Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Estlin, John Prior

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ESTLIN, JOHN PRIOR (1747–1817), unitarian minister, born at Hinckley, Leicestershire, 9 April (O.S.) 1747, was the son of Thomas Estlin, hosier, by his wife, formerly a Miss Prior. His education was taken by his mother's brother, the Rev. John Prior, vicar of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and chaplain to the Earl of Moira. In 1764 he entered the academy at Warrington, while the divinity chair was filled by Dr. Aikin. Here he made up his mind that he could not subscribe to the articles of the established church, although he still desired to become a minister of religion; and in 1770 he accepted an invitation to become the colleague of the Rev. Thomas Wright at the unitarian chapel at Lewin's Mead, Bristol, and entered upon his duties in January 1771. He soon afterwards opened a school at St. Michael's Hill, Bristol, which met with great success, some of his pupils rising to eminence in parliament and the professions. His pupils held him in so much esteem that they obtained the degree of LL.D. (Glasgow) for him without his knowledge. It was conferred in 1807. Coleridge, Southey, Priestley, Mrs. Barbauld, and Robert Hall were among the friends attracted by his attainments and fine generous character. His publications, of which a list is given at the close of Mrs. Barbauld's ‘Memoir’ of him (Monthly Repository, xii. 373–5), were numerous, and date from 1790. His ‘Familiar Lectures’ were published in 1818, and are preceded by a reprint of Mrs. Barbauld's ‘Memoir.’ About 1816 his sight began to fail; in 1817 he resigned his pulpit, receiving a large sum of money from his congregation as a testimonial; and preaching his farewell sermon on 22 June, he retired to a cottage he had built for himself at his favourite summer haunt, Southerndown, Glamorganshire. There, on Sunday 10 Aug., he was seized with an effusion of blood on the chest and died immediately, aged 70. He was buried in the graveyard of Lewin's Mead chapel.

Estlin married first a Miss Coates, secondly a Miss Bishop, both of Bristol. By his first wife he had one son; by the second three sons and three daughters. One of these last three sons was the surgeon John Bishop Estlin [q. v.]

[Annual Register for 1817, p. 146; Memoir of John Bishop Estlin, p. 4; Christian Reformer, iii. 391–2; Monthly Review, vols. vi. xxiv. xxxvi. xxxviii. lxxvi.; Monthly Repository, xii. 373–5.]

J. H.