Robert Pory

The following information has been extracted from a number of sources in addition to those referenced, including The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Lambeth, and the Archiepiscopal Palace, in the County of Surrey by Thomas Allen, England's Sacred Synods, a Constitutional History of the Convocations of the Clergy by James Wayland Joyce, Nonconformity in Herts by William Urwick and Wife to Mr Milton by Robert Graves.

Robert Pory was born circa 1610 and educated at St Paul's School, where he was a classmate of the poet and politician John Milton, with whom he went up to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he was admitted on 28 February 1625. He was awarded the degree of B.A. in 1629 and that of M.A. in 1632.

Robert held the post of Burrell Rhetoric Lecturer at Cambridge from 1634 to 1639. He was ordained priest on 24 September 1637 and awarded the degree of B.D. in 1639. He was installed as Rector of St Margaret's New Fish Street in London on 28 September 1640, and also as that of Thorley in November of the same year. St Margaret's was the first Church to be destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666, and its former site was selected as the location for the construction of the Monument, the Roman Doric Column of Portland stone built to commemorate the Fire and celebrate the rebuilding of the City.

Following the outbreak of Civil War, Robert was deprived of both of his livings because of his loyalty to the Anglican Church and his adherence to Arminian theology.

The House of Lords Journal Volume 5: 4 April 1643 reports: "Whereas Robert Pory, Parson of the Parish Church of Thorley, in the County of Hertford, hath endeavoured, in his Preaching, to corrupt his Parishioners with the Leaven of Arminian Doctrines; that there is no Divine Decree of particular Actions or Persons, nor Love of God to particular Persons; but that Christ died for all, and the Ground of our Election to be in ourselves, and not in God; and usually inveigheth against Strictness in Religion, affirming a Puritan to be a Limb of the Devil, abusing our Brethren the Scotts, publicly affirming them to be damned Rogues, and them that took their Parts; and hath preached, that he was as much bound in Conscience to read such Things in the Church as the Bishops sent unto him to be so read, as he was bound to read the Lordsprayer, and that he received them by equal authority; and hath expressed his Malignancy against the Parliament's Proceedings, refusing to read the Ordinances and Declarations of Parliament required to be read by him; and, when the same were read by another, he flung out of the Church, calling such as he met to go out with him, and not to stay to hear (as he called it) a Kind of bibble-babble Things, to no Purpose at all: All which the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled taking into Consideration, for the better Supply of an able and Godly Minister in the said Church, and for the Provision of fit Maintenance for those that shall officiate therein, do constitute and Ordain, That Nicholas Humfrey, Henry Godfrey, Edward Willey, Robert Osborne, Mathew Barnard, John Brett, Henry Taylor, and Edward Warner, Parishioners of the said Parish of Thorly, or any Three of them, shall have Power and Authority, and are hereby required, to sequester the Parsonage-house, and all the Glebe Lands, Tithes, Rents, and Profits whatsoever, of the said Church, and to appoint Collectors for the gathering and receiving of them, as they in their Discretion shall think fit; and shall have Power, and are hereby required, to deliver and pay the same unto John Halsiter, Master of Arts, a Godly, Learned, and Orthodox Divine, who is hereby appointed and required to preach every Lords-day, and to officiate as Parson, and to take Care for the Discharge of the Cure of the said Place in all the Duties thereof; until further Order shall be taken by both the Houses of Parliament; and, if any shall refuse to pay unto the said Sequestrators, or any Three of them, or to the Collectors appointed by them, any of the Tithes, Rents, Duties, or lawful Fees accustomed to be paid, or to deliver up to them the said Parsonagehouse or Glebe Lands, upon Information thereof by the said Sequestrators, or any Three of them, unto either House of Parliament, the said Lords and Commons do hereby Declare, They will proceed against such Refusers according to their several Offences and Contempts."

A similar sequestration order was made in respect of the rents and profits of the Parish Church of St. Margaret's, New Fish Street.

In 1648 Robert was wounded during the Siege of Colchester, when a Royalist army that had been on its way through East Anglia resisted a Parliamentary force led by Thomas Fairfax for eleven weeks, finally surrendering following the defeat of the Royalists in the north of England at the Battle of Preston.

John Halsiter remained at Thorley for some 15 years, when the following declaration was made on behalf of Richard Cromwell, the third son of Oliver Cromwell and his successor as Lord Protector: "RICHARD by the grace of God Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Ireland, and Scotland. We present EDWARD WARREN, clerke, to the rectory of Thorley, in the county of Hertford, by the death of the last incumbent there or howsoever void, Commanding and requiring you forthwith to admit the said Edward Warren to the rectory of Thorley aforesaid, and that you truly and lawfully institute him rector. 12th April, 1659. Signed, HASTINGS." Edward Warren was accordingly admitted to the Rectory of Thorley on 13 April, 1659. His appointment was one of the last official acts of Protector Richard, as on 23 April 1659 an army faction known as the Wallingford House party ended the Third Protectorate Parliament, and on 6 May 1659 removed him as Lord Protector.

On the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, Edward Warren was ejected as Rector of Thorley and Robert Pory reinstated. No mention is made of either John Halsiter or Edward Warren on the Board at St James' listing the Rectors who have held the benefice.

Robert was richly rewarded for his loyalty to the Anglican Church and the Crown. On 2 August 1660 he was made D.D. by royal mandate for his particular and eminent sufferings for Our self and the Church. The Dictionary of National Biography Vol 46 (1896) records that: "At the restoration preferments were showered upon him. ... On 20 July 1660 he was collated both to the rectory of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Street, London (resigned before, 22 May 1663), and to the archdeaconry of Middlesex (Le Neve Fasti) , The articles on his visitation in 1662 were printed. On 16 Oct.(but, according to Le Neve, 16 Aug.) 1660 he was installed prebendary of Willesden, in the diocese of London, and before the year was out was made chaplain to Archbishop Juxon. In February 1661 he was instituted to the rectory of Hollingbourne, Kent; in 1662 to that of Much Hadham, Hertfordshire; and in the same year to the rectory of Lambeth. On 19 July 1663 he was incorporated D.D. of Oxford."

Robert was also elected President of Sion College for both the years 1661 and 1662. This London institution had been founded by Royal Charter in 1630 as a college, a guild of the clergy of the city of London and its suburbs, and an almshouse, and in the 1640s had become a Puritan stronghold. Sion College is still in existence today, but having disposed of its premises and donated its collection of books and manuscripts to Lambeth Palace library and that of Kings College, London, it now functions as a society, supporting and challenging the Anglican ministry within the capital.

Robert Pory resigned as Rector of Thorley in 1662.

Robert Pory married Elizabeth, the niece of William Juxon, in 1640. Their application for a Marriage Licence, dated 21 September 1640, records that he was then 30 and she 28 years old. William was Bishop of London at the time, and hence the Patron of the living of Thorley when Robert was instituted as Rector. William was selected by Charles I to be with him on the scaffold and to offer him the last rites before his execution. William was deprived of his Bishopric in 1649, and retired to Little Compton, now in Warwickshire but then in the county of Gloucester, where he lived during the remainder of the Commonwealth period. Robert and his wife Elizabeth joined him there, but Elizabeth died on 15 February 1653 and is buried in the Church of St Denis, Little Compton. The Latin inscription on her grave states that she died at the age of 30. However, if her age as recorded at the time of Robert's and her application for a Marriage Licence is correct, she would have been some ten years older than this at the time of her death. On the restoration of Charles II, William was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, the position having been vacant since 1645, when William Laud had been executed for his support of Charles I and his opposition to radical forms of Puritanism.

As the holder of a multiplicity of ecclesiastical benefices, Robert Pory was, what is termed, a Pluralist. Wiliam Juxon also entrusted the exercise of his patronage as Archbishop of Canterbury to him, and it is thought that he exploited the resulting power for personal gain. His consequent wealth drew him to the attention of the compiler of the satirical Poor Robin's Almanac that was first published in 1663, the title of which is said to have been selected in ridicule of him.

On 13 December 1661, whilst still Rector of Thorley, Robert was appointed to the committee charged with undertaking the final revision of the new edition of the Book of Common Prayer that had been commissioned by Charles II. The other members of this committee were Humphrey Henchman, Bishop of Salisbury; George Griffith, Bishop of St Asaph; Richard Sterne, Bishop of Carlisle; William Nicholson, Bishop of Gloucester; John Pearson, who was to become the Bishop of Chester; and Anthony Sparrow, who was to become the Bishop of Exeter and subsequently that of Norwich. The resulting 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer has remained in use to this day.

Robert Pory died on 20 November 1669, reputed a rich prelate according to a biography of the time, and is buried at St James' Clerkenwell.

Philip Hargrave
July 2011


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