Bolton, Theophilus (c.1678–1744), archbishop and benefactor, was born in Borisool, Co. Mayo, and graduated BA (1698), MA (1701), BD and DD (1716) from TCD. Ordained deacon (1702) and priest (1703) in the diocese of Dublin, he succeeded to the prebendaries of Monmohenock (1707) and Stagonil (1707–14). He was appointed curate of St Nicholas without the Walls (1713); then curate, subsequently rector and chancellor (1714–22) of St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin; and became vicar general of the diocese of Dublin (1720), vicar of Finglas, near Dublin (1720–22), and precentor of Christ Church cathedral, Dublin (1722–3). A member of the chapter of St Patrick's, Bolton was in continual conflict with Dean Swift (qv), who declared that ‘he was born to be my tormentor’ (Swift, ii, 434); but he later won Swift's regard and friendship by such actions as his opposition to Wood's coinage.
Protégé of Archbishop William King (qv), Bolton was appointed bishop of Clonfert and Kilmacduagh (1722–4). On his elevation, Swift expressed the hope that he would use his talents in the house of peers in the service of Ireland, whereupon Bolton replied that ‘his bishopric was very small and that he would never have a better if he did not oblige the court’ (Delaney, 601). Translated to the bishopric of Elphin (1724–9), he enjoyed the political support of Speaker Conolly (qv) and Lord Carteret (qv) and was promoted archbishop of Cashel (1730–44). The primate, Hugh Boulter (qv), who at every stage had tried to block his advancement, declared against his elevation, arguing that ‘he was an enterprising man and would soon set himself, if he had that station, at the head of the Irish interest’ (Mant, 460), while Bolton presciently informed Swift that ‘no Irishman will ever be made primate . . . I can rise no higher in fortune or station, I will now zealously promote the good of my country’ (Delaney, 602).
Respected as an able and vigorous ecclesiastical administrator, Bolton transformed bogs into farmland in Clonfert, and at his own expense provided (1732) a new water supply for Cashel, the canal becoming known as River Bolton. He built (1730–32) the archbishop's palace at Cashel; a charming mansion designed by Edward Lovett Pearce (qv), it became the residence of successive archbishops, and later deans, of Cashel until the 1960s, when it became a hotel. Appreciative of medieval architecture, Bolton built the steep path up St Patrick's Rock to the cathedral, and wrote to Swift that he planned to spend ‘a thousand pounds to preserve this old church’ (Swift, iv, 317) and sought his assistance. A privy councillor, he was active in politics, an effective speaker, and an associate of William Conolly. He recommended (1728) the appointment of energetic sheriffs to ensure the enforcement of the penal laws against catholics, confident in the overthrow of the ‘popish interest’. At the same time he made plain his disapproval of the appointment of Englishmen to high office in church and state, which incurred for him the suspicion and displeasure of Primate Boulter. He was said to enjoy great influence in the commons, because ‘he takes care to cultivate friendships and intimacies with the gentleman of the country’ (Connolly, 94).
Learned in ecclesiastical history and in canon and civil law, he built a library adjoining his palace for the use of the diocesan clergy. His collection of several thousand books, many inscribed in his meticulous handwriting with his Greek motto, included rare printings from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. This he bequeathed to the diocesan clergy, stipulating that it should remain in Cashel; known as the Cashel Diocesan Library, it was later renamed (1986) the GPA-Bolton Library. His surviving publications are two sermons, one (1717) on the anniversary of Charles I's execution and the other (1721) to mark the anniversary of the Irish rebellion. Affable and hospitable, he died 31 January 1744 and is buried in St Werburgh's church, Dublin. He was married, but the name of his wife (d. c.May 1773) is unknown; they had no children.