Palmer, James (1585-1660) (DNB00)


PALMER, JAMES (1585–1660), royalist divine, was born in the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, in July 1585, and was educated first at Magdalene College, Cambridge (the admission registers of which only begin in 1644), and subsequently at Oxford. He graduated B.A. 1601–2, M.A. 1605, and B.D. 1613, at Cambridge, and was incorporated at Oxford 9 July 1611. He was ordained priest by Bancroft, and on 19 April 1616 was appointed by the dean and chapter of Westminster vicar of St. Bride's, Fleet Street. In middle life he showed some puritan predilections, and informations of divers irregularities were laid against him in 1637. He was said to omit ‘the prayer for the bishops and the rest of the clergy, and to read divine service sometimes in his gown, and sometimes without either surplice or gown, in his cloak’ (State Papers, Dom. Charles I, ccclxxi. 6 Nov. 1637). In March 1641–2 the House of Commons ordered Palmer to allow the free use of his pulpit to Simeon Ash twice a week (Commons Journals, ii. 479). Palmer appears to have preached frequently before both houses of parliament on their monthly days of humiliation. On 18 Oct. 1645 he resigned his vicarage, on account of failing health, to the committee for plundered ministers (Addit. MS. 15669, f. 370). On the 15th of the following month Thomas Coleman was presented to the living (ib. p. 405). Walker and Lloyd erroneously include Palmer among the suffering and ejected clergy. He is certainly not to be confounded with the Palmer for whom Charles demanded a safe-conduct on 5 Dec. 1645, in order to bring proposals of peace (‘Mercurius Rusticus’ under date, quoted in Newcourt, and Notes and Queries, 6th ser. vi. 83). Having acquired a competency by frugality (according to Hatton's New View of London), he spent his time, after his voluntary sequestration, in going ‘up and down to look for poor ministers' widows that were sequestered, though sequestered himself, inquiring for objects of charity.’ He built and endowed a new almshouse over against the new chapel at Westminster for twelve poor people (Lloyd, Worthies, p. 512; Walker, Sufferings, ii. 174). Attached were ‘a free school and a commodious habitation for the schoolmaster, and a convenient chapel for prayers and preaching, where he constantly, for divers years before his death, once a week gave a comfortable sermon.’ He endowed the foundation with a ‘competent yearly revenue of freehold estate, committed to the trust and care of ten considerable persons of ye place to be renewed as any of them dye.’ Within the last ten years the almshouses have been re-established in a new building in Rochester Row, Westminster. The educational portion of the endowment has been merged with other endowments in the united Westminster schools, and in the day-schools belonging to this institution there are a number of Palmer scholarships, providing free education without clothing (Notes and Queries, ubi supra).

Fuller warmly declared that he found more charity in this one sequestered minister than in many who enjoyed other men's sequestrations (Hist. Cambr. p. 173). Palmer died on 5 Jan. 1659–60, and was buried in the church of St. Margaret's, Westminster, where a fine monument was erected to his memory by Sir William Playter, bart., ‘a loving friend.’ This monument now occupies a central place on a pier of the north wall of the church. The monument is of early classic design, and attributed to the school of Inigo Jones, and bears Palmer's bust and arms. The bust has all the appearance of being a faithful portrait, is painted in proper colours, with a black gown and black cap.

Palmer was probably unmarried, and should doubtless be distinguished from James Palmer who obtained a license to marry Elizabeth Robinson of St. Mary, Whitechapel, on 8 Nov. 1609 (Harl. Soc. Publ. xxv. 316). In several authorities—Newcourt and Walker, followed by Bailey (Life of Fuller, pp. 406, 589)—Palmer is incorrectly called Thomas Palmer.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Addit. MS. 15669, ff. 370, 405; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. vi. 83–4, 136; Harl. Soc. Publ. xxv. 316; Walcott's Memorials of Westminster, p. 294; State Papers, Dom. Car. I, ccclxxi; Stow's Survey, bk. vi. p. 45; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 315; Fuller's Hist. of Cambridge, p. 173; Walker's Sufferings, ii. 174; Lloyd's Worthies, p. 512; Bailey's Fuller, p. 406; Lords' and Commons' Journals.]

W. A. S.