Walter Raleigh (priest)

Last updated

Walter Raleigh or Ralegh (1586 – 10 October 1646) was an English divine, Dean of Wells from 1641. He died after a violent attack, a prisoner in his own deanery.



Raleigh was the second son of Sir Walter Raleigh's elder brother, Sir Carew Raleigh, of Downton, Wiltshire. His mother was Dorothy, widow of Sir John Thynne, of Longleat, Wiltshire, and daughter of Sir William Wroughton, of Broad Hinton, Wiltshire. He was educated at Winchester School and at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he matriculated as commoner on 5 November 1602. He graduated B.A. in 1605 and M.A. in 1608. [1]

Raleigh took holy orders, and in 1618 became chaplain to William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. In 1620 he was presented by his patron to the rectory of Chedzoy, near Bridgwater, Somerset; in the following year he received the rectory of Wilton St Mary, Wiltshire. About 1630 he was chosen a chaplain-in-ordinary to Charles I, who admired his preaching. In 1632 he was made rector of Elingdon or Wroughton, and in 1635 of Street, Somerset. In 1634 he was minor prebendary of Combe in Wells Cathedral, and received besides the rectory of Street-cum-Walton. In 1636 he was created D.D. In 1637 he became dean and rector of St Buryan, Cornwall, and in 1641 he was chosen to succeed Dr George Warburton as dean of Wells. [1]

Among Raleigh's friends were Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, Henry Hammond, William Chillingworth, and Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. A royalist and a member of the Falkland circle, Raleigh suffered during the First English Civil War. While he was attending the king, his rectory-house at Chedzoy was plundered by the parliamentarians, his property stolen, his cattle driven away, and his wife and children expelled from their home. But in the western counties fortune was for some time favourable to the king, and Raleigh was enabled to return to Chedzoy. He continued to live there in safety until the defeat of George Goring, lord Goring, at Langport in 1645. Raleigh then fled to Bridgwater, and on the fall of the town (21 July 1645) surrendered to the parliamentarians. From Bridgwater he was sent a prisoner to Chedzoy, but on account of his weakness he was allowed to live in free custody in his own house. [1]

The departure of Fairfax and Cromwell was for Raleigh the beginning of new troubles. One Henry Jeanes, being anxious, it is said, to secure the rectory for himself, carried off the dean to Ilchester, and there had him lodged in the county gaol. From Ilchester the prisoner was removed to Banwell, and then to the deanery, Wells, where he was entrusted to the care of David Barrett, a shoemaker. [1]


Raleigh was harshly dealt with, and mortally wounded in a scuffle. According to Simon Patrick, Raleigh was murdered while attempting to screen from Barrett's curiosity a letter that he had written to his wife. [2] He died on 10 October 1646, and was buried in the choir of Wells Cathedral, before the dean's stall. [1]

Raleigh's eldest son George attempted to bring Barrett to justice. A priest-vicar of Wells named Standish was arrested for having permitted the burial of the dean in the cathedral, and kept in custody. [1] [3] The handling of these matters in the Sufferings of the Clergy by John Walker, half a century later, has been used to illustrate the methods and problems of Walker's historiography. [4]


Raleigh's papers were preserved in the family, and thirteen of his sermons were given by his widow to Simon Patrick, who published them in 1679, with a biographical notice, and a Latin poem written in praise of Raleigh by a Cambridge admirer, who is probably Patrick himself. The volume is entitled Reliquiæ Raleighanæ, being Discourses and Sermons on several subjects, by the Reverend Dr. Walter Raleigh. The editor praises Raleigh's quickness of wit, ready elocution, and mental powers, but says that he 'was led to imitate too far a very eminent man,' whose name is not given. [1]

In 1719 Laurence Howell published Certain Queries proposed by Roman Catholicks, and answered by Dr. Walter Raleigh, with an account of Raleigh copied from Patrick. Of a tract on the millennium which Raleigh is said to have written, no trace remains. [1]


Between 1620 and 1623 Raleigh married Maria, daughter of Sir Ralph Gibbs. During the civil war she took refuge at Downton, where she was joined by her husband. [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Marchant 1896 , pp. 206–207.
  2. cf. John Walker, Sufferings of the Clergy; Angliæ Ruina, 1647
  3. Patrick
  4. Muriel C. McClendon; Joseph P. Ward; Michael MacDonald (1999). Protestant identities: religion, society, and self-fashioning in post-Reformation England. Stanford University Press. pp. 170–2. ISBN   978-0-8047-3611-4 . Retrieved 25 March 2012.

Related Research Articles

Walter Raleigh English statesman, soldier and writer

Sir Walter Ralegh, also spelled Raleigh, was an English statesman, soldier, writer, explorer, and a favourite courtier of the English Queen Elizabeth I. One of the most notable figures of the Elizabethan era, he played a leading part in English colonisation of North America, suppressed rebellion in Ireland, helped defend England during the Spanish Armada and held political positions under Elizabeth I.

Ralph Lane 16th-century English politician and explorer

Sir Ralph Lane was an English explorer of the Elizabethan era. He helped colonise the Kingdom of Ireland in 1583 and was sheriff of County Kerry, Ireland, from 1583 to 1585. He was part of the unsuccessful attempt in 1585 to colonise Roanoke Island, North Carolina. He was knighted by the Queen in 1593.

Francis White (bishop)

Francis White was an English bishop and controversialist.

History of Wiltshire

Wiltshire is a historic county located in the South West England region. Wiltshire is landlocked and is in the east of the region.

William Fuller (1608–1675) was an English churchman.

William Fuller was dean of Ely and later dean of Durham. He was in serious trouble with parishioners and Parliament during the early 1640s.

John Thynne English steward and MP (c. 1515–1580)

Sir John Thynne was the steward to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, and a member of parliament. He was the builder of Longleat House, and his descendants became Marquesses of Bath.

William Piers (bishop)

William Piers was Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University from 1621 to 1624, Bishop of Peterborough from 1630 to 1632 and Bishop of Bath and Wells from 1632 until the abolition of episcopacy in 1646, then again from the Restoration in 1660 to his death in 1670.

Walter Raleigh was an English writer, poet, soldier, courtier and explorer.

Walter Balcanquhall was a Scottish clergyman who became a staunch royalist and supporter of the church policy of Charles I of England. He was chosen by James I as a delegate from the Church of Scotland to the Synod of Dort.

Sir Carew Raleigh or Ralegh was an English naval commander and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1586 and 1622. He was the elder brother of Sir Walter Raleigh.

John Ley was an English clergyman and member of the Westminster Assembly.

Henry Jeanes (1611–1662) was an English clergyman and puritan controversialist.

John Stawell

Sir John Stawell or Stowell, 29 August 1600 – 21 February 1662, was MP for Somerset at various times from 1625 to 1662, and one of the leading Royalists in the West Country during the First English Civil War.

Bernard Drake English nautical captain

Sir Bernard Drake of Ash in the parish of Musbury, Devon, was an English sea captain. He himself refuted any familial relationship with his contemporary the great Admiral Sir Francis Drake, as their dispute concerning armorials reveals.

Benjamin Heydon or Haydon (1567-1607) was the Headmaster at Winchester College from 1596 to 1601/1602, a JP for Somerset, and Dean of Wells Cathedral from 1602 until his death in 1607.

Sir William Wroughton (1509/10–1559), of Broad Hinton, Wiltshire, was an English politician.

Edward Hyde (1607–1659) was an English royalist cleric, nominally Dean of Windsor at the end of his life.

Benjamin Culme

Benjamin Culme (1581-1657), Doctor of Divinity, was an English Anglican clergyman who served as Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland, from 1625 until 1649.