Christopher Tillier

- A Poor Cleric?

While searching through quarter session court records for Angmering recently, it came as a surprise to find payments of poor relief to the widow of a former rector, in 1713 and 1714. Even more so to find that, when he was still incumbent in 1702, he had not paid his servant Peter Price any wages for seven weeks, amounting to £2 9s at a shilling a day.

Why a surprise?

Because, as is well known, Angmering is a large parish and indeed formed by the union of East and West  Angmering in 1573. The effect of this was to provide the rector with income from glebe-lands in both places, together with tithe payments by farmers across the whole village.  In 1724 the value of this combined income was reckoned at £130. Many a clergyman had to live on far less than that, and comparison may be made with the servant's wages of seven shillings a week, or £18 a year. At Ferring the vicar had income from three parishes, but that was only reckoned at £70 and did not exceed £100 until the inflationary years of the Napoleonic Wars. 

With a glebe farm of 42 acres, rather less in statute acres, the rector was a medium sized farmer in his own right. Queen Anne's Bounty was created in 1704, to augment the living of poor clerics, but there is no knowledge of the rector of Angmering being in this category. He was also curate at Rustington, which must have provided a small stipend.

The incumbent in question was Christopher Tillier.  An uncommon name, and if any survivors of this family have constructed a genealogy, it might be enlightening. At this time it has not been possible to find his father, other than the information that he was a citizen of London. This hints at wealth in the family, and perhaps an elder brother inherited the bulk of this in the usual way. When Christopher went to college to study for his MA, he was one of those whose family was able to pay the fees, as opposed to a 'sizar' who had an allowance. A relative, Easter Tillier died at Goring in 1730, with funds well into four figures.

Christopher was born about 1645, and died at Angmering in 1710, with an estate worth £187. His widow, Ann, clearly lost most of this in obscure expenses reducing her to penury within a few years, at least for a person of her status.  It is notable that while his burial is recorded in the church register, hers cannot be discovered at Angmering or elsewhere, although she may have been buried at Climping.

He came to Angmering in 1679, a bachelor, and there is no reason to suppose any other members of the family lived locally. In 1682 he married Anne Knight of Arundel at Stopham. Why there is obscure, other than perhaps a family connection on her side. Thereafter, all of their ten or eleven children were born at Angmering, Urlin born ten months later that year - by the old calendar - with Richard the last in 1702. In the ancient way of things, wives were pregnant every two years or less on average, in the resigned expectation that most offspring would die as infants, and at least five of hers did.

Rentals indicate that from 1690 a Mr Christopher Tillier occupied a farm of thirty five acres in Angmering,  called Barnards from a previous tenant, at a rent of £14. This was almost certainly the rector, the title 'Mr' not being lightly bestowed. The tenancy continued until after 1703 at which point a frustrating hiatus occurs in the rentals, so that it is not known what happened at his decease in 1710. As a gentleman, he would have sublet the farm, and glebe, so adding a few more pounds to his income.

It should not, however, be considered that all was plain sailing for parish priests, when it came to extracting a living from their parishes. They depended very largely on tithes, and here is a complication. Mr Tillier was not simply Rector of Angmering; the divisions between the old parishes still had some significance. He was Vicar of West Angmering and Rector of East Angmering. This meant he had a right to all the tithes payable as rector, but only small tithes as vicar of West Angmering, with these the most irksome to collect. One advantage he had over distant predecessors is that they collected in kind whereas he received cash for the value of the tithe.

In 1683 he became involved in one of the all too common tithe disputes with farmers. At this period Nonconformists were increasingly unhappy with subsidising a church they did not attend. Whether Richard Crossingham was one of these, or simply cantankerous, is not known. Albeit he had been in possession of Ecclesden Farm for about three years, more or less the time the rector had been in Angmering, and had never paid small tithes. As three witnesses stated the "Vicar of West Angmering hath right to all small tithes with the tith hay, wooll, lambes, piggs, and milke calves". 

All three varied in their estimates of how many acres of hay, and numbers of animals the farm contained, and disagreed even more as to value. Twenty or thirty acres of hay, ten milk cows, ten calves, thirty to fifty lambs, thirty ewes and lambs, fifty sheep, fifty pigs, represents the range of estimates. The hay worth £3, cows £1, sheep 10s, pigs 5s, a total of £4 15s. Or the hay £1 10s, cows 10s, ewes and lambs 13s 4d, calves 10s, a total of £3 3s 4d. Mr Tillier must have been at his wits end at times, trying to agree with a farmer what he had and its value. Ten cows worth 10s or maybe 20s made a difference of a week or so in labourers' wages. 

There is some difficulty identifying Ecclesden Farm; it could signify what became Upper Ecclesden, or perhaps Ecclesden manor house. Most of the manor house lands were arable, and so only a minor part of the farm was grass for hay, liable to small tithes. However, as firmly stated in the 1839 Tithe Apportionments, this former manor demesne had belonged to Sion Abbey, and was not liable to pay tithes. The same provision may be found in nearby Kingston, as former monastic estate. Unless this exemption had been lost to memory in the 17th century, it has to be assumed the farm in dispute was Upper Ecclesden, at that time of medium size.

Christopher Tillier junior, born in 1785, was not only the eldest son, but the only one that survived to adulthood. As such he would have received the best tutoring that could be afforded. At present it is not known where he was educated, but grammar school and college, provided the qualifications for treading in his father's footsteps as a clergyman. His ordination took place in 1712, by which time his mother had been widowed for two years. This is probably the explanation for her sudden poverty, a young family and several years to go until 1715, when her son was instituted as vicar of Climping, and two years later vicar of Littlehampton and vicar of Goring. The days of pluralism had arrived, with parsons as 'squarsons'. Property and preaching, as virtual squires.

The rector died in 1710, and his burial is recorded in the registers - Christopher Tillier Rect buried Nov 5th - although his grave has not been found. As rector it could well have been a chancel interment. Then come the two entries in Quarter Sessions, for July 1713 with a £5 payment, and October 1714 - Mrs Tyllier of Angmering a poor clergyman's widow £5.2s for her present relief. That is the last heard of her or her family in Angmering, and it may only be supposed she went to Climping with her son and ended her days there soon afterwards.

The scene now changes to nearby Goring. Christopher junior had moved to that parish on taking the vicarage in 1717. He led a busy life, if all his parishes were attended properly, and in addition serving as curate for East Preston under the vicar of Ferring. it goes without saying that church services in the 18th century were sparse.

Christopher had married Mary Speere, and the first of their few children arrived in 1720, when Easter was baptised. At least, the only children known about were three sisters, with Mary in 1722, and Margaret in 1730. A note here for genealogy, that Hester and Easter will be found for the same person, and indeed Easter Tillier is later referred to as Hester. Her naming was no mere fancy, for there now appears a wealthy relative Widow Easter Tillier. If the runes are read correctly, she was a sister of Mary Speere's mother.

Widow Easter died at Goring in 1730, in possession of about £1500 in ready funds plus other investments, together with valuable jewellery in gold and diamonds, and a copyhold house in Goring, acquired only three years previously with a small farm. The house went to her sister Mary for life and then to Christopher's wife, her niece, and then the family. Easter's monetary estate was split up but essentially descended the same way. It would a fair assumption that she was the widow of an elder brother of the rector of Angmering, but that her will refers to Christopher junior as her cousin.

At this juncture Christopher only had the two daughters Easter and Mary. Margaret came along in 1730 too late to be mentioned in the will. Their father finally became rector of Patching before his decease in 1746, suffering from palsy, having moved from Goring to Arundel. He left a will, unlike his father, being a man of some affluence with an undefined landed estate, and also £1000 in trust as dowry for Margaret. The two elder daughters were now married, and carried on the pastoral tradition to the degree of taking priestly husbands.

The scene had changed once again, and this time to Arundel. In January 1741, by the modern calendar, the two daughters made a great occasion of the day by marrying one after the other - Easter to John Carr, vicar of the parish, and Mary to Julius Bate rector of Sutton.

John had begun his career as curate at Arundel, becoming vicar in 1732. Posts as curate in nearby Ford and Tortington were perhaps trivial additions to Arundel, but then in some fashion he also managed to become vicar of Kirdford. Julius Bate, rector at Sutton from 1735, was barely less ambitious, being made rector of Clapham later, in addition to other occasional posts.

With the decease of Anne Tillier in 1763, widow of Christopher, this branch of the family was at an end. In her will of 1752, she merely confirmed the intent of Easter, her aunt, in the descent of property. If other branches existed they have yet to be found, and in doing so perhaps the source of such wealth as they had, but which by-passed the rector of Angmering, may be discovered.


RW Standing 
November 2008


Page first uploaded:24 November 2008