Christopher Codrington, British soldier, bibliophile and colonial governor, was born on the island of Barbados, West Indies, in 1668. His father, also named Christopher Codrington, was captain-general of the Leeward Islands.
Educated at Christ Church, Oxford, he was elected a fellow of All Souls, and subsequently served with the British forces in Flanders, being rewarded in 1695 with a captaincy in the Guards. In the same year he attended King William III on his visit to Oxford, and, in the absence of the public orator, was chosen to deliver the University oration.
In 1698, on the death of his father, he was appointed captain-general and commander-in-chief of the Leeward Isles. In 1703, he commanded an unsuccessful British expedition against Guadeloupe. After this he resigned his governorship, and spent the rest of his life in retirement and study on his Barbados estates.
Codrington died on 7 April 1710, bequeathing his slave plantations to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts for the foundation of a college in Barbados. This college, known as the Codrington College, was built in 1714-1742. To All Souls College, Oxford, he bequeathed £6000 to pay for the building of the Codrington Library, with a further gift of £4000 to be laid out on books. His own collection of some 10000 volumes was also bequeathed to the college. Codrington's will and the sentiments expressed in a sermon preached at his funeral by William Gordon revealed a deep and practical piety, tied to a desire to improve the moral and physical health of both the white and black inhabitants of the Caribbean colonies. Under the direction of the SPG, Codrington College opened in 1745, though its activities were initially limited to the schooling of white settlers.