Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Weston, Stephen (1665-1742)

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WESTON, STEPHEN (1665–1742), bishop of Exeter, said by tradition among his descendants to have been nearly related to Richard Weston, first earl of Portland [q. v.], the lord treasurer, was born at Farnborough, Berkshire, on 25 Dec. 1665. He was educated at Eton, being seventeenth boy on an indenture made at the election in 1679, and proceeded to King's College, Cambridge, where he was admitted scholar on 18 May 1683. He graduated B.A. in 1686–7, M.A. 1690, and became a fellow of his college. In 1698–9 he gave to the college the twelve folio volumes of Grævius, which are called ‘Thesaurus Antiquitatum Romanarum.’ On 20 Dec. 1692 he was admitted student at Gray's Inn.

Weston was an assistant master at Eton from about 1690, and from 1693, when he took gladly have avoided, and indeed pleaded his peaceful avocation as a reason for leaving orders, he held the post of usher or second master. Ill-health compelled him on 9 Oct. 1707 to retire from school life and to accept a fellowship at the college. He was a whig, and intended to stand for the provostship of King's College in opposition to Dr. Adams, ‘a high-church man.’ To qualify himself for this headship it was necessary that he should have taken the degree of D.D., and as the friends of the rival candidate might have interposed some obstacles to his obtaining the qualification at Cambridge, he went to New College, Oxford, and became B.D. and D.D. as a grand compounder on 10 Dec. 1711. Unfortunately a tory ministry came in during the autumn of 1710, and Dr. Adams was made provost. Hearne called Weston ‘a good scholar and a good-natur'd man’ (Collections, ed. Doble, iii. 277–8).

Weston was installed as canon of Ely on 23 June 1715, and retained the canonry until 1717. In 1716 he was appointed to the vicarage of Mapledurham in Oxfordshire. Through the interest of Sir Robert Walpole, who had been a schoolboy under him at Eton, he was appointed to the bishopric of Exeter, being consecrated at Lambeth on 28 Dec. 1724. The see of Exeter was meanly endowed, and Weston, like the bishops before and after him, held many other preferments in commendam with it. These included the rectories of Calstock in Cornwall (1724) and Shobrooke in Devonshire (1724); the treasurership, with a canonry, of Exeter Cathedral (1724), and the archdeaconry of Exeter (26 Jan. 1731–2). He lived mostly at Exeter, rarely coming to the meetings of parliament, and is said to have been too apt to treat his clergy as if they were boys under him at school. A promise of translation to Ely had been given to him, but Bishop Green, the occupant of that bishopric, did not vacate it until the infirmities of Weston forbade the appointment. ‘Though long and severely afflicted with gout, he died of a malignant fever’ at the palace, Exeter, on 8 Jan. 1741–2, and was buried in the south aisle of the cathedral on 12 Jan. A splendid monument, with a long inscription, was erected to his memory on the wall of the south choir aisle. His wife was Lucy, daughter of Dr. Richard Sleech, assistant master, and afterwards fellow, at Eton, and sister of Dr. Stephen Sleech, provost of Eton from 1746 to 1765. She died on 4 March 1741–2, and was buried with her husband in the cathedral. They had several children, of whom Stephen was father of Stephen Weston (1747–1830) [q. v.]

Two posthumous volumes of sermons by the bishop were published in 1747 under the editorship of Thomas Sherlock, then bishop of Salisbury. They showed learning, but were frigid in style. Many of the school-books in use at Eton until about 1860 were composed by him, and his name still survives there in ‘Weston's Yard,’ so called because ‘he occupied the picturesque gabled house at the right-hand corner of the gateway from the Playing Fields.’ His portrait, painted by Hudson, is in the college hall at Eton. An engraving of it was made by George White in 1731. The bishop introduced at Exeter on 3 April 1733 the custom of keeping the episcopal registers of institutions in English.

[Oliver's Bishops of Exeter, pp. 162, 273, 287; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ii. 203, 473; Willis and Clark's Cambridge, i. 363; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 362, 382, 396, 427; Stubbs's Reg. Anglicanum, 2nd edit. p. 136; Harwood's Alumni Eton. p. 83; Lyte's Eton, pp. 277–8; Polwhele's Devon, ii. 12–13, 17, 33, 36; information from Mr. Arthur Burch, F.S.A., of Exeter.]

W. P. C.