Daniel Sandford

Daniel Sandford, founder of the Charlotte Chapel congregation, was the first Bishop of the reunited Scottish Episcopal Diocese of Edinburgh. His chief importance to ecclesiastical history is in his role in reunifying and restoring the fortunes of the Episcopal Church, but he was also a significant figure in Regency Edinburgh, particularly in his contribution to education. He deserves a proper biography, which I hope to write one day, but these brief notes will do for a start.

He was born in Dublin, but after his father's death when he was about 4 his mother took the family to Bath. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford, and was curate of Hanworth in Middlesex before moving to Edinburgh.
The second son of son of Rev Dr Daniel Sandford of Sandford Hall, Shropshire, 1728-1770. According to his grandson he,
who for some years held preferment in the Irish Chruch, was an amiable and conscientious man ... He officiated as a protestant clergyman in the midst of Roman Catholics, yet he was much and generally loved by his parishioners; and when, in consequence of being obliged to return to England, he resigned his living, they followed him with tears and lamentations for several miles (4, p.2)
Ministering successfully in a minority religion therefore ran in the family, although the younger Daniel was strongly anti-Catholic, perhaps as a result of evangelical influences.
Sarah Chapone. According to her grandson, she was 'was herself well qualified to shine in the republic of letters', and in Bath she moved in a circle of bluestocking women. Her sister-in-law was Hester Chapone, author of Letters on the Improvement of the Mind (1773). Sarah's godmother was the botanical artist Mary Delaney (3), in whose Dublin house Daniel Sandford had been born. Like Sarah, Mrs Delaney moved to Bath following the death of her husband, the Dean of Down, in 1768; and she retained a maternal interest in young Daniel until her death in 1788. Another, younger, mother-figure, who outlived him, was Mrs Frances Bowdler, to whom Sandford dedicated his Lectures on the history of the week of the Passion in 1821. Frances was the sister of Thomas Bowdler whose Family Shakespeare (1807) originated the concept of 'bowdlerising' (5). More importantly, she was one of a large family with whom the Sandfords were intimate, whose strong piety crystallised into the debate between high church and evangelical theology. His mother also introduced her son to the drawing room of the Duchess of Portland (widowed in 1761), the wealthy collector and patron of the arts who died in 1785. Of her museum, zoo, aviary and vast botanic garden at Bulstrode Hall Mrs Delaney said, 'Surely an application to natural beauties must enlarge the mind? This house with all belonging to it is a noble school for contemplations!' (6). It is not known whether Daniel Sandford ever visited the Duchess' 'Hive', but this circle of highly intelligent and creative women made a deep impression on him: his son said that 'Such society must have been very profitable and delightful, and he loved to revert to it in after years' (2 p.7).
      This strong 'bluestocking' influence may perhaps account for a strong 'feminine' quality in Daniel Sandford's theology. It is pragmatic, unifying, careless of fine doctrinal distinctions and reluctant to 'choose sides', yet never doubtful or latitudinarian. Rather, it is strongly biblical and spiritually heartfelt, and especially passionate about the spiritual nurture of young people. He was accused of intellectual and managerial weakness by his more aggressive clerical contemporaries, eager to define correct doctrine and stamp out 'errors' (7). Yet intellectual weakness is not the impression gained (at least by this female reader) from his writings in comparison to those of other more celebrated preachers in Edinburgh at the time. Nor does his legacy as a Bishop, of uniting the Scottish Episcopal Church, and keeping it united in the face of divisions over liturgy and evangelical theology, which would break it apart after his death, does not testify to managerial weakness.
      Sandford passed on his high opinion of feminine intellect to the next generation: his letters to his young daughter Frances are full of theological discussion, often of a very technical nature. We might nickname him the 'Bluestocking Bishop' to explain why he has been neglected, but in doing so, assert the value of his distinctive contribution to theology in regency Scotland.
When Sandford first moved to Edinburgh he stayed in Brown's Square (now replaced by Chambers Street) (8), but by 1793 he lived at 5 Hanover Street. In 1797, the year Charlotte Chapel was opened, he moved to 3 North Castle Street. In 1804 he moved into a new house in Heriot Row. This property was described in 1814 as,
consisting of three stories, besides two sunk stories. The house was built by Bishop Sandford, for his own occupation, and is most substantially finished. There are three rooms in each of the two principal stories and four in the attic storey. The laundry and wash-house are convenient, and the cellarage extensive (8).
In 1809, three years after becoming Bishop, he moved to another brand-new house, 17 Melville Street, close to his chapel, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Political views
Tory by inclination. His son continued his recollections of the society of the Bath bluestocking ladies thus:
... Not that he was insensible to the intelligence and improvement of modern days, but he thought there was a closer affinity between high breeding and elevated sentiment than most men imagine,-- that ruffles and brocade were useful fences of society, and that what the present age gained in ease, it lost in refinement. He sometimes regretted that the days were gone when birth and breeding were preferred to wealth, when the gradations of society were definitively marked.
This was a contrasting viewpoint to the whig views of his colleagues Archibald Alison and Sydney Smith, but it is significant that there were so many whigs and nouveaux-riches amongst the leading members of his congregation: he was not a political preacher.
Religious views
At Oxford, Sandford showed particular skill in languages, winning the Christ Church prize for Latin composition in 1787: his son said 'he always considered this accomplishment to be the surest test of scholarship' (2 p.11). When the letter-writer Mrs Grant recorded her impressions of him in old age she said that he was 'an elegant and, I believe, as far as languages go, a profound scholar, quite in the Oxford manner' (9). His sermons are at their most confident and original when the arguments are linguistic ones, for example in interpreting the difficult 109th psalm in his Sermons for Young Persons (10).
      Sandford's chief theological influence was Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London where Sandford was curate. From Porteus he learned an enlightenment high church theology, strongly influenced by evangelicalism yet, when it came to the point of controversy, preferring the Episcopalian teaching on grace conveyed through baptism, as essential to church order. This broad, spiritual religion was firmly in the tradition of the Protestant constitution, providing a strong basis for friendship with the Established Presbyterian church. Although inclusive, it was firmly orthodox and Trinitarian, critical of 'latitudinarian' theology which embraced unitarian and sceptical ideas. His successor Dean Ramsay regarded him as contributing to the re-evangelisation of a sceptical enlightenment culture in Edinburgh:
When he first commenced his ministrations here, he found coldness, indifference, and even scepticism, prevalent to a great degree. Blessed be God this aspect of affairs is much changed. (11)
Sandford was deeply interested in the education of young people, considering the catechism class to be one of a clergyman's pleasantest and most important duties. He was passionate about education as the means of social improvement, and was instrumental in founding the Edinburgh Lancastrian Schools, an important early development in providing universal education in cities. He was singled out at a dinner of the School Society in 1812 a year after its inception, for a toast by Francis Jeffrey, seconded by the testimony of the school's headmaster, who, the tone of the report suggests, drew courage from his hearfelt feelings on the subject to address this exalted company. Jeffrey proposed the toast,
with some remarks on the cordial support which had been given to the institution, by this liberal and enlightened clergyman. Mr Muir, under whose immediate superintendance the school has been placed, embraced this opportunity, in a modest and well expressed speech, of bearing testimony to the unremitting attention of Bishop Sandford, in his capacity of Director, not only to the mental, but also to the religious education of the school, and stated that it had been the regular practice of the Bishop, to examine the children as to their proficiency in the church chatechism [sic], whenever he visited the school. (8)
For a fuller analysis of Sandford's theology, you will have to read my thesis chapter!
1790 Deacon (Chester), 1791 Priest (London), 1790-2 Curate in Hanworth, Middlesex. 1793 Opened a room for divine service in West Register Street as a 'Qualified Chapel'. 1797 Charlotte Chapel opened. 1804 worked with Bishop William Skinner to remove the obstacles against union of Qualified Chapels joining the Episcopal Church, of which the key event was the Synod of Laurencekirk. 1805 Charlotte Chapel was the first Scottish Qualified Chapel to join the Episcopal Church, followed quickly by many others. 1806 elected Bishop of the newly-united Diocese of Edinburgh. 1818 his new chapel of St John's opened. Daniel Sandford ministered at St John's until his death in 1830 but was afflicted by poor health for much of this time: his successor Edward Bannerman Ramsay arrived as curate in 1826 and provided much-needed new energy.
Assessed taxes 1811
His house in Melville Street had 21 windows and a rental value of £70, He paid armorial bearings duty and hair powder duty, and received an allowance for five children. (12)
Chapel connection
Founder and Rector
Helen Douglas
Erskine Douglas (advocate), Daniel Keyte (Greek scholar: he was quite a different personality, but also a prolific author, and his father's writings are sometimes confused with his), John (canon of Worcester, and vicar of Dunchurch, Sandford's biographer), Eleanor Sarah, Frances Catherine, Wilhelmina (m. Montague Bere Esq of Morebath, Devon), Sarah (married James-Edmund Leslie of Leslie House, co. Antrim).

Daniel Sandford


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Augustus Hare, The Life and Letters of Frances Baroness Bunsen (New York, Routledge, 1879) p.8
  4. John Sandford, Remains of the late Right Reverend Daniel Sandford (Edinburgh, Waugh and Innes, 1830)
  5. Frances Bowdler appears to have been the letter-writing, unmarried sister, now lost from modern genealogists' view. Evidence that she was one of Thomas Bowdler's sisters comes from Lady Llanover (ed) The Life and Correspondence of Mrs Delany (London, Richard Bentley, 1862) p.229 n.
  6. Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, in Wikipedia (accessed 25 November 2011)
  7. See for example, Letters from George Gleig to Patrick Torry in the National Archives of Scotland 10 November 1820 CH12/12/2366, and 24 August 1819 CH12/12/2362, and differing attitudes to Presbyterianism of Sandford and James Walker quoted at Thomas Robertson
  8. Caledonian Mercury 16 August 1792, 13 April 1812, 8 January 1814
  9. J.P.Grant (ed), Memoir and Correspondance of Mrs Grant of Laggan p.172
  10. Daniel Sandford, Sermons, chiefly designed for young persons (Edinburgh, Manners and Miller, 1802) p.272
  11. Edward B. Ramsay, The duty of considering the example of departed good men: a sermon occasioned by the death of the late Right Rev Daniel Sandford (Edinburgh, Waugh and Innes, 1830) p.15
  12. Assessed taxes for the Burgh of Edinburgh year ending at Whitsunday 1811, National Archives of Scotland E327/51

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