Herbert Hensley Henson: A Biography

By John S. Peart-Binns

A revealing new biography of the controversial 86th Bishop of Durham, Herbert Hensley Henson, showing his importance in the church and public life.

ISBN: 9780718893026


John S. Peart-Binns brings us a fresh and distinctive view of Herbert Hensley Henson, the eighty-sixth Bishop of Durham, who is shown here to have formed his own character and forged his own way amidst the chaos of the shifting and unpopular labour laws, two World Wars, the abdication crisis of the twentieth century and the misconceptions of those around him.

Hensley Henson was an outspoken controversialist who never feared to assert his opinion. Peart-Binns goes beyond the traditional notions of biography – Hensley Henson’s complex childhood; education at Oxford; his ministry at Ilford and Barking, Canon of Westminster and Bishop of Durham – and provides a rich psychological insight into the nature of the indefatigable and quick-witted though sharp-tongued figure. This perspective illuminates the Bishop’s often overlooked theological thoughts and political views. The furore surrounding his appointment as Bishop of Hereford is analysed and his volte face from a formidable bulwark of the Establishment to trenchant advocate of Disestablishment is evaluated. Hensley Henson emerges clearly differing from the familiar image we have of him, which can be found in novels, newspapers and magazines of the time, and in his own autobiography. Peart-Binns provides a permanent and deserved niche for him in the history of the Church.

Herbert Hensley Henson: A Biography examines the life and times of this charismatic and astute character of the twentieth century. This work will inform those interested in the social, political and ecclesiastical history of the period, and delight any who are intrigued by Hensley Henson’s indomitable spirit.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 212
Illustrations b&w

 |   | 

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

John S. Peart-Binns was born and brought up in Bradford and now lives with his wife Annis in the South Pennines. He has written twenty biographies of Anglican bishops. His research has brought him a large collection of material relating to over 400 bishops (past and present) of the Church of England and of the other churches of the Anglican Communion, which now forms The Peart-Binns Episcopal Biography Archive at the University of Bradford.



1. Precocious Prodigy
2. Endless Searching
3. Solid and Shifting Foundations
4. Battlefields
5. Towards Transforming Church and State
6. Bishop of Hereford
7. A Bill Passed and an Ideal Destroyed
8. Herbert Dunelm:
9. Pastoral Bishop
10. Collisions of Church and State
11. Disestablishment and Antagonisms
12. Ominous Developments
13. The Glory Departs



Endorsements and Reviews

This study of Hensley Henson is a splendid addition to the works of one who must surely be considered the doyen of biographers of modern Anglican leaders. Balanced and sensitive to subtlety in the complexities of Henson’s changing opinions, Peart-Binns gives an honest assessment of a truly independent mind.
Prof Edward Norman, former Canon Chancellor of York Minister and Emeritus Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge

I am enormously impressed. John S. Peart-Binns brings into sharp focus material that can only be gleaned by long toil through poring over lengthy biographies and other long out-of print sources. He sheds new light on issues that have been long forgotten.
Prof Colin Brown, Senior Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary

Mr Peart-Binns has written a riveting portrayal of one of the most complex Church of England Bishops of the twentieth century. He probes with sympathy and imagination Henson’s combination of contradiction and insight, and the work amounts to a fastidious contribution to a historical perspective of the contemporary Church of England.
The Reverend Professor Stephen W. Sykes, former Bishop of Ely

Herbert Hensley Henson is John S. Peart-Binns’s 20th episcopal biography, and sets the seal on his justly renowned achievement as a chronicler of the lives of Anglican bishops. His literary reputation may not be equal to that of Chadwick, but there is much in his life of Henson which will not be found in Chadwick’s biography of 30 years ago. Peart-Binns can be read with profit as an admirable complement to Chadwick.
Dr Bernard Palmer, in Church Times, 14 February 2014

The Author of this fine new biography has earned his spurs as the doyen of episcopal biographers … Peart-Binns’ biography quotes deliciously waspish assessments of clerics and their foibles from [Henson’s] daily journal entries …
Brian Porter, in The Melbourne Anglican, June 2014

[Peart-Binns] research is heavily dependent on primary archival work which is demonstrated throughout. the writing style is readable and the chronology is easily followed … this book may interest people wanting an introduction to the Church of England’s history from the late Victorian era through to the end of World War II.
Edward Loane, in Churchman, Vol 128, Issue 3

In this well-written biography … the author has produced a coherent and admirably accessible study of Henson.
John Maiden, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol 66, Issue 4

This book is a very good read. It is full of fascinating Church and wider English history, and the figure at the heart of it is a compelling, if not, always a comfortable or agreeable one.
Peter M. Waddell, in Reviews in Religion & Theology, Vol 22:3