Josiah Pleydell

After over half a century during which the parish of Cocking was served by resident vicars, with the appointment of Josiah Pleydell in October 1683 Cocking once again had an absentee vicar who appointed curates to tender to the spiritual needs of the parish.

Josiah (or Josias) Pleydell was born in late 1641 at Newnham on Severn in Gloucestershire, the son of Revd. Robert Pleydell (1601 – 1679) and his wife Deborah née Cox. Josiah was baptised in St Peter’s Church, Newnham by his father on 27 December 1641.

In October 1647, Robert Pleydell was appointed curate at Bisley, near Stroud where he served until he died, and was buried there, in November 1679. In 1661, George Lord Coventry, who was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and the benefactor of the parish of Bisley, refused to pay the annual stipend of £10, claiming that he was under no obligation to do so, leaving Robert Pleydell dependant on the charity of the parishioners. In 1668, Pleydell successfully petitioned Lord Keeper Coventry to reinstate the annual payment – in the petition, Robert Pleydell is described as “an honest man, an able, peaceable, orthodox minister, and no presbyterian, as that term is used in opposition to Episcopal government”.

In July 1659, Josiah followed his older brother, Jonathan, to Brasenose College, Oxford where he matriculated the following year. He was then at New Inn Hall, from where he graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1663. He went on to obtain his Master of Arts degree from King’s College, Cambridge in 1671.

On 20 September 1663, Pleydell was ordained as a deacon at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford by the Bishop of Oxford, Robert Skinner. On 25 September the following year, now a curate at Chipping Norton, Pleydell was ordained as a priest, again at Christ Church by the newly installed Bishop William Paul.

He was appointed rector of St Peter’s, Bristol on 10 December 1667 and as rector of nearby St Mary le Port on 20 June 1668.Note 1 Like his father, Pleydell was a staunch opponent of presbyterianism; described as “a constant adherer to Dr (Guy) Carleton, bishop of that place (Bristol), in his contentions with them (the presbyterians) and other fractious people of that city”, Pleydell followed Carleton to Chichester after the latter was translated as Bishop of Chichester in 1679.

Pleydell was installed as archdeacon at Chichester Cathedral on 3 October 1679 and in 1681 as a minor canon as Prebendary of Gates.

On 9 November 1680, he returned to Somerset to preach a sermon at the funeral of his friend, Joseph Glanvill, the writer and philosopher, who was the vicar at Bath Abbey church. In another sermon in October 1681, published under the title “Loyalty & Conformity”, Pleydell denounced “exclusionism” and presbyterianism, claiming that the church was so far from teaching resistance to a lawful monarch that “tis impossible there should be a rebellion, while the principles of the Church of England are revered and owned”. The only reason “republican” principles were even countenanced was because of the meddling of “rebellious and traitorous practices, or by monstrous and damnable positions” of papists and presbyterians.Note 2

In March 1681, he was appointed as vicar at Lyminster, near Littlehampton and on 26 July the following year as rector at Nuthurst, near Horsham. In October 1683, Pleydell exchanged parishes with Francis Wright, with Wright moving to Lyminster and Pleydell being appointed vicar at Cocking on 7 October 1683 and collated on 7 December.

It is unlikely that Pleydell spent much time if any at Cocking, as during his 25 years as vicar, the needs of the parishioners were met by a series of curates. Pleydell resided at Nuthurst, where his wife Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, also called Elizabeth, on 26 October 1696. Elizabeth was baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Nuthurst on 8 November 1696.

As noted in the Cocking parish register, Pleydell died in 1707 “by a fall from his chaise.”Note 3. In his will, dated 29 May 1696 and proved on 17 November 1707, he left his entire estate to his widow, Elizabeth, who he describes as “my affectionate wife … the daughter of Mr Roger Richards of Bristol, deceased, and formerly the wife of Mr Samson Crane of Bristol, merchant deceased”. He was buried in Chichester Cathedral with a simple funeral “with no sermon and as little charge as possible (on) my estate”. There is no memorial to him in the cathedral.


Note 1   Both St Peter’s and St Mary le Port churches were bombed during the Bristol Blitz of 24-25 November 1940 and are now ruins.

Note 2   Source: “Accommodating High Churchmen: The Clergy of Sussex, 1700-1745” by Jeffrey Scott Chamberlain, published 1997.

Note 3   A chaise is a light two-wheeled carriage, with a folding hood, for one or two people.