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List of Odell Rectors

Odell church from the south-west May 2008
Odell church from the south-west May 2008

The following list of rectors of Odell is as complete as records will allow. The advowson of the church was always part of the Manor of Odell, the earliest known patron being Saher de Wahull in 1220, it passed with the Barony, later the Odell Castle Estate, down through the de Wahull and Alston families. The current patron [2008] is the third Lord Luke.

  • Robert de Dunton - 1220 [clerk];
  • Robert - 1236;
  • Richard de Hingeh - 1249 [subdeacon];
  • William de Wahull - 11 May 1278 [subdeacon, ordained by the Bishop of Ely, on death of Richard de Hougham];
  • Thomas de Pateshall - 25 Feb 1283 [chaplain, on death of William de Wahull];
  • Richard de Suthgivel - 9 Sep 1292 [priest, on death of Thomas de Frettewell];
  • Richard Bosard;
  • Robert de la Hoe - 24 May 1325 [clerk, on death of Richard Bosard];
  • Nicholas Cuddyng [priest, on resignation of Robert de Lega];
  • Richard de Wyntonia - 24 Feb 1335 [clerk, on death of Nicholas de Cuddyngton];
  • Stephen de Brokesbourn - 2 Apr 1336 [on resignation of Richard de Wynton];
  • Richard de Wykyngeston - 20 Nov 1345 [Rector of Mersham, Canterbury, by exchange with Stephen de Brokesbourne];
  • William de Hoghton - 10 Jul 1356 [priest, on resignation of Richard de Wykengeston, exchanged for Giles Chalshunt (Chalfont)];
  • John Capel - 25 Sep 1364 [of Buckeworth, on death of William Hoghton];
  • William Wenlok - 22 May 1376 [priest, on resignation of John Capul];
  • John Capel - 6 May 1391 [of Buckworth, priest, on resignation of William Wenlok, exchanged to Flamstede Rectory];
  • Edmund de Byngham - 22 Apr 1392 [priest, on death of John Capel];
  • William Sewale - 13 Apr 1404 [priest, on death of Edmund Byngham];
  • Robert Hyne - 13 Mar 1446 [priest, vacancy];
  • John Challey - 12 Nov 1454 [priest, on death of Robert Hynde];
  • Thomas Bole - 6 Feb 1454 [capellanus, on resignation of John Challey, exchanged to Souldrop Rectory];
  • William Rawlyns - 21 Aug 1466 [priest, on death of Thomas Bole];
  • William Gavfyld - 12 Apr 1494 [priest, on death of William Rawlyns];
  • Richard Sutton - 20 Jan 1505 [priest, on death of William Gavfyld];
  • John Blande - 25 Apr 1529 [capellanus, on resignation of Richard Sutton];
  • Butler, Oswald - 28 Aug 1546 [clerk, on death of last incumbent];
  • Thomas Rookwood - 20 Sep 1554;
  • Christopher Goodman - 20 Jun 1570 [on death of Oswald Butler];
  • Edward Bulkley - 6 Mar 1571 [D.D., buried 5 Jan 1620];
  • Peter Bulkley - 9 May 1610 [son of above, married at Goldington 12 Apr 1618 Jane Allen, daughter of Thomas Allen. died Concord Massachusetts 9 Mar 1658];
  • Henry Levit - 10 Jul 1635 [B.D., Patron William Alston. Buried 9 Jan 1671];
  • William Dillingham - 29 May 1672 [on death of Henry Lovett];
  • Edward Dillingham - 2 Nov 1686 [B.A., deacon, licensed to preach];
  • Edward Trott - 26 Feb 1689 [M.A., on death of William Dillingham];
  • Robert Lightfoot - 30 Jun 1703 [S.T.B., on death of Edward Trott];
  • Vere John Alston - 22 Jul 1714 [A.B., on resignation of Robert Lightfoot];
  • Robert Jones - 1717 curate;
  • Robert Pye - 14 Jul 1762 [L.L.D. on death of Vere John Alston];
  • Valentine Henry Grantham - 5 Jun 1788  [M.A., on death of Robert Pye];
  • Valentine Grantham - 18 Sep 1798 [B.D., on surrender of Valentine Grantham];
  • Vere John Alston - 23 Mar 1829 [clerk, on death of Valentine Grantham; a bankrupt who fled the country in 1847 living in exile in Paris until his death in 1863];
  • William Cornish Hunt - 26 Oct 1863 [B.A., on death of Vere John Alston];
  • Edward Hamilton Hurst - Mar 1891;
  • John Steel - Apr 1895;
  • Philip Young - Jun 1902;
  • Robert Douglas - Aug 1908;
  • John James McNair - Jun 1912;
  • Charles Edgar Copeland - Feb 1933;
  • Frederick Arthur Johnson - Dec 1939;
  • Bennet Guyon Leonard Williams - Aug 1945;
  • Frederick James Barwood - Nov 1951;
  • John Bardsley - 1962;
  • David James Payne - 1973;
  • Anthony Martin Giffard Wells - 1978;
  • Howard Bracewell - 1986;
  • J. Trevor Lightowler - 1988;
  • David A.Streater - 1998;
  • Christine M.Clark - 2006

 Portrait of Peter Bulkley in the north aisle June 2008
Portrait of Peter Bulkley in the north aisle June 2008

Peter Bulkley

Perhaps the most interesting of these worthy incumbents is Peter Bulkley. He succeeded his father, who had been Rector since 1571, in 1610, suggesting that he was born in the parish. He was a convinced Puritan, as his father had been, and complaints about his preaching began to be sent to the Archdeacon. Bulkley, as part of his Puritan beliefs, refused to wear a surplice or use the sign of the cross, both contrary to the practice of the Church of England

His strident Puritanism led to his ejection from the living and in 1635 he sailed to America, being ordained at Cambridge, Massachusetts in April 1637, becoming the first minister of a small settlement named Musketaquid, which was later renamed Concord. A neighbouring town, founded three years later, is called Bedford.

His book The Gospel Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace Opened was published in London in 1646 (the final year of the First Civil War). He died in Concord on 9th March 1659. Given his strong views one wonders what his reaction would have been to the fact that one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War was fought in the town he helped to found on 19th April 1775.

 Pulpit in 1868Pulpit June 2008
The pulpit in a drawing of 1868 [Z50/86/62] and in June 2008


Volume 81 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (2002) is devoted to returns made during episcopal visitationsto 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. In 1709 the rector, Robert Lightfoot, was clearly non-resident as he reported: "Mr.Benjamin Clark Curate. He lives in the Rectory, and has £20 per Annum and his diet". He went on to describe the parishioners: "Several not Confirmed. Communicants about 30. Of these 20 received at easter last. There are several of Age who seldom or never receive at all".

 West end screen presented by William Alston in 1638
West end screen presented by William Alston in 1638

Rev.Lightfoot must have had a change of heart, however, as in 1712 he reported: "The Rector resides upon his Living". He went on: "Divine Service twice every Lord's day...Communion 3 times a year. About 26 received at Easter last".

 Font in 1868Font June 2008
The font in a drawing of 1868 [Z50/86/60] and in June 2008

By 1717 the rector was Vere John Alston, a member of the family who owned the Odell Castle Estate and so most of the village. He was not resident: "I do not as yet personally reside upon my Cure for some reasons which I hope will be satisfactory to your Lordship. The Curate that has hitherto resided in my Parish is just Removed to other Preferment, but I am now provided of Another who Intends to Reside there this week. I allow him 32 pounds a year with other perquisites which are very considerable. I know of None that come to church but what are baptized. I wish I could say also that all that are baptized and of a competent Age have been confirmed. There have been no Adults baptized here since the last trienniall [sic]visitation. The publick [sic] service is performed twice constantly every Lord's day in the Church as also upon the severall [sic] saints Days throughout the year…The sacrament of the Lord' Supper is administered foure [sic] times a year and there were about Eighteen Communicants at Easter last. There is timely warning given of the sacrament before it is administered. It has not been Usuall [sic] here for communicants to send in their Names beforehand. I have not yet found sufficient cause of refusing the Sacrament to any one".

 Roof of south porch drawn in 1868
Roof of south porch drawn in 1868 [Z50/86/63]

By 1720 Alston was still non-resident: "I do not as yet personally reside upon my cure. I am at Pavenham, about a Mile from my Parish and I cannot remove without putting myself and family into a great many inconveniences, as well unnessary [sic] Charges. Therefore hope your Lordship will excuse my Residence. I have a Residing Curate living in the Parsonage house, his Name is Robert Jones, he hath been Curate about 3 years Midsummer last, and is now duly qualified according to the Canons in that behalfe [sic], his allowance is thirty pounds a year with other perquisites which are considerable".

 South door June 2008
South door June 2008

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 Odell church was made by the Rector, Vere Alston, who noted that seating accommodation was 138 and that the congregations had been 40, with 36 Sunday Scholars, in the morning and 80, with 36 Sunday Scholars, in the afternoon - grand totals of 76 and 116.