Scandal in the Church: Dr. Edward Drax Free, 1764-1843
Scandal in the Church reconstructs the extraordinary story of Dr Edward Drax Free DD, the Rector of Sutton in Bedfordshire, and the sequence of events that led, following a series of court battles, to his deprivation in 1830. Free is the only Church of England clergyman since 1800 to have rivalled the notorious Harold Davidson, the Rector of Stiffkey, defrocked in 1932 following the disclosure of his links with prostitutes. Dr Free was a Fellow of StJohn's College and Vicar of St Giles, Oxford, whose behaviour had been so outrageous that the college had considered expelling him. In the event, they were only too glad to appoint him the living of Sutton when it fell vacant in 1808. He soon offended his new parishioners, failing to perform his duties, selling the lead off the church roof and allowing pigs to desecrate the graveyard. Free quarrelled with all and sundry, both when sober and drunk. He kept pornographic literature and seduced a series of housekeepers, producing five illegitimate children, besides causing at least one of the women to miscarry. Extraordinarily, he would have probably kept his benefice had he not been inept enough also to offend the local gentry family, the Burgoynes, over a burial in their family vault. Montague Burgoyne laid a complaint on behalf of the village that eventually led to Free's deprivation in the Court of Arches.
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Sutton and the Housekeepers
The Parish Priest
Battling with the Burgoynes
The Trials of Dr Free
ABCP accused affidavit alleged Ann Taylor appeal Archdeacon Archdeacon of Bedford article and object attend Bedfordshire Biggleswade Bishop of Lincoln Bonney Burgoyne's burial buried Catharine Siggins Chancellor charges child Churchwarden Churchwarden of Sutton churchyard clergy clergyman clerical Clerk complaints Constable corpse Court of Arches Court of Delegates deposed deprivation Diocese of Lincoln Doctor Free Dr Free Ecclesiastical Courts Edward Drax Free Eliza Pierson Essex fornication or incontinence glebe housekeeper Ibid indecent John Bowyer John Northfield June King's Bench later Letter from Montagu living London Margaret Johnston Maria Crook Maria Mackenzie Montagu Burgoyne months notorious November October Oxford parish of Sutton parishioners person petition poor Potton pregnant present proceedings Proctor prosecution Record Office Rector Rector of Sutton refused Register Saints servants Sir John Nicholl Smith Somers Town St John's College Sunday Sutton church Thomas vestry whilst William Cooper William Coxall witnesses WSRO