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List of Clapham Vicars

The church from the south-east April 2010
The church from the south-east April 2010


Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912. It noted that the first mention of the advowson of Clapham church is in the early 16th century when it was held by Caldwell Priory. The chuch in Clapham was a chapelry of Oakley until 1526 when it became a parish in its own right. In 1545 Henry VIII (1509-1547) granted the advowson to Henry Audeley and John Maynard, having dissolved Caldwell Priory in 1536.

The Crown held the advowson in 1683 and in 1600 it was held by Henry Seckford and Rebecca, his wife. The Crown was patron of the living again by 1677 but by 1728 it was John, Earl of Ashburnham.The advowson remained with the Ashburnhams until the early 19th century when the Earl of Ashburnham sold it to John Thynne, who became 3rd Baron Carteret in 1838. The Thynnes kept the advowson until the end of the 19th century and by 1912 it was in the hands of J H Twamley. The current patron [2016] is, however, the Martyrs Memorial and Church of England Trust

List of Vicars

  • Hugh Bentley: 1526;
  • John Alderman, clerk: 23rd April 1534;
  • Thomas Grosse, clerk, vacant by lapse, previous vicar John Alderman: 10th May 1583;
  • Hugh Bradley BA, on the death of the last incumbent: 16th January 1601;
  • Robert Paule, clerk: 1602;
  • William Tapp: 1608;
  • Robert Fish: 26th September 1615;
  • (W.Latimer: a charge made against him in 1617 year for serving the cure without a licence])
  • Robert Foulks: 20th August 1617;
  • Giles James, married Abigail Easton on 27th November 1629 at Bedford, St.Peter de Merton: 1623;
  • John King, clerk: 12th November 1641;
  • James Rosse: 1664;
  • Adam Haughton MA, vacant: 28th December 1677;
  • (John Towersey of Biddenham, curate: 1706);
  • John Trape [or Teape] AB, vacant: 30th August 1709;
  • Michael Arnold AB, vacant: 29th April 1725;
  • William Bamford, on the cession of Michael Arnold:  8th April 1728;
  • William Smith BA, on the death of William Bamford: 24th January 1735;
  • Charles Jackson BD: 17th January 1750;
  • William Heming , clerk, on the cession of Charles Jackson; Heming died 1794: 13th April 1753;
  • Thomas Hornbuckle MA, on the death of William Heming: 18th July 1794;
  • William Pulley MA, on the death of Thomas Hornbuckle: 1st April 1803;
  • James Donne BD, on the death of William Pulley: 23rd May 1843;
  • Jeremiah William Haddock MA, on the death of James Donne: 10th June 1861;
  • Albert Octavius Cheney: November 1913;
  • Edward Barton: July 1923;
  • John Keble Cowburn: October 1927;
  • Douglas Arthur Terrell Benson: August 1948;
  • George Graham Cansdale: 1976;
  • Malcolm Kenneth Merrett Scott: 1990;
  • Robert T Bashford: 1996;
  • Stephen Liley: 2003.


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 Clapham are as follows:

  • 1706: “A Curacy only. Mr John Towersey Curate of Biddenham supplies this with it”.
  • 1709: “Families 25. Souls 100. No Papists, a very few Presbyterians … Communicants about 10 at Easter last. Scarce any of this parish Confirmed”.
  • 1712: “About 4 or 5 families Presbyterians and Anabaptists … One Adult Baptized since my last Visitation. None come to Church unbaptized. Divine Service once every Sunday and Holy-day. He is the other part of the Sunday at Biddenham … Communion 3 times a year. About ten receive, out of 50”.
  • 1717: “I know not one whole family [of nonconformists]. His servantes come always to the Church, but the Master doth not come. He goes to noe place, as I am informed. Meeting houses. None … Curate None. Unbaptized None. Services Once every Lordes day. My place [stipend] is very small. ‘Twill hardly mainetain me … sacrament Three times every yeare. I had eight to the best of my remembrance att Easter last that came to the Sacrament”.

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 Clapham church was made by the Vicar, James Down, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • There were 80 free seats and 30 others;
  • General congregation was 35 in the morning and 80 in the afternoon; Sunday scholars were 14 in the morning and 20 in the afternoon;
  • Average attendance was 30 in the morning and 70 in the afternoon with 14 Sunday scholars in the morning and 20 in the afternoon.