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List of Wootton Vicars

Wootton church from the north-east December 2007
Wootton church from the north-east December 2007

Advowson

Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912. It noted that the first mention of the advowson of Wootton church is about 1166 when it was given to Newnham Priory, Bedford, by Simon de Beauchamp on its foundation.

When Newnham was dissolved in 1541 the advowson was taken by the Crown and held for over half a century. By 1605 it was in the hands of John Leigh, who died in 1620. In 1644 Edmund and Elizabeth Wingate held the advowson and their son Button alienated it in 1658 to Robert and Thomas Yarwey who sold it to Sir Humphry Monoux along with Canons and Studley Manors.

In 1873 the advowson was sold to J. N. Foster (relative of A. J. Foster, vicar from 1880 to 1918, presumably) whose family held it into the 20th century. The current patron [2012] is, however, The Martyrs Memorial and Church of England Trust.

Detail of Christ from the chancel east window June 2012
Detail of Christ from the chancel east window June 2012

List of Vicars

The following list of Vicars of Wootton is as complete as records allow.

  • John of Dunstable, deacon: 1251;
  • Nicholas of Wootton: 21st June 1273;
  • David de Wootton, presented on the death of Nicholas: 9th March 1275;
  • Robert de Conington, chaplain, on the death of David: 9th December 1301;
  • John de Billesdon, priest, on the death of Robert de Conyngton: 8th September 1328;
  • William de Knyghton, on exchange with John de Billesdon for Saint Mary de Castro Vicarage [Leicestershire]: 15th November 1348;
  • Richard of Knyghton, priest, on the resignation of William: 1st August 1349;
  • John Downe: 20th August 1401;
  • Matthew Barow (Barugh), chaplain, presented on a vacancy and instituted at Sleaford [Lincolnshire]: 22nd May 1418;
  • John Barowe, presented on the resignation of Matthew Barowe for the sake of an exchange with the vicarage of the prebendal church of Driffield [Yorkshire]; instituted in the person of John Whithed, clerk, his proxy, in the Chapterhouse at York: 23rd August 1418;
  • Matthew Skearne;
  • Thomas Barbur, chaplain, presented on the vacancy caused by the death of Matthew Skeerne the last vicar, instituted at Nettleham [Lincolnshire]: 20th April 1457;
  • John Lynne, chaplain, presented on the vacancy caused by the death of Thomas Barbur: 14th August 1490;
  • John Bartholomew;
  • Thomas Atkyne alias Barker, priest, on resignation of John Bartholomewe: 20th February 1498;
  • Hugh Rere, priest, presented on the vacancy caused by the resignation of John Lynne, instituted at Aylesbury [Buckinghamshire]: 16th July 1499;
  • Robert H. Ansloppe/Hanslope: 1534;
  • Reginald West, clerk, presented on the vacancy caused by the death of Sir Robert Ansloppe the last vicar, instituted at the Old Temple, London, in the person of Sir William Wright his proxy: 18th December 1539;
  • John Dewe, clerk: 17th May 1554;
  • Thomas Cox/Cocks, clerk; vacancy said variously to be on the resignation of Reginald West and on the death of the last incumbent: 14th February 1563;
  • Richard Leverock, clerk, on the resignation of Thomas Cox; B. A. 1585 and M. A. 1597: 7th September 1581;
  • Humphrey Totnam M. A.: 7th May 1600 (still there 1614);
  • Edward Fulham: 1637;
  • Alexander Hale B. A., on the death of the last incumbent: 10th July 1638;
  • John Hoffeman: 1660;
  • William Bunne, incumbent on visitation: 1662;
  • Thomas Cheyne, vacancy caused by the death of William Bunne: 11th July 1683;
  • Denis Cooling/Colinge, priested in London on 21st September 1690; vacancy caused by the cession of Thomas Cheyne: 19th March 1695;
  • Andrew Moore, vacancy caused by the death of Denis Cooling: 6th September 1711;
  • German Pegg B .A., vacancy caused by the cession of Andrew Moore, clerk: 24th February 1719;
  • (Joseph Wilkinson, curate: 1720);
  • John Slatter, clerk, vacancy caused by the cession of German Pegg: 19th January 1720;
  • John Slater, re-presented and instituted following his own cession, instituted to Stibbington [Huntingdonshire] 26th March 1731: 17th August 1731;
  • George Backhouse M. A., vacancy caused by the death of John Slater, clerk: 25th August 1739;
  • John Welling, vacancy caused by the death of George Backhouse: 13th September 1775;
  • Thomas Gadsby M. A., on the death of John Welling: 14th June 1785;
  • John Jenkyn, clerk, on the vacancy caused by the resignation of Thomas Gadsby: 30th April 1834;
  • James Jenkyn M. A., on the resignation of John Jenkyn: 17th February 1842;
  • Frederick Neale B. A., on the resignation of James Jenkyn: 5th July 1852;
  • William Hardy Vernon M. A., on the death of Frederick Neale: 23rd October 1872;
  • Albert John Foster: 31st December 1880;
  • Charles Edward Squire: December 1918;
  • Thomas Quigley: January 1940;
  • Charles William Fortescue Jebb: July 1946;
  • James Francis Wilson: 1950;
  • Ronald Earl Thorp: 1956;
  • Anthony James Smith: 1964;
  • John Victor Michael Kirkby: 1975;
  • Christopher P. Strong: 1987;
  • Dr. Peter M. Ackroyd: 2002.

Angel from the chancel north window June 2012
Angel from the chancel north window June 2012

Visitations

Volume 81 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (2002) is devoted to returns made during episcopal visitations 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. The returns for Wootton are as follows:

  • 1709: “None unbaptized, nor any returned not Confirmed. Communicants about 80, of which 60 received at Easter last. Few absent themselves”.
  • 1712: The Vicar resides in his Vicarege [sic] house. None come to Church Un-baptized; severall not confrmed. Divine Service twice every lord’s day, frequently upon Litanie and Holy-days … Communions 3 times a year. About 40 receive. Notice duly given”.
  • 1717: “Curate No. It seems that, generally, they that come to Church are baptized. But of those who are baptized, it seems sundry are not confirmed. I baptized one young woman since I came hither. The Publick service is (commonly) read in our Church twice every Lord’s day, when I am well … The Lord’s Supper is administered in our church thrice in the year. There are about fourty [sic] (or between thirty and fourty) communicants. I do give open and timely Warning of the sacrament before it is administered”.
  • 1720, the return was completed by a curate – Joseph Wilkinson: “The Vicar of Wootton resides at old Windsor in Barkshire having leave, I suppose, till he has rebuilt the Vicaridge, which he is hasting to do with all Expedition. Mr. Joseph Wilkinson the Curate of Wootton lives in the House of Sir Humphrey Monoux [Wootton House]; is Licens’d and allowed by my Lord Bishop, has been Curate there about a Year and an half is allowed 30 li per annum and Surplice fees. Publick Service is perform’d in our church twice ev’ry Lords Day … Sacrament Thrice. The number of Communicants at Easter were about 40 and last Whitsuntide 60.

South panel of the chancel east window June 2012
South panel of the chancel east window June 2012

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 Wootton church was made by the vicar, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • About 540 places to sit;
  • General congregation in the morning was about 150, with 100 Sunday scholars;
  • General congregation in the afternoon was about 380, with 100 Sunday scholars;
  • Averages for the preceding months were as above;
  • “I have never counted the Number of Persons who attend the Church”.

Pews in the south aisle June 2012
Pews in the south aisle June 2012