Taken from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Wallington, turner and diarist, was born on 12 May 1598 in the parish of St Leonard Eastcheap, London, the tenth of twelve children and the fourth son of John Wallington, citizen and turner (1552/3-1638), and his wife, Elizabeth (1562/3-1603), the daughter of Anthony Hall, citizen and skinner, and his wife, Jane. Following the death of Elizabeth, John Wallington married Joan Hinde, a widow with two children, and following her death in 1605 he married, as his third wife, Alice Harrison (d. 1634), also a widow with two children and the mother of Patience, Nehemiah’s half-sister.
Wallington was never apprenticed but set up shop as a turner after admission to the Turners’ Company, by patrimony, on 18 May 1620. Within a year he had married Grace Rampaigne; she was the sister of Livewell Rampaigne, a minister of Burton and then Broxholme, whose letters of comfort Nehemiah preserved and whose widow, Sarah, and her two children lived with the Wallingtons from 1635 until her death in 1654, and of Zachariah Rampaigne, a planter in Ireland killed during the rising of 1641, whose son Charles was taken in by the Wallingtons and served as Nehemiah’s apprentice until his freedom in 1655.
Wallington’s freedom as a turner and his marriage followed two years of mental breakdown, during which, doubting of his salvation, he had made a number of suicide attempts, complicated by his desire to protect his father and the puritan community from the disgrace of such an ungodly act, and had first begun to write. His work, initially a record of his sins and God’s mercies, was abandoned in 1620 when he began ‘A record of God’s mercies, or, A thankful remembrance’, part diary, part commonplace book, which he continued intermittently well into the 1630s. A combination of work and family responsibilities apparently prevented any further breakdown. Wallington was sustained by the friendship and counsel of Henry Roborough, the young curate and lecturer at St Leonard Eastcheap, by the steady common sense and strength of Grace, and perhaps by the discipline of writing. He also received a loan from the Turners’ Company. However, the death of his first child, Elizabeth, in 1625 led to a fresh crisis, during which Wallington confessed that he forgot all his ‘purposes, promises and covenants’ with God and was inconsolable until reminded by Grace that their daughter had gone ‘home to her husband Christ Jesus’ (‘A record of God’s mercies’, Guildhall Library, MS 204, p. 409). Their son John died six months after Elizabeth, their second son, Nehemiah, in 1627, and their last child, Samuel, born in 1630, died in October 1632. Only their daughter Sarah, born in 1627, survived to adulthood to marry, on 20 July 1647, a young godly turner, John Houghton.
Unlike his father and his elder brother John, both of whom were liverymen, serving their turn as masters, Wallington never left the yeomanry of the Turners’ Company. Although he apparently worked steadily at his craft he had no head for business, as he confessed on more than one occasion, and struggled all his life to find some balance between the demands of his calling as a turner and the more compelling demands of his calling as a Christian. He regularly rose in the small hours of the morning to write before private prayer in his closet and further public prayers with his household. He admitted to spending too much on books, particularly on news-sheets during the 1640s, and had a library of more than 200 works, beginning with William Gouge’s Of Domestical Duties, which he purchased soon after his marriage. By 1654, when he compiled a catalogue of his writings, he listed fifty notebooks, ranging from his diary to memorials of God’s judgements against sabbath breakers, commonplaces from scripture, and various puritan guides to the godly life, sermon notes, a volume of collected letters, a number of volumes detailing the mercies he had received, and a number of volumes of political news collected during the 1640s. Aside from a book called The Mighty Works of the Lord, which is a Prop to Faith, which he gave to his wife, and a book on patience, which he left to his half-sister Patience, he bequeathed all his notebooks to his son-in-law, John Houghton. He had little else to leave and apparently made no will.
Wallington was in many respects the quintessential puritan, introspective, bookish, sermon-going, scrupulous in his business relations, and constantly struggling for even-tempered acceptance of life and of himself, which he believed should accompany assurance of election. He followed the fortunes of protestantism during the Thirty Years’ War and those of parliament during the civil war. Although he served conscientiously as a lay elder in the fourth London classis from 1646 until his last years his Presbyterianism was based on his desire for parish discipline, and his only quarrel with the protectorate was that it did not bring the godly reformation that he had long prayed for. As he wrote in 1655, it was the toleration of ‘many strange, false forms of worship’, of ‘Sabbath profanation’, of ‘our cruel oppression of the poor’, and of ‘our impudent pride’ that he found profoundly disillusioning and that made him fear in his last years a dreadful punishment of his ‘rebellious City’ (‘A memorial of God’s judgments upon sabbath breakers, drunkards and other vile livers’, BL, Sloane MS 1457, fols. 99r-101v). Wallington died in Eastcheap in August 1658.
P. S. Seaver
Sources P. S. Seaver, Wallington’s world: a puritan artisan in seventeenth-century London (1985) + N. Wallington, Historical notices of events occurring chiefly in the reign of Charles I, ed. R. Webb, 2 vols. (1869) + parish register, St Leonard Eastcheap, GL, MS 17607 + Turners’ Company, book of apprentice bindings, GL, MS 3302/1 + Turners’ Company, court minutes, 1605-33, GL, MS 3295/1
Archives BL, ‘The growth of a Christian’, Add. MS 40883 + BL, letter-book, Sloane MS 922 + BL, ‘A memorial of God’s judgements upon sabbath breakers, drunkards and other vile livers’, Sloane MS 1457 + BL, untitled MS, partly published as Historical notices, Add. MS 21935 + Folger, ‘Extract of the passages of my life’, MS V.a.436 + GL, ‘A record of God’s mercies, or, A thankful remembrance’, MS 204 + Tatton Park, Cheshire, ‘A record of mercies continued’, MS CR 4-7
-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor