The Reverend Robert Chapman of Great Linford
A record has yet to be located positively indicating where Robert Chapman was born but we do know that his birth occurred circa 1706, thanks to the inclusion of his age on a memorial to his passing. A Robert Chapman was baptised 1706 in Newport Pagnell, the son of an Anthony (mother unnamed) but this is by no means a certain identification. Anthony does appear to be a “gentleman” so of sufficient high status that a son could plausibly have entered holy orders, but the close proximity of Newport Pagnell is of only circumstantial import, as Great Linford’s rectors came from far and wide. A further slither of evidence comes from the will of an Anthony Chapman of Newport Pagnell proved 1740, which names a son Roger. This is potentially significant as a 1780 mortgage deed positively identifies the Reverend Robert Chapman, naming him as executor of a Roger Chapman, of Bedford. One would have to presume Roger to be a close relative, perhaps a brother, though perversely, the same will does not name Robert. The only relationships we can be certain of are a sister Mary Chapman, and a cousin named Richard Daniel, both named in Robert’s will. Daniel contested the will in the High Court of Chancery, and from the proceedings of this case it is confirmed that Robert left neither wife nor children, the inference being that he never married.
As to matters relating to Robert’s career, we know that he was a graduate of Brasenose College in Oxon (graduating June 9th, 1738), and was appointed to the living of Great Linford on November 9th, 1755. “The London Magazine”, also known as “The Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer” dated that same year confirms his appointment along with several other facts; that Robert then also held the living of Little Wolston (he was appointed there April 26th, 1742) and that the living of Great Linford was worth £230. Little Wolston is to be found within the boundaries of modern day Milton Keynes, but is now known as Little Woolstone.
Robert was rector of Great Linford until 1762 and though the roll of rectors located in St. Andrew’s Church indicates that he retired, this is not strictly correct, as he actually went on to become the rector of Ravenstone in Buckinghamshire, with his appointment occurring in October of 1764. The Journal of the Rutland Record Society (issue 10 of 1990) places him at Ravenstone that year; an example here of the complexities inherent in the ownership and application of Advowsons, as the 8th Earl of Winchilsea who held Burley Hall in Rutland, also had the right to appoint the living for Ravenstone. We also find Robert named as rector of Ravenstone in the aforementioned deed of 1780.
Robert passed away on October 15th, 1785, his will bequeathing ample funds to maintain a school in Ravenstone; it was this provision that triggered the aforementioned court case, which hinged on a dispute over the disbursement of any excess funds to charity rather than other named beneficiaries.
A plaque to Robert’s memory was installed at All Saints Church, which reads as follows:
This Tablet was erected to perpetuate the memory of the Rev. Robert Chapman, M.A., twenty one years Vicar of this Parish, who, by his Will, dated the 17th Sept, 1783, founded and endowed the Charity School in the Village. He bequeathed funds for the clothing and putting out yearly three apprentices, two children of this parish, and one of Little Wolston, of which he was some time Vicar. He died on the 15th day of October 1785, aged 79 years, and was buried in the adjoining Churchyard.