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List of Steppingley Rectors

The church from the south-east December 2016
The church from the south-east December 2016

Advowson

Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912. It noted that the first mention of the advowson of Steppingley church is in the late 12th century when it was granted by Lord of the Manor of Steppingley, Richard de Steppingley, to Dunstable Priory.

The priory was dissolved by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) in 1540 at which point the advowson passed to the Crown, which held it until 1677 when it was leased to Robert Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury. The Bruces continued to be patrons of the living until 1745 when the Duke of Bedford had the advowson, which he retained until 1836 when it reverted to the Crown through the Lord Chancellor.

Since 1959 Steppingley has shared an incumbent with Ampthill and since 1959 with mill as well. The parishes retain their own churchwardens and parish officers. The current patron of the living of Ampthill with Millbrook and Steppingley [2017] is still the Lord Chancellor.

The pulpit December 2016
The pulpit December 2016

List of Rectors

  • William: c.1175;
  • Richard , chaplain: 1231;
  • Peter Vitella of Ferentino, a Roman, on the resignation of Richard, presented to Pateshulle but he died at Newnham on 29th November 1247 before institution: 1247;
  • Gilbert de Tingrithe, deacon, on the departure of Peter de Vitella for Lyons: 1250;
  • Peter Vitella, having returned to England, he then delivered his cure to Benedict, clerk, for five years for 100 shillings per annum: 1255;
  • John de Schorne, subdeacon, on tehd eath of Peter de Vitella - 17th December 1273;
  • Robert de Lincoln, subdeacon, doctor, on the resignation of John de Schorne: 24th May 1282;
  • John de Rowell, chaplain, on the death of Robert de Lincoln: 9th April 1297;
  • William March of Torksey [Lincolnshire], subdeacon, on the institution of John de Rowell to the Rectory of Bedynham [Beddingham, Sussex?]: 4th May 1310;
  • William de Cranesle;
  • Roger de Horton, priest, on the resignation of William de Cranesle: 18th August 1331;
  • John Wolf, priest, on death of Robert [Roger?]: 1st July 1349;
  • Henry de Weston;
  • John de Hidryngham, priest, on the resignation of Henry who exchanged to the Rectory of St.Peter "in Campis", Bedford, i.e. St.Peter de Merton]: 26th August 1356;
  • Walter de Nassyngton;
  • Thomas Albon, Rector of “Wollanyngston” [Sarum Diocese] by exchange with Walter de Nassyngton: 6th November 1370;
  • Roger Denford, clerk, on the resignation of Thomas Albon: 19th December 1376;
  • Nicholas Carpenter of Maldon, priest, on the death of Roger Denford: 1390;
  • Nicholas Wryght;
  • John Bernarde of Steppingley, priest, on the resignation of Nicholas Wryght: 14th December 1397;
  • William Masse of Eton, chaplain, on the resignation of John Bernard: 22nd February 1402 [1403];
  • Robert de Germthorp, Vicar of Gamlingay [Cambridgeshire], on exchange with William Masse: 15th September 1403;
  • Thomas Whychewode, priest, on the resignation of Robert Germthorp, who exchanged to the Rectory of Wolverton [Buckinghamshire]: 27th October 1405;
  • Thomas Colles of Millbrook; priest, vacant: 6th April 1409;
  • John Basse, vacant: 16th February 1441 [1442];
  • Robert Styward, clerk, on the death of John Basse: 14th January 1452 [1453];
  • Robert Werkworth;
  • Reginald Conwey, priest, on the resignation of Robert Werkworth: 17th May 1457;
  • John Malory, Rector of Lee [Kent], on exchange with Robert Styward: 4th September 1463;
  • John Depyng, priest, on the resignation of John Malery: 9th April 1465;
  • Thomas Warde, priest, on the resignation of John Depyng: 3rd June 1483;
  • Richard Overton, chaplain, on the resignation of Thomas Warde: 9th November 1494;
  • Richard Smyth: 1526;
  • William Tatam, chaplain, on the death of Richard Smyth: 12th July 1537;
  • Thomas Bowker: 13th July 1552;
  • Roger Mayott, clerk: 3rd July 1554;
  • Ralph Feeld, on the death of the last incumbent: 5th January 1557 [1558];
  • Ralph Sedeleye, recusant [i.e. Roman Catholic]: 1563;
  • Edward Sutton, clerk, on the deprivation of the last Rector; Sutton was buried on 31st July 1607 and his will proved on 1st October 1607: 23rd April 1567;
  • (Thomas Merridale MA, clerk, of Saint John's College, Cambridge, ordained deacon and licensed as curate: 21st December 1606);
  • John Partenton BD, of Trinity College, Cambridge, on the death of the last incumbent: 26th September 1607;
  • John Bellamie: 1610;
  • William Partenton MA, on the resignation of the last incumbent: 9th December 1638;
  • William Glover MA, clerk, on the death of last incumbent: 25th May 1666;
  • Peter Emmerson, minister: 1673;
  • Henry Atkinson, minister: 1675;
  • James Butterworth AM, on the death of the last incumbent: 17th October 1707;
  • (William Leigh, curate: 1709);
  • John Matthews AB, of Christ Church College, Oxford, ordained 24th December 1710, on the death of James Butterworth; Matthews married Anne Parker of Steppingley at Millbrook on 4th October 1721: 27th December 1710;
  • John Preston, on the death of John Matthews: 24th February 1745 [1746];
  • (William Proctor of Saint John's College, Cambridge: 17th October 1762)
  • Thomas Sawell, clerk, on the death of John Preston: 5th July 1763;
  • Francis Henry Barker, clerk, on the death of Thomas Sawell: 6th January 1785;
  • William Henry Greene MA, on the death of Francis Henry Barker: 17th March 1830;
  • Thomas Edward Erskine BA, on the death of the last incumbent: 19th April 1853;
  • Edward James Paget MA, on the cession of Thomas Edward Erskine: 12th February 1864;
  • Henry Warwick Hunt MA, on the death of Edward James Paget: 21st December 1869;
  • John William Smyth DD, on the cession of Henry Warwick Hunt: 23rd January 1872;
  • Robert Campbell Connolly MA: 16th April 1883;
  • Charles Swynnerton: 22nd December 1910;
  • Charles Edward Meadows: February 1913;
  • Walter Stephen Austin Grainger: November 1922;
  • Atherley Hill-Jones: December 1928;
  • Colin Millington: February 1937;
  • Ernest Alfred Bastin: August 1944;
  • Alfred William Garfield Edwards: December 1948;
  • Ronald Gavin Henderson Cooper MA: 1952;
  • Leonard Grey Colls BA: 1962;
  • (David S. Hoare, curate: 1963);
  • Leslie George Sturman: 1969;
  • Raymond Leslie Hodson: 1984;
  • Michael J..Trodden: 1996.

The south porch December 2016
The south porch December 2016

Visitations

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. It throws some interesting light on the general state of the church in the parish. At this date it was common for a rector or vicar to not live in the parish he nominally served, often because he had more than one, and so employed a curate to undertake their parochial duties for him. The returns for Steppingley are as follows:

  • 1709: the Rector, James Butterworth, employed a curate, William Leigh to minister to the flock. “None come to Church Un-baptized. Many not confirmed. Usuall communicants about 20. Received at Easter last about 10. Many seldome or never communicate at all”.
  • 1712: the new rector, John Matthews, resided in the parish. “None come to Church Un-baptized, nor of due age Unconfirmed. Divine Service twice every Lord’s Day”.
  • 1717: “I reside personally upon my Cure but not in the Parsonage-House because of its Meanness and other Inconveniences. I have no Curate. I know of none who come to church that are not baptized. Here are some few, who being baptized and of a competent Age are not yet Confirmed. I have baptized no Adults since the last Visitation. I read the Publick Service in this Church once every Lord’s Day; alternately, one Sunday in the Morning, and another in the Afternoon. The Reason why the Publick Service is not read twice upon every Sunday is because I have the Cure of another Church in the Neighbourhood, neither was it ever usual for the Service to be twice performed in this Church the same day”. Matthews was also incumbent of Tingrith and of Westoning from 1720 and it looks as if he may have been acting as curate for one of these in 1717. “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is administered three times at least every Year in my Church. Here are about 30 Communicants, about 20 whereof received last Easter”.
  • 1720: “I reside personally in this Parish, but not in the Parsonage-House; the Parsonage House being not fit for any Minister to dwell in, even ever since it was first built. Unbaptized I know of none. The Publick Service is read once every Lord’s Day and likewise upon Holy-Days according as the Custom of the Parish has always been. The Reason why it is not performed twice every Lord’s day, because the revenues are scarce a maintenance without the Benefit of some neighbouring Cure”. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is administered at least three times the Year. There are about thirty Communicants, fifteen whereof usually receive, and at last Easter about twenty did communicate”.

The south door December 2016
The south door December 2016

Ecclesiastical Census

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 Steppingley church was made by theminister, William Henry Greene, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • There were 60 free seats and 26 others;
  • The afternoon congregation had been 82, with 39 Sunday scholars;
  • Average for the preceding twelve months had been ten congregation and forty Sunday scholars in the afternoon and forty general congregation in the afternoon.

The font and surroundings by the south door December 2016
The font and surroundings by the south door December 2016