Selwyn - British christian-name & surname, & influence of Bishop Selwyn:

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Bishop Selwyn (1809-1878) was an outstanding Victorian clergyman who is remembered, among other things: (a) for giving his name to Selwyn College at Cambridge University, (b) as the first Bishop of New Zealand, and (c) for his period as Bishop of Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England (where his special burial tomb and monument are housed in the magnificent 1300 year old cathedral.)

"Selwyn", and its less usual spelling of Selwin, according to the 'Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names' (by E.G.Withycombe ) is an Anglo-Saxon name, deriving from 'Sel' (castle/house) & 'wyn/win' (friend). [Such names as Winfrid (cf. the famous Anglo-Saxon St Winfrid 'Boniface' 680-755), Goodwin, and Edwyn are derived in a similar way]

The name Selwyn after being used as an Anglo-Saxon christian-name became later an English surname too. (The Norman Conquest of 1066 having introduced to England the concept of surnames). Its renewed popularity as a christian-name in England (in the 19th century) was largely due to the fame of the eminent Bishop Selwyn. (It is worth mentioning Selwyn is also a popular christian-name in Wales.)

The following serves as a brief summary of the bishop's family and career:

Bishop Selwyn was the son of William Selwyn (1755-1855) an author of legal writings. His brother William Selwyn (1806-1875) was a Doctor of Divinity and, among other things, Canon Residentiary of Ely. His son John Richardson Selwyn (1844-1898) was born in New Zealand, educated at Eton and Cambridge (as were many members of the Selwyn family before). Among other things he served the church in Australasia (Norfolk Islands, and Melanesia - of which he was bishop), and finally became master of Cambridge University's Selwyn College (named after his father).

Born in England (1809) Bishop Selwyn was christened George Augustus Selwyn [not to be confused with his namesake, 1719-91, the politician]. He attended Eton and Cambridge, gaining a MA & Doctor of Divinity. After being a curate at Windsor, he became Bishop of New Zealand in 1841 and thereafter greatly influenced the development of the colonial church. He attended the first Pan-Anglican Synod in England in 1867, and a year later became Bishop of Lichfield. He published many sermons and other religious writings, and finally died in 1878. Selwyn College, University of Cambridge, was erected by public subscription in his memory, and incorporated in 1882.

Bishop Selwyn's special burial tomb and monument are housed in Lichfield Cathedral, as is that of his friend the Venerable George Hodson, 1788-1855 (Archdeacon of Stafford, Canon Residentiary and Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral; whose great-grandson was christened Selwyn in 1885 after Bishop Selwyn).

In New Zealand it is not unusual to find a village, a river, a college, or other sites, named Selwyn after the Bishop. Having done more than anyone to organise a system of colonial Episcopate he is remembered not just in England but in Australasia and North America too.

A silver beautifully illustrated 'Selwyn Almsdish' at Lichfield, depicting Bishop Selwyn's work abroad and the important spiritual links created as a result, was a special gift from the American to the English Church following his death. [With reference to the American Book of Common Prayer, the Church's Feast Day for Selwyn is on the 11th April. ]

It is perhaps appropriate that an old Anglo-Saxon name like Selwyn should remain associated with the 1300 year old Lichfield Cathedral (renowned for its Lichfield Gospels and shrine of St Chad) which spans both the (Roman) Catholic and Anglican periods of England's history.

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