Edward Fortescue

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Edward Bowles Knottesford-Fortescue[1][2][N 1] (1816–1877) was an English Anglican priest in the 19th century.


Edward Fortescue was born in 1816 in Stoke-by-Nayland in Suffolk,[3] the son of Francis Fortescue and his wife Maria, only daughter of Rev. George Downing, Rector of Ovington and Prebendary of Ely Cathedral. Francis inherited the estate of Bridgeton with the manors of Alveston and Teddington from his father's cousin, John Knottesford, who was also godfather to Francis. Upon coming of age, Francis added the name Knottesford, which was a condition of the will.[4] Francis and Maria had two sons, George and Edward.

Francis had taken Orders in the Church of England, and in 1823 they moved to the family estate at Alveston, on the outskirt of Stratford-on-Avon, where he became rector of the parish of Billesley. Edward was educated at home before entering Wadham College, Oxford[5] on 5 June 1834 at the age of eighteen.[6] He acquired a B.A. in 1838, and an M.A. in 1842.[7]

He was ordained in 1840. After a curacy in Billesley, he became the incumbent at Wilmcote. The Oxford Movement was a Catholic revival movement in the Church of England in the early nineteenth century, centred in Oxford, and Wilmcote was the site they chose to build a church, a school and a retreat house. The early nineteenth-century village had no church, it was then a part of the adjoining parish of Aston Cantlow but with a growing working class population due to the growth of the Wilmcote quarries, the village was much in need of a church and a school. The modern church of St. Andrew, built in 1841, is a monument to the influence of the Oxford Movement in the parish. It was built by the Francis Fortescue-Knottesford and Edward, who became the first curate, to meet the semi-industrial conditions created by the opening of the cement works in the 1830s.[8] The parishes were re-organized, and portions of the parishes of Aston Cantlow and Stratford-on-Avon became the consolidated chapelry of St. Andrew, Wilmcote.[9] Fortescue introduced the use of Eucharistic vestments while at Wilmcote.[10]

St Ninian's Cathedral, Perth (Scotland)

In 1851 he was appointed Dean of St. Ninian's and then Provost when cathedral status was confirmed by Wordsworth in 1853; this after J.M. Neale had declined. Fortescue remained there for twenty years, until he resigned in 1871.[11] On 8 September 1857, he chaired in inaugural meeting of the Association for the Promotion of the Unity of Christendom. While at Perth, he became embroiled in the ritualist controversy.[10]

John Wordsworth described Fortescue as:

In dress Provost Fortescue was carefully clerical, but in an old-fashioned style. although not much, if at all, below average height, he looked shorter from his habit of holding his head rather bent and forward. ...If he did not like his company, or did not feel sure of it, Provost Fortescue used to adopt a somewhat donnish, reserved, enigmatical manner and spoke little and (apparently) unwillingly. when at his ease, however, he could talk much and with great animation, and when it pleased him, in a select circle, freely to unbend, he was full of mirth, and could tell or enjoy a good story with the best. ...His theology was fundamentally that of the High Church School. ...In his public speaking he was generally content to set forth clearly and plainly, and in the very striking manner which he could employ, the orthodox aspect of doctrine and practice. But in private talk or conference his great delight seemed to be paradoxical as possible, ...A favorite way of his was to maintain the tenability of the most ultra-Roman opinions on all subjects. This reckless manner of argument, which was with him (at all events for many years) only a wayward jeu d'esprit, sometimes had unhappy consequences.[12]

At the age of twenty-two, Edward had married Frances Anne Spooner, daughter of Archdeacon William Spooner, rector of Elmdon. Her sister was married to Archibald Campbell Tait, who, in 1868 became Archbishop of Canterbury. Frances died in 1868. In 1872 Edward married Gertrude Robins.[3] That same year, he and his wife were received into the Catholic Church. Unable, as a married man, to be ordained in the Catholic Church he lived as a layman acting as principal to a Catholic school in Holloway.[3] His fourth son, George Knottesford Fortescue (1847–1912), became keeper of printed books in the British Museum in 1899.[13] His fifth son, Vincent became rector of Bubbenhall in Kenilworth.[14] Adrian Fortescue (1874–1923) was a Roman Catholic priest, liturgist, Byzantine scholar and adventurer.

Edward Fortescue died on 18 August 1877.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fortescue may have used each surname separately at different points in his life.


  1. ^ St Ninian's Cathedral – The Episcopate of Patrick Torry[dead link]
  2. ^ fortescue.org – Edward Bowles Knottesford Fortescue of Alveston
  3. ^ a b c "The Latin Clerk: The Life, Work, and Travels of Adrian Fortescue" Nichols, Aidan: Cambridge The Lutterworth Press ISBN 9780718892746
  4. ^ Fortescue, Thomas. Sir John Fortescue, Knight, His Life, Works, and Family History in Two Volumes, London, Chiswick Press, 1869, p. 22
  5. ^ UNIVERSITY AND CLERICAL INTELLIGENCE, The Standard (London, England), Friday, 3 June 1842; Issue 5586. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.
  6. ^ Wadham College. The Registers of Wadham College, Oxford ...: From 1719 to 1871, G. Bell and Sons, 1895
  7. ^ University of Oxford. Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886, Joseph Foster, 1888, p. 480
  8. ^ Aston Cantlow, A History of the County of Warwick, Vol. 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 31–42
  9. ^ Reports from Commissioners, Vol, 18, 1869
  10. ^ a b Chapman, Mark D., The Fantasy of Reunion: Anglicans, Catholics, and Ecumenism, 1833–1882, OUP Oxford, 2014, p. 41, ISBN 9780199688067
  11. ^ "Scottish Episcopal Clergy, 1689–2000" Bertie, D. M.: Edinburgh: T & T Clark ISBN 0-567-08746-8
  12. ^ Wordsworth, John. The Episcopate of Charles Wordsworth, Longmans, Green, 1899, p. 47
  13. ^ The Times/1912/Obituary/George Knottesford Fortescue
  14. ^ Visitation of England and Wales, Vol. 6, (Joseph Jackson Howard, ed.), 1898
  15. ^ Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries. The Standard (London, England), Wednesday, 22 August 1877; pg. [1]; Issue 16561. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.