Milles, Thomas (1671–1740), Church of Ireland bishop of Waterford and Lismore, was born 19 July 1671 at Barley in Hertfordshire, the eldest of at least three sons of Isaac Milles, a clergyman, and his wife, Elizabeth Milles (née Luckin). Matriculating at Wadham College, Oxford, in 1689, he graduated BA (1692), MA (1695), and BD (1704) and became chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1694 and vice-principal of St Edmund Hall in 1695. He published an important scholarly edition of the writings of the early church father St Cyril of Jerusalem in 1703, was appointed regius professor of Greek at Oxford in 1705, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1708. He went to Ireland in 1707 as chaplain to the lord lieutenant, Thomas Herbert (qv), 8th earl of Pembroke (whose sons had received tuition from Milles's father). That year he was made DD of TCD and was appointed bishop of Waterford and Lismore in 1708.
Allegations that the bishop had Jacobite and even Roman Catholic sympathies surfaced from time to time. Milles's father was a tory clergyman who overcame his own scruples to transfer allegiance from James II (qv) to William III (qv) but retained connections with non-jurors such as Henry Dodwell (qv). Thomas Milles himself, according to another (admittedly hostile) non-juror, Thomas Hearne, at first befriended Dodwell and supported him in controversy but later distanced himself, having ‘changed his opinion on purpose to get preferment’ (Remarks, iv, 123).
In 1712 the corporation of Waterford considered that the bishop's reported behaviour – in having papist servants in his house and corresponding with papists – was offensive to the inhabitants. After the accession of George I in 1714 army officers in Waterford thought the bishop's preaching tended to alienate his audience from the establishment, and preferred not to have their soldiers hear it. Archbishop William King (qv) of Dublin believed that Milles wore a crucifix at his breast. Letters of both King and Archbishop Thomas Lindsay (qv) of Armagh of January 1721 contain enigmatic references to Milles's having travelled to France to appear among the Sorbonne doctors. The possibility that the bishop made this journey not with religious or political motives but for the purpose of scholarly collaboration or contention is suggested by the fact that Milles's edition of St Cyril was superseded by several years of work undertaken by the renowned house of scholarly Benedictine monks at St Germain-des-Prés near Paris, culminating in a new edition in 1720.
The bishop's standing in the Church of Ireland does not appear to have been high. Jonathan Swift (qv), who himself had hopes of being appointed to the bishopric of Waterford, was hostile, while Archbishop King criticised his nepotism: the bishop's brother Isaac Milles and his nephews Jeremiah Milles and Richard Pococke (qv) each held several appointments in the diocese. The bishop was involved in sharp disputes with the dean of the diocese, while his disagreements with the corporation of Waterford over the management of the school established by his predecessor Nathaniel Foy (qv) extended from 1713 until it was resolved by an act of parliament in 1727.
He died unmarried on 13 May 1740 and was buried in Waterford cathedral. Some of his published writings are listed by Walter Harris (qv), who refers to his contribution to the attempts to rehabilitate the disgraced seventeenth-century bishop of Waterford, John Atherton (qv). The two nephews – Jeremiah Milles (his heir) and Richard Pococke – appointed by Thomas Milles to sinecures in his diocese used their leisure to undertake extensive travel; their letters to their uncle, giving accounts of their tours, are in the British Library (Add. MSS 15773–15775, 15779, 22977).