Hughes, William (d.1600) (DNB00)

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HUGHES, WILLIAM (d. 1600), bishop of St. Asaph, was the son of Hugh ap Kynric of Carnarvonshire, and Gwenllian, daughter of John Vychan ab John ab Gruffydd ab Owen Pygott. On his father's side he is said to have been descended from one of the fifteen tribes of Gwynedd (Rowlands, Cambrian Bibliography, p. 46). According to Wood he was at first educated at Oxford, ‘afterwards retiring to Christ's College, Cambridge.’ Strype refers to him as ‘sometime of Oxford.’ His connection with Oxford has, however, been doubted, and it is certain that he matriculated sizar of Queens' College, Cambridge, in November 1554; took his B.A. degree in 1556–7, became fellow of Christ's 1557, M.A. 1560, B.D. 1565, and that in the last-named year he was appointed Lady Margaret preacher. About 1560 he became chaplain to Thomas Howard, fourth duke of Norfolk [q.v.] Attending his patron to Oxford in 1568, he was on 19 April incorporated B.D. of that university ‘as he stood at Cambridge,’ and in 1570, through the influence of the duke, he was allowed to proceed D.D.

In 1567 Hughes preached at Leicester, and gave offence by his exposition of the article ‘De Descensu Christi ad Inferos.’ A complaint was made to the university. On 7 July 1567 a decree of the senate was issued referring the matter to a committee, Hughes to be bound by its decision without appeal. In the same month another complaint was sent through the Earl of Leicester of Hughes's 'insincere and unsound doctrines of religion.' At the earl's suggestion the matter was left to him, Sir William Cecil, then chancellor of the university, and Archbishop Parker. Parker advised that he should be restrained from preaching; but the only visible result was an order of the chancellor ‘that no manner of person there should in any sermon, open disputation, or reading move any question or doubt upon the article “De Descensu Christi ad Inferos.”’

From 1567 to his death Hughes was rector of Llysvaen in his native county. He was also rector of Dennington, Suffolk, but resigned the benefice before 10 Dec. 1573. On 30 Jan. 1565 Bishop Richard Davies [q. v.] of St. David's wrote to Cecil with reference to a vacancy in the see of Llandaff: ‘I have heard that one Mr. Hughes sueth for Llandaff, a man to me unknown, but by divers I have heard of him that he is utterly unlearned in divinity, and not able to render reason of his faith.’ In December 1573 Hughes was made bishop of St. Asaph.

In the administration of his diocese Hughes was not successful. Guilty of great abuses himself, he failed to correct the faults of his clergy. His maladministration at last became the subject of a special inquiry. The report, ‘endorsed by the Lord Treasurer's own hand,’ dated 24 Feb. 1587, described the bishop as holding in commendam (besides the archdeaconry and the rectory of Llysvaen, which he held by virtue of a faculty obtained in 1573) fifteen livings, thus having in his hands nine livings cum cura and seven sine cura; and though six had been resigned by him, it was only ‘upon having of the better.’ He had leased out ‘divers parcels’ of the bishopric, ‘to the hindrance of his successors,’ in the form of lordships, manors, and good rectories. The bishop was further charged with extorting money from his clergy on his visitations ‘over and above the procurations appointed by law,’ and with committing or overlooking other infringements of the late canons. The account may be exaggerated, but the charge of pluralism is not reducible to 'excessive exchanging.' The report dwells on the number of recusants in the diocese, but Hughes in a letter to Whitgift, dated 4 Nov. 1577, says that ‘there are no persons within his diocese refusing or neglecting to come to church.’ Hughes was in fact not altogether neglectful of the interests of his diocese. In the case of Albany v. the Bishop of St. Asaph (Common Pleas, 27 Eliz.) one of the bishop's replies to the quare impedit was that he had refused to institute Mr. Bagshaw, ‘a Master of Arts and preacher allowed,’ to the living of Whittington because he did not understand Welsh, the parishioners being ‘homines Wallici, Wallicam loquentes linguam et non aliam.’ Hughes also gave assistance to William Morgan [q.v.] in the translation of the Bible into Welsh by the loan of books and examination of the work.

In 1596 it seems to have been proposed without result to translate him to Exeter. In October 1600 he died, and was buried in the choir of the cathedral, 'without inscription or monument.' By his wife Lucia, daughter of Robert Knowesley of Denbighshire, he left a son, William, and a daughter, Anne, who married Thomas, youngest son of Sir Thomas Mostyn. By his will, dated 16 Oct. and proved 9 Nov. 1600, he left his estate to his daughter and her heirs, in default of heirs the property to go towards founding a school at St. Asaph; but as Anne had heirs the school was not founded. He also left 20l. to build a library for public use, his own library being bequeathed to form a nucleus. This bequest does not seem to have taken effect. Hughes was the author of some ‘Notes made on the authority of Scripture and the Fathers of the Church relative to the descent of Christ into hell,’ preserved in the Record Office, and a letter, in Latin, relating to St. Asaph (Browne Willis, Survey of St. Asaph, ed. Edwards, vol. ii. App. i. pp. 6, 7).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 844; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 289; Regist. Univ. Oxon. ed. Boase, vol. i. (Oxford Hist. Soc.); Strype's Annals of the Reformation and Lives of Parker and Whitgift; Rymer's Fœdera, vol. xv.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1547–80, 1581–90, 1595–7; Thomas's Hist. of St. Asaph, pp. 90–3; Williams's Eminent Welshmen; Llewelyn's Account of the British or Welsh Versions of the Bible, p. 107; Morgan's Welsh Bible, 1588 ed., Preface; Leonard's Reports of Law Cases, Case 39.]

R. W.