King James Bible Translators
Personal and Family Life
Laurence Chaderton was born in Oldham, Lancashire near the border that now separates Oldham from Chaderton, a town named for the Translator's family. Though no birth record has been found for Chaderton, he often told people that he was born on the 14th of September. The year of his birth is less certain. It may have been as early as 1536 or as late as 1539. His father, Thomas Chaderton, was well to do, and his mother, Joan, was the daughter of Lawrence Tetloe, a prominent citizen of Oldham. Laurence was the youngest of three sons born to the family. As a youngster he preferred hunting and hawking to his studies. He was in his mid twenties when he enrolled at Cambridge, and it is likely he didn't marry until he was in his forties. His wife Cecilia was the daughter of Queen Elizabeth I's wine merchant, Nicholas Culverwell. Lawrence and Cecilia were married in a double wedding involving one of Cecilia's sisters, and when, during the ceremony for Laurence and his bride, the clergyman inadvertently substituted the bride's sister's name, Laurence was heard to say "No, no; it is Cecilia that I want!" The two remained happily married for more than fifty years. They had one child, a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Abraham Johnson.
Laurence spent the remainder of his life in Cambridge as student, teacher, preacher, and master of Emmanuel College, which he helped establish. He was of average height, strong of body, and enjoyed robust health nearly to the time of his death. He passed away on 13 November 1640 in what was probably his 102nd year, though it was possibly his 105th. It is fitting he is buried at the college which he loved so well. His tomb lies under the entrance to the Emmanuel College chapel, where a large stone slab marks Laurence Chaderton's final resting place.
The Chadertons were a staunch Catholic family and it came as a great shock to his parents when they learned Lawrence had become a Puritan at Cambridge. In response his father wrote him the following note: "Dear Laurence, if you will renounce the new sect which you have joined you may expect all the happiness which the care of an indulgent father can secure you; otherwise I enclose in this letter a shilling to buy a wallet with. Go and beg for your living. Farewell!" Laurence declined his father's offer and remained a Puritan.
Laurence Chaderton came late to an earnest interest in scholarship. What became a life long thirst for learning began under the care of his tutor, Laurence Vaux. At age twenty-five he enrolled in Christ's College, Cambridge in 1565. He must have been one of the oldest entrants. He graduated B.A. in 1568, proceeded M.A. in 1571, B.D. in 1578, and D.D. in 1613. He subsequently obtained his M.A. in 1571, B.D. in 1578, and D.D. in 1613.
In 1568, while still a university student, Chaderton was ordained a deacon by Bishop Bullingham of Lincoln and commenced his service to his church and school. In the same year he was elected to a fellowship at Christ's College and was appointed lecturer at St. Clement's Church, Cambridge, a post he held for nearly fifty years. Between 1571 and 1584 he filled various positions at Christ's College, where he was dean, and with the university. He became learned in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, as well as knowledgeable in French, Spanish and Italian. He lectured on logic, and the writings of Cicero. Chaderton was a well recognized Puritan in 1584 when he was approached by Sir Walter Mildmay to help him establish a new college at Cambridge. Chaderton agreed, and Emmanuel College came into existence with Chaderton as its first master. In enlisting Chaderton's help Mildmay told him "If you won't be master, I certainly am not going to be founder of a college". Laurence Chaderton continued as master of Emmanuel from 1584 until he stepped down in 1622. During that time he was mentor to such men as John Harvard, John Cotton, and William Branthwaite (who became a fellow Translator).
Chaderton was one of the four Puritan spokesmen at the 1604 Hampton Court Conference where the King James Bible project began. By the end of June of 1604 he was asked to be one of the Translators.
In addition to his administrative and scholarly duties, Chaderton was in great demand as a preacher in Cambridge and elsewhere. The power of his oratory is demonstrated in the following anecdote related by his biographer William Dillingham: At another place, having once preached for two hours, he said that he had tired his hearers patience and would leave off; upon which the whole congregation cried out: "For God's sake, sir, go on, we beg you, go on!". He accordingly continued the thread of his discourse for another hour, to the great pleasure and delight of his hearers.
In the many years he lived after his retirement he continued to study, mentor, teach and preach. At his death there were few men more loved and respected in Cambridge than Laurence Chaderton. A stained glass window portraying him can be seen in the Emmanuel College chapel.
Laurence Chaderton and the Translation
Laurence Chaderton was assigned to the First Cambridge Company with responsibility for translating the Old Testament books of 1st Chronicles through the Song of Solomon. Not only does this cover much of the rich historical material of the Bible, it includes the Psalms which then and now are among the most frequently read and devotionally utilized scriptural writings.
Chaderton was joined in the company by Edward Lively, John Richardson, Francis Dillingham, Thomas Harrison, Roger Andrewes, Robert Spalding, Andrew Bing and William Eyre. Edward Lively, the legendary scholar and director of the company, died near the beginning of the translation. It would have been natural for Chaderton, then the most senior and prominent of the remaining members, to have assumed the leading role. Whether or not this occurred, clearly his influence was felt and can be seen in the treatment of material such as the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
For this inspiring language Laurence Chaderton deserves a share of the credit.
As a young man Laurence loved the athletic life and was involved in wrestling, archery, tennis and fives. He retained a love for sports throughout his long life.
For relaxation Laurence studied botany and took great pleasure in planting trees. He planted many trees at both Christ's and Emmanuel College, which, due to his long life, he watched grow to maturity.
Once while a student in Cambridge, he rescued his friend from injury and possible death during a town and gown brawl. In so doing he risked his own life and sustained a serious wound. The friend he rescued was Richard Bancroft, future Archbishop of Canterbury and overseer of the King James Bible translation project.