Spurstowe, William (DNB00)

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SPURSTOWE, WILLIAM, D.D. (1605?–1666), puritan divine, was son and heir of William Spurstowe, citizen and mercer of London, who was remotely connected with the Spurstowes of Bunbury, Cheshire. He was probably born in London about 1605. He was admitted a pensioner at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1623, graduated B.A. 1626, M.A. 1630, and obtained a fellowship at Catharine Hall, which he resigned in 1637. He had been incorporated B.A. at Oxford on 15 July 1628. His first preferment was the rectory of Great Hampden, Buckinghamshire, to which he was instituted 30 June 1638, though he signs the register as rector in August 1637; he succeeded Egeon Askew [q. v.], who was buried on 10 May 1637; to his connection with the parliamentary leader John Hampden (1594–1643) [q. v.] he probably owed his introduction to public life. He was one of the five divines [see Calamy, Edmund, the elder] who wrote in 1641 as ‘Smectymnuus,’ the last three letters of this word being his initials (VVS). In 1642 he was chaplain to Hampden's regiment of ‘green coats.’ With the other Smectymnuans he was included in the original summons (12 June 1643) to the Westminster assembly of divines, and took the ‘league and covenant’ in the following September. On 3 May 1643 he succeeded Calybute Downing [q. v.] as vicar of Hackney, Middlesex. On the deprivation (1645) of Ralph Brownrig [q. v.] he was put into the mastership of Catharine Hall, having been approved for it by the Westminster assembly (12 May 1645). He had previously been approved (17 Feb.) for the mastership of Clare College, but this was given to Ralph Cudworth [q. v.] He was a member of the provincial assembly of London, and at its first meeting (3 May 1647) was placed on its committee.

Spurstowe was one of the clerical commissioners appointed to confer with the king in the Isle of Wight (September–November 1648). Clarendon affirms that he and William Jenkyn [q. v.] told Charles ‘if he did not consent to the total abolishing of episcopacy, he would be damn'd.’ As it stands, the statement is not credible. Spurstowe was strongly opposed to the judicial proceedings against Charles, and signed in January 1649 the ‘Vindication’ promoted by Cornelius Burges, D.D. [q. v.], protesting against the trial. The twenty-sixth ‘meditation’ in his ‘Spiritual Chymist’ (1666), headed ‘Upon the Royal Oak,’ gives expression to his loyalty. In 1649 he was made D.D. He refused the ‘engagement’ (12 Oct. 1649) of allegiance to the existing government ‘without a king or a house of lords;’ and, failing to take it by 23 March 1650, was deprived of his mastership of Catharine Hall, which, in November, was given to John Lightfoot (1602–1675) [q. v.]

At the Restoration Lightfoot offered to resign the mastership in his favour, but Spurstowe declined. He was made chaplain in ordinary to Charles II, and once preached at court. Ezekiel Hopkins, D.D. [q. v.], was his curate in 1660. In the negotiations for an accommodation of religious parties he was consulted as a leading man, and was a commissioner to the Savoy conference (April–July 1661), but took no prominent part. At his vicarage-house at Hackney, Baxter spent a week ‘in retirement’ while preparing the answer to the episcopal defence of the prayer-book. He resigned his living on the coming into force of the Uniformity Act (24 Aug. 1662), and was succeeded (22 Sept.) by Thomas Jeamson, B.D. Henceforth he lived retired at Hackney, being a man of independent fortune. In 1664 he visited Cambridge, and was entertained at dinner in Catharine Hall. Baxter describes him as ‘an ancient, calm, reverend minister;’ Calamy speaks of his charity and the agreeableness of his conversation. He died early in 1666, and was buried at Hackney on 8 Feb. His only child, William, died at Hackney in March 1654, aged 9. His widow, Sarah became in 1669 the second wife of Anthony Tuckney [q. v.] He died intestate. He founded six almshouses for six poor widows at Hackney, which were finished in 1666, and endowed by his brother and heir, Henry Spurstowe, a London merchant.

He published sermons before parliament (1643, 1644), before the lord mayor (1654), and funeral sermons for Lady Honor Vyner (1656) and William Taylor (1662); also: 1. ‘The Wels of Salvation opened; or, a Treatise … of Gospel Promises,’ 1655, 8vo; 1814, 12mo; 1821, 12mo. Posthumous were 2. ‘The Spiritual Chymist; or, Six Decads of Divine Meditations,’ 1666, 8vo (2 parts); 1668, 8vo. 3. ‘Satana Noēmata. Or, The Wiles of Satan,’ 1666, 8vo. A tract entitled ‘True and Faithfull Relatioun of a Worthye Discourse between … Hampden and … Cromwell,’ 1847, 4to, is a modern fiction to which Spurstowe's name is attached.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 287; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), i. 443; Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 471; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, ii. 613, 743; Fuller's Hist. of the University of Cambridge, 1655, p. 170; Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, 1696, i. 42, ii. 229, 303, 334, iii. 97; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion, 1706, iii. 216; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, 1714, ii. 151; Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, 1802, ii. 448 sq.; Neal's Hist. of the Puritans (Toulmin), 1822, iii. 325; Robinson's Hist. of Hackney, 1843, ii. 159 sq., 368 sq.; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, 1847, ii. 247, 284; Urwick's Nonconformity in Cheshire, 1864, p. 146 (errs in making him a native of Bunbury); Mitchell and Struthers's Minutes of Westminster Assembly, 1874, pp. 59, 90; Whitehead's Historical Sketch of New Gravel Pit Church, Hackney, 1889, pp. 6 seq.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714, iv. 1402; Ashe's Funeral Sermon for William Spurstowe (the son), 1654; Cole's Athenæ Cantabr. (manuscript); Lansdowne MS. 916, fol. 56; information from the master of Catharine College and from the Rev. A. Marshall, Great Hampden.]

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