The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Rev Edward Drax Free

Rev Edward Drax Free came to the village of Sutton in 1808. Dr Free earned a B.A., M.A., B.D., and D.D. degrees and the status of fellow from St. John's College, Oxford and Vicar of St Giles, Oxford, where his 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. His sole interest in his living seemed to be as a means of funding a debauched Lifestyle. He stripped the lead off the church roof and sold it, and felled 300 oak trees for timber. Whereas most churchyards at the time were graxzed by sheep to keep the grass in check, the rector went one better and turned the churchyard into a farmyard. Sheep relieved themselves in the porch, horses and cows disturbed funerals and pigs dug up the graves

If anyone turned up to church services, he galloped through the service, leaving out the difficult or time-consuming bits such as sermons. Other times he locked up the church for months on end while he hid from his creditors. Ironically, he also tried to fine parisioners for not attending church.

Free quarrelled with all and sundry, both when sober and drunk. He sired five illegitimate children by his various housekeepers, despite, it is said, being repulsive in every imaginable way. He kept an extensive collection of pornographic literature which he gloated over.

When his parishioners eventally managed to be rid of him following the disclosure of his links with prostitutes, Rev. Free sold the entire contents of the vicarage, barricaded himself in with the latest mistress, and shot at anyone who approached.

His parishioners, led by the Archdeacon of Bedford, laid siege to him and he was eventually starved into submission and left in 1830, after 22 years of incumbency. Unsurprisingly, Free could get no further ecclesastical preferment, and died in 1843, a beggar, run over by a varnish maker's cart.

His story is told in the book 'Scandal in the Church' - Dr Edward Drax Free, 1764-1843 by R.B. Outhwaite

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