Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pilkington, Leonard

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PILKINGTON, LEONARD (1527?–1599), master of St. John's College, Cambridge, fifth son of Richard Pilkington, lord of Rivington Manor, and Alice, daughter of Laurence Asshawe or Hassall of Charnock Heath, and brother of James Pilkington [q. v.], was descended from an ancient Lancashire family, and received his education at St. John's College, Cambridge. He proceeded B.A. in 1543–4, and on 24 March 1545–6 was admitted a fellow of his college. In 1552 he was appointed preacher of his college, being then in deacon's orders. After the accession of Mary he was ejected from his fellowship, and fled with his brother to Frankfort, where he joined the reformed church, composed chiefly of refugees, in that city. On the accession of Elizabeth he returned to Cambridge, and was a second time elected (27 Dec. 1559) senior fellow and preacher of the college. On 20 March 1560–1 he was collated to the rectory of Middleton in Teesdale; and on 19 Oct. following, on his brother's promotion to the see of Durham, was elected to succeed him as master of St. John's College. In the same year he was licensed one of the university preachers, was admitted B.D., and appointed to the regius professorship of divinity. This latter appointment he resigned, however, in the following year, being, as Baker conjectures, ‘either weary of the charge or not so equal to the business.’ The rectory of Whitburn in the county of Durham in some measure compensated for the loss; but he took so little pains to conceal his puritan sympathies within his own college that his retention of the mastership became difficult, and when, in 1564, it became known that Elizabeth was intending to visit the university, he deemed it prudent to resign. His brother's influence obtained for him a canonry in the cathedral of Durham (1 Aug. 1567); but having failed to present himself on the occasion of a visitation by the chancellor of the diocese, he was excommunicated (6 Feb. 1577–8), although absolved a few days after. In 1581–2 he visited his college at Cambridge, and was twice entertained at the expense of the society. In 1592 he was appointed treasurer of Durham Cathedral. He died in August 1599, and his will, dated 16 Nov. 1591, was proved in the following September.

He was twice married. His first wife, Catharine, he married abroad; she died before 1559. By her he had five sons and two daughters. Of the former three survived him: Barnabas, married to Isabella Natrasse, who died in 1607; Joseph, who died in 1602–3; and Nehemiah. Of the daughters, Alice married Francis Laycock, esq.; the other, Grace, Dr. Robert Hutton, nephew of the archbishop of York. Pilkington's second wife was Jane Dyllycotes, a lady of French extraction, and the widow of Richard Barnes, D.D., who had succeeded to the see of Durham on the death of James Pilkington.

Having acquired a considerable property in Cleavedon and Whitburn, Pilkington was able to make ample provision for his family; and his will occupies four closely printed pages in Lieutenant-colonel Pilkington's ‘History.’ He was a benefactor both to the university library at Cambridge and to the library of his college. Although unduly biased by his puritan leanings, he appears to have been an efficient administrator. His theological attainments were probably somewhat slender; and in Baker's opinion he was ‘a good preacher rather than a great divine.’

[Baker's Hist. of St. John's College, ed. Mayor; Pilkington's History of the Lancashire Family of Pilkington; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. vol. ii.; Mullinger's Hist. of the University of Cambridge, vol. ii.]

J. B. M.