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Nowell was educated at Middleton, near Rochdale, 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 as Member of Parliament for West Looe in Cornwall in Queen Mary's first parliament. In October of that year, however, a committee of the house reported that he could not sit in the House of Commons because as prebendary of Westminster he had a seat in Convocation.
Nowell was also deprived of his prebend, probably as being a married man, before May 1554, and sought refuge at Strasbourg and Frankfurt, 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. On another occasion she rebuked him in the vestry for having given her a prayer book with pictures of saints and angels that smacked of the Church of Rome. 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.
- Greenwood, Walter (1951) Lancashire. London: Robert Hale; pp. 171-72
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Ralph Churton, Life of Alexander Nowell (Oxford, 1809);
- Gilbert Burnet, History of the Reformation (new ed., Oxford, 1865);
- Richard Watson Dixon, History of the Church of England.
- the Works of John Strype;
- the Publications of the Parker Society;
- the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic;
- "Nowell, Alexander". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
|Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford