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The House of Lords was in the headlines last week when thirty new lords were appointed. There are more than 800 of them now, and the institution costs £109 million a year. It is the second largest assembly in the world after the National Assembly of China.

The House of Lords was in the headlines last week when thirty new lords were appointed. There are more than 800 of them now, and the institution costs £109 million a year. It is the second largest assembly in the world after the National Assembly of China.

So the exhibition in the museum in St. Columb’s Cathedral at present is quite timely: it features a member of the British aristocracy, Bishop Harvey, Earl of Bristol (1730-1803). He was Anglican Bishop of Derry from 1768 until his death. The Bishop was extremely wealthy (His family owned Harvey’s Bristol Cream) and apparently he led the life of Reilly. He spent a lot of time travelling all over Europe. During his trips he spent huge amounts of money adding to his valuable collection of paintings of famous artists including Rembrandt, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. He had a lively social life. He married but he had an eye for the ladies, and had many lady friends, including Emma, Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress.

He was a very generous man and he spent large sums of money on roads and local agricultural projects. He built Mussenden Temple and Downhill Manor. He built the first bridge over the Foyle.

He was an opponent of discrimination. He supported religious equality and he gave money to the Catholic Church and to Presbyterians. Doubts have been cast on his own religious faith: it has been said that he was more interested in geology than in theology. He looked after his clergy. He was a strange fellow: he was a very learned man, but he was also very childish in many ways. He was put in prison during a trip to Italy, accused of spying. He was released after a year and a half and he died on the way to Rome. The organisers of the exhibition are to be highly commended: it is simple, but very impressive.