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List of Bolnhurst Rectors

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


Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912. It noted that the first mention of the advowson of Bolnhurst  church was in 1162 when it was confirmed by Pope Alexander III (1159-1181) to Thorney Abbey in Huntingdonshire, though in 1510 the abbot had leased the advowson to Henry Hornby. The abbey was dissolved by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) in 1539 and the advowson of Bolnhurst was then granted to Sir John Saint John of Bletsoe, Lord of the Manor of Bolnhurst and the advowson remained the property of the Lord of the Manor until 1780 when it was sold, as instructed in the will of Fleetwood Churchill.

The new patron of the living was the Rector himself, Richard Haighton, though he sold it for £1,100 in 1786 to Rev Wharton Partridge of Lincolnshire. By 1794, however, the patron of the living was John de Viel. Patrons in 1803 were William Boughley and Mary Dolling and in 1807 Thomas Perey. By 1809 the patrons were Wilmer Machell Willett and William Oke Manning and by 1825 William Guppy of Farway [Devon].

In 1874 Frederick Mortimer Harvey held the advowson and by 1912 the patron of the living was his son, William Marsh Harvey. In 1957 the living of Bolnhurst was united with those of Keysoe and Little Staughton. The patronage was divided into three turns, the Bishop of Saint Albans taking two turns and Corpus Christi College, Oxford one turn. Each of the three parishes retains its own parish officers and separate parochial church councils whilst sharing an incumbent. 

At the time of writing [2016] Bolnhurst is due to move into a new united living, joining that of Milton Ernest, Pavernham and Thurleigh.

Pulpit fall October 2016
Pulpit fall October 2016

List of Rectors of Bolnhurst

  • Godfrey de St. Edmundo, chaplain: 24 September 1223;
  • Robert de Sibretane: 1234;
  • Adam de Fyton, subdeacon: 1241;
  • John de Potthun;
  • William de Wermington, subdeacon, on the death of John de Potthun: 22 April 1268;
  • Robert de Walingford, subdeacon, on the resignation of William de Wermington: 16 June 1277;
  • John de Langetoft, clerk, on the institution of Robert de Walmersford to another benefice, in minor orders but then ordained: 22 March 1298;
  • William le Messag';
  • John Deystere, priest, Vicar of Flitt [Fleet?] on exchange with William le Messag': 28 July 1346;
  • Ralph de Brampton;
  • John de Denton, priest, on the resignation of Ralph de Brampton: 17 October 1350;
  • Adam Werley;
  • John Atte Milne, priest, on exchange with Adam Werley from Knotting Rectory: 15 May 1391;
  • Walter Halybred, Rector of Colmord [Colmworth], on exchange with John Atte Milne: 18 August 1407;
  • John Forster, Vicar of Boreham, London Diocese, exchanged with Walter Halibrede: 11 May 1412;
  • Richard Belton, Vicar of Okele [Oakley? Not the one in Bedfordshire], on exchange with John Foster: 2 October 1417;
  • William Hendson, Rector of Farnedyssh [Farndish], on the resignation of Richard Belton: 1 February 1432;
  • Thomas Smith;
  • John Selby, priest,  on the resignation of Thomas Smyth: 15 July 1449;
  • Thomas Baker, priest,  on the resignation of John Selby: 12 March 1454;
  • John Walter, priest,  on the resignation of Thomas Baker: 3 September 1462;
  • Christopher Stakhous, priest, on the resignation of John Walter: 22 March 1466;
  • William Brande, on the death of Christopher Stackhouse, last Rector: 8 November 1479;
  • Richard Walker, priest, on the resignation of William Brande: 22 April 1482;
  • Robert Skynner, clerk,  on the death of last Rector: 30 March 1508;
  • John Bethun, clerk, on the resignation of Robert Skynner: 12 May 1510;
  • Henry Morice, on the death of the last Rector: 11 February 1513;
  • Thomas Cressy: 1534
  • Robert White, clerk: 4 July 1554;
  • William Cotton (will dated 6 Feb 1566): 1555;
  • Francis Farthwayt, clerk, on the death of the last Rector: 23 March 1566;
  • Edmund Battie M.A., on the death of the last rector: 22 January 1585;
  • Tobias Blande, on the resignation of Edmund Battie: 4 September 1585;
  • William Maude: November 1590;
  • Baillie Edmas: 18 November 1601;
  • Hugh Johnes : 1 July 1596;
  • Nicholas Clarke, clerk: 19 June 1644;
  • George Gates, clerk (will dated 23 April 1661, proved 23 April 1662);
  • William Gates B.A., clerk: 21 August 1661;
  • Thomas Baker M.A., on the death of William Gates: 1 October 1711;
  • (William Gibbs M. A. 3 November 1713, licensed curate);
  • John Jones M.A., on the death of Thomas Baker: 21 December 1749;
  • James Carlos M.A., on the cession of John Jones: 30 September 1767;
  • Isaac Avanne M.A., on the resignation of James Carlos, which was accepted on 20 Sep 1768: 3 March 1769;
  • Isaac Avann M.A., on cession of Isaac Avann: 16 April 1772;
  • Richard Haighton M.A., on the resignation of Isaac Avanne: 25 July 1783;
  • John de Viel, clerk, on the cession of Richard Haighton: 10 March 1786;
  • Robert Dolling M.A., on the resignation of John de Viel: 20 March 1794;
  • Robert Hele Selby Hele M.A., on the death of Robert Dolling: 29 December 1803;
  • William Dolling Boughley M.A., on the resignation of previous rector: 16 September 1806;
  • Thomas Perey LL.D., on the resignation of  William Dolling Boughley: 13 March 1807;
  • Edmund Watts B.A., on the death of Thomas Perey: 9 January 1809;
  • William Tanner M.A., on the death of Edmund Watts: 25 March 1825;
  • John Hodge, clerk, on the cession of William Tanner: 6 August 1825;
  • Hugh Wade Gery, junior M.A., on the cession of John Hodge: 13 October 1828;
  • Frederick Mortimer Harvey M.A., on the death of Hugh Wade Gery: 16 April 1874;
  • Robert Atherton (1861-1930) “ploughboy, parson, poet” who wrote humorous verse under the name Rupert Upperton; born Kirkby [Lancashire]. He left the church in 1904 and became a wandering poet, three volumes of his poetry and an autobiography were published: 1888;
  • William Thomas Saward: July 1904;
  • Edward Blackburne: July 1913;
  • Charles Edgar Howlett: 1920;
  • Frank Henry Mann: February 1933;
  • Samuel Forrest Reeve: January 1936;
  • Henry Francis Devereux Wynne: February 1938;
  • John Haywood Boyd Roberts: 1957;
  • John Charles Laird: 1969;
  • No priest between 2001 and time of writing [2001]

Crucifixion from the east window October 2016
Crucifixion from the east window October 2016


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 non-residency and 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 Bolnhurst are as follows:

  • 1709: “None come to Church un-baptized. Some few not Confirmed. Communicants not above 8 at Easter last. Severall do neglect to come to this H. Sacrament”.
  • 1712: “The Rector lives at Northampton. The House and Barns dilapidated, and no recovery of costs. The Rector will reside as soon as he can put things in order. He has a residing Curate cum Stip [“with stipend”] £30 per Annum. He lives in the Parsonage House. None Unbaptized come to Church. Divine service twice every Lord’s day, once every Holy day … Communion 3 times a year. About 10 receive”.
  • 1717: “I reside in the Parsonage house. I have no Curate. I Baptis’d one Elizabeth Cook in November last who was of the age of twenty. Divine Service is performed here but once a day, I having your Lordship’s leave to serve another church i.e. Ravensden, the other part of the day … The Sacrament is administered three times a year. 6 or 7 Communicants is our usual number”.
  • 1720: “I reside in the Parsonage House. I have no curate. I know of no unbaptized persons coming to our church now. I having Baptized many adults within these 2 or 3 years. We have service here once every Lord’s day, the other part of the day I serve at Ravensden … We have generally about 9 or 10 who receive the Sacrament, which is administered 3 times a year. We had 10 who communicated at Easter last”.

The south door October 2016
The south door October 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 Bolnhurst church was made by the Rector, Hugh Wade-Gery, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • There were 123 free seats and 27 others;
  • General congregation had been 44 in the morning and 105 in the afternoon;
  • Sunday scholars had been 12 in the morning and 15 in the afternoon.

Lock on the south door October 2016
Lock on the south door October 2016