Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Frampton, Robert

FRAMPTON, ROBERT (1622–1708), bishop of Gloucester, was born at Pimperne, near Blandford in Dorsetshire, 26 Feb. 1622. He was the youngest of eight children, his father being a respectable farmer. He was educated at the Blandford grammar school, whence he went to Oxford as an exhibitioner at Corpus Christi College. Here he was much neglected by his tutor, and by the aid of some influential friends was transferred to Christ Church, where he was placed under the tuition of Mr. Zouch. He took his degree with credit, and soon afterwards set up a private school at Farnham, Dorsetshire. He then obtained the appointment of head-master of the school of Gillingham in the same county, where he had a hundred boys under him. During the period of the war between the king and parliament, Frampton, professing high loyal principles, was involved in a quarrel with one Gage, a parliamentary officer in the neighbourhood. It appears that on more than one occasion they came to blows. Frampton and his brothers were on the king's side in the battle of Hambledon Hill (3 Aug. 1645). He now determined, despite the difficulties of the time, to take orders, and was privately ordained by Skinner, bishop of Oxford. He then became domestic chaplain to the Earl of Elgin, but was also a frequent preacher in London and elsewhere, and was much admired for his oratorical powers. By the influence of Mr. Harvey, a well-known Levant merchant, Frampton obtained the appointment of chaplain to the English factory at Aleppo (30 Aug. 1655). Here he spent, with some short intervals of absence, twelve years, and by his abilities as a linguist and his straightforward character obtained great influence. He became a proficient in Arabic and in Italian, and lived on friendly terms with the chief men among the Mussulmans at Aleppo. He enjoyed the fullest confidence of the Europeans at Aleppo, who entrusted him with an important mission to the Porte, in which he succeeded, against all the influence of the pasha of Aleppo, in obtaining the redress of certain grievances under which foreigners were made to suffer in Syria. After many years spent at Aleppo, Frampton returned to England, where in 1667 he married Miss Mary Canning. Hearing, however, that the plague had broken out at Aleppo, he gallantly determined to return thither almost immediately after his marriage. He remained at Aleppo actively ministering to the sufferers till 1670, having himself escaped the disease. In this year he finally returned to England, where his reputation stood high. In two months' time he was appointed preacher at the Rolls, living in the house of Sir Harbottle Grimston. He was also made chaplain to the lord keeper, Sir Orlando Bridgeman [q. v.] Any amount of preferment was now within his reach, and he was confessedly one of the first preachers of the day. Pepys, writing in 1667, says: ‘All the church crammed, and, to my great joy, find Mr. Frampton in the pulpit, and I think the best sermon for goodness and oratory, without affectation or study, that I ever heard in my life. The truth is he preaches the most like an apostle that ever I heard man, and it was much the best time that I ever spent in my life at church.’ In 1671 Frampton was made prebendary of Gloucester, and shortly afterwards of Salisbury. In 1673, on the death of Dr. Vines, he was made dean of Gloucester. At this time he preached a sermon at court against the encouragement of infidelity, to which the king objected as personal, and the dean apologised. Frampton obtained the livings of Fontmell, Dorsetshire, and Oakford Fitzpaine, Devonshire, which he held with his deanery. In 1680 he was appointed bishop of Gloucester, in succession to Dr. John Pritchard. He was consecrated by Archbishop Sancroft in the chapel of All Souls' College, Oxford, 27 March 1681. At first he held his livings in commendam, but at Sancroft's desire he resigned them, being afterwards appointed to the living of Standish, Gloucestershire, the emoluments of which were very small, while his parsonage house was in ruins. Frampton proved himself a great builder and restorer. He did much both at the deanery and the episcopal palace of Gloucester, and rebuilt the house at Standish. He was a frequent preacher at Whitehall, and in the administration of his diocese was tolerant towards dissenters, and universally popular. After the accession of James II the king complained to the archbishop that Frampton was in the habit of denouncing popery. When the famous declaration of indulgence was published, and ordered to be read in churches, the bishop went strongly with those of his brethren who opposed it. When the petition of the bishops was drawn up, he authorised the appending of his signature, but he was not present with the seven at its presentation. He sent a direction to his clergy bidding them not to read the declaration, and when the seven were committed to the Tower he spent most of his time there with his brethren. But, though thus strongly opposed to the illegal proceedings of James, he would not transfer his allegiance to the new dynasty. On his refusal to take the oath his diocese was greatly moved. The gentry of the county offered to have the sessions deferred that he might have more time for deliberation. The grand jury petitioned for him. But neither side would yield, and the bishop was deprived of his see as a nonjuror on 1 Feb. 1690–1. He was allowed, however, by connivance, to hold the small benefice of Standish, where he resided. Here his life was not altogether tranquil. Frequent accusations were made against him of favouring popery, and he was actually arrested and imprisoned on suspicion of being concerned in a plot for murdering the king. The only definite act which could be proved against Frampton was his having sent round circular letters to the nonjuring clergy. But he was able to show that this was only done by way of raising some funds for the relief of those of them who were greatly in need. At the archbishop's request Frampton was accordingly liberated. In the Tower the deprived bishop had the opportunity of visiting Judge Jeffreys, whom he found in a very sad and melancholy state, and to whom he ministered christian consolation. At Standish it was Frampton's habit to attend the church services, and to take part in them, omitting the names of the royal family, and preaching from his pew. So greatly was he respected in the diocese that those who were instituted to livings by the legal bishop did not consider their institution complete until they had obtained the ratification, secretly given, of the deprived nonjuror. Frampton had no wish to continue the nonjuring schism, and consequently incurred the ill-will of the more violent members of the party. His views about the schism corresponded with those of Henry Dodwell in the ‘Case in View’ (1705). He regarded it altogether as a personal matter, and, though he could not himself feel justified in taking the oaths, he did not condemn others who might do so. He agreed in this to a great degree with Bishop Ken [q. v.] At the accession of Queen Anne the position of the nonjurors appeared to alter, and many of them returned to allegiance. The queen took particular notice of Frampton, and went so far as to offer him the see of Hereford, which was to be regarded as a ‘ translation,’ thus recognising the position he still claimed as bishop of Gloucester. But Frampton, who was now a very aged man, declined this delicate offer. He died at Standish 25 May 1708, at the age of eighty-six, and was buried in the church there, his grave being marked by a black marble slab with the inscription, ‘Robertus Frampton, Episcopus Glocestrensis—Cetera quis nescit?’

A portrait of Frampton hangs in the episcopal palace at Gloucester, and has been reproduced in the anonymous contemporary memoir first published in 1876, which corrects some of the mistakes made by Wood and others, and was unknown to Lathbury, author of the ‘History of the Non-jurors.’

[Memoir of Robert Frampton, Bishop of Gloucester, edited by Rev. T. S. Evans, London, 1876; Lathbury's Hist. of the Nonjurors, London, 1845; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, vol. iv.; Diary and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys, vol. iii. London, 1858; Dodwell's A Case in View Considered, London, 1705; J. B. Pearson's Chaplains of the Levant Company, 1883, pp. 21, 56, 57.]

G. G. P.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.129
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
159 ii 2f.e. Frampton, Robert : omit about 1651
160 ii 28 for some time in the autumn of 1690. read on 1 Feb. 1690-1.