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List of Woburn Perpetual Curates and Vicars

The font July 2010
The font July 2010


Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912. It states that the advowson of Birchmoor church was originally held by the Lord of the Manor of Woburn but was obtained by Woburn Abbey in 1308, the living being held by one of the monks but associated with a priest who administered the sacrament, though the latter was dispensed with from 1399. This means that Birchmoor and, therefore Woburn as its chapel, was served not by a rector or a vicar but by a curate, supplied directly by the abbey. After the dissolution this state of affairs continued but with the Lord of the Manor, the Earls and Dukes of Bedford from 1547 acting in place of the abbey. For this reason the names of the men providing spiritual nourishment to Woburn are largely unknown from 1302 until the 17th century and only fragmentarily known until 1853. The perpetual curate only seems to have become a vicar after 1869.

The Vicar of Woburn is also incumbent of three other churches – Battlesden and Potsgrove (since 1961), Eversholt (since 1979) and Milton Bryan (since 1979). Each church retains its own parochial church council, churchwardens and parish officers but shares a priest though, at the time of writing [2012] there is also a trainee curate.

Close-up of Saint Francis in a stained glass window July 2010
Close-up of Saint Francis in a stained glass window July 2010

List of Vicars and Curates

  • Gerold, chaplain: 1227;
  • Henry de Swanneburn, subdeacon: 23rd December 1278;
  • William de Hocton;
  • Philip, chaplain; on death of William de Hocton: 7th October 1292;
  • John de Herdewyk, chaplain; on death of Philip: 28th June 1302;
  • Radulphus Barnys, curate: 1526;
  • John Johnson: known to be curate: 1547;
  • Cesar Wallpole: known to be curate: 1601-1607;
  • Harman Sheppard: known to be curate 1611-1613;
  • Zachary Breedon: known to be curate 1621-1641;
  • Thomas Hawes: November 1647;
  • William Blagrave: known to be minister: 1662;
  • Robert Marshal: known to be curate: 1671;
  • William Marshal, curate: 1671-1704; buried June 1704;
  • Daniel Newcome: known to be curate 1711-1712;
  • William Morris: A. B. 1779, A. M. 1792; Trinity College, Cambridge; Rector of Chenies [Buckinghamshire] 1795; Rector of Foxley [Wiltshire] 1805;
  • John Parry: known to be curate in 1799-1802;
  • Thomas Roy: known to be curate: 1823-1825;
  • Henry Hulton M. A., of Wadham College, Oxford: nominated perpetual curate: 21st December 1834;
  • Hay Macdowell Erskine: resigned the perpetual curacy on 19th July 1853;
  • Emilius Bayley: clerk; ordained 20th December 1846; 1st September 1853;
  • Samuel Francis Cumberlege M. A.: on the cession of Emilius Bayley; of Christ's College, Cambridge, 1835; ordained 1835; curate of Leighton Buzzard; Vicar of Astwood [Buckinghamshire], 1839-1856; died Friday 10th February 1899 aged 87: 16th June 1856;
  • Henry Willes Southey M. A.: on the cession of Samuel Francis Cumberlege; died 12 Feb 1914; buried at Woburn: 15th January 1874;
  • Richard Dickinson: November 1900;
  • Reginald Heber Moss: February 1913;
  • William Verner Gordon White: 1916;
  • Brian Charles Cowper Pratt: April 1930;
  • Frederick Allen Romaine Hervey: October 1932;
  • Henry Martindale: August 1937;
  • Thomas Noel Gunner: 1946;
  • Robin Orbell Osborne: 1961;
  • John Terence Wenham: 1965;
  • Paul Richard Miller: 1979;
  • James Alan Heslop: 1999;
  • Stephen W. Nuth: 2004.

The altar and reredos July 2010
The altar and reredos July 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 Woburn church was made by the incumbent who noted the following pieces of information:

  • 300 free seats, 350 other seats;
  • General Congregation 350 in the morning, 425 in the evening;
  • Sunday scholars: 145 in the morning.

The Rev. Erskine also noted a room used for worship at the Union Workhouse which had 200 seats. It was “For the benefit of the inmates of the Workhouse, but is open also to the other parishioners”. There had been 80 attendees in the morning and an average of 110 in the afternoons for the preceding twelve months. It was noted: “The service on Sunday is usually in the afternoon when parishioners and Inmates attend. Once a moth it is in the morning when the attendance is confined to the Inmates”.