|Dates in office:||1765–1811|
|Born:||1732, October 6 (Kensington Gore, London)
|Baptised:||1732, October 27 (St Martins-in-the-Fields, London)|
|Died:||1811, February 9 (Royal Observatory, Greenwich)
|Buried at:||Churchyard of St Mary’s, Purton, Wiltshire, SN5 4EB
|Date interred:||1811, February 20|
|Tomb location:||Chest tomb adjacent to the south side of the south transept
|Memorial plaques etc:||East wall of Chapel of St Nicolas in the south transept
Although Nevil Maskelyne was born and brought up in London, his father Edmund was born in Purton and baptised in the church there. In Tudor times, the Maskelyne family were significant landowners in Purton. Their descendents still live in the area today.It was while attending Westminster School, that Maskelyne first became interested in astronomy. He entered St Catharine’s College, Cambridge in November 1749, moving to Pembroke College the following year. In 1752 he moved again, this time to Trinity College where he studied the mathematical tripos and graduated in 1754 as seventh wrangler (the seventh best mathematician in his year). In 1756 he became a fellow of Trinity College. He took his MA in 1757 and in 1758, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, where one of his sponsors was the third Astronomer Royal, James Bradley.
As well as pursuing a career in Astronomy, Maskelyne increased his income by entering the church. He became a Batchelor of Divinity (BD) in 1758 and a Doctor of Divinity (DD) in 1777. He was ordained Deacon in 1755 and Priest in 1756. In 1755 he became curate of Chipping Barnet and in 1775, received the living of Shrawardine, Shropshire, which was in the gift of his nephew, the second Lord Clive. In 1782, his College offered him the living of North Runcton, Norfolk, which he accepted. Although in the eighteenth century, the practice of holding more than one ecclesiastical office at a time was commonplace, many clergymen were not eligible to hold livings in plurality and certain combinations of offices were forbidden by ecclesiastical law. Because of this, Maskelyne had to resign his position at Sharwardine.
In 1784, Maskelyne married Sophia Rose at the parish church of St Andrew Holborn. His only child Margaret was born at Greenwich on 25 June 1785.
When his brother William died in 1772, Maskelyne inherited Pond’s Farm at Purton Stoke, which he used as a Country retreat. In later years, he inherited other properties. He also inherited various charitable responsibilities in the neighbourhood.
Following his death at the Observatory on 9 February 1811, Maskelyne was taken to Purton where he was buried in the churchyard. His wife (1752-1821) and daughter (1785-1858) are buried with him. Other members of the extended family are also buried at Purton.
Nevil Maskelyne, the Seaman’s Astronomer. Derek Howse. Cambridge University Press, 1989.