In the latest blog for the Georgian Lords, Dr Stuart Handley, examines the career of the fierce anti-Jacobite clergyman, Samuel Peploe, whose tub-thumping sermons against the rebels in 1715 helped gain him promotion in the early Georgian church.
Samuel Peploe was baptized in 1667, and after attending Oxford University, he was ordained a priest in 1692. In 1700 he was named as vicar of Preston in Lancashire, an area well-known for religious disaffection with its high number of Roman Catholics, non-jurors and Protestant dissenters.
Peploe came to the attention of government ministers for his brave denunciation of the Jacobite rebels during the 1715 Rebellion, when it was alleged that he had mounted the pulpit to exhort his parishioners to abjure the Pretender and remain loyal to the Hanoverian Succession. This led to various officials recommending him for promotion and in 1718 he was named to succeed Ricard Wroe as the warden of Manchester Collegiate Church (see https://thehistoryofparliament.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/when-is-a-degree-not-a-degree/). However, it is possible that his most singular feat of bravery was not undertaken when the town was occupied by Jacobite forces, before the battle of Preston in November 1715. It seems that Peploe’s bravery was of a more long-standing and persistent nature and less foolhardy than has been previously portrayed. It seems that the particular denunciation marked by historians was probably delivered during the Jacobite protests which were endemic in the period before the battle of Preston when the peace was regularly disturbed by rioting and disorder. Further, it seems likely that Peploe was not actually in the town when it was occupied by Jacobite forces, as the military units and loyal townsmen withdrew from the town as the enemy approached, and joined up with the government forces commanded by Generals George Carpenter and Charles Wills. These eventually gave battle to the Jacobite forces and re-took the town. Whether present or absent, Peploe suffered severe damage to his property as his house was plundered, his horses stolen and his barn destroyed, and this cannot have made him any more charitable to the Jacobites he had regularly denounced.
Peploe, though, was able to take his revenge, in a more measured fashion, through his use of the pulpit. When the rebels were brought to trial, the government chose the most loyal venue available in Lancashire, Liverpool. When a commission of Oyer and Terminer opened there in January 1716, the Reverend Peploe was on hand to open proceedings with a sermon, published as Steadfast Affection to the Protestant Religion and the Happy Government of His Majesty King George in Opposition to the Wicked Designs of the Present Rebellion (London, 1716). He followed this up, when the routine legal courts resumed with the Spring assizes, in preaching a sermon published as God’s peculiar care in the preservation of our religion and liberties: a sermon preached at Lancaster Assizes, the 24th day of March 1716, before Judge Dormer, one of the justices of the King’s Bench at Westminster (London, 1716).
Peploe’s concern for the government and abhorrence of sedition saw him nominated bishop of Chester in 1725. During his tenure of the bishopric, he never dropped his guard over the dangers of sedition in his diocese, especially in Manchester, and remained keenly critical of Roman Catholics and non-jurors, as well as opponents among his local clergy. In November 1740 he denounced to the duke of Newcastle the poisonous nature of the news dispersed by the press. Printing presses in Manchester, Leeds and Chester were deemed the culprits, and among the remedies suggested a hike in taxation to make them more expensive.
The last Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 saw Peploe take to the pulpit once again. His address was published as Popish Idolatry a strong reason why all Protestants should zealously oppose the present rebellion: a sermon preached in the cathedral church of Chester on Sunday the 13th of October 1745, the mayor and corporation being present (London, 1745). In its aftermath, Peploe urged ministers to make some examples from Manchester to deter further opposition to the government. However, he did appeal for clemency for his son-in-law’s cousin, one James Bradshaw, requesting that his capital sentence be commuted to transportation, because Bradshaw had a ‘disorder in his head incident to his family’. Never one to relax his concerns, his last extant letter to the duke of Newcastle in February 1751, bemoaned the ‘spirit of disaffection in and about the town of Manchester’, which had been prevalent for over 40 years.
Peploe died on 21 February 1752 having prospered by his loyalty to the Hanoverian regime. His three daughters married well, while his son succeeded him as warden of Manchester and inherited an estate at Garneston in Herefordshire.