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Alexander Nowell (c. 150713 February 1602) was an English Puritan theologian and clergyman, who served as dean of St Paul's during much of Elizabeth I's reign.

He was the eldest son of John Nowell of Read Hall, Whalley, Lancashiremarker, by his second wife Elizabeth Kay of Rochdale, and was the brother of Laurence Nowell. He was twice married, but left no children.

Nowell was educated at Middletonmarker, near Rochdalemarker, Lancashiremarker and at Brasenose College, Oxfordmarker, 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 Schoolmarker, and in December 1551 prebendary of Westminster.

He was elected in September 1553 as Member of Parliament for 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 Commonsmarker 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 Strasbourgmarker 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 Canterburymarker 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.

Written works

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.


  • the Works of John Strype;
  • the Publications of the Parker Society;
  • the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic;
  • the Dict. Nat. Biog., vol. iv.

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