FRAMPTON, Robert (1622-1708)

FRAMPTON, Robert (1622–1708)

cons. 27 Mar. 1681 bp. of GLOUCESTER; susp. 1 Aug. 1689 ; depr. 1 Feb. 1690

First sat 19 May 1685; last sat 27 Feb. 1689

bap. 26 Feb. 1622, yst. s. of Robert Frampton, farmer of Pimperne, Dorset and Elizabeth Selby. educ. Free sch. Blandford, Dorset; Corpus Christi, Oxf. matric. 1637; Christ Church, Oxf. BA 1641, BD and DD 1673; m. 10 May ?1667, Mary Caning (Canning) (d.1680) of Foxcote, Ilmington, Warws. s.p. d. 25 May 1708; will 26 Feb. 1703, pr. 2 Nov. 1708.1

Chap. ord. to Charles II 1666; chap. to Prince Rupert, duke of Cumberland c.1666.2

Pastor Gillingham, Dorset c.1650; chap. to Thomas Bruce, earl of Elgin [S], c.1655, to Levant Co., Aleppo 1655–66, 1667–70, to Robert Bruce, earl of Ailesbury, 1666, to Sir Orlando Bridgeman, bt. 1671; rect. Fontmell, Dorset 1672–84,3 Okeford Fitzpaine, Dorset 1679–83, Avening, Glos. 1684–85; preb. Salisbury 1672–83, Gloucester 1672–3; dean, Gloucester 1673–81; vic. Standish, Glos. 1687–d.

Schoolmaster, Farnham, Dorset; master Gillingham sch. Dorset bef. 1642.

Likenesses: oil on canvas, 1680, Corpus Christi, Oxf.; oil on canvas, attrib. R. More, 1691, Flaxley Abbey, Glos.; oil on canvas, bishop’s palace, Gloucester.

Robert Frampton was the youngest of eight children of an ‘industrious’ Dorset farmer of a property worth some £30 a year. An ardent royalist, his studies were interrupted by the civil wars; he joined the Dorset clubmen and subsequently participated in the battle of Hambledon Hill. Ordained in secret by Robert Skinner, bishop of Oxford, he earned a reputation for recklessly outspoken sermons during the Interregnum. He avoided further difficulty by leaving England. Through a Mr Harvey (possibly Eliab Harvey or one of his close relations, many of whom were prominent Turkey merchants), Frampton obtained a chaplaincy at Aleppo at double the usual salary on account of ‘extraordinary merit’.4 He remained in the Middle East for more than a decade, travelling extensively, and making an important ally in Heneage Finch, 3rd earl of Winchilsea, the ambassador at Constantinople after the Restoration, for whom he acted as a conduit of overseas intelligence.5

Frampton returned to England in the summer of 1666. In September he delivered a sermon to the king that declared the devastation caused by the Great Plague and the Fire of London to be divine retribution on a sinful nation and exhorted the monarch to set an example and ‘invite all those of your court and the nobility and gentry to righteous action and to countenance virtue and discount and punish vice’.6 He was invited to repeat the sermon at court, and was so successful as a preacher that Samuel Pepys found the pews at his church ‘crammed by twice as many people’ as usual to hear the man who preached ‘the most like an apostle that I ever heard’.7 Frampton returned to Aleppo after his marriage, which must have taken place in May 1667 (it is entered in the registers among the marriages of 1667 but is dated there as 1666, which must be an error; the license was issued in January 1667). He was recalled from Aleppo in 1670 at his own request and arrived in England in May 1671 (meeting on the way in Florence Henry Howard, later duke of Norfolk, who would become one of Frampton’s patrons. He took up positions as preacher at the Rolls Chapel, and as chaplain for Lord Keeper Bridgeman.8 Bridgeman presented him to prebends at Gloucester and Salisbury, and by 1673 well known at court, and noticed by the king for two sermons he had preached there (which had mildly criticized the court), he was made dean of Gloucester.9

When it became apparent in late 1680 that the bishop of Gloucester, John Pritchett, was about to die, Henry Compton, bishop of London recommended Frampton to William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury as Pritchett’s successor.10 Frampton made the usual display of reluctance to accept such an honour and was particularly concerned about the financial implications of promotion. The see was worth only £600 p.a. and he expected to spend £400 of it on the fees associated with the appointment as well as ‘I know not what’ for a celebratory dinner. Arrangements were made for him to continue to hold three livings in commendam (though by December 1681 he was asking Compton for further provision, the ‘addition of some good parsonage’ to the bishopric).11 Frampton was consecrated at Oxford while Parliament was sitting there in March 1681, on the day before its dissolution.12

According to Frampton, Pritchett had left the diocese in considerable disorder. He intended to preach, exhort and rebuke because action was necessary in a ‘world of pitiful vicarages’ that militated against conformity.13 In January 1682 Charles Somerset, then styled Lord Herbert, was seeking the support of Frampton for his campaign against dissent.14 By March, Frampton was able to report that four conventicles had already been dissolved and that the rest were ‘tottering’.15 A hagiographical account of his life stresses Frampton’s conciliatory stance, his emphasis on teaching and his willingness to forego the fees of those prosecuted in the ecclesiastical courts who showed themselves ‘tractable’. Writing to Sancroft, Frampton naturally highlighted his own role but also acknowledged that the magistracy and gentry had ‘cheerfully’ assisted.16

His response to the desecration of Barrington parish church in the summer of 1682 by Thomas Wharton (later 5th Baron Wharton) and his brother shows Frampton’s wariness in dealing with a potentially powerful opponent. Having devised a suitable punishment (penance in the church and a contribution to the costs of repair), he sought advice from Sancroft and Compton as to whether this was ‘prudent, practicable and sufficient … though I am an old man I am but young in these affairs, and may misstep if I have not good directions’. He later justified his lenience by insisting that the Whartons were ‘true penitents’ and pointing out that they were not under his jurisdiction as they did not live in his diocese.17

Frampton’s emphasis on securing an amicable alliance with the corporation and local gentry was challenged by the feud between the city and his dean, Edward Fowler, later bishop of Gloucester. Fowler, who was opposed to the persecution of dissent and hostile to Toryism, gave a sermon in the cathedral in August 1683 which upset the corporation so much that they voted not to go to church if he were to preach again. Frampton was at a loss as to how to mend the quarrel: he was sure both sides were loyal but both were too ‘warm’ to compromise. Matters deteriorated still further when Fowler had his sermon printed. In December Frampton asked Sancroft to give Fowler ‘some good counsel that he may sacrifice … [and] when he cometh next leave me less embroiled for I am brought into the sewage too on his account and suffer no small reproach because I will not absolutely pronounce against him’.18

Despite Frampton’s constant claims of poverty, on the death of William Gulston, bishop of Bristol, in April 1684, he asked for translation to that see. Bristol was worth less than Gloucester but the diocese included Dorset, ‘mine own dear country whereof I am generally beloved by rich and poor’. Frampton may have been wearied by the continuing dispute over Fowler, for in June 1684 he anticipated further confrontations and again beseeched Sancroft to prevent this by giving ‘good counsel’ to Fowler. Indeed, in September, when Fowler again preached in the cathedral, the corporation locked the pews, provoking disorder when the townspeople tried to climb over the rails. Fowler was then charged with assault on a corporation officer (unjustly according to Frampton). For all his earlier claims of harmony between cathedral and corporation, Frampton now referred to the corporation’s ‘affronts and wicked libels with which without any cause I have been pestered for three or four years last past. I am almost weary of my life, but most certainly of my office; were there any way for me to lay it down with decency’. The following month he wrote again of his desire to escape such squabbles and retire into private life.19

With the accession of James II, and the calling of a new Parliament, Frampton was in May 1685 at last able to take his seat in the House of Lords. He attended for almost half of the sittings, but was named to only two select committees. On 25 May he was ordered to preach before the House on the anniversary of the Restoration. His preaching soon brought him to the unwelcome attention of the king (who was said to be appreciative of his sermons, despite the hostility of other Catholics at court).20 In March 1686 he learned that the king had complained to Sancroft about the content of a sermon given at Whitehall. Frampton assured Sancroft that he had spoken ‘to his majesty’s service and honour’ but he was not ashamed to admit that it was ‘much to the honour of my dear mother, the Church of England … and I shall never repent of it’. He ingenuously went on to remark that ‘I take it for granted that his sacred majesty, being a most generous prince, will never have the worse opinion of me for it.’21

Frampton soon found himself directly experiencing the king’s catholicizing policies. By May 1687 the mayor of Gloucester was a Catholic and the chapter was instructed to elect his priest to a prebend. They refused. Frampton also used the pulpit to criticize Henry Compton’s suspension from office in 1687 and even took up his case with the king.22 Not surprisingly he was listed with the majority of his episcopal colleagues as an opponent of the repeal of the Test. In April 1688 he refused to allow the second Declaration of Indulgence to be read in his diocese. He signed the bishops’ petition against the Declaration on 21 May 1688, having arrived in London on 18 May, just too late to accompany his episcopal colleagues when they presented it to the king. After the imprisonment of the original seven signatories, Frampton voluntarily joined his colleagues in the Tower.23 In August the king threatened to remove him from one of his livings: nevertheless the following month Frampton instituted one of the suspended fellows of Magdalen College to a living in his gift. And he was still sufficiently influential in Gloucestershire to be approached to act as mediator in an attempt to avert a contest at the election that James II was expected to call in the autumn of 1688.24

Frampton took his seat in the Convention on 22 Jan. 1689 but found it difficult to come to terms with the revolution. Before William and Mary were declared king and queen, he pointedly preached before the prince on the theme of ambition; William is said to have observed that ‘the bishop of Gloucester don’t expect a translation’. Frampton opposed all attempts to declare the prince and princess of Orange king and queen. He was present throughout the debates on the wording of the declaration and supported the majority episcopal view that the throne was not vacant. He entered a protest against the final critical vote on 6 Feb.; according to his biographer he signed his name ‘in much larger characters than he had usually entered any other protest’, though Frampton’s limited parliamentary career meant that this was in fact the only protest he ever signed. Frampton himself merely said that he entered his name in capital letters. He is also said to have refused to read prayers in the House for the new king and queen when summoned to do so by Francis Newport, Viscount Newport (later earl of Bradford). A difficult situation was averted only by the arrival of a more junior bishop, relieving Frampton of his obligation.25 He did not attend the House on 13 Feb. when William and Mary came to hear the proclamation, but returned on 18 Feb. and was present the next day, when the House debated the legality of the Convention. Frampton attended the House for only four more days in February 1689 and did not return after 27 February.

His refusal to take the new oaths meant that he faced deprivation. On Christmas Eve 1689, Frampton asked Thomas Osborne, marquess of Carmarthen (formerly earl of Danby, later duke of Leeds), to move the House to ‘tailor’ the legislation so that a tiny minority, or he alone, might ‘atone’ for clergy facing deprivation.26 No such attempt was made. The Gloucestershire grand jury petitioned against his deprivation.27 He may have been offered refuge by the Boevey family at Flaxley Abbey, but Compton and Fowler both claimed credit for arranging for Frampton to remain at Standish rectory, which he had rebuilt, a contrivance that prompted Sancroft to remark waspishly that this favour to Frampton was a strategy ‘to convince us who have not been so supple, that … we too might at last have had a feather of our own goose, restored, to stick in our caps’.28

In his enforced retirement Frampton continued to attend church, to catechize, to give communion and to preach. He was on friendly terms with both Fowler and William Wake, the future bishop of Lincoln and archbishop of Canterbury. He intervened in elections to Convocation. He even declared that if James II were to invade with the assistance of foreigners he would be prepared to take up arms against him. When Frampton was suspected of collecting monies in connection with the Assassination Plot in 1696, Compton defended him, incurring a rebuke from the king. Not surprisingly the non-juror Henry Dodwell regarded him as a turncoat who abetted schism, while George Hickes merely remarked that ‘he never was in my esteem of our Communion’.29

By 1703 Frampton was no longer a celebrity, ‘almost as much forgotten, as if he had been long in the grave’. Three years later he was living a solitary life with his books ‘with which amusement he pushes on the heavy minutes, and wonders why he cannot die’.30 He eventually did so on Whitsunday 1708 and was buried in Standish church. In 1689 he had claimed that he was ‘the poorest bishop in England’, with some £600 at his disposal ‘besides little household stuff, a brace of horses and a colt two years of age, with some few books’, but by the time of his death he was able to bequeath in excess of £1,000.31 A childless widower, he provided for Esther Withers, who had served him for over 30 years, leaving each of her two daughters a dowry of £200.32


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/504.
  • 2 HMC Finch, i. 449.
  • 3 Bodl. Tanner 32, f. 114.
  • 4 T. Evans, The Life of Robert Frampton, 1, 19-20, 24-25.
  • 5 Ibid, 71; HMC Finch i. 335, 343, 407, 410, 416, 422, 449, 454; A.C. Wood, Hist. Levant Co. 250.
  • 6 Evans, Life of Frampton, 103-5; Add. 4255, f. 67; Tanner 45, f. 108.
  • 7 Pepys Diary, viii. 21.
  • 8 Evans, Life of Frampton, 110–11, 115, 118, 124-5; HMC Finch, i. 449; CSP Dom. 1670 and Addenda 1660–70, pp. 413–14.
  • 9 Evans, Life of Frampton, 120-1.
  • 10 Tanner 37, f. 214.
  • 11 CSP Dom. 1680–1, pp. 125, 131; Tanner 37, ff. 225, 232, 256, 260; Tanner 147, f. 111; Tanner 36, f. 199; Evans, Life of Frampton, 128-9.
  • 12 Ath. Oxf. iv. 891.
  • 13 Tanner 147, f. 189.
  • 14 CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 24–25.
  • 15 Tanner 36, f. 251.
  • 16 Evans, Life of Frampton, 133–44; Tanner 34, f. 125.
  • 17 Tanner 35, ff. 73, 111, 168, 172, 178; Tanner 290, f. 178.
  • 18 Tanner 34, ff. 125, 154; Tanner 147, f. 187.
  • 19 Tanner 32, ff. 32, 73, 143, 257.
  • 20 Evans, Life of Frampton, 145-6.
  • 21 Tanner 30, f. 7.
  • 22 HMC Downshire, i. 243–4; Evans, Life of Frampton, 147, 150, 158–9.
  • 23 Tanner 28, f. 35; Evans, Life of Frampton, 151, 153.
  • 24 Tanner 147, f. 184; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 43, ff. 196–7; 18, f. 189.
  • 25 Evans, Life of Frampton, 182-4; Bodl. Rawl. Letters 68, p. 55.
  • 26 Eg. 3337, f. 149.
  • 27 A Modest Apology for the Suspended Bishops (1690); Tanner 27, f. 212.
  • 28 Evans, Life of Frampton, 189–90; Tanner 26, f. 57; LPL ms 3894, f. 27; Glos. N and Q ii. (1884), 84-85.
  • 29 Rawl. Letters 68, pp. 4, 11, 53, 55–59; Add. 35107, ff. 20, 41; Christ Church Lib. Oxf., Wake mss 23/134-5; Add. 70081, newsletter, 21 Mar. 1696; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 44.
  • 30 Wake mss 23/137, 143, 159, 168, 192.
  • 31 Chatsworth, Halifax Collection B.21.
  • 32 PROB 11/504, ff. 189–90.