Woodward, Richard (1726–94), Church of Ireland bishop of Cloyne, was born in July 1726 at Grimsbury, near Bristol, the eldest son of Francis Woodward (d. 1730) and Elizabeth Woodward (née Bird; 1696–1771) of Bristol.
Early years He was educated at home by Josiah Tucker (1713–99), the economist and political writer, whom his mother married after her husband's death, and at Wadham College, Oxford, where he graduated BCL in 1749 and DCL in 1759. Encouraged by his stepfather to travel to appreciate the ‘powerful effects and consequences . . . produced by the various systems of religion, government and commerce’ (Tucker, Instructions for travellers, 1758, 4), Woodward toured regional England in the early 1750s, before travelling to Europe, where in 1758 he encountered Thomas Conolly (qv), then aged twenty, the heir to the large fortune of Speaker William Conolly (qv). The two men forged a fast friendship. Until this time Woodward seemed destined for an unremarkable career in the Church of England as rector of the parish of Donyatt, Somerset, but, encouraged by Conolly to consider the Church of Ireland, he came to Ireland at some point in the early 1760s, possibly after his marriage on 6 October 1763 to Susanna Blake (d. 1795), with whom he had five sons and one daughter.
As an MP in the British and Irish parliaments, Conolly had excellent connections on both sides of the Irish Sea, and it was presumably these that secured Woodward's appointment as dean of Clogher on 31 January 1764. Woodward was to retain the deanery until his elevation to the episcopal bench in 1781, during which time he consolidated his reputation as a fine preacher. Possessed, in the words of Philip Skelton (qv), of an ‘eloquence to please and reform’ (Burdy, 183), and admired by John Wesley (qv), who heard him preach in 1771, a number of his sermons were committed to print. The first, A sermon preached at Christ Church, Dublin on the 13th of May, 1764, before the Incorporated Society for Promoting English Protestant Schools in Ireland (Dublin, 1764), signalled what was to prove a lifelong attachment to the educational and proselytising efforts of the charter schools.
Advocate of poor relief Woodward's strong commitment to mainstream protestantism mirrored that of his stepfather, and it is likely that Tucker's essentially conservative views, expressed in Hospitals and infirmaries, considered as schools of Christian education (London, 1746), influenced Woodward's thinking, which was first indicated in 1766 by the publication, ‘by order of the Dublin Society’, of A scheme for establishing county poor houses in the kingdom of Ireland (Dublin, 1766). Two years later he produced a more elaborate Argument in support of the right of the poor in the kingdom of Ireland to a national provision (Dublin, 1768), with an appendix in which he contended that the condition of the indigent could be relieved by a tax on agriculture and business of 1 per cent. His plan envisaged the creation of a county network of poorhouses, each with fifty beds for a hundred paupers, ten beds for the ill and infirm, and a house of correction where the vagrant and idle, branded with the letter V, ‘would be kept close to some laborious work’. As this makes clear, Woodward's priority was the ‘deserving’ poor, who, he argued, had a moral right to relief, but he was equally exercised by the contemporary desire to eradicate begging by the ‘idle’ poor, who, he believed, were the main beneficiaries of the existing unregulated environment.
Woodward's plan was well received, and it prompted the Irish parliament in 1772 to authorise every county and city to found a corporation for the purpose of establishing a ‘house of industry’ to be funded from subscriptions and grand jury presentments (11 & 12 Geo. III, c. 30). Opposition, borne out of the conviction that county charges were burdensome, ensured that no more than eight such houses were brought into being, but the Dublin House of Industry, in which Woodward played an active part, made a significant contribution over many decades to the easing of poverty and the relief of distress in the metropolis. Woodward consolidated his reputation as the leading clerical advocate of poor relief by the publication of An address to the public on the expediency of a regular plan for the maintenance and government of the poor (Dublin and London, 1775), in which he offered a still more elaborate statement of his case ‘in support of the right of the poor in the kingdom of Ireland to a national provision’. The publication of A sermon preached before the vice-patroness, governess and guardians of the asylum for penitent women at the chapel in Leeson Street, Dublin, on Sunday 1 May 1774 (Dublin, 1774) indicated that he also supported the provision of institutional care for others on the margins of society.
Preferment and politics As the leading clerical advocate of such provision, Woodward's activities were illustrative of the more socially aware and less overtly political character of much of the leadership of the Church of Ireland in the late eighteenth century. It also brought him official recognition. He was appointed chancellor of St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin, on 4 July 1772, which position he retained until 1778, when he exchanged it for the rectory of Louth. His ‘most favourite object’ was a bishopric, but he wanted for a strong advocate at court until the appointment in 1777 of Thomas Conolly's brother-in-law, John Hobart (qv), the 2nd earl of Buckinghamshire, to the lord lieutenancy of Ireland encouraged Conolly to press his case. Even then promotion was slow in coming, and it was Buckinghamshire's successor, the earl of Carlisle (qv), who eventually announced his appointment as bishop of the small southern diocese of Cloyne in January 1781. Woodward was consecrated bishop at Christ Church, Dublin, on 4 February. He was awarded the degree of DD from TCD in the same year.
Guided by the mutual regard and close family friendship that sustained his close bond with Conolly, as well as by a sense of political obligation to Dublin Castle, Woodward was disposed at the outset of his episcopate to favour legislative reform. The ‘resolutions’ agreed by the Volunteers' delegates at Dungannon in February 1782 ‘made a good deal of impression on my mind’, he admitted candidly, and though he was correct in suspecting that ‘the resolutions relative to the Papists never originated there’ (HMC, Lothian, 410), he gave them his backing. Woodward was subsequently to cite his support for the Catholic Relief Act of 1782 in an effort to pre-empt the accusation of bigotry when he sought to defend the privileged position of the established church, but he was convinced then that to permit catholics access to political power was inconsistent with the security of protestantism. He was equally convinced that it was inconsistent with the protestant character of the state to permit presbyterian ministers legally to perform marriage ceremonies, which accounts for his strong opposition to a proposal to this effect in 1782.
Woodward's commitment to maintaining the integrity of the protestant constitution in church and state was illustrative of a lifelong ideological conservatism that assumed a more overtly political character when the ‘Volunteer legislators’ (HMC, Lothian, 410), of whom he had spoken disapprovingly in 1782, took up the cause of parliamentary reform. Though prevented from active opposition by ‘several severe accidents, which affected my body and mind’ (ibid., 419), he was at one with Thomas Conolly in deeming parliamentary reform unacceptable. Persuaded that ‘an Irish Presbyterian Volunteer is above human reason’, and that the plan of reform ‘must put all government and property into the hands of the Papists’ (ibid., 421), he did not rule out a military response. This proved unnecessary, as the determination of an alliance of ‘government and all the great men of the country’ (ibid., 425), with Conolly to the fore, enabled the authorities to prevail. Woodward was much relieved, but the closeness with which he followed events in 1783 and the ‘risk to life and property’ that he apprehended (ibid.), put an end to the liberal flirtation he had briefly indulged in 1782, and he joined with a majority of the protestant elite in 1784 in welcoming the fact that ‘the volunteer spirit has worn out in people of rank and fortune, who feel they [the Volunteers] had gone too far’ (ibid., 428).
The subsequent embarkation of Irish politics on a quieter phase suited Woodward. As a member of the house of lords, he enjoyed privileged access to those in power but, whereas Archbishop Charles Agar (qv) of Cashel sought consciously to use this to the benefit of the Church of Ireland, Woodward's stated preference was not to ‘vote on any political question’ (Woodward to Conolly, 5 Mar. 1793, Leinster papers, NLI). Prompted in part by his unwillingness to disagree publicly with Conolly, whose political identification with Irish patriotism and British whiggery was at odds with Woodward's more conservative disposition, he was only intermittently active in the house of lords during the fifteen years that he was a member.
One beneficial consequence was that Woodward was at liberty to concentrate on other matters, including the well-being of his family and the fortunes of the newly built but unoccupied Buckingham Hospital in Dublin; his concerns about the latter were eased in 1785 when it was identified as appropriate premises for the ‘Lock Hospital for venereal patients’ (HMC, Lothian, 430). The administrative demands of the diocese of Cloyne were ongoing, and Woodward proved an attentive and generally scrupulous pastor, who was determined to ensure ‘that no disgrace . . . [accrued] to the episcopal character from my conduct’ (Malcomson, Agar, 51). He largely succeeded, and he contrived also to improve the behaviour of the population, as instanced by the publication in 1783 of an address entitled Considerations on the immortality and pernicious effects of dealing in smuggled goods (Cork, 1783).
Defence of the Church of Ireland Woodward was, however, to engage more directly in politics, and in the process to deliver ‘perhaps the most successful blow struck on the church's behalf by any bishop’ (Malcomson, Agar, 481) in the course of the late eighteenth century, when he entered the lists against the threat posed in 1786–7 by the Rightboys' boycott of the payment of tithes to the clergy of the Church of Ireland in Munster. Guided by his ‘jealousy of the Roman Catholic religion’ (Northington letter book, BL, Add. Ms 38716, ff 44–9) and his conviction that it was his ‘indispensable duty’ to stand forward when the matter at issue was ‘the ecclesiastical establishment and the protestant religion’ (Woodward to Conolly, 5 March 1793, Leinster papers, NLI), Woodward sought to rally protestant opinion to the defence not just of the church but of the protestant constitution in church and state. The resulting work – the euphemistically titled The present state of the Church of Ireland (Dublin, 1786) – maintained that the Rightboys were guided by ‘a deep and well-conducted plan’ whose object was to ‘extinguish the Protestant religion in Munster and Connaught, raise the expectations of the Papists, kindle a religious war, and separate Ireland from Great Britain’ (Kelly, 114). Determined that they should not succeed, Woodward not only provided an authoritative account of the experience of the church in Munster, but also advanced a coherent rationale for preserving the privileged position of the established church. Centred on the novel concept of ‘protestant ascendancy’, Woodward spelled out in clear and unvarnished terms that ‘the preservation of that ascendancy’ depended on the maintenance of the constitutional status quo, and in particular on inhibiting the ‘influence’ of catholics and presbyterians, because both adhered to principles incompatible with those of the Church of Ireland.
Woodward's carefully modulated polemic succeeded triumphantly. It caught the mood of the country and provided worried protestants with a slogan and a cause around which they could gather; its phenomenal sales (it went through six editions in a month) indicates that many were persuaded by the case it had to make. Politically this was less significant than the fact that the response of the protestant public not only encouraged parliament to rally to the defence of the clergy in 1787 but also provided conservative protestants with a manifesto to which they were to appeal well into the nineteenth century. Typically, Woodward maintained a low public profile during the ‘paper war’ that followed the publication of his work. But it is noteworthy that when he had it in mind in the autumn of 1788 to invite the house of lords to enquire into the state of the charter schools in order to neutralise the damning criticisms emanating from inspections by John Howard (whom he dismissed as a ‘bigoted Presbyterian’), and Sir Jeremiah Fitzpatrick (qv) (whom he labelled a ‘Papist’), he failed to obtain the necessary support. This did not, however, blunt his opposition to further efforts by a ‘confederacy’ of ministerial and popular politicians (demagogues, in Woodword's eyes) to diminish the role of the church in 1788, and he remained committed to this position thereafter.
Last years By the early 1790s, when poor health required that he spend much of 1792–3 at Bristol and Bath, Woodward relied on Archbishop Agar and his son-in-law, Charles Brodrick (qv), the bishop of Clonfert, who had married his daughter, Mary, in 1786, to articulate his ‘strenuous opposition’ (Woodward to Brodrick, 30 September 1792, NLI, MS 8870/3) to further attempts to extend the civil rights of catholics. Significantly, he would have preferred it if William Pitt, the prime minister, had proposed a legislative union (which was the long-favoured solution of Josiah Tucker), but in the absence of such a proposal Woodward committed his proxy to Agar in the conviction that he at least would ensure that it was properly deployed in the defence of the interests of the Church of Ireland. This was Woodward's last significant contribution. He died at Cloyne on 12 May 1794, and was buried at St Colman's cathedral, where his wife, who died a year later, erected a monument in his honour. In the aftermath of his demise, opinion was sharply divided on the merits of Woodward's intervention in defence of the Church of Ireland, but his numerous supporters cited him as evidence ‘that advocates are not wanting in this country, capable of wielding controversial arguments in defence of the establishment’ (Malcomson (ed.), Irish official papers, ii, 451). Significantly, his earlier efforts to combat poverty had been all but forgotten.