Eardley, Culling Eardley (DNB00)

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EARDLEY, Sir CULLING EARDLEY (1805–1863), religious philanthropist, born 21 April 1805, was the only son of Sir Culling Smith (second baronet), by Charlotte Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Eardley. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1829 and took the name of Eardley in 1847, on becoming the representative of the Eardley family. He was educated at Eton and at Oriel College. He married in 1832 Isabella, daughter of Mr. J. W. Carr of Eshott, Northumberland, solicitor to the excise, two other daughters of whom married respectively Dr. Lushington and Lord Cranworth. In 1830 he entered parliament as member for Pontefract, but did not seek re-election in 1831. He continued, however, to support the liberal party throughout his life. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Pontefract in 1837 on ‘purity’ principles; in 1846 for Edinburgh in opposition to Macaulay, appointed paymaster-general, the contest turning on the question of the Maynooth grant, which Eardley desired to suppress; and again in 1848 for the West Riding of Yorkshire, against Edward Denison.

In 1846 he became the founder of the Evangelical Alliance, which was designed to form a bond of union between protestant christian communities and to promote religious liberty throughout the world. Under his direction the Alliance obtained the liberation of many persons imprisoned for conscience' sake, such as the Madiai at Florence in 1852. The Alliance was successful in obtaining firmans in favour of religious liberty from the sultan in 1856, and shortly after from the khedive; the abolition of the penal laws against Roman catholics in Sweden in 1858, the liberation of the Jewish child Mortara, who had been taken from his parents to be brought up as a Roman catholic in 1859, and the independence of the Bulgarian church in 1861. The society held congresses of the members of protestant churches in various European capitals. That at Berlin in the autumn of 1857 was connected with the changes, ecclesiastical and political, advocated by Baron Bunsen in the Prussian government; the king, Frederick William IV, and Bunsen attended the meetings, and Eardley was invited to a long and important interview with the king. His last effort was for the relief of Matamoros and his companions, who had been imprisoned by the Spanish government for their religious opinions, and whose liberation was effected on the very day of Eardley's death.

Eardley desired to see the church of England disestablished, and its liturgy reformed in a protestant sense; but he built the church of All Saints at Belvedere, near Erith, Kent, and had it consecrated in 1861. He was treasurer of the London Missionary Society, and of the fund for the relief of the christians in the Lebanon after the massacres there in 1861, and took a prominent part in many beneficent movements, both religious and social, such as the introduction of the new poor law in 1834. He was greatly interested in christian missions abroad, and in the condition of the Jews throughout the world, being himself descended on his mother's side from the Jewish family of Abudiente or Gideon. He was the friend of John Williams of Erromanga, of Moffat and Livingstone, of Ridley Herschell (father of Lord Herschell) and Sir Moses Montefiore. He lived in early life, and also during his last three years, at Bedwell Park, near Hatfield, Hertfordshire, but from 1848 to 1858 at Belvedere, in the mansion built by his great-grandfather, Sampson Gideon [q. v.], which he inherited on the death of his cousin, Lord Saye and Sele, together with its gallery of pictures by the old masters, subsequently removed to Bedwell Park. He passed several years on the continent, and was well known to many of the leading men in politics and religion, such as Bunsen, Mazzini, Garibaldi, Tholuck, Adolphe Monod, and Merle d'Aubigné. He was a man of very wide sympathies, of a liberal and conciliatory disposition, and of unbounded hopefulness. He died 21 May 1863, leaving one son, Sir Eardley Gideon Culling Eardley, bart., who died in 1875 without issue, and two daughters, Frances Selena, married in 1865 to R. Hanbury, M.P., who died in 1867, and Isabella Maria, married to the Hon. and Rev. Canon W. H. Fremantle.

[Private information and personal knowledge.]

W. H. F.