Rev John Mirehouse (1839-1910)
THE Rev John Mirehouse was a controversial clergyman, even 60 after his death.
When his adopted village Colsterworth wanted to name a road after him, by changing Woodlands Drive to Mirehouse Drive but residents felt houses wouldn’t sell with such an unfortunate name.
The son of incumbent Rev William Squires Mirehouse, he was Rector of Colsterworth for 45 years.
Born in Hambrook, Gloucestershire, he was educated at Harrow and Clare College, Cambridge, where took his BA.degree 1861, and a Masters four years later.
In 1862, he was admitted to the diaconate by the Archbishop of York, and received priest’s orders the following year, at the hands of the Bishop Gloucester and Bristol. His only curacy was at Fishponds, near Bristol.
In 1864, he succeeded his father (who had held the living since 1826) at Colsterworth.
At the time he was probably the youngest rector in England.
He built Colsterworth House, and remained there until his death – yet even that was controversial. He let the church-owned rectory fall into ruin and it had to be pulled down.
He enjoyed robust health until April, 1904, when paralytic seizure partially incapacitated him. At length, ne became totally unable to officiate, and, accordingly, resigned the living in 1909, being succeeded by the Rev. G. Mahon.
Mr Mirehouse was a remarkable man. He held strong opinions many subject and consequently frequently came into conflict with his militant non-conformist parishioners.
He caused a stir in 1867 when he refused to bury a young child who had been baptised by a non-comformist minister.
When the funeral party arrived at the churchyard for the interment, the gates had been locked by the rector who refused them access until they produced a baptism certificate. Even then he still kept them waiting.
The vicar finally relented after the child’s mother, Mrs Maddison, fainted in the street.
Mr. Mirehouse owned an estate near Bristol, and Hambrook Hall was his property.
As rector the parish, which included Woolsthorpe, where Isaac Newton was born, Mr. Mirehouse in 1871 published a genealogy of which only 50 copies were published.
He was a devoted follower of the Belvoir and Cottesmore Hounds and as keen cricket fan, he was for years a member of the MCC and missed very few Oxford v. Cambridge matches.
He was chairman of the Parish Council, and member for many years of the Grantham Board of Guardians.
But he fell out with the Guardians at Grantham Workhouse in 1882 when he refused to bury a pauper.
The Guardians claimed the man was from Colsterworth, and just happened to die at the workhouse after staying overnight, but the Rev Mirehouse demanded a £2.10 burial fee.
Secretary Mr Holman said: “He had never slept in Grantham before he came to the workhouse. It is not right for Grantham people to pay for the burial as he is from Colsterworth.”
But Mr Mirehouse refuted the claims saying his actions were justified saying: “It should not be the custom for the cost to fall on my parishioners.”
The body was buried at Grantham cemetery, but guardians had to pay double the usual 34p fee.
Then two years later he was ‘severely censured’ by a Westminster coroner for sending the body of a stillborn girl to the Home secretary in a starch box.
He said the child’s parents had asked him what was to be done with the body, as the churchyard was closed by order council.
Having no burial place, the rector sent it to the Home Secretary to call his attention to the matter, not mentioning it to the parents who assumed it would be buried in a nearby village.
Mirehouse said they had to beg to have their dead buried in a neighbouring burying-ground.
He offered full and ample apology but the coroner disallowed the expenses for the Rector and his witnesses journey to London.
Fond of horses he was bitterly hostile to motorcars, and whenever he drove along country roads in a coach, he would remonstrate with drivers of these ‘contraptions’.