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 Issues | Church History | Lord Shaftesbury

The 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885)
Social Reformer


  • 1801 – Born Anthony Ashley Cooper
  • 1811 – On the death of his uncle, the fifth earl, his father became the sixth earl and he himself gained the title Lord Ashley
  • 1826 – Entered House of Commons as Member for Woodstock, Oxon.
  • 1846 – Elected MP for Bath, Somerset.
  • 1851 – Inherited earldom as Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.
  • 1862 – Invested Knight of the Garter.
  • 1884 – Awarded Freedom of the City of London.

         7th Earl of Shaftesbury


Biography of Shaftesbury by Gordon Hewitt
(Great Churchmen No 18 - Church Book Room Press)



John Pollock in “Shaftesbury, the Poor Man’s Earl” (1985, Lion Paperback) writes: (P.50) ‘. . . Ashley honoured them (Nonconformists), unlike his parents and most of the aristocracy and bishops, but now and for the rest of his life it was his “heartfelt and earnest desire to see the Church of England and the Church of the nation, and especially of the very poorest classes, that she may dive into the recesses of human misery and bring out the wretched and ignorant sufferers to bask in the light and life and liberty of the Gospel.” . . .'

(P.134) ‘. . . As he grew older he became more and more concerned that Christian England was being undermined. He deplored the views of the Tractarians (or Puseyites, the term he preferred) as promoting heresy: he contended that they exalted the sacraments into a place not given them by the teaching of Christ or His apostles; that they claimed for the Church a higher authority than the Bible, and taught that a priest had a power not granted to a layman, who must come to God through priestly ministrations. When Ritualism became an issue he fought it in Parliament and out, because vestments and stoles were the acknowledged symbols of a priest who stood between God and the people: not for another hundred years would the Church of England officially declare the wearing of a stole to have no doctrinal significance. Even more dangerous was the rising tide of Rationalism. . . .‘

(P.51 & 135) Pollock states that the Rev Dr Edward Bouverie Pusey was a cousin of Lord Ashley (Earl Shaftesbury). Although in life they were actively opposed to each other on the subject of Rationalism, at Pusey’s death, Shaftesbury wrote ‘Intensely and fearfully as I differed from him in matters of unspeakable importance, I could not but love the man.’


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