Nathaniel Overbury Sr
Nathaniel Overbury, Senior was born around 1699 in the parish of Tetbury. (1) Little is known about his early years but it seems probable he received a scholarly education as he could certainly read and write Latin later in life. (2) Moreover he will also have received vocational training from his father. He would continue the family’s successful woolstapling business. (3)
Nathaniel would marry Hannah Parker on the 20 September 1721. (4) Hannah was the daughter of William Parker and Lydia Browning, a thoroughly typical Tetbury family. They would together have a large family with at least four daughters and one son. (5) Their primary residence would remain at Tetbury until at least 1735. (6) It is highly likely that the Parkers were Baptists as some of their relatives were. This would be supported by the other key event affecting Nathaniel in 1721. After Hannah’s death in 1758, Nathaniel would not remarry until 1760. The 8 January 1760 Nathaniel remarried to Jane Freeman at Tetbury. (7)
“Nathaniel, the woolstapler, was made Baptist pastor in Tetbury in 1721”. (8) His appointment was not as surprising as might initially seem; “it was not because the office was carelessly regarded, or because the church wanted ministers on the cheap”, rather it was because he was “the most fitted spiritually for office within the church”. (9) His financial independence must, however, have helped him better fulfil his ministry. His involvement in the church would continue unabated throughout the entirety of his life. From 1736 an extant treatise on his religious views on the structure and organisation of the church and on religious doctrine survived until at least 1837:
“A Treates of the Church of Christ in her militent state, considered as it consists of congregated Bodys, as suting with the Gospel dispensation, and founded on the New Testament revelation; in which is shewn the divine warrent for them, the matter of which they ought to consist, the manner of their constitution, their independancy, and authority, with their several officers, and ordinances, and the bennifits and advantages of the same, and that which is the Glory of Christ.” (10)
It is very possible from the preface that the treatise was presented to his Congregation, still meeting in Tetbury at that time. Evidence suggests Nathaniel was directly involved with the spreading of the Baptist faith throughout England. The next year (24 August 1737), he would attend a key meeting in Birmingham, with sixteen others, to discuss amongst other things the future of the Baptist church. (11) In 1746 we see him financially supporting his beliefs when he “Subscribed to An Exposition of the New Testament, in three volumes” in 1746. (12) Nathaniel was still referred to as Baptist minister as late as 1754. In 1760 he was referred to as a Baptist teacher, whether that actually was the result of a change in lifestyle or simply semantics is impossible to tell.
"Seward was not the only wealthy man who linked old Baptists with new Methodists... Next month he preached in Tetbury to some 4,000 people; many of divers denominations came to meet him, and he visited Mr. O., the Baptist teacher before riding on to preach in the evening at Malmesbury: this gives a pleasant glimpse of Nathaniel Overbury, a relation of Mrs. Seward's minister at Alcester. c1760.” (13)
Alongside his religious work, Nathaniel must have cared much about his career as a woolstapler. His success can only have been the result of hard work. By 1735, he was already be employing a servant, as recorded on the religious affiliation census and was already a member of the Court Leet; Tetbury’s governing body. (14)(15) He would reappear on Court Leet lists in 1746, 1754 and 1762. (16)(17)(18) His tax assessment in 1742 helps to quantify the scale of his success. He was taxed on the 20 July 1742 the sum of £1-00-00 in stock: a relatively hefty sum. (19) He would continue to pay rates throughout his life. (20) His tax assessment would, however, rise rapidly. By 1754 his bill had more than doubled to £2-7-0 (15 July 1754).(21) A change in taxation during that year, however, would alleviate some of the burden as tax would now be calculated by land as opposed to stock. Nathaniel, in 1754, was charged £1-0-0 for 80 Long Street. (22) Long Street remains the main road in Tetbury and houses on the street were both prestigious and comfortable. It seems likely the house was considerably nicer than average. He also received several bequests from other families in Tetbury, possibly as a result of his Baptist career. (23) His success probably encouraged his taking of an apprentice the 29 November 1743. He would act as master for George Water, son of Joseph Water, in the trade of woolstapler. (24)
Nonetheless, Nathaniel would not remain a woolstapler his entire career. In 1761, Nathaniel retired from the woollen trade in 1760. Notice was given that at Cirencester, “The Stock in Trade of linen and Woolen-drapery and Haberdashery. Goods of Nathaniel Overbury” would be sold. (25) Subsequently, he would continue as a mercer or grocer. (26) It seems likely that he began his career as a mercer alongside being a woolstapler as his taking an apprentice, Richard Williams, the 3 October 1764, at Cirencester, would only have been possible after financial success. (27) These notices suggest Nathaniel may have had properties at Cirencester and possibly elsewhere. This seems particularly plausible considering the wool trade was centred on Cirencester. He certainly considered Tetbury his home, however, and was willing to provide financial support to the town to improve its prospects. In 1745 he even “promised 10/6 Subscription for a new Engine for ye use in Tetbury". (28)
Nathaniel would die the 16 August 1766 and be buried with his family at Tetbury. (29) His will was proved at Canterbury the 13 June 1767. (30)
Sources / Citations:
1. Aged 38, c1737: 'Tetbury Religious Affiliation Census: Tabular register of religious denominations (giving names of householders, number in family, and denomination)', Gloucestershire Archives (D566/Z/11, c1737).
2. J. Cochran, ‘A second catalogue of manuscripts, in different languages: from the twelfth to the eighteenth century’ (London, 1837), p. 56.
3. Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books', The National Archives (IR 1/17, June 1743 - Oct.1746).
4. Date obtained from Tetbury’s Parish Registers.
5. 'Tetbury Religious Affiliation Census: Tabular register of religious denominations (giving names of householders, number in family, and denomination)', Gloucestershire Archives (D566/Z/11, c1737).
7. Dates obtained from Tetbury’s Parish Registers.
8. H. Robinson & E. Payne, ‘British Baptists’, (Ayer Publishing, 1980), p. 44.
10. J. Cochran, ‘A second catalogue of manuscripts, in different languages: from the twelfth to the eighteenth century’ (London, 1837), p. 56.
11. J. Burditt & W. Button, ‘The Baptist Magazine’, (Volume 9, 1817), p. 137.
12. J. Gill, ‘An Exposition of the New Testament, in three volumes: in which The Sense of the Sacred Text is given; Doctrinal and Practical Truths are set in a plain and easy Light, Difficult Places Explained, Seeming Contradictions Reconciled; and Whatever is Material in the Various Readings, and the several Oriental Versions, is observed. The Whole illustrated with Notes taken from the most ancient Jewish Writings. Vol. I’, 1746.
13. ‘The Influence of Whitefield on Baptists’, (http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bq/05-1_030.pdf, 27 September 2011).
14. 'Tetbury Religious Affiliation Census: Tabular register of religious denominations (giving names of householders, number in family, and denomination)', Gloucestershire Archives (D566/Z/11, c1737).
15. 'Presentments of the town and foreign juries, nominations of officers, jury lists, steward's precepts, etc., for most years', Gloucestershire Archives, (D566/M/3, 1735-1912), p. 6.
16. Ibid, (D566/M/4, 1735-1912), p. 5.
17. Ibid, p. 5.1.
18. Ibid, (D566/M/5, 1735-1912), p. 5.1.
19. ‘Overseers' accounts (audited)’, Gloucestershire Archives, (P328a OV 2/1, 1741-1749) p. 51.
20. Classed as a ratepayer in 1747: Ibid, p. 420.
21. Ibid, (P328a OV 2/2, 1749-1759).
23. Will of Katherine Hooper: "To my friends Nathaniel Overbury and Edward Brown, the residue of my property": ‘Gloucestershire Wills’, (Reference 1749/ 37, 1749).
24. Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books', The National Archives (IR 1/17, June 1743 - Oct.1746).
25. Public Ledger, (1761).
26. 'Will of Nathaniel Overbury, Grocer of Tetbury’, The National Archives, (PROB 11/929, 1767).
27. Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books', The National Archives (IR 1/55, September 1763 - July 1766).
28. Subscriptions for a new Engine for ye use in Tetbury', Gloucestershire Archives, (D566/R/13, c1745).
29. Date obtained from Tetbury’s Parish Register.
30. 'Will of Nathaniel Overbury, Grocer of Tetbury’, The National Archives, (PROB 11/929, 1767).