William was the son of John Durham of Willersley, near Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. He was born there in 1611 and educated at a school kept by a Mr. Henry Sturley at Broadway in Worcestershire. In 1626, when aged 15, he became a student of New Inn Hall, Oxford. He took his degrees in arts, BA on 3rd June 1630 and MA on 14th May 1633, and, after taking orders, became, about 1634, Curate to Rev. Thomas Bunbury at St. Mary's Church in Reading.
In 1636, William contributed to the 'Annalia Dubrensia,' a collection of poems celebrating the Cotswold games revived by Robert Dover, his neighbour back at home. At the beginning of the Civil War, despite his love of 'youthful pleasures on holy days,' William was a strong Puritan and supporter of Parliament. He left Roundhead Reading for London, took the Covenant and was chosen preacher at the Rolls Chapel. On 14th March 1649, he proceeded to become a BD. He was afterwards presented to the Rectory of Burghfield in Berkshire and thence was transferred to the well-endowed Rectory of Tredington in Warwickshire (officially a detached part of Worcestershire). He here wrote ‘A Serious Exhortation to the Necessary Duties of Families and Personal Instruction, for the use of Tredington Parish’ (1659) which reflects his implementation of Baxterian catechizing and ministerial oversight in his parish, like other members of the 'Worcestershire Association' he had joined. At the Restoration, he preached at one end of Tredington Church whilst a Crown-appointed minister preached at the other! He was eventually ejected, though managed to become Rector of Cawston in Suffolk for a short time. He, again, came to London, where he lived for some time without a cure, spending his time writing his most valuable work, 'The Life and Death of that Judicious Divine and Accomplished Preacher, Robert Harris DD, late President of Trinity College, Oxford' ( 1660). At length, upon his being persuaded, by his friend, the Bishop of London, to conform to the Established Church, he was presented, by Sir Nicholas Crisp, to the Rectory of St. Mildred's Church, Bread Street (near St. Paul's Cathedral) on 23rd February 1664. He and his family survived the Great Plaque and fled during the Great Fire of London; for, in his will, refers to "my books which escaped the fire" which he mostly left to his eldest son. William produced more writings later in life. He was also author of ‘Maran-atha, the Second Advent; or Christ's Coming to Judgment; a Sermon preached before the Hon. Judges of Assize at Warwick’ (1652).
Durham died in London on 7th July 1684 and was buried in the ministers' vault in the chancel of St. Mildred's. By his first wife, Honor the daughter of Rev. Robert Lilley of Chipping Campden, he had a son, William (1639) (see below), and a daughter, Honor(1640), who died young. He later married Letitia, daughter of Rev. Thomas Temple DD, Rector of Battersea in Surrey, and his wife, Anne, the youngest daughter of Sir Francis Knollys Junior of Battle Manor & Abbey House in Reading. She was named after her mother's aunt, Letitia Knollys, Countess of Leicester. They had children: Letitia, Mrs. Masters; John (1658), Rector of St. Mildred Bread Street & St. Alphege London Wall; Honor (1559), Mrs. Drakeford; and Anne (1662).
William Durham's eldest son, also William, whose writings Wood confuses with those of his father, was likewise an able preacher. Born in Chipping Camden in Gloucestershire, he was educated on the foundation of the Charterhouse, obtained a scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford on 27th July 1653, of which house he subsequently became fellow, matriculated in 1654, took the two degrees in arts, BA on 28th May 1657 & MA on 4th March 1660, and was elected University Proctor on 1st April 1668. He proceeded to become a BD on 26th October 1669. He was presented, by his college, to the Rectory of Letcombe Bassett in Berkshire, and was Chaplain to James, Duke of Monmouth, when Chancellor of Cambridge, by whose recommendation he was created DD of that university in 1676. He died unmarried at his rectory on 18th June 1686, and was buried in the chancel of the church. By his will, dated 4th June 1685 and proved November 1686, he left his college ten pounds' worth of his books or the equivalent in money. He published: 'A Sermon preached before the Artillery Company at St. Andrews, Undershaft' (1671); 'A Sermon preached before the Lord Mayor and Aldermen' (1676) and 'Encouragement to Charity: A Sermon preached at the Charterhouse Chapel' (1679).
Edited from Leslie Stephen's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1888)
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