Pococke, Richard (1704–65), Church of Ireland clergyman, traveller, and antiquary, was born in Southampton, England, on 19 November 1704, son of Richard Pococke, rector of Colmer, Hampshire, and his wife Elizabeth, the only daughter of another clergyman, Isaac Milles (1639?–1720). Elizabeth Milles's three brothers obtained lucrative church appointments, two of them in Ireland, Thomas as bishop of Waterford (1708–40) and Isaac as treasurer of Waterford and prebendary of Mondelligo (1714–27). At her husband's death (1710) the family moved to Milles's rectory at Highclere, Hampshire. The Milles influence, upbringing and connections gave the young Pococke the motive and means for an ecclesiastical career. Having been taught at the school conducted by his grandfather, a serious, diligent man, he entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford, as an exhibitioner (1722). Pococke graduated BA (1725), MA and LLB (1731) and LLD (1733). When he was ordained has not been ascertained, but he was appointed in 1725 by his bishop-uncle to the precentorship of Lismore – obviously a sinecure – and thus set on a career in Ireland; five more sinecures in the same diocese, in Cashel and in Ardagh followed (1729–32); most of these he held for many years.
Between 1733 and 1736, with his cousin Jeremiah Milles (1714–84), treasurer of Lismore (1735–45), he toured France, Switzerland, Italy, the Low Countries, Hanover, Prussia, Austria and, even more adventurously, Greece. Meantime, in 1734, he had been made vicar-general of Waterford and Lismore; he was in Ireland in 1736 but could not have spent much time there. From 1737 to 1741 he explored Egypt, Palestine and Asia Minor, returning to Egypt to go up the Nile as far as Aswan before revisiting Greece and, on his way home, penetrating the Mer de Glace in the Savoy Alps. After these travels he joined the Egyptian Society (founded 1741) and acted as its secretary (1742–3). The account Pococke published of his eastern travels, A description of the East (2 vols, 1743–5), translated into French, German and Dutch, established him as a pioneer Egyptologist. It remains important as a record of sites and monuments that had disappeared by 1798, when Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion opened up Egypt to European scholars. Pococke's great passion for travelling persisted – ‘the mantle of his celebrated relative, Dr Edward Pococke, Oriental scholar and traveller, had evidently fallen on him’ (Kemp).
Each year, after returning from the east, Pococke toured a part of Britain or Ireland and wrote a regular account of his travels in the form of letters to his mother or sister, Elizabeth, most of which have been published since his death. His visits to England and Wales (1736, 1743, 1750, 1751, 1754, 1756, 1757, 1760 and 1764) took him into every county. His first tour of Scotland (1747) was only a year after Culloden; on his second (1750) he saw the Border Country; his third (1760) took him as far north as Orkney. Pococke's narratives of his Irish travels survive for 1752 (a tour of the coastal counties) and 1758 (Cork and Kerry), as do accounts of short journeys made in Ireland (1753 and 1760). An earlier tour of Ireland (1749) is lost. His narratives of his travels, in Ireland as well as abroad, are interesting for his ‘disregard of accepted itineraries’ (McVeagh); they contain much on antiquities and local customs.
Pococke was elected FRS (11 February 1741), was an active member of the Physico-Historical Society, founded in Dublin in 1744, and is mentioned in the charter of the Dublin Society granted in 1750. He was a patron and friend of Mervyn Archdall (qv), presenting him to the living of Attanagh and influencing his Monasticon Hibernicum (1786). It was Richard Pococke's ecclesiastical career that gave him means and leisure to travel. He was appointed in 1744 to what was probably another sinecure, the precentorship of Waterford. The earl of Chesterfield (qv), after arriving in Ireland as lord lieutenant, appointed him archdeacon of Dublin (1746); a successor, the 4th duke of Devonshire (qv), nominated him bishop of Ossory (5 March 1756). Between long absences (common in the eighteenth century) Pococke was a conscientious and industrious clergyman. While at Kilkenny (1756–65) he restored St Canice's Cathedral, partly at his own expense. After his translation to Meath (22 June 1765) he moved to the episcopal palace at Ardbraccan, near Navan, in the grounds of which he planted seeds of cedars of Lebanon, one of which is still standing. Three months later, on 15 September 1765, Pococke died, unmarried, at Charleville, King's Co., on a pastoral visitation; he was buried at Ardbraccan.
In his will he left the bulk of his estate ‘for founding a school for papist boys’, who were to become protestants and be taught linen-weaving. Apparently he had already started building the school at Lintown near Kilkenny which benefited from the bequest. In 1903 the endowment was diverted to Kilkenny College. Of his theology and politics little is known – unless there was some Jacobite motive in his preaching and confirming in the episcopal church at Elgin and elsewhere in Scotland (1760). Two of his charity sermons were published (1760, 1762). Other publications of Pococke were two papers on the Giant's Causeway in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, xlv and xlviii (1748, 1753), another book, Inscriptionum antiquarum liber (1752) and ‘An account of some antiquities found in Ireland’ in Archaeologia, ii (1773). Pococke was said by Richard Mant (qv), a collateral descendant, to have been solemn, phlegmatic and taciturn. A portrait of Pococke in Oriental costume was painted by the Swiss miniaturist, Jean-Étienne Liotard (1738); a later portrait (artist unknown) is reproduced by Kemp.