Cotton, William (d.1621) (DNB00)

COTTON, WILLIAM (d. 1621), bishop of Exeter, was the eldest son of John Cotton, a citizen of London, but descended from an ancient family of Staffordshire, by Pery, daughter of Mr. Cheyne. Though he was born in London, ‘his infancy,’ says Fuller, ‘was much conversant about Finchley in Middlesex.’ He went to Queens' College, Cambridge, in 1572, and became M.A. in 1575. Almost as soon as he had taken orders in the English church, its honours were showered upon him. The prebendal stall of Sneating in St. Paul's Cathedral was held by him from 1577 to 1598, and the archdeaconry of Lewes from 1578 to 1598. On 12 Nov. in the latter year he was consecrated bishop of Exeter, and in 1600 he obtained a dispensation to hold with this see the rich rectory of Silverton. He also held the office of precentor of the cathedral, with a canonry annexed, from 1599 to 1606, when he resigned this piece of preferment to his son, but quickly consoled himself (1 April 1608) with a prebendal stall in his cathedral. Cotton was notorious for the preferments which he bestowed upon his family, and for the fierceness of his opposition to any doctrines or practices savouring of puritanism. A clergyman called Snape (according to Fuller) came from Jersey and sowed the seeds of nonconformity in the diocese of Exeter, but the bishop plucked them up soon. In his old age he was apoplectic, and for some days before his death was deprived of speech; all that he could say was ‘Amen, amen, often reiterated,’ which made ‘some scandalous tongues’ exclaim that he lived like a bishop, but died like a clerk. He died of stone at Silverton, where he usually resided, on Sunday, 26 Aug. 1621, and on 31 Aug. was buried on the south side of the choir, a monument to his memory, ‘containing his portraicture, at large in his robes, cut in alabaster, curiously carved and painted,’ with a long set of Latin verses, being placed in a different part of the cathedral. His widow, Mary, daughter of Thomas Hulme, of the county of Chester, and relict of William Cutler, citizen of London, was buried near the bishop in Exeter Cathedral on 29 Dec. 1629. A full genealogical table of the children and descendants of the bishop is in Maclean's ‘Trigg Minor,’ i. 642–53.

[Oliver's Bishops of Exeter, pp. 143–4, 272; Fuller's Worthies, London (Nichols's ed. 1811), ii. 66; Fuller's Church History (Brewer's ed.), bk. x. v. 501; Prince's Worthies (ed. 1701), pp. 222–3; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), i. 263, 379–380, 412, 422; Addit. MS. Brit. Museum 5865 f. 202.]

W. P. C.