Bishop Joseph Lightfoot Papers

Scope and Content

Bishop Lightfoot's work as a clergyman and a bishop is reflected in some 236 manuscript sermons with the title and date of delivery recorded. They were written 1854-1879, before his time at Durham, but many were preached again during hisepiscopacy. They are supplemented by a number of addresses made by him as bishop to specific organisations, or at consecrations, confirmations and institutions, along with a number of files from this period on such as Auckland Castle and thebishopric of Newcastle. Lightfoot the academic and scholar is represented by lectures on New Testament, Coptic, classical and historical topics, along with papers for his work on texts of the Apostolic fathers, the Acts and the revised version ofthe New Testament.

Correspondence from throughout his adult life, 1845-1889, totals around 6000 letters, including significant quantities from E.H. Browne 1861-1883 (37 items), R.W. Church 1867-1889 (37 items), F.W. Farrar 1857-1886 (33 items), F.J. Hort 1856-1889(40 items), H.P. Liddon 1870-1889 (62 items), A.P. Stanley 1856-1881 (68 items), A.C. Tait 1862-1881 (35 items), and B.F. Westcott 1850-1889 (227 items), along with letters to him in his roles as Lady Margaret Professor and editor of the Dictionary of Christian Biography. Lightfoot also compiled annual files of newspaper cuttings, offprints and reviews for 1865, and 1868-1889.

Finally, account books of the Lightfoot trustees with MacMillan's of Cambridge detail the printing costs and sales income of Lightfoot's works 1889-1931.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Barber Lightfoot was born in Liverpool on 13 April 1828, the son of John Jackson Lightfoot, an accountant from Yorkshire, and Ann Matilda née Barber from Newcastle upon Tyne. He was educated at Liverpool Royal Institution and then, from1844, at King Edward VI's School Birmingham where he was much influenced by the teaching of Dr James Prince Lee, exulted in mathematics and classics, and was a friend of Edward Benson, later archbishop of Canterbury. He entered Trinity CollegeCambridge in 1847 where he was tutored by B.F. Westcott, later his successor as bishop of Durham. Lightfoot became a fellow there in 1852 and then tutor, lecturing on both classical and Christian literature, along with Greek philology. He wasordained deacon in 1854 and priest in 1858 and was appointed Hulsean Professor of Divinity in 1861. He combined his much-supported lectures with an authoritative role in university administration, and gained various royal appointments and honourselsewhere. Having declined the see of Lichfield in 1867, he became Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity in 1875, along with rector of Terrington St Clement, and a canon of St Paul's Cathedral in 1871 where his preaching soon gained a wideaudience.

The revised version of the New Testament took up much of his time 1870-1880 and he also helped draw up the new statutes for Cambridge in 1881. He had by then been drawn away from Cambridge to become, after some persuasion as he feared for hisscholarly work, bishop of Durham in 1879. He did much to update his diocese to reflect the great local growth of population of the nineteenth century, separating off the diocese of Newcastle in 1882, dividing up archdeaconries, rural deaneries andparishes, raising funds for many much needed church buildings and augmenting the numbers and training of his clergy. He presided at some 456 confirmation services and trained nearly 70 ordinands at his own expenses at Auckland Castle which herelished as his residence, enriching especially its chapel. He was much involved in Durham University affairs and encouraged the foundation of the university in his home town of Liverpool in 1880. Lightfoot died in December 1889 of congestion of thelungs and was buried at Auckland, much mourned as both a great theological scholar and an eminent bishop.

His will established the Lightfoot Fund for the Diocese of Durham to provide for church buildings and stipends in Durham. As in effect his literary executors, the trustees also published various works of his which helped to confirm his eminenceas a scholar bishop. His own publications had included commentaries on various of St Paul's epistles, a defence of A fresh revision of the New Testament (1871), an account of the Coptic version of the New Testament in 1874, and articles on biblical and patristic criticism. He made a major contribution to the study of earlypost-biblical Christian literature and history which still commands respect with such as the text of the Epistle of Clement of Rome (1869), and editions of texts in Apostolic Fathers 2vols. in 3 (1885). His strong historical interests were further reflected in the posthumously published Leaders in the Northern Church (1890). Quantities of his sermons, lectures, addresses, charges, articles andeditions have also appeared in print. In his memory, Durham Cathedral chapter house was restored.


The letters have been arranged into yearly bundles and some items have been numbered, but the collection is largely unsorted.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Deposited with Durham Cathedral Library by the Lightfoot trustees. Transferred into custody of Durham University at 5 The College, July 2016 (accession Misc.2013/14:66)


  • 5TC

Other Finding Aids

Inventory, including a list of all the manuscript sermons, in G.R. Treloar Lightfoot the Historian (Tübingen 1998) p.395-403. Sermons and letters only are listed within the online catalogue.

Separated Material

Some correspondence and other papers relating more to Lightfoot's private and family life are in the Chaplain's Office and Bishop's Library at Auckland Castle; British Library, correspondence with W.E. Gladstone, Add. MSS 44424-44785passim and correspondence with Macmillans, Add. MS 55110; Lambeth Palace Library, correspondence with E.W. Benson and A.C. Tait; Pembroke College, Oxford, letters to Peter Ranouf and Sir John Acton.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Librarian (e-mail and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible withidentifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

Official diocesan correspondence with Lightfoot is in the Durham Diocesan Records (Bishop's Office Records, ref DDR/BP/DIO/1).


[H.W. Watkins], Bishop Lightfoot, Quarterly Review clxxvi (January 1893), p.73-105Lightfoot of Durham Memories and Appreciations, ed G.R. Eden & F.C. MacDonald (Cambridge 1932)  C.K. Barrett, Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Durham University Journal lxiv (1972), p.193-204  J.A.T. Robinson, Joseph Barber Lightfoot, (Durham Cathedral Lecture 1981)The Lightfoot Centenary Lectures, ed J.D.G. Dunn (Durham University Journal Extra Number 1992)  H.E. Savage, "Bishop Lightfoot's Influence: His Trust in Young Men", Durham University Journal lxxvi (1984), p.1-6  G.R. Treloar & B.N. Kaye, "J.B. Lightfoot on Strauss and Christian Origins: an Unpublished Manuscript" Durham University Journal lxxix (1987), p.165-200  G.R. Treloar Lightfoot the Historian (Tübingen 1998) (p.408-413 has a full bibliography of Lightfoot's published writings)  C.K. Barrett, Lightfoot, Joseph Barber (1828-1889), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford 2004) [, accessed 8 Feb 2005].