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Saint Cuthberts Rectors


At some time in the early 13th century the advowson of Saint Cuthbert's was granted to Saint Peter's Priory, Dunstable, who held it until the priory was dissolved at the Reformation. At that time the advowson was worth £6 per annum, from which the prior drew a small pension. After the dissolution the advowson became the property of the Crown, the Lord Chancellor having the power of presenting the next rector.


The following is a list of Rectors of Saint Cuthbert's, so far as can be reconstructed:

  • 1235: Robert de Kelseya;
  • 12--:  Thomas de Lega;
  • 12--: Andrew;
  • 15th March 1263: Peter Bacun, priest, on the death of Andrew, the last Rector;
  • 5th July 1269: James, Vicar of Newbottle, on the resignation of Peter;
  • 1282: Galfridus Buguleum;
  • 20th December 1287: Richard Troue, clerk, presented when a minor, on the death of the last Richard; custody of the parish committed to Walter de Wootton, Rector of Marston Moretaine. Richard was later ordained subdeacon and instituted;
  • 20th June 1306: Robert de Esseby, chaplain, on the death of Richard Troue;
  • 3rd December 1329: John de Middleton, clerk, on the death of Robert de Assheby;
  • Richard le Smyth;
  • 10th November 1350: John Spelyng, priest, on the resignation of Richard le Smyth, who exchanged to Little Billing [Northamptonshire];
  • 14th November 1358: John (Robert) Parchmyner, of Bedford, priest, on the resignation of John Spelyng;
  • 30th December 1391: John Gerbrey, of Emberton [Buckinghamshire], priest, on the death of John Parchemener;
  • 21st November 1400: Walter Utterby, chaplain, on the resignation of John Gerbrey;
  • John Bray;
  • 16th February 1409: John Cantyng, chaplain, on the resignation of John Bray, who exchanged to Stagsden;
  • 31st March 1424: John Brygge, priest, on the resignation of John Cantyng.
  • 8th July 1448: Brother Thomas Harburgh, priest, by dispensation from the Apostolic See;
  • 19th August 1459: Nicholas Langston of Mostard, priest;
  • 6th June 1461: Richard Lyster, priest, on the resignation of Nicholas Langeston;
  • 14th July 1465: Richard Folyam, priest;
  • Richard Soham;
  • 15th June 1479: William Este, on the death of Richard Soham, the last Rector;
  • 31st May 1500: James Lyndesey, priest, on the resignation of William Este;
  • 18th February 1504: Thomas Inman, chaplain, on the death of James Lyndeseye;
  • 30th April 1519: Nicholas Dynsey, on the death of Thomas Inman;
  • 29th October 1572: Emere Bedforde, clerk, also Vicar of St Paul's, Bedford; buried 18th March 1576;
  • 30th April 1578: Thomas Sparke, clerk;
  • 31st May 1583: Ralph Jones;
  • 13th November 1584: William Foxcrofte;
  • 29th April 1585: Thomas Yarrowe, on the resignation of the last rector;
  • 29th April 1625: Robert Lloyd, on the death of the last incumbent;
  • 23rd January 1628: Edward Lloyd, on the death of the last incumbent;
  • 20th March 1630: Eleazar Gilbert, on the death of the last incumbent;
  • 31st July 1640: Giles Thorne;
  • (23rd October 1647: Richard Woolhouse, intruded against Giles Thorne);
  • 13th May 1664: Robert Cordell, clerk, on the resignation of Giles Thorne;
  • 22nd May 1675: James Rosse, on the resignation of Robert Cordell;
  • 1676: Edward Bourne;
  • 28th November 1689: Alexander Leith, on the resignation of Edward Bourne;
  • 16th November 1732: Francis Hunt, clerk, on the death of Alexander Leith;
  • 22nd February 1738: Robert Lambe, on the death of Francis Hunt;
  • 27th March 1750: Thomas Bort;
  • 5th August 1779: Benjamin Beresford, clerk, on the death of Thomas Bort;
  • 13th November 1790: Charles Abbot, licensed with 20 guineas stipend and surplice fees.

Henry Tatham
Henry Tatham [P120/28/4/1]

  • 1822: Henry Tatham, clerk, on the death of Benjamin Beresford; under him the old church was demolished and the present building erected; he was later Archdeacon of Bedford and Chaplain Ordinary to Queen Victoria;
  • 3rd January 1850: John Gaskin, on the resignation of the last incumbent;

Charles Trollope
Charles Trollope [P120/28/4/3]

  • 12th May 1852: Charles Trollope clerk, on the death of the last incumbent; ordained 11 May 1845;

Stephen Richard Waller
Stephen Richard Waller [P120/28/4/4]

  • 9th March 1868: Stephen Richard Waller, on the resignation of Charles Trollope;

Howard Kempson
Howard Kempson [P120/28/4/5]

  • 1875: Edward Kempson; his daughter and son were friendly with Eleanor Evelyn McKay and were present at her murder;

Arthur Cleveland Downer
Arthur Cleveland Downer [P120/28/4/6]

  • 1886: Arthur Cleveland Downer;

William Frederick Lindesay
William Frederick Lindesay [P120/28/4/7]

  • 1897: William Frederick Lindesay; Chaplain to H. M. Prison Bedford from 1897 to 1907;

Edward Noel Hodges
Edward Noel Hodges [P120/28/4/8]

  • 1907 Edward Noel Hodges; later Assistant Bishop of St. Albans and Archdeacon of Bedford;

Walter Reginald Scott
Walter Reginald Scott [P120/28/4/9]

  • 1917: Walter Reginald Scott;
  • 1919: Thomas Church;

William Hewetson
William Hewetson [P120/28/4/11]

  • 1922: William Hewetson
  • 1938: Walter Edward Lane;
  • 1945: Oswald Norman Garrard;
  • 1959: Clifford Sidney Mason.

In 1974 Saint Cuthbert's was united with Saint Peter de Merton and the church closed, becoming redundant the following year. It was used for a while by the Serbian Orthodox congregation in Bedford but in July 1979 was taken over by the Bedford Polish Roman Catholic community. The church continues [2009] to be a Polish Catholic church by the name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Cuthbert.

 Saint Cuthbert's church before 1845
Saint Cuthbert's church before 1845 [Z50/10/1]

Episcopal 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 the visitation of 1706 the rector, Alexander Leith noted that he parish: "is of small extent, consists of about 50 families, most labourers. Of these many are Dissenters who resort to the Independents' Meeting house [the Bunyan Meeting] , but know little more of religion than that they do not like the Church of England, but think they Edifie more at a Conventicle. There is no Papist or reputed Papist here".

In 1709 Leith noted that he held the parish along with the parish of Bedford, Saint Paul and that there was no longer any parsonage. He noted that a Quaker had been baptized since the last visitation and "none come to church who are yet unbaptized, but several not Confirmed. Communicants not above 10. The parish generally poor people, and very ignorant, no education, which is the main cause of this neglect".

In 1712 Leith confirmed that he lived at Saint Paul's parsonage as there was "No House for a Rector to live in. It is aid that Archdeacon Thorne about 40 years ago let the House fall down, and the materialls be carried away, and no care has been taken about it since". He noted that divine service was held every Sunday for about three quarters of the year with a sermon delivered every third Sunday "at other times the parishioners go to St. Paul's Church". Only seven or eight people received communion.

In 1720 Leith recorded that the parish had 56 families, of which 29 were Dissenters "but such as do not distinguish themselves into their different sects, so far as I hear". He went on: "I do not reside personally upon the Rector of St. Cuthbert's because there has been no house upon it for Many years before my self or my two last predecessors came to it". He had no curate and did not know of any unbaptised in his congregation. Of services, he said: "Publick service is read in this Church every Lord's day at five aclock in the afternoon, except on the 3rd Sunday that I preach there betwixt the hours on one and three in the afternoon. At other times the Parishioners repair to St. Paul's for divine service, which is the next Parish, and the two churches about two furlongs assunder…The sacrament of the Lord's is twice administred here, and if Communicants would come I would administer oftener, but at St. Paul's diverse of them do frequently communicate".

 Saint Cuthbert's church from the north May 2009
Saint Cuthbert's church from the north May 2009

1851 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 Bedford, Saint Cuthbert stated that it had been consecrated on 8th July 1847 after the old church was rebuilt and that it had 270 free seats and 144 which were reserved. On the Sunday of the census 84 adults and 102 Sunday scholars attended in the morning, there was no afternoon service and the evening service was simply noted as "full". The rector noted that the average was 150 adults and 104 children in the morning, 170 adults and 104 children in the afternoon and again simply "full" in the evening. Of 30th March he noted: "Unfavourable day for taking number of Morning Service, Sacrament Sunday when there is no sermon and most of those who do not attend the Sact. Stay away altogether. Sermons too were being preached in the other Churches for the Irish Society by Strangers, this also helped thin our congregation".