Archer, Forster (1758/9–1826), protestant clergyman and inspector of prisons, was born in Co. Cork, the son of Richard Archer, a merchant. He entered TCD, aged seventeen (1 July 1776), graduated BA (1781), and was ordained in the established church (1784). He obtained some clerical appointments in Cork city worth £300 a year (a handsome sum for a young clergyman); he was also a partner in a radical newspaper, the Cork Gazette, before initiating in 1794 (at the behest of the government) the prosecution of its editor, Denis Driscol (qv), formerly a close friend. Although he was presented to the lucrative livings of Innishannon and Leighmony (1796), the government's right to present to them was disputed, and Archer preferred to leave Cork owing to growing political tensions.
It was as inspector general of prisons in Ireland, the post that he held (at a salary of £200 p.a.) from March 1795 until his retirement in 1822, that Forster Archer distinguished himself. Although he lacked the extraordinary knowledge of his predecessor, Sir Jeremiah Fitzpatrick (qv), he ‘wrote concise, telling reports and made an effort to compile judicial statistics’ (McDowell, 75). He is best remembered for the journal or account of the lengthy tour of inspection of prisons, county hospitals, and charter schools that he made in the summer and autumn of 1801 (‘A journal containing a report of the state of prisons, county hospitals, charter schools, etc., as attained in a tour thro’ the provinces of Leinster, Munster and Connaught began [sic] July 2nd 1801 by Revd F. Archer, inspector general of the prisons in Ireland’, Hardwicke papers, BL, Add. MS 35920). Only part has been published, but it is of exceptional interest for his observations on Irish life and society, and is of particular value for being written by one born and brought up in Ireland.
Archer married, in 1784, Sophia Purdon of Cork and with her had at least three sons, of whom Richard (d. 1836), a clerk at Dublin castle, was father of another Forster Archer (1814?–41), a clergyman in Co. Cork. He died aged 67 on 17 May 1826 at Clashmore, Co. Waterford.