William Cole: Lives of Seven Bishops of Ely

Scope and Content

'Lives of Seven Bishops of Ely', a collection of the biographies of seven bishops of Ely, 1438-1515, 93 folios: (fo. 1) Lewis de Luxemburgh; (fo. 13) William Gray (sic); (fo. 23) John Morton; (fo. 43) John Alcock; (fo. 55) Richard Redman; (fo. 71) James Stanley; (fo. 79) Nicholas West (sic).

The lives are numbered XXIV to XXXI, with the omission of XXV. The versos are blank, except for occasional notes and additional matter. Copious references to authorities appear in the margin. Inside the front cover are the bookplates of Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart, and of Samuel Sandars. On a fly-leaf is a pasted slip describing the contents and 'This MS was written in 1768'.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Cole (1714-1782), Cambridge antiquary, was born at Little Abington, near Babraham, on 3 August 1714. He attended private schools in Cambridge, Linton and Saffron Waldon, before spending five years at Eton. He entered Clare Hall, Cambridge, in 1733, transferring to King's College in 1736 (B.A., 1736; M.A., 1740). Cole was Rector of Hornsey, Middlesex, 1749-1751, although he chose not to reside there, then Rector of Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, 1753-1767. He moved to Waterbeach, near Cambridge, in 1767, and to Milton in 1770, before becoming the non-resident Vicar of Burnham, Buckinghamshire, 1774-1782. He was made a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1747. Cole died at Milton on 16 December 1782. He bequeathed his manuscript collection, which consisted of material relating to Cambridge and its university, Huntingdonshire and Buckinghamshire, to the British Museum.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Bequeathed by Samuel Sandars, 1894.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on William Cole in Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds, Dictionary of national biography, Vol. IV (London, 1908), pp. 734-737.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue.

Custodial History

The volume belonged to Martin Joseph Routh, President of Magdalen College, Oxford. It was purchased on his death by Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart, 1854, and bought subsequently by Samuel Sandars at the Phillipps sale at Sotheby's, 1893.


The 'Lives' were intended for publication in James Bentham's History of Ely Cathedral, but only the abstracts were featured.