Failure at Piddlehinton

The third in a series of occasional articles to mark the centenary of Thomas Thelluson Carter, Rector of Clewer

In 1838 Carter was presented by his father to the Rectory of Piddlehinton, a living in the gift of Eton College about six miles from Dorchester.

When neighbouring clergy heard that he neither shot nor fished they said “What will he find to do?”

It has to be said that his ministry at Piddlehinton was a failure. I have visited the village several times and although the Church has an east window in memory of Carter his name still evokes disapproval. Indeed, the Churchwarden said to me that the memorial window must have been installed by his relatives, as nobody local would have paid for it.

He was Rector from 1838 to 1844 and during this brief period he was absent on many occasions. Claiming that the climate disagreed with him, he spent two winters at Weymouth. In 1842 he obtained leave of absence and returned to Burnham as his father’s curate.

He gave offence at Piddlehinton in many ways: he removed the Church gallery, for instance, and he disbanded the choir to start a new one. Bur his greatest offence was to tamper with an old charity. It was customary for the Rector to give, at Christmas, a mince pie, a quart of ale and a loaf to every parisioner. He considered this a waste of money and proposed instead to spend money on the needy only. There was great opposition and villagers smashed the chancel windows in the church, knowing that Carter would have to pay for their repair. In the words of a recent local historian, his critics “generally made life so unpleasant for him that he had to leave.”

In 1844 he became Rector of Clewer, a post he held until his resignation in 1880.

There is a mystery in the Piddlehinton account of his departure. It is stated that he “exchanged parishes with the Rev. George Coke of Clewer.”

Coke stayed there until 1863 – but where did he come from? The Clewer records know nothing of George Coke.

P.S. The Churchwarden at Piddlehinton told me – with some glee – that the custom Carter had sought to abolish is still observed!

Denis Shaw