John Henry Howlett (1810 - 1896)

Note: The original obituary was printed as a single paragraph. Breaks have been introduced to make it easier to read. Dotted underlines show where footnotes are available giving definitions or more information.



On Wednesday of last week the Rector of the parish of Meppershall, the Rev. John Henry Howlett, passed peacefully away at the advanced age of 85, and the cause of his death was decay of nature.

There was little in the rev. gentleman's life which could be called eventful or would attract public attention, yet doubtless there are many in the neighbourhood who were not aware that he had resided and worked in the same parish for a period of 51 years. And as a testimony to his zeal and faith be it said that for nearly the whole of that period with the exception of the last two years, he had carried on the work of his parish by his own efforts.

The clergy of Shefford and the neighbourhood will miss him for he was Rural Dean of Shefford for some 30 years and was at one time a familiar figure in that part of the county. He resigned the position of Rural Dean in 1891. He will be remembered also as a regular attendant at the meetings of the Biggleswade Board of Guardians, of which he was a member for some years.

Going back it might be mentioned that he was Bell's University Scholar at Cambridge, and that in 1830 he took his B.A. degree; he was also a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. In 1833 he was a wrangler and second class tripos and secured his M.A. degree in 1836. In 1844 he became B.D. It was in the following year that he took charge of the parish of Meppershall. Altogether he had been in orders for about 60 years, and before coming to Bedfordshire he worked in one or two little places, notably in a small town in Cambridgeshire.

No doubt when he took over the rectorate of Meppershall, the parish was practically the same size and population as to-day. It now has some 600 inhabitants but there are evidences that the hand of the builder has not been idle, for some of the cottages have been re-built—and some want it very badly. However, the Rector turned his attention to parochial matters and saw that one great object which it should be his endeavour to carry out was the re-erection of the Church.  This object he attained. Twenty years ago the edifice was entirely re-built at his own expense, and must have cost a sum of over £2,000. To-day a pretty little church adorns the village and for this alone the parishioners have to thank their late lamented Rector. Some ten years before undertaking the work of re-building  the church however he erected new Church Schools.

Seventeen years ago he lost his wife, and his son is at present in charge of an incumbency in Yorkshire. Up to five years ago the Rector continued to do his work but then he suddenly broke down and had practically been incapacitated ever since. Some three weeks ago he was confined to his bed but improved so that he was able to get up. Until Wednesday morning he seemed to make progress, but suddenly became worse and passed away at a ripe old age to the sorrow of many in the parish where he had worked so long and faithfully.

Twelve months ago he engaged a curate, the Rev. J. C. Jones, and that gentleman has since carried on the work attaching to the parish, and has secured the esteem of those who formerly worked with and delighted to listen to the Rector.

The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon in Meppershall Churchyard, amidst the idyllic beauty of ideal spring weather, and the visible sorrow of the inhabitants in the district for many miles around. The officiating clergy were the Ven. the Archdeacon Bathurst, the Rev. J. A. Bonser, R.D., the Rev. J. C. Jones, the Rev. Chas. Kerry, the Rev. J. C. Scott , and the Rev. H. E. Lury, who also presided at the organ.

The chief mourners were Mrs. Howlett, Miss Howlett, and Miss C. Howlett, the Rev. H Howlett, and Messrs. J., F. R., and E. H. Howlett; General Howlett, C. B., and Mrs. Howlett, Mr. H. Young and the household servants. Amongst numerous other followers were Canon Haddock, the Rev. G. M. Osborn, the Rev. G. F. Apthorpe, Mr. Waldron Lower and Mr Robert Long (churchwardens); Messrs. W. O. Tomes, W. Handscomb, Edward Crouch, Wm. Low, W. Watson, Miss Crouch, and Miss Osborn, Dr. Temple (medical attendant) and Drs. Winckworth and Cannock. The hymn, "Peace, perfect peace" was sung during the service. Messrs. Caton & Sons of High-street, Shefford, carried out the funeral arrangements in an efficient manner. There were no flowers by request. The body was enclosed in an oak coffin with brass furniture, and was borne from the Rectory to the Church by eight bearers, all from the village

Bedfordshire Times, 9th May 1896

Background Notes

"Biggleswade Board of Guardians" - refers to the Biggleswade Workhouse.

"Bells University Scholars" - "Clergymen of small incomes need scarcely be told, that, in addition to the above list of emoluments available in common with others for the education of their sons, there is an examination in Classics, Euclid, First Part of Algebra, Trigonometry and the more elementary propositions of Mechanics, for the election of two Bell's Scholars, who must be exclusively sons of the clergy. These emoluments, arising from the yearly interest of £ 15,200 transferred (by Dr. Bell, Prebendary of Westminster) into the 3 per cents, are alone sufficient to provide handsomely for two students. Although these two good things generally go to Trinity-men from their being better classics, yet are they open to the whole University."
Alma Mater, or Seven years at the University of Cambridge, by Thos. Wright, 1827

"Wrangler" - At the University of Cambridge, a wrangler is a student who has completed the third year (called Part II) of the Mathematical Tripos [written examination] with first-class honours. (Sep. 25, 2007)

"his son ... incumbency in Yorkshire" - Henry Howlett, Rector of Ackworth.

"The chief mourners" (relationship to JHH in brackets):

Mrs. Howlett Jessie Howlett, nee Edmondson(daughter-in-law, wife of Henry)
Miss Howlett Elizabeth Howlett(elder daughter)
Miss C. Howlett Clara Howlett(younger daughter)
the Rev. H Howlett Henry Howlett(son)
Messrs. J. John Howlett (grandson, son of Henry)
F. R. Francis Robert Howlett(nephew, son of JHH's half brother Arthur Howlett)
E. H. Howlett Edmund H Howlett(nephew, son of  Arthur Howlett)
General Howlett, C. B. Arthur Howlett(half brother)
Mrs. Howlett Mary Howlett, nee Presgrave (sister-in-law, wife of Arthur)