William Kelk – Vicar of Whatton (1763 – 1781)

Whilst researching some background material for a talk on the History of Whatton that I am scheduled to give to the Cranmer Local History Group in August of 2005, I came across a series of letters in the Foljambe collection at the Nottinghamshire County Archives. The letters mainly concerned the Rev. William Kelk who was the Vicar of Whatton from 1763 until his death in 1781 It’s basically trivia and little or none of it will be used in the talk, but it seemed a pity to not to record it somewhere, so here it is.

Whether or not the Reverend William Kelk was aware of his impending demise is not clear, he did however write to the patron of Whatton church (Foljambe) through John Hewett, presumably Foljambe’s agent, on the 3rd of March 1781. In that letter he acknowledged the many favours he had received from Mr. Hewitt, he went on to say that he would presume to solicit one other:
‘for my son to succeed me in the living of Whatton (if it please God he lives to want it) as there is a good and convenient house and all other necessary buildings upon it…’. It appears that Hewitt replied declining to be committed saying:
‘I do not know your son’s age or education or conduct so I cannot prudently enter into any particular engagement…’.

A relative of William Kelk also wrote to Hewitt, regretting that his relative (William Kelk’s) anxiety for his family has caused him to act improperly:
‘I know the vicarage of Whatton lies near his heart, and the allotments in Aslockton having improved that part of the living on third part. His only son is at Newark School and appears to be about twelve years of age….’. In fact, his son (also a William) was closer to being fifteen as he was baptised in Whatton Church on the 6th July, 1766, but clearly not of an age to take on the ‘living’.

Events overtook the discussion as William Kelk died in October, 1781 apparently of some kind of ‘fever’ and was buried in Whatton Church on October 10th, 1781. His wife, Dorothy (nee Hyde), who he married at Whatton Church on the 26th September, 1765 approached the Reverend John Dixon for advice after her husband’s death. John Dixon wrote to Hewitt:
‘He died without will…’ and then went on to list his chief assets:
‘…his chief effects are in land: one farm of £56 p.a., another of £23 p.a., the last this at Rotherham and when the lease expires which is near out it may perhaps be raised to £30 or £40 p.a. He has borrowed money to buy one of the estates to the amount £825 and pays 4 percent…’. John Dixon went on to say that: ‘I am to preach at Whatton again on Sunday as well as at my own church and hope in the meantime she find out some abler advisor’.

There follows a number of letters in effect applying for the now vacant living at Whatton. A letter from John Hewitt to John Dixon gives a possible insight into William Kelk’s character:
I entirely agree with you that everybody who has any thing to leave ought to always to have \a will by them. For the want of this precaution Mrs. Kelk’s difficulties will be endless and the daughter’s provision very precarious. Mr. Kelk I find had hurt his constitution by drinking such quantities of ale every day, that in all possibility he would not have lived long, even if this fever had not attacked him’.
The daughter referred to in the above transcript was probably Dorothy, who was baptised in Whatton Church on the 11th June, 1769.
A second letter on the same day (9th October, 1781) apparently from John Dixon discussed the value of the living:
‘…should guess about £70 to £80 p.a. It may be more for any thing I know, for Mr. Kelk would never give me the least information about it but concealed everything relating to it was a much care, as a farmer who has a good take does his rent’.

The letters list a number of candidates for the vacancy, but John Hewitt finally settled on TF Twigge, the Vicar of Aldwark. Mr. Twigge replied that he would be happy to accept the living provided he could keep his current living at Aldwark. We know from the parish register that the Reverent Twigge appointed a curate to the Whatton parish an Edward Cresswell. The final letter in the series was sent by the Reverent Twigge to presumably John Hewitt detailing a report he had received from the curate about the condition of the Church at Whatton:
‘…Mr. Cresswell tells me that the tower part of the church having long been out of repair, and the east part bulged, the Chancel will be totally demolished in the case the other part should fall, which appears very probable, unless taken care of in proper time…’ . It appears that the poor condition of the fabric of Whatton Church was of great concern to the parishioners, as Twigge continued:
‘..the parishioners have formerly held several conferences about it but that nothing has been done towards repairing it in a proper manner, nor he believes, will, unless you or I interest ourselves it….’.

Seemingly no one took any real interest in the problem Whatton had to wait 26 years before some repairs were made to the Church and it was ‘re-pewed’ in 1807. But it was not until the Hall family reunited the patronage of the church with the Lordship of the Manor that extensive repairs to the fabric of the Church was undertaken. The Chancel was rebuilt in 1848 and the Church totally restored in 1878.

But what of the Kelp family? The letters unfortunately give no clue. There is no mention in the Whatton parish registers and I assume they moved elsewhere. It appears that Dorothy junior (the daughter) never married and died in Leicester in 1818. The son, William followed his father’s profession and became the Reverend William Kelk. He married Elizabeth Catherine Hastings in 1793 and died in London in 1817.

Foljambe, Thornhagn, Hewitt etc. File – Vol v: Miscellaneous Affairs – ref DD/FJ/11/1/3 Date: 1715-1786 – Nottinghamshire County Archives
Whatton Parish Register – GR Redford
Pedigree Resource File (CD-ROM Disk#56) – FamilySearch

Gregg Redford – 2019