Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Owen, John (1580-1651)

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OWEN, JOHN (1580–1651), bishop of St. Asaph, eldest son of Owen Owens (d. 1593) and Jane, his second wife. The father graduated M.A. at Cambridge in 1564, but incorporated at Oxford on 21 Feb. 1565–6; he became rector, successively, of Burton-Latimer, Northamptonshire, Llangeinwen in Anglesey (Rowlands, Mona Antiqua Restaurata, p. 344), and archdeacon of Anglesey, being the last archdeacon who held it pleno jure, the bishops of Bangor subsequently holding it in commendam. He was buried at Burton-Latimer on 21 March 1592–1593, having married, first, Margaret Matthews, and, secondly, Jane, a daughter of Robert Griffith, esq., of Carnarvon, by whom he had five sons and three daughters.

John was baptised at Burton-Latimer on 8 Nov. 1580, and graduated B.A. from Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1596–7. He subsequently became fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and proceeded M.A. in 1600 and D.D. in 1618. He was incorporated M.A. at Oxford on 16 July 1600. He remained at Cambridge for some years, and appears as taxor there in 1608; but one of the same name was presented to the parsonage of Aberfraw, Anglesey, on 28 Feb. 1604–5 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. James I, vii. 82). In 1608 he succeeded to the rectory of Burton-Latimer and was appointed chaplain to Prince Charles. In 1625 he received the rectories of Carlton, Northamptonshire, and of Cottingham in the same county.

Owen was favourably known to Laud, and was liked by Charles I. Accordingly, on 18 Aug. 1629, he was elected bishop of St. Asaph. Lloyd says he was chosen as an expedient third party, Charles being much troubled by two competitors (Lloyd, Memoirs, p. 569; Fuller, Worthies, ii. 509; (Cal. State Papers, Dom., Car. I, cxlviii. 34). He was consecrated at Croydon on 20 Sept., instituted on 23 Sept., and had his temporalities restored on 26 Sept. 1629. In the same month, on 15 Sept. 1629, he received a grant to hold in commendam the archdeaconry of St. Asaph and other benefices within his diocese, and that of Bangor to a value not exceeding 150l. per annum (ib. ccxxxviii. 38). He was held in much esteem in his diocese, where he boasted that he was connected by descent with every family of quality. He was active in the pastoral work of his bishopric (see a return of the state of his diocese in 1633, in Lambeth MS. No. 943), and was the first to institute a series of Welsh sermons to be preached in the parish church the first Sunday of each month by such members of the parish as derived a portion of their income from its tithes. He superintended improvements in the structure of the cathedral, including the building of a new organ in 1635 (Willis, Survey of St. Asaph, App. No. 37). Owen held six rectories with his bishopric, mostly in commendam.

In the civil wars he suffered for his loyalty to Charles. Having joined in the petition of the eleven bishops on 30 Dec. 1641 (Commons' Journals, ii. 363), he was impeached of high treason and imprisoned (Lloyd says twice) in the Tower. On 6 April following, when his bishopric was sequestrated, he was allowed by parliament 500l. per annum. In Lloyd and Walker this appears as a fine of 500l. on composition, but there is no record of his compounding (see Calendar of the Committee for Compounding). The sequestration of his rectories, the sale of his episcopal property and desecration of his palace were matters of course. Owen died on 15 Oct. 1651, at Perth Kinsey, and was buried in the cathedral church of St. Asaph, under the bishops' throne (21 Oct.).

Owen married, first: Sarah Hodelow of Cambridgeshire, by whom he had a son, Robert Owen, fellow of All Souls, Oxford, B.C.L. on 3 Dec. 1660, and shortly after chancellor of the diocese of St. Asaph; and a daughter, married to Dr. William Griffith, chancellor of Bangor and St. Asaph. The first wife was buried at Burton-Latimer in February 1621. Owen's second wife was Elizabeth Gray; and his third wife, Elin, daughter of Robert Wyn of Conway.

The assertion that he was the author of ‘Herod and Pilate’ is incorrect (see Wood, Athenæ Oxon. iv. 831). He is stated in the ‘State Papers’ (Dom. Car. I. cccclxxiv. No. 64) to have composed in Welsh a treatise on the ten commandments. About the beginning of 1641 he prayed the king in a petition to authorise the printing of it.

[Foster's Alumni; Oxf. Univ. Reg. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), ed. Clark; Lansdowne MSS. 982, ff. 185–6, 985, f. 182; Addit. MS. 15671, ff. 40, 46, 49, 67; Thomas's Hist. of St. Asaph, pp. 98, 201, 227; Browne Willis's Survey of St. Asaph; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ii. 880, iv. 831, and Fasti, i. 170, 289; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, ii. 1; Lloyd's Memoirs, p. 569; Cooper's Athenæ; Williams's Biogr. Dict. of Eminent Welshmen; Bridges's Northamptonshire, ii. 224–5; Fuller's Worthies, ii. 507; Rowland's Mona Antiqua Restaurata, p. 344; Commons' Journals, ii. 235, 363, 514; State Papers, Dom. passim; information from the Rev. Francis B. Newman, rector of Burton-Latimer; the Rev. J. Jones, rector of Llanfyllin; the Rev. Hugh Jones, rector of Llanroost; the Rev. T. A. Vaughan, rector of Rhuddlan; the Rev. T. F. Davies, vicar of Whitford.]

W. A. S.