Rev. Paul Whittingham (1754-1834)
The signature of Rev. Whittington taken from St Mary’s Church burials register of 1796.
Rev. Whittingham was born in about 1754 at Oxford and was baptised on 27th January that year at St Cross Church, Holywell, Oxford. He obtained his BA and was ordained a deacon in 1776 and ordained as a priest on 14th June 1778 at Christchurch College, Oxford.
When he was 27, he married Mary Millard on 20th December 1781 in St Martin by the Palace, Norwich. (This church was later named St Mary in the Marsh, Norwich and was right in the heart of the medieval city. In fact, it was in the Cathedral Close, a city within a city, walled off from the rest and entered by guarded gates. It was the parish church for the Cathedral Close and was situated in the lower close, towards the river).
Rev. Whittingham held a bewildering number of positions in the church, many of them overlapping. This is a list of most of them:-
28th January 1779 to 27th May 1782 he was a curate at St Gregory, Norwich.
1st June 1779 to ? he was a curate at St Peter Mountergate, Norwich
1st June 1779 to 2nd May 1831 he was a minor canon at Norwich Cathedral.
7th December 1779 to 22nd October 1781 he was a curate at St Martin at Palace, Norwich.
4th October 1781 to ? he was the vicar at Westhall, Suffolk.
23rd October 1781 to 17th December 1788 he was a curate at Great Plumstead, Norfolk.
23rd October 1781 to 17th December 1788 he was a curate at Arminghall, Norfolk.
21st January 1782 to 30th April 1830 he was an Epistoler (the person who reads or chants the epistle in the Eucharistic service) at Norwich Cathedral.
6th April 1785 to 6th September 1831 he was a curate at St Saviour, Norwich.
5th June 1792 to June 1834 he was the vicar at St Mary the Virgin, Martham.
6th December 1796 to ? he was the vicar at Westhall, Suffolk.
24th October 1808 to 17th June 1831 he was the vicar at Sedgford, Norfolk.
17th January 1814 to ? he was a Stipendiary curate at St John Maddermarket, Norwich.
2nd May 1831 to June 1834 he was the Rector at Badingham, Suffolk.
During his time as vicar at Martham (1792-1834) there is some uncertainty that the period was continuous. The C of E records show he started in both 1792 and 1808 so there may have been a break between these spells as the vicar. What does seem clear is that he was largely an absent vicar anyway. The Rev. Whittingham also only signed one burial register page in 1796 and is not shown as presiding over any other burials, baptisms or marriages for the whole 42 years of his incumbency. It was not unusual in those days for better off vicars to hold more than one post and employ curates to do most of the work in a parish. The Martham church registers show that a series of curates worked at St Mary’s from 1792 to 1834. From 1792 until about 1811 Rev. Richard Spurgeon was a curate carrying out most ceremonies. He was followed by Rev. Fisher Watson from 1811 to 1814 as curate and finally Rev. Thomas White Holmes covered many years as curate from 1814 to 1834.
In 1812 Rev. Whittingham was listed in the Inclosure Award as being entitled to the vicarial Tithes as the vicar of Martham but the claim (No66) says the Vicarage was actually occupied at the time by Robert Porter the author of “The Strangers Guide Book for the Polite Village of Martham”.
In the late 18th century the Methodist movement was gaining in popularity because it was critical of the wealth based established church and instead spoke to the more ordinary folk in terms they could more readily identify with. Being high church it appears that Rev. Whittingham did not approve of Methodist very much because in 1801 he criticised a Methodist Preacher, a weaver from Norwich called Chamberlain, as espousing a doctrine “productive of much discontent amongst the lower classes”. (Per Flegg Rural Deanery Visitation Return).
Rev. Whittingham died in June 1834 where he lived at The Precincts, of Norwich Cathedral, Norwich, Norfolk (aged 80). He was buried on 18th June at the Cathedral. His wife Mary died shortly after him in December 1834 and was also buried there.
Sources: Appointment information courtesy of the: Clergy of the Church of England Database at https://theclergydatabase.org.uk