Hildesley, Mark (DNB00)

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HILDESLEY, MARK, D.D. (1698–1772), bishop of Sodor and Man, born at Murston, Kent, on 9 Dec. 1698, was eldest surviving son of Mark Hildesley, rector of Murston and also vicar of Sittingbourne from 1705. In 1710 the father became rector of Houghton, which he held with the chapel of Witton or Wyton All Saints, Huntingdonshire. About that time the son was sent to the Charterhouse School, London, where the learned Jortin was a schoolfellow. At the age of nineteen he was removed to Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. in 1720, and M.A. in 1724. He was elected a fellow of his college in October 1723, and about the same time was appointed steward. He had been ordained deacon in 1722, and on 29 March 1723 Lord Cobham appointed him one of his domestic chaplains. In February 1724–5 he was nominated a preacher at Whitehall by Dr. Edmund Gibson, bishop of London. From 1725 till the end of 1729 he was curate of Yelling, Huntingdonshire. In February 1730–1 he was presented to the college vicarage of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, and married in the same year. He incurred great expense in improving the vicarage house, and, to augment his income, took six pupils as boarders. On 18 Jan. 1733–4 he was appointed chaplain to Henry St. John, the famous lord Bolingbroke; in October 1735 rector of Holwell, Bedfordshire, and on 10 May 1742 chaplain to John, viscount St. John. In 1750 he became an honorary member of the Gentlemen's Literary Society, established at Spalding, Lincolnshire. On 20 Feb. 1753–4 he was collated to the prebend of Marston St. Lawrence in the church of Lincoln (Le Neve, Fasti, ed. Hardy, ii. 184). His tenure of the rectory of Holwell extended over thirty-two years (1735–67), and his exemplary conduct there recommended him to the notice of the Duke of Atholl, lord of the Isle of Man, who nominated him to the see of Sodor and Man. After being created D.D. at Lambeth by Archbishop Herring on 7 April 1755 (Gent. Mag. 1864, pt. i. 637), he was consecrated in Whitehall Chapel on the 27th, and on 6 Aug. following was installed in the cathedral of St. German, Peel Castle, Isle of Man. He retained the rectory of Holwell in commendam until 1767, when he was presented by Bishop Trevor to the mastership of Christ's Hospital at Sherburn, near Durham.

Hildesley devoted all his energies to providing his Manx flock with a complete version of the Holy Scriptures in their native tongue. On 28 Nov. 1772 he received the last portion of the work, and died of apoplexy, after some years of failing health, 7 Dec. 1772. His wife, Elizabeth Hoker, whom he married in 1731, died without issue 27 Feb. 1763.

Of twenty thousand persons in the Isle of Man, few in Hildesley's day were acquainted with English. A Manx translation of the New Testament had been begun by his predecessor, Bishop Wilson. Hildesley's resolve was to supply a complete translation of the whole bible. He himself learned Manx sufficiently well to conduct the services of the church in that language, but never acquired it perfectly. ‘He would give 500l.,’ he once said, ‘were he enough master of Manx as to be able to translate.’ To facilitate his study, John Kelly (1750–1809) [q. v.] composed for his use a grammar and dictionary. At first, with the sanction and support of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, which liberally encouraged the undertaking, Hildesley printed the New Testament and the Book of Common Prayer, translated, under his direction, by the clergy of the diocese, as well as the ‘Christian Monitor,’ Lewis's ‘Exposition of the Catechism,’ and Bishop Wilson's ‘Form of Prayer’ for the use of the herring fishermen. But he received such munificent assistance that about 1766 he made arrangements for the translation of the Old Testament, dividing it for this purpose into twenty-four parts, which he distributed among as many translators, nearly all residents in the island, and, with one exception, clergymen. Their names and the books of scripture allotted to them are given in Butler's ‘Life of Bishop Hildesley’ (pp. 252–6). The work was committed for final revision to the Rev. Philip Moore [q. v.] and the Rev. John Kelly. The first volume of the translation was completed on 2 July 1771; the second volume was ready for the press on 6 April 1772; and all was finished and transcribed in December of the same year, at the time of the bishop's death. The work was printed at Whitehaven under the title of: ‘Yn Vible Cashcrick: ny, yn Chenn Chonaant. Veih ny chied ghlaraghyn, dy kiaralagh chyndaït ayns Gailck; ta shen dy ghra, chengey ny mayrey Ellan Vannin.’ It was published in 1773. General Vallancey, in his ‘Grammar of the Irish Language,’ speaks highly of this translation, and notices in one or two instances its superiority to the Irish version (Butler, pp. 233, 670). The second edition of the Manx scriptures was published at Whitehaven in 1775, and the last edition at London in 1819. In 1825 Dr. George Murray, bishop of Sodor and Man, informed the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge that the displacement of Manx by English in the island removed the necessity of providing further copies of the Manx bible.

Hildesley was also author of an anonymous tract entitled ‘Plain Instructions for Young Persons in the Principles of the Christian Religion; in six Conferences between a Minister and his Disciple; designed for the use of the Isle and Diocese of Mann. By a resident Clergyman,’ 2 parts, London, 1762, 1767, 8vo.

[Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley, by the Rev. Weeden Butler, London, 1799, 4to; Gent. Mag. 1772 p. 599, 1781 pp. 106, 306; Bibl. Topographica Britannica, iii. xxiv; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), iii. 328; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iv. 692, v. 730; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. vi. 88, 89, ix. 221, 765; Addit. MS. 5871, f. 207; Bible of Every Land, p. 167; Life and Writings of Bishop Thomas Wilson, 1781, i. cxxviii; Train's Hist. of the Isle of Man, i. 365, 386; Harrison's Account of the Diocese of Sodor and Man, p. 67; Feltham and Wright's Monumental Inscriptions in the Isle of Man, p. 11.]

T. C.