Submitted for publication Proc IoMNH&ASoc

The Forebears of Bishop Wilson

Yvonne Purdy, Dave Griffiths, Gordon Evans, George Evans and F. Coakley

The life and works of Bishop Thomas Wilson (1663-1755) have been the subject of many studies - that of the Revd. John Keble (1792-1866) being probably the most comprehensive. 1

Bishop Wilson's Birthplace
Bishop Wilson's Birthplace

We know that Bishop Wilson was born in Burton in Wirral on the 10th of December, 1663, according to village tradition, in the small ground-floor apartment (about eight feet square) on the left of the entrance door 2; he was baptised in St. Nicholas, Burton, on the 25th December 1663, son of Nathaniel and Alice Wilson. As Bishop Wilson started his career as curate to his uncle Richard Sherlock (1612-1689) DD, Rector of Winwick, 1662 - 1689 3 it has been assumed that Nathaniel's wife was an Alice Sherlock and a sister to Richard.

There is a portrait of Richard still hanging in St. Oswald’s Church, Winwick, Lancashire. He is shown as an elderly man with a calm expression with a long beard (which apparently he never shaved after the death of King Charles I), and long hair. His life spanned the turbulent and unsettling years of the Civil War. Although a non-combatant, he was involved in much of the action. He was an ardent Royalist, returning from Ireland, where he had studied at Trinity College, as chaplain to one of the King’s regiments, then, after being imprisoned at Nantwich following the defeat of the King’s forces he went to Oxford, obtaining his B.D. in 1646 and becoming chaplain of New College from where he was ejected by the Parliamentary Commissioners in 1648. He then went as curate to Cassington, Oxfordshire, until again turned out in 1652.

Dr Richard Sherlock, DD
Dr Richard Sherlock, DD

His next position was in the service of Sir Robert Bindloss, royalist baronet of of Borwick Hall, Lancashire, who introduced him in about 1658 to Charles, eighth Earl of Derby, who appointed him his chaplain at Lathom. In 1660 he was presented to the living at Winwick, obtaining full possession in 1662, about which time he received his DD degree from Trinity, Dublin. 3 He was also appointed a Commissioner in 1661 by Samuel Rutter to manage the ecclesiastical affairs of the archdeaconry

John Keble was also very interested in the connections between Richard Sherlock and the Bishop – on 22nd June 1861, William Wilson (a descendant of the Burton Wilson family), wrote to Revd. Keble 4:

"You were curious of discovering why Dr. Sherlock called Jonathan Wilson his brother, in common with Nathaniel, and whether it arose from Jonathan, as well as Nathaniel, having married a sister of the Doctor. I have discovered, among my father’s papers, a bond relative to the transfer of some land in Burton from Thomas Browne to Jonathan Wilson and his wife Katherine, bearing date 1691. If you have a memorandum of the names of Dr. Sherlock’s brothers, sisters, the name of Katherine may lead to a solution of the point."

The query had arisen from an item in Richard’s will, written on 14th June 1689 5,

"Item I give to my brothers Nathaniel and Jonathan Wilson and to my Cousen John Wilson of Willaston to each ten pounds (vizt) thirty pounds in all to be bestowed amongst their respective children. And moreover, To my nephew Thomas Wilson, being my curate, I do give Ten pounds with a mourning Ring of twenty shillings price".

Why does Richard name Nathaniel and Jonathan Wilson as his brothers, John as his cousin and Thomas Wilson as his nephew? Most historians seem to have taken it to mean that Nathaniel Wilson had married an Alice Sherlock, supposed sister to Richard. though in none of the early Sherlock family wills does Alice rate a mention, nor is there a baptism for her in Woodchurch, their home parish.

P. R. Robin, Woodchurch, writes to Revd. Keble in a letter dated May, 1853,6

"I am afraid that the fact of Dr Sherlock’s baptism being found will not avail to help us in the discovery of Mrs Wilson (the Bishop’s mother). In your forum letter you represented her as died – Aug. 16 1708 aged 84 – which would make the year of birth to be 1624. She would therefore be 12 years younger than her brother. And this is very likely. For our Register is perfect each year from 1612 to 1618 and then breaks off until 1626. No doubt some of the leaves have been lost. But the name of Alice Sherlock is nowhere to be found among the years where the Register is unimpaired"

Nathaniel Wilson was baptised in Neston St. Mary & St. Helen on 16th March 1626, son of William Wilson; Jonathan Wilson was baptised in Neston St. Mary & St. Helen on 21st February 1630, also son of William Wilson.

In St. Nicholas Church in Burton, there is a memorial slab inscribed:

Nathaniel Wilson, died May 29th 1702, aged 75
Alice Wilson, died August 16th 1708
Had issue: Samuel, James, Joseph, Sarah, Benjamin, Thomas, Bishop of Man, Mary.

The naming pattern of Nathaniel and Alice’s children, apart from Thomas, does not seem to fit any of the traditional naming patterns of the Sherlock families: Henry, John, William, Thomas, Richard.

In Nathaniel’s will, 7 dated 18th June 1701, he appoints his wife Alice, sons Saml. Wilson and Gerrard Macklin as executors, (he died 29th May 1702), it is witnessed by Tho. Sodor & Man, Robt. Maddrell and Mary Wilson of Saughold (Saughall), his personal inventory is appraised by Thomas Wood and Jonathan Willson, and is totalled at £162-8-10. He directs his executors: "I leave the disposal of some part of my goods to the poor, for they very well know how God has blessed me in whatever I have put my hand to".

In the Kirk Michael Burial Register there is a very interesting entry:

"Mr William Browne, born at Burton in Werrel – late of Dublin. Half uncle to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop with whom he had lived for some years, was buried at the east end of this church. Aged 80 years – 21st March 1718". 8

In Burton, Wirral, Parish records are found

Thomas Browne jnr. married to Elizabeth (?), with the following children baptised:

Ales, 14th August 1623
Joseph, 5th March 1627 (buried 13th June 1627)
Sarah, 1st July 1628 (married John Leather 1657)
Catherine, 10th September 1631
Thomas, 13th April 1634

Their mother Elizabeth was buried in Burton on 9th October 1634, and their father married for a second time to Margaret Fletcher on 13th September 1635. From this second marriage, the following children were baptised, also in Burton:

Margareta, 29th January 1638 (buried 18th September 1638)
William, 12th July 1640
Joseph, 7th May 1643 (died)
Joseph, 10th May 1646
Hannah, 30th June 1652

William Browne, baptised on 12th July 1640 would appear to be the same William Browne buried in Kirk Michael on 21st March 1718 as half uncle to the Bishop.

This would firmly point to Ales BROWNE, baptised on 14th August 1623, becoming the wife of Nathaniel Wilson. Her brother and sisters from her father’s first marriage would be full uncle/aunts to her children. Her half brothers/sisters from her father’s second marriage would be half uncles/aunts to her children.

In P. R. Robin’s letter to Keble in May 1853, in which he comments that Keble has stated that the Bishop’s mother was 84 when she died, can be seen as further proof that Alice Browne is the same person as Alice Wilson who died on 16 August 1708. She would have just entered her 85th year.

There is a strong possibility that Catherine Browne, her sister, baptised in 1631, married Jonathan Wilson and is the Katherine referred to in William Wilson’s letter of 22nd June 1861 to Revd. Keble.

Their brother Thomas, baptised in 1634, looks to be the Thomas Browne mentioned in the transfer of land in Burton to Jonathan & Katherine Wilson in 1691. In a separate bond dated 1673, a copy of which William Wilson sends to Revd. Keble in his letter of 22nd June 1861, Thomas Browne is described as "of Draughada in the kingdom of Ireland, Tallow Chandler", transferring land to Jonathan Willson, of Burton in the County of Chester, and witnessed by Nathaniell Willson. 9

Revd. E. B. Savage, in 1881, Notes on the Parish Registers of Kirk Michael, 10 says of William Browne "he was probably half-uncle by being the son of the Bishop’s grandmother by a second marriage".

However, William Browne would be half-uncle to the Bishop by reason of his grandfather’s second marriage.

If we are correct in identifying Ales Browne as the wife of Nathaniel Wilson, and her sister Catherine as wife to Nathaniel’s brother Jonathan Wilson, what then is the connection between Richard Sherlock and the Wilson family?

In Woodchurch, Wirral, John Sherlocke married Cicilye Fells on 27th July 1607.

They had children baptised:

24th April 1608 Henry Sherlocke ( buried 25th June 1637)
21st April 1610 William Sherlocke (buried 14th November 1626)
15th November 1612 Richard Sherlocke (DD, Rector of Winwick)

John Sherlocke was buried in Woodchurch on April 13th 1613.

If the widowed Cicilye Sherlock (nee Fells) remarried to William Wilson, and if they were the parents of both Nathaniel and Jonathan Wilson, then Cicilye’s son by her first marriage, Richard Sherlock, would be half brother to both Nathaniel and Jonathan, half cousin to John Wilson, and half uncle to Thomas Wilson, ‘by reason of his grandmother’s second marriage’.

We have not yet found the marriage record, but in Neston St. Mary & St. Helen parish registers, there is the following burial:

7th January 1645 Cycillye Wilson, wife of William Wilson.

In William Wilson’s will10 written 25th January 1661, he leaves a chest to "my son Johanathan’s daughter, Sisley".

In summary, Richard Sherlock is the youngest son of John Sherlock and Cicely (nee Fells); step-son to William Wilson of Willaston, half brother to both Nathaniel and Jonathan Wilson, and half uncle to Thomas Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man, half cousin to John Wilson of Willaston. Alice Browne, and Catherine Browne her sister, of Burton, are the wives respectively of Nathaniel and Jonathan Wilson. Alice Browne was the mother of Thomas Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man.


1: Rev. John Keble,The Life of the Right Reverend Father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man. Compiled chiefly from Original Documents Oxford : John Henry Parker. 1863

2: Manx Note Book vol 3 pp 79/82 1885

3: William Beamont Winwick: Its History and Antiquities Warrington 1897

4: Keble MSS 196, Wilson Letter 22/6/1861, Keble College Library, Oxford

5: Will of Richard Sherlock, DD, Winwick - printed "Wirral Notes and Queries", (Wirral Archives), October 15th 1892, page 71, item 129, continued on October 22nd 1892, page 72, item 131.

6: Keble MSS 195a, P.R. Robin letter to Keble, Woodchurch, May 1853, Keble College Library, Oxford

7: Will of Nathaniel Wilson of Burton, 1701, Cheshire Record Office

8 Kirk Michael Burial Register MM MS 10469/1/1

8: Keble MSS 196, enclosure in Wilson Letter 22/6/1861, Keble College Library, Oxford

9: E. B. Savage Notes on the Parish Registers of Kirk Michael, YLM vol 1 #1 pp2/10 1881

10: Will of William Wilson of Willaston, 1661, Cheshire Record Office

Data from Cheshire Parish Registers is from the online Cheshire Parish Register Database Project <>


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© Authors , 2005