On the 24th August 1630 Thomas Kidner, clerk in Holy Orders, married Grace Young at Minsden Chapel, an ancient building near Chapelfoot, about 2½ miles south of Hitchin in Hertfordshire. Grace was the widow of Thomas Young of Bendish, about 5 miles SSW of Hitchin, and the mother of two or more sons of her late husband.
On the 12th February 1631 (year of Grace 1630), Thomas and Grace sued the overseers of Thomas Young's will for a bond by which Grace was liable for a payment of £600 to two of her sons, John and Nathaniel, on their coming of age; Grace claimed that she had paid in goods and money this sum, and more, to the overseers for the use of her sons, but that the bond had not been surrendered.
From this case it appears that Thomas was vicar of St. Ippollitts, a village about 1 mile south of Hitchin. The defendants alleged that he was dependent on the benevolence of his parishioners for his maintenance.
Before 1647 Thomas had moved to Streatly, some seven miles west of Hitchin, for in that year Thomas Kidner "Vicar of the Vicarage of Streatly in the church of Bedford" sued Richard Prudden about land belonging to the Vicarage of Streatly.
On the 11th July 1648 the Assembly of Divines approved Thomas for the cure of Hitchin, and for 14 years he was vicar of St. Mary's Hitchin. Thomas was a theologian and a bibliophile, a contemporary of John Bunyan and George Fox. He was so tolerant in his views that during the commonwealth the Independents of Hitchin saw no reason to separate from the established church. However, in 1657 he prosecuted before the Barons of the Lord Protector's Exchequer at Westminster two Quakers, one for refusing to pay tithes and the other for refusing to make Easter offerings and to pay smoke penny, a minor tithe. Both were imprisoned, one for nine weeks, the other for "his trespasses, contempts and offences" for over a year. Joseph Besse in 1753 in a Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers for the Testimony of a Good Conscience calls him a persecutor, and charges him with prosecuting his parishioners out of mere malice.
In 1662, when the Act of Uniformity enforcing the use of the new Prayer Book was passed, Thomas was "amongst the ejected who suffered for conscience sake". His successor, Thomas Johnson, was installed on the 6th February 1662/63.
Thomas died on the 31st August 1676, and was buried at Hitchin. In the chancel of St Mary's Hitchin, on the north side, a memorial marble records that he gave all his land in Higham Gobyam in Bedfordshire, of an annual rental of £24, to the Free School at Hitchin for the education of 10 poor children; in Greek, he is described as a "burning and shining light" (from St John, ch. 5, v. 35).
On the 6th February 1677 his library was sold by public auction, only the second such auction in England. The priced catalogue is in the British Museum. His will, made at Luton on 25th February 1677/78, was proved in London in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on the 6th June 1679.
Sources include: The History of Hitchin by Reginald L. Hine
The Church of St. Mary, Hitchin
On the north side of the chancel lies a marble with this inscription:
In HIGHAM GOBYAN Agro BEDFORDIOENSI omnes quas habuit Terras ad Annualem Redditum 24 Librarum Scholae Librae hujus Oppidi Testamento donavit; quibus decem Egenorum Liberos per Scholarchas ibidem erudentos libere in perpetuum curavit Kidnerum quaeris! Terras has ipse reliquit Sedibus Ethereis, iam sibi parta Domus Sint nihili terrenat ibi modo morte pararis Christumsic docuit sic obiitque pie Ultimo die Augustii 1676 Imitand. Posteris.
A catalogue of the Benefactors to the Church and Poor of Hitchin 1676 Thomas Kidner, Master of Arts, and late Vicar of this Town, gave all his lands in BEDFORDSHIRE, purchased of Nicholas Crowch, to the Free-School in HITCHIN for ever for the teaching of ten poor children there.
Source: The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, Vol. II by Sir Henry Chauncey, Kt (1826)
The will of Thomas Kidner of Luton
In the name of God Amen, I Thomas Kidner of Luton in the County of Bedford Clerk Doe make this my last will and Testament in manner and forme following. First of all I resign my soul into the hands of Almighty God hopeing to be saved by the meritts of Jesus Christ my Saviour And my body to be decently buried. And for and concerning my worldly Estate wherewith it hath pleased God in much mercy to bless me with.
I give bequeath and dispose thereof as followeth.
I give and bequeath all my lands in the parish of fflitton and Barton in the County of Bedford which I bought of Mr Nicholas Crowch to Grace my beloved wife for the term of her natural life and from and after her decease I give and bequeath the same to John Rotherham of Luton in the said County of Bedford Esquire Ralph Skinner of Clifton in the said County of Bedford gent and John Barnewell of Hitchin in the County of Bedford gent and their heirs upon Trust and Confidence in the said John Rotherham Ralph Skinner and John Barnewell that they and the survivors and survivor of them and the heirs and Assigns of the survivor of them shall and will pay cause to be paid the yearly rents and proffitts above all Charges of my said Lands to the School master and Schoolmasters of the free school att Hitchin aforesaid founded by Mr Mattock S'or as the said John Rotheram Ralph Skinner and John Barnewell or any two of them and the Survivor and Survivors of them and the heirs and assigns of the survivor of them May after the death of the present Schoolmaster then elect and Choose such Schoolmaster and Schoolmasters. And for so long time as such Schoolmaster and Schoolmasters S'oe to be Chosen shall teach Schoolchildren and shall well and diligently Teach tenn poore Children to be chosen by the said John Rotherham Ralph Skinner and John Barnewell and the Survivor and survivors of them and the heires and assigns of the survivor of them.
Alsoe I give and bequeath my two Gownes and my Cloak to Mr John Paterick sonne of Mr William Paterick of Hitchin aforesaid.
The Rest and Residue of all my worldly Estate goods and Chattells Reall and personall I give and bequeath to the above named John Rotherham my beloved ffriend for ever whom I make ordain constitute and appoint sole Executor of this my last will and Testament revoaking all former wills by me made.
In Witnes whereof I the said Thomas Kidner have hereunto sett my hand and seale The five and Twentieth day of ffebruary in the Twentieth yeare of the Reign of our Soveraigne Lord Charles the Second by the grace of god of England Scotland ffrance and Ireland King defender of the ffaith Anno Dm 1667. Thos Kidner. Signed and published to be the last will and testament of the said Thomas Kidner in the presence of herbert John ffitzherbert John ffreeman and the mark of Elizabeth Hill
The will was proved in London on 6th June 1679.
PRO Ref.: Prob/11/360
Appendix 47 - Thomas Kidner, vicar of Hitchin
Last updated on 13th January 2008
© Simon Kidner 2007