Revd Thomas Aylesbury (1597-1661)
- Thomas Aylesbury came from a family of minor gentry in Warwickshire.
Baptised on July 17th 1597 in St Martin's, Birmingham, the church where his
parents William and Dorothea married the previous October, he was the
eldest of eight children. The evidence of parish registers at St Martin’s and
of his brother William’s will, preserved at Worcester (though having suffered
a little damage over the years), gives us some detail of the family.
Thomas and his brother, William, were educated at King Edward's School,
Birmingham, whence Thomas matriculated as a pensioner at Christ's
College, Cambridge, in March 1613. After taking his B.A. in 1615/6 he
became incumbent of Curdworth, Warwickshire, on May 4th 1618 (at that
time the patronage was a royal wardship during the minority of Edward
Darcy), which benefice he seems to have held only for a year or so.
Described as 'strongly Calvinistic' [DNB = Dictionary of National
Biography] and as a 'stout and fearless Royalist' [WA&NHS = Wiltshire
Archaeological and Natural History Society, vol 7 (1862) p295] , there is
more to Thomas than these labels might simply afford.
- Aylesbury’ activities in London seem to fall within just a few years but
included several sermons from important pulpits. The text of a sermon
'Paganisme and Papisme' preached at the Temple Church on All Saints day
1623 was published with a dedication to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of
The two other published sermons were preached at Paul’s Cross, London,
then a most sensitive pulpit in political terms.
Richard Grobham wrote to John Davenant, Bishop of Salisbury, signifying
the presentation of Thomas Aylesbury as Rector of Berwick St Leonard in Wiltshire in June 1624, but the
institution appears not to have taken place until 25th June 1625.
In the climate of Laudian-Arminian ascendancy, Aylesbury seems to have
settled to the responsibilities of parish life and to continuing studies.
In 1631 he was granted the Prebendary of Horningsham and Tytherington,
one of three prebendaries of the collegiate church of Heytesbury, under the
jurisdiction of the Dean of Sarum. Four years later, on 11th September 1635,
Thomas Aylesbury, B.D., clearke, parson of Berwick St Leonard, was
granted a licence to marry Joan Nosse, a 22yr old spinster, from the
neighbouring parish of Maiden Bradley.
There is scanty evidence of events in the next few years, but it is apparent
that a significant amount of time was devoted by Aylesbury to continuing
studies and writing. Though the publication dates of his two books, the
‘Diatribe’ and ‘A Treatise of the Confession of Sin’ (the latter published
anonymously), are 1659 and 1657 respectively, there is clear evidence of the
substantial completion of the ‘Treatise’ during the later 1630’s.
The march of the New Model Army to Taunton in May 1645 stimulated a
series of meetings in Wiltshire following which a popular levy was adopted
in order to limit the plundering by both armies. Parochial clergy were
particularly active amongst the Clubmen in Wiltshire. In July, Fairfax
attacked Bridgwater: He intended to press ahead westward and eliminate
Goring’s Army, but the threat of an unsettled line of retreat convinced
Fairfax that he should deal with the Clubmen first. He had good reason for
his decision taken at a council of war on Friday 25th July 1645.
When in July 1646 the Committee for Plundered Ministers took evidence
regarding delinquent ministers one witness said that: 'the said Mr Aylesbury
was very forward in the Club business'.
Whether Thomas Aylesbury was amongst those taken
at Shaftesbury, or later on August 4th at Hambleton Hill, near Shrawton, I
cannot tell but the former seems more likely. He was certainly held in
London for at least a year before being freed.
The Committee for Plundered Ministers’ report to the House of Commons on
28th March 1646 refers to Mr Alesbury’s claim of a Prebendary at
Heytesbury whence revenue of £10 per annum was reserved to be paid to the
Minister of Heytesbury, Mr Gracious Frankelyn. During Aylesbury’s
imprisonment in London, his wife, Joan, was granted funds to support herself
and eight children. Thus on 12th June 1646 she was granted £16 per annum
(one fifth of the rent of Kingston Deverill) and on 27th July of that year this
income was supplemented by the granting of the residue of ‘all the tithes unto
glebe lands and Easter booke’ of Kingston Deverill. By contrast with the
family’s former income the deprivation was severe. It seems likely that
Thomas Aylesbury, junior, who was to become Rector of Great Corsley was
born in 1647/8 at Cloford following his father’s return from imprisonment in
- In June 1660 the House of Lords moved that petitions of clergy be dealt with
so as to restore them the benefits of their respective livings. Aylesbury had
just been instituted to the living of East Knoyle, and now regained his livings
at Berwick St Leonard and Kingston Deverill. Unfortunately he was now so
low and week in health that he died by January 1661.
- Interestingly we know that his grandson Thomas became an innkeeper in Devizes,
and then Melksham in the early C18. One of the sources for this information is old insurance company records.
©C_Alsbury 1996 all rights reserved