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List of Whipsnade Rectors

The church from the south-east March 2012
The church from the south-east March 2012


Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912. It states that the advowson of the church was always held by the Crown. However, it is known from diocesan archives of the Bishopric of Lincoln that when Gervasius was presented in the 13th century the patron of the living was said to be Merton Priory in Surrey. The only other patrons mentioned in the Bishop of Lincoln “by lapse” in 1502 and Elizabeth I (1558-1603) in 1560 and 1561. This suggests that the priory may have held the advowson until it was dissolved by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) in 1528 at which point it reverted to the Crown.

In 1933 the benefices of Studham and Whipsnade were united under one incumbent, though the parochial church councils and church officers remained independent. In 1982 Kensworth was added to the united benefice, a state of affairs which continues to the time of writing [2013]. The patrons of the living of the united benefice are, by turns, the dean and chapter of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Lord Chancellor on behalf of the Crown.

Crucifixion stained glass in the east window January 2013
Crucifixion stained glass in the east window January 2013


The following is as full a list of rectors of Whipsnade as can be determined:

  • Gervasius, clerk: 13th Century;
  • Ralph, chaplain: 1220;
  • Richard de Crondel, subdeacon: 1240;
  • Ralph Dayrel;
  • Thomas de Wynton, subdeacon, on the resignation of Ralph Dayrel: 1245;
  • Thomas Sragger;
  • John Fowler, priest, on the resignation of Thomas Sragger: 8th May 1502;
  • William Carter; John Fowler, priest on the resignation of William Carter: 10th April 1504;
  • Laurence Banaster, chaplain, on the death of John Fowler: 18th June 1507;
  • William Goman, on the resignation of Laurence Bannester: 17th June 1513;
  • Richard Pigott;
  • Eugenius Parke, priest, on the resignation of Richard Piggott: 4th July 1525;
  • Thomas Abell, chaplain, on the resignation of Eugenius Parke on a pension of 46/8: 12th November 1532;
  • Francis Ferrers, clerk, the living valued at £7/13/4: 3rd August 1560;
  • Alban Plumtre, clerk; on the death of last Rector: 8th December 1561;
  • Nicholas Twisell MA, buried 25th March 1622: 4th August 1593;
  • Daniel Horsmonden BD: 5th June 1622;
  • Thomas Streater MA: 4th June 1624;
  • John Whiting MA, on the cession of last Rector: 22nd June 1629;
  • Josias Bunn, minister: 1630;
  • Nathaniel Holmes MA, by the death of the last Rector: 4th July 1631;
  • Samuel Fawcett, clerk: 7th April 1642;
  • Nathaniel Hogan, will dated 1st December 1675, proved 8th November 1678, buried 2nd November 1678: 8th January 1647;
  • Nehemiah Holmes MA, vice Nathaniel Hogan STP: 17th December 1660 as curate;
  • Robert Taylor MA: 12th November 1678;
  • John Clerke MA, ordained priest 19th December 1680 by Henry Compton, Bishop of London, on the cession of Robert Taylor: 28th July 1681;
  • John Biby AM, on the resignation of John Clarke: 20th January 1720;
  • John Dodgson: 14th April 1721 as curate;
  • Charles Sear AM, on death of John Bibi: 12th January 1730;
  • Thomas Frewer MA, clerk, on the death of Charles Sear: 25th June 1733;
  • Edward Simonds MA, on the death of the last: 10th February 1773;
  • David Jenks, clerk, on the death of the last Rector: 24th April 1779;
  • Joseph Horseman, clerk, on the cession of the last Rector; resigned 4th July 1844: 30th July 1804;
  • Anthony Pulley BA, on the resignation of Joseph Houseman: 15th November 1844;
  • John Charles Orlebar, clerk, on the death of the last Rector: 4th November 1858;
  • William Thomas Holden: 1878;
  • Henry Toke Scudamore: 1914;
  • James Cecil Williams: 1925;
  • Lawrence Harold James: 1933;
  • Robert Dallas Blackledge: 1949;
  • Harold Percy Hansen: 1958;
  • Norman Abram: 1966;
  • John William Shepherd: 1977;
  • Peter Malcolm Palmer: 1986;
  • Linda Mary Lane: 1997;
  • Nicola Yvonne Lenthall: 2003.

Virgin and Child stained glass in the east window January 2013
Virgin and Child stained glass in the east window January 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. Unusually, given the small size of the parish, this does not seem to be the case at Whipsnade. The returns are as follows:

  • 1706: "The value of the Rectory is between £40 and £50 per Annum".
  • 1709: "None come to Church Un-baptized; some not yet confirmed. Communicants about 14 or 15. Some few seldom or never receive at all".
  • 1712: "The Rector resides upon his Cure. None come to Church Un-baptized, some not confirmed. Divine Service here every Lord's day, and once at Studham, contiguous to it The Rector has tryd to have prayers on the week days, but cannot get a Congregation … Communions 4 times a year. About 12 receive".
  • 1717: "I do reside in my Parsonage-house … Unbaptized One or two. A few waiting for Confirmation. Services Once every Lord's day, as likewise in the other Parish … sacrament Three or four times in the year; about ten communicants; about 7 or 8 last Easter".
  • 1720: "At Michaelmas next I design to have the Vicar of Studham for my Curate who Resides within a Mile of Whipsnade Church … Sacrament 4 times a yeare as I'm informed the Sacrament is administered … I am not as yet able to give Particular answers to these queires [sic] in Relation to Whipsnade, the Church having been lately Rebuilt at the sole expence of Mr. Vaux [Lord of the Manor] there has been no Publick service since I was Instituted into it till within these 3 weeks".

The communion rails March 2012
The communion rails March 2012

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 Whipsnade church was made by the Rector, Antony Pulley, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • There were 70 free seats and about 30 others;
  • General congregation in the morning had been 17 with 13 Sunday scholars.
  • General congregation in the afternoon had been 24 with 13 Sunday scholars;
  • Averages for the preceding twelve months had been 17 and 13 in the morning and 35 and 13 in the afternoon;
  • "The above is to the best of the belief of the undernamed and the undernamed begs also to remark that to the best of his belief a great majority of returns relating to public worship will be statistically worthless both as regards Church Returns and Dissenting returns and the same observation is applicable to the returns for Schools".

The nave seen from the pulpit March 2012
The nave seen from the pulpit March 2012