William Ruffe (1574 – 1614) was curate at Cocking from 1598 to about 1606, after which he became rector at Bepton.
Ruffe was born at Boxgrove, near Chichester where he was baptised on 21 August 1574. It is not clear where he was educated, although on his institution as rector of Bepton, he was shown as a Bachelor of Arts.
Ruffe came to Cocking in about 1597, following his marriage to Elizabeth Searle at St. Mary’s Church, Sompting near Lancing, on 11 September. On 1 April 1598, he was “licenced to cure”.
In 1600, Ruffe changed the terminology in the parish register from “christening” to “baptism” of children.
In a deposition for a case brought in February 1603 by William Booker against John and Elizabeth Booker in respect of the will of his father, also William, William Ruffe (described as “vicar”) was listed as a witness. In the deposition, William Ruffe states that he had lived in Cocking for 5 years.
William and Elizabeth’s first son, Robert, was baptised at Cocking on 30 July 1598, followed by Joane on 2 November 1600 and Elizabeth on 7 August 1605. On 10 September 1604, William Ruffe was licenced to teach.
In 1598, William Ruffe transcribed the parish registers since 1558 and recorded his name inside the cover:
The Register of Cockinge
Per me Willm. Ruffe
Minister de Cockinge
He signed each page of the register from 1558 up to 1605; in 1721, an entry was made in the register suggesting, incorrectly, that William Ruffe was vicar of Cocking for at least those 47 years.
Two further sons were baptised at St. Mary’s, Bepton: William on 7 January 1609 and John on 21 August 1614.
On 9 November 1607, Ruffe was instituted as rector of Bepton, where he remained until his death in 1614, aged only 40.