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History Overview

Celebrated Rectors of St Mary-le-Bow

Martin Fotherby (1549(?) - 1619; Rector from 1594 to 1595)

Marin Fotherby was born in or around 1549 at Grimsby in Lincolnshire. He studied at Cambridge and eventually became a Fellow of Trinity. Having served as Rector of St Mary-le-Bow, Fotherby became Prebendery and Archdeacon of Canterbury in 1596 and Dean in 1615. He served as a chaplain to James I and was consecrated Bishop of Salisbury on 19th April 1618. When he died on 29th March 1619 he was buried in the church of All Hallows, Lombard Street. That church was rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire but was destroyed in 1940. Its tower was re-erected beside the new church of All Hallows in Twickenham and most of the monuments and fittings from old All Hallows were transferred there as well.

Fotherby’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography comments that 'He left an imperfect work against atheism, which was published after his death in 1622 in folio, under the title Atheomastix: clearing foure Truthes against Atheists and Infidels'.

Nicholas Felton (1556 - 1626; Rector from 1595 to 1617)

Nicholas Felton was born in Yarmouth in Norfolk in 1556. He was educated at Pembroke College Cambridge where he became a Fellow in 1583 and was admitted to the degrees of BA, MA, BD and DD and served also as a Lecturer in Greek. Felton enjoyed a high reputation as a theologian and scholar. Archbishop Whitgift made him Rector of St Mary-le-Bow in January 1595/96 in succession to Martin Fotherby: he held the rectorship until 1617 when he became Bishop of Bristol through the good favour of King James I. He also held the rectories of St Antholin Budge Row, Blagdon in Somerset, and Easton Magna in Essex. As his entry in the D.N.B. recounts:

Felton also received the prebendal stall of Chamberlainswood in St Paul’s Cathedral on 4th March 1616 and held it in commendam with his impoverished bishopric till his translation to Ely [in 1618/19]

Felton became Master of Pembroke College on 4th March 1616/17 and he also held this post until he was translated to Ely in 1618/19. He was a great friend of Bishop Andrewes who had also served as both Master of Pembroke and Bishop of Ely. All reports of Felton’s work as a Bishop were good but as he left no writings his particular theology is uncertain although

His theological erudition is sufficiently evidenced by his appointment as one of the translators of the Bible - forming one of the group to whom the Epistles were assigned

When he died on 6th October 1626 Bishop Felton was buried, at his own request, beneath the communion table of St Antholin Budge Row, which church he had been Rector of for 28 years. He specifically asked that no memorial should cover his place of burial. (St Antholin Budge Row was demolished in the 1870s and the parish was joined to that of St Mary Aldermary). There are portraits of Felton as Bishop of Bristol at Pembroke College Cambridge and also in the palace at Ely.

Timothy Puller (1638 - 1694; Rector from 1679 to 1693)

Timothy Puller was born in 1638. His father Isaac Puller had been mayor of Hertford in 1647 and was a Member of Parliament as well. Puller was educated at Jesus College Cambridge, becoming a Fellow there in 1657. He studied for the bar at Gray’s Inn but left before being called. After ordination he was presented to the living of Sacomb in Hertfordshire and on 23rd September 1679 he became Rector of St Mary-le-Bow as well. He was the author of The Moderation of the Church of England (London 1679, 8 volumes), a work which advocated the claims of the Anglican Church as a via media between popery and puritanism. This work seems to have had some lasting value as it was reprinted in 1844 and again in 1870. Puller died in the autumn of 1693 and was buried in the graveyard in Old St Mary-le-Bow.

Samuel Bradford (1652 - 1731; Rector from 1693 to 1720)

Samuel Bradford was the most famous Rector of St Mary-le-Bow until William van Mildert in the early nineteenth century. He was born in the parish of St Anne Blackfriars on 20th November 1652. Educated initially at St Paul’s School, Bradford moved to Charterhouse when St Paul’s closed because of the Plague and the Great Fire. He went up to Corpus Christi Cambridge in 1669 but - as the D.N.B. tells us - 'left without a degree in consequence of religious scruples'. Having turned to the study of medicine he later found that he was able to overcome his religious scruples and he was admitted in 1680 through the favour of Archbishop Sancroft to the degree of M.A. by royal mandate.

Bradford declined to take holy orders until after the Revolution of 1689. He acted as a private tutor to the families of various country gentlemen until, in 1690, he was ordained deacon and then priest. The governors of St Thomas’s Hospital elected him minister of their church in Southwark the following year. A year or so later he received the lectureship of St Mary-le-Bow and was appointed tutor to the two grandsons of Archbishop Tillotson, with whom he resided at Carlisle House in Lambeth. In November 1693 Tillotson collated Bradford to the rectorship of St Mary-le-Bow and he was also appointed to the lectureship of All Hallows Bread Street.

Bradford as a staunch Whig and Protestant and a frequent preacher before the City Corporation. He preached before King William in 1698 and was subsequently appointed a royal chaplain in ordinary. On 16th April 1705 Queen Anne commanded Bradford’s creation as Doctor of Divinty on the occasion of her visit to Cambridge: this was the same date on which she knighted Sir Isaac Newton. In 1708 he became a prebendery of Westminster Abbey.

In 1699-1700 Bradford delivered the Boyle Lectures. The early lectures in his series were delivered at St Paul’s Cathedral but the ninth sermon, in January 1700, was delivered at Bradford’s own church of St Mary-le-Bow. He was elected Master of Corpus Christi Cambridge in May 1716 and was nominated Bishop of Carlisle in April 1718. In 1723 he was translated to Rochester and was also appointed Dean of Westminster which he held in commendam. In 1724 he resigned his mastership at Corpus Christi and became the first Dean of the revived Order of the Bath. Samuel Bradford died on 17th May 1731 and as buried at Westminster Abbey. He published many sermons during his lifetime: his most famous publication was 'A Discourse concerning Baptismal and Spiritual Regeneration' an eight-volume work which ran to nine editions, the last of which was published in 1819.