Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Horsley, John
HORSLEY, JOHN (1685–1732), archæologist, of a Northumberland family, is said by Turner to have been born at Pinkie House in the parish of Inveresk, Midlothian, in 1685. Hinde thinks he was a son of Charles Horsley, a member of the Tailors' Company of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and that he was probably born there. He was educated at the Newcastle grammar school, but went at a very early age to the Edinburgh University, where he matriculated on 2 March 1698, and graduated M.A. on 29 April 1701. Soon after this he became minister of the presbyterian congregation of Morpeth, Northumberland, vacated by the removal of Jonathan Harle or Harley (afterwards M.D.) to Alnwick, Northumberland. Calamy visited him on his way to Scotland in April 1709. According to Evans's ‘List’ (1715–29) he was minister at Morpeth and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea jointly, and had two hundred hearers, including ten county voters. He is probably identical with the John Horsley who in 1721 is described as ‘gent.’ of Widdrington, near Morpeth, and who acted as agent to a York building company, then holding the Widdrington estates. He made calculations of the rainfall at Widdrington in 1722 and 1723. He kept a school at Morpeth; Newton Ogle, afterwards dean of Winchester, was one of his pupils. At a later period he employed himself there, and at Newcastle, as a lecturer on natural science. His letters show that he was at Bath in 1727 and in London in 1728. On 23 April 1730 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In a letter (undated, probably May 1731) to Robert Cay of Newcastle he encloses advertisements for the ‘Newcastle Courant’ of ‘a complete course of experimental philosophy’ at Morpeth and of his great work on Roman Britain, which was then approaching completion. His correspondence with Roger Gale [q. v.], who contributed an article to ‘Roman Britain,’ belongs to 1729–31. The researches by which he accumulated material and the labour expended on his book told fatally on his constitution. It is a monument of his accuracy and judgment, but he died before the day of publication. His dedication to Sir Richard Ellys is dated 2 Jan. 1731–2. His last lecture was delivered at Newcastle on 7 or 8 Jan. He died on 12 Jan. 1731–2, aged 46, and was buried on 15 Jan. in the churchyard at Morpeth. His widow removed to Newcastle; her maiden name is not known. Wood says she was a daughter of Principal Hamilton of Edinburgh, who had been minister of Cramond (1694–1709), and thus accounts for Horsley's knowledge of the parish of Cramond; the statement seems based on a confusion with another John Horsley [see Horsley, Samuel], but Hamilton knew Horsley, and visited him on 15 Nov. 1727. He had a daughter, who married E. Randall, clerk to a merchant in the South Sea House, London; another daughter, who married Samuel Hallowell or Halliwell, a Newcastle surgeon; and a son, George, who was apprenticed (23 Dec. 1732) to Hallowell, and died young. His scientific apparatus was purchased by Caleb Rotheram (afterwards D.D.), who established a dissenting academy at Kendal in 1733; after Rotheram's death, by John Holt of Kirkdale, near Liverpool; then by the Warrington Academy, of which Holt became mathematical tutor; in 1786 it was presented to New College, Hackney; and was ultimately deposited in Dr. Williams's Library when at Red Cross Street; in 1821 it is mentioned as still existing, but only a few broken remnants now remain (1891).
Horsley published: 1. ‘Vows in Trouble,’ &c., 1729, 12mo. 2. ‘The Vanity of Man … Funeral Sermon for … Jonathan Harle, M.D.,’ &c., 1730, 8vo. 3. ‘Some Account of the Life of … Harle,’ &c.; included, with No. 2, in Harle's ‘Two Discourses,’ &c., 1730, 4to. 4. ‘A Brief and General Account of the … Principles of Statics, Mechanics, Hydrostatics, and Pneumatics,’ &c., Newcastle-upon-Tyne [1731?], 12mo (a handbook to his lectures). Posthumous were: 5. ‘Britannia Romana, or the Roman Antiquities of Britain, in Three Books,’ &c., 1732, fol. The three books deal respectively with history, inscriptions, and geography; there are 105 copper-plate engravings. The British Museum has a copy with additions by John Ward, LL.D. The map of ancient Britain is reproduced in D'Anville's ‘Ancient Geography,’ 1775, fol. The original copper-plates were offered for sale by Randall in 1763 to the Society of Antiquaries; in 1769 to Richard Gough [q. v.] for 100l.; in 1780 to Andrew Gifford [q. v.] for twenty guineas. No sale was effected; John Nichols, in December 1784, would have given forty guineas for them, but they were already melted down. 6. ‘A Map of Northumberland, begun by the late John Horsley, F.R.S., continued by the Surveyor he employed [George Mark],’ &c., Edinburgh, 1753. 7. ‘Materials for the History of Northumberland,’ 1729–30, printed in ‘Inedited Contributions to the History of Northumberland,’ &c. , 8vo. Horsley had projected histories of Northumberland and Durham. His paper on the Widdrington rainfall is in ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ xxxii. 328.
[Hutchinson's View of Northumberland, 1778, i. 202 sq.; Nichols's Anecdotes of Bowyer, 1782, p. 371; Wood's Parish of Cramond, 1784, p. 4; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. 1812, ii. 48; Turner in Newcastle Magazine, March 1821, p. 426 sq.; Calamy's Own Life, 1830, ii. 148; Hodgson's Memoirs of … Horsley, 1831; Hodgson's Hist. of Northumberland, 1832, vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. 443 sq.; Catalogue of Edinburgh Graduates, 1858, p. 170; Hinde in Archæologia Aeliana, February 1865; James's Hist. Litig. and Legis. Presb. Chapels, 1867, p. 67?]