PRITCHETT, John (c. 1605-81)

PRITCHETT (PRICHARD), John (c. 1605–81)

cons. 3 Nov. 1672 bp. of GLOUCESTER

First sat 5 Feb. 1673; last sat 11 Nov. 1680

b. c.1605, s. Walter Pritchett of Cowley Hall, Hillingdon, Mdx., alderman of London and Margaret, da. of Richard Mills of Bethom, Staffs.1 educ. Queen’s Oxf. matric. 1623; St Edmund Hall, Oxf. BA 1627, MA 1629, DD 1664. m. 1632, Katherine Hill of Oxf. 1s. 1da.2 d. 1 Jan. 1681; will 23 Dec. 1680, pr. 14 Feb. 1681.3

Vic. Harefield Mdx. c.1630-c.48, 1660-bef. 1674,4 St Giles Cripplegate, London 1664-81; rect. Bratoft Lincs. 1634, St. Andrew Undershaft 1641-7, 1660-4,5 Harlington Mdx. bef. 1650-8,6 1661-81; preb. St Paul’s 1662-81.

Also associated with: Hillingdon, Mdx. and Harefield, Mdx.

From an ecclesiastical perspective John Pritchett was an obscure figure who made little impact on the history of Gloucester. Yet as the son of Walter Pritchett, a prosperous London alderman and Middlesex landowner (sometimes confused with Sir William Pritchard, lord mayor of London), Pritchett was linked to both the Middlesex gentry and the City livery companies, enabling him to acquire weighty political connections.7 He began his ministry in the 1630s at St Mary’s Harefield, his curacy endowed by Alice, countess of Derby (mother-in-law of Gray Brydges, 5th Baron Chandos).8 By 1650 Pritchett had also acquired the City living of St Andrew Undershaft and the Middlesex rectory of Harlington, where the holder of the advowson, the father of Sir Henry Bennett, later earl of Arlington, appointed Pritchett as a ‘preaching minister’.9 Pritchett was restored to his livings at the Restoration and moved in influential circles in and around London. At the same time that alderman Richard Mills (husband to Pritchett’s sister Anne) became treasurer of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Pritchett was appointed to St Paul’s.10 Two years later he was installed in another prestigious City living, St Giles Cripplegate.

Since he was not renowned as a theologian, Pritchett’s elevation to the episcopate in 1672 was almost certainly the result of his political connections. He was on close terms with secretary of state Henry Coventry and must have been known to Arlington. His Middlesex connections also brought him the friendship of Richard Newdigate, a close friend of Gilbert Sheldon, archbishop of Canterbury.11 He was also a man of substance: by the time of his death, his ready money, good debts and property alone amounted to over £2,000, his copyhold estate in Harefield was valued at £800 and he was able to leave to his son, also named John, property in London and Gloucestershire.12 According to Anthony Wood, Pritchett’s wealth was another factor in his elevation; Sheldon recommended him for advancement to the impoverished see of Gloucester because his personal resources would enable him to acquit his responsibilities there.13 Elevated between the 1672 Declaration of Indulgence and the spring 1673 parliamentary session, Pritchett was presumably also regarded as a politically safe pair of hands to manage a diocese centred on a city regarded as riven by faction and where a new charter had been imposed in 1671.

Pritchett took his seat in the House on 5 Feb. 1673, his parliamentary career taking precedence over both his local and pastoral duties in Gloucester. There the appointment as dean of a young and enthusiastic Robert Frampton, who would become his successor, relieved Pritchett of much day-to-day diocesan bureaucracy. Frampton would later claim that pastoral affairs had been much neglected by his predecessor and required urgent attention.14 Pritchett proved a conscientious member of the House and a solid supporter of the episcopal bench. He regularly appeared at more than 50 per cent of sittings in each session and on six occasions appeared on the first day. He was named to committees on a range of issues (including the Bristol chapter bill).

In the 1674 session he was present at a committee of the whole on the security of the protestant faith and attended for the first reading of the bill to compose differences in religion. He did not support comprehension or the attempts in February 1674 to soften the Act of Uniformity.15 Arriving on the third day of the spring 1675 session, Pritchett again attended over one half of the sittings and supported the non-resisting Test put forward by Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby (later marquess of Carmarthen and duke of Leeds). He was named to only one committee (on 4 May); it was of regional significance and concerned the private bill to allow the spendthrift poet Charles Cotton (brother-in-law of the Member for Tewkesbury, Sir Francis Russell) to raise money through land sales.

On 20 Nov. 1675 Pritchett supported the government in the debate on the dissolution. He probably returned to Harefield after the prorogation, but nothing is as yet known of his activities during the fifteen-month interval apart from Evelyn’s comment that he preached a moralizing Lenten sermon with wit.16 He again appeared for the first day of the session in February 1677 and on 29 Jan. 1678 protested against the release of Philip Herbert, 7th earl of Pembroke. Throughout the session he was named to committees on a range of bills. In the wake of Titus Oates’ revelations, Pritchett’s activity in the House reflected growing political tensions throughout the country. Along with everyone else present in the chamber on 23 Oct. he was named to the committee to examine papers and witnesses in the Popish Plot. He was present on 19 Nov. when the House went into committee on the Test but there is no record of his vote. On 27 Dec. 1678 he voted against Danby’s committal, suggesting that he was a supporter of the lord treasurer and had probably supported the amendment inspired by Danby to exempt York from the provisions of the Test. Pritchett’s name does not appear on Danby’s various canvassing lists drawn up in the spring of 1679, possibly because his health was already in serious decline.17

Present at the first Exclusion Parliament in March 1679, Pritchett also preached before the king, but he was now considered rather old-fashioned.18 After the start of business proper on 15 Mar., he attended 49 per cent of sittings. On 7 Apr. 1679 he was present when the bishops, led by Peter Gunning, of Ely, complained against John Sidway for making defamatory remarks about the episcopate and successfully secured his commitment to the Gatehouse prison. He was also present throughout the debates on bishops voting in capital cases and on 10 May 1679 joined 12 other bishops in voting against the appointment of a joint committee of both Houses to consider the method of proceeding against the impeached Lords. Early in the second Exclusion Parliament, on 30 Oct. 1680, Pritchett was excused attendance. In declining health he attended the session only on 11 Nov. to take the oaths. The following day he entered his proxy in favour of Henry Compton, of London; the proxy was vacated six weeks later when Pritchett died at his home in Harefield, leaving diocesan affairs ‘in too much disorder’. A campaign to promote Robert Frampton as his successor was already under way with the result that the directive for Frampton’s elevation was issued on the day the old bishop died.19 Pritchett was buried under the pulpit of his parish church six days later.20


  • 1 Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 139.
  • 2 TNA, PROB 11/365.
  • 3 Ibid.
  • 4 VCH Mdx. iii. 253-4.
  • 5 Walker Revised, 56.
  • 6 VCH Mdx. iii. 271.
  • 7 HP Commons 1660-1690, iii. 291; Salmon, Lives, 268; A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of the City of London, i. 5, ii. 57; G. Milner-Gibson, Pritchett Ped. passim.
  • 8 VCH Mdx. iii. 253-4; HP Commons 1558-1603, i. 508-9.
  • 9 VCH Mdx. iii. 253-4.
  • 10 J.R. Woodhead, Rulers of London 1660-1689, p. 116.
  • 11 Longleat, Bath mss, Coventry 7, f. 219; Tanner 41, f. 94; V. Larminie, Wealth Kinship and Culture, 186-7.
  • 12 TNA, PROB 4/12091.
  • 13 Ath. Ox. iv. 862.
  • 14 Bodl. Tanner 147, f. 189.
  • 15 Bodl. Tanner 44, f. 249.
  • 16 Evelyn Diary, iv. 84.
  • 17 Bodl. Tanner, 39, f. 153.
  • 18 Evelyn Diary, iv. 166.
  • 19 Bodl. Tanner 147, f. 189, 37, f. 214; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 125.
  • 20 Ath. Ox. iv. 862.