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Clophill Church


 Clophill Old Church 1900
old St.Mary's in about 1900

Clophill has two churches, old and new. The old church (above c.1900) is now a ruin and has been used in the past for dubious practices at dead of night, acquiring a very unsavoury reputation in the 1970s and 80s. Despite this, on a sunny day it is a wonderful place to visit, with commanding views to the south.

Clophill old church Mar 2007
old St.Mary's in March 2007

This old building seems to be Perpendicular in style (i.e. from about 1350); the nave, unusually, just two windows, one north, one south. The chancel was given new pews in 1802 and a number of other improvements followed, including a new pulpit and desk in 1805, a west gallery in 1814, a new east end to the chancel in 1819 and new tables of the ten commandments in 1820. By 1826 it seems that consideration was being given to enlarging the church and these resurfaced in 1839, transepts north and south being considered; however, the rector was ill and plans shelved (he died in 1843). The new rector decided that a new church altogether should be built at a more convenient site in the village.

Clophill New Church 1900
new St.Mary's about 1900

On completion of the new church the old one was converted for use as a mortuary chapel as the graveyard remained open; this involved removing the galleries and pulling down the chancel, re-erecting the 1819 east window in the east wall. Sir Stephen Glynne in 1854 noted that the old church was "A poor, small church on top of a very high hill, having only a nave & Tower, the Chancel having been destroyed, & the Church is apparently now wholly abandoned". Further repairs to the old building were carried out in 1901 but in 1956 the lead was stolen from the roof and so the remaining fittings were removed and the building allowed to fall into ruin.

Clophill church Mar 2007
new St.Mary's in March 2007

The new church was built in 1848-1849 at the foot of the hill on which the old church stands. The architect was Thomas Smith of Hertford, who had built a new church at nearby Silsoe (which shared the same patron of the living) in 1831. The chancel was restored in 1879 and the original clerestory removed in repairs of 1966-1967.

Most of the notes on the structural history of the churches can be found in greater detail in Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume number 73 of 1994 Bedfordshire Churches in the Nineteenth Century: Part I: parishes A to G, put together by former County Archivist Chris Pickford from numerous sources some held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service and some held elsewhere or published.

Clophill Church East Window
a detail from the east window - March 2007

Since 2000 the church has shared an incumbent with the parish of Haynes and, since 2006, with Campton, too, though each parish retains its own parochial church council, churchwardens and services.

interior of Clophill church looking east taken from gallery Mar 2007 
new St.Mary's looking east from the balcony March 2007

In 1927 the Rectory was valued under the 1925 Rating Valuation Act - it was a brick, tile and slate detached house in the High Street and consisted of a hall, drawing room, study, dining room, butler's pantry, store room, kitchen, scullery and store room with a loft over on the ground floor with six bedrooms, a maid's room, box room and bathroom with wc on the first floor. Outside the property had a glasshouse ("falling down"), a wood shed, a coal barn, a garage, one small and two large loose boxes. The living amounted to £400 gross, £350 net per annum, there being no tithes but some corn rents. The valuer considered the "mansion type" house to be much too big for the living, noting that the Rector was unable to let it. Overall it was a "nice garden, nice house, some parts more modern than others". Nearby was the thatched Parish Room, which had been the tithe barn.

Clophill has produced two cricketers of note one, Jack Durston was the son of the licensee of the Rising Sun |whilst the other was the son of the rector. Rollo John Oliver Meyer (known as Jack) was the son of Rev.Horace Rollo Meyer and was born in the Rectory in March 1905. He played for Cambridge University, Europeans (in India), Bombay, Western India, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire but is best remembered as the captain of Somerset, for whom he played from 1936 to 1949. In his first class career he scored 4,621 runs at an average of 23.69 and, with his medium paced bowling, took 408 wickets at an average of 25.31. He founded Millfield School, a public school in Street [Somerset] in 1935 and he died in 1991.

List of Vicars

- Ralph de..... - 1235 [capellanus; patron Beauchamp Priory];
- G..... - 1245 [capellanus];
- John de Kinebawton - 20 Dec 1274 [priest; on resignation of Geoffrey];
- John de Sancto Neoto - 20 Oct 1321 [priest; on death of John de Kymbarton];
- Hugh de Midleton Erneys - 6 Jul 1349 [priest; on death of John];
- Ralph atte Halle;
- John Grene - 26 Jan 1369 [Vicar of Amwell [Hertfordshire], London Diocese; by exchange with Ralph atte Halle];
- William Waleman - 15 Jan 1382 [priest; on derath of John Grene];
- John Wyltonshurst - 18 Nov 1388 [priest; on resignation of William Walman, exchanged to be Vicar of Astwood [Buckinghamshire] where Wyltonshurst had been since 12 Aug 1385];
- Richard Maddeley - 6 Oct 1389 [of Choulsbury; exchanged with John Wyltonshurst];
- Richard Taillour;
- Ralph Geruays - 17 Sep 1395 [priest; on resignation of Richard Taillour, exchanged to Rollesham Chantry];
- Thomas Wryght - 7 Jun 1421 [priest; vacant];
- Thomas Agley - 3 Nov 1433 [priest; vacant];

List of Rectors

- John Mylleward;
- John Caller - 9 Jan 1455 [capellanus; on death of John Mylleward, "late Rector"];
- Alexander Robynson - 20 Feb 1505 [priest; on death of John Caller];
- Thomas Tavernar - 3 Apr 1536 [capellanus; on death of Alexander Robynson];
- William Bolton - 10 May 1539 [clerk; on death of Thomas Taverner;];
- Cuthbert Wytham - 20 Nov 1551;
- Edmund Harris - 31 Oct 1582 [clerk; vacant; by death of Cuthbert Witham];
- John Broune - 1 Aug 1570 [1590?] [clerk; on cessation of last Rector; presented 29 Jul on petition of Mr.Nudygate];
- Edward Marbury AM - 24 Nov 1610 [clerk; Trinity College, Cambridge; presented on death of last Rector by Keeper of the Great Seal on recommendation of Dominic Fenton];
- Bartholomew Andrews MA - 9 Nov 1610;
- William Norman - 15 Dec 1619 [patron George Winstanley; will dated 27 Jul, proved 2 Oct 1650; to be buried in midst of chancel];
- Nathaniel Cole AM - 15 Nov 1651 - [Queen's College, Cambridge; died 26 Jun 1662; will dated 18 Jun, proved 3 Jul 1662; to be buried in chancel];
- Edmund Bagshaw AM - 30 Sep 1660 [clerk; on death of Nathaniel Cole];
- William Berkley - 12 Jan 1664 [clerk; on death of Edmund Bagshaw; a non-juror];
- (Henry Hill BA - 16 Feb 1685 [ordained priest; curate];
- Charles Fletcher AM - 28 Jul 1690 [clerk; on deprivation of William Berkley under an Act for abrogating the oath of Supremacy; died 13, buried 18 Dec 1753, aged 87; Rector for 63 years];
- (Charles Smith BA - 24 Dec 1749 [Caius College, Cambridge; ordained deacon, curate];
- Ezekiel Rouse MA - 24 Apr 1754 [on death of Charles Fletcher; died 27 Feb 1792, aged 84; Rector for 57 years];
- William Rouse MA - 24 Jul 1792 [on death of Ezekiel Rouse; died 18 Nov 1792, aged 58];
- Ezekiel Rouse MA - 30 Mar 1793 [on death of William Rouse; died 13 Apr 1799, aged 60];
- William Pierce Nethersole LL.B - 10 Jul 1799 [on death of Ezekiel Rouse; died 6 Dec 1843, aged 87; married Sophia Hagar of Ampthill on 6 Nov 1800];
- John Mendham MA - 14 Mar 1844 [on death of William Pierce Nethersole];
- Gustavus Bosanquet MA - 11 Sep 1869 [on death of John Mendham];
- Horace Rollo Meyer - May 1900;
- Cecil Lloyd Matthews - Oct 1911;
- Henry Wilcox - Jul 1919;
- James Killen Deane - Mar 1923;
- William John Wallace - Jan 1926;
- George Henry Pattison - Apr 1933;
- Henry Gordon - Jul 1938;
- Leslie Raymond Livingstone Bearman - Jul 1945;
- Ernest John Jones - Dec 1951;
- William Ainslie Macintosh Grant - 1956;
- Lewis Edward Barker - 1962;
- Herbert Ralph Cousins - 1971;
- Philip John Swindells - 1978
- Margaret J.Venables - 2000
- Dean Henley - 2006