St Michael and All Angels Church, Middlewich www.middlewichparishchurch.org.uk
Memorials John Hulse Memorial Click to enlarge

REV JOHN HULSE

1708 - 1790


John Hulse, born in Middlewich on 15th March 1708 to parents Thomas Hulse and Anne Webb of Middlewich, a lady of considerable wealth, of a family of 'Brine Pit' owners.*


His life can be seen to unfold in 3 phases:


Part 1 - he was the eldest of 19 children.  it is recorded in [1] that very early on in his life he was removed from under the paternal roof, and was put out to nurse with a cottager woman on the estate. The tale continues The grandfather, being desirous of seeing his grandson, proceeded up a dirty green lane, where he observed a girl with a child under one arm, and a pitcher of water in the other hand.  He soon heard the old cottagers' wife rebuking the girl for not making haste with the water and adding that if she could not bring both the child and the water, she must drop the child in the lane - which was accordingly done!  From that moment on his grandfather took the child unto his own home.


John was consequently brought up by his grandparents,  His grandfather was the Rev Thomas Hulse, himself an Ordained priest with a cure in the Sandbach Deanery.  John was educated at Congleton Grammar School.


Part 2 - at the age of 16 he was accepted by St John's College, Cambridge.  It is stated that his grandfather took him there with John behind him , on horseback.  At this time grandfather was said to be 78 years of age!


It was during his time as an undergraduate that his grandfather died.  Coincidentally at this time John’s father, being heir to estates of his wife, Anne, inherited Elworth Hall along with all the goods, property and land, stretching from Bradwall to Elworth, and much of Sandbach. This, combined with the extreme wealth of his wife's inheritance in salt production and land and property in Middlewich, Newton, Clive and Nantwich, elevated Hulse Snr, to a position of great wealth and influence across the county.


In 1728 John graduated from Cambridge, gaining a BA in Theology.  He was Ordained in 1732, and took up a post at Yoxall in Staffordshire.


John married Miss Mary Hall of Hermitage, Holmes Chapel.  This lady brought with her the promise of yet more wealth.  They had only one son, Edward, who died at the age of 22. He afterwards took the small cure of Goostrey, where he remained until the death of his father in 1753.  


Rev John Hulse then resigned his cure at Goostrey and took possession of his paternal home of Elworth Hall, where he remained for the rest of his life, living in virtual seclusion.  It is not known when his wife Mary died.


Post 1753 John Hulse became a very wealthy man, much of his wealth coming from rents, tythes and manufacture from across mid and south Cheshire.


Despite having 18 siblings, his unusual start in life caused a breach in the domestic arrangements which never healed.  All communications with his brothers and sisters seems to have been cut off from that time.


Overtime, it was revealed that none of his siblings had an heir to their estates; John likewise.  Consequently, as the eldest son, he inherited even more wealth from the death of his siblings.


Although he lived a very abstemious life, eating little and drinking only water, this frugality did not extend to his charitable care, concern and giving.


On 21 July 1777 John Hulse compiled his last will and testament.  It is a very lengthy document, handwritten in small print, and is said to make up a folio of 400 pages.  With the exception of bequests to his long-time and devoted servants, Thomas and Elizabeth Plant, and 'local' charities for poor relief, he left his entire estate to Cambridge Universities, with detailed instructions for its use.     The will may be read in full via the Cambridge University statutes.


Part 3 -  The Hulsean Scholarship.   His great wealth was to be put into trust, for the provision and support of what is collectively called the Hulsean Scholarship for the Advancement and Reward of Religious Learning.


The terms of the bequest were as follows:

 First, to maintain two Divinity scholars at St John's College

 Second, to found a prize for a dissertation

 Third, to found and support the Office of Christian Advocate

 Fourth, that of the Hulsean Lecturer or Christian Preacher

This was to be administered by Trustees of the University of Cambridge, adopting the wishes he laid out in his copious Will.


Changes in mandate for parts of the Scholarship, the most notable of these changes is to create a Professorship of Divinity, to replace the office of Christian Advocate.


The mandate for the Hulsean Lectures has, over time, relaxed the conditions attached to the post.  It is currently a minimum of 4 lectures (down from 20, to 8 and now 4)


In 2016 the Hulsean Lectures were delivered by Professor Lord Williams of Oystermouth, perhaps better known as the former Archbishop of Canterbury.  The subject/theme of the series was "Christ and the logic of Creation:  a series of 6 lectures".  See
sms-support@ucs.cam.ac.uk  or https://.cam.ac.uk/collection/2154437


John Hulse died 14 December 1790, aged 82. He is buried in this Church, with his grandparents to whom he was affectionately attached through life, and has not been separated from them in death.


It is recorded in "Rationalism and Revelation (opens a pdf file)”, a Hulsean Lecture, by the Reverend Richard Parkinson, 1837 "that he left instruction that, on interment, his grave was to be left unfilled for some days, and his body watched day and night - a necessary part of his design.  His simple countrymen, however, assigned a reason for the instruction based on his retired habits of musical performance, his piety and his 'eccentricity'.” There is no real proof of this having happened. It's a story which fits the life of John Hulse.


There are no signs or indications of exactly where the Hulse grave is. The only hint is found on his memorial:

 "Underneath the Pew, the farthest Eastward in this aisle  lieth All that is not immortal of the Reverend John Hulse in the County of Chester ... "


The legacy of John Hulse lives on through his Scholarship requirements and provision and his ongoing Charity for the relief of the poor, The Hulsean Charity.


Quote from Reverend Parkinson:  "with this act, he provided one more stone for the cairn"


John Hulse Abstract of Title (pdf)

Juohn Hulse Abstract of Will (pdf)


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