People: Church Ministers

Updated on 23 July, 2012

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The list of Great Snoring Rectors is found HERE.

However, below you will find more personal information about a few of these men, who achieved fame in various ways. These and many more appear in the list of Cambridge University Alumni

Rectors of Gt Snoring (in date order)

Richard Gawton (15??-1616)

This zealous puritan was minister of Gt.Snoring in Norfolk, (1572-1575) and afterwards in the city of Norwich. Because of his beliefs he was arraigned for nonconformity before his Dean in 1576.

John Strype (1643 – 1737) the English clergyman, historian and biographer stigmatizes Gawton with having formerly been a man of trade, and then becoming a curate in the church. This may be true, and yet he might be a learned, faithful, and pious minister of Christ, and not enter the church merely for a piece of bread, as was too much the custom of those times.

Upon his entrance into the sacred office, he met with barbarous usage from the hands of Archbishop Parker. Having obtained a presentation to the benefice of Snoring, the archbishop peremptorily required him to sign a bond of a hundred marks, to pay Dr. Willoughby, the former incumbent, fourteen pounds a year; though Willoughby, through mere carelessness, had lost the living.

If he refused to pay it, he must have gone to prison. Afterwards, the poor man finding so much difficulty in paying this annuity, was glad to quit the place, and resign the living into the hands of his patron. (1) Upon the resignation of his benefice, he became a preacher in the city of Norwich, but, in the year 1576, was cited before Dr. Freke, his diocesan, for nonconformity. (2)

Appearing before the bishop, he was charged with refusing to wear the surplice, and with declining from the exact order of the Book of Common Prayer. He confessed the former, and acknowledged that he did not keep exactly to the rubric, but said, that, in other things, he was conformable.

Several other charges were alleged against him, and he was suspended from office. The account of his trial continues: "It does not appear how long Mr. Gawton continued in a state of suspension; only in the year 1581, he was preacher at Bury St. Edmunds; but I am apt to think, says our learned historian, seeing his opinions and practice were still the same, this was owing to the want of proper discipline, and to the countenance he there met with, notwithstanding his suspension. Admitting this account to be correct, his suspension must have continued at least five years. In the year 1602, a minister of the same name, and most probably the same person, became vicar of Redburn in Hertfordshire, where he continued till June, 1616, when he died.*

(1) Parte of a Register, p. 394. — Strype's Parker, p. 373.

(2) Bishop Freke was so outrageously violent in the persecution of the puritans, that, in the year 1584, the ministers of Suffolk and Norfolk unitedly presented their complaints against him to the privy council.— MS. Chronology, vol. ii. p. 439.

Robert West ( -1610)

Well beloved Rector of Great Snoring from 1577, died in 1610. In the sidebar see the memorial to Robert and his wife Margaret in St Mary's church. The will of Robert West or Weste, Doctor of Divinity of Great Snoring, Norfolk is dated 06 August 1610.

Robert Pearson ( - 1639)

Robert Pearson, Rector of Gt Snoring 1610-1613, later Archdeacon of Suffolk.

Robert Pearson, Person, or Pierson, a native of Whinfell, near Kendal, entered at Queens' College, Cambridge, as a sizar in 1587, and was elected fellow in 1592. In 1607 he was presented to the rectory of North Creake in Norfolk, and in 1610 to the neighbouring rectory of Great Snoring. Bishop John Jegon appointed him archdeacon of Suffolk on 6 Oct. 1613. That office he retained till his death in 1639, zealously aiding Bishops Wren and Montague in their enforcement of ecclesiastical order in the diocese.

Archdeacon Pearson married Joanna, daughter of Richard Vaughan, successively bishop of Bangor, Chester, and London, by whom he had a large family.

John Pearson (1613-1686)

John Pearson TheologianPEARSON, JOHN, bishop of Chester, was born at Great Snoring in Norfolk on 28 Feb 1612/13, baptised on 12 March.

John, the eldest child of Robert Pearson, seems to have received his early training under his father's eye. In after life he ‘took occasion very often and publicly to bless God that he was born and bred in a family in which God was worshipped daily’ (Wilson, Parochialia).

From 1623 till 1631 he was at Eton. One of his school contemporaries alleges that he spent all his money in books, and scarcely allowed himself natural rest, so intent was he in the acquisition of learning.

He was admitted at Queens' College, Cambridge, on 10 June 1631; but, within a year, in April 1632, he was elected scholar of King's. Here he was made fellow in 1634, graduated B.A. in 1635, and M.A. in 1639.

In 1640, he took orders, and was immediately after appointed chaplain to Lord John Finch, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, by whom he was presented to the living of Torrington, in Suffolk.

Upon the breaking out of the civil wars, Pearson became chaplain to Lord Goring, whom he attended in the army; and afterwards to Sir Robert Cook, in London. In 1650, he became the minister of St. Clement's Church, Eastcheap, London. From St. Clement's he passed in 1661 to the divinity chair in Cambridge, and thence in 1662 to the presidency of Trinity College, in the same university. The latter situation he held until he became bishop of Chester, in 1672, where he remained until his death.

Pearson's earliest extant literary production are some Latin verses, composed in 1632, on the king's recovery from smallpox (‘Anthologia Cantabrigiensis in Exanthemata Regia’). A few years later he wrote other verses to commemorate the death of Edward King (1612–1637) , the Lycidas of Milton's elegy, who was drowned on the passage to Ireland on 10 Aug. 1637. Pearson's verses, while displaying accurate scholarship, are quite destitute of poetic fire.

With Peter Gunning he disputed against two Roman Catholics, John Spenser and John Lenthall, on the subject of schism, a one-sided account of which was printed in Paris by one of the Roman Catholic disputants, under the title Scisme Unmask't (1658).

Pearson also argued against the Puritan party, and was much interested in Brian Walton's Polyglot Bible. In 1659 he published in London his celebrated Exposition of the Creed, dedicated to his parishioners of St Clement's, Eastcheap, to whom the substance of the work had been preached several years before.

John Pearson died at Chester on 16 July 1686, and is buried in Chester Cathedral.


Thomas Chapman

parish register note about ChapmanThomas Chapman was Rector of Gt. Snoring in 1662. It seems there was some kind of infectious disease that afflicted the village at that time. There is a poignant note about Chapman and his family in the back of the book of parish registers. The text reads:

Memo: These last two leaves have the burials inserted ONLY for the purpose of attesting the burials in wool with which act they begin. See the proper entries in their proper places. The worthy Rector Chapman, his wife and daughter, as appears from the three last entries died nearly together. The daughter it seems has NOT been buried in wool and the penalty had been zealously exacted by Sir or Squire Guyton (Calthorpe?), but it was distributed to the people. December 1809.

Burials in Wool: The Burial in Woollen Acts 1666-80 were Acts of the Parliament of England which required the dead, except plague victims, to be buried in pure English woollen shrouds to the exclusion of any foreign textiles. It was a requirement that an affidavit be sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace (usually by a relative of the deceased or some other credible person) confirming burial in wool, with the punishment of a £5 fee for noncompliance. The preamble to the Act stated that it was "intended for lessening the importation of linnen (sic) from beyond the seas, and for the encouragement of the woollen and paper manufactures of this Kingdom".

James Fawcett (1752–1831)

James Fawcett, Rector of Gt Snoring 1801-1831 Prof. Divinity,  Norrisian professor at Cambridge University (Dictionary of National Biography)

spot His memorial can be seen on this page.

James Fawcett, was the son of Richard Fawcett, incumbent of St. John's Church, Leeds, Yorkshire, was born in that town in 1752. He had a weakly constitution from birth. Having passed through Leeds Grammar School with credit, he was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, 26 March 1770, under John Chevallier, and went into residence in October following.

In January 1774 he graduated B.A. as fifth senior optime, winning the first members' prize when a senior bachelor in 1776. (1)

In 1777 he took his M.A. degree, and during the same year was elected fellow of his college on the foundation of Sir Marmaduke Constable. He was appointed Lady Margaret's preacher in 1782, and published his sermons in 1794. Before the last-named year the parishioners had elected him to the vicarage of St. Sepulchre's or the Round Church, Cambridge.

In 1785 he proceeded B.D., and in 1795 he was chosen Norrisian professor of divinity. Although esteemed models of composition and orthodoxy, his sermons failed to draw together large congregations. ‘A certain thickness in his speech, an awkwardness of manner in a crowd, a want of energy, and an easiness of temper, little calculated to curb the sallies of a large assembly of young men constrained to sit out a lecture of an hour in length,’ contributed also to render his lectures less efficient than might have been expected from their undoubted excellence. (2)

Fawcett chiefly resided in college until he was presented by the society in 1801 to the united rectories of Thursford and Great Snoring in Norfolk. He afterwards divided his time between his parsonage and the university, being permitted to retain rooms in college on account of his lectures.

In 1815 he vacated the Norrisian professorship; in 1822 he also resigned his vicarage in Cambridge, and resided thenceforward solely at his rectory in Norfolk. There he died 10 April 1831.


(1) Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). " Fawcett, James". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.

(2) Hughes, Memoir, pp. viii–ix

Christopher Stannard (1774-1851)

Christopher Stannard, the son of Joseph and Ann, baptised Sept. 6, 1774 at Norwich, Norfolk was admitted to St John's Cambridge July 7th 1795 and graduated BA in 1799, before proceeding MA and BD, and becoming a Fellow (1805-33). He was ordained deacon (Ely) Dec. 22, 1799; priest (Norwich) Sept. 20, 1807; C. of Swavesey, Cambs., 1799. R. of St Peter's, Hungate, Norwich, 1811-39. Rector of Great Snoring with Thursford, Norfolk, 1831-51. He married, July 10, 1835, at St George's, Tombland, Norwich, Miss Maria Bedford, of Norwich. Died May 17, 1851.

Stannard donated numerous books to the St. John's College Library.

spot His memorial can be seen on this page.

Stannard's bequest

Stannard left around 400 volumes to the St John's College Library. These are chiefly 18th-century works on Anglican theology, but include some older items, such as contemporary works by Calvin, and a 16th-century herbal. The books from Stannard's bequest bear a book label detailing his donation, pictured below with an unidentified wax seal. This, together with almost 400 other books, was bequeathed to this Library by the will of the Reverend Christopher Stannard, BD, former Fellow of the College. In the year of our Lord 1851.

Bishop Herbert Marsh (1757-1839)

Herbert MarshHerbert Marsh, bishop and bête noire of Napoleon Bonaparte, was born in 1757, the son of Richard Marsh, Vicar of Faversham. He was a pupil at Faversham Grammar School, where, in 1767, he carved his name and the date on panelling. His handiwork can still be seen in the Old Grammar School, now a masonic hall.

Marsh studied and wrote at Leipzig. The influence of his political texts in support of Britain during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars led Bonaparte to proscribe him, and to avoid arrest at Leipzig, Marsh lay hidden for several months in a merchant’s house.

After being elected, in 1807, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, he married his Leipzig protector’s daughter. Marsh was made Bishop of Llandaff in 1816. He served as Bishop of Peterborough from 1819 until his death in 1839, and was seen as the leading bishop of his day. His son Geroge Henry Marsh was Rector of Gt. Snoring from 1851.

George Henry Marsh (1814-1896)

George Henry Marsh, Rector of Gt Snoring 1851-1896. The living is a rectory, with that of Thursford annexed, joint gross yearly value £840, with residence at each place, in the gift of the Masters and fellows of St. John's College, Cambridge, and held since 1851 by the Rev. George Henry Marsh B.D., formerly fellow of that college and son of the late Right Rev. Herbert Marsh, Bishop of Peterborough. (see above)


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