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Slander in Mogerhanger

In 1715 the General Body of Ministers of the Three Denominations collected information about the number of dissenting congregations in England and Wales. The Bedfordshire names were published by Edwin Welch in Bedfordshire Historic Records Society Volume 75, published in 1996. At the head of the list is an Independent in Bedford called Ebenezer Chandler. From at least 1721 until his death in 1747 Chandler occupied a house in Angel Street, Bedford [now Harpur Street] as the manse to the Bunyan Meeting.

This unfortunate man turns up again in a case for defamation heard at the Archdeaconry Court in Bedford on 26th February 1717 [ABCP112-113]. The statements of two witnesses, John Watford and Henry Huckle survive.

John Watford of Elstow, labourer, stated [ABCP112]: "That in the month of August last past he this deponent, John Gregory and Richard Horne ... and Henry Huckle ... and several other persons being then at Harvest work in Willow field in Mogerhanger in the parish of Blunham, about Eight of the clock in the morning as they were then and there set down to breakfast at a Lands end in the said field Richard Rentum (who was then a Tytheing-man in the said field) did then and there speak and declare in the prsence and hearing of the said John Gregory, Richard Horne and Henry Huckle and several other persons then present, that Ebenezer Chandler had not preached in the Presbyterian meeting but that he had a Bastard Child laid to him for which he was turned out of the College. By which words this Deponent understood the said Richard Rentum did mean that the said Ebenezer Chandler had the carnal knowledge of some lewd Woman and did thereby beget her with Child of a Bastard Child. And this Deponent further saith that the name and Credit of the said Ebenezer Chandler is impaired by the said Richard Rentum's speaking the said words as aforesaid, in the parish of Blunham and other Parishes and places in the said Archdeaconry. But this Deponent saith that he hath known Ebenezer Chandler for about for years last past and believes hin to be a very honest Gentleman nd also believes that the words spoken by the said Richard Rentum concerning him, the said Ebenezer Chandler, are false". Watford added that Rentum lived in Mogerhanger.

Henry Huckle of Great Barford, labourer, added [ABCP113] that "Ebenezer Chandler had not preached in the Presbyterian meeting but that he had A Bastard Child laid to him for which he was turned out of the College and then he took to preaching in the Presbyterian Meetings". Huckle went on: "he ... hath known the said Ebenezer Chandler for Eight Years last past and believes him to [be] a very honest gentleman and also believes that the words spoken by the said Richard Rentum concerning the said Ebenezer Chandler are false and scandalous".

The evidence suggests that Watford and Huckle were themselves Independents or Presbyterians, or Baptists, which would account for them knowing Chandler. One wonders if Rentum was merely relaying idle gossip, or whether he had a personal grudge against Chandler or whether he was an Anglican and thus keen to denigrate a prominent nonconformist minister. There is an entry for him in the Blunham parish register, but only for his burial, on 10th September 1721, when he is called a mason. Poor Henry Huckle did not long survive giving evidence. He was buried  on 31st Marcch 1720 in Blunham, the register noting that he was "of Great Barford, labourer".