William Sancroft (1616-1693), archbishop of Canterbury, was born at Fressingfield in Suffolk on January 30, 1616, and entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in July 1634.
He became M.A. in 1641 and fellow in 1642, but was ejected in 1649 for refusing to accept the "Engagement." He then remained abroad till the Restoration, after which he was chosen one of the university preachers, and in 1663 was nominated to the deanery of York. In 1664 he was installed dean of St Paul's. In this situation he set himself to repair the cathedral, till the fire of London in 1666 necessitated the rebuilding of it, towards which he gave £1400. He also rebuilt the deanery, and improved its revenue.
In 1668 he was admitted archdeacon of Canterbury upon the king's presentation, but he resigned the post in 1670. In 1677, being now prolocutor of the Convocation, he was unexpectedly advanced to the archbishopric of Canterbury. He attended Charles II upon his deathbed, and "made to him a very weighty exhortation, in which he used a good degree of freedom." He wrote with his own hand the petition presented in 1687 against the reading of the Declaration of Indulgence, which was signed by himself and six of his suffragans. For this they were all committed to the Tower, but were acquitted.
Upon the withdrawal of James II he concurred with the Lords in a declaration to the prince of Orange for a free parliament, and due indulgence to the Protestant dissenters. But, when that prince and his consort were declared king and queen, he refused to take the oath to them, and was accordingly suspended and deprived. From August 5, 1691 till his death on November 24, 1693, he lived a very retired life in his native place. He was buried in the churchyard of Fressingfield, where there is a Latin epitaph to his memory.
Sancroft was a patron of Henry Wharton (1664-1695), the divine and church historian, to whom on his deathbed he entrusted his manuscripts and the remains of Archbishop Laud (published in 1695).
He published Fur praedestinatus (1651), Modern Politics (1652), and Three Sermons (1694). Nineteen Familiar Letters to Mr North (afterwards Sir Henry North) appeared in 1757.