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List of Heath and Reach Vicars

Saint Leonard's banner January 2009
Saint Leonard's banner January 2009

The list below includes all the vicars of Heath & Reach since the creation of the ecclesiastical parish; the patron was always the Vicar of Leighton Buzzard. In 2006, however, Heath & Reach ceased to be a strictly independent parish, becoming part of the Ousel Valley Team Ministry with Billington, Eggington, Hockliffe and Leighton Buzzard. The parish retains it own priest, parochial church council and churchwardens, however.

Head of Saint Luke in apse south window January 2009
Head of Saint Luke in apse south window January 2009

Volume 81 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (2002) is devoted to returns made during episcopal visitations to the county by the Bishop of Lincoln in the early 18th century, edited by former County Archivist Patricia Bell. The return for Leighton Buzzard in 1720 has the tantalizing sentence: "I am hindere'd from doing my duty…by one Mr Martins basely intruding himself into the Chappell of Heath without my leave or your Lordship's License". Nothing else is known of him.

The font January 2009
The font January 2009

Curates

  • Martins [intruded] 1720
  • Martin Benson - 1826;
  • John Grant Lawford MA - 15th March 1835 [on death of Martin Benson; resigned 24th August 1842];
  • John Charles Orlebar - 12th September 1842 [clerk; licensed on parish church; on resignation of John Grant Lawford];
  • Thomas John Williams MA - 12th November 1858 [licensed to parish church; on surrender of John Charles Orlebar];
  • Joseph Orlando Stallard MA - 15th September 1863 [licensed to parish church; on resignation of Thomas John Williams;];

The living becomes a Vicarage in 1866

Vicars

  • William Wallis Richards - 1900;
  • Lambert Woodard - June 1916;
  • Edwin George Meyrick Wood - March 1919;
  • Percy Llewellyn Leakey - October 1926;
  • Dudley Hiam or Hiam Spring - February 1930;
  • Leonard Jocelyn Lightbody - December 1935;
  • Benjamin Hezekiah Bissell - August 1939;
  • John Edgar Keith Flint - February 1949;
  • Edward John Harper - 1955;
  • Wilfred Edward Barrow - 1966;
  • Grant Fellows - 1986 [resigned 1994];
  • David Ridgeway - 1995;
  • Geoffrey Neale - 2002;
  • Jenny M.Cappleman - 2007;
  • Noel McGeeney - 2013. 

Head of Saint John in apse south window December 2009
Head of Saint John in apse south window December 2009

On Sunday 30th March 1851 a census of all churches, chapels and preaching-houses of every denomination was undertaken in England and Wales. The local results were published by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in 1975 as Volume 54, edited by D.W.Bushby. The return for the "ancient Parochial Chapel of Ease, consecrated 1824 [sic] on re-building" was made by John Charles Orlebar "parochial minister" who noted seating accommodation for 250 with attendances of 32, with 46 Sunday Scholars, in the morning, 52 Sunday Scholars in the afternoon and 90 mixed congregation in the evening. The averages were reckoned to be 35 and 50 in the morning, 40 and 60 in the afternoon and 100 in the evening. The day was wet and cold and did not entice people to go outdoors. The minister remarked: "A very poor District, most especially as respects the established Church. This Chapelry being destitute of zealous or substantial supporters resident herein".

Heath and Reach church bell January 2009
Heath and Reach church bell January 2009