Beilby Porteus successively Bishop of Chester and of London, was a Church of England reformer and a leading abolitionist in England.
Beilby Porteus was born on May 8, 1731 at York, England. Although the Porteus family was of Scottish ancestry, his parents were Virginian planters who had returned to England during the difficult times and economic problems in that province during the early eighteenth century and who in 1720, for the sake of his father Robert’s health, eventually relocated to York, where Porteus was last but one of nineteen children.
Educated at York and at Ripon Grammar School, he was a classics scholar at Christ's College, Cambridge, becoming a fellow in 1752.
He was ordained in 1757, and in 1762 was appointed domestic chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury. In 1767 he became rector of Lambeth, and took his D. D. degree at Cambridge, preaching on that occasion a sermon which induced John Norris (1734 - 1777) to found the Norrisian professorship of divinity. About two years later he was appointed chaplain to the king and master of the hospital of St Cross, Winchester. In 1776 he became bishop of Chester, and in 1787 he was translated to London. He was a supporter of the Church Missionary and the British and Foreign Bible societies, and laboured for the abolition of slavery.
Of his published works the Review of the Life and Character of Archbishop Seeker (London, 1770), and the Summary of the principal Evidences for the Truth and Divine Origin of the Christian Revelation (London, 1800), have passed through numerous editions.