Gregory, Robert 1819-1911, dean of St. Paul's, born at Nottingham on 9 Feb. 1819, was the eldest son of Robert Gregory, merchant, of Nottingham by his wife Anne Sophia, daughter of Alderman Oldknow, grocer, Nottingham. His parents were methodists; both died in 1824. Educated privately, Gregory entered a Liverpool shipping-office in 1835. At the age of twenty-one, influenced by the Tracts for the Times, he resolved to be ordained. He was admitted a gentleman commoner of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on 2 April 1840; graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1843, proceeding M.A. in 1846, and Doctor of Divinity in 1891; was Denyer theological prizeman in 1850; and was ordained deacon in 1843, priest in 1844, by the bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. After serving the curacies of Bisley, Gloucestershire (1843-7), Panton and Wragby, Lincolnshire (1847-51), and Lambeth parish church (1851-3), Gregory was from 1853 to 1873 vicar of St. Mary-the-Less, Lambeth. A zealous incumbent, he improved the church, built schools, founded a school of art, and closely identified himself with church work in elementary education. In 1867 he was select preacher at Oxford, and served on the royal commission on ritual.
In 1868 Gregory was appointed canon of St. Paul's, but for five years still held his Lambeth living. In 1870 H. P. Liddon [qv.] became canon, and in 1871 R. W. Church [qv.] was made dean. With them Gregory worked in fullest harmony for the attainment of Church's purpose, to set St. Paul's in order, as the great English cathedral, before the eyes of the country (Life and Letters of Dean Church, p. 200). As treasurer of the cathedral he negotiated with the ecclesiastical commission the arrangement of the cathedral finances which helped to make reform possible. The changes made were not universally welcomed, but Gregory was unmoved by criticism. Church described him as of cast iron (Life and Letters, p. 235). Four lectures contrasting the social conditions of England in 1688 and 1871, delivered by Gregory in St. Paul's in Nov. 1871, drew on him the charge of misusing the cathedral. The advance in the cathedral ritual and the decoration of the fabric led to hostility, which reached its height in the litigation of 1888-9 over the reredos, during which Gregory zealously supported the policy of Frederick Temple [qv.], bishop of London.
For forty-three years Gregory was a member of the lower house of Canterbury convocation. He entered it as proctor for the archdeaconry of Surrey in 1868, and became proctor for the dean and chapter in 1874. His influence was immediately felt, more especially on educational questions and in defence of higher Anglican policy. W. C. Magee in 1881 wrote of him as the Cleon of the lower house (Life, ii. 154); and J. W. Burgon, in a published letter of the same year, said In the lower house of convocation you — obtain very much your own way. On the delivery of the Purchas judgment, Gregory joined Liddon in telling John Jackson [qv.], bishop of London (2 March 1871), that the judgment would not be obeyed by them [see Purchas, John]. In 1873 he was forward in defence of the Athanasian Creed; in 1874 he presented to convocation a petition in favour of retaining the impugned ornaments of the church; in 1880, during the burials bill controversy, he favoured the abandonment by churchmen of the graveside service, if nonconformists could also be silenced. In 1881 he supported the memorial for the toleration of ritual, and in convocation presented a gravamen and reformandum to the same effect. An ardent supporter of church schools and long treasurer of the National Society, Gregory was elected a member of the London school board in 1873, but did not seek re-election when his three years' term ended. He was also a member of the education commission in 1886, and of the City parochial charities commission in 1888.
Appointed dean of St. Paul's on the death of Church in 1890, and installed on 5 Feb. 1891, Gregory continued his predecessor's policy, carried out in the face of some criticism the decoration of the cathedral with mosaics, and retained to advanced age the closest interest in the cathedral work. He resigned on 1 May, died at the deanery on 2 Aug. 1911, and was buried in the crypt of St. Paul's. He combined a simple faith and clear convictions, firmly held and boldly defended, with much administrative ability and singular devotion to the life and work of his cathedral. He was twice married: (1) in 1844 to Mary Frances, daughter of William Stewart of Dublin (d. 1851), by whom he had two sons who survived him; and (2) in 1861 to Charlotte Anne, daughter of Admiral the Hon. Sir Robert Stopford, by whom he had four daughters, of whom three survived him. A portrait by Sir William Richmond, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1899, now hangs in the dining-room of the St. Paul's deanery.
In addition to some sermons, Gregory published: 1. Are we better than our Fathers? 1872. 2. The Position of the Priest ordered by the Rubrics in the Communion Service interpreted by themselves, 1876. 3. Elementary Education: Some Account of its Rise and Progress in England, 1895.
The Times, 3 and 7 Aug. 1911
Guardian 4 and 11 Aug. 1911
The Autobiography of Robert Gregory, ed. by Ven. W. H. Hutton, 1912
John Hannah, a Tribute of Affection, Two Sermons, with Memoirs of Robert and Anne Sophia Gregory (Nottingham, 1824)
J. J. Hannah, The Lighter Side of a Great Churchman's Character, 1912
W. P. W. Phillimore, County Pedigrees, vol. i. Nottinghamshire
T. Fowler, History of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, pp. 318, 444
J. O. Johnston, Life of H. P. Liddon, 1904, pp. 145-8
Davidson and Benham, Life of A. C. Tait, 1891, vol. ii. chap. xxix.
M. C. Church, Life and Letters of Dean Church, 1895, pp. 200 seq.
J. W. Burgon, Canon Robert Gregory: a Letter of Friendly Remonstrance, 1881.
Contributor: A. R. B. [Augustus Robert Buckland]