LIVES OF THE BISHOPS OF EXETER
SETH WARD, a native of Hertfordshire, and an ornament to science and the republic of letters, but of vacillating political principles in early life, according to Anthony Wood. During the Commonwealth, Dr. Brownrigg on receiving intelligence of the death of his precentor, William Cotton, collated his friend Dr. Ward, Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, to the vacant dignity, observing jocosely, "that which seems now may prove of some emolument to you." For the instrument of collation, Ward paid to the bishop's secretary the full fees. He was heartily laughed at by his friends, says his biographer, Dr. Walter Pope (pp. 29, 30), for so doing. "I have heard them tell him, they would not give him half-a-crown for his precentorship: to whom he replied, though he should never make a penny of it, it was as acceptable to him, as if he were to take possession the next moment. This was the first flower that ever grew in his garden, and the foundation of his future riches and preferments." But he could not be admitted to his office of precentor until the 15th September, 1660. Dr. William Peterson, the truly venerable dean of our church, dying on 6th December, 1661, aged 74, King Charles II. at once recommended Dr. Ward for his successor; and he was elected on the 26th of the same month, arid confirmed in that dignity on the 13th January following. Whilst filling this situation he gained to himself immortal honour. We give the words of his biographer, Dr. Walter Pope (pp. 55-6): "He first cast out of the temple (the cathedral) the buyers and sellers who had usurped it, and therein kept distinct shops to vend their wares. At his Majesty's restoration the non-conformists there, being buoyed up by some powerful friends, who, for their private interest, drove on and hoped to obtain a general toleration of all religions, except Popery, took the boldness to petition the king that the partition in the cathedral might not be taken down that they might enjoy altare contra altare. But to give them their due, they were so generous as to allow one-half of the church to the use of the episcopal party, to whom all did of right belong, that therein divine service might be celebrated according to the Act of Parliament for uniformity of worship; reserving the other part to themselves to meet and hold forth in. But their design was prevented by the early application of the dean to the king and council, from whom he procured an order to restore the church to its ancient form and shape, and remove the innovations. He accordingly caused the partition to be pulled down, and repaired and beautified the cathedral; the expenses whereof amounted to 25,000l He next bought a new pair of organs, esteemed the best in England, which cost 2000l,." Such a reformer deserved advancement; and the king, on Dr. Gauden's translation to Worcester, nominated our dean to the vacant see, to which he was consecrated on 20th July, 1662. In consideration of its reduced rental, he was allowed to hold the rectory of St. Briock and the vicarage of Manhenniot in commendam, and he further obtained the king's letters patent for the annexation of the deanery of St. Burian to his see, determinable on the death of the then incumbent. Though his lordship, by his subsequent translation to Salisbury, derived no personal emolument from the last-mentioned grant, yet several of his successors did, until it was surrendered back to the Crown about forty-five years later, and is now held as parcel of the Duchy of Cornwall. Bishop Ward, on 28th March, 1663, under the royal authority and with the concurrence of the dean and chapter, confirmed the limitation of the number of the canons of his church to nine, but raised the stipend of the fifteen prebendaries from four pounds to twenty pounds a year.
Another proof of his sovereign's favour was displayed in his translation to Salisbury, on 12th September, 1667, on which promotion he resigned the valuable vicarage of Manhenniot. There the same active zeal distinguished his career. Within two years he recovered for that see the title and appurtenances of the chancellorship of the most noble Order of the Garter.
Learned himself, he was an encourager of learning; charitably disposed, he employed his substance in assisting useful undertakings and benevolent institutions. His endowed almshouses at Salisbury for ten clergymen's widows, an asylum at Buntingford, in Hertfordshire, for four men and for as many women who had seen better days, will perpetuate his memory. Dying at Knightsbridge on 6th January, 1688-9, aged 72, his remains were conveyed to Salisbury for interment in the cathedral there.
For the enumeration of his publications, see Wood's 'Athenæ Oxon.' part ii. p. 627 ; and for his services in establishing tho Royal Society, the 'Annual Register' of 1798.
Arms: - Azure, a Cross fleurée or.
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