Colfe, Abraham (DNB00)

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COLFE or CALF, ABRAHAM (1580–1657), divine, son of the Rev. Richard Colfe, D.D., prebendary of Canterbury, by his first wife, whose maiden name was Thorneton, was born at Canterbury, 7 Aug. 1580, of a family that had settled at Calais, and had come to England after the capture of that town [see Colfe, Isaac]. He was educated in the free grammar school attached to the cathedral, and thence went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated in arts. He was punished by George Abbot [q. v.] for supporting the Earl of Essex in 1601. He became curate of Lewisham, Kent, in 1604. On 30 Jan. 1609 he was presented by the dean and chapter of Canterbury to the rectory of St. Leonards, Eastcheap, London, but continued to live at Lewisham, and on the death of Saravia in 1610, succeeded him in the vicarage on the presentation of James I. In or about 1612 he married Margaret, daughter of John Hollard, smith, and widow of Jasper Valentine, tanner, of Lewisham. During 1614 and 1615 he was much occupied in helping his Lewisham parishioners to defend their rights over Westwood common, and he has left a short account of the course and successful issue of the suit. While Colfe seldom discharged the duties of hisnLondon parish in person, his preaching is said to have been acceptable to the religious part of the congregation there. He was one of the earliest members of Sion College, and was a benefactor to the library. About 1644 some of the Lewisham people, 'at the instigation,' he writes, 'of their impudent lecturer,' tried to turn him out of that living by proceeding against him before the committee for plundered ministers. In March of the same year he lost his wife, whom he describes on her tombstone as having been 'above forty years a willing nurse, midwife, surgeon, and in part physitian, to all both riche and poore.' In 1646 or 1647 he was forced to give up his London living to Henry Rodborough, one of the scribes to the assembly of divines, but kept Lewisham till his death. Although his father had not left him any land, and he had bestowed 420l. on his brothers, Colfe as early as 1626 determined to buy land to found and endow charitable institutions, and in 1634 proposed to convey certain land he had acquired to the Company of Leathersellers for pious uses. In 1652 he founded and opened a free grammar school at Lewisham. He died 5 Dec. 1657, in his seventy-eighth year. He had no children, and by his will, dated 7 Sept. 1656, left all his property for charitable purposes. In 1662 his trustees built almshouses at Lewisham in accordance with his directions, and in 1664 the Wardens and Society of the Leathersellers of London were by act of parliament constituted owners and governors of his charitable institutions. Among Colfe's foundations is a library for the use of his grammar school and of the clergy and gentlemen of the hundred of Blackheath.

[All that is known of Colfe is contained in W. H. Black's Bibliotheca Colfanæ Catalogus; Hasted's Kent, i. 76. See also Newcourt's Repertorium, ii. 391, 392, where the error of Wood in confusing Abraham with his brother Isaac (Athenæ Oxon., Bliss, iii. 390) is pointed out.]

W. H.