John Watkins 1792

In the year 1597, William East, clerk, was Rector of Bideford, and from the aforegoing copy of the Regulations, &c. respecting the payment of Tythes, it is probable that he came to the living in that or the preceding year.

He was buried in the Church of Bideford, December 16, 1625, and was succeeded by Philip Izaak, M.A. who was burried [sic] in Bideford Church May 25th 1643.

Arthur Giffard, B.D. succeeded Mr. Izaak, upon the presentation of Sir Bevil, or Sir John Granville.

He was descended from a very ancient and respectable family, which had been long settled at Brightley, “a very pleasant fertile seat” says Mr. Prince, “well furnished with all conveniences, both for profit and delight, near the river Taw, in the Parish of Chittlehampton, commonly called Chittington, about eight miles to the south of Barnstaple”.

Being a younger son he was designed for the church, and after receiving a grammatical education, I believe at Barnstaple, he was sent to Oxford, and entered at Exeter College, of which Society he was at length elected Fellow, and continued a resident Member near twenty years.

He came from the University to this living, the patron of which was his relation by his mother’s side. About the year 1648, says Mr. Prince, and after him Dr. Walker, (but I imagine some time before), Mr. Giffard was dispossessed of his living by the committee for plundering, or as it was termed, for sequestrating all the loyal and orthodox Clergy, chiefly at the instigation of his curate or lecturer, William Bartlet.

Concerning the manner of his ejection, Mr. Prince only says, that “It was by force and violence, against ‘Law and Conscience’”. Dr. Walker, however, is more particular, and informs us that “The old Gentleman did not quietly give up his living; and therefore a party of horse were ordered to force him out of it by violence; which they did, and used him barbarously, throwing dirt upon him, and some spitting at him, as he passed along the streets”.

Dr. Calamy, in the “Continuation of his account of the Ministers ejected for nonconformity, in 1660” vol.2 p.267, labours hard to disprove the charges alledged by Dr. Walker against the sequestrators, and particularly their assistant Bartlet, in the case of Mr. Giffard. Concerning the manner of the latter’s ejection, he says, “I have this account from some credible persons, who were then upon the spot. It seems after his sequestration he refused to resign: And having got a body of men into the Parsonage-house, which stands alone by itself, he undertook to defend it, and maintain possession. Upon this, a party of horse was ordered from the garrison of Plymouth to dispossess him: The commanding officer came with his troop to Biddiford [sic] in the evening, and resolving to execute his commission that night, rode up to the house, and found the doors shut against him. He demanded entrance, and said he would use no violence if Mr. Giffard, and those within, would surrender themselves, otherwise he should be obliged to fire upon the House. Mr. Giffard finding the House beset, desired the liberty of conversing with the Captain, for which he had an opportunity given him at one of the windows of the house. They soon came to an agreement. Mr. Giffard and those within, surrendered themselves prisoners: And my informants declare, that Mr. Giffard was conducted to the Captain’s lodging without any abuse, as they know of, offer by the way. The Captain at length very civilly offered him the liberty of returning back to his own house, provided he would give him security for his forth coming the next morning, which Mr. Giffard did; and the next day was carried by the same party of horse to Plymouth. They all agree in declaring their not knowing of any manner of affront offered Mr. Giffard thro’ the whole of this proceeding: Tho’ if any indiscreet persons had in this case been guilty of any indecencies, Mr. Bartlet could not justly be charged as an agent, or even an encourager, he being at that time at London, where, indeed, he had been for half a year before”.

Such is Dr. Calamy’s circumstantial account, and evident partial softening of this iniquitous transaction. If any unbiased reader can, after a perusal of it, think that Mr. Giffard was very civilly treated, or that no manner of affront was offered him, such reader I will be bold to say, must have the feeling of an Inquisitor, and the christian charity of a Republican Fanatic.

Dr. Calamy’s informants, he says, were credible persons, but he should certainly have mentioned their names, that his readers might have been enabled to judge what degree of credit was due to them.

Upon this worthy confessor’s ejection, the committee of robbers, or sequestrators, put Mr. Bartlet into the possession of the rectory.

He was an Independent of the most violent stamp, and pursued Mr. Giffard with the spirit of persecution, for when the “Reverend and pious Divine,” says Mr. Prince, “would have served a small Parish, called Westleigh, lying over against the Town of Bytheford, on the east side of the river Touridge, not for reward, but for what they would voluntarily contribute” (and Dr. Walker adds, that he requested liberty to keep a school somewhere near the Town) “such was the uncharitable zeal of that lordly Independent preacher William Bartlet (who by prevailing Rebellion, was gotten his parsonage aforesaid) he might not be permitted so much as that”.

Dr. Calamy relying upon the credit of his anonymous Informers, says “They declare they know not that Mr. Bartlet had the least concern in hindering Mr. Giffard’s requests“. And he adds, that “this must be charged upon the powers then in being, who it might well be supposed, would be against Mr. Giffard’s settlement in the neighbourhood of Biddiford, for the very same reasons for which they were against his continuance in the Town of Biddiford itself”.

This surely is a strange way of arguing, that because his Informers knew not of Bartlet’s having any concern in this affair, that therefore he had none. More credit is surely due to Mr. Prince, who had been curate to Mr. Giffard after the restoration, than to anonymous Informers, who were most probably Dissenters, and the relations of Mr. Bartlet.

After this cruel treatment, Mr. Giffard retired to the house of his brother-in-law, Philip Harris, Esq. Recorder of Great Torrington, where he lived privately and peaceably, expecting better times, which at length God was pleased to send again, upon the restoration of King Charles the Second, when Mr. Giffard returned to his charge at Bideford, where he continued in peace and love with all good men, unto the day of his death, which was about eight years after; where though he had opportunity, and the importunity too of some to that purpose, of calling the said Bartlet to a reckoning for the dilapidations and other matters, yet he frankly and Christianly forgave him. Among other dilapidations and injuries which the living sustained, during the usurpation, Dr. Walker mentions the following: “That there was upon the Glebe, at the time of the sequestration, 500£ worth of culm, which they seized, and deprived Mr. Giffard of”. And that at the latter’s return to his living, “he found the house in a miserable condition, having been let out to weavers, and the very stones of the walls carried away to repair Mr. Bartlet’s own house”.

In reply to these charges, Dr. Calamy makes these observations:
“As for Mr. Bartlet’s and others’ depriving Mr. Giffard of 500£ worth of culm, lying on the Glebe at the time of his sequestration, ‘tis a very silly, idle story. ‘Tis hard in this case to know certainly what the Dr. means. Either Mr. Bartlet might seize it for his own proper use; or they that were in power might seize it; or, it might in such a time of confusion, be seiz’d by the mob for their own use. The Dr. does not distinguish, but says indefinitely that they seized. This looks as if no body knows who did it. And really to suppose so great a quantity of culm should lie at once upon the Glebe, when the work that was carried on there was so small, is so monstrous and incredible, that it is perfectly ridiculous and confutes itself. It may be added, that it is commonly thought, that Mr. Giffard had but a moiety in the work then carrying on himself; and so no great part of the heap lying about the mouth of the pitt [sic] could be his property, whatever became of it: But my informants aforesaid assure me, that no man can charge Mr. Bartlet with having wrongfully embezzled [sic] any part of it”.

It is so far true that there could never be such a quantity of culm upon the Glebe, as to be worth 500£; yet it is certain that the pit produced much more culm during the rebellion, than it ever did afterwards, and there can be no doubt but that Mr. Bartlet enjoyed the benefit of its produce. Whatever quantity there was on the spot at the time of the sequestration, it was the undoubted property of the sequestered Minister, or at least, his proportion of it.

But Dr. Calamy proceeds: “The last part of the charge against Mr. Bartlet, relates to the dilapidations, taking away the stones of his walls to repair his own house. But this also will appear ridiculous, if it be considered, as my informers assure me, there was a public quarry open at the same time on the Glebe, which then supply’d the Town with stones for building, and it does so to this day. So that Mr. Bartlet could have no temptation to demolish the Parsonage House. They also assure me, that Mr. Bartlet’s house was at this time re-built with the stones of this public quarry, which was his own property. And as to his letting the house to weavers, it is true, that having no occasion or inclination to make use of the Parsonage House, he did let it out to one that had the charge of his affairs, who was of that trade; But he made use of the Out-houses only for the carrying on his business which there is no doubt might be done without any profanation of the house”.

This part of the defense is as weak as any of the preceding, for Dr. Calamy has nothing to oppose of any higher authority than the testimony of his anonymous informers, and they advance nothing but their ignorance of the facts alledged [sic], and their disbelief that Mr. Bartlet was ever guilty of them.

With respect to what he observes of Mr. Bartlet’s house being built with the stones dug out of the quarry for that purpose, nothing can be said to it, because it is not founded upon sufficient evidence.

The late Dr. Johnson has made a very judicious remark, which is extremely pertinent to this case, “walls,” says he, “supply stones more easily than quarries, and palaces and temples will be demolished to make stables of granate [sic], and cottages of porphyry”.

Mr. Prince concludes his account of Mr. Giffard thus:
“This reverend person was an able Scholar, and constant and painful Preacher, and orthodox Divine, and a pious good Man. This I can rather testify, having served under him for several years before his death as a Son of the Gospel. He died at Bytheford aforesaid, March 18, 1668, and was buried in the chancel of the Parish Church thereunto belonging without any sepulchral monument: At which time it fell to my post, among many other much more able, to preach his funeral Sermon; which I did, knowing what he had suffered both before and after King Charles the Second’s restoration, and how very freely he had forgiven his enemies, in the almost parallel instance of St. Stephen Acts 7, 59, 60 ‘And they stoned Stephen &c.’ Of whom I may further add, ‘The Memory of the just shall be blessed.’”

Dr. Walker adds to his character the following testimony, of one who was well acquainted with him, “He was a person of unspotted life, sober, just, pious, and meek to admiration”.

From the account which Mr. Prince has given of this worthy man, and the remarkable text which he selected for his funeral Sermon, it is evident that the injuries he had sustained from the nonconformists, both before and after the restoration, were much greater than Dr. Calamy has endeavoured to represent them. Both these authors are agreed in bearing testimony to this Christian Divine’s meek and forgiving spirit, but whether what the latter has advanced of Mr. Giffard’s intimacy with Mr. Bartlet after his return, and his saying that “he was a better man than himself”, carries any appearance of probability with it, I leave the candid reader to judge, after comparing the accounts of Mr. Prince and the Dr. The latter says, without quoting any authority, “However, after all, it seems to argue somewhat of a particular respect that Mr. Giffard had for this Mr. Bartlet, that when they met and parted, at Mr. Bartlets’s surrendering the keys to him on his return, and Mr. Bartlet told him of the greatness and weight of his charge, he made this answer, That he would do his best. And when a zealous woman of the town told Mr. Giffard upon his re-admission, that She had never been at Church during all the time of his absence; he replied to her, The verier wretch thou! And when at last Mr. Giffard came to lie upon his dying bed, he was very desirous to see and speak with Mr. Bartlet, but was discouraged and diverted by those that were about him, who kept his desire so secret, that Mr. Bartlet knew nothing of it till after his death”.

It is very remarkable that though the good Dr. owns his obligations to Mr. Prince, and gives him an excellent character for truth and candour yet he never mentions him once in this account of Mr. Giffard’s case; as conscious, not doubt, that Mr. Prince’s credit would weigh infinitely greater in the mind of the reader, than that of his anonymous informers.

Mr.Giffard had an elder brother, Col. John Giffard, who adhering zealously to the cause of his sovereign in the wars, suffered decimation and sequestration of his estates, and the frequent imprisonment of his person. The last lineal descendant of this ancient and respectable family, the widow of the late Rev. Thomas Colley, of Chittlehampton, died and was buried at Bideford in 1790.