We have been fortunate over the past two hundred years to have been blessed with a succession of long serving Rectors.
1798 - 1852 Rev.Thomas Pennington
Elizabeth Grant described the Rev. Pennington in 'Memoires of a Highland Lady' as "a tall, thin man clever in an odd way and agreeable. His rectory in a shady lane leading to Thorley contained a thousand objects in a little curiosity shop Above all a microscope that he let us peep into." Church records indicate that he encouraged many charities for the poor of the parish.
1853 - 1883 Rev. Frederick Vander Meulen
The Rev Vander Meulen arrived at Thorley obviously fired with enthusiasm and energy. Within his first two years he obtained permission to pull down the tithe barn and use the timbers for his new stables, he made plans for his new rectory and then he completed the thorough 'Victorian' restoration of the church that we see today. In the 1860s he built the church room in the churchyard and raised the finances to restore the stained glass windows in the church. He was a prime mover in the establishment of the school that still stands at the beginning of Church Lane. The cottages opposite the Rhodes Centre are another lasting testimony to his organisational and fund-raising skills. Grateful parishioners subscribed to the erection of the stone reredos screen behind the present altar in his memory.
1883 - 1909 Canon John Matthias Procter
Canon Procter whilst actively involving himself in the community life of the parish - he played in the Thorley cricket and draughts teams and he was a host and judge for the annual ploughing matches - also distinguished himself further afield. He was, for 42 years, the secretary of the Bishop of St Albans Fund, an organisation that raised an annual £18,000 for parishes in Essex and Hertfordshire to meet the needs of the fast growing populations on the borders of London. He was also a prolific poet and hymn writer who submitted his work to national celebrities, journals and newspapers. His memorial is our present lych gate dedicated to his memory in 1921.
1909 - 1938 Canon John Edward Ingleby Procter
When John E.I. Procter succeeded his father the news was met with 'acclamation' from the parishioners - H&E Observer 28/09/09. This Rector too had a sincere sense of spiritual and social responsibility, as it was he who sensitively documented and presided over the events of Thorley in the First World War. As a learned historian he researched and compiled a detailed history of Thorley places and personalities in the 19th century.
Rectors of St James the Great 1883-1938
1946 - 1980 Canon Sydney Robinson
As many senior members of the congregation can testify, Sydney Robinson was a much-loved member of the church and village. Amongst his many interests were amateur dramatics, the Scout Movement and bellringing. He was also active in his stewardship to preserve and improve the fabric of the church. During his tenure he was responsible for fundraising events to finance the conversion of the oil lamps to electric lights (1947), to replace the boiler (1957), to restore the roof covering (1959), to install a new floor (1962) and to renew the spire (1966).
Rectors of St. James the Great 1946-2001
Sydney Robinson, Alan Cole and Clive Slaughter (Jan. 1988)
Bill Hardy July 2001
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