The Rev John Curtois

On Sunday 11th July 1920

A celebration took place to mark the 244th anniversary of this remarkable family’s connection with the parish of Branston, and nearly 300 years with the City of Lincoln. The records as explained in 1899 by the Reverend Algernon Curtois, the remaining survivor of the family who entered the priesthood, shows that on 11th July 1676, the Reverend John Curtois, born in 1650, was ordained by the Rt Rev. Thomas Barloe, Bishop of Lincoln, through a license from the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the chapel of Queen’s College Oxford, on the same day, instituted to the vicarage of Saxby, Lincolnshire. He resigned this position on 16th December 1680, being then instituted to the Rector of Branston, the position he held until his death in 1719.


The patronage of the parish church at this time passed from Sir Thomas Meres Knight, to that of John’s father, Rowland, where it remained until 1891. Sir Thomas Meres, knighted on 11 June 1660, was MP for Lincoln from 1659—1710, and a commissioner of the Admiralty from 1679—1684, acquired the patronage from John Wray Knight, and Baronet and Grisell, his wife, after paying a gift of six pounds sterling. Sir Thomas Meres's father, Anthony, a prosperous merchant of Lincoln, married John Wray’s daughter, Hannah, her second marriage. Anthony’s son, Dr. Robert Meres was chancellor of Lincoln cathedral from 1631. 1684. There were an agreement and certificate compiled by Grisilla and John Wray, made at the time between John Wray’s son-in-law, Anthony Meares and himself with the transfer of patronage between the two parties and as described below.


The final agreement and certificate made in the court of the Lord King at Westminster on the morrow of the Purification of the Blesses Mary in the 3rd year of the reign of Charles by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. Defender of the faith, before Thomas Richardson, Richard Hutton, Francis Harvey, George Croles and Henry Galveston, justices and other lieges of the Lord King than those present between Anthony Mears Esq, and John Wray Knight and baronet and Grisilla, his wife. I concessing the adowson of the church Branston, whence the present agreement was entered between them in the same court. To witness that the aforesaid John and Grisilla certify that the aforesaid adowson is the right of the same Anthony, as that which the same Anthony hath by gift of the aforesaid John and Grisilla, and they give up and relinquish any claim of it on the part of the same Anthony and his heirs for ever. And, furthermore, the same John and Grisilla grant for themselves of the heirs of that John, that they guarantee the aforesaid adowson to the aforesaid Anthony and his heirs, to hold in perpetuity against the aforesaid John and Grisilla and the heirs of the said John. For this certificate, guarantee, fine and agreement, the same Anthony gave to the aforesaid John and Grisilla six pounds sterling.


Churches and parishes were provided with clergymen through a system of patronage by which the owner of the vacant benefice presented a clergyman to the living. The choice of incumbent then was in the hands not of the parishioners, but of the patrons. Most were private, and most were lay persons.


His father Rowland, youngest son of John Curtois, baptised 5th October 1626 at Lissington, near Market Rasen, must have just begun his association with Lincoln Corporation; for he was Chamberlain of the city in 1652, Sheriff in 1667 and Mayor in 1670. He died shortly after finishing his term of office, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Peters-at-Arches. His son, John, took up his freedom of the city “by birth” in 1672, having gone to Lincoln College Oxford a few years before, from which he transferred to Magdalene College, first as Demy and then as a Fellow. Ordained in Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford by the Bishop of Lincoln 11 July 1676. He became Prebendary of Welton Beck Hall in Lincoln Minster in 1700, and was also Warden of Mere.


Of his two sons, the younger, John, followed in his father's footsteps and became Rector of Branston from 1719 to 1767, he having also been at Lincoln College Oxford and then Fellow of Brasenose. It was Mary, born on 29th March 1729, youngest daughter of John Curtois, married, at Branston on 23rd December 1749, Dr Francis Willis, son of John Willis, Priest-Vicar of Lincoln Cathedral. Francis acclaimed distinction treating King Gorge III whilst suffering from the disease, porphyria. The chapter following, entitled Dr Francis Willis, goes into detail of his medical profession and his family long association with the county. John was followed by his son Peregrine Harrison, as Rector of Branston from 1768 until 1814. It was Peregrine which built the fine eighteenth-century rectory close by the parish church and known today as Hainton House. The building when completed was valued at £18 17s 10d, and some years later in 1836 a revised valuation was decided upon of £677. Surprisingly, a chimney rises from the point of the pediment—a twentieth-century classic addition. Peregrine Curtois sold property he owned on the High Bridge in Lincoln’s High Street to the Corporation, and still own much of the property today. Differing from his predecessors, he passed through Cambridge at Trinity College. An interesting fact that he and his father among them held the Rectory at Branston for 95 years.