Godwin, Thomas (1517-1590) (DNB00)

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GODWIN, THOMAS (1517–1590), bishop of Bath and Wells, was born in 1517 at Oakingham, Berkshire, of poor parents, and sent to the free school. Dr. Layton [q. v.], archdeacon of Buckinghamshire, adopted Godwin, gave him a classical education, and about 1538 sent him at his own cost to Oxford. Godwin seems to have found other friends on his patron's death (1545), by whose help he was enabled to remain at the university. In 1544 he graduated as B.A., and was elected a probationer of Magdalen College, becoming a full fellow in 1545, and proceeding M.A. in 1547–8 (Wood, Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 827; Oxf. Univ. Reg. Oxf. Hist. Soc. i. 205). Godwin shared the principles of his early patron, a ‘zealous reformer,’ and, according to Wood, was obliged to leave Oxford and resign his fellowship between July 1549 and July 1550, on account of disputes between himself and ‘certain papists’ at his college (see Admission Register, quoted by Mr. Wodhams in Northamptonshire Notes and Queries, vol. iii. pt. xix. pp. 65, 66). He was, however, appointed head-master of Brackley school, just founded by Magdalen. He probably went thither in 1549, and was the first master (ib.) He remained at Brackley till the end of the reign of Edward VI, but under Mary was forced, on account of his religious principles, to leave the school, and, having married in the meantime Isabel, daughter of Nicholas Purefoy of Shalstone, Buckinghamshire, studied physic to support his wife and family. He was licensed to practise medicine 17 June 1555 (Oxf. Univ. Reg.) He turned to divinity after Elizabeth's accession, and was ordained (about 1560) by Nicholas Bullingham [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln. He was Bullingham's chaplain, and a member of the lower house of convocation, subscribing to the articles of 1562, and also signing the petition for discipline (Strype, Annals, vol. i. pt. i. pp. 489, 504, 512). Godwin rapidly became a popular preacher. Elizabeth was so pleased with his ‘good parts’ and ‘goodly person,’ that in 1565 she appointed him one of her Lent preachers, a post which he held for eighteen years. In June 1565 he was made dean of Christ Church, and proceeded B.D. and D.D. on 17 Dec. at Oxford. In the same month he was installed prebendary of Milton in Lincoln Cathedral (Lansdowne MS. v. 982, f. 152), whence in 1574–5 he was transferred to the prebend of Leighton Buzzard, which he resigned in 1584 (Willis, Cath. Survey, iii. 205, 221). When Elizabeth visited Oxford in August 1566, Godwin was one of the four divines appointed to hold theological disputations before her; lodgings were prepared for her at Christ Church, and the dean went out to Wolvercote to receive her (Elizabethan Oxford, Oxf. Hist. Soc. pp. 198–203). Among the Parker MSS. (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge) is a ser- mon preached by him before the queen at Greenwich during this year (1566). The winter after her visit to Oxford, Elizabeth promoted Godwin to the deanery of Canterbury. He was sent on a commission to visit the diocese of Norwich, and preached the first of a series of sermons, endowed by Archbishop Parker, in the ‘Greenyard’ at Norwich (June 1567). At Canterbury Godwin had to deal with a turbulent set of canons. Constant complaints were made by them against him to the archbishop, while the dean was at one time obliged to appeal to the justices of the peace, one canon having threatened ‘to nail him to the wall with his sword’ (Strype, Parker, i. 493, 545, 564). He practically rebuilt the deanery after a fire in 1568 (Rymer, Fœdera, xvi. 186). In 1573 Parker accused Godwin of breaking the statutes and consuming the cathedral's goods. The dean strenuously denied the charge, and in October 1573 he received the living of Ruckinge in the Canterbury diocese, probably as a proof of the archbishop's forgiveness (Strype, Parker, i. 564). In 1576 he became one of the ecclesiastical commissioners. In September 1584 he was made bishop of Bath and Wells, a see which had been void for three years; Godwin was the second protestant bishop consecrated (Lansdowne MSS. vol. 982, ff. 125, 126). He had been a widower for several years, but was misguided enough to marry a second time, when ‘aged, diseased, and lame of the gout.’ Raleigh had been scheming to get the manor of Banwell from the bishopric on a hundred years' lease. He now told the queen that Godwin had married a girl of twenty for her money. The Earl of Bedford warmly defended Godwin by stating that the bishop's wife was a widow and had a son over forty. Cole gives her name as Margaret, daughter of William Brennan of Wells, first married to the bishop, then to William Martin of Totnes, but Cassan believes him to have purposely transposed the marriages, and Harrington (State of the Church of England, London, 1653, p. 110) calls her a widow, and says the bishop was entrapped into the marriage. The queen, however, took Raleigh's part, and, after sundry sharp messages from her, Godwin, to save Banwell, had to part with another manor; ‘he neither gave Wilscombe for love nor solely for money, but left it for fear’ (ib.) Disgraced, and broken in health, suffering from a quartan ague, the bishop retired to his native air of Oakingham, where he died, aged 73, on 19 Nov. 1590. He was buried in the chancel of Oakingham Church, with an inscription to his memory by his son Francis [q. v.], sub-dean of Exeter, the historian. In person he was ‘tall and comely;’ though he published nothing, he was an eminent scholar; and he was hospitable, mild, and judicious.

[Cassan's Hist. of the Bishops of Bath and Wells, pt. ii. p. 4; Welch's Alumni Westm. p. 8; Godwin's Cat. p. 385, and De Præs. Angl. p. 389; Ep. Bath and Wells, p. 144; Gutch's Hist. and Antiq. of Oxford, vol. ii. pt. i. pp. 156, 157, iii. 438; Hasted's Kent, iv. 590; Lysons's Berkshire, p. 442; Fuller's Worthies, i. 128–9; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 145.]

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