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Welton, Richard (DNB00)


WELTON, RICHARD (1671?–1726), nonjuring divine, born at Framlingham in Suffolk in 1671 or 1672, was the son of Thomas Welton, a druggist of Woodbridge in the same county. After attending a school at Woodbridge for seven years he entered Caius College, Cambridge, on 3 March 1687–8. He was elected to a scholarship in Michaelmas 1688, which he held till Michaelmas 1695, graduating B.A. in 1691–2, M.A. in 1695, and D.D. in 1708. In May 1695 he was ordained deacon, on 30 June 1697 he was admitted rector of St. Mary's, Whitechapel (Newcourt, Repert. Eccles. i. 700), and on 13 Sept. 1710 he was presented to the vicarage of East Ham in Essex, where he took up his residence (Morant, Hist. of Essex, i. ii. 16). Welton had strong Jacobite sympathies, and regarded the whig divines as apostates. About the close of 1713 he had a new altar-piece placed in his church at Whitechapel, representing the ‘Last Supper.’ The artist, James Fellowes (fl. 1710–1730) [q. v.], was instructed to portray Burnet in the semblance of Judas, but, fearing the consequences, he obtained permission to substitute White Kennett [q. v.] The apostle John, depicted as a mere boy, was considered singularly like Prince James Edward, and Christ himself was identified by some with Sacheverell. Crowds flocked to see the altar-piece, among them Mrs. Kennett, who recognised her husband with indignant astonishment. Kennett took proceedings in the court of the bishop of London, John Robinson (1650–1723) [q. v.], and on 26 April 1714 obtained an order for its removal. A print of the picture is in possession of the Society of Antiquaries.

While Anne reigned Welton was sheltered by the high-church and Jacobite sympathies of those in power, but on the accession of George I measures were taken to punish him. The authorities resolved to deprive him by tendering to him the oath of abjuration. In 1715, while he was from home, an order was served at his residence requiring him to take the oath within twenty-four hours, and, on his failure to comply, he was deprived of his livings. He set up a chapel in an upper room in Goodman's Fields within his former parish of Whitechapel, where on 10 Nov. 1717 he was raided by a party of soldiery and his goods sold to pay the fine for his offence.

In 1722 he received episcopal consecration from Ralph Taylor, a nonjuring bishop, and within two years left the country for New England. In 1723 the vestry of Christ Church, Philadelphia, had requested the bishop of London to send them a minister, and on 27 July 1724, no appointment having been made, they invited Welton, who had arrived there a month before, to take charge of the church. He entered at once upon his duties and secretly ordained clergymen, exercising the functions and wearing the robes of a bishop. Intelligence of his doings reached England, and a year and a half later he was ordered to return by a writ of privy seal. In January 1725–6 he embarked for Lisbon, where he died in August, refusing the communion of the English clergy. He was married and had issue. Welton published several single sermons, and was the author of ‘Eighteen Sermons, the Substance of Christian Faith and Practice,’ London, 1724, 8vo, with a portrait prefixed.

[Appleton's Cyclop. of American Biogr.; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vi. 75; Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum, 1807, iv. 446; Venn's Biogr. Hist. of Gonville and Caius College, 1897, i. 484; Lathbury's Hist. of the Nonjurors, 1845, pp. 252, 256–7; Notes and Queries, 9th ser. iv. 434; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 397, viii. 369; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. iv. 421; Hawks's Contributions to the Eccles. Hist. of the United States, 1839, ii. 183; Life and Times of Kettlewell, ed. Carter, 1895, p. 266; Welton's Church Ornament without Idolatry vindicated in a sermon, 1714; Welton's Clergy's Tears; Howard's Judas Redivivus, 1715; Solomon against Welton; Welton's Church distinguished from a Conventicle; The Conventicle distinguished from the Church, in answer to Dr. Welton, 1718; The Case of not taking the Oaths, 1717; The Nonjuror Unmask'd, 1718. A collection of contemporary pamphlets and news-sheets relating to the Whitechapel altar-piece is in the British Museum library (1418, k 34).]

E. I. C.