Thomas Tenison 1636-1715

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Thomas TENISON 1636-1715

Biographical Note

Born at Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, son of John Tenison (1599-1671). He became rector of Mundesley, Norfolk in 1637 and of Topcroft, Norfolk in 1641. Entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in 1653. He graduated BA in 1657 and proceeded MA in 1660, BD in 1667 and DD in 1680. He was made fellow of Corpus in 1662 and rector of Holywell with Needingworth, Huntingdonshire in 1667. He served as vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields in 1680 for eleven years and in 1684 he built the first public library in London, assisted by John Evelyn and Christopher Wren. He also established St Martin’s free school for the poor in 1683, a school for poor girls in Lambeth, and a charity school in Croydon in 1714. He was appointed archdeacon of London in 1689, bishop of Lincoln in 1691 and Archbishop of Canterbury in 1694. His political influence waned following the death of William III and the accession of Anne.


Deposited a sizeable part of his library (ca.3-4000 volumes) in St Martin in the Fields in 1684, to found a parish library there (dispersed 1861), but withdrew some on appointment as Archbishop, and kept them at Lambeth. The 1500 volumes in his study at his death were bequeathed to Lambeth Palace; other books were bequeathed to Edmund Gibson, from whom they subsequently passed to Lambeth Palace.