A Talk To The Rectory Society By Richard Boggis-Rolfe

A Talk To The Rectory Society By Richard Boggis-Rolfe

Although I have been a member of The Rectory Society for several years, I have never been on a visit until today, so I am not sure what you want to hear about Shipton Moyne, its church and its Rectory - if anything!

My problem is that although this is a very nice place to live, not much of interest has happened here. Perhaps that is a strength - who wants to live in a tourist magnet?

Sometime in the 1960s, a local newspaper described Shipton Moyne as being lost in a sea of elms. Not now. Dutch Elm Disease changed that. But a few years ago, we brought two supposedly disease resistant elms. One is flourishing, the other does not look disease resistant. If you want to see them, we will show you the way.

In 1086 this place belonged to someone, who was royal Larderer to the King. From 1303, for almost 700 years, most of the land belonged to the Estcourt family. In 1910 George Estcourt tried to claim the office of Royal Larderer for himself, as he thought it would entitle him to take part in Edward VII's coronation. He failed - but was later given a peerage.

Although the Estcourts were the big-wigs in the parish, oddly enough, they were not Lords of the Manor. There were two big houses within a few hundred yards of each other and a family called Hodges had the manor. The Hodges and their house disappeared in the mid-1700s and one daughter of the last Hodges married an Estcourt. That last Hodges was Dean of Oriel College, Oxford. His memorial is over there (the location of the memorial in the church was pointed to). The splendid memorials in that chapel (the Estcourt Chapel at the southern end of the church) are to the Estcourts, whose arms are quartered with the Hodges arms. Another daughter of the last male Hodges married one of our rectors, a Mr Nowell, who became Lord of the Manor.

Although the manor house disappeared, its barn survived and was converted into a lovely house before the War, The manor's garden was in a field of ours and in dry summers once can clearly see the outline of a splendid stone edged pond and a very grand gate.

The Estcourt house was pulled down in 1779 - and replaced with a handsome Georgian house. This too was pulled down in 1964. In our dining room there are Kip prints of both the original houses, dated 1712.

The (Estcourt) estate now belongs to Prince Khalid Abdullah and is part of his Juddmonte Farms racing establishment. He has converted one of the old tenant farm houses and decorated it magnificently with Stubbs paintings - but has never spent a night there!

The splendid Estcourt tombs were brought here from Lasborough in 1825 and Lasborough is still cross about it! But splendid though the tombs are, Shipton Moyne is a modest place and I have to scratch about for connections, which might interest people who are used to visiting Rectories, which have been home to people like Jane Austen or Lord Nelson.

But I have scratched about....!

We have one grave which boasts the Royal Arms. There is an aluminium coat of arms on the grave of a daughter of 1st Marquess of Cambridge, who was a great grandchild of George III.

Owners of Highgrove were buried here. The grave of Captain William Hamilton (1894), on your right as you leave the church, says that he lived there.

And like Sherston, we have a VC. The Earl of Gowrie's grave is somewhere over there (central part of the graveyard to the south of the church). He was Governor-General of Australia and got his VC during the Mahdi's Revolt in the Sudan, where Churchill took part in the cavalry charge at Omdurman.

Sherton's VC was a Coldstreamer. We have several Coldstream memorials, including the one over there to Colonel Mitchell, who died when he was Regimental Lieutenant-Colonel.

I rather like the more humble memorials.

Hester Dodd was nanny to many Estcourt children. They loved her and had her stone carved to say so.

Mr Farrell has a simple memorial, which simply testifies to his faithful service to Constina, Viscountess Dupplin and her father.

And Jane Estcourt's refers to "the Polish of her manners"!

General Bucknall Estcourt's says that he helped fix the boundary between Canada and the US, before dying in the Crimea.

The church used to be mainly 14th Century. This is a photograph of it. Unfortunately, the Victorians had the money to pull most of it down and start again. Much of this church was built in 1863 - the architect was TH Wyatt. All that is left is the Estcourt Chapel and the 14th Century North Porch. The Estcourt who was Rector before the church was rebuilt, described his family's chapel as "of very inferior architecture". I don't think it is too bad.

Our bells are older than the church - one was cast in the mid-1400s.

The village boasts only one famous son - but as you have never heard of him, you may think this an exaggeration. He is the poet John Oldham. Our book of his collected verse begins, "He is one of those elusive figures that flit through literary history as writers more often heard about than read". If you try reading his poems, you will see why. His father was the Rector when he was born in 1653, so he lived in the Rectory. But his father was a Puritan and had to give up the Living, because he preached against church services.

But you are here to see the Rectory, so I had better talk about that.

The parish was a Rectory by 1291, when the Living was worth £14. The Rectory was on the site of our house by 1597 and probably well before. By 1677 it had 12 bays, so it was a decent house. But like the manor houses. most of the old house has disappeared and only the cellar is older than 1814.

Until 1856, most of the Rectors were absentees: William Hodges, the Rector for 43 years, lived at Ashley nearby, where he had another parish. His successor a Mr Nowell became Lord of the Manor, as well as Rector, as he had married a daughter of the last Hodges. Later, Canon Estcourt had the Living from 1801 until 1846 and he too delegated the job. So, for about 150 years, most of the people who lived in our house were curates.

Canon Estcourt, although an absentee, added six new rooms between 1814 and 1816. The cost of £1,151 was paid for by Queen Anne's Bounty.

The Canon Estcourt, who built the Regency part of the house was not only an absentee, but seems to have been a pretty ineffective priest. His son became a Roman Catholic after being ordained into the Church of England - and one of his curates, the Rev. John Capes, also converted in 1845. John Capes feared that neglect of the poor would lead to revolution. He wrote, "If we do not care for the poor man from love, we must do it from dread."

The next curate - John Green, the last curate to live here - was a keen hunting man. A German prince visiting England at that time wrote, "the most remarkable thing to German eyes is the sight of a black-coated parson, flying over hedge and ditch. They often go to their church booted and spurred with their hunting whips in their hands, throw on their surplices, marry, Christen or bury with all velocity, jump on their horses at the church door. And off - tally-ho! ..... This is a right English religion."

The Canon Golightly, who was here for 54 years, did live in the Rectory. He pulled down the old part of the house and built 16 or so rooms to house his twelve children and servants. His stipend was £195, but he was a rich man, as his great grandfather had been active in the  slave trade in Liverpool - something which greatly troubled his conscience. One of his sons was a Colonel in the KRRC and had a CBE and a DSO - he was part of Lord Roberts' force, which marched 320 miles from Kabul in 23 days, before winning the Battle of Kandahar. Then he marched back to Kabul! His grave is over there.

Canon Golightly succeeded Canon Estcourt and was succeeded in his turn by another Canon Estcourt.

By the 1930s, the clergy still had some status and one old lady told me that when she was a child, the wife of the Rector, Canon Wilson, would stop her trap and get down to show any village girls, who did not curtsy to her, how they should do so.

One of the last Rectors, before the Church sold our house, was Jack Gibbs. (They all seem to have been Canons!). He was another hunting parson. He came here from Badminton and built two of the houses in the lane for his grooms. He started the dog's graveyard, which you will see in our garden. When we first came here, someone we met, who had been at the village school, remembered the Rector conducting a dog's funeral.

The Church sold the Rectory in 1957 for £4,250 to Major Ronnie Dallas, who was Secretary to the Beaufort Hunt for many years. He lived here until 1983. We bought the house in 1988, 30 years ago.

Today, you get two Rectories for the price of one. The old, Old Rectory, is now called the Glebe House. When it was sold, the Church built a new Rectory, which has since become the new, Old Rectory. A covenant prevents us calling our house The Rectory, but we may - and do - call part of the new Old Rectory, The Rectory!

The new Old Rectory was a shockingly badly designed house - uncomfortable, inconvenient. We were able to buy it a few years ago. We applied to pull it down and replace it with two pretty cottages in keeping with the village. But, of course, the Planners refused. With difficulty, we finally got permission to convert it into two cottages. We think that it is rather attractive now - but is rather out of keeping with its surroundings. There are some before and after photographs on the dining room table.

That is enough history. Please explore the house and gardens. Go where you like. We do holiday lets in the two cottages in the new Old Rectory, but have a look at the outside.

If you are feeling energetic, there are paths from the garden to the little woods. In the spinney, just beyond the ha-ha, there is a little Indian temple. if you want to go further afield, ask us and we will point the way.