Vicars of St Peter’s Church 1603-1980

St Peter's Church by Robert Ladbrook. Norfolk Churches - Hundred of Earsham by T Hugh Bryant 1899

When Andrew Wiley was curate at Needham in 1603 the tithes, worth £14 per annum, were still being paid for the maintenance of the Minster who was required to serve the chapel once a fortnight. However, after 1888 no Vicar was appointed due to the small size of the endowment, and Needham Parish was being served by the Rector of neighbouring Redenhall-with-Harleston. In 1899 the Ven. Archdeacon Perowne was enjoying the living (in the gift of the Adair family) in a vicarage valued at £15 and an annual income of £40. From 1929 Needham was combined with Rushall in a United Benefice and today St Peter’s is part of the group of seven Parish churches which make up the Benefice of Redenhall with Scole ably led by the Rev Nigel Tuffnell.

There are early references to a Vicarage located near the church, but by the mid 19th century this must have been demolished as Robert Alexander Shafto Adair bought the handsome detached ‘Red House’ (now 80, High Road) around 1876 to serve as the Rector’s official home. This property had previously been a private residence owned by Edward Burgess, a retired Military Officer.

Forty year old Henry Earle Bulwer appears to have been the first resident Curate according to the 1881 census with his wife Helen, aged 31, with their 8 year old daughter, Constance, and a 19 year old general servant named Elizabeth Holsworth. Rev Bulwer’s obituary in the Diss Express of 1902 revealed that his life-long passion for campanology had begun at Needham after he had joined the company of ringers Redenhall and subsequently began composing peals for them.

Rev Bernard Barton departed in 1913 to make way for the return of the Rev William Magub Martin who, we assume, had been ill. Albert Bush in his memoirs describes Rev. Martin as being ‘a very sporting parson and used to go to Harleston and play tennis and other games. I remember one year we had some very severe frosts and all the ponds were frozen over… After the morning service the Rev Martin and his wife, who weighed 14 stone, went skating and the ice broke and they had to be rescued.’

Norfolk Chronicle 13th May 1882 Rev Bichard appointed
Diss Express 5th September 1913 Rev Martin appointed

After arriving in 1928 and taking a very active role in village life, 62 year old Rev. Harold Bally appears in the 1939 Survey as current resident of the Vicarage and recently appointed First Aid Commandant of Needham with his wife Florence (65), their married daughter Hazel Dark aged 28, and a ‘domestic help’ named Doris L Davies. Older members of our community remember Rev Cuthbert Mather, one of the longest-serving parsons, who led his congregation between 1957 and his retirement in 1980. The new access road which was created just north of the A143 was named Mather Lane in his memory.

We don’t yet have a full list of the past Vicars of Needham, but here are some who have served over the last four centuries:

Andrew WILEY – 1603

John TRACEY – 1744

John STOCKDALE – 1764

John EVERARD – 1778

Edward MOON – 1781

Anthony Brettingham FRESTON – 1792

Thomas FRESTON – 1820

James L SUMPTER – 1834

John KNEVETT – 1840

Frederick Augustus Howe FITGERALD – 1872

Henry Earle BULWER – 1876

John Galienne BICHARD – 1882

Archdeacon PEROWNE – 1899

Rev Bernard BARTON – 1912

William Magub MARTIN – 1913

Kenneth MACKINNON – 1915

Harold BALLY – 1930s

James E GARROOD 1948-1954

Francis St Clair GOLDIE 1955-57

Cuthbert MATHER 1957-1980