HORSLEY, JOHN (c. 1685-1732), British archaeologist. John Hodgson (1779-1845), the historian of Northumberland, in a short memoir published in 1831, held that he was born in 1685, at Pinkie House, in the parish of Inveresk, Midlothian, and that his father was a Northumberland Nonconformist, who had migrated to Scotland, but returned to England soon after the Revolution of 1688. J. H. Hinde, in the Archaeologia Aeliana (Feb. 1865), held that he was a native of Newcastle-on-Tyne, the son of Charles Horsley, a member of the Tailors' Company of that town. He was educated at Newcastle, and at Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.A. on the apth of April 1701. There is evidence that he " was settled in Morpeth as a Presbyterian minister as early as 1709." Hodgson, however, thought that up to 1721, at which time he was residing at Widdrington, " he had not received ordination, but preached as a licentiate." Even if he was ordained then, his stay at the latter place was probably prolonged beyond that date; for he communicated to the Philosophical Transactions (xxxii. 328) notes on the rainfall there in the years 1722 and 1723. Hinde shows that during these years " he certainly followed a secular employment as agent to the York Buildings Company, who had contracted to purchase and were then in possession of the Widdrington estates." At Morpeth Horsley opened a private school. Respect for his character and abilities attracted pupils irrespective of religious connexion, among them Newton Ogle, afterwards dean of Westminster. He gave lectures on mechanics and hydrostatics in Morpeth, Alnwick and Newcastle, and was elected F.R.S. on the 23rd of April 1730. It is as an archaeologist that Horsley is now known. His great work, Britannia Romana, or the Roman Antiquities of Britain (London, 1732), one of the scarcest and most valuable of its class, contains the result of patient labour. There is in the British Museum a copy with notes by John Ward (c. 1679-1758), biographer of the Gresham professors. Horsley died of apoplexy on the 12th of January 1732, on the eve of the publication of the Britannia Romana. He also published two sermons and a handbook to his lectures on mechanics, etc., and projected a history of Northumberland and Durham, collections for which were found among his papers.
J. P. Wood (d. 1838) (Parish of Cramond, 1794, and Anecdotes of Bowyer, 1782, p. 371) says that his wife was a daughter of William Hamilton, D.D., minister of Cramond, afterwards professor of divinity in Edinburgh University, but probably the John Horsley in question was another, the father of Samuel Horsley.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)