Rector of Streatham
At least 57 men and one woman have held the title of Rector of Streatham. Although the history of St Leonardís goes back to the Domesday book and beyond, the first recorded Rector was Robert de Rothomago (Rouen) in 1230. As in most parishes, the earlier names on the list have a decidedly French flavour.
Due to a gap in the records, we donít know who was Rector when Sir John Ward began the building of the present church in 1350 but it could have been John Whiteman (appointed 1330). There was a fairly high turnover of incumbents in those days, possibly due to the plague although Streatham fared rather better than some parishes.
John Elsefelde (1390) was almost certainly the Rector who whipped the bailifs for breaking sanctuary [see history] and is one of three whose memorials can be found in the church - a small tablet in the Chapel of Unity asks the passer-by to pray for his soul. Another is William Mowfurth (1492) commemorated on a brass in the sanctuary.
Michael Rabit (1585) was a noted scholar and one of the translators responsible for the Authorised Version of the Bible published in 1611.
The most illustrious Rector of the 18th century was Benjamin Hoadly (1710), although it is unlikely that he spent much time in Streatham, since he was simultaneously incumbent of St Peter-le-Poor in the City and was well known as a political animal who preferred to spend most of his time in London, so he probably appointed a vicar to run the parish on a day-to-day basis. He later became successively Bishop of Bangor, Hereford, Salisbury and Winchester.
James Tattersall (1755) built a splendid house called The Shrubbery (opposite Shrubbery Road), which later became Streatham College for Girls. His two predecessors and immediate successor were all called Bullock, possibly three generations of the same family. Herbert Hill (1810) is remembered as the founder of St Leonardís School and his memorial slab can be seen near the pulpit. Our only aristocratic Rector was Lord Wriothesley Russell (1830), presumably a younger son of the Duke of Bedford.
Our longest-serving incumbent was Canon John Richard Nichol, who was Rector from 1843 to 1904 and saw Streatham expand from a quiet Surrey village to a bustling suburb and his parish shrink as new churches were built.
When Douglas Salmon arrived in 1931 someone painted a picture which used to hang in the church hall; entitled ďA fine catch for St Leonard!Ē, it depicts a man in a monkís habit landing an enormous fish. After him we are into the realm of living memory - Percy Hodges, Philip Morrel-Smith, Michael Hamilton Sharp (Rector at the time of the fire) and Canon Jeffry Wilcox, who retired in June 2006 after 24 years as Rector and was awarded the MBE for services to the local community.
In 2007 Revíd Mandy Hodgson became the first woman to hold the office of Rector of Streatham, having previously been Team Vicar of St Luke the Physician, Benchill (Wythenshawe) in the Diocese of Manchester. After nine years of ministry she leaves us to take up the post of Team Rector of Wimbledon.
[The term Rector denotes a parish priest who possesses the freehold of the church and who, in the past, would have received an income in the form of tithes from the parish and would also have been responsible for maintaining the chancel, unlike a Vicar who was appointed to run the parish vicariously and paid a stipend. Of course the distinction is now largely historical, as is the second part of the title which recalls the days when the parish of St Leonardís and the village of Streatham were one and the same.]