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List of Battlesden Rectors

Battlesden Church East Window
Battlesden church east window January 2007


The advowson of the church was held by Ralph Passelewe, Lord of the Manor of Battlesden, in 1280. It remained in the hands of the lords of the manor into the 20th century and the Trustees of the Bedford Estates are still [2017] patrons of the living for this church, Eversholt, Milton Bryan and Woburn.

The parishes of Battlesden and Potsgrove were united in 1732 as Battlesden with Pottesgrove, in other words they shared one incumbent and had a combined vestry and officers (and today have a united parochial church council and churchwardens). In 1961 Battlesden with Potsgrove was joined with Woburn, sharing the same incumbent, Milton Bryan and Eversholt being added in 1979 so that the Rector of Battlesden is now also Vicar of Woburn, Rector of Eversholt and Rector of Milton Bryan though each parish (and the united parish of Battlesden with Pottesgrove) retains its own parochial church council, churchwardens and services.

Detail of capital on chancel east wall January 2008
Detail of capital set into chancel east wall January 2008

List of Rectors of Battlesden

  • Richard de Gatesden: 1219;
  • John de Kana;
  • Alured de Hererd, subdeacon: 1261;
  • John de Leycton: 10th October 1292; 
  • Adam de Leycton, clerk, on the presentment of John de Leycton to another cure: 13th March 1293;
  • Roger Keynes, subdeacon, on the resignation of Adam de Leycton: 11th March 1319;
  • Adam de Fordham;
  • Henry de Cobelynton, priest, on the resignation of Adam de Fordham: 23rd June 1323;
  • William de Shenle, priest, on the death of Henry de Cobelynton: 1st July 1349;
  • John Siward, priest, on the resignation of William Shenle: 12th June 1380;
  • John Benet, priest, on the resignation of John Syward, exchanged to Lillingston Dayrell rectory [Buckinghamshire]: 23rd October 1388;
  • William Wystanstowe, priest, on the resignation of John Benet: 16th February 1391;
  • Robert Beeston, clerk, on the death of last rector: 27th June 1405;
  • John Wynk, vacant: 16th July 1406;
  • John Man, on the death of John Wynk, alias Crofton: 20th December 1410;
  • Walter Paulyn - 1430;
  • Thomas Person;
  • John Myles, priest, on the resignation of Thomas Person: 2nd August 1460;
  • Thomas Shenkwyn, on the resignation of John Miles: 24th May 1482;
  • Robert Eton, priest, on the resignation of Thomas Shenkwyn: 1st January 1482;
  • John Hounte, priest, on the death of Robert Eton, he held Battlesden in plurality with Tilsworth: 11th February 1500;
  • Ralph Gryndall, on the resignation of John Hunte: 23rd March 1503;
  • Hugh Hodgeson M.A., on the death of Ralph Grendell: 3rd December 1547;
  • Michael Emmut (Emmite): 9th July 1555;
  • Michael Marsh M.A., on the death of the last incumbent: 7th January 1601;
  • John Vicars: 28th July 1626;
  • Nathaniel Reynes B.D.: 28th July 1629;
  • Adam Lewgar, clerk: 23rd February 1643;
  • John Viccars, clerk, his resignation bond is dated 2nd October 1656: 5th May 1645;
  • Thomas Baker, Susanna, his wife, was buried 8th April 1701, he held Battlesden in plurality with Potsgrove from 1661: 28th April 1657;
  • Henry Layng M.A., on the death of the previous incumbent, he held Battlesden in plurality with Potsgrove: 15th March 1707;
  • (William Capell M. A. licensed curate of Battlesden cum Potsgrove);
  • (John Dix M. A., licensed curate: 20 December 1710);
  • (John Little, curate: 1712);
  • Samuel Backler, clerk, on the death of Henry Layng: 17th February 1726;

Detail of cross on font January 2008
Detail of cross on font January 2008

List of Rectors of Battlesden with Pottesgrove

  • Edward Bouchier M.A., on the resignation of the last incumbent: 22nd June 1732;
  • Henry Watkins B.A., on cession of Edward Bouchier: 23rd November 1738;
  • George Charles Black, on the death of Henry Watkins: 15th August 1759;
  • Thomas Sawell M.A., on death of George Charles Black: 12th April 1775;
  • Edward Henry Whinfield B.A., on the death of Thomas Sawell: 11th December 1784;
  • Henry Wrey Whinfield M.A., on the death of Edward Henry Whinfield: 17th September 1821;
  • Henry Edmond Fryer M.A., on the death of H. W. Whinfield: 8th June 1849;
  • Edward Norman Coles, clerk, on the resignation of H.E. Fryer: 24th November 1857;
  • James Davidson: 13th October 1888;
  • Heneage Horsley Jebb M.A., he exchanged to Streatham [Surrey] and died 18 January 1913: 1895;
  • Harold Sellon Watts: January 1905;
  • William Joy Clarke: October 1918;
  • William Nevitt Westmore: October 1922;
  • Arthur Arnold Carter: September 1930;
  • Garnet George Stapylton Kenyon: 1946;
  • William George Dean Pitt Mercer: 1960;
  • Robin Orbell Osborne: 1961;
  • John Terence Wenham: 1965;
  • Paul Richard Miller: 1979;
  • James Alan Heslop: 1999;
  • Stephen Nuth: 2004.

Detail of flowers on font January 2008
Detail of flowers on font January 2008


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 returns, made by the vicar, throw an intetesring light on the state of the church in the parish at the time. Clearly the rector did not live in the parish as in 1706 Rev.Baker reported: "The Parsonage now lets, as it has done for 49 years past [when he first became rector], for £60 per Annum". Baker died and was succeeded by Henry Layng in 1708, who employed a succession of curates. The 1712 return stated: "Neither Rector nor Curate resides [in the parish]". Divine service was held once every Sunday "the other time at Potsgrave". Communion was administered four times a year and of the 30 communicants about half received.

John Little had been Curate in 1712 and was still in the office in 1717, now, however: "I Reside as Curate...I don't live in the Parsonage House. My Allowance is £35 per annum for this Place and Potsgrave". He went on: "I don't know of any who come to Church that are not Baptized, but some being Baptized, and of a Competent Age, not Confirmed. No Adults Baptized. Publick service is read once every Lord's day, It is not performed twice by reason of an adjacent Parish Potsgrave where I have undertaken to perform the same duty. Sacrament Three times [per annum] at least. Eighteen Communicants. ten of them usually receive, twelve last Easter.I give open and timely Warning of the Sacrament. The Parishioners don't send in their Names. I have refused the Sacrament to none".

Three years later the Rector was still a non-resident "because I live at Milton very near it", he now had no curate. Services were held: "Once every Lord's day, most commonly in the Afternoon, but sometimes in the morning. It is not twice perform'd because it is a small Parish, and he that has the care of this, has commonly the care of some other Church...Sacrament Four times in a year, at Christmas, Easter, Whitsontide and Michaelmass. About 40 Communicants, of whom about 10 or 12 usually receive. Only 9 receiv'd last Easter, the Gentleman's family being absent".

Battlesden Church
The church from the south January 2007

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 figures given for Battlesden church were 32 attending in the morning. The Rector, Henry Edmund Fryer, noted the seating capacity of the church as 68.