A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

Reverend Joseph Rickards, Vicar of Down Ampney and Rector of Nettleton

Reverend Joseph Rickards (1649-1714), Curate of Pertwood, Vicar of Down Ampney and Rector of Nettleton



St Mary’s Church in Burton, the Parish Church of Nettleton

JOSEPH RICKARDS, Great IX Uncle of Richard Barton

Joseph Rickards was born in about the year 1649. He was the son of William Rickards of Yanworth in Gloucestershire, a pleb. Little is known about William other than the fact that he had a second son, also William. However, there is a burial at Yanworth of a ‘Witt Rickards’ on 28th April 1679 who may well be Joseph’s father and also a Margery Rickards, who was buried on 29th May in the same year, who may well be his mother.

Presuming that Joseph Rickards was brought up in Yanworth, it is possible that he attended the nearby Westwood’s Grammar School in Northleach. Certainly, Joseph studied at Christ Church, Oxford, and we know that he matriculated on 13th July 1667, aged eighteen years. He received his B.A. in 1671 and his M.A in 1674.

Joseph was dispensed from ordination to the diaconate outside of the canonised time and place (D/1/14/1/1c/15 1672) and so, at the age of twenty-three, he was made a deacon on 12th November 1672. Also, we know from a document dated 1672, that he was permitted to continue as curate at Pertwood in Wiltshire (D/1/14/1/1c/16 1672), a small rural village near to Chicklade. According to the Victoria County History for Wiltshire, Volume VIII, Pertwood had a congregation of only eight people in 1676. The Parish Church of St Peter, where Rickards served his title, was a twelfth century stone building, situated at Upper or Higher Pertwood, and entered by a round-headed doorway on the South side. Interestingly, in 1908, the bowl of its fourteenth century font was discovered close by and returned to the re-built village church.

The Victoria County History also notes that the earliest reference found to a church at Pertwood is in 1333 when a rector was instituted to replace another. The living was a rectory and the advowson belonged to the lords of the manor. There were approximately 10 acres of glebe. In 1677 the glebe arable was distributed between the East, Middle, and West Fields and there was a close of meadow. In 1677 there was a rectory, or parsonage, house with barn and stable adjoining. 


Joseph Rickards alias Richards

In 1681 Joseph Rickards was inducted as the Vicar of Down Ampney in Gloucestershire, a living which was the gift of Christ Church College. From 27th January 1686 Joseph Rickards served as Rector of Nettleton, Wiltshire, in succession to John Fabian and he held this post until his death. The clergy call book for the Diocese of Salisbury refers to Josephus Ricketts on 21st October 1698 and then Joseph Brickets on 10th June 1714.

Down Ampney

Parish Church of All Saints, Down Ampney

The Grade I listed Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin is situated in the Hamlet of Burton and its earliest parts date from 1290 although the most ancient feature is the circular Norman font. The church contains over thirty carved faces in the nave arches and a few grotesques and the ancient pulpit includes medieval carving too. Sadly, the stained glass, other than for a few heraldic details, was destroyed at the time of the Civil War.  Dating from the seventeenth and early eighteenth century are two of the church bells and much of the Church plate – a flagon, chalice, paten and paten cover – perhaps some of these items even date from the years of the Rickard’s  incumbency.

Returning to his personal life, there is a marriage allegation, dated 22nd August 1694, between Joseph Richards (signed Rickards) of Nettleton, aged forty years, and Mary Nash of the Colledge (sic) of Gloucester, aged twenty-six-years. According to the 1727 will of John Nicholls, a yeoman of Nettleton, Joseph Rickards’ bride was a relative of the Oldnell Family of Worcester. Also the inscription on her Flat Stone in Nettleton Church indicates that Mary was born in 1658 rather than 1668.

It seems highly likely that Mary Nash (1658-1729) was a daughter or niece of the Reverend Hugh Naish or Nash (1621-1676), himself the son of Ambrose Nash of Orcheston, Wiltshire, a pleb. Hugh studied at Oriel College, Oxford, gaining his B.A. in 1640 and, from 1645, he served first as Vicar of Burbage in Wiltshire (where he was ejected in 1646 and restored in 1660) and then, from 1662, as Rector of Harlaxton in Lincolnshire. Nash was installed as a Prebendary of Gloucester Cathedral on 10th September 1660 and became a significant benefactor of the Cathedral Library with gifts of fourteen printed books and three medieval manuscripts. As will be shown later, Mary seems to have had an association with the family of  Dr Abraham Gregory (1643-1690), who was also a Prebendary of Gloucester for many years.

A signature on the paperwork associated with Joseph Rickards’ estate indicates that Joseph and Mary Rickards had a niece – ‘Mary Rickards, the daughter of Wm Rickards’. This Mary Rickards married John (Jno sic) Bethel on 9th June 1715 at Nettleton and they had at least five children who were born between 1718 and 1727 and all baptised at Nettleton.

Joseph Rickards made his will on 20th July 1707 in which he describes himself as being a clerk of Nettleton, ‘infirm of body but of sound disposing mind and understanding’. He appointed as his executors the following four gentlemen:

  1. Thomas Goddard of North Wraxall, Wilts. Clerk. (He was at North Wraxall from 1697-1708 and seems to have married Ann Beale at North Wraxall on 30th September 1700. He was at Castle Eaton from 1701-1731 when he died. He wrote to Mary Rickards (widow) on 16th October 1714 from Castle Eaton which seems to have been served by various Goddards CCED )


  1. Richard Humphreys of Kington St Michael, Wilts. Clerk (He was Vicar of Kington St Michael from 1688 until his death in 1712 CCED)


  1. Richard Adey of Old Sodbury., Gentleman (In the will of John Frankcom of Tresham in 1729 Richard Adey of Old Sodbury, his friend, was appointed as a trustee)


  1. William Allway of Yate. (A William Allway (born at Chalkley, Hawkesbury in 1660 and died in 1718) married Mary Beaker at Nettleton on 4th May 1688. Their son Daniel lived from 1698-1772 and is an ancestor of the Ansteys, Bartons, Daniell family of Tortworth.)


In his will, Joseph Rickards listed some of his goods, namely, household stuff, utensils, implements of household, bedding linen, woollens, brass, pewter, plate, stock of cattle, corn, hay, and all other goods. He referred to his wife Mary to whom he left all his property except for the bequest of one shilling to his brother William Rickards and a guinea a piece for his executors to buy mourning rings.

Joseph Rickards died on 23rd November 1714 (according to CCed) but there is no record of this event in the burial register at Nettleton. We know that Samuel Arnold was appointed to succeed him as Rector of Nettleton a position he held for ‘near 40 years’. In 1822 Sir Thomas Phillipps recorded a monumental inscription on a Flat Stone in Nettleton Church as follows:

‘Here lyeth the Body of Mr. Joseph Rickards, late Rector of this Parish, who departed this life the 24th day of September, 1714, Aged 66 years.’ (Sir Thomas Phillipps 1822)

On 16th October 1714 Thomas Goddard of Castle Eaton renounced his executorship in a warm letter written to Mary Rickards and, by that time, Richard Humphreys, another executor, had died. Then Richard Adey and William Allway renounced their executorships in a legal document dated 25th May 1715. These resignations enabled Mary Rickards to administer her own affairs and the document was signed by them both together with the names of John Nicholls and John Bethell. Mary Rickards and John Bethell also signed an obligation in July 1715.

Within two years of her niece’s marriage to John Bethel, the widowed Mary Rickards married John Nickols, at Nettleton, on 6th February 1717/18. We know that she was definitely the widow of the Reverend Joseph Rickards from her second husband’s will of 1727. It is possible that John Nicholls had previously been married to Catharine Price as there is still a plaque on the south wall of the chancel of Nettleton church which records:

 ‘Beneath this place lyeth interred the Body of Catharine, the Wife of John Nickolls, of this Parish, and Daughter of John Price, late of Chepstow, in the County of Monmouth, who departed this life the 24th day of April, 1714, Aged 62. Arms – S, a chev. A’. (Sir Thomas Phillipps 1822)

John Nicholls made his will on 21st October 1727. He was a yeoman of Nettleton and refers to land at Burton in Nettleton parish now in the possession of John Nicholls and John Bethell his tenant. This land had been granted to Joseph Rickards, the first husband of his wife, Mary. The will mentions many of Nicholls’s relatives including his sister Sarah Bristow, widow of Isaac Bristow, and their children Isaac and James and Anne Bristow. He also mentions his wife Mary’s kinswoman Martha Oldnell, spinster and daughter of Edward Oldnell, deceased.

According to the burial register Mr Nicholls was buried in the chancel of Nettleton Church in 1727 and there was a Flat Stone with the following inscription:

‘Here lyeth the Body of Mr. John Nicholls, of this Parish, who died Oct ye 31st, A.D. 1727, Aged 73’ (Sir Thomas Phillipps 1822)

Mary Nicholls made a PCC Will on the 20th September 1729. She was described as a widow of Nettleton. She left to her niece Judith Cooke of the City of Worcester, widow, the tithes etc. and other income from her property at Senbridge (presumably Saintbridge in the parish of Upton St Leonards which was known as Stenbridge in 1608 Men & Armour), Gloucestershire. Mary left a guinea to her good friend, John Gregory, Clerk, a guinea so that he might purchase a ring. She then left £10 each to Thomas Oldnall and Mary Oldnall the son and daughter of Edward Oldnall, late of the City of Worcester deceased.

The widow’s will makes reference to John Bethell of Nettleton, yeoman, the husband of her niece. Mary, who owed £77 to the estate of her late husband, John Nicholls. Bethel was instructed to pay back £50 to the estate and the residue of the debt was to be paid to his wife, Mary Bethell. Mary Nicholls’s servant maid, Hannah Bullock was to receive ten shillings. The rest of Mary Nicholls’s estate was to pass to Judith Cooke who was also appointed sole Executrix. The will was witnessed by Mary Huggins and St John Fabian.

John Gregory was probably the son of the Archdeacon of Gloucester and his wife Elizabeth, and nephew of Abraham Gregory. John was at Hempsted from 1678 when at the age of twenty-four-years he succeeded his father as Rector of Hempsted. He married Sarah Lysons of Hempsted, whose death occurred in 1682 at the time that their son, John, was born. John Gregory seems to have occupied Wardle House in College Green, Gloucester, for some years.

The witness was probably the St John Fabian, gent, who died on 4th June 1731 aged fifty-one-years rather than his father, who bore the s ame name, who had died on 2nd November 1729 aged eighty-five-years.

Mary Nickols was buried with her first husband:

‘Here lieth the Body of Mrs. Mary Nickols, widow of Mr. John Nickols, and Relict of the Reverend Joseph Rickards. She departed this life Sept. ye 27, A.D. 1729, Aged 71 years.’ (Sir Thomas Phillipps 1822)

On 9th April 1761 John Bethel, husbandman of Nettleton, made his will. He appointed his wife Mary as his executrix and left her his furniture, stock of cattle, implements of husbandry, money and goods. It was his intention that after her death their children would share his property. The children included John, Joseph and Sarah who were to share equally in his property after they had paid their siblings Abraham and Mary Buccle £5 each.

On 24th November 1761 the Rector, Daniel Mills, signed a note stating that Mary Bethel because of her great age, infirmities, and present sickness was unable to be the executrix and requesting that her son be appointed.

On 27th November 1761 John Bethel, her son, was appointed as administrator of his father’s estate. Joseph Hall, a carpenter of Nettleton, and William West, blacksmith of Nettleton (my Great VI Grandfather or his son William), were also named.

Mary Bethel was buried on 16th May 1765 at Nettleton



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