Birch, Peter (DNB00)

BIRCH, PETER, D.D. (1652?–1710), divine, was son of Thomas Birch of the ancient family of that name settled at Birch in Lancashire. He was educated in presbyterian principles. In 1670 he and his brother Andrew went to Oxford, where they lived as sojourners in the house of an apothecary, became students in the public library and had a tutor to instruct them in philosophical learning, 'but yet did not wear gowns.' After a time Peter left Oxford and entered the university of Cambridge, though no entry of his matriculation can m discovered. Subsequently he returned to Oxford, and, having declared his conformity to the established church. Dr. John Fell procured certain letters from the chancellor of the university in his behalf. These were read in the convocation held on 6 May 1672, with a request that Birch might be allowed to take the degree of B. A. after he had performed his •exercise and to compute his time from his matriculation at Cambridge. On the 12th of the same month he was matriculated as a member of Christ Church, and being soon after admitted B. A. (1673-4) he was made one of the chaplains or petty canons of that house by Dr. Fell. He graduated M. A. in 1674, B.D. in 1683, and D.D. in 1688. For A time he was curate of St. Thomas's parish, Oxford, then rector of St. Ebbe's church and lecturer at Carfax, and subsequently, being recommended to the service ot James, duke of Ormond, he was appointed by that noble-man one of his chaplains. He became chaplain to the House of Commons and a prebendary of Westminster in 1689. King William III, just before one of his visits to Holland, gave the rectory of St. James's, Westminster, to Dr. Thomas Tenison, and after the advancement of that divine to the see of Lincoln, the Bishop of London, pretending that he had a title to the rectory, conferred it on Dr. Birch, 11 July 1692. The queen, being satisfied that the presenta- tion belonged to the crown, granted the living to Dr. William Wake. These conflicting claims led to litigation between Birch and Wake in the court of king's bench, and eventually the House of Lords decided the case on appeal, 12 Jan. 1694-5, in favour of the latter. Shortly afterwards, on 19 March 1694-5, Birch was presented by the dean and chapter of Westminster to the vicarage of St. Bride's, Fleet Street. Abel Boyer, referring to the dispute about the rectory, states what was probably the real reason of Birch being ousted from it. He says Birch 'was a great stickler for the High-church party; and 'tis remarkable, that in King William's reign, and on the Prince s birthday, he preach'd a sermon in St. James's Church, of which he was then rector, on this text, "Sufficient to each day is the evil thereof;" which having given great offence to the court, he was removed from that church, and afterwards chosen vicar of St. Bride's' (History of Queen Anne, 1711, 421). In September 1697 'Dr. Birch was married to the lady Millington, a widdow, worth 20,000l.' (Luttrell, Relation of State Affairs, iv. 284). He died on 2 July 1710. His will, dated on 27 June in that year, is printed in the Rev. John Booker's 'History of the Ancient Chapel of Birch.' By his wife Sybil, youngest daughter and coheir of Humphrey Wyrley of Hampstead in Staffordshire, he had issue two sons, Humphrey Birch and John Wyrley Birch.

He published: 1. 'A Sermon before the House of Commons, 5 Nov.,' London, 1689, 4to. 2. 'A Sermon preached before the honourable House of Commons at St. Margaret's, Westminster, 30 Jan. 1694,' London, 1694, 4to. Some of the members took offence at some passages in this discourse, which elicited two replies, entitled respectively 'A Birchen Rod for Dr. Birch; or, some Animadversions upon his Sermon. ... In a Letter to Sir T[homas] D[yke] and Mr. H[ungerford],' London, 1694, 4to, and 'A New-Year's Gift for Dr. Birch; or, a Mirror discovering the different opinions of some Doctors in relation to the present Government,' London, 1696, 4to. 3. 'A Funeral Sermon preach'd on the decease of Grace Lady Qethin, wife of Sir Richard Gethin, Baronet, on the 28 day of March 1700, at Westminster-Abby. And for perpetuating her memory a sermon is to be preach'd in Westminster-Abby, yearly, on Asn Wednesday for ever,' London, 1700, 4to. Reprinted in 'Reliquiæ Gethinianæ.'

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 659; Wood's Fasti, ii. 334, 344, 387, 404; Compleat History of Europe for 1710, Remarkables, p. 34; Le Neve's Monumenta Anglicana (1700–15), 209; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs, ii. 45, 620, iii. 426, 451. iv. 284, v. 251, 298, 627; Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum, i. 161, 358; Atterbury's Epistolary Correspondence, i. 211; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 317, 661, 922; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 658; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), iii. 362; Booker's Hist of the Ancient Chapel of Birch (Chetham Soc.), 100–104.]

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