Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Negus, William

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NEGUS, WILLIAM (1559?–1616), puritan minister, born about 1559, matriculated as a sizar of Trinity College, Cambridge, in June 1573, and graduated B.A. 1577–8. He was lecturer or beneficed in Essex (probably Peldon) soon after 1581. In 1582 he became a member of an association of Essex ministers which was formed in that year, and he continued with it until at least 1586. He was first suspended (1583–4) for refusing Whitgift's three articles and the oath, but in October 1584 he informed the meeting of the association that the bishop had proceeded against him contrary to law, ‘and that he might preach again.’ In February 1585 he ‘took his journey to London for his restoring to liberty in his calling, and he was at that time restored to his public ministry again before he came back to us.’ He thereupon settled at Ipswich on a year's agreement with the people, probably as assistant to Dr. Robert Norton [q. v.], common preacher there. Troubles arose between the two, and Negus seems to have displaced Norton. But his own agreement with the town was broken by the people before its expiry, and Negus ‘accepted a good call’ to the church at Leigh, where he entered shortly before 3 May 1586. Papers preserved in the Norrice MSS. relating to his suspension, and a petition of the inhabitants of Leigh pressing him not to stand on trifles in matter of the ceremonies, must refer to a second suspension, doubtless in 1587. If so, this suspension also was recalled, and Negus lived quietly till James's reign, when ‘he was again in trouble, and at length deprived before August 1609,’ at which time his successor was instituted to Leigh. Negus continued to live in the parish, where he had a house, and was buried in Leigh Church on 8 Jan. 1615–1616. His will (apparently holograph), in which he gave 3l. to the poor of Leigh, is in the Commissary Court of Essex, dated 16 Jan. 1615, and proved 4 March. His gravestone was ejected from the church in 1841.

Jonathan (miscalled John in Newcourt's ‘Repertorium’), one of the sons of William Negus, was vicar of the adjoining parish of Prittlewell, and died in 1633.

Another William Negus matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 13 Oct. 1598; graduated B.A. 1601, and M.A. 1604. He was rector of Gayton-le-Wold, Lincolnshire, 1611, and rector of Spelsbury, Oxfordshire, 1613 (see Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714).

Negus ‘of Leigh’ was author of ‘Man's active Obedience, or the Power of Godliness … or a Treatise of Faith worthily called Precious Faith … by Master William Negus, lately Minister of God's Word at Lee in Essex’ (pp. xxii, 341), London, 1619, 4to (dedicated to Sir Thomas Smith by Jonathan, son of William Negus, and with a preface signed by Stephen Egerton and by John Syme, rector of Leigh in succession to Negus).

[The main authority is the original Acts of the association referred to, formerly in the possession of Sir Henry Spelman, now in that of J. H. Gurney, esq., of Keswick, Norwich. A transcript belongs to the present writer. This manuscript proves that the statements that Negus was made rector of Leigh in 1581, and was suspended at Leigh in 1584, are incorrect, as also Newcourt's date (31 March 1585) of his institution to Leigh. See also Roger Norrice MSS., A586, and RM/11, p. 92 (Dr. Williams's Library); Wodderspoon's Ipswich, p. 366; Neal's Puritans, i. 345; Brook's Puritans, i. 296; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr.; David's Nonconformity in Essex, pp. 115, 132; Newcourt's Repertorium; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; information from H. W. King, esq., Leigh Hall, Essex, and J. C. Gould, esq., Loughton, Essex.]

W. A. S.