John Gilbert (archbishop of York)

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable
John Gilbert
Archbishop of York
Province Province of York
Diocese Diocese of York
In office 1757–1761 (death)
Predecessor Matthew Hutton
Successor Robert Hay Drummond
Other posts Dean of Exeter (27 December 1726 {elected}[1]–?)
Bishop of Llandaff (28 December 1740[1]–1749)
Bishop of Salisbury (October 1749[1]–1757)
Chancellor of the Garter (1750[1]–?)
Clerk of the Closet (October 1752[1]–?)
Lord High Almoner (c.1757[1]–?)
Personal details
Born (1693-10-18)18 October 1693[1]
Died 9 August 1761(1761-08-09) (aged 67)
Twickenham, Middlesex, Great Britain
Buried Grosvenor Chapel
Nationality British (formerly English)
Denomination Anglican
Parents John Gilbert & Martha[1]
Spouse Margaret Sherard
 married 2 May 1726 at St James's, Westminster
 she predeceased him
Children Emma Countess of Mount Edgcumbe
Education Merchant Taylors' School, City of London[1]
Alma mater Magdalen Hall, Oxford[1]
Trinity College, Oxford
Merton College, Oxford

John Gilbert (18 October 1693–9 August 1761) was Archbishop of York from 1757 to 1761.[1]

Origins and education

Gilbert was the son of John Gilbert, fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, vicar of St Andrew's, Plymouth, and prebendary of Exeter, who died in 1722. He was educated at Trinity College, Oxford, where he graduated BA on 5 May 1713. He proceeded MA from Merton College on 1 February 1718.

Ecclesiastical preferment

Owing to his connection with the cathedral of Exeter and his aristocratic connections, Gilbert began early to climb the ladder of preferment. On 1 August 1721 he was appointed to the chapter living of Ashburton; on 4 January 1723 he succeeded to the prebendal stall vacated by his father's death; on 4 June 1724 he was appointed subdean of Exeter, which he vacated on his installation to the deanery, on 27 December 1726; on 8 January 1724 he was granted the degree of LLD at Lambeth. In January 1726 he received from the crown a canonry at Christ Church, which he held in commendam with the bishopric of Llandaff, to which he was consecrated on 28 December 1740. In 1749 he was translated to Salisbury. In 1750 he succeeded Bishop Joseph Butler as Clerk of the Closet, and in 1757 the archiepiscopate of York, to which the office of Lord High Almoner was added, crowned his long series of ecclesiastical preferments.

Archbishop of York

Gilbert was mostly a place-holder archbishop. His health had begun to deteriorate prior to his appointment and he lived "through a pontificate of four years, when he sank under a complication of infirmities."[2] He died at Twickenham on 9 August 1761, aged 68, and was buried in a vault in Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street. Gilbert seems to have possessed few qualifications to justify his high promotion in the church. He was neither a scholar nor a theologian. Nor were these deficiencies compensated by graces of character. A friendly witness, Bishop Thomas Newton, speaks of his being regarded as "somewhat haughty;" while Horace Walpole, describes him as "composed of that common mixture of ignorance, meanness, and arrogance." John Newton, William Cowper's friend, when seeking to obtain ordination from him, found Gilbert "inflexible in supporting the rules and canons of the church." His imperious character is illustrated by his refusal to allow the civic mace to be carried before the mayor of Salisbury in processions within the cathedral precincts, for which he claimed a separate jurisdiction, disobedience to which, it is said, caused an unseemly personal scuffle between him and the mace-bearer. According to Newton, Gilbert was the first prelate to introduce at confirmations the practice of the bishop laying his hands on each candidate at the altar rails, and then retiring and solemnly pronouncing the prayer once for the whole number. This mode was first observed at St. Mary's Church, Nottingham; it "commanded attention, and raised devotion," and before long became the regular manner of administering the rite.

Family and posterity

Gilbert married Margaret Sherard (sister of Philip Sherard, 2nd Earl of Harborough and daughter of Bennet Sherard, of Whissendine and Dorothy, daughter of Henry Fairfax, 5th Lord Fairfax of Cameron), who predeceased him. His only child Emma was married on 6 August 1761 to George Edgcumbe, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, at her father's house at Twickenham, three days before his death. Gilbert's only publications were occasional sermons. There are portraits of him, in the robes of the chancellor of the Order of the Garter.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Gilbert, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10692. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. W. Dickinson Rastall, History of Southwell (1787), p. 328

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Gilbert, John (1693–1761)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

Church of England titles
Preceded by
Matthias Mawson
Bishop of Llandaff
Succeeded by
Edward Cresset
Preceded by
Thomas Sherlock
Bishop of Salisbury
Succeeded by
John Thomas
Preceded by
Matthew Hutton
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
Robert Hay Drummond
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