Fairclough, Samuel (1594-1677) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 18
Fairclough, Samuel (1594–1677)

by Gordon Goodwin
Contains subarticle Samuel Fairclough (1625?–1691).

FAIRCLOUGH, SAMUEL (1594–1677), nonconformist divine, was born 29 April 1594 at Haverhill, Suffolk, the youngest of the four sons of Lawrence Fairclough, vicar of Haverhill, by his wife Mary, daughter of John Cole of that town. After some preliminary training under a Mr. Robotham, who said of him that he was the best scholar he had ever taught in the course of thirty years, he was sent to Queens' College, Cambridge, at the age of fourteen. Various stories are told of his strict life and steady attachment to moderate puritan principles. He refused on principle to take a woman's part in the comedy of ‘Ignoramus’ when about to be presented before James I. It has been wrongly asserted that he was appointed, while still an undergraduate, ‘sub-tutor’ to Spencer, lord Compton, the eldest son of the then Earl of Northampton; Lord Compton was not born until May 1601. Soon after taking his B.A. degree a Mr. Allington offered him a presentation to a living in Suffolk, but not being of age to receive priest's orders he declined it, and preferred to pursue his theological studies with Richard Blackerby [q. v.], then resident at Ashen, Essex, whose eldest daughter he afterwards married. In 1619 he accepted, after some hesitation, an offer from the mayor and nine aldermen of Lynn Regis, Norfolk, of a lectureship, with 50l. a year, a good house, and an additional 50l. from the congregation. ‘His popularity,’ relates Calamy, ‘excited the envy of the other ministers, and he was openly opposed by the publicans, whose business declined from the decrease of drunkenness.’ Samuel Harsnet, bishop of Norwich, cited him into his court for neglecting to use the sign of the cross in baptism, and the result was that Fairclough retired. He now accepted a similar but a less conspicuous position at Clare, Suffolk, where he had often preached while at Ashen. Before long Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston [q. v.], who was frequently one of his hearers, presented him to the adjoining rectory of Barnardiston, 27 June 1623. He soon met with further opposition. One of the clergymen at Sudbury being ill, Fairclough occupied his pulpit for him, and in the evening he repeated the sermon which he had preached to the family in whose house he lodged. For this articles were exhibited against him in the Star-chamber as a factious man; upon which he was convened before the court of high commission, and forced to attend at different times for more than two years, so that journeys and fees swallowed up the whole profits of his rectory. Matters were only brought to an issue ‘through the influence of one’ whom it appears that Harsnet ‘could not well disoblige,’ the requisite ‘influence’ having been secured by a ‘good number of jacobuses.’ Sir N. Barnardiston afterwards presented Fairclough to the rectory of Kedington, near Haverhill, and obtained his institution 10 Feb. 1629, ‘without his personal attendance upon the bishop, taking the oath of canonical obedience, or subscribing the three articles.’ In this living he continued for nearly thirty-five years, preaching four times a week. His Thursday lectures, ‘conciones ad clerum,’ were much admired, ‘all the ministers from many miles round constantly attending them, and often ten or twenty scholars and fellows of colleges from Cambridge.’ When the ‘Book of Sports’ came out, Fairclough was often cited to appear before the archdeacon and commissary at Bury, but managed to evade attendance on the plea of a weakness which disabled him from riding. During the civil war he showed little active sympathy with the presbyterians. He was nominated one of the assembly of divines in June 1643, but excused himself from attending, and though he signed the petition in 1646 he absolutely refused the engagement. He also declined the mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1662 he could not take the oath, ‘and therefore left a valuable living, a pleasant parsonage-house, a fine glebe, a large auditory, a loving people, and a kind neighbourhood. … Though he and his family lost above a thousand pounds a year for their nonconformity, he was always chearful.’ He resided for four or five years with two of his sons, Richard [q. v.] and Samuel [see below], and his two sons-in-law, George Jones and Richard Shute, who had left their livings, in an old manorhouse called Sculpins at Finchingfield, Essex, which now became ‘a little college.’ Father and sons preached by turns in the family, ‘and the neighbours came in.’ When they were dispersed Fairclough went to live with his youngest son, a conforming minister at Kennett, Cambridgeshire, and then with his daughters at Heveningham, Suffolk, and Stowmarket in the same county successively. He died at Stowmarket 14 Dec. 1677, aged 84, and was buried near the vestry door of the church. He published: 1. ‘The Troublers troubled, or Achan condemned and executed. A sermon … Apr. 4, 1641,’ 4to, London, 1641. 2. ‘The Prisoners Praises for their deliverance from their long imprisonment in Colchester, on a day of publique thanksgiving, set apart for that purpose by the Gentlemen of the Committee of Essex, … surprised by the enemie at Chelmesford. In a sermon … Ps. cxlix. 6–8, preached at Rumford Septemb. 28, 1648,’ 4to, London, 1650. 3. ‘Ἅγιοι ἄξιοι, or the Saints worthinesse and the worlds worthlessnesse, … declared in a sermon [on Heb. xi. 38] … at the funerall of … Sr Nathaniel Barnardiston,’ 4to, London, 1653. 4. ‘The Pastor's Legacy,’ 12mo, London, 1663. His portrait, a small head by F. H. van Hove, is in Clarke's ‘Lives’ (1683), p. 153 b.

His second son, Samuel Fairclough (1625?–1691), was a fellow of Caius College, Cambridge, and afterwards rector of Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire, but was ejected in 1662. In 1672 he was licensed a congregational teacher at Chippenham, Cambridgeshire. He died 31 Dec. 1691, aged 66, and was buried at Heveningham, Suffolk, his funeral sermon having been preached by a conformist, Nathaniel Parkhurst, vicar of Yoxford. There are memorials to him and his wife, Frances Folkes of Kedington, in Heveningham Church. It appears that he published nothing but an ‘offertory’ in verse in ‘Suffolk's Tears; or, Elegies on … Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston,’ 4to, London, 1653; a ‘brief account of some remarkable passages of the life and death of Mrs. Anne Barnardiston,’ prefixed to John Shower's funeral sermon for that lady, 4to, London, 1682, and an ‘epistle’ before the funeral sermon for his brother-in-law, Richard Shute, in 1689.

[Clarke's Lives of sundry Eminent Persons, 1683, pp. 153 b–192; Calamy's Nonconf. Memorial (Palmer, 1802), i. 283, iii. 272–82; Brook's Puritans, ii. 421 n.; Browne's Hist. of Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk, p. 598; Davids's Annals of Evangelical Nonconformity in Essex, pp. 609–15; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England (2nd edit.), iii. 39–40; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, i. 118.]

G. G.