Edward White Benson was the first Bishop of Truro (1877 - 1883). He was previously the headmaster of Wellington College and canon chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral. Benson started his career as a schoolmaster and was ordained deacon in 1852 and priest in 1857. He was consecrated as a bishop on 25 April 1877 at St Paul's Cathedral. It is considered that his vision and energy established the new Diocese of Truro and the building of this wonderful cathedral. In 1880 Bishop Benson created the ‘Service of Nine Lessons and Carols’ which for over 120 years has formed part of Truro Cathedral’s traditional worship on Christmas Eve and has been adapted for Christmas Eve services in Anglican churches all over the world.
He became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1883 until his sudden death at 67 years old in 1896. Benson was also the founder of the Church of England Purity Society, an organisation which later merged with the philanthropic White Cross Army.
It appears that the younger Benson had ghostly interests and was the founder of the Cambridge Ghost Society formed in 1851. Henry James’s famous novel ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is said to have been based on a story that Benson told James about the ghosts of evil servants who tried to lure young children to their deaths.
A biography of Benson’s wife, Mary Benson, compiled via her letters, was published in 2011. One of these letters describe Benson as having ‘a life of relentless success’.
You can see a bust of Benson, together with a copy of the original Nine Lessons and Carols service sheet from 1880, in the glass cabinet situated opposite the entrance to St Mary’s Aisle in the cathedral.