Josiah Pullen of Tytherington
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Josiah Pullen (1631–1714), MA, Vice Principal of Magdalen Hall, Vicar of St Peter in the East

JOSIAH PULLEN (1631–1714), was born in Tower Hill Farm, Tytherington and famously rose to become a very distinguished vice-principal of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, having matriculated at Oxford in 1650. He graduated B.A. in 1654 and M.A. in 1657, and in the same year became vice-principal of the hall, which office he retained till his death. Among his pupils were Robert Plot in 1659, Richard Stafford in 1677, and Thomas Yalden the poet. Magdalen Hall under Dr. Henry Wilkinson [q. v.] was a stronghold of puritanism; but Pullen appears to have stood well with the royalist authorities. In September 1661 Clarendon, visiting Oxford as chancellor, refused the invitation of Wilkinson, the president, to the hall with the remark that he ‘entertained factious people, and but one honest man among them,’ meaning, says Wood, Pullen (Wood, Life, ed. Clark, i. 415). About this time Pullen became ‘domesticall chaplain’ to Robert Sanderson [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln, was present at his death on 10 Jan. 1663, and preached the sermon at his funeral (Sanderson, Works, ed. Jacobson, vi. 344–9, cf. ii. 142, and Wood, Athenæ Oxon. iii. 626, 628).

In 1675 Pullen became minister of St. Peter's-in-the-East at Oxford, and in 1684 rector of Blunsdon St. Andrew, Wiltshire; he held both livings till his death (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) In 1684 he was one of the original members of the Oxford Chemical Society. He died on 31 Dec. 1714, and was buried in the lady-chapel on the north side of St. Peter's-in-the-East, where there is a slab with a short epitaph by T. Wagstaffe.

Pullen, who was familiarly known as ‘Joe Pullen,’ was long remembered in the university on account of his eccentricities. The many stories which were related of him in ‘common rooms’ mainly illustrated his simplicity and absence of mind. He was a great walker. His constant walking companion was Alexander Padsey (1636–1721), fellow of Magdalen. An elm tree, which he planted at the head of the footpath from Oxford to Headington, was for a century and a half called by his name (Gent. Mag. 1795, ii. 962). It grew to great proportions, but in 1894 was cut down to a mere stump.

There is a half-length portrait of Pullen at Hertford College (formerly Magdalen Hall), and a shorter copy of the same in the Bodleian picture-gallery; the latter is attributed to one Byng, was engraved in stipple by E. Harding, and published on 1 Oct. 1796




"Joe Pullen's Tree", a wych elm (Ulmus glabra) in Oxford, was planted in about 1700 by the Rev. Josiah Pullen, vice president of Magdalen Hall. Josiah Pullen "used to Walk to that place every day, sometimes twice a day", according to diarist Thomas Hearne. The famous essayist Richard Steele (1672–1729) said his regular walks as an undergraduate to the elm with Pullen helped him to reach a "florid old age". The elm became famous at Oxford and its fame grew with its age. In November 1795, Gentleman's Magazine reported that "Joe Pullen, the famous elm, upon Headington hills, had one of its large branches torn off and carried to a great distance." When new parliamentary district boundaries were drawn after the Reform Act 1832, the tree was named as a landmark helping to mark the boundary of the Parliamentary Borough of Oxford. In early 1847, the owner of the property arranged to have the tree torn down, and work started on it before protests put an end to the plan. By 1892, however, rot had set in, and the tree was torn down to its (large and tall) "stump". Early in the morning of October 13, 1909, vandals set fire to the stump. A plaque was soon after installed on the side wall of Davenport House in Cuckoo Lane, marking the spot. It reads: Near this spot stood the famous elm planted by the Rev. Josiah Pullen about 1680 and known as Jo Pullen's Tree. Destroyed by fire on 13 October 1909