Harrison, Thomas (1619–82), nonconformist minister, was born in Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, son of Robert Harrison, merchant. He attended the local grammar school, matriculated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1636 and received his BA in 1638. He became DD in Dublin about 1658. About 1642 Harrison went to North America as chaplain to Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia. He was also elected minister for the Elizabeth River and James City parishes in Nansemond county. Well liked by his parishioners, he received £100 a year for his services. Whether Harrison became a puritan in 1644 after Native Americans massacred colonists, as Lyn G. Tyler asserts, is unknown, but his career in the colonies reflects the political turbulence of England in the 1640s. His closest colleagues were aligned with the parliamentarian Richard Bennett, who owned land in Nansemond. In the autumn of 1648 colonial royalist sympathisers expelled Harrison and William Durand for refusing to use the Book of Common Prayer. The council of state subsequently ordered the governor to permit Harrison's return, but he remained in Boston (having arrived there about 20 October 1648), where he sought assistance from longtime associates including Governor John Winthrop, Jr, and several ministers who had helped found his congregation in Virginia.
By 1651 Harrison had returned to London and succeeded Thomas Goodwin as minister of St Dunstan's-in-the-East. He was examined by the council of state in August for communicating with the exiled king. It is unknown whether this interrogation generated an order dated November 1652 for him to turn over a commission that Charles Stuart had granted to William Davenant for some plantations in America. On 31 October 1653 Harrison, John Owen, Henry Jessey, Stephen Marshall, and Philip Nye responded to a summons from Oliver Cromwell (qv), who asked them to curb anti-government publications. Two years later, Harrison published a funeral sermon for Lady Susannah Reynolds (Old Jacobs accompt cast up and owned by one of his seed (1655)).
In summer 1655 he went to Dublin with Henry Cromwell (qv), who was to act as effective governor of Ireland, serving as his chaplain. Harrison agreed, without Henry's knowledge, to inform Secretary John Thurloe of reactions to Henry and the progress of the reformation in Ireland. On the lord protector's death in September 1658, Harrison preached a funeral sermon before Henry. Lamenting the passing of ‘our Josiah and Pater patriae’, he proclaimed the misfortune as divine retribution for England's failure to complete the reformation (Threni Hybernici; or, Ireland sympathizing with England and Scotland in a sad lamentation for their Josiah (1659), 8).
Harrison ran afoul of the law after the restoration. Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in April 1663 on charges that he had stolen books from St James's library in the 1650s. In 1663 and 1664 he lived in Chester and held services there. In early September 1665 Harrison, Bradshaw, Peter Lee, James Jolly, and approximately forty others were arrested for holding a conventicle at his home; nearly 100 had been at the meeting. He also held services at his house, Bromborough Hall, in Eastham. In May 1670 one ‘G. H.’ reported to Henry Bennett, Lord Arlington, that Harrison, Goodwin, Owen, and Thomas Manton intended to continue holding their services and would willingly suffer the consequences if caught.
Returning to Dublin c.1670 at the request of the non-conforming congregation at Winetavern St. (which moved its chapel to Cooke St. in 1673), he was a respected minister, whose congregation included Lord Massereene (qv) and the countess of Donegall. He died 22 September 1682 in Dublin. A manual of faith and prayer, Topica sacra: spiritual logick; some brief hints and helps to faith, prayer, comfort and holiness, was published posthumously in 1712.
Harrison married first (1648) Dorothy, daughter of Samuel Symonds, deputy governor of Massachusetts; and secondly (28 February 1660) Katherine (d. 1672), daughter of Edward Bradshaw.