“Roaring John” Rogers (abt1572–1636) of Dedham, Essex

A person grave, a patron rare,
   most humble, godly, wise,
Whose presence made the wicked feare,
   when they beheld his eyes.

Elegy on the life of the Reverend John Rogers

The following account of the life of John Rogers of Dedham, Essex, by Alexander Gordon is quoted in full from the Dictionary of National Biography (vol. 17, pp. 129–30). John Rogers is my tenth-great-grandfather through his son, the Massachusetts immigrant Rev. Nathaniel Rogers (abt1598–1655) of Ipswich, Massachusetts.

[Image: Portrait of Rev. John Rogers (abt1572-1636).] Rogers, John (1572?–1636), puritan divine, a native of Essex, was born about 1572. He was a near relative of Richard Rogers (1550?–1618) [q.v.], who provided for his education at Cambridge. Twice did the ungrateful lad sell his books and waste the proceeds. His kinsman would have discarded him but for his wife’s intercession. On a third trial Rogers finished his university career with credit. In 1592 he became vicar of Honingham, Norfolk, and in 1603 he succeeded Lawrence Fairclough, father of Samuel Fairclough [q.v.], as vicar of Haverhill, Suffolk.

In 1605 he became vicar of Dedham, Essex, where for over thirty years he had the repute of being ‘one of the most awakening preachers of the age.’ On his lecture days his church overflowed. Cotton Mather reports a saying of Ralph Brownrig [q.v.] that Rogers would ‘do more good with his wild notes that we with our set music.’ His lecture was supressed from 1629 till 1631, on the ground of his nonconformity. His subsequent compliance was not strict. Giles Firmin [q.v.], one of his converts, ‘never saw him wear a surplice,’ and he only occasionally used the prayer-book, and then repeated portions of it from memory. He died on 18 Oct. 1636, and was buried in the churchyard at Dedham. There is a tombstone to his memory, and also a mural monument in the church. His funeral sermon was preached by John Knowles (1600?–1685) [q.v.]. His engraved portrait exhibits a worn face, and depicts him in nightcap, ruff, and full beard. Matthew Newcomen [q.v.] succeeded him at Dedham. Nathaniel Rogers [q.v.] was his second son.

He published: 1. ‘The Doctrine of Faith,’ &c., 1627, 12mo; 6th edit. 1634, 12mo. 2. ‘A Treatise of Love,’ &c., 1629, 12mo; 3rd edit. 1637, 12mo. Posthumous was 3. ‘A Godly and Fruitful Exposition upon … the First Epistle of Peter,’ &c., 1650, fol. Brook assigns to him, without date, ‘Sixty Memorials of a Godly Life.’ He prefaced ‘Gods Treasurie displayed,’ &c., 1630, 12mo, by F.B. (Francis Bunny?)

[Brook’s Lives of the Puritans, 1813, ii. 421 sq.; Cotton Mather’s Magnalia, 1702, iii. 19; Calamy’s Account, 1713, p. 298; Granger’s Biogr. Hist. of England, 1779, ii. 191 sq.; Davids’s Annals of Evang. Nonconf. in Essex, 1863, pp. 146 sq.; Browne’s Hist. Congr. Norfolk and Suffolk, 1877, p. 503.]


Simon Gallup, a local historian of the Dedham area today, kindly sent me some corrections to the above DNB account in January 2002. He writes: “Rogers was never vicar of Dedham but the lecturer and the distinction is important as there was a vicar as well. Briefly, after the Reformation there was a need and public demand for preaching, however Elizabeth did not want the clergy to preach because a) many were almost illiterate and b) most had been brought up with Roman Catholic values. As a result private enterprise took over and some communities employed a lecturer as well as the vicar. The duty of the lecturer was to give two lectures a week, one at 08.00 on a Tuesday (before the market which started at 09.00) and one on Sunday afternoon. Rogers was certainly a very powerful preacher and he would sometimes preach to 1200 people and in fine weather preached from the top of the North Porch. People came from Cambridge, 60 miles away, on horseback just to hear him. [The] position of Lecturer continued until 1918 when it was combined with that of the vicar.”

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