Stockton, Owen (DNB00)

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STOCKTON, OWEN (1630–1680), puritan divine, fourth son of Owen Stockton, prebendary of Chester Cathedral, was born at Chester on 31 May 1630. His father traced descent from a younger branch of the Stocktons of Kiddington, Cheshire; his mother was a Tylee of Cambridgeshire. Upon her husband's death in 1637 she removed to Ely, where Owen was educated at William Hitch's grammar school. At fifteen he entered Christ's College, Cambridge. Henry More, the platonist, was his tutor. Stockton graduated B.A. from Christ's College in 1649, and M.A. from Caius (whither he had migrated) in 1653. He was appointed by the parliamentary commission a junior fellow of Gonville and Caius College in 1651, senior fellow in 1652–8. He was also morning lecturer, 1651; Hebrew lecturer, 1652; steward, 1653; and catechist in 1654. On beginning to study divinity he went to London, read at Sion College, attended the Gresham lectures, and sat under popular preachers. He began to preach in the villages round Cambridge, and after July 1656 he preached fortnightly in St. Andrew's Church, Cambridge, having received presbyterian ordination on 20 Feb. 1655 in London.

He was chosen town lecturer at Colchester by the mayor and aldermen in 1657 (Morant, Hist. of Essex, i. 100), and gave a morning lecture at St. James's Church, as well as an afternoon and week-day lecture elsewhere in the town, until the Act of Uniformity was passed. After 1662 Stockton and Edmund Warren established a dissenting congregation in Colchester, their first meetings being held by consent of Speaker Lenthall, the owner, in the castle (Cutts, Colchester, p. 209). Stockton also preached in his own house until 1665, when on 24 Aug. (St. Bartholomew's Day) he removed with his wife and family to Chattisham, Suffolk, where his wife's brother-in-law, John Meadows [q. v.], was living. Stockton inhabited a large country house with his sister Sarah, occasional pupils, and his brother Thomas Stockton, who managed the land pertaining to it. He often preached in the church, the rector, with whom he was on good terms, having another cure. He frequently revisited Colchester, Manningtree, White Colne, and other places in Essex, and was often in danger of arrest, although more than once at Colchester he was forewarned by the constable, who was one of his hearers.

In 1669 Stockton was reported to Archbishop Sheldon as having a conventicle in Colchester, and in the next year was presented in the ecclesiastical court by one Mr. Maidstone. At the indulgence of 1672 he took out licenses, 16 April, to be an independent teacher at Ipswich, Colchester, and Hadleigh. Having received calls to both Colchester and Ipswich, he decided to preach alternately at both, residing meantime at Ipswich, where he died of fever after a few days' illness on 31 Aug. 1680.

By his will (P. C. C. ‘Bath’ 156) Stockton left his library and 500l. to found a fellowship and scholarship at Gonville and Caius College, an annuity of 20l. to Harvard College, Massachusetts, and legacies to his brother William Stockton, his cousin Owen Stockton, and others. A clause desires that his only surviving child, Sarah (d. circa 1695), ‘attire herself in a sober manner as becometh one professing godliness;’ the provisions for the endowment are also thoroughly puritan.

Stockton's wife Elianor, daughter of Roger Rant of Swaffham Priors, Cambridgeshire, survived him. Her diary, dated 20 June 1695, is in Dr. Williams's library, where is also that of Stockton from 1 April 1665 to Bartholomew's Day, 24 Aug. 1680, a week before his death. It is in a clear but minute hand, largely introspective and self-condemnatory. Extracts from it were printed by T. W. Davids in his ‘Annals.’ With the diary are the following unpublished manuscripts by Stockton: ‘A Treatise of glorifying God,’ in three parts, prepared for publication with a revised copy of the introduction dated 16 Aug. 1661; ‘Practical Questions concerning the Pestilence;’ ‘A Treatise concerning an Interest in God;’ ‘Of Walking with God;’ ‘On knowing the Plague of one's own Heart;’ ‘Cases of Conscience.’

Stockton published: 1. ‘A Treatise of Family Instruction,’ in two parts, London, 1672, 8vo. 2. ‘Consolations in Life and Death’ (on the death of Mrs. E. Asty), London, 1681, 12mo; 1847, 12mo. 3. ‘A Warning to Drunkards,’ 1682, 8vo. Nos. 2 and 3 were published posthumously.

[John Fairfax's True Dignity of St. Pauls Elder exemplified in the Life of Owen Stockton, republished in Christian Biography, 1835; Clarke's Lives, 1682, p. 193; Kennett's Register, 1791; Davids's Annals of Evangel. Nonconf. in Essex, p. 365; Browne's Hist. Congregat. in Norfolk and Suffolk, pp. 367, 521; Palmer's Nonconf. Mem. ii. 191; information from Dr. Venn, of Caius College, Cambridge; manuscript diary in Dr. Williams's Library, Gordon Square.]

C. F. S.