Famous British Spiritual & Religious Leaders

Spirituality and religion are considered by many to be the ways of disciplining one’s thought process and lifestyle. Spirituality has definitely helped the world in achieving that to a great extent, and religion has always been the beacon of hope for the masses. The opinions of spiritual and political leaders from Britain and other European nations have also been sought by political leaders for serious matters concerning the society. Some of the famous British religious leaders are William Davy, Anthony Anderson, Edward Leeds, Stephen Addington and Russell Lant Carpenter. Amongst the present day British religious leaders, Aga Khan IV is a well-known name in the country. These preachers have penned numerous books of great religious and spiritual importance. These books have played an important role in influencing the religious thoughts of the country’s youth. A few such literary works of religious prominence are ‘Maxims religious and prudential, with a Sermon to young People’ and ‘A System of Divinity on the Being, Nature, and Attributes of God’. Here is a collection of biographies of spiritual & religious leaders from Britain. Explore and know more about their life stories, timelines and interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Thomas More

Thomas More
Famous As: Catholic Saint
Birthdate: February 7, 1478
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: City of London
Died: July 6, 1535
Lawyer, philosopher, and poet Thomas More, author of Utopia, had served as the British Lord Chancellor for 3 years. He opposed Henry VIII's separation from the Catholic Church and refused to take the Oath of Supremacy. He was thus beheaded for treason. Pope Pius XI later declared him a martyr.

 2 Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: December 21, 1118
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cheapside
Died: December 29, 1170
Thomas Becket, also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury or Thomas of London, served as the archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170. He is known for his conflict with King Henry II of England, regarding the powers of the Church, following which he was killed by the king’s followers.

 3 John Wesley

John Wesley
Famous As: Anglican Cleric and Christian Theologian
Birthdate: June 17, 1703
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Epworth, England
Died: March 2, 1791

John Wesley was an English cleric, evangelist, and theologian. He is best remembered for leading a revival movement called Methodism within the Church of England. He is credited with founding societies that eventually became the dominant form of the Methodist movement, which remains relevant today. He continues to be the main theological influence on Methodists all over the world.

 4 Bede

Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0672 AD
Birthplace: Jarrow
Died: May 26, 0735

Best known for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, The Venerable Bede was an Anglo Saxon theologian and historian. An English Benedictine monk, he was taken to the monastery of St. Peter at age 7. He is now revered as the patron saint of English writers and historians.

 5 Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer
Famous As: First Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury
Birthdate: July 2, 1489
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Aslockton
Died: March 21, 1556

Thomas Cranmer was the first Protestant to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was instrumental in the annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which led to the separation of the English Church from the See of Rome. He was eventually burnt at the stake for preaching Protestantism.

 6 John Bunyan

John Bunyan
Famous As: Writer, Preacher
Birthdate: November 28, 1628
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Elstow, Bedfordshire, England
Died: August 31, 1688

John Bunyan, the noted author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, was known for his belief in Puritanism. The son of a brazier, he initially quit school to join his father’s trade. He was later inspired by chapbooks, to write his iconic works and has also become a preacher.

 7 Aga Khan IV

Aga Khan IV
Famous As: Imam of Nizari Ismailis
Birthdate: December 13, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland

Aga Khan IV is the current Imam of Nizari Ismailism. Serving as the imam since 1957, Aga Khan claims to be a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Apart from being the current leader of the Institution of the Imamate, Aga Khan is also a business magnate and one of the world's richest royals, according to Forbes.

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 8 Reginald Pole

Reginald Pole
Famous As: Archbishop of Canterbury
Birthdate: March 3, 1500
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Stourton Castle, England
Died: November 17, 1558

Roman Catholic cardinal Reginald Pole had been the archbishop of Canterbury. Half of his education expenses was covered by fellowships from King Henry VII. A prominent member of the government under Mary Tudor, he re-established many monasteries and also let the burnings of Protestants continue.

 9 Rowan Douglas Williams

Rowan Douglas Williams
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: June 14, 1950
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Swansea, Wales

Rowan Douglas Williams became the first archbishop of Canterbury who was not from the Church of England. The Welsh Anglican bishop has been quite liberal in his views on homosexuality. He has also taught theology courses at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and is a life peer.

 10 Pope Adrian IV

Pope Adrian IV
Famous As: Pope
Birthdate: 1100 AD
Birthplace: Abbot’s Langley, England
Died: September 1, 1159

Pope Adrian IV was the only Englishman to have served as the pope. Initially aspiring to study law, he later began his spiritual journey by joining the abbey of St Ruf. His reign as the pope lasted a little more than 4 years but was plagued by crisis and controversy.

 11 John Sentamu

John Sentamu
Famous As: Politician, Priest, Cleric
Birthdate: June 10, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kampala

Born in Uganda, John Sentamu was a Supreme Court lawyer in his country before he fled to the U.K., having faced jail for criticizing President Idi Amin. He later devoted himself to theology and became the Archbishop of York, thus also becoming first black Archbishop of Britain.

 12 William Laud

William Laud
Famous As: Archbishop of Canterbury
Birthdate: October 7, 1573
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Reading
Died: January 16, 1645

 13 Saint Alban

Saint Alban
Famous As: Martyr
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Verulamium, England
Died: 0304 AD

Saint Alban was a Roman army soldier who had offered shelter to a fugitive priest, who converted him to Christianity. It is believed he had exchanged clothes with the priest and was thus beheaded and martyred in his place. He is the patron saint of refugees, torture victims, and converts.

 14 Ann Lee

Ann Lee
Famous As: Religious leader
Birthdate: February 29, 1736
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Died: September 8, 1784

Ann Lee is remembered as the founder of the Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, also known as the Shakers, for their ritual of shaking during worshipping. Born to a blacksmith in England, she initially worked at a textile mill and later ushered her movement into the U.S.

 15 Charles Kingsley

Charles Kingsley
Famous As: Priest
Birthdate: June 12, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Holne, Devon, England
Died: January 23, 1875

The son of a clergyman, Charles Kingsley later formed the Christian Socialist movement. Remembered for penning children’s fiction such as The Water-Babies, he had also written socially relevant and historical novels. He had also been a professor at the University of Cambridge and a private tutor of Edward VII.

 16 Robert Runcie

Robert Runcie
Famous As: Politician, Priest, Bishop
Birthdate: October 2, 1921
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Liverpool
Died: July 11, 2000

Robert Runcie was born to middle-class parents, and had been part of the Scots Guards during World War II. He later became the bishop of St. Albans, before taking over as the archbishop of Canterbury. A life peer, he had also penned works such as One Light for One World.

 17 George Fox

George Fox
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 30, 1624
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Leicestershire, Kingdom of England
Died: January 13, 1691

Born to a weaver, George Fox had little formal education and left home at 18, in pursuit of some religious experience. The English missionary later founded the Society of Friends, or Quakers, which is a Protestant branch. He was married to Margaret Fell, known widely as "the mother of Quakerism."

 18 Hugh Latimer

Hugh Latimer
Famous As: Bishop
Birthdate: 1487 AD
Birthplace: Thurcaston, Leicestershire, England
Died: October 16, 1555

Born to a yeoman farmer, Hugh Latimer later studied at the University of Cambridge and became a Roman Catholic preacher. However, he later converted to Protestantism and became a major figure of the Reformation in England. He was burned at the stake after Mary Tudor took over the throne.

 19 Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 18, 1662
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Flintshire, Wales
Died: June 22, 1714

Born in Wales, to a Church of England cleric who had been ejected by the Act of Uniformity, Matthew Henry grew up to be a Nonconformist minister. He is best remembered for his iconic work Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, a six-volume commentary on the Bible.

 20 Geoffrey Fisher

Geoffrey Fisher
Famous As: Archbishop
Birthdate: May 5, 1887
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nuneaton, England
Died: September 15, 1972

Born into a family of Anglican rectors, Geoffrey Fisher had served as the bishop of Chester and of London, before becoming the archbishop of Canterbury. He later officiated the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and also crowned her as Queen Elizabeth II. He was later made a life peer, as Baron Fisher of Lambeth.

 21 Stephen Langton

Stephen Langton
Famous As: Cardinal
Birthdate: 1150 AD
Birthplace: Lincolnshire, England
Died: July 9, 1228

Born to the lord of a Lincolnshire manor, Stephen Langton became a well-known scholar of theology in Paris. His election as the archbishop of Canterbury led to a major conflict between the Church and the royalty, eventually leading to the signing of the Magna Carta.

 22 Mary Slessor

Mary Slessor
Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: December 2, 1848
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Aberdeen
Died: January 13, 1915

Born into a Scottish working-class family, Mary Slessor had grown up in the slums of Dundee and had initially been a mill worker. She later went to Nigeria as a Presbyterian missionary. She fought against the Nigerian custom of killing twins and later became the first female British Magistrate.

 23 Hilda of Whitby

Hilda of Whitby
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0614 AD
Birthplace: Northumbria, England
Died: 0680 AD

Saint Hilda of Whitby is remembered as the founder of the Streaneshalch Abbey, or Whitby Abbey. She was one of the most significant abbesses of her time and played a major role in the Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England. She is revered as the patron saint of learning and culture.

 24 Henry Garnet

Henry Garnet
Famous As: Priest
Birthdate: June 30, 1555
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Heanor, England
Died: May 3, 1606

English Jesuit priest Henry Garnet was initially an Anglican but later converted to Roman Catholicism. After teaching Hebrew at a college in Rome, he went back to England as a missionary. Accused of being involved in the Gunpowder Plot against King James I, he was hanged to death in 1606.

 25 Elizabeth Barton

Elizabeth Barton
Famous As: Catholic nun
Birthdate: 1506 AD
Birthplace: Aldington Frith , England
Died: April 20, 1534

Elizabeth Barton was an English Catholic nun best remembered for her prophecies. Although her prophecies, which were fairly accurate, made her popular, they eventually led to her death. Her prophecy against Henry VIII was deemed fake and she was executed for treason. Barton continues to be revered by churches like the Anglican Catholic Church.

 26 Chad of Mercia

Chad of Mercia
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0634 AD
Birthplace: Northumbria, England
Died: March 2, 0672

Chad of Mercia was an Anglo-Saxon churchman who, according to Saint Bede, is credited with bringing Christianity to the Mercian kingdom. After his death, Chad was venerated as a saint and continues to be venerated in several churches, such as the Anglican churches, the Roman Catholic, and the Celtic Orthodox Church.

 27 Thomas Hooker

Thomas Hooker
Famous As: Preacher
Birthdate: July 5, 1586
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Marefield, United Kingdom
Died: July 7, 1647

Thomas Hooker was an English colonial leader. Hooker is credited with founding the Colony of Connecticut and is hence referred to as the Father of Connecticut. Thomas Hooker, who played a major role in the development of colonial New England, was one of the founders of the state of Connecticut as well as the city of Hartford.   

 28 Charles Studd

Charles Studd
Famous As: Cricketer, Author, Missionary
Birthdate: December 2, 1860
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Spratton
Died: July 16, 1931

Charles Studd was a British missionary and professional cricket player. He is credited with establishing the Heart of Africa Mission, which is now referred to as WEC International. As a cricketer, Charles Studd is remembered for playing in the 1882 match against Australia, which paved the way for the famous Ashes Test cricket series.

 29 George Carey

George Carey
Famous As: Politician, Priest, University teacher
Birthdate: November 13, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London

After quitting school at 15, George Carey had been a Royal Air Force radio operator for a while. He supported the ordination of women and same-sex marriages. He was later made a life peer, as Baron Carey of Clifton, though he faced criticism for covering up sex abuse allegations.

 30 Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: November 12, 1615
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rowton, Shropshire, England
Died: December 8, 1691

Richard Baxter was an English poet, theologian, hymnodist, controversialist, and Puritan church leader. He was one of the most influential and important leaders of the Nonconformists. Today, he is commemorated in the Church of England with a feast day on 14 June.

 31 Michael Ramsey

Michael Ramsey
Famous As: Archbishop
Birthdate: November 14, 1904
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Died: April 23, 1988

Michael Ramsey was an English Anglican bishop, educator, theologian, and supporter of Christian unity. He is best remembered for serving as the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. Also a life peer, Ramsey received several honors during his lifetime. He also held honorary degrees from several prestigious universities, including Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, Durham, Manchester, and Kent.

 32 Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Famous As: Cardinal
Birthdate: August 24, 1932
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Reading, England
Died: September 1, 2017

Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was a British Archbishop of Westminster and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He made headlines when he was serving as the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton; he was subjected to public scrutiny when a priest in his diocese was accused of sexually abusing children.

 33 Odo of Bayeux

Odo of Bayeux
Famous As: Noblemen
Birthdate: 1035 AD
Birthplace: Normandy, France
Died: January 31, 1097

Half-brother of William the Conqueror, Odo of Bayeux had served as the Earl of Kent and the Bishop of Bayeu. He was part of the Norman invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings. He had also joined the First Crusade but died on the way to Palestine, at Palermo.

 34 John Smyth

John Smyth
Famous As: Baptist minister
Birthdate: 1554 AD
Birthplace: Nottinghamshire, England
Died: August 28, 1612

Also known as the "Se-baptist," or "self-baptizer," John Smyth is considered the pioneer of the Baptist faith in England. Initially a city preacher in Lincoln, he later joined a group of separatists who believed in believer’s baptism, as opposed to infant baptism, and thus formed the branch of Baptist Christianity.

 35 Samuel Wilberforce

Samuel Wilberforce
Famous As: Bishop
Birthdate: September 7, 1805
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Clapham Common, London, England
Died: July 19, 1873

The son of anti-slavery icon William Wilberforce, Anglican priest Samuel Wilberforce served as the bishop of Oxford. He earned the nickname Soapy Sam, probably due to his clean private life or his peculiar manner of hand-washing. A major figure of the Oxford Movement, he opposed Darwin’s theory of evolution.

 36 Basil Hume

Basil Hume
Famous As: Bishop
Birthdate: March 2, 1923
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: June 17, 1999

Born George Hume, Basil Hume changed his name after becoming a priest. He is known for his 13-year stint at the Benedictine monastery of Ampleforth Abbey and had also been the Archbishop of Westminster and a cardinal. He was also a huge fan of Newcastle United F.C.

 37 Francis Asbury

Francis Asbury
Famous As: Bishop
Birthdate: August 20, 1745
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hamstead Bridge, England
Died: March 31, 1816

Francis Asbury was a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He played an important role during the Second Great Awakening, popularizing Methodism in British colonial America. He is credited with establishing many schools and his journal is deemed important by scholars due to its account of frontier society; his journal has descriptions of the functioning of towns in Colonial America.

 38 Matthew Parker

Matthew Parker
Famous As: Archbishop of Canterbury
Birthdate: August 6, 1504
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Norwich, England
Died: May 17, 1575

Anglican archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker had faced hostility under Roman Catholic queen Mary I’s reign but got his privileges back when Elizabeth I came to power. Among his many works was his own translation of the Bible. He had also been the vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

 39 Ælfric of Eynsham

Ælfric of Eynsham
Famous As: Abbot
Birthdate: 0955 AD
Birthplace: England
Died: 1010 AD

A student of Æthelwold of Winchester, Ælfric of Eynsham was an Anglo Saxon monk and writer, best known for his works Catholic Homilies and Lives of the Saints. A pioneer of Latin grammar, he earned the nickname Alfricus Grammaticus, and was also known as Ælfric the Homilist and Ælfric of Cerne.

 40 Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth
Famous As: Religious leader
Birthdate: January 17, 1829
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ashbourne, England
Died: October 4, 1890

Owing to a spinal ailment, Catherine Booth remained mostly at home as a child. She later founded The Salvation Army, with her Methodist preacher husband William Booth, thus helping the poor and the needy. She refused to believe women couldn’t preach the gospels and wrote the pamphlet Female Ministry.

 41 Donald Coggan

Donald Coggan
Famous As: Archbishop of Canterbury
Birthdate: October 9, 1909
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 17, 2000

Apart from being the Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan had also been the Bishop of Bradford and the Archbishop of York. An academic, too, he taught at several universities. Progressive in his views, he supported the admission of women priests. He was made a life peer.

 42 Myles Coverdale

Myles Coverdale
Famous As: Translator
Birthdate: 1488 AD
Birthplace: North Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died: January 20, 1569

Bishop of Exeter Myles Coverdale is best remembered for releasing the first printed translation of the Bible in English. He had been a major figure of the Reform cause. He escaped being burned at the stake during Roman Catholic Mary I’s reign by moving to Denmark.

 43 Robert Morrison

Robert Morrison
Famous As: lexicographer, linguist, translator, writer
Birthdate: January 5, 1782
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bullers Green
Died: August 1, 1834

Better known as the pioneer of Protestant missionary work in China, Robert Morrison was the first missionary from the London Missionary Society to visit China. Apart from translating the Bible into Chinese, he also enriched Anglo-Chinese literature with his dictionaries and books on Chinese grammar.

 44 Trevor Huddleston

Trevor Huddleston
Famous As: Clergyman
Birthdate: June 15, 1913
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bedford, England
Died: April 20, 1998

Trevor Huddleston was an Anglican bishop who served as the second Archbishop of the Indian Ocean from 1978 to 1983. He is best remembered for fighting against the apartheid laws in South Africa. During his stay in South Africa, Trevor Huddleston was much-loved and respected. He is credited with changing many lives in South Africa including that of Hugh Masekela.     

 45 John Lydgate

John Lydgate
Famous As: Monk
Birthdate: 1370 AD
Birthplace: Suffolk, England
Died: 1451 AD

John Lydgate was a poet and monk best remembered for his poem, Troy Book. A prolific writer of romances, fables, allegories, and poems, Lydgate is credited with exploring and popularizing almost every major Chaucerian genre. He also served as a subdeacon after he was ordained in 1389.

 46 Orderic Vitalis

Orderic Vitalis
Famous As: Monk
Birthdate: February 16, 1075
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Shropshire, England
Died: 1142 AD

Orderic Vitalis was an English Benedictine monk and chronicler. He is credited with writing one of the most popular chronicles of the 11th and 12th-century Normandy. His works are considered important as they give a detailed description of the history of the Normans from the founding of Normandy; his works are viewed as a reliable source by modern historians. 

 47 William Warham

William Warham
Famous As: Archbishop of Canterbury
Birthdate: 1450 AD
Birthplace: Hampshire, England
Died: August 22, 1532

William Warham served as the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1503 until his death in 1532. A gifted diplomatist, Warham proved to be useful in the court of Henry VII; he played a pivotal role in arranging the marriage between Catherine of Aragon and Henry's son, Arthur Tudor. He also presided over the wedding of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII.

 48 William of Wykeham

William of Wykeham
Famous As: Bishop
Birthdate: 1320 AD
Birthplace: Wickham, England
Died: September 27, 1404

William of Wykeham served as the Chancellor of England and Bishop of Winchester. He is credited with establishing New College School and New College, Oxford in 1379. He is also credited with establishing Winchester College in 1382. A reputed builder during the reign of King Edward III, William helped reconstruct Windsor Castle. A rich man, William patronized many schools.

 49 John Whitgift

John Whitgift
Famous As: Archbishop
Birthdate: 1530 AD
Birthplace: Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England
Died: February 29, 1604

John Whitgift served as the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1583 until his death in 1604. Whitgift was also a teacher and is credited with teaching Francis Bacon and his brother Anthony Bacon in the 1570s. He is also credited with establishing charitable foundations like The Whitgift Foundation, which aims at providing care for the elderly and education for the young.

 50 Ealdred

Famous As: Archbishop
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: England
Died: September 11, 1069

Ealdred served as the Bishop of Worcester, Abbot of Tavistock, and Archbishop of York. He worked towards and was successful in restoring discipline in the monasteries. Apart from his episcopal duties, Ealdred also served as a military leader and as a diplomat during the reign of Edward the Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England.