James Barker was the son-in-law of Bishop John Williams and was appointed Archdeacon of Chichester Cathedral and Rector at Nuthurst as well as being the vicar of Cocking for 28 years. During his incumbency a door was opened in the south wall of the chancel, which was blocked up by his successors using his own gravestone for this purpose.
James Barker was probably born in Twickenham in early 1667, although little is known about his family background. He was baptised on 3 May 1667 at St Mary the Virgin, Twickenham – the baptism register merely records his name and that of his father, John Barker. The mother’s name was not recorded.
On 2 July 1684, James was admitted as a sizer (a student who received some form of assistance such as meals, lower fees or lodging during his period of study) at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, from where he graduated as Bachelor of Arts in 1689.
He was ordained as a priest by Henry Compton, Bishop of London on 4 October 1690 and the following day was inducted as the vicar of Walthamstow in Essex, where he remained for the next 18 years until 1708.
Three days after his induction, on 7 October, he married Sarah Williams at St Martin Outwich in the City of London. Sarah was the daughter of John, Bishop of Chichester and his wife, Sarah, who was the daughter of William Walwyn, the religious pamphleteer.
The couple had nine children, five sons and four daughters, all of whom were baptised at St. Mary’s, Walthamstow as follows:
James 13 December 1692
Thomas 5 September 1694
Martha 14 July 1696
Sarah 22 January 1698
David 25 April 1699
Williams 25 September 1701
Peter 3 April 1703
Cecilia 28 September 1704
Margaret 16 January 1707
On 25 June 1700, now recorded as Master of Arts, James Barker was collated as a canon at Chichester Cathedral for the Prebend of Sidlesham. The following year, on 3 July, he was appointed to the Prebend of Rugmere at St Pauls Cathedral, a post he held for the rest of his life. On 3 May 1704, he exchanged the Prebend of Sidlesham for that of Sutton, which he retained until his resignation in 1724.
On 12 February 1708, he was appointed Archdeacon at Chichester Cathedral, in succession to Josiah Pleydell who had died the year before. On 29 June 1708, James Barker, aged 41, was collated as vicar at Cocking, in succession to Pleydell, followed two weeks later by his collation as rector of Nuthurst, near Horsham, on 12 July.
Unlike his predecessor, who lived and raised his family at Nuthurst, James Barker lived in the vicarage in Cocking. Until the late 1850s, the vicarage stood to the south of the church on a marshy site close to the brook; it is said that during most winters there was up to three feet of water in the cellars.
James Barker pulled down a large tithe barn that stood against the south wall of the churchyard and also opened a doorway in the south wall of the chancel, for quicker access from the vicarage; this doorway was blocked up by Revd. Drummond Ash in 1865, and in 1896, Revd. Henry Randall, appropriately set up Barker’s tombstone against where the doorway had been when he restored the chancel. The door can be seen in an 1804 drawing of the church.
James Barker dispensed with the services of curates, and also updated the parish registers, replacing the single register that had been in use since 1558 which included all baptisms, wedding and funerals together, with a new register with three separate sections.
On 18 April 1710, Barker included the following note in the register:
Be it remembered that on the day and year above written, I admitted (being empowered thereunto both by Custom immemorial and Canon) John Hewet to be Clerk of the Parish of Cocking in the room of John Pollard deceased.
Barker served the parishioners of Cocking for 28 years until his death on 17 August 1736, aged 69. He was buried in the chancel and his grave was marked by a stone bearing the emblems of mortality: an hourglass, skull and bones. The gravestone bears the inscription:
Hic Jacet Jacobus Barker
A.M. Archidiaconus Cicest
Nec Non Hujus Ecclesia Per
Viginti Octo Annos Vicarius
Sorte Sua Contentus
Attamen Meliore Non Indignus
Obiit. Aug. 17 Anno Dom.
1736 Ætatis 71.
This translates as:
Here lies James Barker,
M.A. Archdeacon of Chichester
Vicar of this Church for twenty-eight years
He was content with his lot
yet not unworthy of a better one
Died August 17
AD 1736 Aged 71
James’s widow, Sarah died in November 1738, and was buried alongside her late husband.
Subsequent family history
Two of James Barker’s sons followed him into the priesthood.
His eldest son, also James, graduated as Bachelor of Arts from Merton College, Oxford in 1716, before moving to Clare College, Cambridge where he gained his Master of Arts in 1725. He was ordained as a priest in 1719, succeeding his father as a tenant of the Prebend of Sutton in 1724, and was appointed rector at Woodmancote, near Horsham in 1725 and at Newhaven in 1727.
Williams Barker graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1724, was ordained in 1728, and was rector at West Stoke from 1729 to his death in 1764.
Of the daughters, we know that Margaret married John Andrew in Cocking church on 15 December 1728. Margaret was buried in Cocking churchyard on 16 July 1765, aged 58. Their son, Thomas, was baptised in Cocking on 16 May 1738. He married Elizabeth Ayling at Cocking on 18 September 1764.
Sarah married Charles Sweeting in London on 8 September 1720, but died there in March 1724, aged 26.
Little is known about the later lives of the other children.
Cambridge University Alumni, 1261–1900
England, Select Marriages, 1538–1973
England & Wales Christening Records, 1530–1906
England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384–1858
Essex, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538–1812
London and Surrey, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597–1921
London, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538–1812
Oxford University Alumni, 1500–1886
ACAD (A Cambridge Alumni Database).
British History Online.
Challen, W.H. The Parish Register of Cocking, Sussex (1558–1837) pp. 51–56, 105–108
Clergy of the Church of England Database:
Cocking History Group (2005). A Short History of Cocking p.30
Cocking Parish Registers. Marriage. Andrew–Barker 1728
Cocking Parish Registers. Burial. James Barker 1736
Cocking Parish Registers. Baptism. Thomas Andrew 1738
Cocking Parish Registers. Burial. Sarah Barker 1738
Cocking Parish Registers. Burial. Margaret Andrew 1763
Cocking Parish Registers. Marriage. Andrew–Ayling 1764
Leicester, Peter. (1973) Cocking Church. A Short History and Guide.. pp. 18, 22–23
The National Archives: