John Draper was instituted as Vicar of Stagsden on 19th March 1676. On 14th September 1677 he was instituted to the living of Stevington, which he held in addition to Stagsden. He was also Rector of Farndish from 1673 until 1694, held in plurality with both Stagsden and Stevington.
In 1706 he had to answer a case in incest at the Archdeaconry Court [ABCP97]. At that time sexual relations with a sibling in law was regarded as incest. Remember that the Church of England had come into being, in part, because Henry VIII had sought a divorce from Katherine of Aragon because she had been his later brother Arthur's wife and Henry was worried that the marriage had been consummated which would have made his marriage to Katherine incest.
The court papers state that he had married Mary Keines of Astwood [Buckinghamshire] in July 1677 at Hardmead [Buckinghamshire] "and after Solemnization aforesaid the same was consummated betwixt you by mutuall Cohabitation and Copulation". The aforesaid copulation resulted in three sons, John, baptised on 7th May 1678, Thomas, baptised on 1st May 1679 and John, baptised on 8th October 1680. This last birth looks as if it proved fatal for Mary, as she died on 21st October 1680 and was buried two days later in the chancel of Stevington church.
After Mary's death John, in the eyes of the church, then broke the law. The indictment reads: "That you the said John Draper doo know, believe or have heard That by the Commons and Constitutions Ecclesiastical in that behalfe provided Every Minister, Rector or Vicar who is guilty of any Notorious or Enormous Crime and Especially the Crime of Incest, Adultery, Fornication or Incontinency or Neglects his Cure ought to be deprived or corrected and punished". It goes on "That notwithstanding the premises You the said John Draper, Clerk, have in the years of our Lord 1680; 81; 82; 83; 84; 85; 86; 87; 88; 89; 90; 91; 92 ;93 ;94 ;95 ;96 ;97 ;98 ;99; 1701; 1701; 1702; 1703; 1704; 1705 and this present year of our Lord 1706 and in the months therein happening in all some or one of them Notoriously and Scandalously Cohabited at ye dwelling house in the parish of Stevington aforesaid with Dorothy Keines and publickly layn with her in Naked bed …which said Dorothy was and is the Naturall and lawfull sister of the said Mary ye said deceased wife to the great scandal of ye priestly office and Christianity, the danger of ye Soul's health and Evill Example of others and this was and is known or at least there is a publick fame thereof within the said patish of Stevington and other parishes and places adjacent".
John had children by Dorothy "or at least one daughter. And when you had begot the said Dorothy with Child you did Contrive that she the said Dorothy should privately Lye Inn at ye said house in Stevington aforesaid after you had delivered her of the said Child and that you would upon such delivery Convey such Child privately away to London or some other place and that you had made preparations for it accordingly and so much you the said John Draper have owned and Confessed, or at least there is a publick fame thereof within the said parish of Stevington and other parishes and places adjacent".
"We article and object That you the said John Draper, communicating the premises to a Relation or freind of yours such Relation or freind advised you to desist from such a dangerous and wicked attempt, and told you he believed it would be safer to bring or send the said Dorothy Keines privately to London that she might be delivered there of the said Child. That in pursuance thereof you did privately send the said Dorothy to a midwives in St. Clements parish in the County of Middlesex for the purposes aforesaid. And then and there the said Dorothy was delivered of a female Child aforesaid".
"That after the said Dorothy Keines was delivered as aforesaid of the said female Child such Child was Christened by the minister or curate of the said parish of St. Clements by the order and direction of you the said John Draper by the Name of Mary And registered in the publick Register of Christenings, Marriages and Burialls kept for the said parish of St. Clements by the name of Mary Smart, daughter of John and Dorothy Smart".
"Immediately after the premises the said Mary Smart was placed forth to Nurse for the Space of Seven years or thereabouts by the order and direction and at the Costs and Charges of you the said John Draper and that after the said Mary Smart had bin so Nurst and brought up dureing the time aforesaid She, the said Mary Smart was removed by the order and direction of you the said John Draper and placed with Thomas Draper your Brother of Banbury in the County of Oxfordshire, where she boarded and continued for Seaven succeeding years or thereabouts".
"That after the premises you the said John Draper, Clerk did remove or cause to be removed the said Mary Smart from your said Brother's in Banbury aforesaid, and placed her with Mr. Labram alias Riley of the Town of Northton in the County of Northton Milliner as a servant or apprentice for five years or thereabouts. And the said Milliner breaking or failing after two years service of the said Mary Smart or thereabouts you the said John Draper removed or conveyed or caused to be removed or conveyed the said Mary Smart to the Town of Cambridge in the County of Cambridge where you the said John Draper did take and provide or cause to be taken and provided a Chamber for her the said Mary to which place you the said John Draper did frequently or at least once repaire to visit her the said Mary".
"That you the said John Draper (after the said Mary Smart had continued at Cambridge as aforesaid for two years or thereabouts did convey or carry or cause to be conveyed or carried the said Mary Smart from the Town of Cambridge aforesaid to your own dwelling house situate in Stevington aforesaid where she the said Mary hath lived or continued ever since. And that you the said John Draper have and still doe own the said Mary Smart to be your daughter before several persons worthy of Credit and of this there was and is publick fame".
Now the charges against Draper took on a much blacker form, to modern eyes: "That you the said John Draper, Clerk, not having the fear of God before your Eyes but being Instigated by the Devill did in the Months of March, Aprill, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January, February and March In the year of our Lord 1697 [before 1752 the new year began on 25th March, not 1st January] and in the same months in the year of our Lord 1698 in all, some or one of the said Months in one of the said years Intice and delude the said Mary your daughter and lie naked bed with her Severall nights or a least one night at the Beare in St. Neots in the County of Huntington as you was then goeing with your said daughter to Cambridge as aforementioned and did then and there perpetrate and comitte the horrible Sin or Crime of Incest with her the said Mary your said daughter to the great offence of Almighty God, the danger of your Soul's health the great Scandall of your priestly office & Christian Religion and Evill Example of others"
"That Notwithstanding the premises you the said John Draper have and still doe Entertain and Maintaine the said Dorothy Keins and Mary Smart at your dwelling house in Stevington aforesaid and Cohabit with her the said Dorothy as your wife".
"That in the Months of September, October, November, December, January, February and March In the year of our Lord 1705 and in the Months of March, Aprill, May, June, July and August In the present year of our Lord 1706. In all some or one of them you the said John Draper, Clerk being unmindfull of your priestly office and in Contempt of the Canons and Ecclesiastical Laws in that behalfe provided have Neglected to read the Common Prayer Established or provided any other Minister in Holy Orders to doe the same in the parish churches of Stagsden and Stevington aforesaid, or one of them in the severall Sundays, Holydays, Wednesdays and Frydays happening in the months aforesaid or some or one of them and also Neglected your duty in preaching in the aid Churches of Stagsden or Stevington or one of them on the severall Sundays happening in the years and Months aforesaid or some or one of them and more particularly on three Sundays or Lord's days happening in the latter End of the Month of November and in the beginning of the Month of December In the year of our Lord 1705 aforesaid when you the said John Draper wholly neglected your duty either in reading divine Service or preaching in the said parish churches of Stagsden or Stevington aforesaid or one of them".
Draper denied marrying Mary Kins, fathering Mary Smart on Dorothy Kins and having intercourse with Mary Smart. He also insisted that he read Divine Service "constantly" on Holidays, Wednesdays and Fridays but not on Sundays "as he could not get a congregation". Amongst evidence brought forward was a statement by John Pateman, parson of Hardmead that he had married Draper on 2nd July 1677. William Smith, minister, testified that Mary, daughter of John and Dorothy Smart had been baptised on the 31st August 1683 at Saint Clement Dane's.