THE HON. FREDERICK AUGUSTUS HERVEY, 4th Earl of Bristol, was born on 1st August 1730. He was the third son of John, Lord Hervey, whose father, also John, had been created Baron Hervey of Ickworth, Suffolk in 1703, and Earl of Bristol in 1714. He became the 4th Earl upon the death of his brother George in December 1779. Frederick was educated at Westminster School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In 1747, he enrolled at Lincoln's Inn to study law.
Hervey decided to take Holy Orders, and was ordained for Ely Diocese in 1754. In 1763, he was appointed chaplain to George III. He was appointed Bishop of Cloyne in Co. Cork in 1767 by the favour of his brother, George, Earl of Bristol. Hervey was anxious, however, to become Bishop of the wealthy See of Derry. He achieved his ambition upon the death of Bishop Barnard in 1768.
Hervey was an eccentric and colourful character. At first, he governed the Diocese of Derry wisely and conscientiously. He was ahead of his time in that he favoured Roman Catholic emancipation. He likewise pitied the Presbyterians, who also suffered religious discrimination, and he got on well with all denominations. John Wesley admired him. He built several Roman Catholic churches, including the Long Tower church in Derry.
Hervey had two great passions, building and travel, and he was a great patron of art and literature. He built and enlarged several churches in Derry Diocese. He also built Downhill House with the Mussenden
Temple overlooking Lough Foyle near the village of Castlerock, which incidentally, did not exist in his time. Another of his great houses was Ballyscullion, near Bellaghy, the classical façade of which is now at St George's Church in Belfast. He also enlarged the ancestral house at Ickworth near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. He built a spire at Derry Cathedral, which had to be dismantled a few years later, it was too heavy, and he also built many of Derry's fine buildings, and a bridge across the Foyle. Because of this, he earned the nickname, "the Edifying Bishop".
Hervey travelled more and more widely on the Continent as the years went by, collecting art. The Bristol Hotels in many European cities are named after him. Hervey's marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Jermyn and Lady Davers, broke down. He quarrelled with her incessantly, and did not see her for twenty years before her death. Hervey was absent from the Diocese for the last eleven years of his episcopate. He died of gout at Albano in Italy on 8th July 1803.
In his will, Hervey left Downhill and Ballyscullion, and his collection of art treasures to his nephew, the Rev. Hervey H. Bruce.