Dictionary of National Biography, 1927 supplement/Jacob, Edgar

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JACOB, EDGAR (1844–1920), bishop of Newcastle and of St. Albans, was born at Crawley rectory, near Winchester, 16 November 1844, the fifth son of the Rev. Philip Jacob, archdeacon of Winchester, by his wife, Anna Sophia, daughter of the Rev. the Hon. Gerard Thomas Noel, canon of Winchester. He was grandson of John Jacob, the Guernsey topographer [q.v.], great-grandson of Edward Jacob, the antiquary [q.v.], great-nephew of General John Jacob [q.v.], and nephew of Sir George Le Grand Jacob [q.v.]. He was educated at Winchester, and at New College, Oxford, of which he was a scholar. He obtained a first class in classical moderations (1865) and a third class in literae humaniores (1867). Jacob was ordained in 1868 by Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, and held curacies at Taynton, near Burford (1868), and Witney (1869–1871), and finally at St. James’s, Bermondsey (1871–1872), which he left to become domestic chaplain to Robert Milman [q.v.], bishop of Calcutta and metropolitan of India. He went reluctantly, but stated forty-seven years later that he had learned more from his four years in India than in any other way. Much of the work of administering the immense diocese of Calcutta (in those days about two-thirds of India) seems to have fallen gradually into Jacob’s hands, and the experience, which left an indelible mark on his personality, was the foundation of his deep interest in all missionary work overseas, and of his wide sympathy with all work for the spread of Christianity through whatever persons and agencies it was carried on.

In 1876 Jacob returned to England and became the first warden of the Wilberforce mission in South London, and examining chaplain to Edward Harold Browne, bishop of Winchester. The latter post he retained under successive bishops till 1896, but in 1878 he left London to become vicar of Portsea. There he found a population of 20,000, a dilapidated and half-empty church, and one curate; on his departure eighteen years later the population had nearly doubled, there was a magnificent and well-filled parish church, several mission churches, and twelve curates. The new church of St. Mary he erected at a cost of about £50,000, of which sum he received nearly £30,000 from his great friend, the Rt. Hon. William Henry Smith [q.v.]. It is not too much to say that his parochial work at Portsea influenced the whole Church of England, and eloquent testimony has been borne to it by two of his successors at Portsea, Archbishop Lang of York and Bishop Garbett of Southwark.

Jacob was made an honorary canon of Winchester in 1884, an honorary chaplain to Queen Victoria in 1887, a chaplain in ordinary in 1890, rural dean of Landport and chaplain to H. M. Prison, Portsmouth, and select preacher at Oxford and proctor in Convocation in 1895. At the end of 1895 he accepted the bishopric of Newcastle and was consecrated 25 January 1896 by the archbishop of York. Here his great powers had full scope; although he only held the see for seven years, his organizing and administrative ability left a permanent mark on the diocese. In wider matters of policy his influence was felt, particularly in the passing of the Burials Act (1901), which he felt to be an act of justice to nonconformists. In 1903 he was translated to the see of St. Albans, leaving a compact diocese for an unwieldy charge of two large counties and 630 benefices, with its centre, in the words of Bishop Claughton, ‘outside its circumference’. His presence not far from London was greatly desired for the central work of the Church, and the problem of the spiritual care of London-over-the-Border attracted him personally, while it elicited his most vigorous and unremitting efforts. The incessant strain of administering his great diocese and of raising money for its prospective division, which he saw to be essential, injured his health, and in 1911 he fell seriously ill. After his recovery he saw his efforts crowned in 1913 when, after many obstacles in the House of Commons, the bill was passed for the division of the see into the new units of Chelmsford (Essex with London-over-the-Border) and St. Albans (Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire). He had desired to be first bishop of Chelmsford, but ill-health necessitated his remaining at St. Albans, where he devoted himself to the incorporation of the county of Bedford in the reconstructed diocese. His health gradually failed, and after delivering an interesting and touching farewell charge in June 1919, he resigned the see in December of that year, and retired to Winchester. He died at St. Cross 25 March 1920, and was buried at St. Albans. He was never married, and his sister, Edith Jacob, the foundress of the Society of Watchers and Workers, was, as he said, ‘the inspiring partner of his life’.

Bishop Jacob used his great financial ability for the good of the central and local organizations of the Church, but himself cared little for money, and characteristically refused to accept any pension when he resigned his see. Of a simple nature, kindly, unpretentious, and sympathetic, his entire interest lay in the world-wide work of the Church. A great administrator with a well-earned reputation for business capacity and legal acumen, an eloquent preacher, a man of broad and statesmanlike vision, for many years he was a trusted leader in the Church of England. His views on the pastoral work of the Church found expression in The Divine Society (Cambridge lectures on pastoral theology, 1890), Five Addresses to the Clergy of the Diocese of St. Albans (1916), and many lectures and addresses.

[The Wykehamist, 21 May 1920; A. H. Jacob and J. H. Glascott, An Historical and Genealogical Narrative of the Families of Jacob, 1875; G. W. Kitchin, Edward Harold Browne, 1895; C. F. Garbett, The Work of a Great Parish, 1915; Sir Herbert Maxwell, Life and Times of the Rt. Hon. W. H. Smith, 1893; Church Missionary Society Reports; Newcastle and St. Albans Diocesan Gazettes; E. Jacob, Farewell Charge to the Diocese of St. Albans, 1919; private information; personal knowledge.]

K. F. G.