Richard Culmer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sir Richard Culmer (1597–1662) was an English Puritan clergyman. He is listed by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography[1] as being of unknown parentage, although some sources[2] indicate that he was the eldest son of Sir Henry Culmer (c. 1574-1633), the first Baron Culmer. According to this tree, Sir Henry, himself a son of a Henry Culmer, had married Mary Baldwyn in 1602, and was created a baron by King Charles I in 1630, although this is not listed in Burke's Peerage.

Culmer had been educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge; he matriculated as Sizar in 1613, B.A. in 1618, and M.A. in 1621.[3] He was ordained in the Diocese of Peterborough that September, and then returned to Kent, marrying Katherine Johnson in 1624. He then established himself as a Puritan Minister of some note. He was generally known in Kent as "Blue Dick Culmer" on account of his refusing to wear the usual black gown of a cleric, preferring blue.

He was suspended in 1635, and restored to the clergy in 1638, being appointed as a curate in the Parish of Harbledown.

In 1643 Culmer was considered for the living of the parish of Chartham. As a general serving under Oliver Cromwell he became quite notorious, so disliked that the parishioners of Harbledown objected, that so long as it was not Culmer they cared not who ministered unto them. This view prevailed and another person was appointed, with Culmer being appointed to the Commission for the demolition of superstitious (Catholic) monuments.

Already disliked, he delighted in his promotion as a Commissioner, and set about his task at Canterbury with enthusiasm, so much so that his parishioners would openly flock to attack him, to the extent that soon he had to carry out his task with Cromwell's soldiers to protect him.

He was known to have despised William Laud, who had him committed to the Fleet for refusing to read the Declaration of Sports after his services in Church, and his objections to the book were used in Laud's trial for treason, in 1644.

At the end of 1644, he was appointed as one of six preachers at Canterbury Cathedral, and for his services to Parliament he was offered the living of the parish of Minster-in-Thanet in 1645. At his ordination, his parishioners locked the church against him, and when he attempted to break into the church he was mobbed and beaten. So despised was he that the parish refused to pay tithes to support him, but then offered his arrears if he would but go away. To this day, his name does not appear in the list of incumbents displayed in the church porch.

He later found himself under arrest in London, and, asked why he had destroyed the figure of Christ in the Cathedral windows, and not that of the Devil, he merely replied that Parliament's orders were for the removal of the same and made no reference to Satan.

Described as "odious for his zeal and fury", he survived in his position until 1660, shortly before the Restoration of Charles II.

He then moved to Monkton, where he died at the Parsonage House on 20 March 1662, and was buried two days later in the parish church of Monkton, on the Isle of Thanet.

The above-mentioned family tree states that he married in 1639 to Miss Beeson, and again twenty years later to a Dutch woman, the widow Mrs. Bocher of Haarlem in Holland, "the country in which he died in 1669". This would appear to be based on a record in the International Genealogical Index, listing a Richard Culmer, 1612-1669, who married a "Mrs Bechor" of Haarlem, born 1638. This record, however, is one submitted by a member of the church, and does not appear to be linked to any source document, and the theory that it is "Blue Dick" is not supported by Culmer's dates of matriculation and graduation.

The will of a clerk called Richard Culmer, of Monkton, on the Isle of Thanet, was proved by his son-in-law Nicholas Roe. [4] It mentions sons James & Richard, and daughters Anne, Katherine & Elizabeth, together with 'Margaret Culmer, my beloved wife' who is to receive an annuity. No mention is made of allotments in either St Peter's or Broadstairs; it appears that Joseph Culmer, of St Peter's, is owed £50. Some marshland in Monkton is mentioned, together with two areas of land in Ireland bequeathed to his son James, which the testator fears he may be deprived of.

Edward Hasted refers to a Richard Culmer & Culmer's allotments, in Broadstairs, Isle of Thanet, without any source being given. [5] Richard Culmer, a carpenter, is commemorated in St Peter's Church, in the 15th century, with an inscribed brass plate, as having given land for allotments. [6]

The will of a Richard Culmer, of St Peter's, Thanet, proved in 1494, provided for 6 acres of land in Broadstairs, which may be the land now known as Culmer's allotments [7]


  1. ^ "Richard Culmer" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ an unverified family tree on (among other places)
  3. ^ "Culmer, Richard (CLMR613R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  4. ^ East Kent Wills; PRC 32/53/377, written eighteenth day of March, one thousand six hundred sixty & one, in the fourteenth yeare of the Reigne of our Soveraigne Lord Charles the second.....
  5. ^ Edward Hasted: The History and topographical survey of the county of Kent, volume X, second edition, 1800. Page 291 of the pdf file, page 369 in the original; Kent Archaeological Society; 'Richard Culmer, by his will in 1444'
  6. ^ Volume 12 of the Kent Archaeological Society, page 385
  7. ^ Canterbury Cathedral Archives; Will of Richard Culmer; 1494; PRC 17/6/81; lines 10 to 13 in the registered copy of the will: " in broadsteyrlynch, the rent of the land to be distributed perpetually among poor people most nedyng in the said parish every good fryday for the helth of my saulle & my ffryndys [friends?] "