Rectors of Englefield
It is important to distinguish between the terms Rector, Vicar, Parson and Curate all of which have specific meanings but often get confused and used indiscriminately. The Rector was originally the person who received all the tithes and offerings from the parish and in return was responsible for the chancel and the rectory and for providing service books and vestments. The Rector might appoint someone else to act in the parish on his behalf in return for a proportion of the tithes and this person was called a Vicar because he acted vicariously for the Rector. Prior to the dissolution of the monasteries after the Act of Supremacy in 1534 a benefice was usually owned by a monastery or collegiate foundation (in this case Reading Abbey) but after the Dissolution the patron of the church was usually the landowner (and not ordained - therefore called a Lay Rector) who had the right of presentation, that is the right to propose (subject to approval by the Bishop) someone to be responsible for spiritual care in return for tithes and the glebe land. This person also became known as the Rector. Parson originally meant the same as Rector but came to be applied more generally to include Vicar as well. A Curate was originally an ordained person in full charge of a parish but receiving a stipend (salary) rather than tithes.
It became a common practice for clergy to accumulate several livings as well as other ecclesiastical appointments so they had to appoint vicars or curates to officiate for them in at least some of the parishes (an early form of the modern joint benefice - though in this case the parishes could be many miles distant from one another and even in different dioceses). In 1909 a list of Rectors was put up on the west wall of the church and this was later updated and moved to the north wall over the door to the choir vestry. This list was compiled from parish records and was somewhat at odds with diocesan and other records for the 17th and 18th centuries. The explanation may well be found in this practice of taking multiple livings and in the confusion between Rector, Vicar and Curate. The actual Rector might hardly ever have been seen in the parish, if ever, and all parish records would have carried the name of his deputy. In 2019 the board was rewritten based on further research and the names are now as in the panel to the right
The first name to appear in parish records is that of Clement Burdett, whose brother Humphrey married Sir Francis Englefield's sister Susan, although diocesan records mention Thomas Latham who died in 1542, the year of Burdett's appointment. Burdett was the last Roman Catholic Rector and one of those who tried the Newbury Martyrs in St Nicholas’s church Newbury on 15 July 1556. Julius Palmer (the headmaster of Reading School), Thomas Askew and John Gwin were indicted for “denying the Pope’s supremacy”. Another of their judges was John Winchcomb, son of Jack o’ Newbury, a supposed ancestor of Miss Winchcomb. Burdett called Palmer “as forward an heretic as I have ever talked to” and despite Winchcomb’s compassionate attitude the three men refused to recant and were found guilty. They were burnt at the stake in the old sandpits on the Enbourne Road. Burdett was also Rector of South Morton and Nicholas Janson is recorded as Curate of Englefield (and Bradfield) at this time. Burdett was deprived of the living of Englefield in 1560, presumably as a consequence of the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558 and the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1559.
John Howesman succeeded Burdett in 1560 and William Thompson (or Tompson) became Rector on his death in 1588. Thompson died in 1596 and was succeeded by William Bayley, whose name was omitted from the original list in the church. When Bayley died or gave up the living is not known but William Cherrington (also given as Sherington in some places) was appointed in 1600. In 1610 Elijah Cherrington, the son of William, drowned in the river at Marlow and the body was not found for six weeks. Following Cherrington the original list had John Loveday (no date) but when Cherrington died in 1630 he was succeeded in the same year by Robert Cottesford (or Cattesford). Loveday is known to have been serving as a Curate in 1598 and was Vicar of Bucklebury in 1606.
Cottesford resigned the living in 1635 and was succeeded by Gilbert Wimberley who was not mentioned on the original board in the church. Wimberley certainly was Rector of Englefield from 1635 until his death in 1653, as attested by many sources, and is named as "Parson of Englefield" in the Archdeacon's visitation records of 1639 and 1642. His first wife Martha Welby who died in 1635 is buried in the chancel at Englefield with a memorial slab described by Elias Ashmole in 1665. On 12 June 1647 Ashmole noted in his diary that he “went from St James’s to Englefield to table with Antipass Chervington” and two days later “first became acquainted with Dr Wimberley, Minister of Englefield”. Wimberley was Chaplain to Charles I and as a result he was imprisoned in the Tower. In his diary for 23 October 1653 Ashmole records “My good friend and neighbour Dr Wimberley, minister of Englefield in Berkshire, died”. In 1638 Marmaduke Goode is also recorded as subscribing to the 39 Articles at Englefield and he died in 1678 as Rector of Ufton.
After Wimberley died in 1653 there is no record of an appointment as Rector until Humphrey Drake in 1664. This is not surprising as this was the height of the Puritan Commonwealth and there there are few records for this period. It was often impossible to find a suitable candidate for presentation anyway. Drake was recorded as Parson of Englefield in the Visitation record of 1662 and was also present in 1656 according to the parish records. When he died in 1694 he was succeeded by his son Humphrey junior. Humphrey junior died in 1708 and Samuel Norris was appointed to the living in that year. On his death in 1711 Matthew Tate was appointed and is also given as the incumbent in The Antiquities of Berkshire, the 1725 collection of Ashmole's visitation in 1666. Neither of these names appeared on the first church board, which listed Francis Drake from 1708 and James Smith from 1741. Humphrey junior and his wife Elizabeth had a son, baptised Francis at Englefield in 1698, and another Francis Drake with parents of the same names was baptised at Aldermaston four years earlier, but in either case 1708 is an impossible date for an appointment and there is no diocesan record of such. Norris was also Rector of Tilehurst from 1681 to 1743 and Tate was Vicar of Burnham from 1707 until his death in 1759. In 1713 we find Edward Jones as Curate of Englefield, in 1714 Michael Kirby and in 1716 Charles Hawtrey so these men obviously officiated during that period. Francis Drake was married at Englefield in 1737 and buried there in 1741 with the burial record styling him "Curate of this parish" so he, and later Smith, obviously also officiated in Englefield in turn until the arrival of a full-time Rector in James Nind.
Edward Berens, appointed to the living in 1817 after the death of Thomas Knapp, was also Vicar of Shrivenham from 1804 and was resident there in 1851. He was by 1829 a Rural Dean and in 1832 was appointed Archdeacon of Berkshire. Thomas Hulse (Richard Benyon de Beauvoir's cousin) was licensed as Stipendiary Curate at Englefield in 1821 despite also being Rector of North Ockendon at the same time and then appointed Rector of Wickford in 1827. Francis Eyre appears to have officiated in Englefield from as early as 1825 for at the time of his resignation in 1869 it was recorded: ”Ill-health and other circumstances have rendered it necessary in the opinion of our late worthy rector that he should resign the post which he has occupied with so much fidelity some thirty years here”. The 1844 register of rents and tithes shows Edward Berens as the owner of the “Parsonage House” and Francis Eyre as the occupier so it is clear that while Berens held the living as Rector, Eyre was at this time carrying out the parish duties. When Berens resigned in 1855 Eyre was appointed to the living on a stipend of £100 per year and the Morning Advertiser for 14 May 1855 reports that the Bishop of Oxford had appointed F J Eyre, Curate of Englefield, to the Rectory vice the Venerable Archdeacon Edward Berens. Francis Eyre married Ann Louisa Haygarth in 1838 and they had four children, three of whom died in their early 20s and are commemorated on a brass plate under the west window of the nave in the church. The eldest, Sophia Frances, died at the age of 92 in 1931. The appointment of Francis Eyre as Rector coincides with Richard Fellows Benyon inheriting the estate and the start of the major rebuilding of the church at his expense so perhaps they were both adherents to the doctrine of the Oxford Movement and worked together on the project.
Francis Eyre was Rector until 1868 and was not listed in the 1870 edition of Crockford but in 1861 the inhabitant of the Rectory was John Innes, "Curate of Englefield", and Francis Eyre was living at Tunbridge Wells in Kent, though still styled as "Rector of Englefield". In 1871 he was still at Tunbridge Wells then described as "Clergyman Without Cure" and he died there in 1878, though he is buried at Englefield. Seemingly, Eyre employed Innes to carry out his duties in the final years of his tenure as Rector.
Arthur Clutterbuck was the brother of Elizabeth Clutterbuck who married Richard Benyon, some 20 years older than her, in 1858. Their father was Robert Clutterbuck, a Hertfordshire landowner who died at 17 Grosvenor Square (the Benyon’s London house at the time) in 1879. Arthur Clutterbuck was born in 1842 and studied at Harrow, Exeter College Oxford and Wells Theological College. In 1861 he was a 19 year old scholar resident at Englefield House and was ordained in 1866. He spent two years as Curate at Great Yarmouth and two years more at St Giles’s Reading before coming to Englefield. After leaving Englefield he became Vicar of Wooley in Yorkshire and then in 1886 Rector at Hinxworth in Hertfordshire where the family estates were. He remained there until his death in 1907.
Charles Travers who followed Arthur Clutterbuck was Rector for only four years but the new reredos was dedicated to his memory. He was the son of Captain Thomas Otho Travers of the East India Company, perhaps known to the Benyons through their activities in the sub-continent. Arthur Heigham who followed Charles Travers was the originator of the parish magazine, from which a good deal of information on this site has come. He also saw some further significant changes to the interior of the church.
George Ashburner announced at the annual parish meeting in March 1960 that he intended to retire at the end of July but died only a few days after making the announcement. At the meeting in 1962 Lady (Violet) Benyon commented on the difficulty in finding a suitable candidate and thanked Canon Thornton for standing-in. Godfrey Bower, a former Naval Chaplain, was by that time covering the duty after Canon Thornton retired and signs the meeting minutes as "Rector" although he was not officially appointed in until the following year.
The last Rector of Englefield was David Cound from 1968 until 1976 when the parish was merged into a joint benefice with Holy Trinity, Theale although he continued as Resident Priest in Englefield until 1981. From 1976 the Rector of the joint benefice was the incumbent at Theale although the title was changed to Priest in Charge, rather than Rector, in 2001. During that time a non-stipendiary Resident Priest in Englefield attended to pastoral duties and ran the parish on a day to day basis with St Mark’s House being provided by the Englefield Estate.
This relationship became increasingly fractious, with the smaller (and much older) church at Englefield paying a disproportionate share of the joint benefice costs while becoming increasingly dictated to. In a local echo of 1215, 1534 (and 2016) the parish voted to petition to end the relationship - and for much the same reasons. This was finally granted in 2018 with the Resident Priest, Nick Wynne-Jones, inducted as Rector of Englefield on 26 November that year.
St Mark's Church
|Rectors of Englefield||Thomas Latham|
|1542||Clement Burdett||1560||John Howesman|
|1664||Humphrey Drake snr|
|1694||Humphrey Drake jnr|
|1817||Edward Berens||1855||Francis Eyre|
|1869||Arthur Clutterbuck||1881||Charles Travers|
|1896||Henry Savill Young|
|1904||Granville Gore Skipwith|
|1976||in Joint Benefice|
© 2021 Richard J Smith