Dr Adam Squier was 'of the parish of Shifnal' which is a small market town lying between Wolverhampton and Telford in the County of Shropshire. His early education is recorded as having been in St. John's College, Oxford, where he is said to have been a Commoner. It is not clear when he moved to Balliol College but it was here that he became B.A. on 6th July, 1561; M.A. on l9th February, 1564. He was a Fellow of Balliol from 1560 until 1568 and was Master of Balliol from 1571 until 1580. He turned to religious affairs and became a Bachelor of Divinity on 18th June, 1575, and licenced as Doctor of Divinity on 10th April 1576. He was elected Proctor on the gth April 1576. He had been Vicar of Cumnor, under the patronage of Anthony Forster, since 1568 and remained so till 1577.
It is almost certain that Squier and Forster were already acquainted before Squier became vicar. Forster, owner and lord of the manor at that time, had family roots in Evelith in the parish of Shifnal. They probably rode together on occasion to Abingdon, where an item in the Chamberlain's accounts records an expenditure of 27 shillings on Mr Squier at a conference and dinner about the school. This would be the early Royces school, which then was where today the Court holds its sessions.
Anthony Forster was M.P. for Abingdon until his death in 1572. There is no doubt that Squier, like many others, owed money to Forster. But this did not affect the friendship, for Squier was appointed as an overseer of Forster's will, in which he gave 'to the Master, Fellow and Scholars there (i.e. Balliol) £100 of lawful English money and 1 do forgive and make void to the said Adam Squier all manner of debts, bills and bonds which are due and be between me and the said Adam Squier from the beginning of the world until this date'. A pleasing result for Adam Squier and there was more to follow: 'And 1 make and ordain Dr Kenall and Adam Squier of Oxford, overseers of this my last will and testament, and 1 do give to either of them for their pains; to Dr Kenall my younger stoned horse, and to Adam Squier the stoned horse that 1 was wont to ride on myself'. Dr Kenall was Archdeacon of Oxford.
Squier became Rector of Longworth in 1577, perhaps because the living was more lucrative than Cumnor's, which was said to be poor.He was presented by William Squier of Cardiff,Glamorgan, yeoman, and John Squier of Haughton in the parish of Shifnal, the advowson having been purchased from John Fisher of Longworth on the free resignation of Thomas White L.L.D. No doubt these were relatives of Adam Squier. He maintained a curate at Longworth, as he had at Cumnor. He held the living till 1588. By virtue of his Mastership of Balliol he was also Prebendary of Tottenhall in St. Paul's.
It was said of Squier that his Protestantism could not be called into question but that his conduct did not conform to Puritan standards. Not only was he a pluralist and yet frequently in debt, but rumour had it that he ill treated his wife, the daughter of Bishop Aylmer. In 1587 Aylmer, with other High Commissioners, ordered Squier's sequestration so that his creditors might be paid. One of the two gentlemen required to take possession of his property was Francis Hastings, who had studied under Squier at Balliol and who argued for a compromise to help Squiers.
In pursuit of his own career Squier was constantly involved in litigation but he was careful to retain the favour of the Chancellor, Lord Robert of
Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He finally left Balliol in 1580 and soon after married the daughter of Bishop John Aylmer. Squier was appointed Archdeacon of Middlesex as the bishop wished to enhance his position so that it was more in keeping with marriage to his daughter.
In John Strype's 'Life of Bishop Aylmer, Squier again cuts a rather poor figure :'The man was somewhat fantastical, as appears in that he would preach his own wedding sermon, which he did from the text 'It is not good for Adam to be alone". He proved an unkind husband and a dissolute man'.
Probably the most fantastical of Squier's exploits was in his association with George Gilbert, a rich landowner and Marian exile, who while travelling on the Continent with royal licence, was reconciled to the Catholic Church by Father Robert Persons at Rome in 1579. On his return to London he, with others, formed the 'Catholic Association', consisting of young men of birth and property who shunned the incumbrance of wives or office, being content with the barest necessities, and to give all else to the Catholic cause. The Association was solemnly blessed by Pope Gregory XIII on 14th April 1580. The members lodged together in the house of one Norris, who had great credit with Aylmer, who was liberally paid by Gilbert. At Fulham the bishop's son-in-law Adam Squier was also in Gilbert's pay. Through the connivance of these men the members were able to receive priests and to have Mass celebrated in their houses until, after the arrival of the Jesuits, Edmund Campion and Robert Persons, the persecution of the Catholics grew more severe. Aylmer and Squier had both preached at the Masses!
Gilbert went into exile. Robert Persons could hardly have approved of Squier's involvement. In 1568 he had been a Fellow at Balliol and violently quarrelled with him. Persons had made no secret of his Catholic sympathies and aroused jealousy because he influenced some of the students. Eventually he was forced out and threatened with violence; he made his way to Rome. Persons is credited with the earliest printed attempt, in 1581, to demonstrate that Leicester had murdered Amy Dudley.
There is abundant evidence as to Squier's unsavoury character. He was accused by a group of Somerset men of having sold them a 'fly' or familiar spirit which was guaranteed to win for them in any dice game at the third try. They lost all their money and land. These 'dicing flies' were apparently bought by friends of Persons. Squier had a reputation of being something of a mathematician and to be capable of a form of magic. More realistically, one record refers to the dicing flies as worthless investments.
Robert Persons also had a poor opinion of Bishop Aylmer. In a letter to an acquaintance in Rome he wrote: ' but vengeance seems to have pursued him for he had married his daughter, who he dearly loved, to a certain preaching minister and to enhance his daughter's position had made him Archdeacon of London. This man, while on a visitation in his district, was caught by the magistrate with another man's wife; this having been brought to the notice of the father-in-law in order to induce him to take a more lenient view of the matter, he was willing to add to his offence. So he forged a letter in his wife's name full of passion to a certain knight and pretending that he had intercepted it, produced it to his father-in-law as an excuse for his lapse. The bishop was extremely distressed, but when he found out later that the whole affair had been invented by Squier, he flew into a passion and is said to have given the Archdeacon a tremendous thrashing, not with the pastoral staff but with a butcher's cudgel.'
The delinquent Archdeacon was of course none other than the former Master of Balliol and Vicar of Cumnor, Adam Squier.
Norman Dix (Cumnor History Society)
Hearne's Collections vols. XLIX & IV
Davis :College Histories -Balliol.
History of the University of Oxford vol.III
Cross. C.: The Puritan Earl 1967
Stevenson & Salter: Early History of St. John,s College
Howse J.: Longworth through the Ages
Townsend: The History of Abingdon
Jones J.: Balliol College, a History. 1988