JAMES FRASER (1818-1885), English bishop, was born at Prestbury, in Gloucestershire, on the 18th of August 1818, and was educated at Bridgnorth, Shrewsbury, and Lincoln College, Oxford. In 1839 he was Ireland scholar, and took a first class. In 1840 he gained an Oriel fellowship, and was for some time tutor of the college, but did not take orders until 1846. He was successively vicar of Cholderton, in Wiltshire, and rector of Ufton Nervet, in Berkshire; but his subsequent importance was largely due to W. K. Hamilton, bishop of Salisbury, who recommended him as an assistant commissioner of education. His report on the educational condition of thirteen poor-law unions, made in May 1859, was described by Thomas Hughes as "a superb, almost a unique piece of work." In 1865 he was commissioned to report on the state of education in the United States and Canada, and his able performance of this task brought him an offer of the bishopric of Calcutta, which he declined, but in January 1870 he accepted the see of Manchester. The task before him was an arduous one, for although his predecessor, James Prince Lee, had consecrated no fewer than 130 churches, the enormous population was still greatly in advance of the ecclesiastical machinery. Fraser worked with the utmost energy, and did even more for the church by the liberality and geniality which earned him the title of "the bishop of all denominations." He was prominent in secular as well as religious works, interesting himself in every movement that promoted health, morality, or education; and especially serviceable as the friendly, unofficious counsellor of all classes. His theology was that of a liberal high-churchman, and his sympathies were broad. In convocation he seconded a motion for the disuse of the Athanasian Creed, and in the House of Lords he voted for the abolition of university tests. He died suddenly on the 22nd of October 1885.
A biography by Thomas Hughes was published in 1887, and an account of his Lancashire life by T. W. Diggle (1889), who also edited 2 vols. of University and Parochial Sermons (1887).
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