Baring, Charles Thomas (DNB00)

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BARING, CHARLES THOMAS (1807–1879), bishop of Durham, was the fourth son of Sir Thomas Baring, second baronet, of the eminent banking firm of Baring Brothers. His mother was Mary Ursula, daughter of Charles Sealy, barrister-at-law, Calcutta. Charles Thomas Baring was privately educated till he entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1825. At Oxford he greatly distinguished himself, and took a double first-class in classics and mathematics in his final examination in 1829. In 1830 he married his cousin Mary Ursula Sealy, and took holy orders. At first he devoted himself to clerical work in Oxford, and then took the little living of Kingsworthy in Hampshire. In 1840 his wife died, and he married in 1846 Caroline, daughter of Thomas Read Kemp of Dale Park, Sussex. In 1847 he was appointed to the important benefice of All Saints, Marylebone, and became renowned as an earnest, simple preacher of the evangelical school. In 1850 he was made chaplain in ordinary to the queen, and was select preacher at Oxford. In 1855 he left London for the rectory of Limpsfield in Surrey, where, however, he did not long remain. In 1856 he was chosen to succeed Dr. Monk as bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. He entered with energy upon the duties of his episcopal office, but he was not allowed to stay at Gloucester long enough to make a decided mark on that diocese. In 1861 he was translated to the see of Durham, in succession to Dr. Villiers.

The name of Bishop Baring is chiefly associated with the work of church extension in the diocese of Durham. He found a district in which a manufacturing and mining population had increased with great rapidity, and had far outstripped the provision made for their spiritual welfare. A movement had already been set on foot to supply the deficiency. Bishop Baring gave himself most assiduously to carry on the work. So successful was he during his episcopate of seventeen years that he saw the formation of 102 new parishes, the building of 119 churches, and an increase of 186 in the number of parochial clergy. In his last charge to his clergy in 1878 he expressed his opinion that the limit of the formation of new districts had been reached, and that future progress should be made by erecting mission chapels.

Bishop Baring devoted himself exclusively to the work of his diocese. He rarely appeared in the House of Lords or spoke on any subjects which did not concern his immediate business. He was unsparing of himself in his efforts to discharge his duties to the uttermost. He was, however, reluctantly driven to confess that the work of the diocese was more than one man could accomplish. In 1876 he admitted the necessity of dividing the see of Durham, and at his request provision was made in the act for the extension of the episcopate (1878) for the formation of a diocese of Newcastle.

Bishop Baring was a man of deep personal piety and of great kindliness. Though a wealthy man, he lived with great simplicity, and gave back to the diocese in donations for church purposes more than he received as the income of his see. His personal acts of charity, though done in secret, were very numerous. He was in theological opinions a strong evangelical, and in his public utterances he did not disguise the fact. Those who did not agree with him complained that in the discharge of his official duties he followed too exclusively his own individual preferences. He took a more decided step than any other bishop by refusing to license curates to clergymen whose ritual he thought to be contrary to his interpretation of the Prayer Book. This gave rise to much controversy, but did not impair the respect in which he was personally held. In 1877 the chief laity of the county asked him to sit for his portrait, which they desired to present to Auckland Castle. Bishop Baring, with a stern modesty which was characteristic of him, refused, and no portrait of him remains.

In 1878 Bishop Baring felt his health giving way. He laboured under a painful disease which he knew to be incurable. At the end of the year he went through the fatigue of an episcopal visitation, and immediately afterwards announced his resignation. He declined the retiring pension which he might have claimed, and preferred to leave the income unimpaired to his successor. He left his see in February 1879, and did not long survive his retirement. He died at Wimbledon in September following.

[Obituary notice in Durham Diocesan Calendar for 1880; Times, 15 Sept. 1879.]

M. C.