Blue Dick
© P.Blanche 1999

"BLUE DICK"
CULMER

[b. c1597 - d.1662]



Was Richard Culmer a product of his time or did he help to create it? Whatever the answer happens to be, he was certainly in his day, one of Kent's most colourful characters, which would have been totally against his principles. At the same time, he was known as "Blue Dick" because rather than wearing the normal black puritan clothes, he usually chose to wear a blue cloak. He is included in this section because of the damage he did to The Cathedral during The Commonwealth period.

It was during this Commonwealth period (1640 - 1660), many Church records were destroyed and consequently, we cannot be sure as to where and when Richard Culmer was born. He is thought to have been born on The Isle of Thanet, possibly in Broadstairs, perhaps in 1597. He eventually went to Magdalene College, Cambridge where he obtained a B.A. in 1618, followed by an M.A. in 1621 and he was ordained in September of the same year. On July 20, 1624 he married Katherine Johnson of Harbledown, just outside Canterbury.

In 1630 he was appointed the Vicar of Goodnestone which is where, generally, his problems seem to have started. He refused to read James I's Book of Sabbath Sports as it was against his Puritan beliefs. For this he was suspended from his post by Archbishop William Laud sometime between 1634 and 1635. Following this event, he managed to find employment as the Assistant to the Rev. Robert Austin at Harbledown perhaps because of the connections his wife might have had with this Parish. It is here that Culmer was obviously becoming disliked by the parishioner and one recorded event is that he sent his son to spy on other local children who were playing sports on the Sabbath.

He remained at Harbledown until 1642 when, with the support of the City Elders of Canterbury, he was appointed as the Vicar of Chartham but immediately made himself unpopular with the residents of this village. Also, in 1643, he was appointed as a commissioner for "the utter demolishing .... of all monuments of superstition in Canterbury Cathedral", a task he set about with great zeal. At one point he climbed up to the stained glass windows in the Martyrdom and smashed the stained glass windows with a pikestaff. He caused so much damage to the fabric of the Cathedral that he had to be locked in the building to protect him from the crowds that gathered outside and eventually had to be escorted out by soldiers.

He became so disliked in Chartham that he had to leave there and in 1644 he was made Vicar of St. Stephen's, Hackington but again, he was extremely unpopular and only lasted a year here before he moved on again, this time to Minster in Thanet. It seems that here he tried to make some kind of stand against the people but they were not to be put off. Collectively, they spent some £300.00 in petitions against Culmer, very large sum in those days, and even locked him out of his Church for nearly two weeks until he managed to find a way in through a broken window. Also, the clapper was stolen from the Church bell so that he could not summon parishioners to Church but Culmer overcame this problem by using his wife's iron pestle from the kitchen! During a visit to Canterbury at Christmas in 1647, he was pelted with mud and some of the inhabitants actually tried to hang him. This was a very unpopular man.

However, everything comes to he who waits (or so they tell me) and eventually at the time of The Restoration in 1660, Culmer was finally thrown out of Minster and went to live in the nearby village of Monkton. Subsequent to this event, Culmer was arrested and imprisoned as he was suspected of being a "Fifth Monarchist". He was not convicted but released and he returned to Monkton where he only lived for a short while longer and died in the Vicarage there on March 20, 1662 and was buried at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Richard Culmer and his wife, Katherine, had seven children in all and five remained alive when he died, Richard, James, Anne, Katherine and Elizabeth.

Details of the other churches mentioned on this page where Richard Culmer was the Vicar:

Goodnestone (next Wingham)
Chartham
St. Stephen's, Hackington
Minster-in-Thanet (not recorded yet)
Monkton


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