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List of Wilshamstead Vicars

Altar cloth June 2012
Altar cloth June 2012


The advowson of Wilshamstead was held by nearby Elstow Abbey until it was dissolved by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) in 1539. In 1541 the advowson was granted to Edmund Harvey, whose daughter married Sir Humphrey Radcliffe, who received confirmation of his right to the advowson in 1553. Sir Edward Radcliife had it in 1605 but in 1649 the owner of the advowson was James Risley of High Holborn [Middlesex] and he gave it in that year to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, who last exercised the right in 1782. By 1793 the college had given the advowson to Lord Carteret of Haynes, Lord of the Manor of Wilshamstead and the Thynne family held the advowson into the 20th century.

Since 1978 the Vicar of Wilshamstead has also been Rector of Houghton Conquest. The two ecclesiastical parishes remain separate with their own parochial church councils and church officers, they simply share a priest. The advowson of the two parishes is held alternately by the Bishop of Saint Albans and Saint John’s College, Cambridge.

The brass in the north aisle June 2012
William Carbrok's brass

List of Vicars

The following list of Vicars of Wilshamstead is as complete as records will allow.

  • Richard de Leicester, chaplain: 1235;
  • Robert; Robert de Cumbes, priest, on the death of Robert: 28th May 1275;
  • Robert de Edlesborough;
  • Peter son of Hugh de South Luffenham, chaplain, on the death of Robert de Edlesborough: 21st September 1308;
  • John Lucas: 1380;
  • John Wrotting, chaplain, on the death of John Lucas: 1st October 1404;
  • William Carbrok, chaplain at about this time on the stylistic evidence of his brass in the north aisle;
  • Adam Dooet;
  • John Passewater, priest, on the resignation of Adam Dooet: 22nd July 1441;
  • John Crace, priest, on the resignation of John Passewater: 26th February 1455;
  • Richard Hyndeman LL.B, on the death of John Crace: 21st December 1461;
  • Henry Lewy, priest, on the resignation of Richard Hyndeman: 27th April 1462;
  • John Purser, priest, on the death of Henry Lewy: 29th May 1466;
  • Richard Purser, priest, on the death of John Purser: 5th September 1492;
  • Thomas Harward, priest, on the death of Richard Purser: 5th November 1524;
  • Peter White, on the death of Thomas Harward: 16th January 1559;
  • Thomas Aldrich, vacant by cession of Peter White; Aldrich buried 22nd May 1598: 18th January 1574;
  • Robert Risley M. A., on the death of the last vicar, Riseley married Katherine Bressie at Kempston on 21st May 1622, he was buried on 19th August 1623 and his will was dated 21st February 1623, proved 11th November 1623: 8th August 1598;
  • Edward Riseley M. A., buried 19th December 1654: 6th November 1623;
  • William Wells: 1654;
  • [...Bayley, minister, buried 26th October 1661];
  • Samuel Richardson M. A., of Sidney College, Cambridge, on the resignation of William Wells, licence of non-residence for a year granted 8th April, he was buried on 13th January 1730: 7th April 1687;
  • John Gay A. M., on the death of Samuel Richardson, Gay died 18th, buried 22nd July 1745: 25th March 1730;
  • Barnard Garnett M. A.: on the death of John Gay: 23rd December 1745;
  • Megison Newton M. A., on the cession of Barnard Garnett D. D.: 12th June 1754;
  • William Pickering B. D. on the death of Megison Newton; the administration of his estates notes thet he was curate of Hackness [Yorkshire], late Vicar of Wilstead, formerly of Scarborough [Yorkshire]: 13th July 1780;
  • Thomas Bedford M. A., on the cession of William Pickering: 26th November 1782;
  • Anthony Danvert M. A., on the death of Thomas Bedford: 24th September 1793;
  • Thomas Bedford M. A., on the death of Anthony Danvert, Bedford died 9th March 1816, aged 28 and was buried at Haynes: 24th September 1815;
  • Frederick Passy B. A., on the death of Thomas Bedford: 27th June 1816;
  • Frederic Charles George Passy B. A., on the death of Frederick Passy: 3rd March 1843;
  • John Heyrick Macaulay M. A., on the death of Frederic Charles George Passy: 30th November 1871;
  • Arthur Wollaston Rose B. A.: 1884;
  • Richard Charles Whitworth M. A.: 23rd June 1887;
  • Henry Postlethwaite Pollard: August 1930;
  • Charles Kemp Buck: December 1950;
  • William Ernest Napier-Munn: 1955;
  • William Hursthouse Stanger: 1964;
  • Malcolm John Hill: 1970;
  • Martin John Banister: 1978;
  • Roderick Palmer: 1990;
  • Stephen J. Toze: 2002.

The young Christ in the synagogue in the south aisle June 2012
The young Christ in the synagogue in the south aisle June 2012


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 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 with WilsteadThe returns for Wilshamstead are as follows:

  • 1709: “None come to Church Un-baptized. Severall [sic] are not Confirmed. Communicants 60 or 70, but seldom more than 20 or 30 do receive. Their number encreases [sic], and it is hoped will grow greater every year;
  • 1712: The Vicar resides in his Vicarage House. None Unbaptized, some not confirmed. One Adult baptized since my last Visitation. Divine Service twice every Lord’s day, on Litanie [sic] Holy-days, and all occasionall [sic] Fasts and Thanksgivings. Catechizing all the Summer Season. Few Come to it. Communion 4 times a year. Between 20 and 30 receive”.
  • 1717: “I do reside in the Vicaridge [sic] house. I have no Curate. I know of none that come to church unbaptized, but several that are not confirmed, though I have frequently preached to them of the necessity of it. I have baptized no Adults since the last Visitation. We have prayers every Lord’s-day twice, and on every Wednesday and Friday and Holiday, if I be at home and well, except Wednesdays and Fridays in Harvest … I administer the Sacrament four times in the yeare [sic]: viz. Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday and at Michaelmas. I have generally between 30 and 40 every Communion, and had near 40 last Easter. I constantly give notice of the sacrament the Lord’s day before it is administered and new Communicants send in their names before. I have not refused to any, as having no occasion for it”.
  • 1720: “I do duly reside upon my vicaridge [sic] and in the vicaridge house. No Curate at present. I do not know of any that come to church and are not baptized. The publick [sic] service is read twice every Sunday, and on all Wednesdays and Fridays and Holidays, if at home and well, except harvest time … I administer the sacrament four times every year. I cannot certainly tell what number of communicants there may be, by reason of several dissenters in the parish, but usually I have 30 upwards, and I believe had so many last Easter”.

Pulpit and lectern June 2012
The pulpit and lectern June 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 All Saints church was made by the vicar, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • The church had 200 free seats and 100 others;
  • The general congregation had been 80 in the morning, with 95 Sunday scholars;
  • The general congregation in the afternoon had been 202, with 95 Sunday scholars.

The south door June 2012
The south door June 2012