Lancaster, William (DNB00)

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LANCASTER, WILLIAM (1650–1717), divine, son of William Lancaster of Sockbridge in Barton parish, Westmoreland, is said to have been born at that place in 1650. He kept for some time the parish school of Barton, and at his death he added an augmentation to the master's salary. The school is near Lowther Castle, and when Sir John Lowther's son, afterwards Lord Lonsdale, went to Queen's College, Oxford, he was attended by Lancaster, who entered as batler on 23 June 1670, and matriculated 1 July aged 20. He graduated B.A. on 6 Feb. 1674-5, M.A. 1 July 1678 (after the degree had been stopped for some words against John Clerke, of All Souls, the proctor, but was carried in congregation), B.D. 12 April 1690, and D.D. 8 July 1692. On 20 Dec. 1674 he was elected tabarder of his college, and on 15 March 1678-9 was both elected and admitted fellow. About 1676 he was sent to Paris with a state grant on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Williamson (who thought that the most promising young men of the university might be trained for public life in this way), and after a stay of some duration resumed his career at Oxford. Although he acted when junior fellow as chaplain to the Earl of Denbigh, and was collated on 1 Sept. 1682 to the vicarage of Oakley in Buckinghamshire, which he held until 1690, most of his time was passed in college, where he became famous as tutor. From the beginning of 1686 till 1 Aug. he was junior bursar, for the next four years he held the post of senior bursar, and he retained his fellowship until his marriage, very early in 1696. Lancaster became domestic chaplain to Henry Compton [q. v.], bishop of London, on whose nomination he was instituted (22 July 1692) to the vicarage of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, but the presentation for this time was claimed by the queen, and when judgment was given in her favour in the law courts, she presented Dr. Nicholas Gouge. Lancaster was a popular preacher, and Evelyn records a visit to hear him on 20 Nov. 1692 (Memoirs, ed. 1827, iii. 320). At Gouge's death he was again instituted (31 Oct. 1694), and from a case cited in Burn's 'Ecclesiastical Law' (ed. 1842, i. 116), in which he claimed fees from a French protestant called Burdeaux for the baptism of his child at the French church in the Savoy, it would seem that he zealously guarded his dues. On 15 Oct. 1704 he was elected provost of Queen's College, but the election was disputed as against the statutes; the question, which was whether the right of election extended to past as well as present fellows, being argued in an anonymous pamphlet entitled 'A True State of the Case concerning the Election of a Provost of Queen's College, Oxford, 1704,' written by Francis Thompson, senior fellow at the time. An appeal was made to the Archbishop of York, as visitor, but the election was confirmed, on a hearing of the case by Dr. Thomas Bouchier the commissary. Through Compton's favour Lancaster held the archdeaconry of Middlesex from 1705 until his death, and for four years (1706-10) he was vice-chancellor of Oxford, ruling the university in the interests of the whigs. In religion he favoured the views of the high church party, and he was one of the bail for Dr. Sacheverell, but his enemies accused him of trimming and of scheming for a bishopric. The see of St. Davids was offered to him, but it was declined through a preference for college life and a desire to carry out further building works at the college. Through his courteous acts to the corporation of Oxford a plot of land in the High Street was leased to the college for a thousand years 'gratis and without fine,' and the first stone of the new court towards the High Street was laid by him on Queen Anne's birthday (6 Feb. 1710). His arms are conspicuous in many places in the college, especially over the provost's seat in the hall; and his portrait, painted by T. Murray, and engraved by George Vertue, hangs in the hall. Another portrait of him, described as 'very bad,' was placed in the vestry-room of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. He died at Oxford, 4 Feb. 1716-17, of gout in the stomach, and was buried in the old church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. His wife, a kinswoman of Bishop Compton, was a daughter of Mr. Wilmer of Sywell in Northamptonshire.

Lancaster was author of: 1. A Latin speech on the presentation of William Jane as prolocutor of the lower house of convocation, 1689. 2. A sermon before the House of Commons, 30 Jan. 1696-7. 3. A recommendatory preface to the 'Door of the Tabernacle,' 1703. Many of his letters are in the Ballard collection at the Bodleian Library. One of them is printed in 'Letters from the Bodleian,' i. 294-5, and in the same volume (pp. 200-1) is a peremptory letter from Sacheverell demanding a testimonial from the university. Lancaster is said to have been the original of 'Slyboots' in the letter from 'Abraham Froth,' which is printed in the 'Spectator,' No. 43, and by Hearne he is frequently called 'Smoothboots,' 'Northern bear,' and 'old hypocritical, ambitious, drunken sot.'

[Luttrell's Hist. Relation, ii. 520, 582, iii. 394, vi. 534; Wood's Colleges, ed. Gutch. i. 149, 151-69, and App. pp. 159-61; Clark's Colleges of Oxford, p. 133; Hearne's Collections, ed. Doble, i. 216, 293-4, ii. and iii. passim; Nicolson and Burn's Westmorland and Cumberland, i. 407, 411; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, i. 360; Newcourt's Repertorium Lond. i. 692; Le Neve's Fasti, ii. 331, iii. 478, 553; Biog. Brit. 1763, vol. vi. pt. i. pp. 3724, 3734-5; Hist. Register, 1717, p. 9; information from Dr. Magrath, provost of Queen's College.]

W. P. C.