Law, George Henry, Doctor of Divinity 1761-1845, bishop successively of Chester and of Bath and Wells, the thirteenth child and seventh son of Edmund Law [qv.], bishop of Carlisle, by his wife Mary, daughter of John Christian, esq., was born at Peterhouse Lodge, Cambridge, 12 Sept. 1761. He received his early education under the Rev. John King at Ipswich, and 23 Jan. 1775 was placed on the foundation of Charterhouse under Dr. Berdmore. Matriculating at Queens' College, Cambridge, 19 Dec. 1776, he commenced to reside the following October under the tuition of Dr. Isaac Milner [qv.], was elected scholar 23 Jan. 1779, and graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1781 as second wrangler and senior chancellor's medallist, a combination of honours which had been previously gained by his two elder brothers, John Law [qv.], afterwards bishop of Elphin, and Edward Law [qv.] (Lord-chief-justice Ellenborough). His subsequent degrees were M.A. 1784, Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity 1804. He was elected fellow of Queens' in June 1781, became prælector Græcus 5 Oct. of that year, and prælector mathematicus the following year. He vacated his fellowship 29 July 1784, on his marriage to Jane, the eldest daughter of General Adeane, M.P. for the county of Cambridge. He was collated by his father in 1785 to a prebendal stall in Carlisle Cathedral, and two years later was presented by him, a few days before his death, to the vicarage of Torpenhow, Cumberland. In 1791 he was presented by Bishop Yorke of Ely to the rectory of Kelshall, Hertfordshire, where he resided eleven years, and in 1804 by the same patron to Willingham, Cambridgeshire. In 1812 he was nominated to the see of Chester, owing his elevation partly to the powerful influence of his brother the lord chief justice, but chiefly to the personal favour of the prince regent. He was consecrated in Whitehall Chapel, 5 July 1812, by Archbishop Harcourt. At Chester he proved himself an active and practical bishop, personally visiting every parish in what was then a very extensive and laborious diocese, and doing much for the augmentation of the small livings, the improvement of the churches and parsonage-houses, and the restoration of the cathedral. He conferred what was at the time a great benefit on an impoverished diocese by the establishment in 1817 and partial endowment of the college of St. Bees for the training of candidates for holy orders, whose means did not permit of their going to either university (Carlisle, Endowed Grammar Schools, i. 169). In 1824, on the death of Bishop Richard Beadon [qv.], he was translated to the see of Bath and Wells, which he held till his death. In his new diocese he pursued the beneficial policy which he had adopted at Chester. In 1836 a church building society was established under his auspices, and he set on foot a system of cottage allotments. He died 22 Sept. 1845, aged 84, at his favourite retreat, Banwell Cottage, after a gradual decay of mind and body, which had for some years prevented him from performing his duties, and was buried at Wells. He left four sons and five daughters. Among the sons three were in holy orders: James Thomas [qv.], chancellor of Lichfield; Henry [qv.], dean of Gloucester; and Robert Vanbrugh, canon of Chester and treasurer of Wells. Though in politics a whig, and speaking of himself, in a letter to Dr. Parr, as known wherever my name is known as a friend of civil and religious liberty (seven letters to Parr, Works, vii. 45-51), in all ecclesiastical matters Law was a staunch conservative, and strenuously opposed the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and all measures of church reform. He is described by Sir Egerton Brydges as a milder man and possessing better talents than his brother Lord Ellenborough (Autobiography, i. 293). In 1814, on the departure of Bishop Thomas Fanshaw Middleton [qv.] for the newly founded see of Calcutta, he was selected to deliver the valedictory address, which was subsequently printed. Law was very fond of publishing his sermons, charges, and addresses. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries.

     Cassan's Lives of the Bishops of Bath and Wells
     Biog. Dict. of Living Authors
     Gent. Mag. 1845, ii. 529.

Contributor: E. V. [Edmund Venables]

Published: 1892