The Old Vicarage – additional information

For background information see Old Vicarage (Heritage Trail).

A probable origin by Roy Louis Cox:

The present vicarage has not now been used or occupied for some years by any ecclesiastical body, having suffered the ravages of time and insufficient funds whereby its fabric could be repaired. As will be shown by the following testaments, the building can within reason be dated from the 17th century. Before that era it is possible that the incumbent was provided with a ‘Roof over his head’ but the year 1623 seems to be the first record that can for certain prove that a building for this purpose existed. What is probably the first documentation of any home or house for an ecclesiastic in Burnham occurs in 1242 when in the Somerset Pleas SRS 11 1897 p.247/8 (Hundred of Bempston Pleas) we learn:

“Unknown malefactors burgled the house of Mathew the Chaplain at Burnham and killed Thomas his brother and there bound Walter the Clerk, Robert Blund (Blundon), John son of David, William son of Mabel and Isabella daughter of Mathew. None of them come, and because it is testified that the sheriff enjoining the liberty of the Dean of Wells that they should attach them, and nothing was done therein; therefore to judgment of the liberty.”

This of course has no bearing on the existence of an official residence for the incumbent; in fact it goes more to prove the custom in these early times that he was accommodated in a parishioner’s house. By definition the word ‘vicarage’ can mean one of two things; a building where the vicar lived or the actual living state of the vicar and his jurisdiction. The following commentary refers only to the building and its contents.

Burnham Introduct 24 February 1623

(D/D/RG 62-64 SRO)

“Burnham/Wee the vicar & parishioners of Burnham aforesaid do by these presents testifie that by auntient prescription hath beene, and at this tyme is annexed to the aforesaid parishe a vicaridge which hath one mansion or dwelling howse adioyning to the Churchyard, a certaine parcell of land on the East, South and West of the said howse commonly called Grigs Bower, the herbage of the said Churchyard One parcell of land conteyning by estimacion one acre and haife in a place called Hewish whereon sometime was a chappie, and at this tyme called by the name of Chapple Haye, and all other tithes obventions and oblacons whatsoever accustomed and of right to be payd in the said parish except the tith corne to the rectorie of the said parish impropriated. In witness whereof wee have subscribed the two and twentieth day of February Anno domini 1623”

Will Taylor vicar (et al)

Burnham/The terrier of the vicaridge tripartite.

“There are in the vicaridge howse, a hall, a kitchen, a butterie, a milke howse, and a little roume to Wash and fower chambers. The glebe is only a portion of land from the East end of the Churchowse reaching neare to the sea on the west, on the south of the vicaridge a parcell of land called Griges Bower, and so – reaching and abutting on the parsonage land, and the northwest corner of the churchyard”

Testified by us whose names are subscribed, the first daye of December 1637

By me Will Taylor vicar (el al)

James Sterte

James ……………? [Unreadable]

……………………………? [Unreadable]

John Mulford – Thomas Mulford – William Mulford (Churchwardens)

From this, a date for a vicarage building can be fixed at 24th February 1623 with the possibility of it being even earlier that this. Fixing its site is a little more difficult! We know the present position of the church has been more or less unchanged since c.1100 and its burial ground (The Churchyard) probably as it is now, although at the time of the church’s rebuilding; prior to dedication in 1306, may have meant its re-positioning somewhat. We also know the building adjoined the churchyard, but was this to the Northwest or the Southwest as it is this present day? Putting all the available information together one is of the opinion that the present day building is indeed the same as that referred to in 1623 and standing on its own land (glebe and parsonage) that extended from the churchyard’s northwest corner and around the west boundary and then eastwards to the vicarage entrance and possibly including the land on which stands the building that is now a funeral director but previously the vicarage coaching house, built at a much later and undetermined date. Having said all that though, the 1888 ordinance survey map shows quite extensive land entitled “Rectory Lands” bordering Stoddens Road.

On the north side of the vicarage building was a further entrance which the incumbent and his entourage would use to make their way to the now disused chancel entrance in the church’s south wall. One further structure still exists which provided for the incumbent’s horse, the church stable and the vicar’s mounting steps outside, are both attached to the east boundary wall to the right of the churchyard entrance from Victoria Street. Three stalls are still to be seen inside the structure as is the original cobbled flooring.

The next notable event in the life of the vicarage came during the incumbency of Revd. Prebendary Roger Hayes Robinson when he petitioned the Bishops of Bath & Wells: –

“It is proposed to

(1) Pull down the old vicarage house at Burnham in the County of Somerset, as it has been allowed to fall into a very bad state of repair and is also insanitary as shewn by the report of the Diocesan Surveyor, and is no longer suitable for a dwelling house. Lease has already been obtained from all the necessary authorities to sell the site on which the vicarage stood”

Signed by the above named incumbent and dated 18th Sept 1914


a) Brackets were inserted to enclose (at Burnham in the County of Somerset) appears to be at sometime after the petition was sent

b) The last sentence beginning “lease” has been crossed through in pencil again appearing to be after the petition was sent.

This appears to have received a negative answer as Rev. Hayes Robinson then writes: –

“Surely the Consistory Court must know the value of its own Enactments as to whether a Faculty can hold as against the Dilapidation Acts. I have been endeavoring to find out ever since the Faculty was requested of the Bishop what guarantee it carried, but as one appears to know I had practically no choice but to carry out the Bishop’s suggestion & as I have to pay for the faculty I am at least entitled to know the value of every purchase. I don’t quite see where ‘barter’ comes in. The instrument has either force or not; but it seems that one is expected to regard it as a lucky day out of which a benefit may be drawn.”

The following is then written on the other side of the-note paper

“Revd Prebendary Hayes Robinson 8th January 1815

The humorous side of the answer is that I have taken on the responsibility of this ramshackle place in order to do the work here and whenever one tries to straighten things out, one is regarded as a grumbler. My experience of the Method of Ecclesiastical Law & its application is that the worker is the last person to be considered.

Yours Truly R Hayes Robinson”

Copy of a letter sent to Revd Hayes Robinson in reply:

Dear Mr. Robinson

“I enclose you the faculty with a receipt for the fees.

It is impossible to say whether this will relieve you from further Dilapidations as the point has not been legally decided, but my humble opinion is that it will.”

Yours faithfully

Richard Harris

It is not known if this was as a result of these representations that the building ceased being used as the official residence of the incumbent and a Rectory built in Rectory Road for him or whether this coincided with the sale of the Vicarage is not known, but John Buncombe one-time church warden and parish clerk became its owner. From that time it remained as a private residence and still is to this day. In June 1995 it was on the market for the asking price of £230.000 but was not sold for a year or so later. The coaching house was still in use when Walter King the Bishop of Rochester was the incumbent, but that too was eventually sold privately and converted to two separate premises, one being Culverwell’s antique shop the other a private dwelling but later joined to make a funeral parlor and now a charity shop.

Copied and recorded by me over the last 20 years or so

RLC – Monday, 19 May 2014…….


Additional Information

1836 In addition to the several benefices which have been made to this parish, there is one of 40 shillings to be paid annually for the better support of the Sunday school. This is given by the Rev David Davies, who had charged his freehold estates in the parish with the payment of it.

Adjoining the churchyard on the south side, is the Vicarage House, the summer residence of Rev Charles Poulsford the Vicar, and one of the canons of the Cathedral church of Wells’ It was enlarged and much improved by the late incumbent, the Bishop of Rochester, who seems to have made it his favourite place of retreat. On the opposite side of the churchyard but not attached to it is the handsome dwelling of the wife of the Bishop, Mrs King, now used as the Burnham-on-Sea Community Centre and swimming baths.

1336 Collinson reports that a vicarage was ordained in this year, but Nash has pencil noted “1309”?

1349 William de Rich instituted to the vicarage of Burnham on 1st April.

1349 When William de Riche became vicar of Burnham, he was also a farmer there.

See also Old Vicarage Guest House