Bernard O'Connor 2000

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 Where Everton’s first priest lived is not known. It is possible there was a cottage near the church somewhere. Certainly there was a church here in Saxon times. The Domesday Book recorded one with its own priest in 1086. By 1230 the church, the vicarage and land in the parish had become the property of St Neots Priory. It was granted to the abbot by Gilbert, son of Gilbert, earl of Pembroke. The new Norman priests were appointed by the abbot until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The vicarage was referred to in a document of 1237. (Rot. Rob. Grossteste (Cant. & York), 256) In 1291 the church and its land was valued at £11 6s. 8d. (Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 36) Over the centuries the house was probably renovated as the wattle and daub, timber and thatch deteriorated.


During the Reformation Henry VIII ordered the closure of St. Neots Priory. The vicarage was valued in 1535 at £6 16s. 0d. (Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.) iv, 265) A special charter was drawn up regarding St. Mary's. A copy can be seen on the north wall of the church and the following is a translation by Suzanne Johnston, the archivist of Clare College: -


Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God of England, France and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith and Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England and Ireland, (to all of whom these present letters ) shall come, Greeting!

Know that we for the sum of one hundred and forty four pounds of the legal money of England (paid to) our Crown Court of Augmentations.. to our use from the Master and Scholars of the hall or College commonly (known as Clare hall in the University ) of Cambridge in the County of Cambridge

(Have given and granted ) by these … all our rectory and church of Everton also known as Everesden & Tetworth, in our counties of Huntingdon and Cambridge (sic) … formerly belonging to the Priory (of Saint Neots) in the County of Huntingdon since dissolved … and the land, rents and profits … And all houses, buildings … glebe lands … in Everton … and Tetworth aforesaid … And which … were formerly in the tenure or occupation of Robert Hutley … Also the advowson and free presentation to the vicarage of the church of Everton … and Tetworth …which formerly belonged to the Priory…

To have and to hold aforesaid Rectory and church of Everton … aforesaid and the advowson of the Vicarage … and all the singular and the other … possessions to the aforesaid Master and Scholars … and their successors for ever, to be held in chief from us, our heirs and successors … paying … 16 shillings sterling … if demanded…

In testimony of which things I have ordered these letters to be made patent.

Sworn by me myself at (West)minster the 23rd day of June in the 36th year of our reign …


(Translation by Johnston, S. C., Clare College Archives 24 June 1995 ref: BF05:1/01)


According to VCH. ‘Hunts’ it was in 1544 and the vicar was Robert Hatley. (L. And P. Hen. VIII, xix (i), g. 812 (81); Pat. R. 36 Hen. VIII, pt. 24) Whether he espoused the Protestant religion or was thrown out is  not known.  However, his name does not appear on the list of incumbents in the church. In 1507 Nicholas Grene was the vicar, followed as some unspecified date by Thomas Colson. In 1538 Nicholas Smith took over and stayed until 1584. The vicarage was probably a building on the same site as the old vicarage near the church. Clare College has provided the living ever since. According to Rev. F.C. Hamlyn, the vicar of St Mary’s from 1943 to 1949,


Such livings provided suitable spheres for Fellows of the College who were ordained priests. While they remained Fellows they were not permitted to marry, so when a Fellow wanted to take a wife he looked to the College to provide him with a vicarage and a parish.”


(Hamlyn, F.C. (194-), ‘A Country Vicar and his Daughter’, Beds. Mag. Book 5, p. 121)


One such case was in 1635 when Rev. Thomas Fowl wanted to marry. The vicarage was reported as in a shocking state of dilapidation so, with the aid of Clare College, he set about constructing a new building.  A ‘bill of quantities’, the then term for  the price of building materials and cost of construction showed them to be £119 6s.5d. Bricks in the present cellar date from this period. It had a hall, parlour, study, cellar, wash house, vault and two garret bedrooms. The grounds covered three acres with a half-acre garden including barns, stables and a woodhouse. The glebe was three half-acre fields. In one of his letters to Clare College who now appointed Everton’s vicars, Rev. Fowl wrote “Pardon my blots syr, I am an ill writer by candle light”. (HCRO. Archdeaconry of Hunts. Terrier 1658; 2150/5/6a; Communication with Mr and Mrs Lee, Everton) Who he married was not recorded but his daughter, Judith, was born in the new house.


In the days when Judith was growing up the vicarage and village were not more isolated than any other place in the seventeenth century. The market town of Potton could easily be reached on foot, to visit Bedford or Cambridge the vicar had his horse and Judith was able to ride. There was stabling at the vicarage for three or four horses. Journeys to Huntingdon and St Neots were inevitable in connection with the Archdeacon’s visitations. In the churchwarden’s accounts the charge for dinner for the vicar and churchwardens and horse stabling are recorded year by year. Life moved at a leisurely pace and a whole day was devoted to duties which could now be accomplished by a car in a few hours. For one who knew the district short cuts could be taken along bridle paths which reduced the mileage and gave shelter alongside the hedges in storms of wind and rain.

Judith’s father was not a stiff churchman, so the Civil War could have made little difference to her. Thomas Fowl fell in with the changing times. As a fellow of Clare College he was a man of classical culture, with sufficient resources in his library to occupy his mind. He was on terms of friendship with his immediate neighbour, Onslow Winche, at Everton House...

The religious upbringing of Judith Fowl can only be surmised from a few indirect references to the Church services during those unsettled times. Her father remained at Everton all through the Civil War and Commonwealth, and in 1663 died at the vicarage. He was not involved in any of the harsh ejections so numerous in the county of Huntingdon under the earl of Manchester and so well known in Bedfordshire. Thomas Fowl had settled what line he would take if the clash came. He was among those who felt that it was better for the Church as a whole and for the village in particular for the vicar to remain and concede a few points rather than allow a dogmatic Presbyterian or enthusiastic independent to come in and upset the parishioners. When squire and parson agreed together like Thomas Fowl and Onslow Winch, then harmonious relations continued throughout the period. In Everton Church register Thomas Fowl wrote a description of his friend that would not have pleased a Presbyterian.


1657 Onslow Winch Esq. – a zealous professor of the true protestant religion as established by law in the Church of England and a true lover and countenancer of orthodox ministers.


According to the directions given by the Westminster Assembly of Divines the Church service on Sunday was to be known as ‘Exercises’. The term is innocuous. For a village congregation the vicar could use the term, explaining that it was a new name for the morning service, and leave it at that. With careful study it was possible to satisfy the requirements of the Directory of Worship and at the same time use a larger part of the Prayer Book service. So long as the term ‘Exercises’ was used, and the vicar refrained from the use of the new system and its promoters, a modified Prayer Book could be used without giving offence. Thomas Fowl made a note in Everton Church register that certain banns of marriage were called during ‘the morning Exercise.’ In 1653 marriage was made a civil contract by the Independents and it was a test of good relations between the parson and the ruling powers when the former was made the registrar for marriages. That was the case at Everton. Marriages were celebrated in the presence of a magistrate and entered into the church registers by the vicar as official Registrar for marriages.

In that censorious age no word of criticism has been discovered concerning Thomas Fowl. His name does not appear as a member of any of the numerous committees which were appointed to deal with affairs of the Church, such as the Committee of Plundered Ministers and their assessors. Informers and enemies would not be wanting to point out delinquency if there was such cause. In the church itself nothing can be found to suggest defacement by puritan enthusiasts. The beautiful Elizabethan chalice is still preserved without defect. The church registers, although kept in rather an untidy hand, are complete and up to the standard of those times. The churchwardens’ accounts and notes concerning the charities are moderately intact. Nothing suggest any upset in the tenor of village life during a period when Civil War and religious revolution disturbed the counties and neighbouring parishes.

(op.cit. pp. 122-4)


Judith spent some of this time looking after her ill mother. In 1661, fourteen months after the restoration of James II, the vicar’s wife died. Judith stayed on in the vicarage looking after her father but the church register records “June 1661 Samuel Luke married Judith Fowl the daughter of the Vicar of Everton with Tetworth.” Two months later her father died and the register recalls “Thomas Fowl had been vicar of Everton 32 years was buried August 1662 formerly fellow of Clare Hall.” (op.cit.)


Judith had to move out to allow Rev. Thomas Peele, the new vicar, to move in. The Hearth tax, based on how many chimneys a house had, revealed where she went. It was a tax that the occupier rather than the landlord had to pay. In 1671 there were twenty-four families in Everton with “five persons receiving constant alms.” Samuel and Judith lived in Manor Farm which had six chimneys – a considerable size suggesting six ground floor rooms as it was unlikely that upstairs bedrooms had fireplaces. There is a plan of the old dwelling with heavy beams in the roof. Samuel’s entry was one of the first in the tithe book and suggests he owned a farm of considerable size. He was described as a gentleman and from the annual amount he paid he was one of Everton’s major farmers.


In those days labour was easily procurable and Judith Luke’s influence and position would have been sufficient to attract as many employees as she desired or could afford. She prepared for her coming family. At the end of their first married year as son was born and baptised Thomas after his grandfather. In 1664 John was born and in 1667 another son was called Samuel after his father; lastly in 1668 a daughter was baptized Elizabeth. Many mothers of the seventeenth century were short-lived, child-bearing proving a dangerous and arduous task. Judith Luke proved no exception to this melancholy rule. Her eldest child was born during her first married year and the rest of the family arrived at regular intervals. When the youngest was seven the eldest was twelve years old, and on November 30th 1674 Judith Luke died after a married life of a little over twelve years.

After the tragic death of his wife, Samuel faced a world as a widower, with his four children, Thomas  twelve years of age, John eleven, Samuel seven and Elizabeth six. For the next seventeen years the registers are silent. When next we hear of the Lukes Thomas has reached the age of twenty-nine. By that time he appears in the tithe book entered up each half year by the vicar. His name was placed second in the list of tithe payers, although others contributed a greater amount, and his social standing in the village warranted the title of ‘Mr' or ‘gent’.

He married Mary – as she came from another parish her surname is not recorded – and in 1695 they had a daughter baptized Alice in Everton church, and a son Robert baptized in 1697. But things went badly. Thomas fell ill, and from the fact that he paid no tithe for two years it must be concluded that he was too ill to farm profitably. In 1701, when he was only 38 years old, he died. His death is recorded in the register of those who were buried in a woollen shroud according to the Act. There appeared some uncertainty about his status. After his name the title ‘Gent’ has been written in but erased and ‘yeoman’ substituted. So Thomas Luke, grandson of the vicar of Everton, was buried in the  churchyard of the church where his mother’s father had ministered during the thirty-two years of the Civil War and Commonwealth. The name of Luke does not appear again in the tithe book, and the last entry of the family in the parish register records the baptism of Mary Luke, daughter of Thomas’ son Robert. She was the great, great grand-daughter of Thomas Fowl.”


(Hamlyn, F.C. (194-), ‘A Country Vicar and his Daughter’, Beds. Mag. Book 5, p. 124-5)


In the second half of the 18th century Rev. Berridge occupied the vicarage. He was one of the early Methodists whose enthusiasm and zeal attracted congregations of many thousands on weekends!


“They would bring their meals and during the fine weather would eat in the open air. The vicarage was always available for the visitors, as was the meadow for their horses.“


                                                             (Dr Williams's Trust, Jones 39.B.24)


For more details about Berridge’s time as vicar of Everton see the Berridge story. Following Berridge’s death the new vicar, Rev. Thomas Greene authorised an auction of Berridge's belongings at the Vicarage on Monday February 25th 1793. The sale particulars shed light into what life in the house would have been like.


All the Neat, and Genteel HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, PLATE, LINEN, CHINA, and other EFFECTS, of the Rev. Mr. BERRIDGE, deseased, at the VICARAGE-HOUSE, his late Residence, in EVERTON, Bedfordshire: Comprizing neat Four-post and Field Bedsteads with Check & other Furniture, Window Curtains to match; Six fine Feather Beds; five Mattresses; Blankets, Quilts, Counterpanes, Sheets, Table Linen, &c. - Bedside and other Carpets; Glasses; Mahogany Dining, Dressing, Pembroke and Claw Tables; Mahogany Bason Stands; ditto Tea Trays; Variety of easy, Elbow, Night and other Chairs; Mahogany Bed Chair, Sofa, and Covers; 28 Silver Spoons; Silver Pepper Castor, Silver-ferrul'd Knives & Forks; Bureaus, and Chests of Drawers; Eight-day Clock and Alarum; Polished Kitchen Range, ironing Stove & Smoke jack; complete Assortment of Kitchen Furniture, in Copper, Pewter, Brass, Tin &c.- China, Glass and earthen Ware; a fine toned harpsichord; Six neat deal Cloaths-Presses; 14 Iron-bound Half-Hogsheads, 40 smaller Casks, ten Iron-bound Tubs; Set of Iron-bound Brewing Utensils, Forty-gallon Copper and grate; 50 Dozen of Glass Bottles; Quantity of Building Materials; near 200 Bushels of Coals; the Materials of a Boarded bar, newly erected; Rick of fine hay; Stone Roll and frame; Hurdles; faggots; 12 Dozen of garden-Pots; with a variety of Other Effects.

May be viewed the Saturday previous to the Sale, and on the Morning of the Sale.

The Sale to begin each Day exactly at Ten o'Clock.

Catalogues to be delivered to the Crown, Potton; Rose, Biggleswade; George, Baldock; King's Arms, Shefford; Red-Lion, Sandy; Bull, St. Neots, and Royston: Sun, Cambridge; Printing - Office, Bedford; and at the Auctioneer's, Ampthill, Beds.


(Undated newspaper article in Bill Hardinge's Scrapbook)


By the 1830s the vicarage was almost 200 years’ old. In 1833 it must have been in a state of disrepair as a new building was constructed on the same site. Its first resident was Rev. Challis Paroissien. (Conversation with Mr and Mrs Lee, Everton) A new vicarage was built on Church Road in 19—and the old vicarage was unoccupied for .. years until it was purchased by Mr and Mrs Lee in 199-.


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