Stratford, Nicholas (DNB00)
STRATFORD, NICHOLAS (1633–1707), bishop of Chester, was born at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, and baptised there on 8 Sept. 1633, his father (of the same name) being variously described as a tailor and a shoemaker. He matriculated at Oxford 29 July 1651 as a commoner of Trinity College, of which he became a scholar on 17 June 1652. He graduated B.A. 25 Jan. 1653–4 and M.A. 20 June 1656. He became a probationer-fellow of his college 4 June 1656, and a fellow 20 June 1657. Having taken holy orders, he soon made a reputation as a preacher, and in August 1667, by the interest of John Dolben (1625–1686) [q. v.], bishop of Rochester, with whom he was connected by marriage, he was appointed by the king warden of the collegiate church of Manchester, which was also the parish church of the town. Succeeding in this position the puritan Richard Heyrick [q. v.], Stratford had a difficult task to accomplish in restoring the former Anglican mode of worship. By his prudence and conciliatory conduct, however, he achieved his object without losing the respect and affection of his chapter and parishioners. He proved in all respects an excellent warden, revising the statutes, vindicating the rights and increasing the revenue of his college, while by his influence and personal example he induced several rich parishioners to bequeath large benefactions to the poor of the town. While still retaining his wardenship Stratford was made in 1670 a prebendary of Lincoln, in 1672 rector of Llansantffraid-yn-Mechain, in 1673 chaplain-in-ordinary to the king, and in 1674 dean of St. Asaph. He also held the donative of Llanrwst. He had by this time taken his divinity degrees, graduating B.D. in 1664 and D.D. in 1673.
Towards the close of Charles II's reign political and religious feeling ran high in Manchester. Though a high-churchman and a tory, Stratford was unable to support the policy of the court party, and this, together with his forbearing conduct towards the dissenters, exposed him to fierce attack. Finding his position intolerable, he resigned his wardenship in 1684 and withdrew to London, where he had been nominated to the vicarage of St. Mary, Aldermanbury, by the parishioners. Here he remained till the Revolution, when he was appointed to the vacant see of Chester. He was consecrated at Fulham on 15 Sept. 1689, and was allowed to hold the rich rectory of Wigan in commendam with his bishopric.
Stratford was one of the prelates to whom was committed in 1689 the abortive scheme of revising the prayer-book. In 1700 he founded a hospital in Chester for the maintenance, instruction, and apprenticeship of thirty-five poor boys. He was one of the first and most zealous supporters of the societies established in the beginning of the eighteenth century for the ‘reformation of manners.’ He was appointed one of the governors of Queen Anne's bounty in the first charter, dated 3 Nov. 1704. As a bishop he merits high commendation. He was a constant resident in his diocese, which he ruled with gentle firmness; he looked after the interests and well-being of his clergy; he repaired his cathedral; and he acquitted himself with zeal and learning in the Roman controversy.
Stratford died at Westminster on 12 Feb. 1707, and was buried at Chester on the 20th of the same month. By his wife, the daughter of Dr. Stephen Luddington, archdeacon of Stow, he had two sons and two daughters. His only surviving son, William, was archdeacon of Richmond (1703–29) and canon of Christ Church, Oxford (1703–29), and, dying unmarried, 7 May 1729, bequeathed large estates to trustees for augmenting poor livings in the north and for other pious uses.
There is a fine portrait of the bishop at Foxholes, which was engraved by Thomson for Hibbert-Ware's ‘Foundations of Manchester.’ Another original portrait is at the episcopal palace at Chester. The bishop's printed works consist of a charge (1692), sermons, and tracts on points of the Roman controversy.[Raines's Rectors of Manchester and Wardens of the Collegiate Church (Chetham Soc.); Bridgeman's Church and Manor of Wigan; Hibbert-Ware's Foundations of Manchester; Earwaker's Local Gleanings relating to Lancashire and Cheshire; Ormerod's Cheshire; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Wood's Fasti; information supplied by President of Trinity College, Oxford.]