Competition for Glynde

The Dean and Canons are patrons or joint patrons of 51 parishes across England and, in the past, were solely responsible for appointing new incumbents. One such parish was the village of Glynde, near Lewes in East Sussex. The archive contains some applications for the position of vicar.

A small 18th century Palladian style church made of flint, with a small open belfry on top, seen through a graveyard.
St Mary’s Church, Glynde

In February 1824, the vicarage was presented to Reverend William Rose. His tenure appears to have been without incident, although a new school was built in the village while he was in charge. However, by 1844 his health was failing and several candidates were vying for his position.

The Reverend Charles Webb Le Bas was the most eager, writing to Canon Cust on 1 May 1844 about Glynde as ‘It is, at present, held by Mr Rose…who is a very aged man, and, in the course of nature, can hardly survive for any considerable length of time.’ Le Bas held the living of St Paul Shadwell, Tower Hamlets, but had to resign, leaving him with only a ‘little stall at Lincoln’. He must have received an encouraging reply, because he wrote again on the 14th June. The previous year, Le Bas had resigned as principal of the East India Company College due to ill-health. Cust’s second son, Robert, had been at the College 1840-42 and they seem to have discovered this connection between them.

Next to apply was F C Viret, on 13th June. He had previously applied for the living of Plymstock, and did not send his testimonials this time, as they had them from before. He included a short description of his religious view: ‘I am both Catholic, and Evangelical, but do not advocate the Puseyite Tenets.’

The Chapter meeting of 19 June 1844 recorded that the Vicarage of Glynde was now vacant due to the death of Mr Rose, which by this point seemed to be a mere formality.

The ever-enthusiastic Le Bas wrote again, expressing his excitement at being considered for the position: ‘…I should be the veriest churl on Earth, if I were to fail in expressing my deep sense of the kindness with which the mention of my very humble name was received…’. He then wrote about the suitability of living in the Glebe House, residence of the Vicar. He had visited some time ago on a social visit, but perhaps unsurprisingly, had no opportunity of examining the property in detail. He also mentioned to his friend about the position at Glynde, and ‘he roared out – “o-o-o-h! Don’t go to Glynde! You will all be buried alive!!!!!” Now, as to being buried alive, I do not know that I should, personally, very much object to it. But, then, it is a process of which the Divinities are apt to be rather impatient. And, after all, they must be, more or less, consulted, on all such occasions!’

It was on 9 July that a less excitable candidate applied to Windsor. William de St Croix had already had an interview with the Dean, and wrote to reassure him that, although he was only a deacon, he would be ordained soon, and there were other examples of deacons being appointed to livings.

The final application was made on 22 July by Henry Petley, who had been the Assistant Curate at Glynde for many years, and a benefactor of the school.

The question of Glynde was settled in August, and was given to William de St Croix. Although this may seem odd as he was the least qualified, his father, also William, had been the Chapter Clerk 1827-1843. There is a memorial tablet to him on the north wall of the Dean’s Cloister. In 1852 the younger William’s uncle, who had been supporting the family financially since his brother’s death, wrote to ask the Dean and Canons whether there was any possibility that de St Croix could be moved to a more lucrative benefice as he now had five children ‘with every prospect of a still larger family’. However, this did not happen; William de St Croix remained at Glynde until his death in May 1877. A meeting of the Friendly Benefit Society in 1877 referred to him as their ‘late beloved and esteemed vicar’, and it seems that Henry Petley was still in the area then (he would have been 61). Le Bas retired to Brighton and died in 1861.

Anne Courtney, Assistant Archivist

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.