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List of Potton Rectors and Vicars

The church from the south-east February 2013
The church from the south-east February 2013


Volume II of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1908. It noted that the advowson of the church was always owned, not surprisingly, by the Lord of the Manor of Potton Rectory until 1602 when Rowland Litton alienated the advowson to Henry Godfrey, who transferred it to Sir Humphrey Winch, a justice of King’s Bench, in 1618. Curiously, in 1698 Potton’s advowson was purchased by a charity in another parish, the Maynard Charity of Thaxted in Essex.

In 1931 Cockayne Hatley was brought into union with Potton as a united parish. In 1959 the Vicar of Potton also began to hold Sutton. The three churches still have their own churchwardens and parish officers but share an incumbent. At the time of writing the advowson is divided into four to reflect this, with choices of incumbent being taken by turns, the first, third and fourth by the Lord Chancellor (representing the final fates of the advowsons of Potton and Cockayne Hatley) and the 2nd by Saint John’s College, Oxford (which holds the advowson of Sutton)

The parish vexillum February 2013
The parish vexillum February 2013

List of Vicars

  • Ralf Foliot, Archdeacon of Hereford and clerk to King Henry II (1154-1189); appointed by Saint Andrew's Priory at the King's request to a perpetual vicarage: c.1181 or 1184;
  • William de Avalun; he had been clerk to King David I of Scotland (1124-1153), Earl of Huntingdon; he was forced on the Priory of Saint Andrew’s at the expense of part of its pension, Ralf retaining his vicarage: c.1186;
  • Thomas de Sancto Edmundo: another former clerk of King David I: 1202;
  • Benedict de Burgo, deacon: 1239;
  • Walter de Merton; he was consecrated Bishop of Rochester in 1274 and was Lord Chancellor 1261-1263 and 1272-1274;
  • Thomas de Stratton, subdeacon and holding the living of Jakeden which he resigned: 30th October 1274;
  • John de Cancia, on the death of the last incumbent: 8th April 1280;
  • John de Sudington, clerk; on the death of Philip de Kancia; when presented it was found that he was not in holy orders and custody of the parish was given to the Archdeacon of Bedford until the next ordination when he became a subdeacon on 21st December 1286 and he was then instituted: 14th November 1286;
  • Ralph Beler, on th edeath of John de Sodyngton: 12th December 1323;
  • John de Dalby, subdeacon; on the resignation of Ralph Beler: 31st July 1324;
  • John de Denton, chaplain; on exchange from Luyceburgh [Loughborough?] Rectory: 1st October 1325;
  • Richard de Eccleshale, clerk; on the death of John de Dentone [from the Black Death?]: 13th February 1349;
  • Thomas de Eccleshale, clerk; on the resignation of Richard de Eccleshale: 8th June 1349;
  • Richard de Eccleshale, Rector of Wyttele [Whitley, Berkshire?], by exchange with Thomas de Eccleshale: 2nd January 1352;
  • Richard de Stratton, priest; on the resignation of Richard de Eccleshale, who exchanged to Offelegh Rectory [Offley, Hertfordshire?]: 16th July 1381;
  • Henry Maupas, priest; on the death of Richard de Stratton: 19th October 1393;
  • William Rycheman, chaplain: 8th April 1403;
  • John Gurry, Rector of Wolverhampton [Staffordshire]; on exchange with William Richeman; his will is dated 1416: 11th February 1415;
  • Robert Eddyngley, chaplain; on the resignation of John Gurry, who exchanged to Driby Rectory [Lincolnshire]: 1st July 1416;
  • Thomas Cotes, chaplain; on the death of Robert Eddyngley: 15th April 1419;
  • Thomas Atkins;
  • William Atkynson, priest; on the death of Thomas Atkins: 27th June 1515;
  • Thomas Fetherston, priest; on the death of the last incumbent: 25th October 1537;
  • William Pollarde: 25th May 1546;
  • Christopher Chapman: clerk; on the death of the last incumbent: 25th August 1546;
  • John Hassell: 17th August 1554;
  • John Vorgeri;
  • Thomas Acworthe, clerk; on the death of John Vorger: 10th June 1562;
  • John Clarke; vacant by the resignation of Thomas Ackworth: 16th June 1574;
  • Thomas Crabtree M. A., clerk; in his will dated 4th May 1616, proved 8th May 1618 he asks to be buried in the chancel: 22nd December 1592;
  • Thomas Ward: 1616;
  • James Durrant: 1st December 1618;
  • Samuel Moulton, clerk; buried 15th November 1629: 2nd February 1622;
  • Isaac Turner B. A.; on the death of the last incumbent: 17th December 1629;
  • George Shieres M. A.; on the death of the last incumbent; sequestered: 2nd January 1631;
  • John Kinge; he intruded in 1647;
  • Esdrae Marshal: 1659;
  • Thomas Haxby M. A.; he was ordained the day before his institution; he was buried on 5th May 1693; his will is dated 27th April, proved 8th June 1693: 23rd December 1667;
  • Ralph Emerson B. A.; on the death of the last incumbent; a licence of non-residence was granted on 4th March 1697 [see below]: 25th September 1693;
  • Robert Hicks A. M.: on the cession of Ralph Emerson; he died in 1745; 12th July 1720;
  • John Jackson, clerk; on the death of Robert Hicks: 27th June 1745;
  • William Woodhouse, clerk; on the death of John Jackson; he was also Rector of Hardingstone [Northamptonshire] and Prebend of Westminster: 4th June 1746;
  • William Affleck B. D.; on the death of the last incumbent; he was also Rector of North Luffenham [Rutland]; he died on 8th September 1806 and was buried in the cemetery of Saint Marylebone, London: 13th May 1783;
  • Richard Whittingham, clerk; on the death of last the incumbent: 24th September 1806;
  • Woodward Clarke Bidwell B. A.; on death of last incumbent: 24th July 1845;
  • W. H. Evans: February 1888;
  • Gorges Fettipace John Gwynne Gwynne: June 1890;
  • Charles Gregson: August 1901;
  • Alfred Long: January 1905;
  • Arthur Shillito: May 1912;
  • Robert Sutton Bagshaw: July 1915;
  • Arthur William Collins: September 1938;
  • Henry Thomas Pimm: November 1942;
  • Albert Henry Willson Cleaver: September 1946;
  • John Gordon McKinley: December 1951;
  • Cecil Verden Appleby Longden: 1959;
  • Philip Henry Cecil: 1967;
  • Ian Joseph Stewardson: 1973;
  • Ian W. Arthur: 1983;
  • V. Wyn Beynon;
  • 1997 Gill Smith: 2009.

Memorial to Richard Whittingham detail February 2013
Memorial to Richard Whittingham detail February 2013


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 Potton are as follows:

  • 1709: “He [the vicar] is beyond Sea. Mr. Henry Odel Curate. His Stipend is £30 per Annum and Surplesse fees. He lives in the parish. Priested Richard [bishop of] Peterborough 7 June 1696. Licensed as Curate 3 July 1702 … One Adult of Anabaptist [Baptist] parents, baptized. Communicants at Easter last 104. The sacrament generally large”.
  • 1712: “The Vicar is abroad, Preacher to the English Factory at Hamburgh. The Curat lives in the Parish, but not in the Vicarege House. His stipend is £30 per Annum. None Un-baptized. All of Age are now ready to be Confirmed. Divine Service twice every Lord’s day, once Litanie and Holy-days … Communions 4 times a year. About 120 usually receive”.
  • 1720: “The Reverend Mr. Hickes Vicar of Potton does not reside Personally upon his Cure. He resides at present in London. He has a residing Curate. His name is Ralph Heathcote. He has resided 8 weeks. He does not live in the Vicarage house. His allowance is 40 li. Per Annum. Unbaptized I do know of some few. The Publick Service is read in the Parish Church of Potton twice every Lord’s Day, once every Holy Day, Wednesday and Friday throughout the Year … the sacrament is administered four times in the year and there are about 90 or 100 who usually communicate. I know not exactly the number of communicants at Easter last, but believe there might be about the same number”.

The Crucifixion in the south aisle east window February 2013
The Crucifixion in the south aisle east window February 2013

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 Potton church was made by the vicar, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • There were four hundred free seats and the same number of others;
  • The general congregation was three hundred with sixty Sunday scholars in the morning;
  • The general congregation was five hundred with sixty Sunday scholars in the afternoon;
  • “Wet Day. Average 500/600”.

View into the north porch from the north February 2013
View into the north porch from the north February 2013