Selected Vicars of Harwich & Dovercourt

An occasional series, looking at vicars throughout the history of Harwich (the parish being known as Dovercourt-cum-Harwich or Harwich-cum-Dovercourt until being split in 1871).

  • NAME: Thomas Drax
  • PERIOD: 1601*-1619
  • DETAILS: Drax was appointed vicar of Dovercourt-cum-Harwich in 1601, but according to the Biographical Register of Christ’s College, Cambridge, he refused to move to the area due to a dislike of the east coast (whether due to the scenery or the invading vessels, we do not know), so he stayed in the Midlands and left the care of the parish in the hands of Hugh Branham, who was already effectively the surrogate vicar.  Upon Branham’s death in 1615, Drax finally decided to move to Harwich, staying until his own death and burial in January 1619.
  • Drax is, however, best known for his writing.  He had several publications printed in the latter years of his life, the most significant being his final work – “Ten Counter-Demands Propounded to Those of the Separation” – which was written a few short years before the sailing of the Mayflower.  Within, he sarcastically suggests that Separatists, whom he disapproved of, should “remove into Virginia, and make a plantation there, in hope to convert infidels to Christianity”.  Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t far off.
  • NAME: Thomas Gibson
  • PERIOD: 1738-1779
  • DETAILS: Gibson holds the distinction of being the longest-serving vicar of Harwich and Dovercourt, being formally instituted in April 1738, and remaining there until his death in December 1779, a near-42-year period.  Previously, he was the clerk at nearby Ramsey; his sons born there, Thomas and John, were later admitted to the Royal Grammar School in Colchester.
  • NAME: Richard Bull
  • PERIOD: 1852-1871
  • DETAILS: Bull was officially the final joint vicar of Harwich and Dovercourt.  A curate of the parish for many years, he was appointed as the replacement for his father, Samuel Nevill Bull, whose health was failing.  When Bull resigned in 1871, again due to ill health, the parishes of Harwich St Nicholas and Dovercourt All Saints were split into two, William J. Bettison taking the former, while Thomas O. Reay took the latter.  From this point they have remained separate.