BARROW, Isaac (1612-80)

BARROW, Isaac (1612–80)

cons. 5 July 1663 bp. of Sodor and Man; transl. 21 Mar. 1670 bp. of ST ASAPH

First sat 26 Mar. 1670; last sat 20 Nov. 1670

b. 1612/13, s. of Isaac Barrow of Spinney Abbey, Cambs. and Katharine, da. of Marlion Rythe of Twickenham, Mdx. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. matric. 1631, BA 1632–3, MA 1636, fell. ?–1644, ejected 1644, 1660–?, DD 1660; ord. priest 1641. unm. d. 24 June 1680; will 14 Dec. 1679, pr. 14 Sept. 1680.1

Gov. Isle of Man, 1664–71.

Vic. Cherry Hinton, Cambs. 1641; chap. New Coll. Oxf. 1644–5; fell. Eton, 1660–70; rect. Downham, Cambs. 1660, Llandrinio, Mont. 1670; adn. St Asaph, 1670.

Also associated with: Spinney Abbey, Cambs; Park Hall, Salop.

Likenesses: oil on canvas, by M. Beale, Trinity, Camb.

A Cambridgeshire minister and fellow of Peterhouse before the Civil Wars, Barrow suffered ejection in 1644; around this time, with his lifelong friend Peter Gunning, the future bishop of Ely, he helped to compose a treatise against the ‘utterly unlawful’ aim in the solemn league and covenant to rid the Church of its bishops.2 In July 1662, he became bishop of Sodor and Man through the recommendation of Charles Stanley, 8th earl of Derby, Lord of Man.3 As bishop of Man, Barrow was not entitled to sit in the Lords, but on the death of Henry Glemham, of St Asaph, he was nominated to succeed him. He took his seat on 26 Mar. 1670 and immediately became involved in the business of the House. On 28 Mar. the bill which would allow John Manners, styled Lord Roos (the future 9th earl and duke of Rutland), to remarry received its third reading. Thirteen members of the episcopal bench, including Barrow, registered their dissent.

Barrow attended for over half of the sittings during the 1670–1 session and was named to 19 select committees. He was also now more strategically placed to preach at court and on 30 Jan. 1671 he delivered a ‘most learned’ sermon.4 At the same time he was absorbed with diocesan business: this included imposing a ban on extempore prayer (Barrow was a strict disciplinarian)5 and engaging in active pastoral work, particularly the funding of apprenticeships and scholarships.6

As early as 1671, Barrow became embroiled in a dispute with the dean and chapter over the cost of cathedral repairs.7 Dean Humphrey Lloyd, later bishop of Bangor, was castigated by Gilbert Sheldon, of Canterbury, and the dispute was mediated by another Welsh bishop, Robert Morgan, of Bangor.8 Financial problems were partly due to the poor revenues from existing lead mines. In 1671 Barrow and Morgan therefore moved to exploit their landowning rights in a private bill enabling them to let all lead mines on their lands for 21 years.9 Barrow was present when the bill was read for the first time on 11 Jan. 1671. It was committed on 17 Jan. when neither man was in attendance, but the management of the bill nevertheless had a distinctly Welsh flavour. The committee met on 20 Jan. 1671 under the chairmanship of William Herbert, 3rd Baron Powis, and oversaw amendments. Powis reported back to the House on the 26th, the bill was recommitted and, after two further meetings on 27 Jan. and 1 Feb., it passed the Lords.10 In the Commons it was committed to Sir Henry Herbert and ‘all that serve for the several counties of Wales’, finally receiving the royal assent on 6 Mar. 1671.11

By December 1672, following the Declaration of Indulgence, Sheldon was concerned that the ongoing dispute between Barrow and his chapter might interfere with the bishop’s parliamentary duties; his attendance at the House was required as it was ‘like to be so critical a time … that it admits of no ordinary excuse’.12 Barrow accordingly arrived at the House for the first day of the new session on 4 Feb. 1673 and attended most days until the brief session ended on 29 March. During that time he was named to four select committees. Thereafter, his attendance suffered as a result of poor health and the difficult journeys between north Wales and London. He made eight appearances in the House in the autumn of 1675; Parliament was prorogued two days after his last visit and he never attended again. In July 1676, even though Parliament was not in session, Barrow registered his proxy to Peter Gunning.

In 1677, John Parry, bishop of Ossory [I], informed Secretary Joseph Williamson that ‘the good bishop’ was ‘past recovery’: Parry solicited the post for his brother.13 Barrow survived that winter but felt ‘utterly disabled’ to fulfil his responsibilities. Disillusioned with life in St Asaph, where the gentry had been unenthusiastic about his charitable projects, he moved to Shrewsbury to live with his sister Martha.14 At the same time, he begged William Sancroft, of Canterbury, to accept his resignation, but was unsuccessful.15 In the autumn of 1678 he was reported as being so weak that he was expected to die at any moment.16

Despite his failing health, Barrow continued to complain about diocesan finances and sought further private legislation to ameliorate a number of structural problems, not least the funding of repairs necessitated by the cathedral’s exposed position.17 On 27 Feb. 1678 the Lords read for the first time a bill to appropriate the rectories of Llanrhaiadr in Mochnant and Skeiviog to maintain the cathedral and its choir and to unite several sinecures for the augmentation of poor vicarages. The bill was committed the following day under the chairmanship of Henry Compton, of London. The select committee dealt speedily with necessary amendments, reporting back to the House on 7 Mar., and the bill received the royal assent on 13 May.18 Barrow thanked Sancroft for supporting the legislation, ‘a work of great charity and indeed necessity’ since Welsh vicarages were poorly endowed and the clergy ‘illiterate and contemptible … for want of books and all improvements for their ministry’.19 His attempts to address clerical poverty in his diocese often lacked support and he was under considerable pressure (not least from the king himself) to grant leases and award vacant sinecures.20 Nevertheless, on 1 Apr. 1679 he received the king’s blessing for his refusal to renew the valuable lease of Meliden in order to preserve it for the bishopric. His refusal cost him £700 in loss of fines, but he was assured by the king that his successor would be obliged to do likewise.21

In the increasingly anti-clerical atmosphere following the popish plot, Barrow faced the enmity of the ‘country’ opposition. Anthony Wood reported that, in April 1679, five bishops, including Barrow, had been accused of involvement in the plot by John Sidway.22 This episode, which coincided with the impeachment of the five Catholic lords, led to a debate in the House on 7 Apr. which resulted in the committal of Sidway to the Gatehouse. Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, headed the list of those who dissented. Barrow’s reputation as a strict churchman, together with his longstanding alliance with his fellow accused, the conservative Gunning, made him especially vulnerable.

Barrow died in Shrewsbury on 24 June 1680 and was buried on 1 July in the churchyard of his cathedral. Five years after his death, his sister and his nephew, the main beneficiaries and executors of his will, became defendants in a lengthy exchequer case.23 Furthermore, ‘a great noise’ was made about the epitaph that Barrow had composed, which suggested that prayers from the living could benefit the dead.24 Whig anti-clericalists exploited the inscription as confirmation that the bishop had been a closet Roman Catholic.25


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/363.
  • 2 Certain Disquisitions and Considerations (1644), 11–13; Wood Life and Times, ii. 183; iii. 38.
  • 3 CSP Dom. 1661–2, p. 429; 1663–4, p. 147.
  • 4 CSP Dom. Jan.–Nov. 1671, pp. 68–69.
  • 5 Esgobaeth Llanelwy, i. 122; G.H. Jenkins, Protestant Dissenters in Wales, 58–59.
  • 6 TNA, E 134/1&2Jas2/Hil16.
  • 7 Bodl. Tanner 146, ff. 48, 50, 53.
  • 8 Ibid. ff. 35, 48, 50, 53; Bodl. Add. C 305, ff. 321, 323, 325; Harl. 7377, ff. 18v, 36, 37.
  • 9 Bodl. Tanner 146, f. 48; PA, HL/PO/PB/1/1670/22&23C2n12.
  • 10 PA, HL/PO/CO/1/2, pp. 406–7, 409; LJ, xii. 413–27.
  • 11 CJ, ix. 209.
  • 12 Harl. 7377, f. 39v.
  • 13 CSP Dom. 1677–8, p. 351.
  • 14 TNA, E 134/1&2Jas2/Hil16.
  • 15 Bodl. Tanner 146, ff. 4, 37, 51.
  • 16 Longleat, Bath mss, Coventry 7, f. 144.
  • 17 Bodl. Tanner 146, f. 90; Christ Church Lib. Oxf. Wake 9, f. 18.
  • 18 PA, HL/PO/CO/1/3, pp. 244–5.
  • 19 Bodl. Tanner 146, f. 39.
  • 20 CSP Dom. 1673–5, p. 274; 1675–6, pp. 151, 400; 1676–7, p. 270; Bodl. Tanner 39, f. 75.
  • 21 TNA, E 134/1&2Jas2/Hil16; CSP Dom. 1679–80, p. 113.
  • 22 Wood, Life and Times, ii. 447.
  • 23 TNA, E134/1Jas2/Mich40 and E134/1&2Jas2/Hil16.
  • 24 Bodl. Tanner 146, f. 43.
  • 25 Lansd. 986, f. 156v.