The Lives of
John Locke & Hannah More
There are two accounts of John Locke's birth in Wrington on 29th August 1632. The historian Collinson, in 1791 wrote: "He was born in the humble cottage near Wrington Church because his mother was passing through the village and was taken in labour and constrained to take up residence".
One door led to stairs up to two bedrooms; another to stairs leading to the attic bedroom - 3 bedrooms in all with small windows which looked out over the graveyard.
Perhaps some village Locke is here,
In 1810 a tablet was placed on the cottage to commemorate John Locke's birthplace after a memorial service in the church.
lordship had a cancerous growth on his chest and was ordered
by his physician to drink the mineral waters of Acton. He wrote
to Dr.Thomas to get a quantity for him by the time he arrived
in Oxford himself.
Dr.Thomas was called away on business and asked his colleague, John Locke to do so for him. He in turn employed someone else to obtain the mineral water but he did not carry out the order.
John Locke was so upset that he had failed his friend that when Lord Ashley arrived he went to see him to apologise personally. Lord Ashley received him and accepted his excuses but was so impressed by the young doctor that he invited him to supper and to dinner the next day and a year later invited him to take up residence as his personal physician.
He also advised him to turn his thoughts to studying politics. This suggestion was much in accord with his temperament and he made rapid progress, so much so that Lord Ashley was soon consulting him on matters of state, and introducing him to many of the leading political and literary figures of the time.
In 1669 the Earl and Countess of Northumberland asked John Locke to go with them to France as.Physician to the Earl who was very ill. He died a year later, so Locke brought the Countess home and again took up his residence with Lord Ashley who was, at this time, Lord Chancellor.
Lord Ashley had obtained a Grant of Carolina and John drew up the fundamental constitution of the Province, and was appointed Secretary of Presentations.
The Seal, however was taken from Lord Ashley and John lost his appointment. He returned to medicine and studies, for about this time he began forming his ideas for his famous essay on human understanding. In 1674 he gained his Physic Degree, and went to Montpelier for his health (he thought he was consumptive).
Whilst convalescing he occupied himself with his essay and showed it to Mr. Herbert (who afterwards became Lord Pembroke). Given the political climate of the time he stayed abroad until 1689 when Lord Ashley (now Lord Shaftesbury) sent for him when he was appointed President to Sir William Temple's Council. His Lordship lost the appointment in a few months so John again returned to studies a wiser man.
Lord Shaftesbury had to flee the country because of his political intrigues. He went to Holland after the Rye House plot. John Locke's name was included on the list of suspects so he also had to flee. He joined the exiles around the Duke of Monmouth plotting the rising that ended so disastrously at Sedgemoor.
John was pressed to join this venture but refused. He preferred to spend his time on his studies and writing. Even so King James demanded that he be handed over for taking part in the plot. John protested his innocence and the king offered him a pardon which he refused saying he had committed no crime.
In 1687 whilst at the Hague he finished his essay and made an abridgement of it. Le Clare translated it into French, and it was so well received that it created a demand for the whole. It was published as soon as possible after he returned to England.
On the accession of William and Mary to the throne he was restored to favour (1689) and was offered several posts - accepting the Court of Appeals. This turned his thoughts to the Church and the plight of the dissenters. It is due to his influence that freedom of worship came about and Non- Conformists were allowed to congregate for meetings.
He published his treatise to promote a scheme to King William for the comprehension of dissenters. The present Wrington United Reformed Church, formerly the Congregational Church, was originally the Meeting House for dissenters, founded in 1662 by Richard Alleine, one of the 1662 ministers ejected from his Parish of Batcombe, near Frome under the Act of Uniformity. It became one of the first six Non-Conformist Churches to receive a licence to build in Somerset in 1716. Before that no more than six people were allowed to congregate together.
Lord Ashley's illness
Locke said in his Thoughts on Education, which still holds
its place among educational classics, "proposals for ecclesiastical
comprehension", and his desire for union among christians,
made him anxious to "show how few and simple the essential
facts of christianity were, and to differ about all beyond."
His influence stretches far beyond his own day for his treatises on civil government had an important bearing, not only expressing a theory behind the English revolution, but also providing the pattern on which the Constitution of the United States of America was, to a large extent, modelled, substituting an elective President for a hereditary King.
He preached moderation in all things --'if by gaining knowledge we destroy our health, we labour for a thing that will be useless in our hands........he who sinks a vessel by overloading it, though it be gold or silver and precious stones, will give the owner ill account of the voyage.. .We rob God of much service.'
His great work on "The Human Understanding" was based on 20 years' thought and experience. It was 250,000 words long and he was paid £30 by his publishers for it.
In the year 1700 he resigned his office. His asthma made it impossible for him to work in London air, so he accepted the invitation of Lord and Lady Masham to live at their country seat at Oates in Essex, continuing his research and writing, and philosophical pursuits.
He died at Oates on the 28th October 1704, aged 73. He was buried in that parish where a monument was erected to his memory with an inscription of his own composition.
Queen Caroline, consort of George II, placed his bust amongst the famous in her pavilion at Richmond.
This is just a brief outline of the great man who was born beneath the wall of Wrington's ancient church and whose bust is in the church porch. There is also an urn to his memory in the gardens of Barley Wood, Wrington, placed there by Hannah More.
To end I quote the inscription beneath his bust in Shire Hall, Taunton, Somerset, which says, after a list of his achievements:
"As a philosopher he dared to scan the unexplored recesses of the human mind, first examined its nature and the rules for its development. As a Statesman he expounded the true theory of liberty. As a Christian he aspired to indicate the true claims of the Christian faith."
Lillian Millard of Wrington