Ferrar, Robert

, the martyred bishop of St. David’s in the sixteenth century, was an ancestor of the preceding, and born in Halifax parish, Yorkshire, probably at Ewood. He became, when a young man, a canon regular of the order of St. Austin, but in what priory or abbey is uncertain. Having partly received his academical education in Cambridge, he retired to a nursery for the canons of St. Austin, i.t Oxford, called St. Mary’s-college (where Erasmus had before studied), and here we find him in 1526, and also in Oct. 1533, when as a member of the said college, he was admitted to the reading of the sentences, having a little before been opponent in divinity. About | the same time he became chaplain to archbishop Cranmer, after whose example he married, a practice at that time disallowed among the popish clergy, and in the time of queen Mary, made the ground of a criminal charge. Dodd, who treats him with more respect than some protestant biographers, adopts from Wood the account, that he was among the first of the university of Oxford that received a tincture of Lutheranism, in which he was confirmed by Thomas Garret, curate of Honey-lane in London, who provided him with books for that purpose, and that in the year above-mentioned he was chosen prior of a monastery of his order, called Nostel, or St. Oswald’s, in Yorkshire, which he surrendered to the commissioners upon the dissolution in 1540, being gratified with a pension of 100l. per annum.

This pension he enjoyed until his promotion to the see of St. David’s, to which he was consecrated Sept. 9, 154-8. He was the first bishop consecrated upon the bare nomination of the king, according to the statute which for that purpose was published in the first year of his (Edward VI.) reign. He had just before been one of the king’s "visitors in a royal visitation, and was at the same time appointed one of the preachers for his great ability in that faculty. As a bishop, Browne Willis says, he became a most miserable dilapidator, yielding up every thing to craving courtiers, and Wood speaks of him with all the rancour of a disciple of Gardiner. The fact, however, seems to be that when he first visited his diocese, he found, among other corruption^and dilapidations, that Thomas Young, the chaunter (afterwards archbishop of York), had pulled down the great hall in the palace for the sake of the lead, which he sold, and that he and Rowland Merick, one of the canons, and afterwards bishop of St David’s, had stripped the cathedral of plate and ornaments, which they likewise sold for their own benefit. On this Dr. Ferrar issued out his commission to his chancellor for visiting the chapter, as well as the restof the diocese, and a mistake in the drawing up of this commission appears to have given the bishop’s enemies the first advantage they had over him. The chancellor, tp whom he left the form of it, drew it up in the old popish words, in which the king’s supremacy was not sufficiently acknowledged, although the bishop professed to visit in the king’s name and authority. This, Young and Merick, with the bishop’s register, George Constantine, whom he | had promoted, availed themselves of, not only to resist the commission, but to accuse the bishop of a pr&munire. The prosecution consequent on this, preventing him from, paying the tenths and first-fruits, afforded them another advantage, and he was imprisoned. They also exhibited fifty-six articles and informations against him, of the most frivolous kind, all which he fully answered; but the debt to the crown remaining unpaid, he was detained in prison until queen Mary’s reign, when he was attacked on the score of heresy, and on Feb. 4, 1555, was brought, in company with Hooper, Bradford, and other martyrs, before Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, who, after treating him with brutal contempt, sent him on the 14th of the same month to his diocese, where he was to be tried by his successor, Morgan, whose interest it was that he should be condemned. The principal charges against him were, his allowing the marriage of priests, denying the corporal presence in the sacrament, affirming that the mass is not a sacrifice propitiatory for the quick and dead, declaring that the host ought not to be elevated or adored, and asserting thai man is justified by faith alone. All these Morgan pronounced to be damnable heresies, degraded Dr. Ferrar from his ecclesiastical functions, and delivered him to the secular power. In consequence of this sentence, he was burned at Carmarthen, on the south side of the marketcross, March 30, 1555. It was remarkable, that one Jones coming to the bishop a little before his execution, lamented the painfulness of the death he had to suffer; but was answered, that if he once saw him stir in the pains of his burning, he should then give no credit to his doctrine. And what he said he fully performed, for he stood patiently, and never moved, till he was beat down with a staff.

His character, as we have already intimated, has been differently represented, bishop Godwin asserting that his ruin was owing to his own rigid, rough behaviour; but Fox seems clearly of opinion that the first prosecution against him was unnecessary and malicious, and that the second was commenced because he was a protestant. It is certain that many of the fifty-six articles which he was put to answer in the reign of Edward VI. were to the last degree frivolous, and showed themselves to be the offspring of a revengeful mind; such as riding a Scotch pad, with a bridle with white studs and snaffle, white Scotch stirrups, | and white spurs wearing a hat instead of a cap whistling to his child laying the blame of the scarcity of herrings to the covetousness of fishers, who in time of plenty, took so many that they destroyed the breeders; and lastly wishing, that at the alteration of the coin, whatever metal it was made of, the penny should be in weight worth a penny of the same metal. It is also to be noticed that the fall of the duke of Somerset, then lord protector, to whom he was chaplain, seems to have exposed him to the resentment of his enemies.

According to Burnet, bishop Ferrar was one of the committee nominated to compile the English liturgy, but his name does not occur among those who compiled the new liturgy in 1547, and therefore Burnet probably means that he was one of those appointed to correct the liturgy in the time of Henry VIII. in 1540. It is more certain that he acquiesced in the brief confession of faith, in conjunction with other protestant bishops and martyrs imprisoned in London, which was signed May 8, 1554, by Ferrar, Taylor, Philpot, Bradford, Hooper, &c. &c. Mr. Butler, in his excellent life of bishop Hildesley, enumerates our prelate among the bishops of Sodor and Mann, to which, according to that account, he must have been preferred in 1545, and resigned it some time before Jan. 1546. 1


Fox’s Acts and Monuments. Harleian Mss. No. 420, where there are several papers relating to Ferrar’s trial, not printed in Fox. Watson’s Halifax. —Strype’s Life of Cranmer, pp. 151, 147, 183, 309, 341, 345, 350. —Ath. Ox. vol. I, Dodd’s Church Hist,~ —Gent. Mag, vol. LXI. p. 605.