George Pretyman-Tomline

Sir George Pretyman Tomline, 5th Baronet FRS (born George Pretyman; 9 October 1750 – 14 November 1827) was an English clergyman, theologian, Bishop of Lincoln and then Bishop of Winchester, and confidant of William Pitt the Younger. He was an opponent of Catholic emancipation.[1]

Early life

He was born George Pretyman in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk to a family claiming to have been influential in the region as far back as the fourteenth century. His father, also George Pretyman (1722–1810) was a landowner and wool merchant. His mother, George's wife, was Susan née Hubbard (1720/1721 - 1807).[1]

Pretyman attended Bury St Edmunds Grammar School and then Pembroke College, Cambridge, graduating in 1772 as senior wrangler and Smith's prizewinner. He was elected a fellow of Pembroke in 1773. He was ordained deacon in 1774 and priest in 1776.[2]

Pitt was sent to Pembroke in 1773, at the age of fourteen, and Pretyman became his tutor and gradually his friend and confidant.[3] When Pitt unsuccessfully stood for election as Member of Parliament for Cambridge University in the British general election, 1780, Pretyman supported him.[1]

Pitt became Prime Minister of Great Britain in December 1783 when the Fox-North Coalition fell but it remained for him to win the British general election, 1784. On his 1784 victory, Pitt made Pretyman his private secretary, though the title was thought inappropriate for a clergyman. Pretyman's mathematical ability was soon called upon in advising Pitt on the sinking fund and other technicalities of fiscal policy.[1]

In 1784, Pretyman married Elizabeth Maltby (died 1826),[1] cousin of Edward Maltby, the future Bishop of Chichester and himself eighth wrangler, and appointed Edward his domestic chaplain.[4] George and Elizabeth were well-matched and he constantly consulted her on church and political issues.[1]

Bishop of Lincoln

In 1787, Pitt appointed Pretyman Bishop of Lincoln, having to overcome the opposition of King George III who objected to Pretyman's youth.[1]

Pretyman maintained on close terms with Pitt, though Lincoln duties kept him from frequent visits to London, and shared Whig attitudes. In a sermon to the House of Lords on 30 January 1789, Pretyman condemned King Charles I, executed by parliament in 1649, and praised his political opponents. Pretyman continued to advise Pitt on finance and on Pitt's Ecclesiastical Plan. Pretyman was an opponent of Catholic emancipation and was against Pitt's 1801 decision to resign when he failed to effect the changes promised to the Irish Catholics in the compromises made over the passage of the Act of Union 1800.[1]

Henry Addington's regime was still less to Pretyman's taste and his anti-Catholic sentiments strengthened. However, he remained on good terms with Pitt and was ready to help him out of his debts.[1]

Pitt's second ministry

Already wealthy, in 1803 he inherited extensive property from a distant relative, Marmaduke Tomline, and took the name Tomline. Pitt returned to government in 1804 and, much to Tomline's satisfaction, promoted Tomline as Archbishop of Canterbury, even though there was an earlier provisional agreement with the King that Charles Manners-Sutton should be appointed. However, the King was not to be manouvred and exercised his royal prerogative to appoint Manners-Sutton.[1]

Tomline was offered the post of Bishop of London in 1813 but declined because he thought the duties too onerous. He was translated to Bishop of Winchester in 1820.[1]

Family and death

Tomline had inherited further property before he died of apoplexy at Kingston Hall, near Wimborne, Dorset and his estate was worth £200,000 (£13 million at 2003 prices[5]). He was buried in Winchester Cathedral.[1]

Tomline and his wife had three sons but they relinquished their claim to the baronetcy:[1]


Tomline published the following works:[7]

  • Elements of Christian Theology (1799), 2 vols., with the 12th and last edition printed in 1826. It was designed for candidates for ordination. Henry Stebbing published a revision, in 1843.
  • A Refutation of Calvinism (1803), the 8th and final edition printed in 1823. This was a controversial work, causing a debate that involved Thomas Scott, Edward Williams, and some anonymous writers.
  • Memoir of the Life of the Right Honorable William Pitt, 2 vols. (John Murray, Albemarle-Street, London, 1821). It goes no further than 1793.


He was an able administrator to his diocese, conducting eleven visitations during his thirty three years tenure.[1]

Though to the inferior clergy there was unquestionably something over-awing in his presence, arising from their conscientiousness of his superior attainments, yet it was impossible not to admire the courtliness of his manners and the benevolence of his sentiments

The Gentleman's Magazine, 1st ser., 98/1 (1828), 204)

Though he appeared somewhat aloof in public, Tomline was a devoted family man and genial enough given the right company. From 1806, he was conservative as to his attitudes to church and state but was well respected by someone of as different an outlook as Samuel Parr.[1]

Offices and honours



  • Ditchfield, G. M. (2004) "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 22 August 2007
  • — (2005) "Sir George Pretyman-Tomline: Ecclesiastical Politician and Theological Polemicist" in
  • Payne, R. (2008) 'George Pretyman, bishop of Lincoln, and the University of Cambridge 1787–1801', CCEd Online Journal 3, 2008
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Thomas Thurlow
Bishop of Lincoln
Succeeded by
George Pelham
Preceded by
Brownlow North
Bishop of Winchester
Succeeded by
Charles Sumner

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