Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Titcomb, Jonathan Holt

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TITCOMB, JONATHAN HOLT (1819–1887), bishop of Rangoon, was born in London on 29 July 1819, and educated at Brompton 1826, and at Clapham from 1827 to 1830. In 1831 he removed to King's College school, whence he went in 1834 to Thomas Jarrett [q. v.] to be prepared for the university. He entered St. Peter's College, Cambridge, in 1837, read for mathematical honours, and at the end of his first year gained a college scholarship. He graduated B.A. (junior optime) in 1841, and M.A. in 1845, and was created D.D. honoris causa in 1877. In 1842 he commenced residing in the house of Lady Harriet Forde of Hollymount, near Downpatrick, as tutor to her nephew, Pierce Butler. He was ordained on 25 Sept. 1842, and acted as curate at Downpatrick. In February 1844 he became curate of St. Mark's, Kennington, London, and in April 1845 perpetual curate of St. Andrew-the-Less. This was a large parish in Cambridge where a portion of the population were of the most disreputable and degraded character. Titcomb very soon made himself popular, and had large congregations attending his church; he instituted Sunday schools and district visitors, and became a very successful open-air preacher. He resigned his living in June 1859, and removed to The Boltons, South Kensington. For nearly three years he acted as secretary to the Christian Vernacular Education Society of India.

In April 1861 Titcomb was presented to the vicarage of St. Stephen's, South Lambeth, where a new district church had been erected. From 1870 to 1876 he acted as rural dean of Clapham, Surrey, and in 1874 was made an honorary canon of Winchester Cathedral. His London engagements were also numerous: he was a member of the Eclectic Society and of the Prophetical Society, where he read papers; he lectured at the Christian Evidence Society, and argued with infidels in Bradlaugh's Hall of Science. The Earl of Onslow, who had witnessed the success of his ministry in South Lambeth, gave him the living of Woking, Surrey, in March 1876. In the following year he was appointed the first bishop of the newly formed diocese of Rangoon in British Burma, and consecrated in Westminster Abbey on 21 Dec. He landed in Rangoon on 21 Feb. 1878, and during his short career in the country led an active life. He held a confirmation in the Andaman Islands, consecrated a missionary church at Toungoo, ordained to the diaconate Tamil and Karen converts, paid seven visits to Moulmein resulting in the appointment of a chaplain there, and baptised and confirmed numerous Tamils, Karens, Burmese, Chinese, Eurasians, and Telegas. On 17 Feb. 1881 he fell over a cliff in the Karen hills, and was so injured that he was ultimately obliged to return to England, where on 3 March 1882 he resigned his bishopric. An account of some portion of his career as a bishop is given in his ‘Personal Recollections of British Burma, and its Church Mission Work in 1878–9,’ London, 1880.

After a period of rest Titcomb was appointed by the bishop of London his coadjutor for the supervision of the English chaplains in Northern and Central Europe, extending over ten nations. After eight long continental journeys (1884–1886) his strength failed, and he accepted the vicarage of St. Peter's, Brockley, Kent. He died at St. Leonard's-on-Sea on 2 April 1887, and was buried in Brompton cemetery, London, on 7 April. He married, in May 1845, Sarah Holt, eldest daughter of John Wood of Southport; she died on 25 Jan. 1876, aged 52, having had eight daughters and two sons. Four of the daughters died in the bishop's lifetime. In addition to addresses, lectures, pastorals, and sermons, he published: 1. ‘Heads of Prayer for Daily Private Devotion, with an Appendix of Occasional Prayers,’ Cambridge, 1830; 4th edit. 1862. 2. ‘Bible Studies, or an Inquiry into the Progressive Development of Divine Revelation,’ Cambridge, 1851, part i. only; 2nd edit. 1857. 3. ‘Baptism, its Institution, its Privileges, and its Responsibilities,’ 1866. 4. ‘The Real Presence: Remarks in Reply to R. F. Littledale,’ 1867. 5. ‘The Doctrine of the Real Presence in the Lord's Supper,’ 1868. 6. ‘Revelation in Progress from Adam to Malachi: Bible Studies,’ 1871. 7. ‘Cautions for Doubters,’ 1873; 2nd edit. 1880. 8. ‘Church Lessons for Young Churchmen, or Gladius Ecclesiæ,’ 1873, two editions. 9. ‘The Anglo-Israel Post-Bag,’ 1876, a satire. 10. ‘Is it not Reasonable? A Dialogue on the Anglo-Israel Controversy,’ 1877. 11. ‘Liberationist Fallacies,’ 1877. 12. ‘Before the Cross: a Book of Devout Meditation,’ 1878. 13. ‘The Bond of Peace: a Message to the Church,’ 1878. 14. ‘Short Chapters on Buddhism, past and present,’ 1883. 15. ‘A Message to the Nineteenth Century,’ 1887, a work on Anglo-Israelism.

[A. T. Edwards's A Consecrated Life, memoir of Bishop Titcomb, 1887, with a portrait; Church Portrait Journal, 1880, i. 61–4, with a portrait; Times, 4 April 1887 p. 9, 5 April p. 9; Men of the Time, 1887, p. 996.]

G. C. B.