Robert Wright Stopford was born in Garston on 20th February 1901 to John William Stopford, a timber merchant born in Galway, Ireland. John Stopford’s father Charles had also been a timber merchant and one wonders if he looked at his young son and pondered if he too would continue the family business. In fact, he was to enter the church, carry its mission to far flung corners of the globe, become Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth, become Bishop of London, acquire many honours and find time to be chairman of the D’Oyly Carte Trust.
At the time of his birth the family was living at 5 Clarendon Road L19, later moving the short distance to ‘Rostherne’, Island Road L19. They must have been relatively affluent as after attending Garston Church of England School, Robert went to the Liverpool College, the city’s premier public school. He won a scholarship to Hertford College, Oxford, obtaining a first class in modern history, and in 1925 secured the post of senior history master at Oundle, a public school in Northamptonshire. He stayed there ten years and, having been ordained into the church in 1932, added the duties of assistant chaplain to those of housemaster.
1935 saw him embark on the first of his foreign ‘postings’ when he assumed the post of principal of Trinity College, Kandy in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon, as it was then known). This was a Church of England School for boys. Once in Kandy he met and married Winifred Sophia Morton, a teacher. They had two sons but she sadly died in 1942 when the ship on which she was travelling was torpedoed. In 1941 he moved to West Africa, becoming principal of Achimota College in Accra, Ghana (then the Gold Coast) but had to resign from the post due to ill health and return to England. After a short period as a rector in Hertfordshire he took on a role for the church in re-organising church educational establishments in the wake of the 1944 Education Act. He served as chaplain to the Queen from 1952-55 and then became suffragan Bishop of Fulham.
Contrary to its metropolitan title, the Fulham Bishopric’s area of responsibility was across Northern Europe and Russia and this saw him travel extensively. From 1956 to 1961 he was Bishop of Peterborough and then became Bishop of London in 1961. Alongside these appointments he was from 1958 to 1973 the Chairman of the church’s Board of Education and the principle negotiator and adviser on all educational matters.
Retiring in 1973 he accepted an appointment from Archbishop Ramsey as vicar-general of Jerusalem and in 1974 accepted an offer from Bermuda to take up post as a bishop there. However, within a few months he became ill and had to return to England. He underwent an operation for stomach ulcers and died at the Royal Berkshire Hospital at Reading on 13th August 1976.
Stopford was appointed CBE in 1949 and KCVO in 1973. He was sworn of the privy council in 1961 and was a freeman of the City of London (1965) and honorary fellow of the Grocers' Company. He was married again in 1945 to Kathleen Mary Holt and they had one daughter. His wife died in 1973.
Stopford's home at the time of his birth in 1900
The Stopford home in 1911
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