington

John Bird Sumner (25 February 1780 – 6 September 1862)[2] was a bishop in the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury.


John Bird Sumner was a brother of Charles Richard Sumner, bishop of Winchester. Their father was Robert Sumner and their mother was Hannah Bird, a first cousin of William Wilberforce.[3] Sumner was born in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. He was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge.[4]

In 1802, Sumner became a master at Eton College, where he was nicknamed "Crumpety Sumner" by the boys,[5] and was ordained the following year. He was elected a fellow of Eton in 1817 and in 1818 the school presented him to the living of Maple Durham, Oxfordshire. After being a prebendary of the Durham diocese for some years, he was consecrated to the episcopate as the Bishop of Chester in 1828. During his episcopacy many churches and schools were built in the diocese. In 1848 he was elevated to Archbishop of Canterbury (with an annual income of £15,000[6]) and in this capacity he dealt impartially with the different church parties until his death.

Sumner's numerous writings were much esteemed, especially by the Evangelical party to which he belonged. His best known writings are his Treatise on the Records of Creation and the Moral Attributes of the Creator (London, 1816) and The Evidence of Christianity derived from its Nature and Reception (London, 1821).

In the well-known Gorham Case, Sumner came into conflict with Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter (1778–1869), who accused him of supporting heresy and refused to communicate with him. He supported the Divorce Bill in parliament but opposed the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill and the bill for removing Jewish disabilities.

Sumner was president of the Canterbury Association which founded Christchurch, New Zealand.[7] In 1848 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[8]

Sumner died in 1862 in Addington and is buried in Addington churchyard. He had married Marianne Robertson (1779 - 1829) on 31 March 1803 in Bath. She was the daughter of George Robertson (1742 - 1791), a captain in the Royal Navy, and Ann Lewis (1748 - 1802), daughter of Francis Lewis (1713 - 1803), a New York signer of the Declaration of Independence and Elizabeth Anessley (1715 - 1779). Sumner and his wife had seven children; Anne (1804 - 1833), Eliza Maria (1808 - 1836), Georgiana (1814 - 1881), Caroline (1815 - 1841), Maria (1817 - 1861), John Henry Robertson (1821 - 1910) and Robert George Moncrief (1825 - 1885). Sumner was later to have remarried to Ella Sophia (b. 27 May 1821, Bencoolen - d. 5 May 1840, England), the fourth child of Stamford Raffles, but she died on the eve of their wedding.


  1. Church Times — Education: Academy awards
  2. "John Bird Sumner". Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  3. Edward J. Davies, "Some Connections of the Birds of Warwickshire", The Genealogist, 26(2012):58-76.
  4. "Sumner, James Bird (SMNR798JB)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. Gronow, Rees Howell (1863). Recollections and Anecdotes: Being a Second Series of Reminiscences of the Camp, the Court, and the Clubs. Smith, Elder. p. 78.
  6. Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 760.
  7. Blain, Michael (2007). The Canterbury Association (1848-1852): A Study of Its Members’ Connections (PDF). Christchurch: Project Canterbury. pp. 78–79. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  8. "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 2012-02-02.


Church of England titles
Preceded by
Charles Blomfield
Bishop of Chester
Succeeded by
John Graham
Preceded by
William Howley
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
Charles Longley
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