Rev John Arundel Radford

John Arundel Radford was baptised in Lapford in 1799 by his father William, who was Rector of both Lapford and Nymet Rowland. He was educated at Blundell’s School in Tiverton and St Alban Hall (now part of Merton College) in Oxford. After graduating BA, he was ordained in Exeter Cathedral in 1823.

In 1824 he married Thomasine Dawson, in her home town of Ashton on Trent in Derbyshire. On the death of his father in 1825, J A Radford was appointed to the livings of Lapford and Nymet Rowland.

From the start he was in debt – inherited from his father - and hounded by his creditors, mainly local farmers. From about 1831 Radford often lived away from the parish, sometimes in Wales where he worked as a labourer. In 1834 the living was sequestered, i.e. the income from tithes was diverted to the creditors. At times he was afraid to show his face in the parish and was disguised even when meeting his solicitors. In December 1831, a curate, Rev John Sparke Cookesley was appointed to run Lapford parish, that is until he was found dead in bed in the parsonage aged 26 in 1834. 

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In 1835 Rev Radford was arrested on suspicion of the murder of farmer Jonathon May at Moretonhampstead, and gave a false name to the magistrates.

Between 1826 and 1847 he had at least 14 children.


In November 1837, he resigned from the living at Nymet Rowland, where he was succeeded by Rev Charles Rookes of Exeter. It is probable that the appointment of Rookes was irregular. However Radford retained the Lapford living.

In 1839 he was successfully sued by a wine merchant in Exeter for £8.

He was declared bankrupt in 1840:

"John Arundel Radford, late of Lapford, heretofore of Northcoombe, Bratton Clovelly, previously of Okley Cottage, Lidford, previously of Haven Banks Inn, Saint Thomas the Apostle, all in Devonshire, previously of Groves-end, near Swansea, Glamorganshire, previously of Tunryvl, Glamorganshire, previously of Ustraddyvodg, Glamorganshire, previously of Llantrissart, Glamorganshire before that of Lapford, Clerk."

In August  1846 he was remanded for attacking a turnpike gate keeper with a knife; as he was unable to get sureties he was jailed for a month. He was described in the press as a ruffian, and Bishop Phillpotts was criticised for taking no action.

In 1849 he was sued by his housekeeper over non-payment of her wages, and in 1850 twice for non-payment of bills.

In December 1850 he was fined for trespassing and poaching in Witheridge.  In 1851 he published an advert warning that he would not be liable for wife’s debts, although they were separated at that stage; she was living with her family in Derby. In 1852 there was an auction of his "noted pack of beagles, 3 hogs heads of prime cider etc" to pay off creditors.

1855 saw him jailed for a month for assaulting the Parish Constable who was assisting the bailiff to serve him a summons. He had refused to pay the fine of £4 5s.


"The Reverend Ruffian" as he was referred to in the press, died in Lapford in 1861, and his widow survived him by nine years. They are both buried in the churchyard at Lapford, next to the Radford family grave.

There are no male descendants carrying the family name.

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