Herbert Palmer

Photo:Herbert Palmer, 1601 - 1647,

Herbert Palmer, 1601 - 1647,

Vicar of Ashwell

Vicar of Ashwell

By Peter Greener

There was a whole column in the May 1916 Royston Crow newspaper on the life of Herbert Palmer B.D., 1601-1647. He was appointed Vicar of Ashwell at the instance of ‘a great nobleman’ by the then Bishop of London William Laud. Laud, at his trial a decade later, referred to this among other evidences of his impartial patronage of merit although he declined the religious ministrations of Palmer during his imprisonment in the Tower and at the block. At Ashwell, Palmer matured his system of catechising, giving prizes of bibles to those who could read and 5s to illiterates on their reaching a proficiency fit for communion. He got the parishioners to bind themselves by subscribing a compact against drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking and so forth.

In 1643 he was appointed an original member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines leaving Ashwell in the charge of his half-brother, John Crow, who became vicar after Palmer’s death in 1647.  He never married and his portrait shows a ‘little crooked man’ although he was held in high reverence by many as a sincere puritan. He is now remembered in the wider world for his work on Catechisms and opposing Milton’s divorce tracts but his time in Ashwell must have left a profound impact on the populace.

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