Heritage: They may be cold and draughty, but vicarages are a piece of history

The Old Vicarage in Tring, drawing courtesy of Tring Local History and Museum Society
The Old Vicarage in Tring, drawing courtesy of Tring Local History and Museum Society

Several dates have been put forward for the building of Tring’s old vicarage, known as ‘The Hermitage’, but the most reliable source has stated it was built by the authorities of Christchurch, Oxford in 1825.

It is typical of old vicarages, being large and roomy, but was almost impossible to keep warm before central heating.

Wigginton Vicarage, drawing courtesy of Tring Local History and Museum Society PNL-141012-135117001

Wigginton Vicarage, drawing courtesy of Tring Local History and Museum Society PNL-141012-135117001

It was occupied by Tring vicars until 1920 and it is on record that some did complain about the expense of keeping the building going. In the Bucks Herald of May 8, 1920, the Rev Garnier said: “I believe these large homes will have no place in Church arrangements of the future. It is dishonest to live in a large house too big for one’s income and a large garden that cannot be kept up.”

In October of the same year he announced the letting of the vicarage to Mr M.C. Kemp, Harrow schoolmaster and famous cricketer, who took it over as a private house and renamed it ‘Bishops Gate’.

In 1927 a new vicarage was built near the entrance to Mortimer Hill. Local people described it as ‘a factory’ and ‘a poor law institution’. The Rev Garnier wrote in the parish magazine: “Rumour is the most ‘lieing of jades’ and so it is just as well to state that the house has not got three bathrooms but only one. Nor has it got 50 windows – count them for yourselves. Nor has it 10 bedrooms but only five and a dressing room. Nor are its various rooms “enormous”– the study is about the same size as that in ‘The Hermitage’.

“The new house is much more economical to keep up than the Old Vicarage and in spite of all that has been said (and that is good and plenty), I am certain that in 15 years’ time people will say it is the right thing to have done”.

The new vicarage certainly did last 15 years but was later demolished to make way for homes – now Mortimer Rise.

In the 1970s the old vicarage was purchased by the Sutton Housing Trust, who added to the old building but left it virtually unaltered. Added was the Anglican Methodist Hall, built with capital from the sale of the Church House in Western Road and Methodist Chapel in Langdon Street.

Another placewith a big old vicarage was Wigginton. Photographs show it to have been a handsome building, but it was later demolished to make way for houses. Perhaps it is sad to see the demise of stately vicarages, cold and draughty though they undoubtedly were. Some, however, do survive as family homes, often known as ‘The Old Vicarage’.