Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Metcalfe, Nicholas

METCALFE, NICHOLAS (1475?–1539), archdeacon of Rochester, and a distinguished patron of learning, was the son of Richard Metcalfe, esq., of Beare Park, in the parish of Aysgarth, Richmondshire, and of 'an ancient and numerous family ' (Baker, Hist. of St. John's College, p. 109). He was educated at Cambridge, probably at Michael-house. He graduated B.A. in 1494, B.D. in 1504, and D.D. in 1507. He appears early to have gained the notice of Fisher, bishop of Rochester, to whom he was chaplain, and through whose influence he was constituted archdeacon of Rochester in 1515. On 30 July 1517 he was presented to the living of Woodham Ferris in Essex, and in the following year was elected master of St. John's College, Cambridge. In this capacity he greatly contributed to the advancement of that society as a home of scholarship and learning, and attracted to it numerous benefactions. Roger Ascham, who was especially indebted to his discerning patronage, describes him as one who 'was parciall to none, but indifferent to all; a master for the whole, a father to every one in that college' (Scholemaster, ed. Mayor, p. 160). Baker characterises him as 'a man of equal industry and conduct, skilful in business, and fitted for government ' (Hist. of St. John's College, p. 85). In common, however, with his patron, Fisher, and other eminent promoters of university reform, Metcalfe could not bring himself to recognise the royal supremacy in matters of doctrine, while he openly opposed Henry's divorce from Catherine. He was accordingly constrained to resign his mastership in 1537, and retired to his living of Woodham Ferris, where he died in 1539. His will, which was proved 16 Oct. 1539, contains bequests of forty shillings to St. John's College for a 'Dirige' and a mass; legacies to his sisters, Elizabeth, Alice, Jane, &c.; the residue being left for the maintenance of poor scholars in Cambridge.

[Baker's Hist. of St. John's College, ed. Mayor; Aschami Epistolæ; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 62.]

J. B. M.