William was the son of William Lyford, Rector of Peasemore, near Newbury, in Berkshire, and his wife, Mary Smith. He was born and grew up in the village there, where is uncle, John, and then his cousin, Richard, were lords of the manor (although they lived in Stanford Dingley). He was born there in 1598. He entered Magdalen Hall, Oxford, as a commoner on 28th April 1615, became a demy of Magdalen College in 1617 and graduated as a Bachelor of Arts on 15th December 1618. He proceeded to become a Master of Arts on 14th June 1621 (incorporated at Cambridge 1623), and Bachelor of Divinity on 12th May 1631.
On the presentation of John Digby, Earl of Bristol, Lyford became Vicar of Sherborne, Dorset, in 1631. His Calvinistic views left him undisturbed during the Civil War and the Commonwealth, when he published 'Principles of Faith and Good Conscience digested into a Catechistical Form' (1642) and 'An Apology for our Public Ministry and Infant Baptism' (1653). He also edited the second edition of William Pinke's 'Tryall of a Christians syncere Love unto Christ' (1634). Lyford was chosen as a member of the Westminster Assembly, but did not sit - a fact which perhaps accounts for the mistaken assumption that he was a Royalist. In 1653, he was allowed an annuity of £44 18s out of Lord Digby's estate.
Lyford died at Sherborne on 3rd October 1653 and was buried under the communion table in the chancel of the abbey church. By his wife, Elizabeth, he left issue. By his will, he bequeathed £120 to Magdalen College, because, he says, he had, in 1633, received £40 for resigning his fellowship "according to the corrupt custom of those days". The money was really a compensation for not taking a college living.
Several of his works were published posthumously: 'The Plain Man's Senses exercised to discern both Good and Evil' (1655), 'William Lyford his Legacy (or a Help for Young People to prepare them for the Sacrament)' (1656), 'Cases of Conscience propounded in the Time of Rebellion resolved' (1661).
Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1893)
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