This is a wonderful part of Tillington's social history, but the story does not end here because young George John Ridsdale, for a short time the curate of Tillington, and his future wife also have an extraordinary life story to tell.
In 1804 the Earl of Egremont became James’s new patron and several invitations to Petworth House followed. Perhaps the most ‘notorious’ was a house party to celebrate the British victory against the French at Leipzig in late 1813. The party included the Prince Regent and his son the Duke of Clarence. James attended this celebration at the specific command of the Prince. It would appear that he was not really comfortable with parties since he retired to bed rather early. He was, however, soon awakened by the ebullient royals demanding that he came downstairs to join them in patriotic toasts. He was forced to drink far too much and was carried to bed totally inebriated. In the darkness of his bedroom they pushed him roughly into his bed where a young donkey had been dressed in female clothes and thrust between the sheets. The whole company crowded into the bedroom to witness James’s distress. It took him a long time to recover from this humiliation.
In 1816 Lord Egremont informed James that he was to have the rectory and church of Tillington. It was here that he was to pass the happiest days of his life, digging and weeding his garden. He was further elated to learn that the University of Cambridge (encouraged by the Prince Regent) was to bestow on him an honorary law degree. He proudly let it be known that henceforward he was to be addressed as Dr James Stanier Clarke.
To the surprise of all at the age of 57, in 1824, James married ‘the widow’ Mrs Abigail Aitkins at the church of St John the Baptist Windsor. After a honeymoon in Brighton, James and his bride settled into Tillington Rectory. In 1825 alterations took place at the Rectory to enlarge the property, but it would appear that he never did finish them completely. Late in 1826 James celebrated his sixtieth birthday with a grand celebration, including the village band, on the Rectory lawn and as many parishioners and friends that could be accommodated were invited. In early 1828 James suffered a debilitating stroke whilst at Windsor. James died quietly in Brighton in 1834 whilst seeking further medical advice. Mrs Clarke brought James home to Tillington where his coffin was gently placed in the dining room of the Rectory.
James Stanier Clarke was buried at All Hallows Church on 13 October 1834 and J.M.W.Turner and sculptor John Edward Carew were amongst the large number of mourners. Abigail Clarke provided the funeral meats at the Rectory. For nearly thirty- five years James Stainer Clarke was at the heart of the Regency world, mixing daily with colourful characters from our history books, but he chose to be buried in Tillington, a village he called home.

Rev'd Robert Ridsdale 1791 - 1876

Kelly’s Directory for 1867 states that the Rev’d Robert Ridsdale MA is Rector of Tillington where the living is a Rectory, with an annual value of £740, in the gift of Lord Leconfield. Robert was born in the Yorkshire village of Kirkby Overblow in 1791. In 1826 he married Audrey Harriet Townshend who was in fact Lady Audrey, the daughter of Rt Hon Lord John Townshend MP. This gentleman was none other than ‘Turnip Townshend’ who introduced the growing of turnips into a new farming system which became known as the ‘Norfolk four course rotation.

Robert and Audrey had a son, George John in 1827 and a daughter Anna Louisa in 1829. The family moved into Tillington Rectory in 1837 when Robert became Rector, and Prebendary of Chichester. Lady Audrey died on 24th March 1873 at the age of 85. Robert died in the late spring of 1876 also aged 85 and they are both resting together just south of All Hallows tower and by the gate on original path to the Rectory.  The large east window behind the altar is also dedicated to Robert and Lady Audrey.
Rev'd George John Ridsdale  1827 - 1905

At the age of twelve George began his secondary education at Charterhouse, near Godalming.  He left in 1844 to move sometime later to Magdalene College, Cambridge. He gained his MA in 1854, became a priest in 1855 and curate of All Hallows, Tillington in 1856 (perhaps with a little help from his father).  He married Mary Stoveld, aged nineteen, of Steadham in 1857 and the young couple most probably moved into the Rectory with George’s parents for on 3 August 1858 their first son John Stoveld Ridsdale was born in Tillington.

Later that same year they moved to South Creake in Norfolk where George took the living of St Mary’s Church, where the Marquess Townshend was patron (perhaps with a little help from his mother; neé Lady Audrey Townshend).  Audrey Jane was born in 1859 quickly followed by George John Townshend Ridsdale in 1860.  Mother appears to have returned to Tillington to give birth to these children. Mary then had another child in the vicarage at South Creake, but returned to Tillington to give birth to her next two children.  Her next four children were born at South Creake between 1867 and 1870.
Two Rectors and a Curate
of All Hallows' Church
James Stanier Clarke  1766 -1834

This is a story of a remarkable man who walked with kings and queens, princes, earls, sea captains, poets and authors, yet found time to be Rector of Tillington, a position and parish he loved dearly.

James Stanier Clarke was born in 1766 on the island of Minorca, where his father, Edward, was chaplain to the Lieutenant-Governor of this British occupied island. In 1768 the family returned to England and James entered Tonbridge School. He went on to Cambridge but left without taking a degree. Approaches were made to the Bishop of Chichester and James was ordained priest in 1790 becoming the vicar of Preston cum Hove, near Brighton.  He also had an apartment in Knightsbridge  and soon became a Preacher at a nearby wealthy chapel. The additional salary was a welcome support to James’s growing lifestyle. 

In 1794 James was made a navy chaplain on he H.M.S. Jupiter, the ship that was sent to convey Princess Caroline of Brunswick safely to England where she was to become the bride of the impoverished H.R.H. George, Prince of Wales.  After this adventure he soon became Chaplain of the Household of the Prince of Wales.
St Mary's Church, South Creake, Norfolk
Alas giving birth to sixteen children was to prove too much for Mary and she died aged 44 years.  Although she had lived and had many of her children in Norfolk she chose to be buried in Tillington Churchyard, where the inscription on her stone reads ‘under this cross sleeps Mary beloved wife of the Revd George Ridsdale MA of South Raynham in the county of Norfolk and the tender mother of sixteen children who in the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life entered into rest February 16th 1881 in the 42nd year of her age’ (probably her 43rd year).  


By the time of the 1871 census the vicarage must have been echoing to the constant, happy chatter of nine children from the age of 11 years to just a few months.  In addition this ‘well to do’ family had a governess and five local servants.  Later the same year Rev’d Ridsdale was appointed vicar of South Raynham a larger parish close to South Creake.  Mary continued to give birth having a further six children in the space of nine years.
In addition there is a memorial plaque in St Mary's Church which is similar in wording to her grave inscription in Tillington churchyard, but it has the following touching finish:
Click image to enlarge