Thomas Sprat

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Thomas Sprat
Bishop of Rochester
Thomas Sprat by Michael Dahl.jpg
Installed 1684
Predecessor Francis Turner
Successor Francis Atterbury
Other posts Dean of Westminster
Personal details
Born 1635
Beaminster, Dorset
Died 20 May 1713
Bromley, Kent
Denomination Church of England
Alma mater Wadham College, Oxford

Thomas Sprat, FRS (1635 – 20 May 1713) was an English churchman, Bishop of Rochester from 1684.

Bishop of Rochester ecclastical office in the anglican church

The Bishop of Rochester is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Rochester in the Province of Canterbury.



Sprat was born at Beaminster, Dorset, and educated at Wadham College, Oxford, where he held a fellowship from 1657 to 1670. Having taken orders he became a prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral in 1660. In the preceding year he had gained a reputation by his poem To the Happie Memory of the most Renowned Prince Oliver, Lord Protector (London, 1659), and he was afterwards well known as a wit, preacher and man of letters.

Beaminster town and civil parish in the West Dorset district of Dorset in England

Beaminster is a small town and civil parish in Dorset, England, situated in the West Dorset administrative district approximately 15 miles (24 km) northwest of the county town Dorchester. It is sited in a bowl-shaped valley near the source of the small River Brit. The 2013 mid-year estimate of the population of Beaminster parish is 3,100.

Wadham College, Oxford college of the University of Oxford

Wadham College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is located in the centre of Oxford, at the intersection of Broad Street and Parks Road.

Holy orders sacraments of the Catholic Church

In the Christian churches, holy orders are ordained ministries such as bishop, priest, or deacon, and the sacrament or rite by which candidates are ordained to those orders. Churches recognizing these orders include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Assyrian, Old Catholic, Independent Catholic and some Lutheran churches. Except for Lutherans and some Anglicans, these churches regard ordination as a sacrament. The Anglo-Catholic tradition within Anglicanism identifies more with the Roman Catholic position about the sacramental nature of ordination.

In 1669 Sprat became canon of Westminster Abbey, and in 1670 rector of Uffington, Lincolnshire. He was chaplain to Charles II in 1676, curate and lecturer at St. Margaret's, Westminster, in 1679, canon of Chapel Royal, Windsor in 1681, Dean of Westminster in 1683 and Bishop of Rochester in 1684. He was appointed Dean of the Chapel Royal in 1685 and was Clerk of the Closet from 1685 to 1687.

Canon (priest) Ecclesiastical position

A canon is a member of certain bodies subject to an ecclesiastical rule.

Westminster Abbey Church in London

Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom's most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar"—a church responsible directly to the sovereign.

A rector is, in an ecclesiastical sense, a cleric who functions as an administrative leader in some Christian denominations. In contrast, a vicar is also a cleric but functions as an assistant and representative of an administrative leader. The term comes from the Latin for the helmsman of a ship.

Sprat was a member of James II's ecclesiastical commission, and in 1688 he read the Declaration of Indulgence to empty benches in Westminster Abbey. The suggestion was that he was playing at being Vicar of Bray. Although he opposed the motion of 1689 declaring the throne vacant, he assisted at the coronation of William and Mary. As dean of Westminster he directed Christopher Wren's restoration of the abbey.

James II of England 17th-century King of England and Ireland, and of Scotland (as James VII)

James II and VII was King of England and Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685 until he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The last Roman Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland, his reign is now remembered primarily for struggles over religious tolerance. However, it also involved the principles of absolutism and divine right of kings and his deposition ended a century of political and civil strife by confirming the primacy of Parliament over the Crown.

The Declaration of Indulgence or Declaration for Liberty of Conscience was a pair of proclamations made by James II of England and VII of Scotland in 1687. The Indulgence was first issued for Scotland on 12 February and then for England on 4 April 1687. It was a first step at establishing freedom of religion in the British Isles, although the king's intention was to promote his own minority religion, Catholicism, reviled by most of his subjects.

The Vicar of Bray is a satirical description of an individual fundamentally changing his principles to remain in ecclesiastical office as external requirements change around him. The religious upheavals in England from 1533 to 1559 made it impossible for any devout clergyman to comply with all the successive requirements of the established church. The original figure was the vicar Simon Aleyn, although clerics who faced vicissitudes resulted in revised versions of the story.

In 1692 a bizarre attempt was made to implicate Sprat in a plot to restore the deposed king James II. This became known as the "flowerpot plot" because it involved a conspirator – a man named Robert Young – forging Sprat's signature on a document, smuggling it into the Bishop's manor and hiding the paper under a flowerpot. The authorities were contacted about the document, which led to the Bishop's arrest for high treason and the searching of his house – the forged document was eventually found where Young had said it would be. However, Sprat was soon freed when it became clear that there was no case to answer. [1] [2] [3]

Robert Young (c.1657–1700) was an English forger and cheat.

Bromley Palace is a manor house in Bromley, London Borough of Bromley; and was the residence of the Bishops of Rochester from the 12th century to 1845. It is now part of Bromley Civic centre.

He died of apoplexy in 1713 at the Bishop's Palace in Bromley, Kent and was buried on the south side of St Nicholas' Chapel in Westminster Abbey. [4]


Frontispiece to A History of the Royal Society, showing the crowning of King Charles II. Sir Francis Bacon is shown on the right; William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker, the president of the Society, is on the left. A History of the Royal Society, by Thomas Sprat (frontispiece).jpg
Frontispiece to A History of the Royal Society, showing the crowning of King Charles II. Sir Francis Bacon is shown on the right; William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker, the president of the Society, is on the left.

Sprat's major prose works are the Observations upon Monsieur de Sorbier's Voyage into England (London, 1665), a satirical reply to the strictures on Englishmen in Samuel de Sorbière's book Relation d'un voyage en Angleterre (Paris, 1664), and a History of the Royal Society of London (London, 1667), which Sprat had helped to found. The History of the Royal Society elaborates the scientific purposes of the academy and outlines some of the strictures of scientific writing that set the modern standards for clarity and conciseness.

For his work on the history of science he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1663. [4]


He married Helen, the daughter of Devereux Wolseley of Ravenstone, Staffordshire and was the father of Thomas Sprat, Archdeacon of Rochester and Fellow of the Royal Society. Shortly after the elder Sprat's death, his son was made a canon of Westminster Abbey. [5]


  1. Johnson, p36 ff.
  2. Clinch, p15 ff.
  3. Lee, 419 ff.
  4. 1 2 "Fellow's details". Royal Society. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  5. Westminster Abbey – Thomas Sprat (Accessed 16 April 2013)

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Church of England titles
Preceded by
John Dolben
Dean of Westminster
Succeeded by
Francis Atterbury
Preceded by
Francis Turner
Bishop of Rochester