Vicars of St Marys Church

Edwinstowe (Edenstou), St. Mary’s and its Early Vicars

At the rear of the church, there is a board which lists the previous vicars (incumbents) who have served the church over the centuries. It is a reminder of their dedication and devotion to God, the church, the members of St. Mary’s and the community as a whole.

A church in Edenstou was reputed to have been built over the site of the temporary burial of St. Edwin. AD 633. Probably of Sherwood Oak on a stone foundation. We have no record of who the priest was. The Domesday Book, in 1086, only records that Edenstou had a church and a priest.

Later, in 1146, Edenstou and its chapelries, was given by William 11 to the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln.

In the reign of Henry 11, 1168-69 Edenstou contributed three marks to the subsidy levied for the marriage of the king’s daughter. The priest at that time would have collected the money. Did it come from the villagers and/or the Lords?

In the late C12th, the first recorded Rector of Edenstou was William Parson. This was when the stone church was built in 1175. What a site he must have seen when the stones were being laid. What an enduring legacy he has left us.

The vicarage was ordained on the 15th January 1260/1. The vicar at that time was Richard de Melton. His family were from Yorkshire and his father was a Norman Knight. A relative, William de Melton, was Archbishop of York 1315-1340. In 1306, 28th July, he was replaced by William Thistleton when Richard moved to a new church. Later in 1318, he became rector of The Holy Cross at Gilling near Hull.

John de Ryston was then appointed vicar on the 13th October 1317. It is believed he came from Ristuna (Ryston) Norfolk, a deserted medieval village abandoned by the 18th century. We know very little about him except that in 1334, he broke the strict forest laws and was imprisoned for deer poaching; considered a major crime. There was a Forest Court in Edwinstowe but he was held at Nottingham Prison. Was he brave or foolhardy? It is hard to imagine he stole for his own needs.

There are many, many more names on the board that we could learn more about, each with their own intriguing stories to discover, their lives and times. The one thing that they all have in common was their position in the church, and what we would hope, their love of God, the care of God’s people and the church building itself. In researching these individuals, I could not help but wonder what were their visions and dreams, in a moment in time, for Edwinstowe.


Robert de Burton Vicar of Edwinstowe

12th August 1346 24th August 1349

Robert de Burton’s name, you could say, is just another name among many other vicars who came to Edwinstowe, with his name listed on the board at the back of the church. Very little is known about him but his family was very well known. Accounts of his family were recorded, from many different sources, in fact you could almost write a bestselling drama about their deeds, actions and wrongdoings.

Burton (Bertune) was an ancient Norman family who came to England with William the Conqueror 1028 –1087) the First Norman king. The Conquerous’ Survey shows they owned a manor, a church and a priest, one border, one servant, one maid, 2 carts, 5 acres of land, 16 acres of meadow and an acre of woodland valued at one mark of silver.

Descendants of Robert de Burton gave the village of Great Hodenhall, in Warwickshire, to the nuns of Eaton. (Nuneaton)

During the time of EDWARD III 1327 – 1377, a relative of Robert, also called Robert de Burton, became Archdeacon of Winchester from 1345-1361. His responsibilities included six deaneries; Bournemouth, Christchurch, Eastleigh, Lyndhurst, Romsey and Southampton.

Another relative, again called Robert de Burton, was appointed in 1379, as ‘Master of the hospital of Playden’. However, in 1380 he cut down timber to the value of £20 at Brookland, he allowed hospital lands to go to waste so crops were lost, he took title deeds, bills valued at 40s and other documents proving another person’s title to land, he gave nothing to the poor so they had to beg daily on the streets and even worse he took cooking vessels instead of rent in which they prepared their dinners.

On another occasion Robert and three others, on the Friday after the Feast of the Annunciation, were accused of robbery and breach of the peace. They broke down the door to a manor house of William de Mere’s, tied him up, forced open a chest with an axe and stole £10. Robert took 6 marks as his share, 20 gold rings, value 60s and 4 girdles of silk with silver worth 100s. The group took flight and after being chased from village to village were caught. They appeared in the county court but denied the felony. William was the prosecutor and could have passed sentence himself, but instead a jury was called. We have no information about the outcome of the case.

Four weeks before ‘our’ Robert came to Edwinstowe, on the 12th August 1346, Robert’s father, also called Robert de Burton (a Norman Knight) sailed from Portsmouth on the 12th July with King Edward 111 and 1,200 men including 7,000 archers. The King’s mission was to invade Normandy. The Battles of Crécy, on the 26th August, followed with the French being defeated by the English longbow men. The first great English land victory of the Hundred Years War.

Life for ‘our’ Robert would have been so different. Settling into a new home and church, taking his first services, meeting the people of Edwinstowe and possibly thinking about his father in France with the King. Robert died in August 1349, just 3 years after coming here. We do not know why. However, during 1348-49 half the population of Nottinghamshire died of the plague (Black Death)! The villagers would have attended his funeral and he was probably buried in our graveyard.

St. Mary’s will be welcoming a new vicar at some point. Who will he/she be?  Where will she/he come from? For us, our role will be to help them settle into a new church, home and life in Edwinstowe. To us the new Vicar will be more than a name on a board at the back of church; they will share our vision for the future.

Painting from a C15 illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart’s Chronicles     Reference: French Wars volumeXparts1-2-2 Leicestershire Men at the French Wars