The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

Bulls and Babbs

Of course we are delighted when books are published about the parish, and it is probably a bit churlish to criticise them when they stray from accuracy, but somehow one feels obliged to rise to the defence of one of our rectors.

In Ted Babbs' book about the Borley Rectory affair, he has the following paragraph seems that Edward Bull was something of a tyrant. Some years ago, a local publican told one of us (Ted Babbs) that when 'old Bull' was riding around the village in his trap, if the locals failed to adopt a sufficiently grovelling posture when he passed by they were liable to feel his whip across their backs. There is another local legend which tells of an incident when the Rev. Edward was one of the guns in a local shoot. The story has it that the reverand gentleman was waiting for the birds to come over when an innocent pig happened to amble by. Since there was nothing much happening, Bull shot it. Another version has it that the pig bit the rector first. We prefer this, there is almost an element of divine retribution in it. Happily, country parsons do not behave like this fashion today....(Borley Rectory, The Final Analysis -Claudine Mathias and Edward Babbs)

This paragraph caused a great deal of local head-scratching. Rev Edward Bull was a kindly and much-loved rector who was a great benefactor. He was a great deal less flamboyant than his neighbour Rev John Foster. However, we do have the story of the pig, and you can judge for yourself by comparing the two versions.

October 10th 1888

Attacked by a herd of swine

Whilst out shooting on thursday last, the Rev Felix P. Bull had a narrow escape from being mangled to death by a herd of swine feeding in a stubble field of Mr Daniel Offord, of this parish. Whilst crossing the stubble it appears that Mr Bull's dog must have aggravated a sow with a litter of small pigs, the sow rushed at the Reverand Gentleman siezing him by the leg, who in pushing her off had his finger severely bitten, whereupon he shot the sow dead and beat a hasty retreat. The value of the sow is about £6.

As regards the idea of the rector whipping anyone who refused to grovel to him, Ted may be straying from historical accuracy. The law of assault has not changed that much from the 1880s, and any such action would have been just as likely to have ended in criminal prosecution then as now. It would have certainly reached the local paper. We've scoured the local records for any such incidents without success. We're not even entirely sure whether he was referring to Rev. Edward Bull or Rev. Felix Bull.


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