Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Feild, Edward

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FEILD, EDWARD (1801–1876), bishop of Newfoundland, third son of James Feild, was born at Worcester on 7 June 1801, and, after spending some years at a school at Bewdley, went to Rugby at Midsummer 1814. He matriculated from Wadham College, Oxford, on 15 June 1819, but on obtaining an exhibition from Rugby migrated to Queen's College, where he gained a Michel scholarship. He took his B.A. in 1823, and his M.A. in 1826. He held a Michel fellowship from 1825 to 1833 at Queen's College, where he lectured on mathematics and history. In the autumn of 1827 he was licensed to the curacy of Kidlington, near Oxford, and commenced his career of ministerial activity, which only terminated at his death. Here he built schools, including schools for infants, and delivered lectures to his parishioners on the disturbed state of the country, the causes, and the remedies. He was presented to the college living of English Bicknor, Gloucestershire, in 1834. In this parish he not only erected schools, but rebuilt the church, and the fame of his powers in school matters was now so widely spread that he became the first inspector of schools under the National Society on the commencement of their scheme of inspection in May 1840 (Annual Reports of the National Society, 1840, pp. 120–48, 1841, pp. 101–73).

He was appointed bishop of Newfoundland on 22 March 1844, with an income of 1,200l. a year, and consecrated at Lambeth Palace on 28 April, having on the previous day been created a D.D. by a decree of the convocation of the university of Oxford. He landed at St. John's, the episcopal city, on 4 July, and in this bleak region spent the remainder of his life. The want of roads rendered it necessary to visit the various parts of his diocese by sea, and for this purpose he made use of the Hawke, a schooner of only 56 tons burden. One portion of his charge consisted of the islands of Bermuda, twelve hundred miles south of Newfoundland, a place to which he went, with great risk and fatigue, every second year. Tempestuous weather and frequent fogs rendered the navigation dangerous, and several times he ran great risks of being drowned. He led a consistent life of self-denial, and was a great support to his clergy in their many toils. The one flaw in his character was the want of Christian charity which he displayed towards the ministers of other denominations. He found only twelve clergymen in Newfoundland and left at his decease fifty, with churches and parsonages multiplied in proportion. A college for candidates for the ministry was erected and adequately endowed, schools were established, and an orphanage for destitute children was erected. The cathedral of St. John's was designed and partly built, and a fund for the support of the episcopate was created. The church and a large part of the city of St. John's were destroyed by fire in June 1846; the new cathedral church was consecrated on 21 Sept. 1850. Feild visited England in 1846, 1853, 1859, and 1866, and on 30 April 1867 he married the widow of an old friend, his wife being Sophia, daughter of Robert Bevan of Rougham Rookery, Suffolk, and widow of the Rev. Jacob G. Mountain, principal of St. John's College, Newfoundland. His health beginning to fail, the Rev. James Butler Kelly, archdeacon of Newfoundland, was on 25 Aug. 1867 consecrated coadjutor bishop. Feild consented to assign from his own income 500l. to his coadjutor, but as Bishop Kelly undertook the responsibilities connected with the church ship and the visitation voyages to the Bermudas, the arrangement was a self-denying one on both sides. In 1868 Feild was offered the less laborious and more important position of the bishopric of Montreal, the metropolitan see of Canada, but he refused to leave Newfoundland. The severe climate at last told on his constitution, and on 27 Oct. 1875 he resigned the charge of St. John's Cathedral, the parish church, and the rectory of St. John's, which he had held for twenty years. He then sailed for Bermuda, hoping that the more genial climate might restore him to health. From that place he wrote to the Earl of Carnarvon on 5 March 1876, stating his intention of resigning the bishopric on the following 31 July, but he died at the bishop's palace, Bermuda, on 8 June, and was buried in the parish churchyard, all the clergy of the islands, thirteen in number, attending the funeral.

He was the author of the following works: 1. ‘An Address on the State of the Country, read to the Inhabitants of Kidlington,’ 1830, six editions. 2. ‘Effects of Drunkenness, shown in an Address read to his Parishioners at Kidlington,’ 1831. 3. ‘Helps to the Knowledge and Practice of Psalmody for the Use of Schools,’ 1831. 4. List of contributions to the funds of the diocese, with the ‘Letter from the Bishop of Newfoundland to the Contributors,’ 1845. 5. ‘The Apostle's Hope and Great Plainness of Speech; a Sermon,’ 1846. 6. ‘God glorified in His Saints; a Sermon,’ 1846. 7. ‘A Plea for Reverent Behaviour in the House of God; a Sermon,’ 1849. 8. ‘The Church of the Holy Apostles; a Sermon,’ 1851. He also printed five ‘Charges to the Clergy of Bermuda,’ 1845, 1849, 1853, 1858, 1866, 5 vols.; three ‘Charges to the Clergy of Newfoundland,’ 1844, 1847, 1866, 3 vols.; and ‘Journals of Visitations to Missions on the Coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador,’ in ‘The Church in the Colonies,’ Nos. 10, 15, 19, 21, 25 (1846–50).

[Tucker's Memoir of E. Feild, Bishop of Newfoundland (1877), with portrait; Davies's Sermon in Lambeth Palace at consecration of Edward, Lord Bishop of Newfoundland (1844); Men of the Time, 1875, p. 398.]

G. C. B.