ALEXANDER NOWELL (c. 1507-1602), dean of St Paul's, London, was the eldest son of John Nowell of Read Hall, Whalley, Lancashire, by his second wife Elizabeth Kay of Rochdale. He was educated at Middleton, Lancashire, and at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he is said to have shared rooms with John Foxe the martyrologist. He was elected fellow of Brasenose in 1526. In 1543 he was appointed master of Westminster school, and in December 1551 prebendary of Westminster. He was elected in September 1553 member of parliament for Looe in Cornwall in Queen Mary's first parliament, but in October 1553 a committee of the house reported that, having as prebendary of Westminster a seat in convocation, he could not sit in the House of. Commons. He was also deprived of his prebend, probably as being a married man, before May 1554, and sought refuge at Strassburg and Frankfort, where he developed puritan and almost presbyterian views. He submitted, however, to the Elizabethan settlement of religion, and was rewarded with the archdeaconry of Middlesex, a canonry at Canterbury and in 1560 with the deanery of St Paul's. His sermons occasionally created some stir, and on one occasion Elizabeth interrupted his sermon, telling him to stick to his text and cease slighting the crucifix. He held the deanery of St Paul's for forty-two years, surviving until the 13th of February 1602. Nowell is believed to have composed the Catechism inserted before the Order of Confirmation in the Prayer Book of 1549, which was supplemented in 1604 and is still in use; but the evidence is not conclusive. Early in Elizabeth's reign, however, he wrote a larger catechism, to serve as a statement of Protestant principles; it was printed in 1570, and in the same year appeared his "middle" catechism, designed it would seem for the instruction of "simple curates." Nowell also established a free school at Middleton and made other benefactions for educational purposes. He was twice married, but left no children.
See Ralph Churton, Life of Alexander Nowell (Oxford, 1809); G. Burnet, History of the Reformation (new ed., Oxford, 1865); and R. W. Dixon, History of the Church of England. Also the Works of John Strype; the Publications of the Parker Society; the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic; and the Dict. Nat. Biog., vol. lv.
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