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List of Willington Vicars

Christ in Majesty in the east window August 2010
Christ in Majesty in the east window August 2010


The advowson of the church of Saint Lawrence was granted to Newnham Priory by Simon de Beauchamp on the priory's foundation in 1166. Newnham was dissolved in 1539 and the advowson granted to Sir John Gostwick. Since then the holder of the advowson was the Lord of the Manor until the Duke of Bedford sold the advowson to a G. Keeble of Peterborough in 1902.

From 1938 to 1971 the Vicar of Willington was also Vicar of Mogerhanger. Then, in 1971 the Vicar of Willington also became Vicar of Cople. Since 1998 Willington has been part of the Ivel Group Ministry and has shared an incumbent with both Cople and Mogerhanger. Each church maintains its own parochial church council, parish officers and services. The incumbent is now presented by turns with the Bishop of Saint Albans (holder of the advowson of Willington and Mogerhanger) presenting on the first and third turns and the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford (patron of the living of Cople) on the second turn

The font August 2010
The font August 2010

The following list of Vicars of Willington is as complete as records will allow

  • Nicholas de Wileton - chaplain;
  • John;
  • Ralph de Wahull [Odell]: 1st March 1275 - priest, on death of John;
  • Nicholas de Harewedon [Harrowden]: 20th January 1276 - priest, on death of Ralph;
  • Hugh de Tiffeld: 3rd July 1304 - on the resignation of Nicholas de Harwedon;
  • John de Stacheden [Stagsden];
  • William Kybbel - priest, on the resignation of John de Stacheden;
  • Thomas Alkoc: 7th December 1350 - of Bereford [Great Barford], priest, on the resignation of William;
  • John de Sibiston: 6th February 1362 - priest, on the death of Thomas;
  • John, son of William Wryghte: 7th August 1372 - "of Wolde", priest, on the resignation of John de Sibeston;
  • William Barker: 12th April 1377 - of Spaldwick [Huntingdonshire], priest, vacant;
  • John Downe: 22nd July 1381 - priest, exchanged with William Barker for Bedford, All Saints;
  • Richard Knyghton: 20th August 1401 - Vicar of Wootton, on the resignation of John Downe, who exchanged to Wootton;
  • Ralph Lokyn: 12th September 1401 - chaplain, vacant;
  • John Moysond: 18th December 1401 - chantry priest of Saint Paul's Cathedral, London; on the resignation of Ralph Lokyn with whom he exchanged;
  • William Touee: 4th April 1404 - priest, on the resignation of John Moysand, who exchanged to the Rectory of Thornhaugh [Northamptonshire];
  • Bartholomew Fermour: 4th February 1406 - priest, on the resignation of William Toue, who exchanged for the Chantry of Saint Mary in All Saints church, Rissheton [Rushden, Northamptonshire?];
  • Bartholomew Holygoste;
  • John Clardon: 31st December 1420 - priest, on the death of Bartholomew Holygoste];
  • Robert Calyser: 16th May 1421 - priest, on the resignation of John Clardon;
  • Robert Chapman;
  • Hugh Chapman: 12th January 1433 - priest, on the resignation of Robert Chapman;
  • William Hoveden: 14th February 1450 - priest, vacant;
  • Richard Whythove: 9th August 1452 - priest, vacant;
  • Richard Newton: 22nd May 1457 - priest, vacant;
  • William Gibbison: 8th November 1457 - chaplain; on the resignation of Richard Newton;
  • Richard Dalby: 10th October 1458 - priest, on the resignation of William Gibbeson;
  • Thomas Marchall: 1st May 1463 - priest, on the resignation of Richard Dalby;
  • John Whirlett;
  • William Hamond: 22nd April 1471 - priest, on the resignation of John Whirlet;
  • John Wilkyns: 3rd December 1473 - on the death of William Hamonde;
  • Robert Pecher: 27th October 1489 - priest, on the death of John Wylkyns;
  • William Fissher;
  • Robert Reve: 7th April 1508 - chaplain, on the resignation of William Fissher, he had a pension of 20 shillings;
  • William Colley: 10th January 1539 - clerk, on the death of Robert Reve;
  • George Armourer: 18th February 1546;
  • John Small: 21st December 1546  - clerk, vacant;
  • William Ward: 1570s - also at Biddenham;
  • William Smithe M. A.: 16th October 1579;
  • Augustine Topcliffe M. A.: 3rd August 1588;
  • Thomas Adams: 22nd August 1611: instituted 21st December 1614 to Wingrave [Buckinghamshire];
  • Thomas Cookson: 5th May 1615 - minister;
  • Thomas Cookson: 18th October 1619;

Plaque to Robert Howgill in the floor of the nave August 2010
Plaque to Robert Howgill in the floor of the nave August 2010

  • Robert Howgyll M. A.: 13th June 1622 - Royal Chaplain; will proved in Prerogative Court of Canterbury 29th July 1645; to be buried in the church before the door of the reading pew, died 9th October 1643;
  • William Iveson: 23rd October 1643  - clerk;
  • Richard Hanchett: 1650;
  • Thomas Skinner M. A.: 17th July 1665 - clerk, on the death of the last Vicar;
  • Thomas Stirke B. A.: 19th November 1670 - ordained priest by John Wilkins, Bishop of Chester, 17th November 1670, on resignation of Thomas Skiner;
  • Matthew Jones A. B.: 3rd October 1698 - on the death of Thomas Stirke, clerk, buried 12th Mar 1713;
  • Benjamin Holloway L. L. B.: 21st September 1713 [on the death of Matthew Jones;
  • Michael Arnald: 1720 - curate;
  • John Betts A. B.: 20th July 1727 - on the cession of Benjamin Holloway, buried 6th Jul 1745;
  • Thomas Shepherd B. A.: 2nd Aug 1745 - on the death of John Betts, died 14th, buried 19th June 1751, aged 36;
  • John Smith: 20th September 1751 - clerk, on the death of Thomas Shepherd;
  • Robert Holt Butcher: 20th December 1767 - of TrinityCollege, Cambridge, ordained deacon to the cure of souls - i. e. curate;
  • Richard Leach: 25th September 1786 - clerk, on the death of John Smith, died 18th, buried 23rd April 1810, aged 67;
  • Philip Hunt L. L. D.: 5th May 1810 - on the death of Richard Leach;
  • Henry Fuller B. A.: 4th Apr 1834 - on the cession of Philip Hunt;

Plaque to Augustus Orlebar on the wall of the chancel August 2010
Plaque to Augustus Orlebar on the wall of the chancel August 2010

  • Augustus Orlebar M. A.: 9th December 1858 - on the cession of Henry Fuller; died October 1912 at Willington;
  • Frederick William Kingston B. A: April 1913;
  • George Herbert Kingston: May 1933;
  • Thomas John Landy Davies: May 1938 - also Vicar of Mogerhanger;
  • Harold Phoenix: October 1947 - also Vicar of Mogerhanger;
  • Edward A Nobles: 1971;
  • Christopher Philip Huitson: 1978;
  • John Arthur Terry: 1990;
  • Nicholas T.MacNeill: 1998
  • Lynda Klimas: 2004.

The pulpit August 2010
The pulpit August 2010


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 Willington are as follows:

  • In 1709 the Vicar, Matthew Jones, wrote: "None unbaptized. Severall [sic] not confirmed. Communicants 35, of which 26 received at Easter last. Many of years of Discretion seldom or never communicate at all".
  • In 1712 he recorded that he lived at the Vicarage and that he held services once every Sunday, as he also had to perform a service at Renhold, where he had become vicar in 1710. He also held services every litany day (Wednesdays and Fridays) and holy day. Twenty nine received communion the previous Easter.
  • In 1717 the new vicar, Benjamin Holloway, who had succeeded the deceased Matthew Jones in both Willington and Renhold in 1713, wrote: "I do not reside Personally upon this Cure, but have taken an House in Cople, besides which I shall use my Vicarage House there, having taken upon me the charge of educating Young Gentlemen in my family". He was also Vicar of Cople. He further noted: "I have a Curate residing with myself, which is at an easy distance from this Town and Renhold , the cure of both which Churches he supplys, preaching at one in the Morning, the other After Noon according to the Custom heretofore". Presumably teaching young gentlemen brought in more money than the stipends of Willington and Renhold, which could be partially spent on funding the curate. This is born out by Holloway's next comment "Publick [sic] service is read in our church once every Lord's day, not twice because this and other vicarages in this neighbourhood dop not afford a competent maintenance to a minister to serve them solely. Besides, the churches are so near one another that the people when they have no service in their own Church can conveniently go to the next" So much for pastoral care. Communion was administered at Easter, Whitsun, the Sunday closest to Michaelmas [29th September] and Christmas "We have generally from 15 to 20 Communicants, and had about twenty at Easter last". Holloway did not complete a return for the visitation of 1720 for Willington or for Renhold, just one for Cople, which he evidently saw as his main concern.

Detail of glass in the chancel south window August 2010
Detail of glass in the chancel south window August 2010

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 Willington church was made by the vicar, Henry Fuller, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • The church contained 130 free seats and twenty others;
  • The general congregation in the morning had been 60, with 46 Sunday scholars
  • "The afternoon services are always much better attended in country parishes than the morning services".

The Gurney stove in the chancel August 2010
The Gurney stove in the chancel August 2010