26 July 2011

Remembering two translators of the Bible at Sidney Sussex

The interior of the chapel in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge ... as warden, Samuel Ward left the chapel without being consecrated and used a simple table in the middle of the chapel as the altar

Patrick Comerford

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible in 1611, and I have been invited to an exhibition and reception in Lambeth Palace later today to mark this anniversary. However, I have also been reminded this week that last month Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, recently celebrated that same anniversary with special lectures, readings.

Two of the first Masters of Sidney Sussex were involved in translating the Authorised Version: Bishop James Montagu, the first Master of Sidney Sussex, was King James I’s editor; while Samuel Ward, Montagu’s successor but one as Master, was one of the team of translators.

The alabaster effigy and monument of Bishop James Montagu in Bath Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

James Montagu (ca 1568-1618), right, was a member of the Second Oxford Company, involved in translating the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation.

But, despite being a member of this Oxford company, Montagu was intimately associated with Cambridge. In 1596, he became the first Master of Sidney Sussex College, probably because he was related to the founder of the college, Lady Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex: his grandmother, Lucy Sidney, was her sister.

Montagu laid the foundation stone of Sidney Sussex College, and remained here until 1608.

In 1603, he became the Dean of the Chapel Royal and Dean of Lichfield Cathedral. Then, in rapid succession, he became Dean of Worcester in 1604, Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1608, and Bishop of Winchester in 1616. He is buried in an alabaster tomb in Bath Abbey.

The Montagu coat-of-arms arms above Costa coffee shop in Montagu House on the corner of Sidney Street and Sussex Street ... part of Sidney Sussex College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Samuel Ward, right, who was a member of the “Second Cambridge Company,” responsible for translating the Apocrypha, was the Master of Sidney Sussex College from 1610 until his death in 1643, and is buried in the chapel of Sidney Sussex.

Ward was a Puritan diarist, but throughout his career he was known for his moderate Calvinist views and he remained strongly attached to the Church of England.

He was born in Bishop Middleham in Co Durham, and was a scholar of Christ’s College, Cambridge, where in 1592 he was admitted BA.

In 1595, he was elected to a fellowship at Emmanuel College under the first Master, Laurence Chaderton (1537-1640), who was a leading figure in the radical Puritan movement.

In 1599, Ward was elected a Fellow of the newly-founded Sidney Sussex College. Soon after, he was appointed a chaplain to King James I, and he was one of the scholars appointed to take charge of the translation and preparation of the King James Version of the Bible. He was also a friend of James Ussher, and assisted the Irish Archbishop in his patristic researches.

In 1608, his old friend at Sidney Sussex, James Montagu, by now Bishop of Bath and Wells, made Ward his chaplain. Two years later, in 1610, Ward was elected Master of Sidney Sussex College and he received the degree DD (Doctor of Divinity). As Master of Sidney Sussex, however, his college chapel remained unconsecrated, and the altar remained an unadorned table in the middle of the chapel.

Ward remained ambitious for high office in the Church of England. In 1615, having failed to have secure an appointment as Archdeacon of Bath, Ward was made a prebendary of Wells Cathedral and Archdeacon of Taunton, and in 1618, he became a prebendary of York. He was one of the English delegates who attended the Synod of Dort in 1619. In 1623, he was appointed Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.

When the first English Civil War broke out, Ward felt his oath of allegiance to the crown did not allow him to take the Solemn League and Covenant, and he opposed the Presbyterian party. In 1643, he was imprisoned in Saint John’s College, Cambridge.

However, his health deteriorated, and eventually he was allowed to retire to Sidney Sussex College. On 30 August 1643, he took ill at a chapel service in Sidney Sussex, and he died here on 7 September 1643. His funeral took place on 30 November, and the funeral oration was delivered in the University Church, Great Saint Mary’s, by the public orator, Henry Molle, while the sermon was preached by Ward’s friend and admirer, Ralph Browning. Ward was buried in the college chapel in Sidney Sussex.

While Ward was Master of Sidney Sussex, Oliver Cromwell was a student from 1616 to 1617, although Cromwell never stayed to finish his degree. Ward’s other students at Sidney Sussex included the theologian Thomas Fuller, the Parliamentarian general, Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester, and the theologian Richard Holdsworth, who became Master of Emmanuel College.

The plaque in the ante-chapel in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph; Patrick Comerford)

Cromwell’s head, it is said, is buried here in the chapel of Sidney Sussex College. Perhaps this is appropriate, given that this is the very chapel that Samuel Ward tried to prevent being consecrated, and it is from here that Ward once sent a shrivelled head to James I, hoping the skull would entertain the king.

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