Ollivant, Alfred (DNB00)

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OLLIVANT, ALFRED (1798–1881), bishop of Llandaff, son of William Ollivant and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Stephen Langston of Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire, some time alderman of London, was born in Manchester, where his father was engaged in business, on 16 Aug. 1798. The family afterwards removed to London, and Ollivant's father, whose affairs had become involved, obtained a clerkship in the navy office, and then resided at 11 Smith Street, Northampton Square. On 22 Aug. 1809 Alfred was admitted a scholar of St. Paul's School, along with an elder brother, Langston. Rising to be captain of the school, he was elected in 1817 to a Campden exhibition at Trinity College, Cambridge. His career at the university was brilliant. After gaining a Perry exhibition in 1819, in 1820 he was elected Craven scholar, and in 1821 graduated sixth wrangler, obtaining also—what was then the highest classical distinction—the senior chancellor's medal. Soon afterwards he was elected fellow of Trinity. In 1822 he gained the Tyrwhitt Hebrew scholarship, and in 1822 and 1823 the members' prize for a Latin essay. He proceeded M.A. in 1824, B.D. and D.D. in 1836.

In 1827 he was appointed vice-principal of the newly founded college of St. David, Lampeter, under the Rev. Llewelyn Lewellin, afterwards dean of St. David's. In this office he continued sixteen years, during which he held several small preferments in Wales, and obtained a competent knowledge of the language. He was prebendary (third cursal) of St. David's, 28 July 1829; sinecure rector of Llangeler, Carmarthenshire, 22 Feb. 1831; prebendary of St. Harmons, Brecon, 10 Nov. 1831; vicar of Llangeler, 10 April 1832; rector of Bettws Bledrws, Cardiganshire, 31 March 1835; and vicar of Kerry, Montgomeryshire, 8 Nov. 1836 (Foster, Index Ecclesiasticus, pp. 131–2). In 1843 he was elected to the regius professorship of divinity at Cambridge, carrying with it the rectory of Somersham, Huntingdonshire; and in 1849, on the nomination of Lord John Russell, he was raised to the see of Llandaff (nom. 29 Oct., cons. 2 Dec.) in succession to Edward Copleston [q. v.]

His long episcopate of thirty-three years was marked by much useful work and by many reforms. For many generations no bishop had been, properly speaking, resident. Copleston, as dean of St. Paul's, spent much of his time in London. The small income, before the provision of one by statute, coupled with the want of a residence, had proved fatal to the interests of the see; but Ollivant devoted himself wholly to his diocese, only leaving it to attend convocation or to sit in parliament when church questions were under discussion, or to fulfil his duties as a member of the Old Testament revision company. The proposal in convocation in 1870 to revise the New Testament had been extended to the Old on his initiative. As a result of his self-denying labour he could point in the end to a cathedral finally restored from its ruins (the work, which commenced under his predecessor, costing about 35,000l.), while about one hundred and seventy churches were built, restored, or enlarged, more than seventy parsonage-houses added or rendered habitable, and a sum of not less than 360,000l. raised and spent on church work in his diocese. One of the most valuable efforts of his episcopate was the establishment of the Church Extension Society (Morgan, Four Biographical Sketches, p. 32). On 30 Nov. 1882, little more than a fortnight before his death, his portrait, painted by Ouless, was presented to him by Lord Aberdare in the town-hall at Cardiff in behalf of the clergy and laity of his diocese. He died at Bishop's Court, Llandaff, on 16 Dec. 1882, having been for some time the senior member of the bench, and was buried in the churchyard of his cathedral. A tomb, with his effigy in marble by Armitstead, was erected by the diocese in his memory on the north side of the altar steps.

By his wife Alicia Olivia, daughter of Lieutenant-general Spencer of Bramley Grange, Yorkshire, who died on 13 July 1886, in her eighty-fifth year, he had several children, of whom three sons survived him: Alfred, colonel B.S.C.; Joseph Earle, chancellor of the dioceses of Llandaff and St. David's; and Edward, colonel R.H.A.

In person the bishop was tall and spare, with features said by many to resemble those of the Duke of Wellington. In advancing years he suffered from deafness, but his intellect was keen and vigorous to the last.

His published works, which are numerous, consist chiefly of sermons and charges, ranging in date from 1827 to 1881. Among these may be specified: 1. ‘An Analysis of the Text of the History of Joseph,’ in Hebrew, for the use of his students at Lampeter; an interleaved copy of the second edition (1833), with the author's notes, is in the library of St. Paul's School, and another of the third edition (1836) in that of St. David's College, Lampeter. 2. ‘Some Account of the Condition of the Fabric of Llandaff Cathedral,’ of which the first edition appeared in 1857, and the second, with plates, in 1860.

[Gardiner's Admission Registers of St. Paul's School; articles in the Pauline, February 1883; Morgan's Four Biographical Sketches, 1892; Guardian, 20 Dec. 1882; Annual Register, 1882, p. 166; Le Neve's Fasti, ii. 257, iii. 656; personal knowledge.]

J. H. L.