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Southill Vicarage

Southill church in 1792
Southill church in 1792 [X405/23]

In 1584 a dispute arose between George Fysh or Fisher and John Marbury regarding ownership of the rectory and tithes of Southill - Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has various witness statements [Z68/23/5-8] but not the result. However, the result may be inferred by the fact that in 1695 Humphrey Fyshe and his son Humphrey, along with Roger Coningsby and John Pedley conveyed a great deal of land in Northill along with half the Rectory of Southill and Broom and tithes to William Dobyns and Richard Bentley [M15/18].

At first site this looks like the parsonage house but in reality was not so. The incumbent of Southill was and is a vicar, not a rector. The difference between the two was that the rector was entitled to receive what were known as the great tithes of his parish and had responsibility for repairing the chancel. In some parishes the rector was the parish priest, in others the rector was a religious institution, which then appointed a vicar as agent to conduct services and run the parish, for which he received lesser or vicarial tithes. In the Middle Ages Newnham Priory was the rector of Southill; the Priory then appointed a vicar to carry out parochial duties. After the dissolution of the Abbey the rector was a secular person, in 1584 George Fyshe.

 Old Vicarage 1774
Old Vicarage 1774 [W2176]

The first description of Southill Vicarage is in a terrier of 1707 [ABE2 Volume 1 page 159] when it is described thus: "The Vicarage hath six Rooms below viz a Hall, Parlour, a Room joyning the Parlour a Kitchin Buttery Brewhouse, above five chambers, a study, a closet the chambers floored with some Oak some Elm and some Ash Boards, ye whole house well covered with Tile, a Barn containing two Bays with a Leanto which serves for a Stable and a Privy house all covered with thatch. The Garden Courtyard and Orchard is according to estimation three Roods of land. The Church yard one acre and twelve poles south and west sides thereof are fenced with a stone wall and about two poles of paleing upheld and maintained at the parish charge the north and east sides are fenced and maintained by the parsonage".

In 1774 a new vicarage was conveyed by George, Viscount Torrington to the Vicar of Southill and the Bishop of Lincoln [W2176]. This building was described as comprising a vestibule, two large parlours, a storeroom, kitchen, washhouse and two pantries on the ground floor with a study and six bedrooms above; it was "chiefly built of brick and principally a new building". Outside it had a dovehouse, barn, stable and granary in the yard and one acre three roods and 17 perches of land. The conveyance was in exchange for the old vicarage, described as containing two parlours, a kitchen, pantry, passage and washhouse on the ground floor with seven small rooms upstairs, a barn and stable with a garden and orchard of about half an acre. The plans accompanying the deed show the Old Vicarage as bordering the north-west side of Southill Street, suggesting that it might have been somewhere along the road heading north towards Old Warden; the New Vicarage seems to have been on the same road and on the same side.

 New Vicarage 1774
New Vicarage 1774 [W2176]

The Vicarage was repaired between 1894 and 1895 [W3989] following a report and plans prepared by John Usher in 1879. In 1927 the dwellings of Southill were valued under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. At this time the Vicarage was in the house now called the Old Vicarage. It is impossible to say from evidence held at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service whether this was the New Vicarage of 1774 but it seems not as it appears to be on the other side of the road and to be a quite different shape. The valuer noted [DV1/C32/96] that the building comprised a small hall, drawing room, dining room, study, parish room, lamp room, lavatory, kitchen and scullery and pantry and larder on the ground floor with six bedrooms, a dressing room, bathroom and wc upstairs. Outside was a "v.nice" garden, coal shed, stable, coach house, wood barn and two earth closets. Overall the valuer noted: "V. Big House". 1.543 acres of grassland adjoined the property and went with it.

Old Vicarage March 2008
Old Vicarage March 2008

This property was still the Vicarage in the 1970s as it is shown as such on Ordnance Survey maps. At the time of writing, however [2007], there is no Vicarage in Southill, the incumbent and curate both reside in Clifton, leading one to assume that the change occurred around the time the two parishes were united in 1994.