TRIMNELL, Charles (1663-1723)

TRIMNELL, Charles (1663–1723)

cons. 8 Feb. 1708 bp. of NORWICH; transl. 21 July 1721 bp. of WINCHESTER

First sat 2 Mar. 1708; last sat 20 May 1723

bap. 1 May 1663, s. of Charles Trimnell (1630-1702) of Bremhill, Wilts., rect. Abbots Ripton, Hunts. educ. Winchester 1674-81; New Coll. Oxf. matric. 1681, BA 1685, MA 1689, BD 1691, DD 1691, incorp. Camb. 1695. m. (1) 1703, Henrietta Maria (d. 22 Feb. 1716),1 da. of William Talbot, bp. of Oxford, 2s. d.v.p.; (2) 1719, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Edmund Wynne, 2nd. bt. of Nostell Priory, Yorks., wid. of Joseph Taylor of the Temple, s.p. d. 15 Aug. 1723; will 30 Apr. 1722, pr. 17 Oct. 1723.2

Chap. in ordinary 1699-1708; clerk of the closet 1714-23.

Preacher, Rolls Chapel 1688; chap. to Robert Spencer, 2nd earl of Sunderland, 1689; canon, Norwich 1691-1708; rect. Boddington, Northants. 1694-6, Brington, Northants. 1696-8, Southmere, Norf. 1705, St James’s, Westminster 1706-8; adn. Norf. 1698-1708.

Tutor to Charles Spencer, later 3rd earl of Sunderland 1689-c.1699;3 mbr. SPCK 1699; pres. Corp. Sons of the Clergy 1721.

Also associated with: St James’s, London, c.1689-c.1720; Petit France, Westminster; Chelsea, London, c.1721-3.4

Likenesses: oil on canvas, attrib. to Michael Dahl c.1715-19, National Trust, Nostell Priory, Yorks. (another version New Coll. Oxf.); mezzotint by J. Faber senior, after M. Dahl?, 1719, BM 1902,1011.1159.

Charles Trimnell’s career revealed him to be as much statesman as cleric. As tutor to Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, and staunch ally of Thomas Tenison, archbishop of Canterbury (a family friend), Trimnell was deemed ‘worthy … in all respects’ by the Whig Gilbert Burnet, of Salisbury, but ‘deplored’ by high Tories.5 One of 14 children of a well-connected Anglican clergyman descended from the Trimnells of Ockley Hall, Worcestershire, Trimnell was the eldest son and residuary legatee of his father, inheriting an unspecified amount of real estate.6 His marriage to the eldest daughter of the Whig bishop, William Talbot, brought with it at least £450 a year; in 1707 Talbot’s petition to the House of Lords for an estate bill revealed that Trimnell’s wife had received that sum over the previous five years.7 Yet Trimnell’s personal circumstances remain vague; in his will he detailed only £100 in cash bequests, the bulk of his personal estate being tied up in an undefined quantity of securities and South Sea stock. There is no indication in his will that he bequeathed any landed property, nor does he appear to have been of an acquisitive nature, resigning his Brington living in favour of a brother-in-law at a time when his annual income amounted to little more than £200. Yet by 1720 he was in a comfortable financial situation with at least £1,000 in stock.8

In 1688 Trimnell was appointed preacher at the Rolls Chapel by the master of the rolls, Sir John Trevor, the first in a stream of promotions to come through the patronage of Tenison, Trevor, and the Sunderland family (to whom he became indispensable, particularly during the political exile of Robert Spencer 2nd earl of Sunderland in the early 1690s).9 According to Edward Spencer, writing in 1694 concerning a prospective living for Trimnell, Trimnell was ‘a man of great integrity, and not to be influenced by money, but will be readily inclined to gratify his patron upon the least motion’.10 Indeed, Trimnell would always function more as a personal secretary than a chaplain, communicating with Sir Hans Sloane on family health matters, sending frequent memoranda to Sunderland and keeping a weather eye on political affairs at home and abroad.11 When the 2nd earl died in 1702, Trimnell assumed a similar role with his former pupil, the 3rd earl.

Joining the Norwich chapter in 1691 (again through Trevor’s interest), Trimnell began a long association with the diocese, building up networks of political contacts (such as Oliver Le Neve) in both local and central government.12 He proved an ally of dean Humphrey Prideaux against Prideaux’s bête noir, John Moore, then bishop of Norwich; he was also heavily involved in the city’s economic life, actively working to procure private legislation for the city in 1701, and for Norwich weavers and combers in 1703. He oversaw building plans in the diocese and was a prominent figure in the founding of the SPCK and SPG.13

Trimnell’s contacts and activity in London gave the strongest hint as to his future political direction. By 1700, together with John Tyler, dean of Hereford and later bishop of Llandaff, and John Evans, shortly to become bishop of Bangor, he was leading an embattled group of Oxford Whig clerics in the Tory-dominated lower house of Convocation.14 He published a series of heated erastian tracts, primarily directed against Francis Atterbury, later bishop of Rochester, arguing that parliamentary writs should be entered into the rubric of Convocation acts, both before and after Tenison’s prorogation of Convocation in May 1702.15 He also attended countless meetings (especially with William Wake, bishop of Lincoln from 1705, and William Nicolson, elected bishop of Carlisle in May 1702) to co-ordinate their opposition to the Tory ‘high-fliers’. He was a core member of the Whig clerical cabal based in London throughout the 1700s, formed a close working relationship with Wake (with whom he dined frequently) and, as Sunderland’s mouthpiece, was a sound reporter of political intelligence to the government.16 University politics also flushed out Trimnell’s allies and enemies. Opposed by the ‘whole Tory world’ (including Thomas Sprat, bishop of Rochester, Jonathan Trelawny, bishop of Exeter, and Heneage Finch, Baron Guernsey, later earl of Aylesford), but supported by Peter Mews, bishop of Winchester, he was pipped at the post for the wardenship of his former Oxford college following a disputed election result.17 Yet at this point in his career, Trimnell was fortunate in enjoying the respect of moderate Tories, including John Sharp, archbishop of York. In 1706, when the 3rd earl of Sunderland entered the cabinet as secretary of state, Trimnell’s career prospects improved further. At Sunderland’s request, the duchess of Marlborough advanced Trimnell’s candidature for the prestigious living of St James’s, Piccadilly (manoeuvrings about which had been current since the early summer of the previous year).18 The promotion was welcomed by William Cowper, Baron (later Earl) Cowper, who expressed pleasure that the queen had given the living to ‘so good a man’.19 The sentiment was mutual. Trimnell had revered Cowper for many years. He had asked Cowper to stand godfather to his son in the summer of 1700, and remained indebted to him for his support.20 Remaining a dutiful household retainer to Sunderland (and thus close to Junto affairs), Trimnell divided his time between the diocese, Althorp and London, where he appears to have stayed with Sunderland. He also acted as a mediator in a number of requests to Sunderland for preferment.21

Even before joining the episcopate, Trimnell had become an influential member of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, dining often at Lambeth and, with Wake, acting as Tenison’s man of business in the lower house of Convocation.22 Following the death of Simon Patrick, bishop of Ely, on 31 May 1707, Tenison raised with John Somers, Baron Somers, the possibility of Trimnell’s elevation to the episcopate, though he recognized that it might be controversial.23 Indeed, over the ‘bishoprics crisis’ of 1707-8, the queen tried to avoid promoting Trimnell while insisting on the advancement of the Tories Offspring Blackall, and William Dawes, to the bishoprics of Exeter and Chester respectively. The consequent row rumbled on over the summer, though the queen found it difficult to combat the claims of Trimnell for elevation to Norwich to replace John Moore, who had gone to Ely.24 Popular with the Norwich chapter, and an ally of Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend (high steward of the cathedral), Trimnell was already enmeshed in Norwich politics.25 Pressure was brought to bear by the Junto, Godolphin and John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. Trimnell was an ardent supporter of the duke, as was clearly demonstrated in his Commons fast sermon of 14 Jan. 1708.26 Faced with this, the queen overcame ‘her natural bias’.27 In an audience with Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, on 6 Jan. 1708, Trimnell’s name was third on the queen’s list of preferred candidates for the three available bishoprics.28 Archbishop Sharp claimed the credit, insisting that the new bishop was ‘more obliged to him for this lift than to all the interest that was made by his other friends’.29

On Sunday 8 Feb. 1708, Trimnell was consecrated at Lambeth and duly paid in full his installation fees to the Norwich chapter (eliciting favourable comparisons with his predecessor).30 On 2 Mar. he took his seat in the Lords; he would attend each of the eight sessions held up to the start of 1715, but with varying levels of regularity. During his first session, he attended 25 per cent of sittings and was named to 12 committees. In April he was at Althorp, taking time also to visit Oxford where he ‘represented’ Le Neve’s case ‘in the common room’. He then returned to Norwich in May where his lavish welcome was described as the most heartfelt in living memory.31 His initial pastoral letter was uncontroversial but promised his ‘thoughts more at large’ in the future.32 Exercising his diocesan authority with firmness, he reminded the holders of advowsons that he must approve their nominees and would not sanction pluralism.33 By the autumn Prideaux reported that Trimnell had ‘set himself … in a very good interest in his diocese, being generally as much in every man’s good opinion as his predecessor was in the contrary’.34 His time was still divided between his various commitments; back in London in May 1708, he met Tenison, Wake and Moore (against whom he seemed to harbour no animus) at the Cockpit to agree their strategy for the next meeting of Convocation.35 Trimnell was a natural second-in-command for the archbishop and for the next seven years he deputed for Tenison on at least ten occasions at ordination ceremonies.36 He continued to be a key element in Tenison’s campaign against Atterbury, challenging in print the latter’s account of Tenison’s prorogation of the 1705 Convocation.37 In London he kept regular company with Nicolson and Wake, but he was no less involved with Sunderland despite his elevation.38 The strong relationship, reaching into both secular and ecclesiastical affairs, enabled a two-pronged attack on toryism. In July 1708 Trimnell asked Sunderland to bring before the Privy Council the case of a dispute involving the Chichester dean and chapter (whose problems were exacerbated by their close relationship with Sir Thomas Littleton, an ‘uncompromising’ Whig).39

Trimnell was one of a number of bishops present at the House of Lords on 13 Nov. for the arrival of the coffin of Prince George, of Denmark and duke of Cumberland, to lie in state; he then also appears to have attended the funeral on 15 November.40 He returned to the House on 16 Nov. 1708 for the first day of the new session, after which he was present on nearly three-quarters of sittings. He reported from one committee on the bill for the dean of Windsor, on 23 March. In the division on 21 Jan. 1709 on the Scottish peerage, he voted with the majority not-contents, against allowing Scots peers with British titles the right to vote in the election of representative peers. On 30 Jan. he preached a traditionally reverent martyrdom sermon at St James’s Piccadilly at the request of the vestry.41 The previous day he had been named by the Lords to preach on 17 Feb. at a special thanksgiving service for the most recent military victory. His text, Ps. 20:6 (‘the Lord saveth his anointed’), appropriated providential approval for the war. Trimnell asserted that Marlborough’s military campaign was vital to defend the crown from ‘a foreign pretender … the defence of our liberties against arbitrary and unlimited power and the defence of our religion against a gross and a cruel superstition’. The House ordered its publication. Constantly in the company of senior Junto members (on 8 Feb. he had visited Somers and Thomas Wharton, earl (later marquess) of Wharton), he voted consistently with the Whigs. On 15 Mar., during the debate on the general naturalization bill, Trimnell and six other bishops voted against Dawes’ proposal for the phrase ‘parochial church’ to be employed rather than ‘some Protestant Reformation Congregation’. The following week, in the divisions on the bill for improving the Union that took place in a committee of the whole, Trimnell joined John Hough, and John Evans in voting against the proposal to introduce into English law, the proviso in Scots Law allowing defendants witness lists in advance of their trials. In the division of 25 Mar. on whether to adjourn discussion of the validity of Scottish marriage settlements under the treason law until the following day, Trimnell joined Sunderland on the minority side and was ‘in great warmth at his Lord’s disappointment’.42

After an illness that he claimed lasted three weeks, Trimnell set out for Norwich towards the end of April to conduct his primary visitation. He made use of his charge to the clergy to promote his erastian creed ‘with great freedom and judgment against some prevailing opinions’ on the relations between Church and state. He also criticized the revival amongst high churchmen of practices which, he perceived, were flirting dangerously with ceremonialism and were not consistent with a Protestant liturgy. The charge attracted predictable criticism from commentators such as Hearne and was cited with unease early in 1710 as a foretaste of things to come in the recently vacated see of Bristol.43 His visitation had to be cut when he suffered a recurrence of his illness.44 He appears to have recovered by the autumn and took his seat at the opening of the next session in November 1709 when he was named to the committee to draw up an address in response to the queen’s speech. He attended more sittings in this session than any during the reign of Queen Anne (81 per cent of sittings), no doubt in response to the Sacheverell impeachment. On 24 Jan. 1710 he attended a meeting at Sunderland’s residence to discuss the trial.45 He took part in the twelve-hour debate on the first article on 16 Mar. during which his father-in-law (Bishop Talbot) made a speech in favour of the impeachment.46 The following day Trimnell defended the second article. His speech, variously considered ‘as dull a one God knows as any sermon he ever preached from St James’s pulpit’ (according to Ralph Bridges) or spoken like an ‘apostle’ (according to James Clavering), was published.47 He pulled no punches in damning Sacheverell’s tendency ‘to thunder out … ecclesiastical anathemas’ against nonconformists who now enjoyed religious toleration and he asserted that a clergyman at ordination promised to minister as directed by both Church ‘and realm’.48 He seconded the ‘toleration’ article in the impeachment (moved by Wake), and articulated his fears for public safety if the Lords failed to convict; he and Wake were accused of monopolizing the Lords’ time.49 A hostile review of the debate judged that Trimnell had said nothing more ‘than a rehearsal’ of what had already been said by Wake.50 On 20 Mar. Trimnell (unsurprisingly) voted Sacheverell guilty.51 Following the close of the session, Trimnell returned to a hostile political environment in his diocese. The election of Tory Robert Bene as mayor of Norwich in May was celebrated amid cries of ‘the Church and Bene’ and ‘High Church and Sacheverell’. The election proved a particularly divisive affair. At the end of June Trimnell wrote to Wake that ‘people are not quite come to themselves here, but I think they begin to cool and be a little ashamed.’52

Following the Tory victory at the general election in October and November 1710, Harley listed Trimnell as a likely opponent of the new administration. As the Whigs turned to Convocation as a forum to counter the Tory dominance of Parliament, Trimnell took a prominent role in opposing Atterbury’s political philosophy.53 The Lords assembled for the new session on 25 November. Trimnell took his seat on the second day of business (27 November). He attended this session for approximately 72 per cent of sittings. On 4 Dec. he received Talbot’s proxy (vacated three days later) and later in the month attended the annual St Stephen’s dinner at Lambeth. He was also frequently in company with Wake and other bishops throughout the course of the session preparing business for both Parliament and Convocation.54

With the war in Spain now under critical scrutiny, the House heard petitions from Henry de Ruvigny, earl of Galway [I], and Charles O’Hara, Baron Tyrawley [I], in defence of their military conduct. On 11 Jan. 1711 Trimnell was one of ten bishops to sign the Whig protest at the resolution to reject their petitions. On the same day he protested against the committee resolution blaming the operational decisions made by Galway, Tyrawley and General James Stanhope, (later Earl Stanhope) for the defeat at Almanza. On 12 Jan. he again protested against the resolution censuring the conduct of Whig ministers for having approved a military offensive in Spain. Ten days later he was named to the committee to enquire into the provision of materiel at Almanza. He continued his meetings at Lambeth with Wake, Moore and Humphrey Humphreys, bishop of Hereford and on 3 Feb. protested against the committee resolution that two regiments in the Spanish establishment suffered inadequate supply. He also protested against the resolution that the Whig ministers had neglected their duty. On 8 Feb. he protested twice against the text of an address to the queen about the war. The following day (and again on the 13th), he met Somers, Cowper and Wake in the Jerusalem Chamber before going to the upper house of Convocation.55 He also attended the Lords that day, when he was named to the committee on legislation for Other Windsor, 2nd earl of Plymouth, and protested against the expunging of information from the Lords’ Journal.

The spring of 1711 saw Trimnell engaged in a constant round of parliamentary and religious politics. There were further meetings at Ely House between the Whig bishops and the Junto on 18 Feb. and 25 Feb. (despite Trimnell’s cold and headache the previous day). There they discussed their latest dissatisfaction with the queen’s new licence to Convocation.56 Trimnell also worked closely with Tenison to ensure that Convocation addressed high church accusations of heresy against Cambridge academic, William Whiston.57 The appeal to the House of Lords by the Scottish episcopalian, James Greenshields, in February 1711 required sensitive handling by the Whigs who wanted to avoid antagonising the Scottish Kirk. Trimnell attended a meeting with Nicolson, Somers, Cowper, Wake and Evans to work out a strategy to restrict the Greenshields appeal to the civil, and not the ecclesiastical, aspects of the law.58 Trimnell also continued to represent the interests of the Norwich local economy and was present on 13 Mar. to hear the petition from Norwich factors opposed to the import of French wine. He received Wake’s proxy on 23 Apr. (vacated on 16 May) and Talbot’s on the 28th (vacated at the end of the session). Involved in the everyday business of the House, he joined the Fast Day procession on 28 Mar. to the Abbey and on 9 May managed the conference on amendments to the Dunstable highways bill.59 On 30 May Trimnell and William Fleetwood, then bishop of St Asaph, left the House before the reading of the bill to build 50 new churches to signal their disapproval of a measure they believed would further alienate the Dissenters.60

Trimnell seems to have suffered from ill health after the end of the session and sought relief by drinking the waters at Tunbridge. He remained unwell throughout July and was still in Tunbridge on 19 Aug. when he preached in the town chapel.61 At the end of October he was well enough to attend a meeting with Wake and one other bishop in London, and on 5 Nov., ‘a very blustery day’, he called on Wake to ask whether his colleague ‘durst venture over the water’ with him. On 12 Nov. he was at a Lambeth meeting of Whigs including Talbot and Hough.62

Trimnell returned to the House at the opening of the new session in December and was again one of those nominated to draw up the address in reply to the queen’s speech. He attended one half of all sittings. On 8 Dec., in the abortive division on including a clause on ‘No Peace without Spain’ in the Address, Trimnell was listed as a court opponent. On the same day he received the proxy of Edward Fowler, bishop of Gloucester (vacated at the end of the session). Later in December he voted in favour of disabling James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S] (duke of Brandon), from sitting as an hereditary British peer.63 Trimnell spent New Year’s Eve preaching to the societies for the reformation of manners against the ‘works of darkness’ in the same week that his hero Marlborough was dismissed from office and the queen created 12 new Tory peers.64 On 6 Jan. 1712 he wrote to the duchess of Marlborough sympathising with her ‘melancholy thoughts’ on recent events and hoping that neither of them should have cause to regret that bishops did not vote in capital cases.65 Four days earlier, in the adjournment debate, he was one of the bishops to vote with the Whig opposition in denouncing as a breach of parliamentary privilege the request (ostensibly from the queen but engineered by Oxford) for a recess.66

He continued with the normal business of the House, sitting in committee in Whitehall on 12 Jan. 1712 and passing the Chamberlain’s accounts; on the 17th he was ordered to preach the annual martyrdom sermon on 30 January.67 He preached a pointed sermon on Prov. 17:14 (‘leave off contention, before it be meddled with’), claiming that resistance to the crown was justified in ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Given prevailing Whig sentiment that Anne had gone beyond her prerogative in the Tory peerage creations, the sermon may well have sounded a threatening note. Swift certainly judged it ‘a terrible Whig sermon’; Nicolson thought it ‘admirable’.68 Burnet predictably ‘thanked God he was there and professed he never heard a better’. The following day William North, 6th Baron North, complained about the sermon in the House (even though he confessed he had not heard it). Montagu Venables Bertie, 2nd earl of Abingdon, joined in the criticism noting that ‘the drift of the sermon’ had appeared ‘calculated to extenuate the crimes of the rebellion’, though he too was forced to concede that he could not remember the exact words.69 When the House failed to give the customary thanks and order for publication, Trimnell took it to the press himself and used the preface to defend himself from attack and misrepresentation, drawing attention to one of the more abrasive passages in which he asserted that Charles I had been guilty of provocation.70

Back to normal parliamentary business, by 8 Feb. 1712 Trimnell joined the Scots Presbyterians voting against the episcopal communion (Scotland) bill. The same day he visited Wake and went with him (and John Evans) to Convocation. Trimnell continued to liaise with Wake about Convocation business during the next few weeks.71 On 26 Feb. he voted against the Commons’ amendment to the Scottish episcopal communion bill.72 During March he received two proxies: Talbot’s on the 12th (vacated on the 20th) and Moore’s on the 19th (vacated 14 April). On 24 Mar. he was present when the House received petitions from the inhabitants of Norwich and from the French and Dutch congregations against the Norwich workhouse bill. Trimnell was present throughout the passage of the legislation including 29 Mar. when the House went into committee of the whole. On 12 Apr. he voted against the committal of the ecclesiastical patronage (Scotland) bill, thinking it ‘a breach upon the Union, and such a one as will cause great uneasiness there’. Writing to Wake about this and business in Convocation, he complained of ‘the difficulty of getting bishops together’, which he lamented had ‘hindered me from doing anything effectually upon the points within ourselves’.73 The strain appears to have told on him and ten days later, he registered his proxy in favour of his father-in-law. He travelled to Bath to recuperate hoping to be back soon after Easter. On 19 June his brother, David, was able to report on Trimnell’s recovery and return to business, ‘which I dare say will be a greater pleasure to him than all the entertainments of the Bath’. Two days later Trimnell was present in the House, but he failed to attend the final two-and-a-half weeks of the session.74

Wake noted a visit from Trimnell in his diary on 16 Mar. 1713. The following day Trimnell was present in the House for the prorogation, and he attended a further prorogation sitting on 26 Mar. when he was one of those to examine the Journal.75 Swift’s list of March 1713 identified him, obviously, as an opponent of the ministry. He was present once more on the first day of the session beginning in April 1713, and thereafter attended 62 per cent of total sittings. On 30 June he reported the bill on Melton rectories (in his own diocese of Norwich). One of the committees to which he was named was that concerning the estate of his Norfolk neighbour Sir John Holland, though how active he was in it remains a matter for conjecture. Prior to this, on 14 Apr. he met with Wake as well as Richard Willis, the dean of Lincoln and future bishop of Gloucester and agreed on the text of an address for the following day.76 On 28 May he attended when the House received papers regarding the commercial treaty with France, including petitions from the Norwich worsted weavers and another from the city regarding its woollen manufactures. Oxford estimated that Trimnell would oppose the eighth and ninth articles of the French commerce bill.

On Sunday 5 July Trimnell was one of a number of bishops and senior clerics to gather in the bishops’ room next to the Lords and from thence travel by barge to Lambeth for the consecration of Atterbury as bishop of Rochester. He was then present at the end of the session on 16 July when he was one of those to sign off the Journal.77 He then turned to his pastoral and domestic duties. Trimnell was a subscriber to a local charity that year, pledging £5 to an organization for alleviating the condition of the widows and orphans of deceased clergy within his diocese. He congratulated Townshend on his marriage and asked Somers and Cowper to stand as godfathers to his new son. Lady Sunderland was to be the godmother.78

Trimnell was in London at the beginning of 1714, engaged with business relating to Convocation, but he was missing from the opening week of the new session of Parliament in February. It may have been in anticipation of this that he sealed a proxy for Wake’s use at the close of January. By the end of the first week of February he remained uncertain of precisely when the session was due to begin.79 If the proxy had been intended to cover his absence from the opening days, it may not have been formally registered, as two days after the session’s commencement (18 Feb.) Trimnell was entrusted with Talbot’s proxy. He finally took his place on 23 Feb. and proceeded to attend just under a quarter of sitting days. He continued to juggle his attendance of the House with involvement in Convocation, which perhaps explains why he was named to just one select committee (to draw up the address to the queen on guaranteeing the Protestant succession).80 On 14 Apr. he entered his own proxy in favour of John Evans, thereby vacating the proxy he held from Talbot. Trimnell’s proxy was vacated on 27 Apr. but 10 May was his last appearance in the House that session; he missed the last two months of the business after registering his proxy, again in Evans’s favour, on 17 May. At the end of May or beginning of June, Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, forecast that Trimnell would oppose the schism bill. During the division of 11 June on extending the bill to Ireland, Evans used Trimnell’s proxy to oppose the motion.81 Trimnell enquired of Wake on the 18th how the bill was faring in the House and, with party dispute in Convocation reaching new levels, discussed with him a possible parliamentary injunction against the discussion of religion as a means to ‘quiet us now as it did once before’.82 Nonetheless, he actively heightened controversy by publishing against the ‘great unfairness’ of a Tory narrative of the synod’s proceedings.83

Trimnell attended only on the last day of the brief session that met in the wake of the queen’s death in August. It is unclear why he was unable to attend earlier, but it is probable that he was engaged on his usual summer visitation. On the last day of 1714, as the new administration’s ‘strongest episcopal ally’, he was appointed clerk of the closet.84 He claimed that he had not solicited the post through the influence of friends and that he did not intend to use his position to ‘meddle’ in government affairs.85 Yet throughout the following eight years, he wielded considerable authority, mediating in preferments, as in 1715 when he recommended as chaplain to Thomas Grey, 2nd earl of Stamford, a Whig clergyman who had appeared for Thomas Bird at the controverted Leicestershire election. In the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, Trimnell exercised his diocesan power to caution his clergy against ‘the weakening of the Reformation’ which gave ‘life and spirit’ to the Pretender’.86

At the close of 1715 Trimnell was believed to be in line to succeed Tenison as archbishop. He lost out, however, to Wake after the intervention of Princess Caroline.87 The loss of the archbishopric proved academic, though, as Trimnell’s close relations with Sunderland meant that he effectively eclipsed the archbishop’s influence.88 Along with Tyler and William Fleetwood, Trimnell formed part of a Whig triumvirate bolstering the ecclesiastical policies of the new regime. For the rest of his political career, Trimnell maintained his role within the Sunderland household, spending long hours over the prickly negotiations with the duchess of Marlborough when her widowed son-in-law, Sunderland, decided to remarry.89 In 1721 he was translated to Winchester. A detailed examination of Trimnell’s career after 1715 will be dealt with in the next phase of this work.

Physically frail from excessive fasting in his early life, Trimnell died on 15 Aug. 1723 at the age of 60 at the bishop’s residence of Farnham Castle in Surrey.90 After modest bequests to the poor, he claimed that his circumstances would not allow further charity. The residue of his personal estate (including an unspecified amount of South Sea stock and securities) went to his wife who also executed the will. Trimnell was one of a clerical dynasty, using his own position to further those of his two younger brothers: David, chaplain to Wake and a member of the Lincoln chapter and William, archdeacon of Norwich and later dean of Winchester.91 His sisters married into the clergy: Elizabeth married Henry Downes, later bishop of Derry, and Catherine married Thomas Green, later bishop of Ely.92 His niece Jane married Isaac Hawkins Browne.93 He was buried in Winchester Cathedral in August 1723 near the tomb of William of Wykeham.94


  • 1 Surr. Hist. Cent. 371/14/O2/82.
  • 2 TNA, PROB 11/593.
  • 3 Evelyn Diary, iv. 595, v. 322.
  • 4 Add. 61612, f. 131.
  • 5 TNA, PROB11/465; Burnet, vi. 488; G. Holmes, Trial of Dr Sacheverell, 31.
  • 6 S.H. Cassan, Lives of the Bishops of Winchester, ii. 204-6.
  • 7 HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 39; LJ, xviii. 242.
  • 8 Add. 4224, f. 5; BL, IOR/ B/55, 17.
  • 9 Add. 4224, f. 5; CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 223; Kenyon, Sunderland, 238-9; Bodl. Tanner 26, f. 37, Tanner 21, f. 102; Add. 61126, f. 7.
  • 10 Castle Ashby ms 1094, E. Spencer to H. Parker, 29 Apr. 1694.
  • 11 Sloane 4061, ff. 188, 190; 4043, ff. 304, 318; Tanner 27, f. 110.
  • 12 Eg. 2719, ff. 79, 86; Eg. 2721, ff. 377-95.
  • 13 Norf. RO, DCN 115/1, ff. 94, 149-50, 155, 242, 246, 248, DCN 115/2, f. 111.
  • 14 Eighteenth Century Oxford, 58, 70.
  • 15 Add. 19166, f. 51; C. Trimnell, Late Pretence of a Constant Practice to Enter the Parliament …, Further Consider’d (1701); Third Letter to a Clergyman in the Country (1702); Answer to a Third Letter to a Clergyman in the Country, (1702); Vindication of the Proceedings of Some Members of the Lower House of the last Convocation, (1702).
  • 16 Nicolson, London Diaries, 128, 293, 366, 386, 412; Christ Church Lib. Oxf. Wake mss 1, f. 55; Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. i. 124.
  • 17 Eighteenth Century Oxford, 70; CSP Dom. 1703-4, pp. 34-35; Atterbury, Epistolary Corresp. iv. 419, 422.
  • 18 Add. 61612, ff. 47-48; HALS, DE/P/F60; A. Tindal Hart, Life of Sharp, 244; Wake mss 17, f. 95.
  • 19 HMC Portland, iv. 332.
  • 20 HALS, DE/P/F57.
  • 21 Add. 61546, f. 65; Nicolson, London Diaries, 406; Eg. 2721, f. 393; Add. 61612, ff. 59, 80, 85.
  • 22 LPL, ms 1770 (Wake diary), ff. 11, 13, 36; Nicolson, London Diaries, 412, 416.
  • 23 Surr. Hist. Cent. 371/14/D17.
  • 24 Beinecke Lib. OSB mss fc 37, vol. 10, no. xliii; Nicolson, London Diaries, 431.
  • 25 Norf. RO, DCN 115/2, ff. 225-6; Surr. Hist. Cent. 371/14/E27.
  • 26 C. Trimnell, A Sermon Preach’d before the Honourable House of Commons on Wednesday Jan. 14. 1707/8 (1708); G. Holmes, Politics, Religion and Society in England, 1679-1742, p. 186.
  • 27 Marlborough Mems. ed. W. Coxe, ii. 186.
  • 28 EHR, lxxxii. 736, 746.
  • 29 Ibid. l. 445.
  • 30 Norf. RO, DCN 115/2, f. 219.
  • 31 Eg. 2721, f. 387; Norf. RO, DCN 115/2, f. 225.
  • 32 Tanner 135, f. 184.
  • 33 Add. 45721A, f. 5.
  • 34 Prideaux Letters, 200.
  • 35 LPL, ms 1770, f. 61.
  • 36 Carpenter, Tenison, 135 n.2.
  • 37 F. Atterbury, Some Proceedings in Convocation, A.D. 1705 (1708); C. Trimnell, Partiality Detected (1708); Wake mss 23, f. 187.
  • 38 Nicolson, London Diaries, 441, 452, 465, 477, 539, 617; Add. 61619, f. 45.
  • 39 Add. 64928, f. 59; HP Commons 1690-1715, iv. 640.
  • 40 LPL, ms 1770, ff. 68-9.
  • 41 C. Trimnell, Sermon Preach’d . . . on Sunday the 30th of January, 1708 (1709).
  • 42 Nicolson, London Diaries, 472, 476, 486, 488, 489.
  • 43 Herts. ALS, DE/P/F57, Trimnell to Cowper, 18 May 1709; Wake mss 17, f. 206; Prideaux Letters, 201; Add. 4224, f. 6; Hearne, Remarks and Collections, ii. 345, 349.
  • 44 Wake mss 17, ff. 213, 215.
  • 45 LPL, ms 1770, f. 91.
  • 46 Timberland, ii. 272-4; HJ, xix. 763; Serious Answer to the Lord Bishop of Oxford’s Speech in the House of Lords on the First Article of Impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell (1710).
  • 47 Holmes, Sacheverell, 221; Clavering Corresp. ed. Dickinson (Surtees Soc. clxxviii), 72; Bishop of Lincoln’s and Bishop of Norwich’s Speeches in the House of Lords March the 17th (1710).
  • 48 Bishop of Lincoln’s and Bishop of Norwich’s Speeches, 25, 28.
  • 49 Add. 72499, ff. 132-3; Bishop of Lincoln’s and Bishop of Norwich’s Speeches, 31; Holmes, Sacheverell, 220-1.
  • 50 Serious Answer to the Lord Bishop of Oxford’s Speech in the House of Lords (1710), 30.
  • 51 Add. 15574, ff. 65-68.
  • 52 J. Miller, Cities Divided, 271; Wake mss 17, f. 255.
  • 53 Councils and Assemblies ed. D. Baker and G. Cuming (Stud. in Church Hist. vii), 312; N. Sykes, William Wake, i. 126-8.
  • 54 Nicolson, London Diaries, 525; LPL, ms 1770, ff. 102-6.
  • 55 LPL, ms 1770, f. 104; Sykes, i. 128.
  • 56 Wake mss 17, f. 270; Sykes, i. 128, 130.
  • 57 LPL, ms 1770, f. 106; ms 1029, ff. 92b, 112b.
  • 58 Nicolson, London Diaries, 551.
  • 59 Ibid. 565; LJ, xix. 291.
  • 60 Add. 72495, ff. 75-76.
  • 61 Wake mss 17, ff. 279-80; C. Trimnell, Sermon Preach’d … at Tunbridge-Wells (1711).
  • 62 LPL, ms 1770, f. 113.
  • 63 Add. 70269.
  • 64 C. Trimnell, Sermon Preach’d to the Societies for the Reformation of Manners (1712).
  • 65 Add. 61443, f. 54.
  • 66 Pols. in Age of Anne, 517 n.62.
  • 67 Nicolson, London Diaries, 577; LJ, xix. 357-9.
  • 68 PH, xxiv. supp. 9-42; Nicolson, London Diaries, 582.
  • 69 Pols. in Age of Anne, 29; Nicolson, London Diaries, 582, 583; Wentworth pprs. 261.
  • 70 C. Trimnell, Sermon Preach’d Before the Lords Spiritual and Temporal … on the 30th of January 1711/12 (1712).
  • 71 Nicolson, London Diaries, 574; LPL, ms 1770, ff. 117, 118, 119.
  • 72 Bodl. Ballard 36, f. 122.
  • 73 Add. 72495, Bridges to Trumbull 15 Apr. 1712; Wake mss 17, ff. 320-1.
  • 74 Tanner 20, f. 46; Wake mss 17, ff. 318-19.
  • 75 LPL, ms 1770, f. 131.
  • 76 Ibid. f. 132.
  • 77 SCLA, DR 671/89, diary 2, p. 26; LJ, xix. 554.
  • 78 Tanner 140, f. 1; Add. 38507, ff. 83-84; Herts. ALS, DE/P/F57.
  • 79 LPL, ms 1770, ff. 139, 140; Add. Ch. 76125; Wake mss 6, ff. 167-8.
  • 80 LPL, ms 1770, f. 141.
  • 81 Add. 70070, newsletter 15 June 1714; Nicolson, London Diaries, 612.
  • 82 Wake mss 18, f. 375.
  • 83 C. Trimnell, Answer to a Pamphlet Entituled, The proceedings of the Lower House of Convocation (1714).
  • 84 HJ, xxxiv. 839.
  • 85 Wake mss 5, f. 102.
  • 86 Add. 61612, f. 85; Add. 4224, f. 14v; Bishop of Norwich’s Circular Letter … (1716), 1.
  • 87 HJ, viii. 97.
  • 88 Wake mss 8, ff. 69, 70, 71, 84; Add. 61612, ff. 91, 193, 195; Sykes, i. 143-4, ii. 111, 129, 130, 166.
  • 89 Add. 61603, f. 155; Add. 61443, ff. 73, 75-80, 81, 83, 85, 88, 94-97, 98; HMC 8th Rep. i. 57a.
  • 90 Cassan, ii. 207-8.
  • 91 Al. Ox.
  • 92 Cassan, ii. 205.
  • 93 HP Commons 1715-54, i. 496.
  • 94 Add. 4224, f. 6.