White Hart Crest of the Royal County of Berkshire David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History

Nash Ford Publishing

 Click here for all things RBH designed especially for Kids

Search RBH using Google

Robert Wright (1560-1643)
Born: 1560 at St. Albans, Hertfordshire
Bishop of Bristol
Bishop of Lichfield & Coventry
Died: September 1643 at Eccleshall, Staffordshire

Robert Wright was born, of humble parentage, at St. Albans, Hertfordshire, in 1560. He matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, in 1574 and was elected, next year, to a scholarship there. He graduated as a B.A. on 23rd June 1580 and became a fellow on 25th May 1581, subsequently proceeding to an M.A. on 7th July 1584, B.D. on 6th April 1592 and D.D. on 2nd July 1597. He became the chaplain of Sir Henry Unton, the Ambassador to France, and upon his master's death in 1596, edited the volume of Latin elegies to his memory. They were written by members of the university and the collection was called 'Funebria'. Two of the elegies were from his own pen. He held many country livings, although he seldom visited them. From 15th August 1589 to 16th November 1619, he was rector of Woodford, Essex; he became rector of St. John the Evangelist, London (1589-90); of St. Katherine, Coleman Street, London in 1591; of Brixton Deverell, Wiltshire, on 29th November 1590; of Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire; of Hayes, Middlesex, 4th April 1601; and vicar of Sonning, Berkshire, 13th June 1604. In 1601, Wright was made Canon Residentiary and Treasurer of Wells and, for some years, often resided there. He obtained an introduction to Court and was appointed Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth I. He was, afterwards, nominated Chaplain-in-Ordinary to James I. In March 1610, Carleton wrote that Oxford men had lately proved the most prominent among preachers at Court but, of them, Wright was reckoned the worst.

On 20th April 1613, Wright was appointed, by Dorothy, widow of Nicholas Wadham, the first warden of the newly established Wadham College, Oxford. He resigned the office three months later (20th July) because the foundress refused his request for permission to marry. He appears to have withdrawn to his vicarage at Sonning. In 1619, he added to his many benefices, that of Rattingdon, Essex. He received ample compensation for his surrender of the Wardenship of Wadham by his appointment, early in 1622, to the Bishopric of Bristol. With the Bishopric, he continued to hold his stall at Wells. He acted as an executor of the will of Sir John Davies, which was dated 6th April 1625 and proved on 13 May 1626. Six years later, he was translated to the See of Lichfield and Coventry, where he succeeded Thomas Morton (1564-1659).

Wright was reputed to be of covetous disposition. According to Wood, he was “much given up to the affairs of the World”. He impoverished, in his own interests the Episcopal property at Bristol and acquired, for himself, among other landed property, the manor of Newnham Courtney in Oxfordshire at a cost of £18,000. While Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, he is said to have reaped large profits out of the sale of timber on the a estate of Ecceleshall, Staffordshire. But he caused the fabrics of many churches in his dioceses to be renovated and improved the services, enjoining the use of and due attention to music.

Wright acted, with Laud, in the crises of 1640 and the following years. In May 1640, he signed the new canons, which were adopted in convocation. On 27th October 1641, the House of Commons marked its resentment of the action of himself and other bishops by voting their exclusion from Parliament. In December, Wright joined eleven of the bishops in signing a letter to the King in which they complained of intimidation while on their way to the House of Lords, and protested against the transaction of business in their absence. The House of Commons caused the twelve bishops to be arrested in anticipation of their impeachment on a charge of high treason. Wright, with nine colleagues, was committed to the Tower. He was brought to the bar of the House of Lords in February 1642, but declined to plead, making an impressive speech instead. He appealed to the members from his present and past dioceses to judge him by their “knowledge of his courses”. He desired to “regain the esteem which he was long in getting, but had lost in a moment…..for if I should outlive, I say not my bishopric, but my credit, my grey hairs and many years would be brought with sorrow to the grave.” He was released on heavy bail after eighteen weeks' imprisonment and was ordered to return to his diocese. He withdrew to one of his Episcopal residences at Eccleshall Hall in Staffordshire. The mansion was garrisoned for the King by ‘Dr. Bird, a civilian,' but Sir William Brereton laid siege to the place in the Autumn of 1643 and, while the house was still invested, the bishop died (September 1643).

He left an only son, Calvert Wright, who was baptised at Sonning Church in 1620 and became a gentleman commoner of Wadham College, Oxford, in 1634, graduating as a B.A. in February 1637. He wasted the fortune left him by his father and died a poor debtor in the King's Bench Prison, Southwark, in the Winter of 1666.

Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1900)


    © Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.