Stuart Blanch, Baron Blanch bigraphy, stories - Archbishop of York

Stuart Blanch, Baron Blanch : biography

2 February 1918 - 3 June 1994

Stuart Yarworth Blanch, Baron Blanch, PC (2 February 1918 – 3 June 1994) was an Anglican priest, bishop and archbishop. Little interested in religion in his youth, he became a committed Christian at the age of 31, while serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

He was ordained as a priest in 1949, and spent three years as a curate and five years as a vicar in and around Oxford where he had studied for the priesthood. He was vice principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford from 1957 to 1960, the founding head of Rochester Theological College from 1960 to 1966, Bishop of Liverpool from 1966 to 1975, and Archbishop of York from 1975 to 1983.

Blanch was evangelical in outlook, but gained the trust of high church Anglicans, and also of Roman Catholics and nonconformists. He was well known as a lecturer and published ten books, most of them scholarly and theological.

Life and career

Early years

Blanch was born at Viney Hill Farm, Blakeney, Gloucestershire in the Forest of Dean, the youngest of three sons of a farmer, William Edwin Blanch, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Yarworth.Williams, R H L. , Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 17 May 2012 William Blanch was killed in a shooting accident in 1923 and his widow and youngest child moved to London, where the two older sons were already living.Christmas, Linda. "Stuart Yarworth Blanch, 55, Archbishop of York", The Guardian, 15 December 1977, p. 11 Blanch attended Alleyn's School, Dulwich, winning a scholarship after the first year. His mother could not afford to pay for him to go to a university, and after leaving school at the age of 18 he started work. He would have preferred to become a journalist, but found that "journalism in particular was hard to get into without contacts." He gained employment in the office of the Law Fire Insurance Society Ltd in Chancery Lane at a salary of £90 a year. He said later, "The job taught me a great deal, not just about administration – how to write letters and so on – but how to deal with people from all walks of life."

On the outbreak of the Second World War Blanch enlisted in the Royal Air Force. He was on guard duty at Christmas at the RAF depot in Heaton Park (not, he later said, "a prospect to quicken the pulse or engender much seasonal cheer"),, The Times, 4 June 1994, p. 19 and for lack of anything else to read he read the New Testament thoroughly for the first time in his life, and his hitherto mild adherence to Christianity was turned into firm evangelical faith. "This strange book spoke, its words glowed on the page, and I knew that from that moment my life was bound up for better or worse with the Man who is described there."Blanch, quoted in the Times obituary.

In the RAF he served as a corporal in the force's police, and then volunteered for aircrew duties. After training as a navigator, he was commissioned as a flight lieutenant. He flew reconnaissance missions over Burma from Calcutta. During this period he became an Anglican lay reader and sought ordination as a priest. In 1943 he married Brenda Gertrude Coyte. His biographer R H L Williams writes, "Their years of wartime separation were bridged by a remarkable correspondence in which they explored their faith together."


On demobilisation Blanch was accepted for ordination training at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. His ability impressed the principal, Canon J P Thornton-Duesbery, who arranged for him to be matriculated at St Catherine's Society. He obtained a first class degree in theology in 1948, and was ordained priest in 1949., Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008, online edition, Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 17 May 2012 After three years as a curate in the Oxford parish of Highfield, he was appointed vicar of Eynsham a few miles out of the city. He remained there for five years, building up a small congregation into a large one, described by The Times as "thoroughly committed to Christian outreach." He formed close ties with the local Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist churches. This was Blanch's only experience as a parish priest.Say, David. , The Independent, 7 June 1994 While he was at Eynsham three of the Blanches' five children were born, all daughters. He was a part-time lecturer during this period, and his lectures on the New Testament led to an invitation to return to Wycliffe Hall as tutor and vice-principal to F J Taylor, who had succeeded Thornton-Duesbery as principal. Blanch took up the appointment in 1957

Living octopus

Living octopus

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