Burge, Hubert Murray 1862-1925, headmaster of Winchester College, bishop of Southwark, and afterwards of Oxford, was born 9 August 1862 at Kingston, Jamaica. He was the younger son of the Rev. Milward Rodon Burge, by his wife, Mary Louisa Raffaella, daughter of Matthew Guerrin Price, of Guernsey. His father was a chaplain in India from 1852 to 1869, first at Meerut, and later to Bishop Milman of Calcutta. Burge was sent to Marlborough College in September 1876, but left a year later to enter Bedford grammar school, which was at that time under the headmastership of James Surtees Phillpotts. He went up as a scholar to University College, Oxford, in 1882, and had a good all-round career as an undergraduate. He obtained a first class in classical moderations in 1883, and a second class in 1886 in literae humaniores. A big strong man, he was also a useful athlete, and, though not in the Oxford cricket eleven, batted and bowled with some success in trial games.
After leaving Oxford, Burge was appointed in 1887 sixth-form master at Wellington College, under the headmastership of Edward Charles Wickham. In 1890 he returned to Oxford on being elected fellow and tutor of University College. There he remained for the next ten years. His work as a tutor was successful, and he reached a position of great influence in the college. Popularity with the undergraduates was assured by his kindly sympathy with their interests and pursuits. He was appointed dean of the college in 1895. At the age of thirty-five Burge decided to take orders, and was ordained deacon in 1897 and priest in the following year by William Stubbs, bishop of Oxford.
In 1900 Burge was elected to succeed William Mordaunt Furneaux, afterwards dean of Winchester, as headmaster of Repton School, but he only held the office for two terms, and then, somewhat to the concern of the governors who had chosen him, resigned in order to become headmaster of Winchester College (1901). Burge was the first headmaster who had not been himself a Wykehamist. It was the expressed intention of those who appointed him that he should change the curriculum of Winchester in order to bring it more into line with modern views of public-school education. He took an early opportunity of making his views clear to the staff, but met with strong opposition. With characteristic tact he allowed his plan of reform to drop for the time being, and within twelve months found a strong body of opinion in favour of changes which had at first appeared impracticable. Burge's plan was to give boys, when they reached a certain age and a certain position in the school, a wide choice of alternatives upon which they might specialize, instead of devoting their attention to subjects for which they were unsuited. His headmastership was regarded as successful, and the alterations which he made as advantageous. At Winchester, as elsewhere, he was respected for his high character and his special gifts of personal sympathy.
After ten years' work at Winchester Burge's health broke down, and he was obliged to go away to recuperate. When he was about to return to work Mr. Asquith offered him the bishopric of Southwark (1911). He accepted the appointment, and although he had no experience at all of parochial work, he discharged the duties of the bishopric with remarkable efficiency. In some ways he was helped, rather than hampered, by the fact that he was new to the work. His strong common sense enabled him to take wide views, and his capacity for making friends stood him in good stead. He worked with great energy, and never spared himself. His duties were made more difficult by the constant necessity for raising money by subscriptions for the various organizations of his diocese, with its dense population and closely packed parishes, and the strain told severely upon his physical powers.
In 1919 Burge was appointed to succeed Charles Gore as bishop of Oxford. By this time his position was established, and his fitness for the episcopal bench had become clear to all. The only doubt was whether his health would be equal to his new duties. He was welcomed at Oxford, which his old connexion with the university made familiar to him. He was appointed to the see at a time when changes were impending both in the life of the Church and in that of the university. His influence in the inner circles of the Church grew, and he was more and more consulted by those in responsible positions in the state, especially upon questions of educational reform. Burge made himself beloved by his clergy because he combined the qualities of fairness, sympathy, and simplicity in a high degree. He had also a good memory for names and faces, and could pick up quickly the threads of conversation with people whom he had once met. He was an admirable counsellor, so that men naturally went to him for guidance, confident that they would secure his sympathetic attention. In the questions that from time to time caused divided opinions in the Church his attitude was marked by the same breadth of view. He took pains to understand the opinions of those with whom he was not in complete agreement, he was singularly free from prejudice, and was always willing to learn by experience.
In 1907 Burge was elected an honorary fellow of his college, and from 1911 he was sub-prelate of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England. In 1918 he was appointed clerk of the closet in ordinary to King George V; he was select preacher at Oxford from 1899 to 1902 and from 1920 to 1921.
Burge's health was undermined by repeated attacks of influenza, which weakened him, and during his latter years, although he never relaxed his labours, he was not a robust man. He died of pneumonia 10 June 1925.
Burge married in 1898 Evelyn, youngest daughter of Dr. James Franck Bright [qv.], master of University College, Oxford, and had one son and one daughter.
An oil portrait of Burge, painted by George Harcourt in 1921, is at the Diocesan House, Carshalton; replicas are at Winchester College and the Old Rectory, Huish, Wiltshire. A posthumous oil portrait is at Cuddesdon College. A cartoon by Spy appeared in Vanity Fair 2 July 1903.
The Times, 11 June 1925
Contributor: A. Cochrane.