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PENTON, STEPHEN (1639–1706), divine, son of Stephen Penton, was born at Winchester and baptised at St. John's Church on 9 April 1639. He was admitted as scholar of Winchester College in 1653 (Kirby, Winchester Scholars, p. 187), and matriculated from New College, Oxford, on 28 June 1659, becoming probationary fellow in that year, and remaining a full fellow from 1661 to 1672. He graduated B.A. 7 May 1663, and M.A. 17 Jan. 1666–7. For some time he remained at Oxford; but from 1670 to 1676 he held the rectory of Tingewick, near Buckingham, a living in the gift of his college (Lipcomb, Buckinghamshire, iii. 124), and so early as 1671 he served as chaplain to the Earl of Ailesbury. On 15 Feb. 1675–6 he was appointed principal of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, by the provost and fellows of Queen's College, subject to the condition that he should resign Tingewick, and that his college should appoint thereto a fellow of Queen's College. While principal he built the chapel, which was consecrated 7 April 1682, and the adjoining library (cf. Wood, History of the Oxford Colleges, ed. Gutch, p. 669, and Hearne, Collections, Oxford Hist. Soc., ii. 321–3).

Penton resigned the principalship for his health's sake on 15 March 1683–4, and on leaving gave the hall some silver plate (ib. i. 263). From 1684 to 1693 he was rector of Glympton, and was also lecturer in the neighbouring church at Churchill. On the nomination of Lord Ailesbury he was instituted, on 27 Sept. 1693, to the rectory of Wath-by-Ripon, and he was collated on 28 May 1701 to the third prebendal stall at Ripon, holding both preferments until his death. In a sermon which he preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, on 23 Sept. 1705, he pronounced, according to Hearne, a great encomium on the Duke of Marlborough (Collections, ed. Doble, i. 47–8). He died on 18 Oct. 1706, and was buried on 20 Oct. in the chancel of Wath church, where a quaint inscription on a brass plate commemorates him. The epitaph is printed in Whitaker's ‘Richmondshire’ (ii. 187). His will, dated 8 Oct. 1706, with a codicil dated 12 Oct., appears in the ‘Memorials of Ripon Church.’ He left the bulk of his estate for the benefit of the poor of the parish. Many books were given by him to the Bodleian Library in 1702 (Macray, Annals, 2nd edit. p. 172).

Wood, in the ‘Athenæ Oxonienses,’ describes Penton as possessing ‘a rambling head;’ but Hearne, in the ‘Notæ et Spicilegium’ appended to his edition of William of Newburgh (iii. 782–3), characterises him as ‘an ingenious honest man, a good scholar, a quaint preacher, of a most facetious temper, of extraordinary good nature … a despiser of money and preferments’ (cf. Hearne, Collections, i. 298). His works are: 1. ‘A discourse concerning the worship of God towards the Holy Table or Altar,’ 1682, of which Hearne says a copy was in Dr. Charlett's study (ib. ii. 11). 2. ‘The Guardian's Instructor, or the Gentleman's Romance, written for the diversion and service of the gentry’ [anon.], 1688. It deals with the bringing up of children at home, and with the training at the university of Oxford. 3. ‘Apparatus ad Theologiam in usum Academiarum. I. Generalis. II. Specialis,’ 1688; dedicated to Thomas, earl of Ailesbury, with a preface to the young academics, especially the fellows of New College. 4. ‘New Instructions to the Guardian, with a method of institution from Three years of age to Twenty-one,’ 1694; dedicated to Charles, lord Bruce, son and heir to the Earl of Ailesbury. Dr. Knight, in his ‘Life of Dean Colet’ (p. 145), notes the condescension of Penton, ‘a very worthy and noted man, who not only publish'd the “Guardian's Instruction for Youth,” but (even laterly) a “Hornbook (or A. B. C.) for Children.”’

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Wood's Life, pp. lxxxiv–v; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 1059, iv. 550, Fasti, ii. 265, 394; Wood's Oxford Colleges, ed. Gutch, p. 665; Memorials of Ripon Church, ed. Rev. J. T. Fowler (Surtees Soc.), ii. 299–303; Nichols's Topogr. and Genealogist, iii. 430, 432, 593; Whitaker's Richmondshire, ii. 187.]

W. P. C.