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Clapham Vicarages

The VIcarage about 1930 [X456/15/6]
The VIcarage about 1930 [X456/15/6]

Until the first part of the 16th century Clapham was a chapel of ease of Oakley. The first known vicar was instituted in 1526. Bedfordshire Archive and Record Service has no early references to a vicarage. A return provided for the episcopal visitation of 1706 stated that there was no vicar, just a curate (who also served Biddenham), whose allowance was £10 per annum and no mention of accommodation. A return for 1709 states that a vicar had been instituted that year and a return of 1712 notes: “No house for the Vicar. He lives at Stachden [Stagsden], distance 2 miles”. In 1717 the vicar commented: “I have noe house, nor but little to live by out of the Parish”.

Lack of a parsonage plus the small size of the stipend must have been a limiting factor in attracting the best clergy to be Vicars of Clapham. Indeed, in an article on Clapham church in the Northampton Mercury of 26th June 1847 Woburn Abbey librarian John Martin observed: "If he asks if there is a resident clergyman? He will be answered in the negative ... Thus will the spectator depart, having witnessed a church in decay, a parish without a pastor ..."

In 1871 solicitor Thomas W Turnley wrote to the vicar about the latter’s choice of a site for a vicarage, pointing out that a road had to be preserved from Church Lane “to the farmyard” which restricted the size of the potential site [P117/2/4/1]. The correspondence suggests that no site was agreed at that time. In 1883 Lord Thynne, holder of the advowson, gave £119/15/8 towards the cost of a parsonage [P117/2/4/2]. By 1931 the vicarage occupied a pre-existing row immediately bordering the west side of the Horse and Groom [117/2/4/5].

In 1934 the parochial church council authorised the vicar to buy a site for a more suitable vicarage [P117/2/4/6]. The vicarage next to the Horse and Groom was sold for £1,000 and the vicar moved into the new vicarage, on Green Lane opposite Carriage Drive in July 1935 [P117/2/4/7].  Alterations to the kitchen and dining room were carried out in 1971 [P119/2/4/14] and the property remains the Vicarage at the time of writing [2017]. The old vicarage next to the Horse and Groom was demolished in the 1970s and is now 17 High Street.