Howell, Thomas (1588-1646) (DNB00)

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HOWELL, THOMAS, D.D. (1588–1646), bishop of Bristol, son of Thomas Howell by a daughter of James David Powell, was born at Bryn, in the parish of Llangammarch in Brecknockshire, in 1588. His father was vicar of Llangammarch, and also of Abernant in Carmarthenshire. James Howell [q. v.] was a younger brother, and some of the ‘Epistolæ Ho-elianæ’ profess to be addressed to the bishop.’ At the age of sixteen he was admitted a scholar of Jesus College, Oxford, of which he subsequently became fellow. He graduated B.A. 20 Feb. 1608-9, M.A. 9 July 1612, B.D. and D.D. 8 July 1630. On taking holy orders he gained speedy celebrity as a preacher, and was appointed by Charles I one of his chaplains . He also received the rectory of West Horsley in Surrey, and that of St. Stephen's, Walbrook, London, on 13 April 1635. The latter he resigned in 1641. He was appointed by the king to a canonry of Windsor on 16 Nov. 1636, and on the promotion of Dr. Henry King [q.v.] to the see of Chichester, received from the crown the sinecure rectory of Fulham on 25 March 1642. Though regarded ‘by many as a puritan preacher’ (Wood, Athenæ, iv. 804), he was early marked out for attack by the parliamentary party, was driven from his London rectory, was subsequently sequestered for non-residence, and was expelled from West Horsley. He took refuge at Oxford, and on the death of Thomas Westfield [q. v.], bishop of Bristol, was selected by Charles I to succeed him in that important stronghold, just recovered to the royal cause, the king, we are told, 'promising himself good effects from his great candour, solid judgment, sweet temper, and the good repute in which he was held' (ib.) He was consecrated by Ussher in August 1644, and was the last bishop consecrated in England for sixteen years. Howell's episcopate was short and disastrous. Bristol was surrendered to Fairfax by Prince Rupert on 10 Sept. 1645, and all the royalist clergy were violently ejected. The bishop was among the chief sufferers. His palace was pillaged. The lead was stripped off the roof under which his wife lay in childbed, and the exposure caused her death. The bishop himself was so roughly handled that he died in the following year, being buried in his cathedral, one word alone marking the spot, 'Expergiscar.' The citizens of Bristol undertook the education of his children, 'in grateful memory of their most worthy father' (Barrett, History of Bristol, p. 330; Wood, Athenæ. 805). Wood records, with evident exaggeration, that while on entering on his episcopate he found but few well affected to the church, he left on his death few ill affected to it (ib.) He is described by Lloyd (Memoirs, p.522) as 'a person of great clearness, candour, solidness, sweetness, and eloquence, with an insight into state affairs, as well as those of his own office.' Of his preaching Fuller writes: 'His sermons, like the waters of Siloah, softly gliding on with a smooth stream, his matter, with a lawful and laudable felony, did steal secretly the hearts of the hearers.'

By his wife, Honor Bromfield of Chalcroft, Hampshire, he had two daughters and six sons, including John, a London merchant; Thomas, fellow of New College, Oxford; George, B.D., rector of Buckland, Surrey; and Arthur, a London merchant, at one time imprisoned as a slave in Turkey.

[Wood's Athenæ, iii. 842, iv. 804; Epistolæ Ho-elianæ; Fuller's Worthies, ii. 575; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, p.3; Le Neve, i. 216, iii. 401; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 540, 608; Harl. MS. 4181, p. 258 (pedigree of the Howell family).]

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