Wigginton, Giles (DNB00)

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Wigginton, Giles (fl. 1564-1597), divine, born at Oundle in Northamptonshire, was educated at Cambridge, under the patronage of Sir Walter Mildmay [q. v.] he matriculated as a sizar of Trinity College in October 1564, and in 1566 was elected a scholar. He proceeded B.A. in 1568-9, and was subsequently elected a fellow, notwithstanding the strong opposition of the master, John Whitgift [q. v.], afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, who disliked his puritan views. He commenced M.A. in 1572, having made great progress in the study of divinity, Greek, and Hebrew. On 3 Sept. 1579 he was instituted to the vicarage of Sedbergh in Yorkshire, on the presentation of Trinity College, but found his Calvinism as unpopular there as at Cambridge. In 1581 the archbishop of York, Edwin Sandys [q. v.] wrote severely concerning his practices to his diocesan, William Chaderton [q. v.], bishop of Chester, remarking' He laboureth not to build, but to pull down, and by what means he can to overthrow the state ecclesiastical' (Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, 1779, p. 115). In 1584, when in London, he was appointed to preach before the judges in the church of St. Dunstan-in-the-West. Information of this coming to the knowledge of Archbishop Whitgift, he sent a pursuivant to Wigginton in the dead of night, while he was in bed at his lodgings, who forbade him to preach, and required him to give a bond for his appearance at Lambeth the next day. Upon his appearance he was tendered an oath ex officio to answer certain articles altogether unknown to him, and, on his refusal, the archbishop, after reviling and reproaching him, committed him to the Qatehouse, where he remained nine weeks all but one day. On his release he was admonished not to preach in the province without further license.

In the following year, upon the information of Edward Middleton, Whitgift gave orders to Sandys to proceed against Wigginton, and he was in consequence cited before Chaderton and deprived of his living. In 1586, while visiting London, he was apprehended by one of Whitgift's pursuivants, carried before the archbishop at Lambeth, and, on refusing the oath again, was committed to the White Lion prison, where he was loaded with irons and treated with great severity. He was removed to another prison, and, on failing through illness to obey a citation of the archbishop, he was sentenced to deprivation and degradation, in spite of the intercession of the earls of Warwick and Huntingdon.

Upon his release and recovery he returned to Sedbergh, but was excluded from the pulpit of his former charge. He thereupon preached at his own house and other places, gathering large congregations to hear him. On learning this, Whitgift instigated Sandys to issue an attachment, and Wigginton was arrested by a pursuivant at Boroughbridge and conveyed to Lancaster Castle. Thence on 28 Feb. 1587 he despatched a letter to Sir Walter Mildmay, soliciting his assistance. He was released before December 1588, for in that month he was again arrested in London and brought before the high commissioners at Lambeth on the charge of being concerned in the authorship of the Mar-Prelate tracts. Though he denied the accusation he declined the oath tendered to him, and was committed to the Gatehouse, where he long remained in confinement.

During his imprisonment he was nearly involved in the punishment of the fanatic William Hacket [q. v.], whom he met at some time during a visit to Oundle, their common birthplace. He became a disciple, and was also the confidant, of another enthusiast, Edmund Coppinger [q. v.] About Easter 1591 Hacket came to London and visited Wigginton in prison. Wigginton made Hacket and Coppinger acquainted, and they both found a common cause for lamentation in the insufficiency of English ecclesiastical and social reform. It is doubtful how far Wigginton was privy to the after proceedings of the two enthusiasts, which terminated in the suicide of Coppinger and the execution of Hacket, but a pamphlet entitled 'The Fool's Bolt,' put into circulation by them, is ascribed to him (Strype, Annals of the Reformation, 1822, iv. 95-8), and it is probable that his confinement alone hindered him from involving himself more deeply.

About 1592 Wigginton was restored to the vicarage of Sedbergh by the direction of Burghley, and on 4 April 1597 he wrote to his benefactor, proposing the establishment of a seminary to furnish men fitted for controversy with the priests trained in the Roman catholic colleges on the continent, and presenting him with a manuscript treatise which he had composed against the papists, and which he proposed to style 'A paire of Kidles against the Philistynes of Rome' (Lansdowne MS. 84, art. 105).

The date of Wigginton's death is unknown. While in prison he composed 'A Treatise on Predestination.' He was also the author of 'Giles Wigginton his Catechisme' (London, 1589, 8vo),and of several theological treatises in manuscript, formerly in the possession of Dawson Turner [q. v.] An autograph letter is preserved in the British Museum (Lansdowne MS. 77, art. 61).

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 329-31; Bancroft's Dangerous Positions and Proceedings published and practised within this Hand, 1640, pp. 142-75; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, i. 418-28; Heylyn's Aerius Redivivus, 1670, pp. 304-7; Neal's Hist, of the Puritans, 1822, i. 377; Strype's Life of Whitgift, 1822, i. 550, 584, iii. 219; Sutcliffe's Answere unto Throckmorton, 1595; Platt's Hist, of Sedbergh, 1876, p. 17.]

E. I. C.