Thomas Nettleship Staley

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Thomas Nettleship Staley
First Anglican bishop of Hawaii
Born (1823-01-17)17 January 1823
Yorkshire, England
Died 1 November 1898(1898-11-01) (aged 75)
Bournemouth, England
Spouse(s) Catherine Workman Shirley

Thomas Nettleship Staley (1823–1898) was a British bishop of the Church of England and the first Anglican bishop of the Church of Hawaii.


Thomas Nettleship Staley was born 17 January 1823 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. His father was minister William Staley.[1] Staley entered Queens' College, Cambridge in 1840, earned his BA in 1844, and became a Fellow in 1847 after earning his MA.[2] He was Tutor at St. Mark's College, Chelsea 1844-48 and Headmaster of the St. Mark's Practising School 1848-50 (whilst still lecturing at St. Mark's College) and then Principal of the Collegiate School, Wandsworth. He married Catherine Workman Shirley Staley in September 1850.[1]

He was appointed by John Bird Sumner, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and consecrated on 15 December 1861, at the suggestion of Samuel Wilberforce and Queen Victoria, as the church's first bishop of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He and his wife departed on 17 August 1862 and arrived in Honolulu in October 1862, a few weeks after the death of Albert, Prince of Hawaii, the only son of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma Kaleleonālani Naʻea.

ceremony under tent
Cornerstone of St. Andrew's Cathedral laid in 1867

His presence provoked conflict with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions because they considered him a symbol of ritualism. The fact that he was a Bishop also bothered the Calvinists who disliked any kind of religious hierarchy. In a letter to Rufus Anderson of the American Board, British missionary William Ellis (who had visited the Hawaiian islands in 1825) wrote that Staley was "associated with that section of the Church of England from which the greatest number of perverts to Popery has proceeded, and between whom and the Roman Catholics the difference is reported to be slight..."[3] Even the American writer Mark Twain criticized Staley as an agent of Britain.[4]

Staley publicly defended his actions as being non-political, but was considered symbolic of the struggle for influence on the islands. Although he was appointed to the King's Privy Council 1863–1864 and Board of Education in 1865,[5] he denied ever giving political advice, or being behind any plots leading to British colonization of the islands.[6] In December 1863 he held the memorial service for Kamehameha IV, and later dedicated the Royal Mausoleum where the royal family was reburied. The next King Kamehameha V would continue his support, and the cornerstone for the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew was laid in a ceremony in March 1867. Staley began two church-operated boarding schools: Saint Andrew's Priory School for Girls and ʻIolani School in Honolulu (originally named for Saint Alban). Staley was appointed Chaplain of Hawaii's Royal Order of Kamehameha I.

He corresponded with Charles Darwin regarding the decline in population of the native Hawaiians.[7]

Staley was frustrated with the political struggle, and suggested he would like to resign. He hoped to be replaced by an American Episcopal bishop, but none could be found. He retired in 1870, and was replaced by Alfred Willis. He resided in Croxall,[8] and died on 1 November 1898, at Bournemouth.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Michael Blain. "Blain Biographical Directory of Anglican Clergy in the Diocese of Honolulu 1862-1902" (PDF). Retrieved 29 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Staley, Thomas Nettleship (STLY840TN)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Robert Louis Semes (2000). "Hawai'i's Holy War: English Bishop Staley, American Congregationalists, and the Hawaiian Monarchs, 1860 - 1870". Hawaiian Journal of History. 34. Hawaii Historical Society. pp. 113–95. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css" />hdl:10524/159.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. David Zmijewski (2006). "The Man in Both Corners: Mark Twain the Shadowboxing Imperialist". Hawaiian Journal of History. 40. Hawaii Historical Society. pp. 55–95. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css" />hdl:10524/286.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Staley, Thomas Nettlesby office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Retrieved 29 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Thomas Nettleship Staley (1865). A pastoral address: delivered in his church on New Year's day, 1865, in reply to certain mis-statements in a recent report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Hawaiian Gazette.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Search results for Staley". The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. Retrieved 29 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Croxall, Derbyshire". Kelly's Directory of the Counties of Derby, Notts, Leicester and Rutland, London. May 1891. pp. 103–104. Retrieved 29 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Religious titles
New creation Anglican Bishop of the Church of Hawaii
Succeeded by
Alfred Willis
Bishop of St. Andrew's Cathedral