Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wolverton's Ecclesiastical History - V The Eighteenth Century

In 1712, the Wolverton Manor was sold to Dr John Radcliffe. He died a year later and all his interests, including Wolverton, were managed by a Trust. The Trust then entered into a very long period of ownership and, it has to be said, responsible management of the estate and there was a gradual improvement in the fortunes of the church.

When they took over, Thomas Evans was the incumbent and had been there since 1702. He was much aggrieved because he was paid £10 per annum less than his predecessor and he claimed that he had found a rent roll that proved that the tithes in the 17th century did indeed amount to £50. The Trustees were not unsympathetic but felt that the case should be presented in a proper legal context. Proceedings were instituted at Stony Stratford in 1718 and witnesses were heard who testified they they or their fathers paid tithes to the Vicar at one time. However, the case foundered because the Deed of Composition from  1656 could not be found. It had been lost and the case petered out. The unfortunate Evans died in 1720 - apparently destitute.

The trustees then appointed a young clergyman by the name of Edmund Green. He was of a more humble disposition and was prepared to accept the £30 without dispute - and there the matter rested for some years.

In the meantime,  the church and the rectory were in extremely poor condition and these matters had to be addressed. In 1724 he asked the Trustees to repair the chancel, to add rails round the communion table and seat for communicants. While he was doing this, the virtuous Reverend Green was trying to live with his family in a rectory that was liable to fall down. He tried to effect repairs out of his own meagre income but by 1727 the condition of the rectory was desperate and the Bishop's Court declared it a ruin.

Green approached the Trustees for help, and they were sympathetic. The Longueville Manor had been partly demolished in 1720 but there were materials that could be used to build a new rectory. However, this was as much help as the unlucky Reverend Green got because the Trust at this time was committed to building the Radcliffe Library at Oxford and had no funds to spare. The poor man was obliged to build the new rectory out of his own resources. It cost him:
the full sum of £300 which was the whole fortune I had with my wife & which has obliged me to Preach at two place more to enable me to support myself and my Family with dignity as a clergyman.
It was only in 1750 that the Radcliffe Trust, free of its own projects, were able to help the Reverend Green. They paid £200 into the Queen Anne's Bounty fund, which was matched by an equal figure by the Bounty. This enabled an improved income to Reverend Green in his last years, which were under four. He died on 11th April 1754.

The stipend limped along at this level until 1770 when the Trust raised the stipend to £50 per annum - the level at which it had been 110 years earlier.

Green was succeeded by Edward Smith, who benefited from Green's efforts and self-denial. He was able to inhabit a newish rectory and enjoy an improved stipend. He died in 1782 and his successor was Samuel Hale. Their years, which took up the last half of the 18th century were quite uneventful. This 18th century placidity changed on the arrival of the thrusting Henry Quartley, whom I will discuss tomorrow.

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