Mackarness, John Fielder (DNB00)

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MACKARNESS, JOHN FIELDER (1820–1889), bishop of Oxford, eldest son of John Mackarness, a West India merchant (d. 2 Jan. 1870), who married on 8 June 1819 Catherine, daughter of George Smith Coxhead, M.D., was born at Islington, 8 Dec. 1820. He was educated at Eton (being at the election of 1832 in the fourth form, and afterwards king's scholar) and at Merton College, Oxford, where he matriculated on 22 Oct. 1840, and was postmaster from that year until 1844. Active amusements delighted him. At Eton he was captain of the football club, he rowed in the Merton boat, and was president of the Oxford Union. In 1843 he was in the second class in classics, and in the next year he graduated B.A. and was ordained in the English church. His subsequent degrees were M.A. 1847, and D.D. 1869. On 30 June 1844 Mackarness was elected to a fellowship at Exeter College, which he vacated a year after receiving preferment in the church (11 Aug. 1846). From 11 Aug. 1846 to 1855 he held the vicarage of Tardebigge in Worcestershire, and from 1854 to 1868 he was an honorary canon of Worcester Cathedral. On the nomination of William Courtenay, eleventh earl Devon, he was appointed to the rectory of Honiton, Devonshire, in 1855, and as such was responsible for the management of Honiton grammar school. This preferment he retained until his appointment to the episcopal bench, holding with it from 1858 a prebendal stall in Exeter Cathedral, and from 1867 the adjoining vicarage of Monkton. In 1866 he was elected as proctor in convocation for that diocese, but lost his seat in 1869 through declining to oppose the disestablishment of the Irish church. By the recommendation of Mr. Gladstone he was appointed to the see of Oxford, being consecrated bishop on 25 Jan. 1870, and invested as chancellor of the Garter on 5 Feb. 1870, and he discharged the duties of the see until 1888, when failing health compelled him to retire, his resignation taking legal effect on 17 Nov. 1888 (Lond. Gazette, 20 Nov. 1888, p. 6279). He died at Angus House, Eastbourne, on 16 Sept. 1889, and was buried on 21 Sept. in Sandhurst churchyard, Berkshire. He married, at Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, on 7 Aug. 1849, Alethea Buchanan, youngest daughter of Sir John Taylor Coleridge [q. v.] She still survives. Their issue was three sons and four daughters. His portrait by W. Ouless hangs in the dining-room at Cuddesdon Palace. As a bishop Mackarness was fearless and independent, without any trace of affectation, and the sermon which Professor Ince preached at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, on 22 Sept. 1889, and afterwards published, bore public witness to the regard which the clergy of his diocese had for him. When an attempt was made to force him to take proceedings against the rector of Clewer, he argued the case in person before the judges of the queen's bench division. Judgment went against him, but on carrying the case to the court of appeal it was given in his favour, and this decision was confirmed by the House of Lords. A liberal in politics, he voted in the lords against the Afghan war and the Public Worship Regulation Act, while he supported the bill for allowing dissenters to be buried in churchyards with services from their, own ministers, and the measure for the removal of religious tests in the universities. On surrendering to the ecclesiastical commissioners the management of the Oxford bishopric estates, Mackarness, with singular honesty, paid to them the sum of 1,729l., being the estimated amount which he had received therefrom in excess of his statutory income during the previous nine years. Mackarness was the author of numerous sermons and charges, and until his elevation to the see of Oxford he regularly contributed to the 'Guardian.' His chief publications were: 1. 'A few Words to the Country Parsons on the Election for Oxford University. By One of Themselves,' 1847. 2. 'A Plea for 'toleration, in Answer to the No Popery Cry,' 1850. 3. 'May or Must,' a letter to Archdeacon Pott, 1879. With the Rev. Richard Seymour he edited in 1862 a volume called 'Eighteen Years of a Clerical Meeting, being the Minutes of the Alcester Clerical Association, 1842-60,' and a sermon by him on the death of Lord Lyttelton, to whom he was for some time honorary chaplain, appeared in 'Brief Memorials of Lord Lyttelton,' 1876.

[Stapylton's Eton School Lists, pp. 156, 161, 170; Boase's Exeter College, p. 135; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Foster's Peerage; Guardian, 18 and 25 Sept. 1889; Halkett and Laing's Anon. Literature, p. 920; 40th Report Eccl. Comm. p. 17; Memorials of the Episcopate of Bishop Mackarness, by his son, the Rev. C. C. Mackarness.]

W. P. C.