We have noted that the Revd John Middleton died, ‘universally regretted’, in 1808. He was succeeded by Benjamin Anderson, already 75 years old and presumably a particular friend of John Middleton’s since the parish register records that it was Anderson who had inducted him as vicar ofPenn in 1787. He was born in 1733 in Clerkenwell, then just outside the City of London, and went to Magdalen Hall, Oxford (since renamed as Hertford College), when he was 35, but did not graduate. He was curate of Ellesborough, Hampden and Kimble when he inducted John Middleton in Penn. Anderson was instituted by the Bishop of Lincoln in whose diocese Penn still remained.
However, he was already a long-standing resident of Penn. He was leasing a house from Edmund Burke in 1797, and the Penn Poor Rate book for 1804 shows that he lived near the church. Edmund Burke described him in 1795 as ‘a respectable inhabitant in the Village, who is a Clergyman of learning and merit‘. He was apparently an astronomer or scientist of some achievement since Burke, writing to his friend William Windham, the Secretary at War, refers to ‘Mr Anderson, a Clergyman at Penn whose Observatory and Experimental apparatus I wished much to show you’.
The Knoll, a lovely 17th-century Listed house at the rear of the churchyard was built for the newly-wed Nathaniel Curzon and his wife Sarah Penn. On the south side of the house is a tiled turret or belvedere where, so local legend has it, Queen Anne sat watching her children play on the lawn at Windsor. This is a wildly improbable explanation and a far more likely one is that the belvedere was built as an observatory by Benjamin Anderson when he lived in the house before becoming Vicar of Penn.
He also had relations in Penn, in fact he still had until very recently. Charles Garland, who was Steward of the Penn Estate, was a nephew, and Walter Carden, who died in 2008, was a descendant of Charles Garland.
Benjamin Anderson died in 1812, aged 78, after only four years in office and his wife followed two years later. There is a mural tablet on the south wall of the nave to his memory and that of his wife, Rebecca. He built a vault for them both ‘beneath the cross aisle of the Church, nearly under the Front of the Gallery over the South entrance of the Church‘. The vault is marked by inscribed stones in the floor, now concealed under the carpet. The gallery over the south porch door had been put up in 1703, ‘at the charges of the young men that had learned to sing Psalms‘.
© Miles Green, March 2017
Photographs courtesy Eddie Morton ARPS