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February ‘Archive of the Month’ – Letters of Richard Mant, Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore 1823–1848

RCB Library Notes

Added on 01/02/2013

Line drawing of Bishop Mant from "A Memoir of the Life of Bishop Mant" by his some-time Brother-Fellow Archdeacon Berens (London, 1849)
Line drawing of Bishop Mant from “A Memoir of the Life of Bishop Mant” by his some–time Brother–Fellow Archdeacon Berens (London, 1849)

Episcopal correspondence and other papers created during the course of the careers of bishops and archbishops are relatively rare survivals for documenting Church of Ireland history. Firstly, many episcopal papers were part of diocesan collections deposited for safe–keeping in the Public Records Office of Ireland, which tragically went up in smoke in 1922. Secondly, many bishops were inclined to consider the papers created during their time in office as part of their personal possessions, which they either destroyed on retirement, or ordered to be destroyed after their deaths, not appreciating the value and long–term benefits of record–keeping and ensuring an accurate record of the past.

The dearth of surviving episcopal material, especially pre–20th century, makes those that do make it through the ravages of time all the more significant. In 2006, the late Canon John Crawford, then vicar of the St Patrick’s Cathedral Group of parishes in Dublin and author of The Church of Ireland in Victorian Dublin (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005), acquired at auction a substantial collection of letters written by the Rt. Revd Richard Mant (1776–1846), Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore, 1823–48 and generously gave the collection and related materials to the RCB Library.

These have now been catalogued, and the detailed catalogue – together with a selection of digitized letters – is featured as February’s Archive of the Month at the Representative Church Body Library.

There are over 100 letters written by Bishop Mant between 1823 – the year he was translated, somewhat controversially from the see of Killaloe and Kilfenora to that of Down and Connor (Down, Connor and Dromore from 1842) where he remained as bishop until his death in 1848. All of them are addressed to the Revd William St. John Smyth, to whom they belonged and who kept them safe in the context of other personal letters and papers. Smyth served as chancellor of Down, 1828–43, and later as precentor of Connor and rector of Ballymoney, 1843–47, and was also a rural dean in Mant’s united diocese. He also married Mary, a daughter of the bishop’s brother, Henry Mant of Bath, in 1827. Bishop Mant was born in England on the 12 February 1776, and having served in the Church of England until 1820, came to government attention for his defence of Anglican evangelicalism, and was nominated to Killaloe in that year. Three years later he was translated to Down where he would spend the next 25 years as bishop of the united see – the bulk of the period covered by these letters. He authored the History of the Church of Ireland from the Reformation to the Revolution, published in 1840, regarded as a definitive work of the time.


For further information please contact:Dr Susan Hood RCB Library Braemor Park Churchtown Dublin 14 Tel: 01–4923979 Fax: 01–4924770 E–mail: susan.hood@rcbdub.org