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Dr Richard Hollingworth of St Botolph Aldgate

Dr Richard Hollingworth

(d. 1701)



St Botolph Aldgate

Researched by Clifford Godfrey

Preacher (Predikant), Jan Luyken, 1694 - Rijksmuseum

Dr Richard Hollingworth, installed as priest in 1682, was in trouble for conducting clandestine weddings, courted controversy with intemperate royalist pamphlets, and was eventually ejected from St Botolph Aldgate.

In 1686 Richard was investigated by the ecclesiastical commissioners on the charge of conducting weddings without banns or licence. The church authorities expected weddings to be a public ceremony conducted in the couple’s home parish with announcements calling the banns on the preceding three Sundays. Alternatively, the Archbishop of Canterbury could issue a special licence.

Couples had various motives for wanting a clandestine wedding away from their own parish. They could be under the age of 21 without parental consent or might wish to avoid family disapproval for other reasons. Apprentices were forbidden to marry and often servants were too. Widows might lose their inheritance or the right to carry on a trade, and a pregnant bride might need a rapid wedding, as might soldiers or sailors about to go abroad. Previously married people might also secretly remarry at a time when divorce was impossible. For both the priest and the parish these weddings were a useful source of income and most of the so called “Lawless Churches” were in poor parishes.


'The character of King Charles I. from The declaration of Mr. Alexander Henderson ... upon his death-bed: with A further defence of the King's Holy book. To which is annex'd Some short remarks upon a vile book, call'd, Ludlow no lyar: with a defence of the King from the Irish Rebellion', Richard Hollingworth, 1692

Between and 1691 and 1693 Richard became embroiled in a pamphlet war defending the actions and character of King Charles I. He wrote five tracts denouncing the “lyes and scandals of many bad men of this age”. His vilification of his opponents has parallels with abusive social media debates today. His ultra royalist, high Anglican views were expressed in the immediate aftermath of the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 which deposed King James II and so would not have found favour with the new regime.

Eventually he was replaced by an incumbent sympathetic to the ruling Whig party. At St Botolph’s the right of presentation was the subject of a lengthy legal dispute. Before the reformation the church belonged to the monastery of Holy Trinity Minories. King Henry VIII gave it to Sir Thomas Audley as private property which could be inherited or sold. In this situation the owner, known as the impropriator, was entitled to keep the tithes, choose the priest and pay him an annual stipend.

During the reign of Charles I, the Crown had gained control of the patronage of St Botolph’s, and in 1682 his son Charles II appointed Richard Hollingworth. However, the impropriation had been inherited by Sir Charles Umfreville who took successful legal action to regain control from the Crown. As a result in 1693 Richard was forced to leave and took the position of Vicar of Chigwell, where he died.


Local churches were the focal point of sixteenth-century City life. Weekly worship and all the milestones of parishioners’ lives took place here: christenings, marriages and funerals. Many churches were lost in the Great Fire.

Read the stories of four that either survived or succumbed to the flames, and how they reemerged from the ruins.

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