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Tillesley, Richardlocked

  • E. I. Carlyle
  • , revised by D. R. Woolf

Tillesley, Richard (1582–1624), Church of England clergyman, was born at Coventry, the son of Thomas Tillesley of Eccleshall, Staffordshire, and his wife, Katherine, daughter of Richard Barker of Shropshire. Having matriculated from Balliol College, Oxford, on 20 January 1598, he was a scholar of St John's College by 1599. He graduated MA on 26 June 1607, BD on 22 November 1613, and DD on 7 July 1617. On 25 November 1613 he was licensed to preach, and was collated by John Buckeridge, bishop of Rochester, and late president of St John's College, to the rectories of Cuxton (26 March 1614) and Stone (1 December 1615). On 9 April 1614 he was installed as archdeacon of Rochester, and on 13 June 1615 admitted to a canonry on the presentation of James I. Wood alleges that Tillesley owed his rapid preferment to his marriage with Elizabeth Buckeridge, daughter of the bishop's brother George.

In 1619 Tillesley published Animadversions upon M. Seldens History of Tithes and his Review Thereof. He was one of a number of authors who undertook to answer Selden's book: Tillesley and Richard Mountague dealt with the legal part, while Stephen Nettles and Sir James Sempill discussed the rabbinical or Judaical. Like Mountague in his Diatribae upon the First Part of the Late History of Tithes, Tillesley discussed the historical aspect of the controversy. Although he professed admiration for his predecessor Sempill's earlier critique of Selden (which was based on a weak grasp of the issues involved), the archdeacon wrote a much more aggressive attack on the History of Tithes. Tillesley even reported, erroneously, that Selden had been compelled by the high commission to recant his views on the historical development of tithing practices; in fact, Selden had merely apologized for publishing the book. Selden's book had asserted that the clerical right to tithes, so far from having been asserted jure divino since the advent of the church in England, had in fact been based on custom and precedent. Tithing practices, and indeed the very parochial organization of the church on which they were now based, had varied considerably over time. Selden had based his arguments on a rigorous philological examination of ecclesiastical documents, and in particular of medieval cartularies. Tillesley attacked this method on several fronts. First, he decried Selden's use of French philological methods to study the changing meaning of words such as decimae, arguing that this Latin word essentially denoted tithes, provided jure divino, in their current sense. Second he accused Selden of intellectual dishonesty, claiming that the latter had refused to grant him access to the same cartularies, and charging Selden with misquoting and manipulating his sources to prove a case. (He was in fact correct in that many of Selden's quotations were either inaccurate or careless). Finally, rather than denying the great weight of Selden's evidence concerning changing tithing customs, he instead asserted that such evidence was insignificant, since divine law ought to take precedence over human custom. In 1621 Tillesley published a second edition of his attack, including some additional material. Selden wrote angry replies to Tillesley and his other critics but was restrained by James I and the duke of Buckingham from publishing them; they appear in the 1726 edition of Selden's Opera omnia edited by David Wilkins.

In 1622 Tillesley became rector of Llandogo, in the diocese of St David's. Shortly after having drawn up a nuncupative will on 30 November 1624, while 'sicke in body', he died at Rochester. The main beneficiary of his will, proved on 14 December, was his widow Elizabeth; a son, John, also survived him. He was buried in the choir of Rochester Cathedral.


  • Wood, Ath. Oxon., new edn, 2.303
  • Joannis Seldeni juris consulti opera omnia, ed. D. Wilkins (1726)
  • Fasti Angl., 1541–1857 [Canterbury], 58, 67
  • D. R. Woolf, The idea of history in early Stuart England (1990)
  • R. Hovenden, ed., The visitation of Kent, taken in the years 1619–1621, Harleian Society, 42 (1898), 25
  • TNA: PRO, E331/Rochester/21–2
  • TNA: PRO, E334, fol. 112r
  • will, CKS, DRb/Pwr/21, fol. 122
  • private information (2004) [St John's College, Oxford]

Wealth at Death

exact sum unknown: CKS, DRb/Pwr/21, fol. 122

Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone, Kent
[J. Le Neve], , ed. J. M. Horn, D. M. Smith, & D. S. Bailey, [9 vols.] (1969–)
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London
A. Wood, , 2 vols. (1691–2); 2nd edn (1721); new edn, ed. P. Bliss, 4 vols. (1813–20); repr. (1967) and (1969)