Christopher Elderfield was the son of William Elderfield, born at Harwell in Berkshire where he was baptised on 11th April 1607. He received a preliminary education at a local school kept by Hugh Lloyd MA, the vicar and, in 1621, he entered St. Mary’s Hall, Oxford, as a batler. In due course, he took two degrees in arts and entered into holy orders.
After holding some minor appointments, one of which was apparently that of curate at Coates in Essex, Elderfield became rector of Burton in Sussex. The duties of this post were no more than those of private chaplain to Sir William Goring, whose residence, Burton Place, was the only dwelling-house in the parish. There, Elderfield took up his quarters and devoted himself to study. Naturally reserved, he took full advantage of his position and lived in the completest retirement.
In 1650, Elderfield published 'The Civil Right of Tythes,' a learned treatise, displaying much research in both law and theology. The great pains he took with his second book are believed to have cost him his life. This was 'Of Regeneration and Baptism, Hebrew and Christian' (1653), published after his death by his executors.
He died on 2nd December 1652 at Burton Place. In his will he directed that he should be buried in the chancel of his church, but this privilege was refused by Sir William Goring because, as was alleged, he was disappointed by the lack of a legacy which he had expected to receive, and the body was laid in the nave. Elderfield had left the bulk of his property, amounting to £350, to his native parish of Harwell. £284. was expended in the purchase of land in South Moreton and, by a decree in chancery, the remaining £66 was handed to the churchwardens of the neighbouring village of Hagbourne for charitable purposes. He also left £36 for the benefit of ejected ministers and he bequeathed to the University of Oxford his manuscript of 'Lyra on the Psalms,' 'Rodolphus, his Postills' and a copy of Clemens Romanus bound up with a 'Tract on Purgatory.' Elderfield was described by Richard Baxter as 'a very learned and great conformist.'
Edited from Leslie Stephen's "Dictionary of National Biography" (1889).
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