Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sibthorp, Richard Waldo

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SIBTHORP, RICHARD WALDO (1792–1879), divine, born at Canwick Hall, near Lincoln, on 4 Oct. 1792, was fifth and youngest son of Colonel Humphry Waldo Sibthorp, M.P. for Lincoln, by his wife Susannah, daughter of Richard Ellison, esq., of Sudbrooke Holme, Lincolnshire. Colonel Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorp [q. v.] was his brother. After a preliminary training in a private school at Eltham, Kent, he was sent to Westminster school, which he entered on 25 March 1807 (Barker and Stenning, Westminster School Register, p. 209). He matriculated from University College, Oxford, on 12 Dec. 1809, and in 1810 he was elected to a demyship at Magdalen College. Attracted from youth by the Roman catholic faith, he in October term 1811 went to Wolverhampton, where he spent two days with Bishop Milner, with the intention of entering the Roman communion, but he was brought back, under police surveillance and chancery order, by his elder brother. He graduated B.A. in 1813, received Anglican orders in 1815, and was appointed curate of Waddington and Harmston, Lincolnshire. There he ‘preached with all the enthusiasm of a Whitefield.’ He commenced M.A. in 1816, and afterwards became curate to John Scott, incumbent of St. Mary's Church, Hull. In 1818 he was elected a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and in 1819 became vicar of Tattersall, Lincolnshire. He proceeded B.D. in 1823. In 1825 he took the charge of Percy proprietary chapel, St. Pancras, London, and was subsequently evening lecturer at St. John's Chapel, Bedford Row [see Noel, Baptist Wriothesley]. At this period he was recognised as one of the leaders of the London ‘evangelicals.’

In 1829 he gave up his connection with London chapels and went to reside on his fellowship at Magdalen College. From 1830 to 1841 he was incumbent of St. James's Church, Ryde, Isle of Wight. On resigning the living he was received into the Roman catholic church, at St. Mary's College, Oscott, on 27 Oct. 1841, by Bishop (afterwards Cardinal) Wiseman. Clerical conversions to catholicism were at that period extremely rare, and his defection excited widespread astonishment, amounting almost to dismay. Sibthorp studied divinity at Oscott for a few months, was ordained priest on 21 May 1842, and was then attached to the cathedral church of St. Chad, Birmingham, though he subsequently settled down in a ‘several house’ at Edgbaston. Dissatisfied with his position, and mentally disquieted, he left Edgbaston in June 1843, and purchased a cottage near St. Helen's, Isle of Wight, where he continued to exercise his priesthood until October. Then he returned to the communion of the established church. After three years of retirement at Winchester he made a fruitless request to Bishop Sumner that he might be reinstated as an Anglican clergyman. Settling at Lincoln in 1847, he established a liberally endowed St. Anne's bede-house, and in 1857 he was readmitted to discharge the functions of the Anglican ministry. He resigned the chaplain-wardenship of St. Anne's at the close of 1864, and on 25 Jan. 1865 he resumed the privilege of saying mass in the private chapel of Cardinal Wiseman (Morris, Dr. Wiseman's Last Illness, p. 28). In December 1865 he was attached to the cathedral of St. Barnabas, Nottingham. He frequently preached there, but, ‘though now a Roman catholic priest, his feelings, his language, his general teaching, were, in some very important respects, still evangelical’ (Fowler, Life of Sibthorp, p. 177). He was placed on the list of retired priests in December 1874, died at Nottingham on 10 April 1879, and was buried in Lincoln cemetery, where, in accordance with his express desire, the English service was read over his grave.

Sibthorp was unquestionably pious and sincere, but he could never be satisfied that he was ‘in the right way’ as regards church communion.

In addition to several single sermons he published: 1. ‘Psalms and Hymns, selected and adapted for public worship,’ Ryde, 1831, 8vo. 2. ‘Pulpit Recollections; being notes of Lectures on the Book of Jonah,’ London, 1834 and 1835, 8vo. 3. ‘The Book of Genesis, with brief explanatory and practical observations,’ London, 1835, fol. 4. ‘The Family Liturgy; being a course of Morning and Evening Prayers for a Family,’ London, 1836, 8vo. 5. ‘Some Answer to the Inquiry, “Why are you become a Catholic?”’ London (four editions), 1842, 8vo. 6. ‘A Further Answer to the Inquiry, “Why have you become a Catholic?”’ London, 1842, 8vo. This and the preceding work elicited replies from W. Dodsworth, T. Dikes, A. P. Blakeney, R. H. Herschell, D. McAfee, and W. Palmer. 7. ‘The Office of the Holy Communion; or, Celebration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord's Supper or Holy Eucharist, anciently called the Mass,’ London (two editions), 1844, 4vo. 8. ‘An Office of Family Devotion; or, a Catholic Domestic Liturgy. By E. M.,’ 1845, 8vo. 9. ‘Daily Bread; being a few Morning Meditations, for the use of Catholic Christians,’ Nottingham, 1876, 8vo; London, 1879, 8vo.

[Richard Waldo Sibthorp: a biography, by the Rev. J. Fowler, M.A., London, 1880, 8vo, with photographic portrait; London and Dublin Orthodox Journal (1842) xv. 187, 396, (1843) xvi. 55; Men of the Time, 1879; Nottingham Guardian, 12 April 1879, p. 5, col. 5; Tablet, 19 April 1879; Times, 2 Feb. 1892, p. 10, cols. 1 and 2; Guardian, 1879, i. 524, 556; Browne's Annals of the Tractarian Movement, p. 61; Foster's Alumni Oxon. modern ser. iv. 1295; Bloxam's Magd. Coll. Register, vii. 200–46.]

T. C.