On this day … 15 April 1743

The Rev Samuel Peploe resigned as vicar of Preston. He was the son of Samuel Peploe senior, that scourge of Preston’s Catholics (see post for 4 April), and known in church circles as simply ‘Peploe Junior’. The son had succeeded his father as vicar, when the latter was appointed bishop of Chester in 1726.

Peploe Junior’s resignation did not leave him short of clerical offices. They included the following that he held until his death in 1781: prebendary of Chester 1727–81, vicar of Northenden 1727–81, archdeacon of Richmond 1729–81, warden of Manchester 1738–1781, vicar of Tattenhall 1743–81, and chancellor of Chester 1748–81.

At the time of the Reformation, Catholicism stood accused, by critics inside as well as outside the Church, of a number of abuses. High on the list were: nepotism (appointing a relative to a position in the Church); simony (buying and selling church posts); pluralism (holding many different appointments); and absenteeism (when clergy lived elsewhere than their parish, leaving its care in the hands of others).

The Peploes were clearly guilty of three of those abuses.

It possibly was not nepotism that led Peploe Junior to succeed his father as vicar of Preston in 1726, when he was still in his twenties, since he was appointed by George I, not his father. But his father, then bishop of Chester, was surely guilty of nepotism when he appointed his son archdeacon of Richmond just two years later.

Peploe Junior’s appointments listed above clearly come under the headings of pluralism and absenteeism. Tattenhall is an hour’s drive away from Northenden; it would have taken Peploe Junior several hours to make the journey on horseback or in his carriage.

unknown artist; Samuel Peploe (1667-1752), Bishop of Chester (1726-1752); Cheshire Archives and Local Studies; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/samuel-peploe-16671752-bishop-of-chester-17261752-103118

Simony, however, does not feature in these appointments, since no money changed hands. But there were many examples of simony in the diocese, if trading in the right to nominate vicars for parishes comes under that head.

A particularly glaring example is found in the parish of Garstang, where in 1750, Richard Pedder, a Preston textile merchant, bought the perpetual advowson of the vicarage of Garstang for £600, after some haggling. When his youngest son, James, graduated from Oxford, he was established there as vicar; Pedders were to be vicars of Garstang for the next two centuries.

In the nineteenth century there is the case of Arthur Townley Parker, the fourth son of Preston’s MP Robert Townley Parker, who was ordained and became rector of Burnley in 1855 at the age of 25. It was said the position brought him an annual revenue of £3,000 when the other churches in the town were staffed by clerics on stipends of just £150 a year. The Townley Parkers owned an extensive estate in the district.

Anglican benefices were thus treated as a form of property, inheritable and saleable, as, for example:

The frequent occurrence of the names of Langton, Standish, Halsall, and Le Walsch among the rectors of Wigan, Standish, Halsall, and Aughton illustrates the habitual use of livings by lay patrons as a provision for younger members of their families. Rectors were instituted when only in minor orders, or even with the first tonsure, occasionally under the canonical age, and so little qualified for their work that licences of absence for several years to study at a university had to be granted to them. The bishop might and did insist that the cure should not be neglected; but for this there was no real guarantee when its duties were performed by chaplains not too well paid and without security of tenure. Leave of absence was also freely granted to rectors for other reasons the nature of which is seldom expressed, and in such cases they were allowed to put their churches to farm.


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