Records of the Family of Sclater

Claude Sclater


Descendants of William Sclater (1)

William Sclater (2), Prebendary of Exeter, 1609-1661

The eldest surviving son of William Sclater (1), William (2), was born at Pitminster on Easter Day in 1609, and, like his father, was a Scholar of Eton and King’s College, Cambridge. He was elected a Fellow of King’s in 1629 and his letter of resignation from his Fellowship, dated November 10, 1633, is still preserved in the College archives. He graduated B.A. in 1629 and proceeded to the degrees of M.A. in 1633, B.D. in 1640 and D.D. in 1651.

He was ordained about 1630 and in 1636 was appointed as Chaplain to Joseph Hall, the learned Bishop of Exeter, and as Rector of St. Stephen’s Exeter, where he soon became renowned for his preaching. He was also “Preacher” at St. Martin’s, Exeter, and in 1641 he was made a Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. The Civil War broke out in August 1642 but Exeter and the West remained in the hands of the Royalists until the spring of 1646. In 1644 Christopher had been presented by Roger Mallack to the living of Cullompton, which possessed one of the finest churches in Devon, but after the Puritans gained control he was persecuted1 and driven from his livings, taking refuge for a time in Cambridge2. He was never formally sequestrated but lost the income from his benefices, and from his Prebend when Cathedral establishments were abolished during the Commonwealth.

No doubt financial considerations eventually compelled him, like many other Royalists, to adapt himself to the times, and on February 11, 1650/51, he accepted presentation under the Great Seal of the Commonwealth to the Rectory of St. Peter-le-Poer in London.

William obviously had little sympathy for the Presbyterian system of church government which the Parliament was trying to enforce, for in a report to the London Provincial Synod it was stated that he would not join with four Elders in the administration of his parish3. He probably also continued to use the Prayer Book, which had been forbidden, and he soon ran into trouble with the authorities.

During the Interregnum the posts were widely searched for evidence of Royalist conspiracies on the instructions of Thomas Scot, and John Thurloe who succeeded him as Cromwell’s Head of Intelligence. One of William’s letters, which was intercepted, evidently contained some compromising information or opinion. The Council of State, the forty-four statesmen who governed the Country in place of the Monarchy, ordered that Dr. Sclater was to appear before the Committee of Examinations for questioning4. There is no record of the proceedings, but he seems to have survived this ordeal unscathed, since he was allowed to retain the benefice of St. Peter-le-Poer until his death ten years later.

William appears to have been in great demand as a preacher, for, among his eight published works are sermons preached at Cambridge, Winchester, Taunton, Exeter and London. He was evidently a friend of the celebrated Dr. Thomas Fuller of Queen’s College, Cambridge, who wrote5:

“Let me add that there were at one time 3 Fellows of King’s Colledge, Sons of Eminent Divines, and afterwards Doctors of Divinity.

  1. Samuel Collings
  2. Thomas Goad
  3. William Sclater

And I believe there were not severally in their Generations men more signal in their different Eminences.”

William married Jane Beavys of Exeter in 16346 and had one son, William (3), baptised at St. Stephen’s, Exeter, on November 27, 1638. He returned to Collompton soon after the Restoration, but died in 1661. He was probably buried at Cullompton, but the registers for that period are missing. The administration of his estate was formerly in the Exeter Probate Registry which was destroyed with all its contents in 1942.

A complete list of his published works is given in Appendix II.

William Sclater (3) of Brampford Speke, 1638-1671

Soon after William Sclater (2) moved to London as Rector of St. Peter-le-Poer he entered his only son William (3) at the Merchant Taylor’s school in St. Lawrence Pountney. The school register, kept in Latin by William Dugard the Headmaster, is still preserved by the Merchant Taylors’ Company and a translation of the entry relating to William Sclater (3) reads:

“William Sclater, only son of William Sclater, Bachelor of Divinity and Rector of the Church of St. Peters-Poor near London, born at March 12, 1650, in his 13th year, fee paid 2s. 6d.”

At this time the school consisted of 250 scholars, of whom 100 were educated free, 50 paid 2s. 6d. and the remaining 100 paid 5s. a quarter.

William (3) is next heard of matriculating from Pembroke College, Oxford, on April 28, 16597, but he was ordained and left Oxford without graduating. He was needed to replace one of the two thousand clergy who dissented from certain practices of the Church and were deprived of their livings under the Act of Uniformity on St. Bartholemew’s Day, 1662.

Accordingly on January 20, 1662/3, he was instituted to the perpetual vicarage of Brampton Speke, near Exeter, on the presentation of the Crown in place of the ejected Minister, Henry Hallett.

Nothing further is known of his career and nine years later he died suddenly at the age of 32 and was buried at Brampton Speke on September 17, 1671. He left no will and the Administration of his estate was destroyed with the Exeter Probate Registry in 1942.

The recent discovery of William’s early death disproves the statement in the Dictionary of National Biography and other reference books that he became a Non-juror in 1688 and the author of An original draught of the primitive Church, first published anonymously in 1717, but whose author was probably John Slater, Vicar of Chatteris and no relation8.

No record of his marriage has been found but his wife may have been the Dorothy Sclater of Broadclyst9, near Exeter, whose will, proved in 1681, was in the Exeter Probate Registry until its destruction.

The Brampford Speke parish registers have not survived but some bishop’s transcripts in the Devon Record Office contain the following entries:

July 1, 1663. George Tuck married Elizabeth Sclater. [She was possibly a sister of William (3) or the youngest daughter of Christopher (1) and George Tuck was probably the vicar of Salcombe, Devon].

May 31, 1664. William, son of William Sclater, baptised.
? 1666. Dorothy, daughter of William Sclater, baptised.
February 7, 1668/9. Thomas, son of William Sclater, baptised.
August 31, 1671. James Sclater, baptised.
September 17, 1671. William Sclater, vicar, buried.

It has not proved possible to discover anything more definite about these children. None of them was educated at Oxford or Cambridge. Their mother was probably left in straitened circumstances after her husband’s untimely death and this branch of the family, if it survived, must have declined in the social scale. The name appears occasionally in Exeter parish registers in the 18th century, and there is a family of nursery gardeners, bearing the name Sclater, who live in Exeter to this day, but know nothing of their antecedents.


  1. A.G.Matthews, Walker Revised
  2. D.N.B.
  3. W.A.Shaw, The Church under the Commonwealth
  4. C.S.P.D. 1651 p.410
  5. Worthies 1st ed. p.58
  6. W.Sterry, The Eton College Register
  7. Al.Ox.
  8. See my article in Notes and Queries, June 1963
  9. The Broadclyst registers for this period are missing

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