OTTLEY, Adam (1655-1723)

OTTLEY (OATLEY), Adam (1655–1723)

cons. 14 Mar. 1713 bp. of ST DAVIDS

First sat 17 Mar. 1713; last sat 3 Apr. 1721

bap. 5 Jan. 1655, 2nd s. of Sir Richard Ottley, of Pitchford, Salop. gent. of privy chamber to Charles II, and Lettice (d.1668), da. of Robert Ridgeway, 2nd earl of Londonderry [I]. educ. Trinity, Camb. matric. 1672, BA 1676, MA 1679, incorp. Oxf. 1682, Trinity Hall, Camb. fell. 1680-4, DD 1691; ord. priest 1682.1 m. 24 Jan. 1688, Ann (d.1720), da. of Sir Samuel Baldwyn, of Elsedge, serjeant-at-law, s.p.2 d. 4 Oct. 1723; will 25 Sept., pr. 25 Nov. 1723.3

Rect. Pontesbury (Prestbury), Salop 1682, Cound, Salop 1684-1719;4 residentiary canon Hereford 1686-1723; adn. Shropshire, Hereford 1687-1715; lecturer Hereford Cathedral 1690.5

Also associated with: var. lodgings including Bishop’s Court, Chancery Lane, and Holborn Row, London c.1688-1723.

According to James Brydges, 8th Baron Chandos, Ottley was ‘blessed … with the good things of this life much above the generality of his brethren’. One of the Ottleys of Pitchford, a ‘very ancient’ royalist family that could trace its origins in Shropshire back to the thirteenth century, Ottley inherited the family estates in 1688 from his uncle Sir Adam Ottley, master of the court of chancery.6 Both he and his elder brother, Thomas, married into the Baldwyn family (whose members traditionally sat in the Commons for Ludlow), and he enjoyed a well-documented political as well as ecclesiastical career.7 Notwithstanding an enduring reputation as a ‘bishop of retired saintliness’, Ottley was a keen political observer, ambitious for advancement and accustomed to moving in circles with influential patrons.8 At the age of 25, impatient for a college fellowship, he sought to procure a royal warrant to speed his promotion. Trinity College, uneasy at the suggestion, compromised by putting him into a Trinity Hall fellowship instead.9 Within seven years, having fulfilled the qualification of pastoral service in the diocese of Hereford, he was presented by Herbert Croft, bishop of Hereford, to the archdeaconry of Shropshire.10 Croft, who insisted that Ottley (during the latter’s archdeaconry visitation) remind his parishioners of their loyalty to James II, trusted his archdeacon sufficiently to request Ottley’s mediation with William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, when Croft was being vilified for reading the second Declaration of Indulgence.11

Ottley had a wide network of contacts in Parliament and among the gentry. In 1701 he was recommended to Robert Harley, the future earl of Oxford, by Chandos for the vacant see of Hereford.12 Throughout his political career, Ottley also remained on friendly terms with Francis Atterbury, later bishop of Rochester, and they corresponded regularly after 1704.13 Ottley’s membership of the lower house of Convocation from 1689 gave him a further foothold in the ecclesiastical establishment, and he was a supporter in the synod of the high church faction.14 He received an urgent summons from Atterbury in January 1706 to attend Convocation to assist his friends.15

Ottley was at the forefront of the ‘Church in danger’ campaign and his provocative stand on the issue incurred the anger of at least one of the Whig bishops, John Tyler, bishop of Llandaff. Ottley, under instructions from his bishop, Humphrey Humphreys, bishop of Hereford, to obtain signatures for an address to the queen on the safety of the Church, refused to subscribe the official diocesan address, thanking the queen for her stewardship of a ‘flourishing’ Church. Instead, he sent up a separate, less congratulatory address from the Hereford chapter.16

Throughout Anne’s reign, Ottley kept a close watch on political affairs. In 1708 he was in correspondence with Sir Richard Onslow about the ministry’s increasing reliance on the Junto and the political situation following the death of Prince George, of Denmark and duke of Cumberland.17 His most influential connection, though, was Harley. Ottley remained on intimate terms with the Harley family throughout his career and was often a vehicle for exchanges of family and political news.18 Ottley was directly involved in the Shropshire county election in October 1710 when he and his nephew were with ‘above fifty clergymen … [that went] together in a body’ to vote for Tories John Kynaston and Robert Lloyd, the latter having presented Henry Sacheverell to a Shropshire living during the summer.19

When out of London Ottley was kept abreast of affairs by his nephew (also named Adam Ottley), who in 1713 was appointed a notary public.20 By 1712, despite his high churchmanship and earlier gaffe over the ‘Church in danger’ address, Ottley was seen by Harley, now earl of Oxford, as a ‘Tory moderate’.21 This, combined with the support of a number of high profile individuals, placed Ottley in a strong position for further advancement. In October 1712, a month before Humphrey Humphreys’ death, the younger Adam Ottley was in London soliciting the see on behalf of his uncle. He reported that Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, had described Ottley as ‘the fittest man to succeed’ Humphreys, and that Sir Simon Harcourt, the future Viscount Harcourt, and ‘other great men’ were favourable to his candidacy.22

The principal candidates in what turned out to be a closely fought contest were Ottley, John Hartstonge, bishop of Ossory [I], and Philip Bisse, bishop of St Davids. According to Edmund Gibson, later successively bishop of Lincoln and London, Francis Gastrell, the future bishop of Chester, was also in the frame; Chandos thought Atterbury to be in contention too.23 Ottley’s qualifications for the see were quickly pressed forward. In late November Herbert Rudhale appealed to Oxford ‘at the request of my neighbouring gentlemen and clergy’ that Ottley should be selected. Henry Compton, bishop of London, also wrote on Ottley’s behalf in the event that the queen did not intend Hartstonge to have the bishopric: ‘no man’ he insisted ‘would be more acceptable’. Hartstonge’s cause it was said was being pressed by certain ladies of the court, along with James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond (Hartstonge being one of his chaplains). Ottley’s nephew continued to campaign on his uncle’s behalf, promising in December that ‘I will undertake it in the best measure I can; I am sensible we must not be too forward in an affair of that nature nor on the other hand would I be neglectful of it where it will bear.’ On 23 Dec. Ottley wrote to his nephew communicating his belief that Hartstonge would succeed, but by early 1713 the contest was still thought to be in the balance between Hartstonge and Ottley and of the two, Ottley was thought the more likely. His nephew was certainly convinced of the ministry’s definite support, though he was also concerned by the ‘artifices’ employed by Hartstonge in his efforts to secure the place ‘not becoming me even to repeat’. In the event, a compromise was found. In spite of the fact that Bisse was said to have declared himself uninterested in the bishopric, on 20 Jan. Ottley was informed by his nephew of ‘an unexpected turn in this affair’. Bisse was now to have Hereford and Ottley was to replace him at St Davids. According to the younger Ottley, this solution was owing to Oxford’s ‘peculiar goodness’ towards him as a way of countering Hartstonge. After all, as he insisted, ‘this removal is not a compliment that the [bishop of St Davids] much desired’.24

Although late in January some uncertainty still remained whether Ottley was to have St Davids or Hereford, by the end of the month Ottley’s promotion to St Davids had become common knowledge. He was urged to come to town to attend to the formalities.25 Following the issue of the congé d’élire, he was elected on 28 Feb., confirmed two weeks later and consecrated at Lambeth. He negotiated for commendams (on Weymouth’s advice) because of the lower revenue of the Welsh see.26 One month after his elevation he was listed, predictably, as a supporter of the Oxford ministry. He continued to inform Oxford about local political affairs, recommending a prospective parliamentary candidate for a seat in his diocese.27 Within two months of taking up office, Ottley made his nephew, Adam, registrar general of the diocese.28

On 17 Mar. 1713 Ottley took his seat in the House. He returned to the chamber at the opening of the new session on 9 Apr. and was named to the committees for privileges and the Journal. Thereafter he attended nearly 82 per cent of sittings. On 4 May he was ordered to preach to the Lords on the 29 May anniversary celebration; the day after the sermon, he was given official thanks by the House. In June Ottley was forecast by Oxford as a likely supporter of the French commerce bill. Towards the close of the session, he reported the rejection of the tobacco bill to his nephew, the measure having been, as he phrased it, ‘clogged with such various tacks’ that the House threw it out on first reading. In the Commons, meanwhile, the mutiny bill was undergoing severe modifications. Ottley predicted that if the Commons continued with the swingeing alterations the bill would pass the Lords after which Parliament would rise. In the event the Lords subjected the bill to further amendments but on 16 July the Commons concurred with the changes enabling the session to be brought to a close.29 Ottley quit London promptly for his new diocese where, on 29 July, he was enthroned at St Davids.30 Ottley had spent the previous three months getting estimates (of some £316) for the repairs of Abergwili House and chapel. He started to restore the ruined residence.31 Despite the convenience of a habitable Welsh residence, Ottley’s commendam as residentiary canon of Hereford had a tied house, and he continued to spend much time at his former home.

Following George Bull, his predecessor, he patronized native Welsh clergy and Welsh literature.32 He encouraged a reformation of morals in the diocese, was a strict disciplinarian (and in a high-profile case hampered the activities of popular evangelical preacher Griffith Jones) and would not permit the diversion of sacrament funds to support SPCK schools.33 Politically, Ottley was at home in his new diocese. Carmarthenshire had seen a Tory victory in 1710 on a ‘Church in danger’ ticket, Pembrokeshire witnessed the defeat of the Whig Sir Arthur Owen, while Haverfordwest was dominated by John Laugharne, a local squire who was a ‘strong high church tory’. Pembroke boroughs had witnessed divisive contests but had proved open to manipulation by the Tory Lewis Wogan.34 Ottley may have been more concerned with pressing his interest in Shropshire. During the summer of 1713 there were discussions both within the Ottley-Baldwyn family and more widely concerning a possible challenge at Ludlow by Ottley’s nephew, Adam. In the event the younger Ottley did not stand. One seat went to his kinsman, Acton Baldwyn (a sitting Member) the other to another Tory, Humphrey Walcot.35

Ottley returned to Westminster two weeks after the start of the February 1714 session and attended for just over 82 per cent of sittings. He was later one of the members of the Journal subcommittee and signed the record of proceedings for 30 Apr. and for 30 June. On 17 Mar. he received Bisse’s proxy (vacated by Bisse’s attendance on the 31st). He was present in the House on 5 Apr. for the division on the danger to the Protestant Succession, but it is unclear how he voted. He was also present on 13 Apr. when the Lords considered the queen’s reply to the address on the danger from the Pretender. A motion to add some words strengthening the address of thanks was carried by just two votes, and the various accounts of the debate and division indicate that Ottley joined with the majority of the bishops in the House in voting for the ministry and the court.36

Ottley was one of those gathered at the London residence of Francis Atterbury (since promoted bishop of Rochester) on 1 May, and on 25 May he attended a dinner hosted by John Robinson, bishop of London, along with Bisse, George Smalridge, bishop of Bristol, and William Nicolson, bishop of Carlisle.37 He was present in the House on 5 June for the passage of the bill for removing mortuaries in the Welsh sees. Having been forecast by Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham at the end of May or beginning of June as being a likely to support the schism bill, on 11 June he voted in favour of extending the bill’s provisions to Ireland and on 15th he voted for the bill’s pasage.38 He continued to attend the House until the last day of the session on 9 July before returning to his diocese to conduct the first of his three visitations.39

Ottley failed to attend the brief parliamentary session in August 1714 in the wake of the queen’s death but remained in the west of England, maintaining close links with Oxford’s political and social network. Although Oxford’s resignation shortly before Anne’s death was a blow to Ottley’s political position, he continued to fill his diocese with Tory clergy at the request of local politicians (John Barlow, the Member for Pembrokeshire, wrote to Ottley to forestall the appointment of a ‘Whig’ parson).40 On 2 Mar. 1715 he wrote to Oxford after enjoying a ‘noble entertainment’ given by Lady Oxford at Brampton. He then travelled to London, taking up residence at Bishop’s Court in Chancery Lane and acting in Parliament with the Tory opposition.41 Ottley’s political and parliamentary career after 1715 will be examined in the next phase of this work.

On 23 Sept. 1723 Ottley was taken ill with a stomach illness and fever; he died late in the evening of 4 Oct. at his refurbished home in Abergwili.42 Leaving some £70 in cash bequests, Ottley’s main beneficiary (in the absence of any children) was his nephew, Adam, to whom he left the estates inherited in 1688 from Sir Adam Ottley. Ottley appointed as residuary legatees and trustees his kinsmen Charles and Samuel Baldwyn and Tamerlane Hords. He died ‘much in debt’, leaving his nephew to complain that though Ottley’s kindness ‘was great … yet the gain thereby must be very inconsiderable’; he recommended that servants be provided with only the most meagre of mourning.43 Ottley had been an avid collector of books and manuscripts.44 He was also a well-respected Church historian who assisted Browne Willis in his study of the see of St Davids.45 On 19 Apr. 1725 his library (which included a number of valuable first editions and acts of Parliament) was valued at nearly £400 and auctioned at St Paul’s coffee house. Ottley was buried at Abergwili.46


  • 1 NLW Jnl. iv. 63.
  • 2 NLW, Ottley corresp. 1717, 1719.
  • 3 TNA, PROB 11/594.
  • 4 Ottley pprs. 1341; NLW Jnl. iv. 62.
  • 5 NLW Jnl. iv. 62, 64.
  • 6 Add. 70293, Chandos to R. Harley, 19 Oct. 1701; Carmarthen Antiquary, xxviii. pt. 66, p. 118.
  • 7 NLW Jnl. iv. 61.
  • 8 Carmarthen Antiquary, xxviii. pt. 66, 117.
  • 9 JBS, xx. 118-19.
  • 10 Ottley corresp. 1633; NLW Jnl. iv. 62.
  • 11 Ottley corresp. 1467, 1634, 1723, 1724, 1726; NLW Jnl. iv. 62.
  • 12 Add. 70293, Chandos to R. Harley, 19 Oct. 1701.
  • 13 Ottley pprs. 217, 232, 233, 236, 250; Ottley corresp. 1534, 1535, 1536, 1702, 1703, 1704, 1705, 1716; NLW Jnl. iv. 63.
  • 14 Cardwell, 436.
  • 15 Ottley pprs. 250.
  • 16 Ottley corresp. 1530, 1531, 1536, 1538.
  • 17 HP Commons 1690-1715, v. 24.
  • 18 Add. 70237, 70240, 70241, 70249, 70250.
  • 19 Ottley corresp. 2581; HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 495.
  • 20 Carmarthen Antiquary, xxviii. pt. 66, 119; NLW Jnl. iv. 63, 68-69.
  • 21 A. Tindal Hart, Life of Sharp, 245.
  • 22 Ottley corresp. 1499.
  • 23 EHR, l. 453-4; NLW Jnl. iv. 63.
  • 24 Ottley corresp. 1499, 1569, 1611-14, 1616-19; Add. 70030, f. 90; Add. 70219, Compton to Oxford, 25 Nov. 1712.
  • 25 Ottley corresp. 1552, 1620; Add. 70259; Verney ms mic. M636/55, W. Viccars to J. Verney, 27 Jan. 1713.
  • 26 Add. 38889, f. 87; TNA, SP 34/20; SP 34/27/24; NLW, Ottley corresp. 1479; NLW Jnl. iv. 63-64.
  • 27 Add. 70318, Ottley to Oxford, 1 Apr. 1713.
  • 28 Ottley pprs. 1465.
  • 29 Ottley corresp. 1630.
  • 30 Carmarthen Antiquary, xxviii. pt. 66, 117.
  • 31 Ibid. pt. 66, 120-1.
  • 32 G.H. Jenkins, Literature, Religion and Society in Wales, 1660-1730, pp. 103, 277; NLW Jnl. iv.
  • 33 Jenkins, 14; W.S.K. Thomas, Stuart Wales, 149.
  • 34 HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 797-8, 812-13, 815-16.
  • 35 Ottley corresp. 2441; HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 505.
  • 36 Haddington mss, Mellerstain Letters 6, Baillie to wife, 13 and 15 Apr. 1714; Add. 47087, f. 68.
  • 37 SCLA, DR 671/89, p. 15; Nicolson London Diaries, 610.
  • 38 Nicolson London Diaries, 612-13; Add. 70070.
  • 39 Carmarthen Antiquary, xxviii. pt. 66, 121.
  • 40 HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 812; iii. 137.
  • 41 Add. 70250; Ottley corresp. 1732.
  • 42 Add. 70237; Carmarthen Antiquary, xxviii. pt. 66, 117, 128.
  • 43 Ottley corresp. 3128, 3228, 3230.
  • 44 Add. 4274, f. 132-3; Bodl. Rawl. Letters 3, f. 130a, 131, 133, 134; 14, f. 41.
  • 45 Rawl. Letters 107, f. 92; Ottley corresp. 1733, 1734, 1735, 1736, 1740, 1747.
  • 46 Rawl. Letters 3, f. 130; Ottley corresp. 2282, 2830.