Former vicar of Great Yarmouth was a peer of the realm

Transept in St Nicholas Minster, Great Yarmouth

Transept in St Nicholas Minster, Great Yarmouth - Credit: Dr Paul Davies

Over its 900-year history, one Vicar of Yarmouth was a peer of the realm.

The Rev’d Francis Pelham (1844-1905) was appointed vicar in 1900. The appointment was described as one of the most important parochial charges in England. At the time, he was one of only five peers in Holy Orders.

Pelham was a son of the 3rd Earl of Chichester. He was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a sporting blue, representing the university in athletics and cricket. He also played cricket for Sussex.

In May 1902, Pelham succeeded his elder brother, who died childless, as Earl of Chichester. Two months later, he was ordered abroad for his health and he went to Genoa in Italy.

In February 1903, Pelham resigned as Vicar of Yarmouth to spend time at his estate at Stanmer Park, near Brighton. Two years after leaving Yarmouth, Pelham was taken ill and died four hours later.

In 1906, the north transept, where the organ now is placed, was restored in Pelham’s memory during which an Early English window was discovered in the east wall. The panelled ceiling was painted in the original colours of white and vermillion.

Surprise had been expressed that such a devout and able priest was not made a bishop. It was thought he was too evangelical.

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During his time in Yarmouth, Pelham succeeded in clearing the debts of the church and he did not entertain any new ventures. His broad-minded approach left the parish at peace and free of debt.

He wanted it to be a lesson to all not to spend more than their income.

By Dr Paul Davies