Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wells, Samuel

WELLS, SAMUEL (d. 1678), nonconformist divine, son of William Wells of Oxford, was born in the parish of St. Peter, Oxford, on 18 Aug. 1614. He matriculated from Magdalen Hall on 11 May 1632, and graduated B.A. from New College on 27 June 1633, and M.A. from Magdalen Hall on 3 May 1636 (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714). After keeping a school at Wandsworth, Wells was ordained on 28 Dec. 1638, and soon after became assistant to Dr. Temple at Battersea. When the war broke out he went in 1644 as chaplain to Colonel Essex, leaving his wife and family settled in Fetter Lane, London. He was placed in the sequestered rectory of Remenham, Berkshire, in 1646 or 1647, by the Westminster assembly. Here he had a good income and little to do, there being but about twenty families in the parish. He therefore gladly accepted a call to Banbury, where a wider field awaited him, albeit a much poorer living. He was inducted into it on 13 Sept. 1648, as the parish register shows, by order of the House of Lords (Lords' Journals, x. 501). Almost immediately afterwards Wells distinguished himself by organising a protest against the proposed action of parliament against the king. The address, signed by nineteen ministers of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, was dated 21 Jan. 1648–9, and printed in the same year (London, 4to). It was conveyed to London and presented to Fairfax by Wells and John Bayley of Fringford, Oxfordshire, on 25 Jan. While disapproving strongly of the king's action against the five members, the signatories spoke in no measured terms against the impolicy and illegality of proceeding against the king's life.

It was about this time, or soon after, that Wells was offered, says Calamy, the rich living of Brinkworth, Wiltshire. He continued, however, at Banbury, and in 1654 was appointed with John Owen (1616–1683) [q. v.], Thomas Goodwin, and others, on the commission for Oxfordshire to eject scandalous and unsuitable ministers. In September 1654 he received from parliament a yearly augmentation of 30l. to be added to his salary. The quakers, who were particularly numerous in his parish, seem to have given him some trouble about this time. He was unnecessarily severe with them, having Anne Audland, one of their most noted preachers, imprisoned for calling him ‘a false prophet.’

Wells was ejected with the two thousand on St. Bartholomew's day, 1662. His farewell sermon, ‘The Spiritual Remembrancer,’ on Acts xx. 27, was printed. He was presumably possessed of private means, since, in spite of having ten or eleven children, he remitted 100l. of the money due to him. He continued to live in Banbury and to preach until the operation of the Five-mile Act drove him in 1665 to Deddington, whence he wrote weekly letters to his former congregation in Banbury. These are said to have been printed, possibly with the sermon above mentioned. After the indulgence Wells returned to Banbury and bought a house, where he remained until his death, in June or July 1678; he was buried at Banbury on 7 July (Par. Reg. per the Rev. L. S. Arden). Wells was a powerful and attractive speaker.

By his wife, Dorothy Doyley of Wiltshire, whom he married in 1637, Wells had a numerous family.

[Beesley's Hist. of Banbury, pp. 435, 464–6; Kennett's Register, p. 896; Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1654, p. 355; Palmer's Noncon. Memorial, iii. 120; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

C. F. S.