Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Frewen, Accepted
FREWEN, ACCEPTED (1588–1664), archbishop of York, was the eldest son of the Rev. John Frewen [q. v.], rector of Northiam, Sussex. The family appears to have been originally of Worcestershire, as Richard Frewen, the father of John Frewen, was son of Roger Frewen, who was buried at Hanley Castle in 1543, and grandson of Richard Frewen, bailiff of Worcester in 1473. Accepted Frewen was born at Northiam, and baptised there 26 May 1588. A ruinous old house called ‘Carriers,’ opposite to Brickwall Park, is traditionally reported to have been the birthplace of the future archbishop. It is supposed that John Frewen, his father, rented it from John White of Brickwall from 1583, when he was presented to the living of Northiam, till he removed to the church-house about 1592. According to Anthony à Wood, Frewen was educated at the free school at Canterbury, and thence removed in 1604, when barely sixteen years of age, to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he became a demy, took his B.A. degree 25 Jan. 1608, and M.A. 23 May 1612. He was elected fellow in the latter year, and, according to the same authority, became divinity reader in the college. In 1617 in the college books we find leave given by the president and authorities for ‘a year's absence to Mr. Frewen, acting as chaplain to Sir John Digby, ambassador in Spain.’ Sir John was created Lord Digby in November 1618. Frewen appears to have accompanied him on a mission from King James to the Emperor Ferdinand in Germany in 1621. On 24 Dec. 1621 another year's absence was granted by the president and authorities to Frewen to act as chaplain to Lord Digby, who was accredited a second time as ambassador to the court of Spain. Lord Digby in 1622 was created Earl of Bristol. Frewen was at Madrid when Prince Charles arrived on his romantic visit, and, seeing the attempts to pervert him to the Romish faith, preached before him from the text 1 Kings xviii. 21, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him,’ urging him to be steadfast in the doctrines of the church of England. The prince was much struck with the sermon, became attached to Frewen, and presented him with a miniature of himself, which is still in the possession of the family. On his accession to the throne the king appointed him one of his chaplains, putting him into the list with his own hand. In 1625 he was made canon of the tenth stall in Canterbury Cathedral, and vice-president of his college in the same year. In 1626 he was unanimously elected president of Magdalen on 24 Oct., and on 16 Dec. compounded for his D.D. degree, having taken that of B.D. 8 July 1619. In 1628 and 1629 he was vice-chancellor of Oxford, and on 13 Sept. 1631 installed dean of Gloucester. In 1635 he was made rector of Standlake in Oxfordshire, and also of Warnford in Hampshire, both livings being in the gift of his college. In 1638 and 1639, at the request of Archbishop Laud, the chancellor, he again discharged the office of vice-chancellor. In 1642 he was mainly instrumental in sending the university plate to the king at York, and lent 500l. to Magdalen College to present to the king towards the expenses of the war. On this the parliament ordered him to be arrested, but he withdrew, and did not return to Oxford till the king came there after the battle of Edgehill, at the end of that year.
Upon Frewen's appointment to the presidentship of Magdalen he made great alterations in the chapel. He paved the inner chapel with black and white marble, put up a new organ, stained windows, and new stalls, all which improvements were probably mainly at his own expense. ‘In 1631,’ says Calamy (Nonconformists' Manual, ii. 27), ‘Dr. Frewen, president of Magdalen, changed the communion-table into an altar, the first that was set up in the university since the Reformation.’ This created much sensation, and was inveighed against by several preachers at St. Mary's, when the matter was brought before the king and council, and the preachers banished the university. Dr. Williamson (formerly fellow of Magdalen), principal of Magdalen Hall, received a public and sharp rebuke for countenancing the factious parties. On 17 Aug. 1643 Frewen was nominated to the see of Lichfield and Coventry, and in April 1644 was consecrated in Magdalen College Chapel by John Williams, archbishop of York, assisted by four other prelates. On 11 May he resigned the presidentship. In 1652 his estate was declared forfeited for treason against the parliament, but by mistake he was designated Stephen Frewen. A similar error in his christian name enabled him to escape on a more perilous occasion, when Cromwell had offered 1,000l. to any one who would bring him dead or alive. Being again described in the proclamation as Stephen Frewen, he got away to France, where he remained till the fury of the times was abated, when he returned and lived very privately. There is an apocryphal story in the ‘Ballard MSS.,’ xl. 110 (Bodleian Library), which probably refers to this period. The writer of the letter mentions an old house on Banstead Downs, which was occupied by a lady whose husband had fled to the continent on account of the civil troubles. The lady is said to have kept a kind of boarding-house, to which many ladies resorted. A clergyman, whose name was concealed, frequently preached to them. Notes were taken of his sermons by several of the ladies, and entered into a common note-book. The lady of the house made frequent journeys to London, taking with her bundles of manuscripts, which were supposed to be meant for the press. One of the ladies showed the notes to a gentleman, who made much use of them in his household. When the ‘Whole Duty of Man’ was published, this gentleman procured the book, and was surprised to find it exactly coincided with the notes in his possession. The mysterious clergyman at Banstead was discovered to have been Frewen, who was at that time supposed to be beyond sea. The story, however, has been ably confuted, and especially by Ballard himself in his memoir of Lady Pakington (Memoirs of several Ladies of Great Britain, p. 320), and the archbishop's noted aversion to female society would alone render the tale improbable.
After the Restoration he was nominated to the archbishopric of York, elected on 22 Sept. 1660, confirmed at Westminster in Henry VII's Chapel 4 Oct., and enthroned by proxy at York 11 Oct. In 1661 he was chairman of the Savoy conference. We have no official account of the conference from the bishops' side; but Richard Baxter describes Frewen as a mild and peaceable man, and one who took no active part in the proceedings.
Frewen died at Bishopthorpe 28 March 1664, and was buried under the east window of York Minster, where a sumptuous monument with a Latin inscription is erected to his memory. He was never married, and is said to have been ‘so perfectly determined to preserve the chastity of his character as not to suffer a woman servant in his family.’ The reason given for this, in a sixpenny pamphlet published in 1743 by Thomas Frewen of Brickwall, fourth in descent from the archbishop's brother Stephen, was ‘fuit filius utero matris viventis excisus, which created in him so great an horror of that action that I believe it to have been his reason for living and dying a bachelor.’ Frewen of Brickwall published this pamphlet to vindicate the archbishop's memory from the misrepresentations of Francis (whom, by the bye, he strangely calls Richard) Drake in his ‘Eboracum, or History and Antiquities of York Cathedral and City.’ Mr. Thomas Frewen also published a small volume of the archbishop's Latin speeches at Oxford when president of Magdalen and vice-chancellor. This is also dated 1743, and both pamphlets are dedicated to Edward Butler, LL.D., president of Magdalen and M.P. for the university. The archbishop died wealthy, and bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to his youngest brother Stephen, an eminent trader in London. Stephen Frewen (1600–1679) conveyed twenty-seven thousand guineas of the archbishop's money in specie in his carriage to London after the prelate's funeral; but the money which he deposited with Sir Robert Vyner, the banker, was lent to Charles II, and lost by the closing of the exchequer. Stephen Frewen purchased Brickwall House, near Northiam, and other large estates in Sussex and other counties, and was ancestor of the present proprietor of Brickwall.
By his will the archbishop bequeathed to Magdalen College, ‘my mother, that gave me my breeding, five hundred pounds, to be employed as my gift to the honour of the college, in some public way approved of by my worthy friend Gilbert [Sheldon], at the present time Lord Bishop of London; as also I forgive unto it five hundred pounds lent it by me, pecuniis numeratis, in a time of necessity;’ to every bishop of the kingdom a ring with this inscription, ‘Neque melior sum quàm patres mei,’ no one to be under the value of 30s.; to the Bishop of Rochester (Warner) a ring once Bishop Jewel's; to every servant a year's wages, besides their due. Dr. Chamberlayne, in his ‘State of England,’ p. 190, assures us that Frewen's benefactions, besides abatements to tenants, amounted to 15,000l.
[Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iv. 821–7; Bloxam's Registers of Magdalen College; Le Neve's Lives of the Archbishops; Burke's Landed Gentry; a privately printed memoir in ‘Hastings Past and Present, with notices of the most remarkable places in the neighbourhood,’ by Mary Matilda Howard, 1855.]