Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oley, Barnabas

OLEY, BARNABAS (1602–1686), royalist divine, was baptised in the old parish church of Wakefield on 26 Dec. 1602, as son of 'Francis Oley, clarke,' who married Mary Mattersouse on 25 June 1600. He was educated at Wakefield grammar school, which he entered in 1607. In 1617 he proceeded to Clare College, Cambridge, probably as Cave's exhibitioner from his school, and graduated B.A. 1621, M.A. 1625, and B.D. A crown mandate for the degree of D.D. to him and two other eminent divines was dated 14 April, and published 17 June 1663, but the honour was declined. He was elected probationer-fellow of the foundation of Lady Clare at his college on 28 Nov. 1623, and a senior fellow in 1627, and filled the offices of tutor and president. In these positions he showed great zeal and ability, the most illustrious of his pupils being Peter Gunning, bishop of Ely. Oley was also taxor for the university in 1634, and proctor in 1635. In 1633 he was appointed by his college to the vicarage of Great Gransden, Huntingdonshire, and held it until his death; but for several years he continued to reside at Cambridge. The first steps for the rebuilding of the college, which was begun on 19 May 1638, though not finished until 1715, were taken under his direction, and, according to George Dyer, the structure was much indebted to his 'benefaction, zeal, and inspections.' Extensive purchases of bricks are recorded in the college books as having been made by him, and he was called by Fuller its 'Master of the Fabric' He was a zealous loyalist, and when the university sent its plate to the king at Nottingham to be converted into money for his use, it was entrusted to his care and safely brought to the king's headquarters, August 1642. Particulars of the plate, and of the manner by which, through the skill of Oley, who knew all the highways and byways between Cambridge and that town, the troops of Cromwell were circumvented, are given in the 'Life of Dr. John Barwick' (pp. 23–7). He also lent a considerable sum of money on the communion plate of Clare College, which is of solid gold and very valuable, and restored it to the college in 1660 on receiving a portion of this advance. There is a tradition in the college that its three other very old pieces of plate were preserved by his care. For not residing at Cambridge, and for not appearing before the commission when summoned to attend, he was ejected by the Earl of Manchester from his fellowship on 8 April 1644. He was also plundered of his personal and landed property, and forced to leave his benefice. For seven years he wandered through England in great poverty. In 1643 and 1646 he was at Oxford. Early in 1645, when Pontefract Castle was being defended for the king, he was within its walls, and preached to the garrison; and when Sir Marmaduke Langdale was condemned to death in 1648, but escaped from prison, and lay hid for some weeks in a haystack, the fugitive at last made his way to London in the costume of a clergyman which was supplied by Oley. Next year he was very ill, 'but God strangely brought me back from the Gates of Death.' For some time he lived at Heath, near Wakefield, and in 1652-3 he stayed 'in the north privately, near the place of Lady Savil's demolished habitation' (Mayor, Ferrar, pp. 303-4).

In 1659 Oley returned to Gransden, when Sir John Hewett of Waresley in Huntingdonshire gave him some furniture, and on 9 July 1660 he was restored to his fellowship by an order of the same Earl of Manchester. Through the 'voluntary mediation' of Archbishop Sheldon, he was presented on 3 Aug. 1660 to the third prebendal stall of Worcester Cathedral, and on 8 Nov. 1679 he was collated, on the nomination of Guning, his old pupil, to the archdeaconry of Ely. This preferment he resigned in the following year through doubts of his ability to discharge its duties; but he retained the stall at Worcester until his death, being then 'the senior prebendary of venerable memory' for his saint-like qualities, and having been the means of establishing a weekly celebration in the cathedral (Hickes, Life of Dr. William Hopkins: Ferrar and his Friends, 1892, pp. 223, 271-2). Oley died at Gransden, at an extreme old age, on 20 Feb. 1685-6, and, in accordance with his will, was buried there on the night of 22 Feb. 'with a private and very frugal funeral.' An inscription to his memory was placed on the wall at the west end of the interior of the church.

Oley edited in 1652 'Herbert's Remains, or sundry pieces of that Sweet Singer, Mr. George Herbert,' containing 'A Priest to the Temple, or the countrey parson, Jacula Prudentum,' &c. Prefixed was an unsigned prefatory view of the life and vertues of the authour, and excellencies of this book,' which was written by Oley. The second edition appeared in 1671 as 'A Priest to the Temple or the Country Parson,' with a new preface, signed Barnabas Oley, and beginning with a confession of the authorship of the old notice.The old preface was also reprinted at the end. Both of them, but the new prefac ea slightly enlarged form, were contained in the editions of 1675 and 1701, and reprintedin the editions of Herbert's 'Works' by Pickering (1848) and Bell and Daldy (1859). The manuscript of 'The Country Parson' was the property of Herbert's friend, Wodenote, who 'commended it to the hands' of Oley, and from his prefaces were drawn some of the facts set out in Izaak Walton's memoir of Herbert. Three volumes of the works of Thomas Jackson [q. v.], president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, appeared under the tutorial care of Oley in 1653- 57. The first of them (1653) contains an account by him of the work, acknowledging Jackson as his 'master in divines,' and pronouncing him 'The Divine of his Rank and age.' The merits of Jackson had been pointed out to us by N. F. i.e. Nicholas Ferrar. To the second volume (1654) was prefixed a preface to the reader by him, and in the third volume (1657) were an epistle dedicatory to Sheldon, in which he announced that 'God, by constraining me of disabilitie, hath taken away hopes and desires of publishing any work of mine own'—and a preface, both by Oley. The three volumes were reissued in 1673, with a general dedication by him to Sheldon, then Archbishop of Canterbury, and with a preface to the reader enlarged and altered 'out of the three composed before.' It dwells upon the feebleness of Oley's memory 'by the suddain ingruence of a Lethargy or Apoplexy.' This dedicatory address and preface are reprinted in Jackson's 'Works' (ed. 1844), vol. i. Some lines by him, prefixed to the translation of Lessius, entitled 'Hygiasticon,' which appeared in 1634, are reproduced in Mayor's 'Nicholas Ferrar,' p. viii. Oley was one of those appointed by Gunning to sort and revise all his papers, and a long letter on Ferrar from Dr. Robert Byng to him is printed in Packard's 'Life of Ferrar, ' pp. 29-34, and reproduced in Mayor's 'Memoir,' pp. 7-11. Some of his letters were formerly in the possession of Mr. Higg, vicar of Great Gransden, and others are now at Clare College,

Oley's charitable gifts were widespread. To the church of Gransden he gave, in his lifetime, the pulpit (1633) and the wainscot seats in the chancel (1681). He was the 'first contriver and chief benefactor' of the brick school-house, 1664, which he endowed with 20l. a year. He built brick houses for six poor people upon his own freehold land, leasing them for one thousand years to the churchwardens for the time being at a peppercorn rent; and he erected a vicarage, still a solid and comfortable place of residence, with barns, stables, outhouses, and a brick wall next the street and against the churchyard. He also gave one acre of freehold land to 'enlarge the Herd Commons at Hanginton Layes' in that parish, and six leather buckets to prevent casual fires in the village. Warmfield had a share in his bounty, the vicarage receiving a considerable augmentation. To King's College, Cambridge, he gave 100l. for putting up canopies and pillars for the stalls in the chapel (Cole MSS.; Addit. MS. 5802, ff. 98b, 99a), and a like sum to St. Paul's Cathedral.

His will, dated 23 May 1684, with codicils 19 Aug. 1684, 16 Oct. 1685, and 18 Oct. 1685, is in the Lansdowne MS. 988, fol. 94 b, &c., and Harleian MS. 7043, fol. 191, &c., the last taken from the copy of Mr. Thursby, the executor, and containing his marginal notes. With the exception of a few specific legacies, all his property was bequeathed to pious uses, and he only left twelve pence to his brother, Joseph Oley, and one copy of 'The Duty of Man' to each of his children, as he had given them large sums in his lifetime. Other relatives, called Shillito, Tomson, Dixon, and Preston, are mentioned in the will. The books which he had taken from the library of Dr. Timothy Thurscrosse were left to the vicars of North Grimston, Yorkshire, in succession. His own books were to be sold and the proceeds to be expended by William Nicolson [q. v.], the Bishop of Carlisle, in purchasing the works of certain specified divines for such parishes as he might select. A list of the books given to ten poor vicarages in the diocese of Carlisle under this bequest and the agreement of the various incumbents are printed in Bishop Nicolson's 'Miscellany Accounts,' pp. 7-9. He inquired after their existence and condition at his primary visitation. The manuscripts of Jackson passed to Lamplugh, bishop of Exeter.

Oley left certain articles of furniture to Sir John Hewett in exchange for the gifts which he had received in 1659. To the dean and chapter of Worcester he gave 200l. for buttresses for the choir and the chapel at the east end of the cathedral; to Clare College he left one hundred marks English for building a library, and 10l. to the descendants of John Westley, 'that good workman that built the college,' through fear that the omission to state his accounts before the royalists were ejected from the university might have been prejudicial to his interests. The junior fellows of King's College received the sum of 50l. to be expended in making walks for their recreation, and money was left for the augmentation of poor vicarages.

[Le Neve's Fasti, i. 352-3, where Oley is called Heyolt, iii. 81, 623, 637; Todd's Table of T. Jackson's Writings (1838), p. iii; Walton's Lives, ed. Zouch (1807), pp. 320-1; Lupton's Wakefield School; Bentham's Ely, p. 279; Hearne's T. Caii Vindicia, ii. 690-2; Letters from the Bodleian Library, ii. 80-81; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, ii. 141-42; Notes and Queries, 2nd ed. ii. 170; Kennet's Case of Impropriations, pp. 288-90; Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 24489, pp. 472-474; Ferrar and his Friends (1892), pp. 223, 271-2; Life of J. Barwick, pp. 111-12; Baker's St. John's Coll. Cambr., ed. Mayor, i. 219, ii. 632, 647; information from Rev. Dr. Atkinson, Clare College. A chapter on Oley, 'his life, letters, benefactions, and will,' is in the History of Great Gransden, now being published by its vicar, the Rev. A. J. Edmonds; and among the illustrations is a view of 'Barnabas Oley's Almshouses.' Oley is introduced into the last chapter of Shorthouse's romance of 'John Inglesant.']

W. P. C.