GROVE, Robert (1634-96)

GROVE, Robert (1634–96)

cons. 30 Aug. 1691 bp. of CHICHESTER

First sat 27 Oct. 1691; last sat 27 Apr. 1696

?bap. 29 Sept. 1634, St Giles Cripplegate, London, s. of William Grove of Morden, Dorset. educ. Winchester; Pembroke Coll. Oxf. matric. 1651; St John’s Coll. Camb., scholar 1653, BA 1657, fell. 1659, MA 1660, BD 1667, DD 1681. m. lic. 7 Apr. 1668, Elizabeth Cole of Lower Hardres, Kent,1 4s. (2 d.v.p.), 1da. (d.v.p.). d. 25 Sept. 1696; will 23 Sept., pr. 10 Nov. 1696.2

Chap. ord. 1690.

Chap. to Humphrey Henchman, bp. of London, 1667; rect. Wennington, Essex 1667-9, Langham, Essex 1669-70, Aldham, Essex 1669, St Andrew Undershaft, London 1670-91; preb. Willesden, St Paul’s Cathedral 1679-90; adn. Mdx. 1690-1.

Likenesses: oil on canvas by unknown artist, St John’s College, Cambridge.

Born in the City of London into a gentry family long established in Ferne, Wiltshire, Robert Grove was the great-grandson of William Grove, Member for Shaftesbury in the 1558 Parliament and nephew of Thomas Grovewho sat for several seats between 1640 and 1660.3 Becoming chaplain to Humphrey Henchman brought him a significant patron through whose efforts he obtained three livings, including the prestigious London rectory of St Andrew Undershaft where five of his children were baptized.4

Throughout the 1670s and 1680s, Grove carved out a role for himself as an apologist for a cohesive English Protestantism to combat the Counter-Reformation, a role in which he repeatedly dismissed differences of opinion within the Church of England and between Protestant churchmen. In one exchange with the nonconformist William Jenkyn, he rejected the charge that Anglican churchmen were in effect Roman Catholics, disputed the existence of a ‘latitudinarian’ party within the Church, claiming that many churchmen labelled as latitudinarian did not display the laxity of doctrine and practice imputed to them by critics, and belittled Jenkyn’s distinctions between Nonconformists and the established Church.5 In his Short Defence of the Church and Clergy of England, published in 1681, Grove defended the existing ecclesiastical settlement but argued that ‘if the wisdom of our governors ... should judge it expedient to make any concessions of this nature ... I know no man that is not ready to join his hearty prayers that it may succeed, to the putting an end to all our divisions’. Protestants, he claimed, should avoid the sin of schism by remaining within the Church. Some, of course, could not ‘be comprehended by any thing but their own pleasure’ and demanded full toleration, which to Grove, was anathema: toleration was a device to propagate Dissent rather than unity, and was quite possibly a Catholic ruse to derail the English Reformation.6 The pamphlet was perhaps associated with the comprehension bill debated in the Commons in late 1680 and early 1681. Between November 1682 and February 1683 Grove corresponded with Simon Lowth in an attempt to persuade him to remove disparaging remarks about ‘some persons of note and eminent place in our church,’ (meaning the then deans of Canterbury and St Paul’s, John Tillotson, later archbishop of Canterbury, and Edward Stillingfleet, later bishop of Worcester) from the manuscript of The Subject of Church Power, in the interest of maintaining ecclesiastical unity.7

Grove translated into Latin the treatise against Catholicism written by Thomas Barlow, bishop of Lincoln, and pursued his own comparisons of Anglican and Catholic doctrine. In 1683, at the height of the Tory reaction, Grove repeated his call for unity, focusing his attack not on Dissenters but on Catholics ‘who always attempted to pull down the Church of England by pretended Protestant hands’.8 Grove’s advice to the electorate in 1685 recommended candidates ‘of approved prudence and integrity, that may be able to assert the known liberties of the people, without entrenching upon the dignity of the crown’.9 Further, they should be men ‘of known affection to the established Church’, and without ‘the least taint’ of association with exclusion (a bill so ‘dangerous’ that voters could ‘scarce imagine what a heap of miseries you escaped when it was ... rejected in the House of Lords’). Finally, they must be financially sound, ‘of good ... estates ... for the necessitous are the most liable to the temptation of being corrupted’. Justifying his intervention in the secular sphere, he pointed out that clergy, themselves entitled to vote, were as capable as freeholders of making prudent electoral choices.10 Grove also saw a pressing need to counter the suggestion that clergy were hostile to the institution of Parliament. His other publications included a poem describing in detail William Harvey’s experiments on the circulation of blood. This has led to speculation that he engaged in or at least observed canine vivisection, although his library contained a large number of medical books which could have provided secondary information.11

In 1687 Grove defended Irenicum and subsequent writings of Stillingfleet against a series of attacks by Simon Lowth, providing Stillingfleet’s work with a detailed political and religious context.12 In May 1688 Grove was involved in a series of negotiations between the London clergy on the one hand and Francis Turner, bishop of Ely and other churchmen who had been closely associated with James II on the other. These meetings culminated in the decisive gathering at Lambeth on 18 May when Grove helped to draft the bishops’ petition to James II in protest against the Declaration of Indulgence.13

In 1689, in the preface to a theological attack on Catholicism, Grove expressed his personal relief at the ‘late great and happy Revolution’.14 On 6 March 1689 he preached before the new queen at Whitehall. He did so again on 1 June 1690, on the theme of Christian piety.15 On 8 Sept. 1690 he was collated to the archdeaconry of Middlesex. From January to April 1691 he accompanied William III to the general congress in The Hague and on the king’s subsequent travels in the Netherlands.16 Following his return, he was nominated to Chichester. The warrant for the congé d’élire was issued on 30 April, and the warrant for the election followed on 16 July.17 Despite his earlier arguments on behalf of a measure of comprehension, Grove was not a latitudinarian, as was recognized by the eighteenth-century high churchman John Frewen who cited Grove’s Perswasive in defence of the ecclesiastical establishment.18

Consecrated in August 1691, Grove took his seat in the House of Lords on 27 Oct., five days into the autumn 1691 session. For each of the five sessions held during his tenure of Chichester, he attended between 30 and 60 per cent of sittings. He attended least in the winter 1692 session and was most active in the session from November 1693 to 30 Apr. 1694, but he never attended for the first day of a session (and was therefore not appointed to the standing committees) and his activity in the House attracted very little notice. On 2 Dec. 1691 Grove was named to the committee on the bill concerning property arrangements between Patrick and Christopher Hatton, Viscount Hatton, on 13 Jan. 1692 to the special committee on the bill to confirm the charters and liberties of Cambridge University and on 22 Feb. 1692 he was named one of the reporters of the conference on the small tithes bill. His last regular appearance that session was on 24 Feb., though he was present for the prorogation on 14 May. A month earlier, on 12 April 1692, Grove had attended the meeting of eight bishops convened by Tillotson to discuss Tillotson’s circular letter on pastoral reform.19

Grove’s first appearance in the session beginning 4 Nov. 1692 was on 18 Nov., and on 26 Nov. he was named to the committee on the Hawley estate bill. He was not present for the vote on committing the place bill on 31 Dec., but he was in the chamber four days later to support the court in rejecting the bill, its defeat accomplished ‘by the power of the court, aided by the bishops’.20 Grove was present when the divorce bill for Henry Howard, 7th duke of Norfolk was read on 2 Jan. 1693. It is probable that he supported the bill; although the bishops were split over the issue, it was noted that all bishops created by William III were in favour (with the exception of Simon Patrick, bishop of Ely, and Gilbert Ironside, bishop of Hereford). Grove, however, is not named on any of the surviving division lists, suggesting the possibility of a strategic abstention.21 He was named to the committee on Roger Price’s estate bill and on that on the malicious informations bill on 14 January. He does not seem to have been present in the Lords again that session until the prorogation on 2 May. He returned to the House two weeks into the next session on 17 Nov. but was absent for long periods and was not appointed to a committee until 22 Feb. 1694, where he was named to the committee on the estate bill of the recently deceased John Stawell, 2nd Baron Stawell though not listed as present at the start of the sitting. On 9 Mar. 1694 Grove was named to the committee on removing the process in Westminster courts for the capiatur fine, and on 20 Mar. 1694 to the committee on the land sale to settle the estate of William Stevens. His last appearance in the session was on 24 Apr. and, as seems to have been his custom, he was not present for the King’s Speech at the start of the next session on 12 November. At a call of the House on 26 Nov. 1694 Grove was excused attendance, but there is no evidence of him entering his proxy during any of his absences. He arrived three weeks into the session on 5 Dec. and on 18 Dec. 1694 was named to the committee on Thomas Kerridge’s land sale bill. At Westminster for much of the following spring, Grove preached in the City on Easter Monday 1695, returning to his habitual themes of piety and charity in a sermon before the mayor and aldermen of London.22 He last appeared in the Lords that spring on 18 April 1695.

On his return to Chichester, he again involved himself in an election campaign. Elections in the county of Sussex were dominated by Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset and also high steward of the city of Chichester. In 1695 the Whig sitting members for the county were opposed by Somerset’s candidate, the country Tory, Robert Orme of Woolavington. Grove wrote to his diocesan clergy advocating Orme’s candidature, thereby alienating many of the Sussex Whig gentry, who believed Orme to have Jacobite backing. Orme’s electoral attempt and subsequent protest failed despite suggestions of electoral malpractice at the Chichester poll and an unprecedented adjournment of the election to Lewes.23 Grove returned to the 1695-96 session in the House on 12 December. He signed the Association in the House on 27 Feb. 1696. He retained his usual low parliamentary profile until the prorogation of 27 Apr., after which he never returned, although he did examine the Journal for 27 Apr. on 13 May.

In September 1696, at the age of 62, Grove was involved in a fatal accident. Leaping from his runaway coach, he sustained a compound fracture of his leg. The ensuing quarrel between a ‘sea-surgeon’ who urged immediate amputation, and a ‘land-surgeon’ who did not, delayed the removal of the shattered leg until the operation, when performed, was useless to prevent Grove’s death from gangrene.24 He made a will two days before he died, leaving his personal estate to his wife and the care of his children to be overseen by Thomas Cole of Cowes, Isle of Wight (a relation by marriage), and Thomas Tenison, archbishop of Canterbury. Grove’s moderate churchmanship was little commented upon during his lifetime, but it was remarked that Jacobites would see his death as ‘a just judgment of God upon one that forsook his loyalty’, and that Dissenters would see his demise as ‘the end of their peevish adversaries’.25 His premature death left his widow and children dependent on charity.26 The case was one of those cited by a later author to argue that the costs incurred by bishops early in their episcopates were ruinous to a bishop’s family should that bishop die too soon after his elevation.27 Grove’s library of well over 2000 books was sold at auction in 1697 at Tom’s Coffee House in Ludgate.28 He was buried in Chichester Cathedral where his elaborate marble monument, complete with weeping angels, states the bishop was ‘conspicuous in all things for his dignity, but unostentatious’.29


  • 1 Canterbury Mar. Lic. iii. 199.
  • 2 PRO, PROB 11/434.
  • 3 Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, ii. 1689.
  • 4 R. Newcourt, Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense, i. 268.
  • 5 [R. Grove], Vindication of the Conforming Clergy (1676), passim.
  • 6 [R. Grove], Short Defence of the Church and Clergy of England (1681), 86-91.
  • 7 LPL, ms 3171, ff. 253-4.
  • 8 [R. Grove], Perswasive to Communion with the Church of England (1683).
  • 9 R. Grove, Seasonable Advice (1685), 1-3.
  • 10 Ibid. 4-6, 31-32, 35, 39.
  • 11 Bull. Hist. Medicine, xxxiv. 318-330.
  • 12 Answer to Mr Lowth’s letter to Dr. Stillingfleet, (1687).
  • 13 Trans. Hon. Soc. of Cymmrodorion, 58.
  • 14 R. Grove, Protestant and Popish Way of Interpreting Scripture impartially compared (1689).
  • 15 Evelyn Diary, iv. 628; Sermon preached before the King and Queen at Whitehall (1690).
  • 16 Lansd. 987, f. 120.
  • 17 CSP 1690-1, 349, 355, 448.
  • 18 Church of England c.1689-c.1833. ed. J. Walsh et al. 301.
  • 19 T. Birch, Life of Tillotson (1753), 267.
  • 20 HMC Portland, iii. 511.
  • 21 BIHR, liii. 86 and passim.
  • 22 R. Grove, Profitable Charity (1695).
  • 23 Suss. Arch. Colls. cvi. 150-51.
  • 24 Add. 4460, f. 53; Bodl. Carte 233, f. 26.
  • 25 Add. 4460, f. 53; Bodl. 233, f. 26.
  • 26 Lansd. 987, f. 120.
  • 27 Life of the Reverend Humphrey Prideaux (1748), 112.
  • 28 J. Bullord, The Library of the Right Reverend Father in God Robert Late Lord Bishop of Chichester (1697).
  • 29 Lansd. 987, f. 120; Agnew, 327.