White, Thomas (1550?-1624) (DNB00)

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WHITE, THOMAS (1550?–1624), founder of Sion College, London, and of White's professorship of moral philosophy at Oxford, the son of John White, 'a Gloucestershire clothier' (Clode, Early History of the Merchant Taylors, 1888, ii. 333), was born about 1550 in Temple Street, Bristol, 'but descended from the Whites of Bedfordshire.' He entered as student of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, in 1566, graduated B.A. 25 June 1570, M.A. 12 Oct. 1573 (Boase, Register of the Univ. of Oxford, i. 279), took holy orders and 'became a noted and frequent preacher of God's word' (Wood, Athenae Oxon. 1815, ii. 351). He removed to London, and was rector of St. Gregory by St. Paul's, a short time before being made vicar of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, 23 Nov. 1575. In 1578 Francis Coldock printed for him 'A Sermon preached at Pawles Crosse on Sunday the ninth of December, 1576,' London, 8vo, in which he attacks the vices of the metropolis (pp. 45-8), 1 and specially refers to theatre-houses and playgoing; and also 'A Sermon preached at Pawles Crosse on Sunday the thirde of Nouember, 1577, in the time of the Plague,' London, 8vo. The Paul's Cross preachings against plays are referred to by Stephen Gosson (Playes confuted in Five Actions, 1590). On 11 Dec. 1581 he received the degree of B.D. and that of D.D., on 8 March 1584-5. Fuller states that White 'was afterwards related to Sir Henry Sidney [q. v.], lord deputy of Ireland, whose funeral sermon he made, being accounted a good preacher' (Worthies, 1811, ii. 299). It was printed under the title of 'A Godlie Sermon preached the XXI day of Iune, 1586, at Pensehurst in Kent, at the buriall of the late Sir Henrie Sidney,' London, 1586, 8vo. In 1588 he was collated to the prebend of Mora in St. Paul's Cathedral, and in 1589 he printed another 'Sermon at Paule's Crosse,' preached on the queen's day. He was appointed treasurer of Salisbury on 21 April 1590, canon of Christ Church, Oxford, 1591, and canon of Windsor 1593 (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Clark, Register of the Univ. of Oxford, pt. ii. p. 38, pt, iii. p. 82). In 1613 he erected a hospital in Temple St. [Bristol] called the Temple Hospital, for eight men and two women, and one man and one woman were afterwards added by himself. He endowed the same with lands and tenements of the yearly value of 52l.,' and in 1622 he gave to Bristol certain houses in Gray's Inn Lane, London, of the yearly value of 40l. to be applied to various charities (Barrett, Hist. and Antiq. of Bristol, 1789, p. 554). He long had friendly relations with the Merchant Taylors' Company, who, on 12 Dec. 1614, commenced negotiations for leasing certain gardens in Moorfields from him (Clode, ii. 333). White in his will made the company nominators to eight out of the twenty places provided in his almshouses at Sion College, and the company were also connected as auditors with the moral philosophy lecture which he had founded at Oxford in 1(521, with a stipend of 100l. to the reader; five exhibitions of 5l. each were made for scholars of Magdalen Hall, and 4l. given to the principal as well as other sums derived from the manor of Langdon Hill, Essex, conveyed to the university (Wood, Hist. and Antiq. of Oxford, 1796, ii. 335, ii. ii. 872).

He died on 1 March 1623-4, and was buried in the chancel of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street. In spite of his widely diffused benefactions there was no monument to his memory until 1876, when Sion College and the trustees of the charities at Bristol caused one, designed by Sir A. W. Blomfield, to be erected near his grave. Both of his wives were buried in the same church. After his death the university of Oxford honoured his memory in a public oration delivered by William Price (1597-1646) [q. v.], the first reader of the moral philosophy lecture founded by White, which was printed with some Latin and Greek verses, chiefly by members of Magdalen Hall, under the title of 'Schola Moralis Philosophiae Oxon. in funere Whiti pullata,' Oxford, 1624, sm. 4to. There is a copy of the book in the Bodleian Library. At the back of the title-page is a list of White's benefactions to Oxford. Some copies of the oration seem to have been published separately.

'He was accused for being a great pluralist, though I cannot learn that at once he had more than one cure of souls, the rest being dignities, as false is the aspersion of his being a great usurer' (Fuller, Worthies, 1811, ii. 299). Against these accusations his numerous charities during his life and by bequest are a sufficient answer. By his will, dated 1 Oct. 1623, besides a long list of smaller legacies, he left money for lectureships at St. Paul's, at St. Dunstan's, and one for the Newgate prisoners; but his chief dotation was 3,000l. for the purchase of premises 'fit to make a college for a corporation of all the ministers, parsons, vicars, lecturers, and curates within London and suburbs thereof; as also for a convenient house or place fast by, to make a convenient almeshouse for twenty persons, viz. ten men and ten women.' This was afterwards known as Sion College, designed as a guild of the clergy of the city of London and its suburbs, placing them in the same position as most other callings and professions who enjoyed charters of incorporation, and with common privileges and property. All his Latin folios were left to the dean and chapter of Windsor, and it is worthy of record that scarcely any place whence he derived income or dignity was forgotten. He requested John Vicars, John Downeham, and John Simpson to examine and perfect his manuscript sermons and lectures on the Hebrews, and print them, as well as a volume of 'Miscellanea,' from his papers. These two wishes were not carried out. To the exertions of John Simpson, his cousin, and one of his executors are chiefly due the charter obtained in 1630 incorporating the college, and also the erection of the building at London Wall in 1629, where the library remained until its removal to the new building on the Victoria Embankment in 1886. Dr. Simpson was the builder and founder of the great library which now forms the most striking feature of the institution (Reading, History of Sion College, 1724, pp. 8-15). 'In the chamber of Bristol is his picture with some verses under it, which end "Quique Albos coeli portamque invenit apertam"' (Barrett, Bristol, p. 652). There is also a portrait at Sion College.

[Information from the Rev. W. H. Milman, Mr. E. W. B. Nicholson, and Mr. H. Guppy. See also Milman's Account of Sion College and of its Library, 1880, and his Brief Account of the Library of Sion College, 1897; Le Neve's Fasti Eccles. Anglicanae, 1854, ii. 648; Hennessy's Novum Repertorium Eccles. Paroch. Londinense, 1898, pp. 38, 39, 138; Madan's Early Oxford Press, 1895, pp. 121-2; Stowe's Survey of London (Strype), 1754, ii. 163-4.]

H. R. T.