Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pilkington, James
PILKINGTON, JAMES (1520?–1576), first protestant bishop of Durham, the third son of Richard Pilkington of Rivington Hall, in the parish of Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire, was born there about 1520. His mother was Alice, daughter of Laurence Asshawe or Hassall, and sister to Roger Hassall of Charnock Heath, Lancashire (Foster, Durham Pedigrees, p. 255). Leonard Pilkington [q. v.] was a younger brother. When he was sixteen he entered at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, whence he migrated to St. John's College. He graduated B.A. in 1538–9, and was elected fellow of St. John's on 26 March 1539. In 1542 he proceeded M.A., and in 1551 B.D. On 3 April 1548 he became one of the preachers of St. John's College, and on 3 July following was admitted a senior fellow of the college, of which he was appointed president in 1550. Strongly inclined by education and conviction in favour of the Reformation, he forwarded the change of religion by taking part in a ‘disputation’ on transubstantiation held at Cambridge on 24 June 1549, and by lecturing in the public schools of the university on the Acts of the Apostles. Edward VI, in December 1550, appointed him vicar of Kendal in Westmoreland, but in the next year he resigned the benefice and returned to Cambridge. When the Marian persecutions began in 1554, he fled, with other protestants, to the continent, living in succession at Zürich, Basle, Geneva, and Frankfort. While at Basle he lectured on Ecclesiastes, St. Peter's Epistles, and Galatians. He was at Frankfort when Queen Mary died, in 1558, and was the first to sign, if he did not also write, the ‘Peaceable Letter’ sent to the English church at Geneva.
Returning to England, he was appointed one of the commissioners to revise the Book of Common Prayer, which was begun in December 1558 and completed in April 1559. During the latter year he acted on the commission for visiting Cambridge University in order to receive the oath of allegiance from the resident members of the university. On 20 July 1559 he was admitted master of St. John's College and regius professor of divinity, and was afterwards associated with Sir John Cheke [q. v.] in settling the pronunciation of Greek. On 8 March 1559–60 he preached at St. Paul's Cross in favour of assisting scholars at the universities and increasing the incomes of the clergy. At this period he was termed bishop-elect of Winchester. He delivered the funeral oration on the exhumation of the remains of Martin Bucer and Paulus Fagius at a solemn commemoration held at Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, on 20 July 1560. In the course of this year he published his ‘Exposition upon Aggeus,’ and was married to Alice, daughter of Sir John Kingsmill. The marriage was apparently private, and he is said to have concealed the fact at first, probably because of the prejudice of the queen against married clergy. Towards the close of 1560 he was appointed bishop of Durham, and was thus the first protestant occupant of the see. The royal assent was given on 20 Feb. 1560–1, his consecration took place on 2 March, and his enthronement on 10 April. Two days prior to the last date he preached at St. Mary Spital, London, before the lord mayor. Shortly afterwards (October 1561) he resigned his mastership of St. John's, Cambridge, wherein he was succeeded by his brother Leonard. The bishop had three brothers in the church, and took care to provide for them all. Leonard was presented to the rectory of Whitburn in 1563, John was made archdeacon of Durham, and Lawrence was collated to the vicarage of Norham in 1565. On 8 June 1561 he preached a memorable sermon at St. Paul's Cross on the causes of the destruction of St. Paul's Cathedral by fire. This discourse, in which he denounced certain abuses of the church, occasioned an angry reply from John Morwen, chaplain to Bishop Bonner. Pilkington then issued a ‘confutation’ in which he vigorously followed up his original exposure of the Roman catholic church. In June 1562 he preached a sermon before the queen, in which he exposed the pretensions of Ellys, the self-styled prophet. He had a hand in settling the Thirty-nine articles promulgated in 1562. A letter written by him to Archbishop Parker in 1561 or 1564 sets forth in graphic terms the general negligence and relaxed morals of the clergy in the north of England. In another letter, addressed to Dudley, earl of Leicester, in 1564, he showed himself favourable to discontinuing the use of vestments. He was a great stickler for the rights and emoluments of his see, and on 10 May 1564 obtained from the queen confirmation of the various charters relating to his bishopric. In June 1566 he procured restitution of certain temporalities, but only in consideration of a heavy annual fine to the crown. At a later date (1570) he was unsuccessful in a suit for the forfeited estate of the Earl of Westmorland, but in 1573 he successfully resisted the claim of the crown to the fisheries at Norham. During the northern rebellion of 1569 in favour of the Roman catholic revival, when the insurgents broke into Durham Cathedral, Pilkington and his family thought it expedient to flee for their lives. After his return to his diocese he wrote to Sir William Cecil, secretary of state, an account of the miserable condition of the country, and he subsequently brought under the notice of Cecil the teachings and machinations of the English catholics at Louvain, directed against the Anglican establishment. He was one of the commissioners for the visitation of King's College, Cambridge, in February 1569–70.
In 1561 and 1567 he held visitations of his cathedral, and on the second occasion the injunctions for the removal of superstitious books and ornaments and defacing idolatrous figures from the church plate were carried out with great rigour. The palaces and other edifices in his see were left by him in a wofully ruinous state, and many buildings—some, at least, of which probably were already in bad repair—were demolished by him. Strype characterises him as ‘a grave and truly reverend man, of great piety and learning, and such frugal simplicity of life as well became a modest christian prelate;’ and this character is borne out by contemporary writers, by one of whom he is said to have been ‘much more angry in his speeches than in his doings.’ On 30 Jan. 1565–6 he granted a charter of incorporation to the citizens of Durham to be governed by an alderman and twelve burgesses. He also incorporated several of the trade companies of the city. Stimulated, it is said, by the example of his friend Bernard Gilpin, he founded and endowed a free grammar school at Rivington, which was opened in 1566, and he encouraged the foundation of a free school at Darlington. The church at Rivington was founded by his father.
Pilkington died at Bishop Auckland on 23 Jan. 1575–6, aged 55, leaving a wife and two daughters, Deborah and Ruth. He was buried at Auckland, but his remains were removed to Durham Cathedral and interred before the high altar on 24 May 1576. His tomb, now destroyed, contained a very long Latin inscription. In his will, dated 4 Feb. 1571–2, he desired to be buried with ‘as few popish ceremonies as may be, or vain cost,’ and he left his library at Auckland to ‘the school at Rivington and to poor collegers and others.’ None of his books remain at Rivington.
The church at Rivington contains a curious painting representing the bishop's parents and their twelve children. The only known portrait of the bishop is given in this picture, which was damaged by fire in 1834, but has been restored from a copy taken in 1821.
Among his recorded writings are several which were perhaps never printed. Those that survive are: 1. ‘Disputation on the Sacrament with W. Glynn, D.D.’ (in Foxe's ‘Actes and Monuments’). 2. ‘Sermon before the University of Cambridge on the Restitution of Bucer and Fagius’ (in Foxe's ‘Actes and Monuments,’ and in Latin in Bucer's ‘Scripta Anglicana’). 3. ‘Aggeus the Prophete declared by a large Commentary,’ London, 1560, 8vo. 4. ‘Aggeus and Abdias, Prophetes; the one corrected, the other newly added,’ &c., London, 1562, 8vo. 5. ‘A Confutacion of an Addicion, with an Apologye written and cast in the Stretes of West Chester, against the causes of burning Paules Church,’ &c., 1563, 8vo. 6. ‘A Godlie Exposition upon certaine Chapters of Nehemiah,’ Cambridge, 1585, 4to; edited by John Foxe. The above, with extracts from the statutes of Rivington School, and a ‘Tractatus de Predestinatione,’ from the manuscript in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, were collected as Pilkington's works for the Parker Society (ed. Scholefield) in 1842. He wrote the homilies against gluttony, drunkenness, and excess of apparel.
The bishop's younger brother, John (1529?–1603), matriculated as a sizar of St. John's College, Cambridge, in May 1544, obtained a scholarship there, and is commemorated for his learning in Ascham's account of the college (Strype, Cheke, p. 49). He graduated B.A. in 1546, M.A. 1549, B.D. 1561, and was elected a fellow of Pembroke Hall in 1547. He was prebendary (of Mapesbury) in St. Paul's Cathedral from 20 Nov. 1559 to 1562, was ordained priest by Bishop Grindal in January 1560, was collated next year by his brother James, whose chaplain he was, to a Durham prebend, and from 1562 until his death in the autumn of 1603 was archdeacon of Durham and rector of Easington. He was buried at St. Oswald's, Durham, on 31 Oct. 1603. He appears to have married Ann Forde of London in November 1564.[Strype's Works (see references in general index, 1828); Scholefield's Memoirs in Pilkington's Works (Parker Soc.), 1842; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 344; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, ii. 31, 151, 154, 161; Baker's St. John's, Cambridge (ed. Mayor); Harland and Axon's Genealogy of the Pilkingtons, 1875; Pilkington's Lancashire Family of Pilkington, 1894 (with portrait, also in Trans. Historic Soc. of Lancashire and Cheshire, 1893); Durham Wills (Surtees Soc.), ii. 8; Machyn's Diary (Camden Soc.), 1847; Foxe's Actes and Monuments; Surtees's Durham; Gent. Mag. November 1860, p. 484; Fuller's Worthies and Church History; Milman's St. Paul's Cathedral; 1868, p. 277; Longman's St. Paul's Cathedral, 1873, p. 57; Gilpin's Bernard Gilpin, 1830, p. 147; Mullinger's Univ. of Cambridge, ii. 1884.]