Biography of Bishop Thomas Sprat 1635-1713

In 1635 Bishop Thomas Sprat was born in Beaminster, Dorset.

In 1660 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 25) was appointed Prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral.

In 1663 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 28) was elected Fellow of the Royal Society.

Four Days' Battle

Evelyn's Diary. 04 Jul 1666. The solemn Fast-day. Dr. Meggot preached an excellent discourse before the King (age 36) on the terrors of God's judgments. After sermon, I waited on my Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (age 49) and Bishop of Winchester (age 47), where the Dean of Westminster (age 31) spoke to me about putting into my hands the disposal of fifty pounds, which the charitable people of Oxford had sent to be distributed among the sick and wounded seamen since the battle. Hence, I went to the Lord Chancellor's (age 57) to joy him of his Royal Highness's (age 32) second son, now born at St. James's [Map]; and to desire the use of the Star-chamber for our Commissioners to meet in, Painters' Hall, Queenhithe not being so convenient.

In 1669 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 34) was appointed Canon Westminster Abbey.

Evelyn's Diary. 10 Jul 1669. After this ribaldry, the Proctors made their speeches. Then began the music art, vocal and instrumental, above in the balustrade corridor opposite to the Vice-Chancellor's seat. Then Dr. Wallis, the mathematical Professor, made his oration, and created one Doctor of music according to the usual ceremonies of gown (which was of white damask), cap, ring, kiss, etc. Next followed the disputations of the Inceptor-Doctors in Medicine, the speech of their Professor, Dr. Hyde, and so in course their respective creations. Then disputed the Inceptors of Law, the speech of their Professor, and creation. Lastly, Inceptors of Theology: Dr. Compton (age 37) (brother of the Earl of Northampton) being junior, began with great modesty and applause; so the rest. After which, Dr. Tillotson (age 38), Dr. Sprat (age 34), etc., and then Dr. Allestree's (age 47) speech, the King's (age 39) Professor, and their respective creations. Last of all, the Vice-Chancellor, shutting up the whole in a panegyrical oration, celebrating their benefactor and the rest, apposite to the occasion.

In 1670 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 35) was appointed Rector of Uffington Church, Stamford.

Evelyn's Diary. 09 Aug 1675. Dr. Sprat (age 40), prebend of Westminster, and Chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham (age 47), preached on the 3d Epistle of Jude, showing what the primitive faith was, how near it and how excellent that of the Church of England, also the danger of departing from it.

In 1676 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 41) was appointed Chaplain to King Charles II of England Scotland and Ireland (age 45).

In 1679 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 44) was appointed Lecturer at St Margaret's Church, Westminster [Map].

Evelyn's Diary. 23 Nov 1679. Dr. Allestree (age 57) preached before the household on St. Luke xi. 2; Dr. Lloyd (age 42) on Matt. xxiii. 20, before the King (age 49), showing with how little reason the Papists applied those words of our blessed Savior to maintain the pretended infallibility they boast of. I never heard a more Christian and excellent discourse; yet were some offended that he seemed to say the Church of Rome was a true church; but it was a captious mistake; for he never affirmed anything that could be more to their reproach, and that such was the present Church of Rome, showing how much it had erred. There was not in this sermon so much as a shadow for censure, no person of all the clergy having testified greater zeal against the errors of the Papists than this pious and most learned person. I dined at the Bishop of Rochester's (age 54), and then went to St. Paul's to hear that great wit, Dr. Sprat (age 44), now newly succeeding Dr. Outram, in the cure of St. Margaret's [Map]. His talent was a great memory, never making use of notes, a readiness of expression in a most pure and plain style of words, full of matter, easily delivered.

Evelyn's Diary. 31 Oct 1680. I spent this whole day in exercises. A stranger preached at Whitehall [Map] on Luke xvi. 30, 31. I then went to St. Martin's [Map], where the Bishop of St. Asaph (age 53) [Note. The next post refers to Bishop William Lloyd (age 53) being made Bishop of St Asaph. The previous incumbent Isaac Barrow had died 24 Jun 1680] preached on 1 Peter iii. 15; the Holy Communion followed, at which I participated, humbly imploring God's assistance in the great work I was entering into. In the afternoon, I heard Dr. Sprat (age 45), at St. Margaret's [Map], on Acts xvii. 11.

In 1681 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 46) was appointed Canon Chapel Royal.

In 1683 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 48) was appointed Dean of Westminster Abbey.

Evelyn's Diary. 06 Apr 1683. Good Friday. There was in the afternoon, according to custom, a sermon before the King (age 52), at Whitehall [Map]; Dr. Sprat (age 48) preached for the Bishop of Rochester (age 58).

Evelyn's Diary. 30 Dec 1683. Dr. Sprat (age 48), now made Deane of Westminster, preached to the King (age 53) at Whitehall [Map], on 6 Matt. 24. Recollecting the passages of the past yeare, I gave God thanks for his mercies, praying his blessing for the future.

In 1684 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 49) was appointed Bishop of Rochester.

From 1685 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 50) was appointed Clerk of the Closet which post he held until 1687.

Evelyn's Diary. 19 Feb 1685. The Lord Treasurer and yc other new Officers were sworne at the Chancery Barr and the Exchequer. The late King (deceased) having the revenue of Excise, Costoms, and other late duties granted for his life only, they were now farmed and lett to severall persons, upon an opinion that the late King might lett them for three yeares after his decease; some of the old Commissioners refus'd to act. The lease was made but the day before the King (deceased) died; the major part of the Judges (but as some think not the best Lawyers) pronounc'd it legal, but four dissented. The Clerk of the Closet (age 50) had shut up the late King's (deceased) private Oratorie next the Privy-chamber above, but the King (deceased) caus'd it to be open'd againe, and that prayers should be said as formerly.

Evelyn's Diary. 08 Apr 1685. Being now somewhat compos'd after my greate affliction, I went to London to hear Dr. Tenison (age 48) (it being on a Wednesday in Lent) at Whitehall [Map]. I observ'd that tho' the King (age 51) was not in his seate above in the chapell, the Doctor made his three congees, which they were not us'd to do when the late King was absent, making then one bowing onely. I ask'd the reason; it was sayd he had a special order so to do. The Princesse of Denmark (age 34) was in the King's Closet, but sat on the left hand of the chaire, the Clearke of the Closet (age 50) standing by His Ma's chaire, as if he had ben present. I met the Queene Dowager (age 46) going now first from Whitehall to dwell at Somerset-house [Map]. This day my brother of Wotton and Mr. Onslow (age 30) were candidates for Surrey against Sr Adam Brown and my cousin Sr Edwd Evelyn, and were circumvented in their election by a trick of the Sheriff's taking advantage of my brother's party going out of the small village of Leatherhead [Map] to seek shelter and lodging, the afternoone being tempestuous, proceeding to the Election when they were gon; they expecting the next morning; whereas before and then they exceeded the other party by many hundreds, as I am assur'd. The Duke of Norfolk (age 30) led Sr Edw. Evelyn's and Sr Adam Brown's party. For this Parliament, very meane and slight persons (some of them gentlemen's servants, clearkes, and persons neither of reputation nor interest) were set up, but the country would choose my brother whether he would or no, and he miss'd it by the trick above mentioned. Sr Adam Brown was so deafe that he could not heare one word. S1 Edw. Evelyn was an honest gent much in favour with his Majesty.

Evelyn's Diary. 17 Apr 1685. Good Friday. Dr. Tenison (age 48) preached at the new church at St. James's, on 1 Cor. 16, 22, upon the infinite love of God to us, which he illustrated in many instances. The holy Sacrament followed, at which I participated. The Lord make me thankfull. In tbe after noone Dr. Sprat, Bp. of Rochester (age 50), preached in Whitehall Chapell, the auditory very full of Lords, the two Archbishops, and many others, now drawne to towne upon the occasion of the Coronation and ensuing Parliament. I supp'd with the Countesse of Sunderland (age 39) and Lord Godolphin (age 39), and return'd home.

Evelyn's Diary. 01 Jan 1686. Imploring ye continuance of God's providential care for the yeare now entered, I went to the public devotions. The Deane of the Chapell and Cleark of the Closset put out, viz. Bp. of London (age 54) and ..., and Rochester (age 51) and Durham (age 52) put in their places; the former had oppos'd the toleration intended, and shewn a worthy zeale for the Reform'd Religion as establish'd.

Evelyn's Diary. 14 Jul 1686. Was sealed at our office the constitution of certain commissioners to take upon them full power of all Ecclesiastical affairs, in as unlimited a manner, or rather greater, than the late High Commission-Court, abrogated by Parliament; for it had not only faculty to inspect and visit all Bishops' dioceses, but to change what laws and statutes they should think fit to alter among the colleges, though founded by private men; to punish, suspend, fine, etc., give oaths and call witnesses. The main drift was to suppress zealous preachers. In sum, it was the whole power of a Vicar-General-note the consequence! Of the clergy the commissioners were the Archbishop of Canterbury [Sancroft] (age 69), Bishop of Durham [Crewe] (age 53), and Rochester [Sprat] (age 51); of the Temporals, the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Chancellor [Jefferies] (age 41) (who alone was ever to be of the quorum), the Chief justice [Herbert] (age 38), and Lord President [Earl of Sunderland] (age 44).

Evelyn's Diary. 08 Sep 1686. Dr. Compton, Bishop of London (age 54), was on Monday suspended, on pretense of not silencing Dr. Sharp (age 41) [NOTE. Assumed to be the subsequent Archbishop?] at St. Giles's [Map], for something of a sermon in which he zealously reproved the doctrine of the Roman Catholics. The Bishop having consulted the civilians, they told him he could not by any law proceed against Dr. Sharp (age 41) without producing witnesses, and impleaded according to form; but it was overruled by my Lord Chancellor (age 41), and the Bishop sentenced without so much as being heard to any purpose. This was thought a very extraordinary way of proceeding, and was universally resented, and so much the rather for that two Bishops, Durham (age 53) and Rochester (age 51), sitting in the commission and giving their suffrages the Archbishop of Canterbury (age 69) refused to sit among them. He was only suspended ab officio, and that was soon after taken off. He was brother to the Earl of Northampton, had once been a soldier, had traveled in Italy, but became a sober, grave, and excellent prelate.

In 1688 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 53) read the Declaration of Indulgence to empty benches in Westminster Abbey [Map].

Evelyn's Diary. 17 Jun 1688. Was a day of thanksgiving in London and ten miles about for the young Prince's birth; a form of prayer made for the purpose by the Bishop of Rochester (age 53).

Evelyn's Diary. 23 Aug 1688. Dr. Sprat (age 53), Bishop of Rochester, wrote a very honest and handsome letter to the Commissioners Ecclesiastical, excusing himself from sitting any longer among them, he by no means approving of their prosecuting the Clergy who refused to read the Declaration for liberty of conscience, in prejudice of the Church of England.

On 20 May 1713 Bishop Thomas Sprat (age 78) died of apoplexy at the Bishop's Palace, Bromley. He was buried in the south side of the Chapel of St Nicholas, Westminster Abbey [Map].

Letters of Horace Walpole. 05 Aug 1752. Battel. To Richard Bentley, Esq.

Here we are, my dear Sir, in the middle of our pilgrimage; and lest we should never return from this holy land of abbeys and Gothic castles, I begin a letter to you. that I hope some charitable monk, when he has buried our bones, will deliver to you. We have had piteous distresses, but then we have seen glorious sights! You shall hear of each in their order.

Monday, Wind S. E.-at least that was our direction-While they were changing our horses at Bromley, we went to see the Bishop of Rochester's palace; not for the sake of any thing there was to be seen, but because there was a chimney, in which had stood a flower-pot, in which was put the counterfeit plot against Bishop Sprat. 'Tis a paltry parsonage, with nothing of antiquity but two panes of glass, purloined from Islip's chapel in Westminster Abbey, with that abbot's rebus, an eye and a slip of a tree. In the garden there is a clear little pond, teeming with gold fish. The Bishop is more prolific than I am.