Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oxenden, Ashton

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OXENDEN, ASHTON (1808–1892), bishop of Montreal, fifth son of Sir Henry Oxenden, seventh baronet, who died in 1838, by Mary, daughter of Colonel Graham of St. Lawrence, near Canterbury, was born at Broome Park, Canterbury, on 20 Sept. 1808.

Educated at Ramsgate and at Harrow, he matriculated from University College, Oxford, on 9 June 1826, graduated B.A. 1831, M.A. 1859, and was created D.D. 10 July 1869. In December 1833 he was ordained to the curacy of Barham, Kent, where he introduced weekly cottage lectures. In 1838 he resigned his charge, and during the following seven years was incapacitated for work by continuous ill-health. From 1849 to 1869 he was rector of Pluckley with Pevington, Kent, and in 1864 was made an honorary canon of Canterbury Cathedral. At Pluckley he first commenced extemporaneous preaching, and wrote the ‘Barham Tracts.’ In May 1869 he was elected bishop of Montreal and metropolitan of Canada by the Canadian provincial synod. He was consecrated in Westminster Abbey on 1 Aug., and installed in Montreal Cathedral on 5 Sept. Three-fourths of the population of the city were Roman catholics, but the church of England possessed twelve churches there besides the cathedral. Oxenden presided over nine dioceses. He assiduously attended to his episcopal duties, generally living in Montreal during the winter, and visiting the country districts in the summer. Ill-health caused his resignation of the bishopric in 1878, and on his return to England he attended the Pan-Anglican synod. From 30 May 1879 to 1884 he was vicar of St. Stephen's, near Canterbury, and from 1879 to 1884 he officiated as rural dean of Canterbury. He died at Biarritz, France, on 22 Feb. 1892, having married on 14 June 1864 Sarah, daughter of Joseph Hoare Bradshaw of London, banker, by whom he had a daughter, Mary Ashton Oxenden.

The bishop wrote numerous small theological works, which the author's plain and simple language rendered very popular. ‘The Pathway of Safety,’ 1856, was much appreciated by the poorer classes, and ultimately reached a circulation of three hundred and fifty thousand copies. ‘The Christian Life,’ 1877, went to forty-seven thousand, and the ‘Barham Tracts’ Nos. 1 to 49, after running to many editions in their original form, were collected and published as ‘Cottage Readings’ in 1859. With Charles Henry Ramsden, he wrote in 1858 ‘Family Prayers for Eight Weeks,’ which was often reprinted. Oxenden's name is attached to upwards of forty-five distinct works. Besides those already mentioned, the most important were: 1. ‘The Cottage Library,’ 1846–51, 6 vols. 2. ‘Confirmation; or, Are you ready to serve Christ?’ 1847; tenth thousand, 1859. 3. ‘Cottage Sermons,’ 1853. 4. ‘Family Prayers,’ 1858; 3rd ed. 1860. 5. ‘The Fourfold Picture of the Sinner,’ 1858. 6. ‘Fervent Prayer,’ 1860; fifth thousand, 1861. 8. ‘God's Message to the Poor: Eleven Sermons in Pluckley Church;’ 3rd ed. 1861. 9. ‘The Home beyond; or, Happy Old Age,’ 1861; ten thousand copies. 10. ‘Sermons on the Christian Life,’ 1861. 11. ‘Words of Peace,’ 1863. 12. ‘The Parables of our Lord explained,’ 1864. 13. ‘A Plain History of the Christian Church,’ 1864. 14. ‘Our Church and her Services,’ 1866. 15. ‘Decision,’ 1868. 16. ‘Short Lectures on the Sunday Gospels,’ 1869. 17. ‘My First Year in Canada,’ 1871. 18. ‘A Simple Exposition of the Psalms,’ 1872. 19. ‘Counsel to the Confirmed,’ 1878; ten thousand copies. 20. ‘Short Comments on the Gospels,’ 1885. 21. ‘Touchstones; or, Christian Graces and Characters tested,’ 1884.

[The History of my Life: an Autobiography by the Right Rev. A. Oxenden, 1891; Plain Sermons, 1893; Memoir, pp. xiii–lxxxv, with portrait; Graphic, 5 March 1892, p. 298, with portrait; Times, 23 Feb. 1892, p. 9; Guardian, 24 Feb. 1892, p. 263.]

G. C. B.