For the 103 years between 1662 – 1765 the Vernons kept the living of Martley “in the family” because they owned the advowson. An advowson, a different entity to the lordship of the Manor, could, until 1924, be sold and bought on the open market and be owned by a man or a woman, a lay person or a priest or by a corporate body.
The owner of an advowson had the right to treat as his own the income from the parish’s glebe. Some parishes had very little income but several advowsons could be purchased by the same person to make a worthwhile income. St. Peter’s had always been a rich living. In 1780 the income was the equivalent of £62,000 per year.
-Another benefit was that the advowson owner could nominate the parish priest, or to be precise, present holy orders to the Bishop.
The Bishop could refuse to accept the priest nominated but very seldom did. Thus, when an advowson was owned by a priest, he nominated himself and so purchased a comfortable living which he could bequeath to an ordained son or other relative. In Martley there was the added attraction of a lovely old and spacious rectory (now the Old Hall) to which was attached some 80 acres, and the patronage of Areley Kings where a son could be Rector as he waited to take over from his father at Martley.
A parish priest owning the advowson was called a Rector or a Vicar if the advowson owner paid him a salary. Vicars and Rectors undertook exactly the same job but as an advowson owner a Rector was solely responsible for the upkeep of the rectory and the salary of any curate he employed.
The Martley advowson passed through many owners until 1662 when it was purchased by from the Clents of Knightwick by the Rev. John Vernon, a nephew both of Edward Vernon, the founder of the Hanbury Estate, near Droitwich (now National Trust) and of Mrs. James Nash of Martley who probably told him about the living.
He made substantial alterations to the rectories of Martley and Areley Kings. In 1685, he became involved in major litigation with his flock over the tithes due to him on the huge quantities of cider and perry then produced in the parish.
In his church memorial he is fully described in flowing terms:
“Here lyeth the Body of the Reverend Mr. JOHN VERNON RECTOR & PATRON of this Church near forty eight years, from the year of our Lord 1662 to the tenth of May 1710, Aged 76 yrs. A Pastor learned, faithful & full of good works. In Devotion frequent, steady & for God zealous. A Gentleman Upright Hospitable & of life unspotted. A Husband very tender and the best of Fathers”.
His Rector son Robert is also remembered on the Vernon Memorial in Latin. Translated it reads:
“To my very dear Brothers Robert and Henry Vernon, the highest hope of youth, whom the smallpox spirited away in untimely fashion; Robert on Jan 8th JaN 1724 AGED 14, and Henry on Jan 2nd of the same year, aged 11
to the best of parents Robert Vernon, Master of Arts (A.M.), Rector of the church here for nigh on 33 years. Learned, Conscientious, Untiring. And of his most delightful wife Catherine,daughter of Humphrey Perrot of Bell Hall, Gent, in the county of Worcester, who died on R on Sept. 4th 1743 aged 76.
Their surviving daughters married (to wit) Sara, to Henry Dolphin, of the County of Stafford, and Catherine to John Perrott, Gent, of Bell Hall.
Thomas Vernon a.m. only son and Rector of Arley Kings set up (this monument) through Love”.
With the death in 1765 of Robert’s son, another John, the 103 year reign of the Vernon Rectors came to an end. John, too, is described in fulsome terms:
“Here lieth the body of the Revd. JOHN VERNON A.M. late Patron and Rector of this Church: Who in his early years was elected Fellow of Worcester College Oxon: Where he endeared himself so much to that Society, that it was not without Reluctance They parted with him. In the year 1743 he was
called to the Cure of this Parish: where he constantly resided till Jan 21st 1765 when he died & Jan 28th following was buried underneath. Aged 64..
He was Generous, Hospitable, Humane: Disinclined to the gay, the busy, And the troubled Scenes of Public Life. He chose to tread the peaceful Path of Private Virtue Whereby Tho’ his Merit became less the object of Popular Admiration He gained the Esteem of those (line hidden) In his Religious Principle Sincere In his Political Uncorrupted A cheerful Companion, a steady Friend The best of Masters to his Servants The best of Husbands to a Wife Ever averse to Pomp & Pride He ordered this plain Stone Which she In testimony to the warmest Gratitude As well as Affection and In Strict Compliance with his Will Placed here”.