Kelke, Roger (DNB00)

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KELKE, ROGER (1524–1576), master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, born in 1524, was a member of St. John's College in the same university. He proceeded B.A. in 1543–4, and was elected a fellow of St. John's ‘circ. 1545.’ He commenced M.A. in 1547, was elected a preacher of the same society on 25 April 1552, and a senior fellow in the following October. On the accession of Queen Mary he left England, and his name appears in the list of exiles residing at Zurich on 23 Oct. 1554 (‘Troubles at Frankfort’ in Phenix, ii. 55, 142). He returned to Cambridge on the accession of Elizabeth; in August 1558 was nominated Lady Margaret preacher in the university, and on 1 Nov. following was appointed master of Magdalene College. It was probably on account of the slender resources then at the disposal of that society that he was re-elected to his senior fellowship at St. John's a few days after (9 Nov.) The conditions of the Lady Margaret preachership, an office which he continued to hold until 1565, required that the preacher should deliver annually six sermons at certain specified places in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, and it was perhaps owing to the reputation he thus acquired that in 1560 he was appointed by the corporation of Ipswich, where the doctrines which he favoured largely prevailed, town preacher or lecturer. He did not, however, succeed in gaining the good-will of a certain section of those among whom he laboured, and on 9 July 1565 he was unsuccessfully denounced to a court of the corporation as ‘a liar’ and ‘a preacher of noe trewe doctrine.’

Kelke continued to fill the office of master at Magdalene College until his death; but during that time he was twice a candidate for the mastership of St. John's College, in 1563 and again in 1569. On the former occasion he was actually elected, having been strongly recommended to Cecil, the chancellor, for ‘his indifference to all parties, and other aptness in government;’ but on learning that Cecil gave the preference to another candidate, Dr. Longworth, he retired in favour of his rival (STRYPE, Whitgift, i. 15–16). On 15 May 1563 he was collated to the archdeaconry of Stowe, and in the following year he proceeded D.D. His adherence to the puritanical doctrines which he had embraced abroad was shown by the part he took in the opposition offered at Cambridge to Archbishop Parker's celebrated ‘Advertisements.’ Kelke, along with four other leading members of the university (among whom was Whitgift), represented to Cecil that the requirements laid down in the ‘Advertisements’ with respect to vestments would be likely to alienate many pious and learned men in the academic community, a remonstrance which was certainly borne out by the sequel.

Kelke twice filled the office of vice-chancellor; in 1567, for a few months only, on the death of Beaumont, master of Trinity College, and again for the academic year 1571–2. On 8 Aug. 1572 he was collated to the rectory of Teversham in Cambridgeshire. During all this time Kelke was living mostly at Ipswich, where his stipend in 1574 was 6l. 13s. 4d. as lecturer, a like sum being also paid him for his ministrations at the hospital in that town. During his second tenure of the vice-chancellorship the common council of Ipswich on 6 Dec. 1571 ordered a preacher named Keyes to fill Kelke's place ‘for two quarters and the rest of the yere’ (Wodderspoon, Ipswich, p. 367). Subsequently he accepted an offer made by the corporation of 40l. per annum, on condition that he became resident, and preached every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, and also visited the sick and afflicted. He continued to discharge these duties down to the close of his life. In 1564, on the occasion of a royal visit to Cambridge, he successfully exerted himself in obtaining from the Duke of Norfolk a considerable contribution towards the completion of the buildings of Magdalene College. His absenteeism from Cambridge, however, seems to have been attended with disastrous effects, and the credit of the society sank so low that the tradesmen of the town even refused to supply the college with the barest necessaries.

Kelke died on 6 Jan. 1575–6, and was was buried in the chancel of Great St. Mary's Church in Cambridge. His epitaph, long since effaced, attributed to him the merit of having been a painful preacher and a man of profound religious convictions. Gabriel Harvey notices his blunt manner, but adds that he was known to be learned and religious (Works, ed. Grosart, ii. 191–2). Strype describes him as ‘a wise and worthy man,’ and such would probably have been the verdict of posterity, but for an act which marked his closing years. On 13 Dec. 1574 a grant in perpetuity was made by the college to the crown, at a fixed rent, of an estate in London with which the society had been endowed by the founder, Lord Audley. The act was in itself unlawful, and the blame rests chiefly with Kelke, who, according to his own statement, induced the fellows to concur in the transaction, it being also expressly stipulated in the grant that the transfer should be void unless, by a given day, the queen regranted it to one Benedict Spinola, a Genoese merchant, and his heirs. In this manner property, which would have ultimately enabled the college to take rank among the wealthiest in the university, was irrecoverably lost. His will, bearing date 12 Dec. 1575, makes mention of his wife Rose his daughter Abigail, his brother Francis, and his nephew Christopher, the son of Francis.

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantabrigienses, i. 341–3; Mullinger's Hist. of the University of Cambridge, vol. ii.]

J. B. M.