Richardson, William (1698-1775) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 48
Richardson, William (1698-1775)

by William Prideaux Courtney
Contains subarticles John Richardson (1647–1725?) & Robert Richardson (1732–1781).

RICHARDSON, WILLIAM (1698–1775), antiquary, born at Wilshamstead, on 23 July 1698, was son of Samuel Richardson, vicar of Wilshamstead, near Bedford, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Bentham, rector of Knebworth and Paul's Walden, both in Hertfordshire. His father's brother, John Richardson (1647–1725?), fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, from 1674 until 1685, and rector of North Luffenham, Rutland, from 1685 until his ejection as a non-juror in 1690, wrote an able ‘Vindication of the Canon of the New Testament against Toland’ (London, 1700, 8vo; 3rd edit. 1719), and ‘Thirty-nine Prælectiones’ delivered in Emmanuel College Chapel, which his nephew, William the antiquary, edited in 1726 (Reliquary, July 1875, p. 47; Kettlewell, Works, App. p. xi; Add. MS. 5851).

William was educated at Oakham and Westminster, and admitted on 19 March 1715–16 as a pensioner at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was elected scholar. In 1720 he was a ‘Johnson’ exhibitioner. He graduated B.A. in 1719, M.A. in 1723, and D.D. in 1735, and was ordained deacon in September 1720, and priest in September 1722. On the resignation of his father he was appointed prebendary of Welton Rivall in Lincoln Cathedral on 19 Oct. 1724, and held that prebend until 1760. He acted as curate at St. Olave's, Southwark, until 1726, when he was elected lecturer at that church.

At the request of Bishop Gibson and Bishop Potter, Richardson undertook a new edition of Godwin's work on the English episcopate (‘De Præsulibus Angliæ Commentarii’), and he removed to Cambridge in 1734 in order that he might avail himself of its libraries and be in communication with Thomas Baker and other antiquaries. The book—the finest then issued by the Cambridge press—appeared in 1743. Richardson's residence at Cambridge led to a closer acquaintance with the fellows of Emmanuel College, and on 10 Aug. 1736 he was unanimously, and without his knowledge, chosen master of the college, although he had never been a fellow. In 1737 and in 1769—on the latter occasion after a contest with Dr. Roger Long [q. v.]—he was elected vice-chancellor of the university, and from 1746 to 1768, when he resigned the post, he was one of the king's chaplains.

Archbishop Potter, by his will, dated 12 Aug. 1745, left his executors all his options in ecclesiastical preferments, but bade them have regard in the distribution to Richardson and other friends. He also appealed in the will to Richardson to correct his account of Archbishop Tenison in the new edition of Godwin's ‘De Præsulibus.’ This Richardson did. The cancelled passage and that substituted for it are printed in the ‘Biographia Britannica’ (1763, vol. vi. pt. i. Suppl. p. 78). When the precentorship of Lincoln, one of Potter's options, became vacant on 18 May 1756, Richardson claimed it, and filed a bill in chancery against Archdeacon John Chapman [q. v.], another claimant. Henley, the lord keeper, gave a decision in November 1759 against Richardson, who, under the advice of Charles Yorke, appealed to the House of Lords. On 18 Feb. 1760, after a trial lasting three days, the case was decided, mainly through the influence of Lord Mansfield, in his favour (cf. Burn's Ecclesiastical Law, ed. 1763, i. 172–8). Richardson was duly installed in the precentorship on 3 March 1760, and held it until death.

Richardson died at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 15 March 1775, after a lingering decay, and was buried in the college chapel by the side of his wife, who had died on 21 March 1759. A portrait of him is in the picture-gallery at Cambridge. He is depicted in old age, of a somewhat stern and forbidding aspect, seated, and with a pen in his hand. In 1728 he married at St. Olave's Anne, only daughter and heiress of William Howe of Cheshire, and widow of Captain David Durell.

Richardson was a good-humoured man, but strict in small points of discipline. He was a strong tory in politics. He left some collections on the constitution of his university and many biographical anecdotes of its members, which he once intended to publish. Memoirs by him of about 350 persons are in the Cambridge University Library, but their value is diminished by the use of shorthand and symbols not easily interpreted. He also drew up a list of graduates from 1500 to 1735 with some additions to 1745. It cannot, however, always be relied upon, as he read old writing imperfectly. Several quarto volumes of his manuscripts, mostly relating to the university and to his own college, are in the treasury of Emmanuel College; some other collections by him are said to be lost (Cooper, Athenæ Cantabr. vol. i. pp. iv–v). Several notes by him on puritan divines connected with the university are in Dyer's ‘Cambridge University’ (ii. 360–71). He was elected F.S.A. on 19 June 1735; and Stukeley, who visited him in July 1740, noted that he had ‘a very good collection of coyns, british, roman, and english’ (Memoirs, Surtees Soc. lxxvi. 38).

Richardson's only son, Robert Richardson (1732–1781), was prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral, chaplain-in-ordinary to the king, and rector of St. Anne's, Westminster, and of Wallington in Hertfordshire. The last benefice was bestowed upon him by Sir Joseph Yorke, with whom he lived, as chaplain, at The Hague for several years. He died at Dean Street, Soho, on 27 Sept. 1781 in his fiftieth year. He printed two sermons, and while in Holland drew up a précis of the documents in the famous lawsuit Hamilton v. Douglas [see Douglas, Lady Jane]. It was printed for distribution and put into the hands of counsel. His view was adopted by the House of Lords.

[Gent. Mag. 1756 p. 146, 1775 p. 151; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iv. 527; Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, ii. 534, 619, v. 157–9, viii. 250; Le Neve's Fasti, ii. 87, 235, iii. 609, 610, 702; Cooper's Cambr. Annals, iv. 361; Barker's Parriana, i. 434–5; information through Mr. Chawner, master of Emmanuel College.]

W. P. C.