(Bishop of Exeter)

Born: ABT 1537, Whalley, Lancaster, England

Died: 13 Mar 1593/4,  Exeter Palace

Married: ?



Nephew to the celebrated Dean Nowell, was born at Whalley, in the county of Lancaster, and distinguished himself at Brasenose College, Oxford. In Bishop Alley, who brought him into his diocese, and in Francis, Earl of Bedford, he found zealous and liberal patrons.

On 15 Aug 1561, he was instituted to the living of Sampford Peverel, then to Whimple, was collated to a canonry of this cathedral (in which office during the plague in the summer of 1570 he was exemplary in his attendance on the sick, says Hoker, p. 356 'MS. Hist.'), also to the Rectory of Kenn, on 15 Oct 1573, to the Wardenship of Manchester College in 1575, and to the Rectory of Spaxton in the deanery of Bridgewater. The death of William Bradbridge opened to him the See of Exeter, to which he was consecrated, by Archbishop Edmund Grindal, at Lambeth, on 2 Aug 1578, and in which he was installed on 21 Mar following. To enable him the better; to support his rank he was further promoted to the Rectory of Haccombe, on 20 Oct 1581, by the Carew family.

This Bishop remodelled the statutes of his church; but his assertion in the preamble, that hitherto they were confused and utterly indigested - "hactenus confusa et nullo ordine digesta" - may be questioned by those who are acquainted with the diligence and experience of his predecessors. That he was a learned scholar is manifest from the six treatises published in London in 1576. He had the gratification of witnessing, on 5 Jul 1585, the restitution by the Crown to his Chapter of the lands, tenements, and rents so rudely wrested from their hands, and which had been originally granted for the maintenance of obituary services. The Crown, however, reserved a yearly pension of 145, which continued to be paid for eighty-eight years, when King Charles II, on 30 Jul 1673, transferred the payment from the Crown to the ex-Treasurer, Thomas, Lord Clifford, Baron Chudleigh, and his heirs male for ever. The Bishop had the further satisfaction of seeing the Queen at the same time re-granting to the priest-vicars of his church the greater part of their former possessions. For some time before his death he had suffered from asthma, which terminated his life at the Palace at Exeter on Wednesday morning, 13 Mar 1593-4, aged 57. His remains were deposited seven days later on the south side of the cathedral choir; but the monumental inscription has been placed in the south tower. The Register of the cathedral burials commences with his interment. Some years before his death he had purchased Pilland Estate in Pilton, of the Brett family; his son, John Woolton, M.D., eventually giving up his practice in Exeter, retired to Pilland.

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