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List of Upper Gravenhurst Vicars

The church from the south-east March 2014
The church from the south-east February 2016


Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912. It noted that Upper Gravenhurst was not a parish in medieval times, but a chantry chapel supplied by Shillington from at least 1189 (the church has 12th century architectural elements). In 1369 a licence was granted for the villagers to hear mass there, making it also a chapel of ease. This seems to have been confirmed by Henry VIII (1509-1547). Chantries were dissolved in the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553). It is usually thought that it was during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) that Upper Gravenhurst became a separate ecclesiastical parish with a perpetual curate, with Trinity College, Cambridge holding the patronage of the living. However, a document quoted by Peter D’Aranda in 1709 suggests that it may have been one of the Archbishops of Canterbury under Henry VIII who created it a parish church, the patronage of the living being in the hands of the inhabitants from before1612.

A reply by the minister before a visitation of Bedfordshire by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1706 states: It is neither Rectory nor Vicarege, but the Major or better part of the Inhabitants nominate a Curate to be Licensed by the Bishop”. This curate, later vicar, was often also Rector of Lower Gravenhurst. In 1972 the church at Lower Gravenhurst was declared redundant and the two parishes united under the Vicar of Upper Gravenhurst. However, this vicar was also Vicar of Shillington, the two livings being held in plurality from 1963. In 2007 Upper Gravenhurst church was declared redundant and the ecclesiastical parish of Gravenhurst united with that of Shillington, leaving no Anglican presence remaining in Gravenhurst.

The chancel arch in 1902 [Z760/3/6]
The chancel arch in 1902 [Z760/3/6]

List of Curates and Vicars

  • William;
  • Jerome;
  • William Gardyner;
  • John Bastian;
  • William Fancett;
  • William Smyth, curate: 1526
  • Edward Smythe, incumbent 1604;
  • Edward Colbie, curate, he was buried 30th September 1642: 1610;
  • John Nelson, curate: 1642;
  • George Oliphant: 1654;
  • John Hayes MA, licence to preach, he was buried 22nd October 1711: 11th June 1685;
  • Richard Berrow AM, clerk, on the death of the last incumbent: 21st April 1698;
  • Peter D'Aranda AM, licensed curate: 30th November 1711;
  • Charles La Porte BA, “curate of the Free Chapel of Upper Gravenhurst”: 29th November 1739;
  • Thomas Leach;
  • George John Davies MA, on death of Thomas Leach: 24th December 1808;
  • Thomas Collisson: November 1896;
  • Harry James Baylis: September 1916;
  • Frederick Coxwell Young: May 1930;
  • David Thomas Mortimer: June 1933;
  • William John Mills: May 1940;
  • John Anthony Benton: 1956;
  • James Ainsworth Yates: 1962;
  • Paul R. W. Lanham: 1980;
  • Philip J. Swindells, priest-in-charge: 1983;
  • Trevor Maines, priest-in-charge: 1994;
  • Denis R. Smith, priest-in-charge: 1995;
  • Jane Wheatley, priest-in-charge: 2003-2007

The church from the south about 1901 [Z760-3-2]
The church from the south abour 1901 [Z760/3/2]


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. This was not the case at Upper Gravenhurst where the curate was specifically denied his stipend unless he was resident. The returns for Upper Gravenhurst are as follows:

  • 1706: [the parish] “contains about 3 or 4 and thirty families. There are no dissenters except 3 or 4 Quakers, of no consideration. No Meeting house in the parish”.
  • 1709: “About 30 families. No Papists. 1 family of Quakers. No other dissenters … Divine Service once every Lord’s day in each Gravenhurst … Communions 3 times a year. Out of 40 Communicants 26 received at Easter last”.
  • 1717: “There are in the Parish above thirty Familys of which two are Quakers. Meeting houses We have none … I reside in this Parish, in the House belonging to the Minister … There are diverse baptized persons, not confirmed … The Public Service is read in the Church once every Lord’s day, and sometimes on other days … The sacrament is administered at least three times in the Year. There are about 30 Communicants in the Parish of whom about 20 usually receive and about that number receiv’d at Easter last … I give open and timely warning, but the Parishioners are apt to be remiss in sending in their Names”.
  • 1720: “There are near 40 Families none of the Dissenters, except one Family, who are Quakers … I reside upon this Cure and in the House belonging to the Minister … Unbaptized No … The Public Service is read in the Church every Lord’s day in the Morning. And at the church of Nether Gravenhurst in the Afternoon … The sacrament is administered thrice in the Year. There are about 30 communicants, about 20 of whom receiv’d last Easter”

South porch February 2016
The south porch February 2016

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. WBushby. The return forUpper Gravenhurst was made by the perpetual curate C J Wade, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • 84 free seats, 40 others
  • General congregation 100 in the afternoon
  • Sunday scholars 52 in the afternoon
  • Averages for the preceding year: 80 general congregation in the morning and 100 in the afternoon; 63 Sunday scholars morning and afternoon

“The service is alternate with Lower Gravenhurst. Seating does not include school children’s seats”.