Ralph Bathurst 1620-1704

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Ralph BATHURST 1620-1704

Biographical Note

Born at Hothorpe, Northamptonshire, son of George Bathurst. BA Trinity College, Oxford 1638, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford 1640, MA 1641. During the 1640s he abandoned formal university studies in favour of medicine – his family affairs were much disrupted by the Civil War – although he remained based at Trinity College and graduated MD in 1654. He was associated with the scientific circle in Oxford and was a founder member of the Royal Society as well as being made a Chaplain to Charles II in 1663. In 1664 he became President of Trinity College, Oxford, where he subsequently dedicated much energy and fund-raising to renewing and expanding the College buildings, culminating in the new chapel built 1691-94. He also became Dean of Wells in 1670.


Bathurst’s will shows that he had libraries both at Oxford and Wells, and he made detailed arrangements for their disposal. He bequeathed numerous specific books to relatives and friends, and directed the selection of books to particular monetary values to be given to Trinity College Library, to commoners and scholars of the College, to Wells Cathedral Library, and others. The residue of his books was to be divided between three nephews. He bequeathed his “writings and paper books” to his nephew Richard Healy, with the stipulation that they should not be made public, and “earnestly desire[d] that all the books and papers in the Fir Box with a lock and marked 1677 on the lid may be privately burned.” Ca 30 volumes of his can be identified at Wells today. Bathurst also gave books to Wells and Trinity during his lifetime, and also to the Bodleian (in 1657, he gave a copy of the Chronicles of England printed by William Caxton in 1480). His bequests to the Bodleian comprised pictures and coins, but not books. Examples: Bodleian S.Seld.d.4; Christies 23.6.1977/325, 30.11.1977/496, 16.3.1978/1310.


  • Church, C. ‘Notes on the … Library of the Dean and Chapter … of Wells’, Archaeologia 57 (1901), 201-228.
  • Hopkins, C. Trinity: 450 years of an Oxford college, 2005.
  • Macray, W. D. Annals of the Bodleian Library. 2 nd edn, Oxford, 1890.
  • Steggle, Matthew. "Bathurst, Ralph (1619/20–1704), dean of Wells and college head." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.