Bruce, George Wyndham Hamilton Knight- (DNB01)

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BRUCE, GEORGE WYNDHAM HAMILTON KNIGHT- (1852–1896), first bishop of Mashonaland, born in 1852 in Devonshire, was the eldest son of Lewis Bruce Knight-Bruce of Roehampton Priory, Surrey, by his wife, Caroline Margaret Eliza, only daughter of Thomas Newte of Tiverton in Devonshire. Sir James Lewis Knight Bruce [q. v.] was his grandfather. George was educated at Eton, and matriculated from Merton College, Oxford, on 13 April 1872, graduating B.A. in 1876 and M.A. in 1881. He was created D.D. on 23 Feb. 1886. He was ordained deacon in 1876 and priest in 1877, as curate of Bibury in Gloucestershire. He was curate of St. Michael at Wendron, near Helston in Cornwall, from 1878 to 1882, and vicar of St. George, Everton, from 1882 to 1883. In 1883 he offered his services as curate in the east end of London, and from 1884 to 1886 was curate in charge of St. Andrew, Bethnal Green. During this period the Oxford House Settlement was established. On 25 March 1886 he was consecrated third bishop of Bloemfontein in St. Mary's Church, Whitechapel. Reserved by nature, he was in some ways unfitted for the work necessary in a new country, and his tenure of the position was not in every respect a success. He, however, did admirable work in reorganising and restoring order to the bishopric. He was imbued with a love of exploration, and before the charter of the South African Company was obtained he made a preliminary expedition northwards, and penetrated to the Zambesi. He visited Lobengula, the chief of the Matabele, and obtained permission from the principal Mashona chiefs to send missionaries into their country.

After the charter of the British South Africa Company was granted in October 1889, Knight-Bruce followed the pioneer forca into the country, and in 1891, on the creation of the bishopric of Mashonaland, he accepted the post of first bishop. Ably assisted by his wife, who shared his love for the natives, he laboured among the inhabitants of the country as well as among the English immigrants. While acknowledging the assistance rendered him by Mr. Rhodes and the company, he maintained an attitude of complete independence. He repudiated the 'moral right' of Lobengula to rule over Mashonaland, but entirely disapproved of the Matabele war. When the war broke out he joined the expeditionary force, but declined the post of chaplain, because he held that the Matabele, no less than the company's troops, were members of his diocese. To both sides alike he gave unremitting service in the care of the sick and wounded, and exposed himself with the utmost freedom. Injury to his health from fatigue and hardships compelled him to retire from the bishopric in 1894. He returned to England, and went immediately to Devonshire, where he worked for a time with the bishop of Exeter. In 1895 he was nominated to the crown living of Bovey Tracey, and shortly afterwards became assistant-bishop to Dr. E. H. Bickersteth, then bishop of Exeter. He died at the vicarage of Bovey Tracey on 16 Dec. 1896. On 21 Aug. 1878 he married Louisa, daughter of John Torr of Carlett Park in Cheshire. By her he had a daughter.

Bruce was the author of:

  1. 'Journals of the Mashonaland Mission,' London, 1892, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1893.
  2. 'Memories of Mashonaland,' London, 1895, 8vo.

[Bruce's Works; Burke's Landed Gentry; the Times, 17 Dec. 1896; Mission Field, February 1897; Foster's Alumni Oxen. 1715-1886.]

E. I. C.