Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Westfield, Thomas

WESTFIELD, THOMAS (1573–1644), bishop of Bristol, was born in the parish of St. Mary's, Ely, in 1573, 'and there bred at the free school under Master Spight.' He proceeded to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was elected a scholar, and afterwards held a fellowship from 1600 to 1603. He graduated B.A. in 1592-3, M.A. in 1596, and B.D. in 1604. He was incorporated B.D. at Oxford on 9 July 1611, proceeded D.D. at Cambridge in 1615, and was reincorporated D.D. at Oxford on 26 March 1644. On 5 Aug. 1619 he was admitted a student at Gray's Inn (Grays Inn Admission Reg. ed. Foster, p. 155).

After serving as curate at St. Mary-le-Bow under Nicholas Felton [q. v.] he was presented to the rectory of South Somercotes in Lincolnshire in 1600, which he exchanged on 18 Dec. 1605 for the London living of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield. On 28 April 1615 he was appointed to the rectory of Hornsey, which he retained until 1637. On 12 April 1614 he was nominated to the prebend of Ealdstreet in St. Paul's Church, which on 1 March 1614-15 he exchanged for that of Cadington Major. On 14 Nov. 1631 he was collated archdeacon of St. Albans, and on 17 Dec. 1633 was included in a royal commission to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction in England and Wales (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1633-4, p. 327).

On the outbreak of the civil war he continued to reside in London, but, falling under suspicion of royalist sympathies (cf. ib. 1640, p. 664), he was 'abused in the streets and sequestered from St. Bartholomew.' He fled to the king, and on 26 April 1642 was consecrated bishop of Bristol, in succession to Robert Skinner [q. v.] He had been offered the same diocese as early as 1617 'as a maintenance, but he then refused it; but now having gotten some wealth he accepted it, that he might adorn it with hospitality out of his own estate.' Westfield held his other offices in commendam with his bishopric, probably without deriving any revenue from them. The emoluments of his bishopric also were at first retained from him by the parliamentary party, but on 13 May 1643 they were restored to him by order of the parliamentary committee of sequestrations out of respect for his character, and he was given a pass to Bristol. This good treatment may have been due to his consent to attend the Westminster assembly, which met on 1 July. Although his share in the proceedings was small, he was present at least at the first meeting. He died on 25 June 1644, and was buried in the choir in Bristol Cathedral, where a monument was erected to him by his wife Elizabeth (d. 1653), daughter of Adolphus Meetkirk, president of Flanders. By her he had a daughter Elizabeth.

Westfield was a man of nervous temperament, and at Oxford, on the only occasion on which he preached before the king, he was so agitated that he fainted away. He was so pathetic a preacher as to be called the weeping prophet. He was the author of two collections of sermons:

  1. 'Englands Face in Isrels Glasse, or the Sinnes, Mercies, Judgments of both Nations,' eight sermons, London, 1646, 4to; London, 1655, 4to; reprinted, with three other sermons, under the title 'Eleven choice Sermons as they were delivered … by Thomas Westfield … Bishop of Bristol,' London, 1656, 4to.
  2. 'The White Robe, or the Surplice vindicated,' four sermons, 1660, 12mo; new edit. 1669, 8vo.

[Cole's Collections in Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 5811 ff. 78-9, 5820 f. 152; Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 345, ii. 70; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, 1714, ii. 3; Lloyd's Memoires, 1668, pp. 300-5; Newcourt's Repert. Londin. i. 95, 128, 296, 653; Le Neve's Fasti Eccles. Anglicanae; Lansdowne MS. 985, f. 62; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Fuller's Worthies of England, 1811, i. 160; Hennessy's Novum Repert. Eccles. Londin. 1898, pp. 18, 27, 101, 223; Harl. MS. 7176, pp. 172-5; Hetherington's Hist. of the Westminster Assembly, 1878, pp. 105, 113.]

E. I. C.