Rev John Ridd

In the early nineteenth century many clergy lived on the brink of poverty. Rev John Ridd of Coldridge is a case in point.


He was born in Challacombe in North Devon in about 1752, and graduated from Gonville and Caius, Cambridge. Shortly after being ordained in 1777 he was appointed Curate of St Matthew’s Coldridge – where he was to spend the rest of his life.

[Rev James Gay was the Vicar at that time, but he lived and worked in Frithelstock and paid Ridd an annual salary of £40 to do the work in Coldridge. Gay died in 1794 and was replaced by Rev William Smith (who also held livings in Bideford and West Worlington).]

Soon after he was ordained, John Ridd married Grace Hooper in Tawstock near Barnstaple. He died in Coldridge in 1810.


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John Ridd's headstone. Move cursor over image on right to see lower inscription.

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His gravestone has been moved to the entrance porch of the church. It also records the deaths of three of his children. Space was left for mention of his wife’s death (in 1825 in Combe Martin) but this has not been used.

The slate gravestone tells only part of the story as John and Grace Ridd had at least ten children and latterly their family was reliant on charity.

Until about 1797, he was able to supplement his income by officiating at two neighbouring churches  including Brushford, which brought in an extra £30, but then the incumbents returned to their parishes so he was back to living on £40, less £18 rent, (probably an illegal arrangement).

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Clergy from neighbouring parishes advertised a national appeal for charitable donations and within a few months these donations, mainly from other clergy, were sufficient to sort out his immediate problems and to purchase an annuity. The following year, probably embarrassed by this publicity, the Bishop of Exeter appointed Ridd as Vicar of Coldridge, with a salary of £100.