On August 24th 1854, William Hayward Cox became Rector of Eaton Bishop, his name being added to a list which began with John de Aprinus who resigned in 1283, earlier records having been lost or destroyed.

Three years later he was busy investigating the parish charities, and in the account book of the charities which begins in 1767, he made detailed notes, saying he could find no land called Poor’s Meadow or Poor’s Plock which had yielded money for the poor; in 1706 the rent for Poor’s Meadow was £1.12.6d. a year; Poor’s Plock brought 5/- in l769. He did discover that ground on the left of the road leading from Honeymoor to Madley was rented by Richard Rowley and Thomas Merrick for £5, out of which 5/- went to the ringers in the parish and the remainder to the Minister for distribution among the poor on Easter Monday. Pye’s Charity was yielding 10/- a year then, distributed at the same time.

The charities provided gowns costing 10/- each for women and later, loads of coal and wood. In 1784 it is reported that a severe frost in January froze the river so no coal could be brought.

Mr Cox was followed by Mr Samuel Clarke (1871) and William Robert Lawrence (1875) but it is with the arrival of Charles Burrough on March 18 1882 that Eaton Bishop’s vivid memories begin of two Rectors who devoted themselves to the Parish for 50 years.

If Mr Burrough was remembered for nothing else he would have a place in Eaton Bishop history as the father of eleven remarkable children, one of whom became Admiral Sir Harold Burrough GCB, KBE, DSO. He was born at the Rectory in 1888 and to him we are indebted for these recollections:

“In those days there were 32 acres of glebe attached to the Rectory and a grand old man named Jinks farmed it for my father, We kept cart and carriage, horses, cows, pigs and sheep, grew our own wheat and made our own bread and butter and pressed our own cider. Another grand old man named Scriven looked after the garden and tennis court and Bill Harris as a young man looked after the horses for us.”

(Note: Mr Jinks’ daughter Mrs Kate Lloyd still lives in the parish, as does Bill Harris.)

“Naturally, as one of the eleven children of the Rector church life figures very much in my memory, for at 8.0am daily we crossed the road from the Rectory to the Church for family prayers.”

“At the age of 6 or 7 one donned a surplice and cassock and sang in the choir and I always remember those Church Services with my sister playing the organ and one’s gradual promotion from treble to alto and finally to bass.”

“Other things which stand out strongly in my memory are the friendliness with which we boys were always treated, the concerts we had with Jimmy Williams and his Nigger troupe, the skating and sliding in the winter on the ponds on Honeymoor Common, the summer haymaking, the annual church fete in the grounds of Lower Eaton, the visits of the Choir to the Three Choirs Festivals ... and one particular spot on the road towards Ruckhall Common where my father told me he would let me try to achieve my ambition to get into the Royal Navy.”

“As my father could not afford to send all his large family to boarding school he built a school in the Rectory garden and after learning the three R’s at the Village School, we studied there under a Resident Tutor. We usually had two or three French boys staying with us to learn English.”

“1 am very happy to think that the Eaton Bishop WI are preparing a small history of the Village I have always loved.”

As Admiral Burrough points out, church work was a family affair. In 1901 at the time of Sir Joseph Pulley’s funeral, there were four Burroughs in the choir - Hubert, Evan, Harold and Walter and in 1907 there were still two - E.A. and E.G.

There was only a harmonium in the church when the Rev. Burrough arrived but he bought a splendid organ in 1888, supervised the alterations detailed in the chapter on the church in 1885 and also brought the holy thorn from Jerusalem in 1904 which provided the parish with one of its annual occasions for many years to come.

Of the ten sons, three joined the Ministry, one became a Solicitor, one served in the Army and Colonial Service, two served in the South African War, one was killed in France in World War One and two more serviced in World War Two - one in the army and one in the Navy. Two of the ministers served as Naval and Army Chaplains respectively.

At the time of writing, the three youngest who were all born at Eaton Bishop - Evan Gabriel, Harold Martin and Walter Raphael are all alive, as also is the sister Mary, Mrs H.J. Mackenzie.

The same “family” tradition was carried on by his successor, the Rev. Gerald Owen Kildare O’Neill who came to Eaton Bishop in October 1907. MrsO’Neill did the Church Flowers and ran both the Mothers’ Union meetings - held quarterly - and Women’s meetings on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at the Rectory. She was also collector in Eaton Bishop for the Herefordshire Guild of Needlework, the members of which made no fewer than two garments a year. During the 1914/18 War sewing parties were also held at the Rectory when shirts, etc, were made for soldiers.

In addition, there were four daughters, one of whom, Gwladys, did so much in the parish that she used to be known as Mr O’Neill’s curate.

The eldest daughter Owena, now Mrs Clapham, helped to run the Sunday School with her sister next in age, Gwladys, who also took charge of the Girls’ Friendly Society and the Brownies. The third sister, Mathleen, now Mrs Arthur James was organist and ran the Wolf Cubs and Scouts, while the youngest, Iveagh, did the church accounts and was secretary of the Unionist Association. They were all active in the Band of Hope!

The glebe was let to Sir Charles Pulley but Mr O’Neill kept Jersey cows to provide milk, cream and butter for the family, and 40 hives of bees.

Miss Iveagh O’Neill writes “At the Sunday School Children’s treat in the Rectory, my father always had a large 7lb. glass jar of boiled sweets. After tea he used to throw these in handfuls all over the lawn and the childrer scrambled for them. I have since heard they used to call it ‘Mr O’Neill feeding the chickens’.”

Mr O’Neill gave all his fees for weddings, etc, to the church and interested himself in the preparation of its history by the Woolhope Club. It was he too who had printed, a list of the Rectors of Eaton Bishop.

It is not surprising that the O’Neills were - and perhaps it would be true to say still are - deeply missed in the parish, for after his death in 1932, no rectors came who could offer anything like this record of family service to the village.

Bishop Iliff, who had been Bishop of Shantung for 1903-20, succeeded the Rev. O’Neill and was a devout man who went to church each morning at 10 o’clock for personal prayer.

He was followed in 1942 by the Rev. J.C.Thompson and in 1949 when the Rev. W.W.J.L.R.Haywood took over, Eaton Bishop had to share its Rector with Clehonger and for the first time in centuries, the village had no resident minister. Mr Heywood lived at Clehonger Vicarage and Eaton Bishop Rectory was let to a Mrs Mawson whom, on the death of his wife, Mr Haywood married, retiring shortly afterwards. He is remembered as a jovial man and a great cricket enthusiast.

In 1951 the Rev. F. Massey came to the parish and the Rectory was sold. In his three years, money was raised to put electric light in the church and an electric organ blower was installed from money left by Olivia Minchin for the poor and sick to have domestic help. In September this year, the village is looking forward to welcoming the Rev. F.I. Turney.