John Batteley 1646-1708

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John BATTELEY 1646-1708

Biographical Note

Born at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, son of Nicholas Batteley, apothecary. BA Trinity College, Cambridge 1666, fellow 1668, MA 1669, DD 1684. Ordained priest in 1675, and shortly thereafter became domestic chaplain to William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury. Rector of Hunton and Adisham, Kent, 1684; archdeacon of Suffolk 1687, archdeacon of Canterbury 1688, in which year he also became a prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral, and Master of Eastbridge Hospital, Canterbury. He remained Canterbury-based for the rest of his life, where he combined his clerical career with extensive antiquarian and scholarly interests; he and his fellow canon John Mill were noted for their interests in Anglo-Saxon research and its application to the defence of Anglicanism. Shortly before his death, he was nominated by Peter Le Neve for membership of the newly-formed Society of Antiquaries. Only a sermon was published during his lifetime but a number of his antiquarian works were published posthumously, particularly his Antiquitates Rutupinae (on the ancient history of the Isle of Thanet), first edited in 1711 and reissued later in the eighteenth century.


Batteley evidently had an appreciable library of printed books and manuscripts and his will refers to his medals and antiquities “in my Gallery or below in my Study”. He bequeathed a number of books, “marked in my catalogue”, to Trinity College, Cambridge and to Canterbury Cathedral, with the remainder of his library to be divided five ways between his nephews John, Oliver, John, Samuel and Charles Batteley (his brother Nicholas, d.1704, was also a noted antiquary, and editor of Somner’s Antiquities of Canterbury). The Canterbury Cathedral benefactors’ book lists ca.25 volumes given by Batteley and at least 12 books with his inscription survive in the Library there today.

Humphrey Wanley’s diary shows that there was considerable interest in Batteley’s library after his death among booksellers and collectors, and despite the division effected by the will there were efforts to acquire it (in January 1720, the bookseller Jonah Bowyer had “hopes of buying the whole library”). The diary suggests that negotiations among the nephews proved difficult. In November 1723, Wanley succeeded in buying a block of manuscripts for the Harleian collection (ca.70 Harleian MSS came from Batteley). In April 1727 some or all of Batteley’s surviving books were sold by Fletcher Gyles in London as part of a fixed price sale along with the books of Robert Dormer (1650-1726), a judge; the catalogue. Examples: Cambridge UL H*.11.38; Canterbury Cathedral Library W/F-3-14, W/E-2-55; numerous Harleian MSS at the British Library.

Characteristic Markings

Batteley commonly inscribed his titlepages, “Jo: Battely”, sometimes adding a date of acquisition.


  • Librorum ex bibliothecis … Roberti Dormer … et Joannis Battely, [1727], (ESTC t168129).
  • John Battely, Canterbury Cathedral Library.
  • Alston, R. C. Inventory of sale catalogues 1676-1800. St Philip, 2010.
  • Collinson, P. et al (eds), A history of Canterbury Cathedral, 1995, p.221.
  • Evans, J. A history of the Society of Antiquaries, 1956, p.37.
  • Knighton, C. S. "Batteley, John (bap. 1646, d. 1708), Church of England clergyman and antiquary." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • McKitterick, D. (ed), The making of the Wren Library, 1995, p.14.
  • Wright, C. E. Fontes Harleiana, 1972.
  • Wright (eds), C. E. and R. C. The diary of Humfrey Wanley, 1966, v.1 p.15 and further references identified there.