Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, Walter Kerr

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HAMILTON, WALTER KERR (1808–1869), bishop of Salisbury, born in London on 16 Nov. 1808, was elder son of Anthony Hamilton, archdeacon of Taunton and prebendary of Lichfi eld. His mother was Charity Graeme, third daughter of Sir Walter Farquhar, bart. [q. v.], physician to the prince regent. William Richard Hamilton [q. v.] was his uncle. Hamilton's early childhood was passed at Loughton in Essex, of which parish his father was rector. After spending some years at a private school, he was sent to Eton in January 1822, where he remained four years. In January 1826 he went as a private pupil to Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby [q. v.], then at Laleham, and here it was that was he says) he first learnt what work meant. Morally and intellectually Hamilton was deeply influenced by Arnold, but did not adopt his tutor's theological views. In January 1827 Hamilton matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, and in the following December was nominated to a studentship. In Michaelmas term 1830 he obtained a first class in litt. human, with Joseph Anstice [q. v.], Henry W. Wilberforce [q. v.], and H. E. (now Cardinal) Manning. At Easter 1832 he was elected to an open fellowship at Merton; in the summer of the same year he went abroad, and passed the winter at Rome, where he was introduced by Arnold to Bunsen, the Prussian ambassador, whom he impressed very favourably. On his return to England early in 1833, he settled at Merton College, Oxford. Among his brother fellows there were Edward Denison [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Salisbury, H. E. Manning, and other men of subsequent distinction, and he joined in an endeavour to breathe into the life of the college a more earnest, religious, and moral spirit. On Trinity Sunday, 2 June 1833, he was ordained deacon, and priest on 22 Dec. of the same year. He was college tutor for a time, and lost no opportunity of making himself closely acquainted with the undergraduates. At Michaelmas 1833 he became curate of Wolvercot, near Oxford. At Michaelmas in the following year he became curate to Edward Denison, vicar of St. Peter's-in-the-East, Oxford, and when in 1837 his vicar was promoted to the see of Salisbury, he was, on the petition of the parishioners, appointed his successor. This post he held till 1841. He was an indefatigable parish priest, and an earnest evangelical preacher. But his theological belief underwent a great change. He came under the influence of the Oxford movement, and continued a high churchman to the end of his life. In 1837 he was made examining chaplain to his friend the Bishop of Salisbury, and in 1841 left Oxford with some reluctance to become a canon in Salisbury Cathedral. At Salisbury he threw himself into the duties of his new position with characteristic energy. As precentor he endeavoured to raise the tone of the daily service in the cathedral. He thought that constant residence should be enforced upon the canons as well as upon the dean, and accordingly declined the rectory of Loughton which was offered him at his father's death. In 1853 he published a pamphlet on 'Cathedral Reform,' which he reprinted, together with a 'Pastoral Letter,' in 1855, when bishop of the diocese. When the cholera broke out in 1849, Hamilton at once joined his diocesan in visiting the sufferers, but had soon to go abroad for his health.

In March 1854, on the death of Bishop Denison, Hamilton was appointed to succeed him. On his deathbed Denison dictated a message to the prime minister, Lord Aber- deen, strongly recommending Hamilton as his successor. The see was, however, first offered to John James Blunt [q. v.], who refused it. Thereupon it was offered to Hamilton, who, after an interval of painful deliberation, accepted it, and was consecrated by Archbishop Sumner on 14 May 1854 at Lambeth. Hamilton continued all his predecessor's episcopal reforms, and improved upon them. He increased the number of confirmations, and raised the standard in his ordinations, both of theological attainments and also of spiritual preparation. The idea of establishing at Salisbury a theological college had been suggested to him by his predecessor in 1841 ; but it was not till twenty years afterwards that the plan was carried out. Till his death he always took the greatest interest in its welfare. He was never absent from Salisbury except upon diocesan business, or for a short holiday in the late autumn of the year, and very seldom appeared in the House of Lords. When at home he almost always attended the daily services in the cathedral, and his life was marked by great regularity and incessant occupation to a late hour of the night. In the administration of his diocese he secured the respect and affection both of the clergy and the laity, even of those who differed from his decided high church opinions. He delivered episcopal charges in 1855, 1858, 1861, 1864, and 1867, all of which have been published. The last of these excited much attention on account of the fearless clearness with which he asserted the doctrines of the real presence in the holy communion, of the eucharistic sacrifice, and of priestly absolution. He was the more outspoken on these subjects, because he had been accused of holding doctrines to which he dared not give public utterance. The charge was the subject of a discussion in the House of Lords, where Lord Portman presented a condemnatory petition. Hamilton never expressed or felt any bitterness towards his opponents. It is, however, probable that the anxiety caused by the opposition to this charge, added to his strenuous episcopal work, shortened his life. The first symptoms of heart disease showed themselves early in 1868. He continued his duties till October in that year. After spending seven months in London, he returned to Salisbury on 29 July, and died three days afterwards, 1 Aug. 1869. He was a tall, portly man, with a pleasant, open countenance and winning manners. On 9 Jan. 1845 he married Isabel Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Lear, dean of Salisbury, who survived him, with eight of their children.

Besides his charges and pamphlet on (Cathedral Reform' (1853), he published a book of 'Morning and Evening Services for every Day in the Week,' Oxford, 1842, intended specially for his former parishioners at Oxford, and compiled chiefly from early sources. It was afterwards printed in Dr. Hook's 'Devotional Library.' He also printed various single sermons.

[Canon Liddon's Life in Death, a Sermon preached in Salisbury Cathedral on 8 Aug. 1869, and three papers in the Guardian, 11, 18, and 25 Aug.,reprinted, with additions and corrections, under the title ' Walter Kerr Hamilton, Bishop of Salisbury;' personal recollections and inquiries.]

W. A. G.