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List of Carlton Rectors

This page was written by Pam Hider

St.Mary's from the east
Carlton Church from the east June 2018


Below is a list of the rectors of Carlton as complete as historial sources allow. The right to nominate a person to be presented by the Bishop as rector of a church was known as the advowson. This right was usually held by lords of the local manor who were then known as patrons and they are named in the list throughout the centuries. Manors were business enterprises and advowsons were valuable assets as a means for the patron to exert moral influence on the parishioners, who were his manorial tenants, through the teaching and sermons of the parish priest. In return the rector received a house and income from rectory lands to maintain it. Clergy would also have been the only educated people in the parish and "might well write wills and draw up agreements and were certain to be involved in educational venture". The abolition of manorial courts in the 19th century led to the bishops themselves taking control of appointment, which remains the situation today.

Volume III of the Victoria County History of Bedfordshire was published in 1908. It noted that the earliest known reference to the Carlton advowson dates from 1206 when it was owned by Gerinus de Lega, lord of the manor. Ralph Pirot, also of the manor, had the right of presentation in 1278-9 when the church was endowed with 1 virgate of land. It remained attached to the manor until 1710 when, together with Chellington rectory, it was alienated to Lord Trevor. In 1875 the advowsons for both Carlton and Chellington were sold by the Trevor family, who also held the manor of Bromham, to the Reverend William Henry Denison, MA of Saint John's College, Oxford [P92/2/1/2]. He had purchased it for himself and as a result he served as rector of both villages from 1876 until 1909. He continued to hold the advowson during the four years of the next rector, Reverend W. W. Kenny's, incumbency. The rector after him, from January 1914, was the nephew of Denison, having been presented by him to the position [Z1521/1/10/2].

List of rectors 

  • Gerinus de Lega - 1206;
  • John de Lega - 1229;
  • Gerinus - d.1274
  • Thomas Pyret - 21 Sep 1274 [subdeacon; on death of Gerinus; patron Sir Ralph Pyret who had recovered the advowson as against Sir Ralph de Leye];
  • Richard de Suthgivel - 18 Dec 1284 [subdeacon; on resignation of Thomas Pyrot; patron Sir Ralph Pyret; letters patent from the bishop dated 16 Dec 1284 on resignation of Thomas Pyrot, capellanus; Richard and his successors to pay Thomas for life 5 mares per annum];
  • Thomas Pyrot - 3 Dec 1291 [capellanus; on transfer of Richard de Suthgivele to be Rector of Hattele Porte; patron Sir Ralph Pyret];
  • Thomas Pirot - 24 Sep 1295 [capellanus; on death of ...Pirot; presented to minor orders then ordained subdeacon and instituted to the parish; patron Sir Ralph Pyret];
  • Thomas Pyrot - 12 Dec 1296 [subdeacon; vacant for not having procured ordination as priest; patron Sir Ralph Pyret];
  • M.William de Stondon - 11 Jan 1329 [clerk; on death of M.Thomas Perot; patron Sir Henry de la Leye];
  • William Castel - 27 Jul 1351 [acolite; on resignation of William de Stondon; exchanged to be Rector of Rothewell, in Lyndeseye];
  • John de Wodeford - 9 Sep 1352 [priest; on resignation of M.William Castell; exchanged to be Rector of Thurleigh];
  • William Man of Wollaston - 4 Oct 1358 [priest; on resignation of John de Wodeford; patron Richard de Wodeford];
  • Henry Kaytewayte - 1 Mar 1366 [priest; on resignation of William de Wolaston; patron William de Wodhill; attorney for John Trayli];
  • Henry Casse - 1367;
  • William Sabin of Caldecote;
  • D.John Tirell - 1379;
  • Roger Midulton - 29 Apr 1379 [priest; on resignation of D.John Tirell, exchanged to Overton Catenars; patron Sir John Traylly];
  • John Childe - 29 Sep 1385 [priest; vacant; patron Sir John Traylly];
  • D.John Fleschewer alias Yeuelden - 15 Aug 1404 [priest; on death of D.John Chyld; patron Johanna, late wife of Sir John Traylly; Sir Thomas Aylesbury; John Goldyngton; William Bosorn; John Hyne, Rector of Chellington; John Morteyn, clerk];
  • John Sumptere - 24 Sep 1417 [on death of D.John Yeuylden who died at Carlton on 16 Sep 1417; patron William Bozon, John Goldyngton and John Hyne, Rector of Chellington; inquisition as to advowsan];
  • John Smyth - 30 May 1457 [clerk; on death of D.John Sumter; patron John Chapman of Weston Underwood, by grant from William Vaux senior of Harougden Magna, esquire];
  • D.John Dee - 24 Jan 1463 [priest; on death of D.John Smyth; patron Ralph Hastinges, esquire, by grant from Edward IV of the lands of William Vaux];
  • M.John Cokkes - 1488;
  • M.Thomas Parmenter - 14 Apr 1488 [on resignation of M.John Cokkes];
  • D.John Sherard - 8 Nov 1520 [capellanus; on death of last incumbent; patron Sir Nicholas Vause];
  • William Lane - 6 Nov 1521 [clerk; on resignation of D.John Sherard; patron Sir Nicholas Vause];
  • D.Thomas Poley - 17 Jan 1539 [capellanus; on death of M.William Lane; patron Sir John Mordaunte of Turvey and Laurence Mody of Pavenham by grant to them from Thomas Vaux, Lord Harrowden];
  • William Valantin - 1560;
  • William Yate - 29 Aug 1560 [clerk; on death of William Valantin; patron the Bishop by lapse];
  • Thomas Holiday - 26 Oct 1564;
  • Thomas Wells - 30 Jan 1576 [admitted 29 Mar 1576; patron Nicholas Vaux, esquire; vacant by death of previous incumbent; died 5 Aug 1642 aged about 100, parson of Carlton and Chellington for about 70 years; had two sons by Mary his wife - John and Thomas];  Mr.Wells was but one of several clergy in the county, who were tyrannized by the commissary of the Court at Bedford. In apportioning tax laid upon them for the King’s expedition to Scotland, £6 was demanded from the Rector of Carlton. “This was greatly too much and because he did not pay, the Court at Bedford cited Mr.Wells (though 100 years old) to Bedford Court and because he didn’t appear, he suspended him and called him an old owle....” (cf. J.Brown, John Bunyan His Life, Times & Work, II).
  • William Pargiter - 12 Aug 1642 [clerk; patron Sir John Washington and Robert Pargiter; sequestered in Jul 1645 for "drunkeness and malignancy: in a Parliament thanksgiving day sermon, he said the lenders of money to Parliament were enemies of Christ,  those giving thanks for Parliament victories were accursed” (Walkers Revised: Sufferings of the Clergy and CRT 170/2/3)]; 
  • Nathaniel Coles - 5 Jul 1647 [intruded];
  • Thomas Greatbach - 8 May 1658 [buried 19 Jan 1684; will dated 2 Apr 1681, proved 17 May 1684];
  • Joseph Chaderton MA - 4 Feb 1684 [on death of Thomas Greatbach; patron Bernard Turner, esquire; buried 30 Apr 1720];
  • Benjamin Rogers MA - 25 Jun 1720 [of Sidney College, Cambridge; on death of Joseph Chadderton; patron Lord Trevor, Baron of Bromham; native of Bedford, born 2 Oct 1686; for some years second master of the Free Grammar School in Bedford; admitted to Sidney College on 5 Jul 1702; ordained deacon at Buckden and priest at London in 1712; died 12 Sep 1771; by Jane his wife, who died 25 Aug 1742, aged 52, he had 6 sons and 5 daughters. His diary, covering 1722-1752 was published and is now available at Bedfordshire Archives (X185/1)];

Deed of union with Chellington - 1769;

  • William Hooper MA - 1771 [on death of Benjamin Rogers; educated at Charter House and Christ Church College, Oxford; JP for Bedfordshire; died at Bedford on 9 Nov 1828 aged 86 having been 60 years Rector of Chellington and upwards of 57 years Rector of Carlton];
  • Henry John Ellman BCL - 20 Feb 1829 [on death of William Hooper; patron Hon.George Rice Trevor of Bromham Hall; died 3 Feb 1862; rector of Carlton with Chellington for 34 years];
  • William Sweet Escott SCL, MA - 13 May 1862 [former fellow of New College, Oxford; on death of Henry John Ellman; patrons John, Viscount Sidney and George Fitzroy, esquire];
  • William Henry Denison - 1876;
  • Walter Wolfenden Kenny - Dec 1909;
  • Herbert Bouchier Wiggins Denison - Jan 1914 [believed to have been a croquet player of international standing];
  • Henry Edward Dodd - Oct 1923 (brother-in-law of H.B.W.Denison);
  • Edwin Mighell Cox - Apr 1930 ;
  • Albert Victor Ledbury - Jun 1931-1959;
  • Thomas Hooton Michael Dix - 1959 [curate in charge while vicar of Harrold; an Associate of the Royal College of Organists, a missionary in Africa and Archdeacon of Zanzibar before coming to Harrold and Carlton];
  • Peter Eugene Blagdon-Gamlen - 1964;
  • Ronald Gavin Henderson Cooper - 1968;
  • Charles Alfred Billington - 1972;
  • David Richard Thurburn-Huelin - 1981;
  • Jonathan P Smith - 1988;
  • Geoff Gillard - 1997; 
  • Jean Burrows - 1999;
  • Jane Fox - 2008-2015;
  • Jacqueline Curtis and Peter Turnbull - 2016

D = "Dominus" meaning Lord;
M = "Magister" meaning Master

Z603-1-p2 William Escott
Reverend William Sweet Escott c.1865 [Z603/1]

Rector Cox with Sax (Beds Times 3 Oct 1930)
Rector Edwin Mighell Cox enthralls his 'flock' with a saxophone recital outside the rectory 1930 (courtesy of the Bedfordshire Times, 3 October 1930)

Not all rectors lived and worked exclusively in their parish and some held more than one living at a time and employed a curate to carry out priestly duties. Others, whilst being rector of one parish, were themselves curate at another. This is illustrated in Carlton by the following:

  • Thomas Wells was rector at Chellington from 1572 and rector at Carlton from 1576, until his death in 1642
  • Joseph Chaderton was also rector of both parishes from 1683 (Chellington) and 1684 (Carlton) until his death in 1720. He lived in the 'Parsonage-House' at Carlton.

  • Benjamin Rogers was rector of Carlton from 1720 until his death in 1771, but in the Episcopal Return of 1720, he also described himself as Curate of Chellington, which might appear strange because Robert Richards had been appointed rector of Chellington in 1720. In the return for Carlton, Reverend Rogers wrote "I read the publick Service Once every Lord's day (as my Predecessor did) in my Parish Church; and the reason I do not read it twice every Lord's day there is because I supply the Parish Church of Chellington for Mr. Richards." In the Return for Chellington he also says he reads the 'Publick Service' once every Lord's day "as has for many years last past been usual". Joseph Chaderton had stated in the Return of 1717: "The Churches are near enough for both parishes to resort to them". This then would seem to be the explanation; and perhaps for other Rectors too who ministered to both. Reverend Rogers stated in the Return of 1720: " I reside in my Parsonage House at Carlton, which lyes almost equally distant between the two Parish churches of Carlton and Chellington, as much the greatest part of both the Parishes does". Although Carlton and Chellington were two distinct parishes, they were conveniently contiguous. Inevitably, the two benefices became one by by the Act of Union in 1769 and effective in 1771 [GA1122/3]. 

  • William Hooper was the first rector of the unified benefices in 1771 until his death in 1828. He was also JP for Bedfordshire. It has come to light in a passage from The Turvey Abbey Scrapbook 1830-57 [FAC193/1] that William Hooper "did not live at the Rectory House, but in one belonging to W.J. Rogers in Chellington, being the midway between the two churches". A poll book of 1826 [F684] had him residing in Bedford.
  • Thomas Michael Hooton Dix, who was vicar of Harrold betweem 1959 and 1964,  became 'curate in charge' of Carlton with Chellington concurrently, when Carlton's rector, Albert Ledbury, became ill (he died in 1960). Reverend Dix was also Rural Dean of Felmersham 1962-63.

Since 1964 Harrold has shared the same incumbent as Carlton with Chellington.


A valuable resource for much of the above has been Volume 81 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (2002) which 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 rewards reading, as it throws some interesting light on the state of the church in the parish from 1706  to1720.

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 Carlton noted that 150 people attended the morning service at the parish church. By contrast, the local Baptist chapel counted 200 in the morning congregation, 550 in the afternoon and 500 in the evening.