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RISLEY, THOMAS (1630–1716), nonconformist divine, was born on 27 Aug. 1630 at Newton-in-Makerfield, and baptised on 20 Sept. at Newchurch chapel, both places being then in the parish of Winwick, Lancashire. He was the second son of Thomas Risley (d. 1670), by his wife Thomasin (d. 1681), daughter of Henry Lathom of Whiston in the parish of Prescot, Lancashire. From Warrington grammar school he went in 1649 to Pembroke College, Oxford, matriculated on 9 Dec. 1650, and graduated B.A. 12 Oct. 1652, M.A. 15 June 1655. In 1654 he was elected fellow, and was confirmed in his fellowship on 20 June 1661 by the commissioners for visiting the university after the Restoration. He surrendered his fellowship on 24 Aug. 1662, being unwilling to comply with the terms of the Uniformity Act. On 10 Nov. 1662 he was ordained deacon and presbyter by Edward Reynolds [q. v.], bishop of Norwich, but his principles, which were of the Ussher school, debarred him from preferment. Having an estate at Culcheth (otherwise Risley) in the parish of Winwick, he settled there, preached privately to his neighbours, studied physic, and practised gratuitously. In 1666 he declined an invitation to return to Oxford, and, having formed a regular congregation after the passing of the Toleration Act in 1689, he built at his own cost a small chapel, still standing, and known as Risley Chapel, of which the site in Fifty Croft, Cross Lane, Culcheth, was vested in trustees on 25 March 1707 for a ministry ‘holding and owning the doctrinal articles’ of the church of England. Like many of the older nonconformist chapels in the north of England, it has a bell. Here he continued to preach till his death. At first he wrote sermons, but for many years was an extempore preacher. From 1692 he frequently took part in licensing and ordaining nonconformist ministers; he himself educated students for the ministry with aid (1693–6) of the presbyterian fund. But he held cordial relations with churchmen, particularly with his fellow-collegian, John Hall [q. v.], bishop of Bristol. Risley died in the early part of 1716, and was buried in the graveyard of Risley chapel; the inscription on his supposed tombstone is modern (since 1885). By his wife Catherine he left six surviving children, including two sons, Thomas and John (1691–1743), his successor at Risley Chapel.

He published only ‘The Cursed Family … shewing the pernicious influence of … prayerless houses,’ &c., 1700, 8vo, with a prefatory epistle by John Howe (1630–1705) [q. v.]

[Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 66; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, i. 98; Howe's Prefatory Epistle, 1700; Owen's Funeral Sermon, July 1716; James's Hist. Litig. Presb. Chapels, 1867, p. 665; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, pp. 12, 32; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1891, iii. 1260; List of Chapels claimed by Presbyterians (Tooting Case), 1889; Nightingale's Lancashire Nonconformity (1892), iv. 252 sq.; tombstones at Warrington and Risley; information from W. Innes Addison, esq., assistant clerk of senate, Glasgow.]

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