Revd Henry Gabell
Henry Gabell (1735-1802, Rector 1768-1802) was the longest-serving Rector in the history of Water Stratford church. It is indicative of the prosperity available to nineteenth century rectors that he was at the same time Rector of Swaby, Lincs (from 1771) and St Giles, Standlake, Oxon (from 1773), presumably employing curates to do the actual work in each place.
His father (also Henry) was Rector of Stowe and was buried in 1765 at our Henry's previous parish of Worton, near Kidlington; his mother and four of his siblings were buried in our churchyard; and his wife was buried in 1810 at Souldern, her family home. Henry died on 4th February 1802, probably at Souldern, and was buried at Standlake church on 12th February, where there is a modern memorial stone to him set into its chancel floor.
Henry's nephew, Henry Dison Gabell, was Second Master of Winchester College from 1793-1810 and Headmaster from 1810-23, and it is highly probable that he was the 'intriguing young clergyman' who befriended Mary Wollstonecraft when they were both travelling to Ireland in 1786 to take up posts as tutors.
Revd George Coleman
George Coleman (1802-1858, Rector 1839-1858) succeeded Woolley Bennett and, like him, served Water Stratford for nineteen years. The burial registers tell a poignant story: the huge number of pitiful young deaths of the early Victorian era are recorded in Coleman's firm, legible hand until the last one he entered, where his writing is feeble. The next entry was the Rector himself, and two months later his middle daughter, aged 16, joined him in the grave. It was to be over forty-three years, however, before the grave was reopened for his widow, Augusta, at the end of 1901.
His only son, George Worsley Coleman, was an Anglican clergyman in Lancashire. More tragedy hit this family in WWII: George Worsley Coleman's second son, Alan Fraser Coleman, and daughter-in-law were killed when a V1 flying bomb destroyed the Guards' Chapel in Westminster on 18th June 1944 during a service giving thanks for the successful D Day landings, and his grandson, David Worsley Coleman (son of his first son Revd Leonard Worsley Coleman) was killed in Normandy on 19th July 1944, six weeks after D Day.
Revd Edward George Andrew
Edward George Andrew (1842-1906, Rector 1875-87) was only 6 years old when his father, who was Vicar of Spaldwick in Hunts, died, and in 1875 he became Hon Secretary of the Clergy Orphan Corporation, a post he held for the rest of his life. His elder brother, William Joseph Dewes Andrew, a London solicitor, bought the advowson of the church around 1877 and Edward was responsible for substantial work on the Rectory in 1878. The 1881 census shows him as single with his mother, four pupils aged 8 to 13, a cook, and a housemaid called Hannah Watson, aged 16, a member of an extensive local family. But in 1887, in the obscurity of Aberystwyth, he married Hannah Watson. This presumably occasioned his departure from Water Stratford and he became Vicar of St Mary's, Mundon in Essex (now a redundant church but open to visitors) for the rest of his life. He and Hannah do not appear to have had any children. His youngest brother, Henry, was Vicar of Griston in Norfolk for an astonishing 55 years, from 1881 to 1936, dying in 1946 at the age of 99.
Revd Louis Ernest Goddard
Louis Ernest Goddard (1856-1935, Rector 1887-1921) did not die in harness in Water Stratford but we retain a link with him through the grave of one of his daughters, Ethel Frances West, who was born here on 19 November 1887, almost immediately after he took up his post. In 1903 she wrote the testimonial for the village schoolmistress, Sarah Ann Curtis, that hangs in the Old School. It is suspected that she may have returned to the Rectory around 1940 to care for the evacuees who were billeted there. Ethel must have been devoted to her childhood home because she was buried in our churchyard on 31 April 1962, in a grave closer to the Rectory than any other in the churchyard, rather than near her parents in Cheltenham or her retired GP husband in Berkshire. Her mother's sister, Ellen McArthur, is buried nearby - she died in 1896 aged 36, presumably while visiting the Goddard family. She and Louis's wife, Alice, were daughters of a prolific Victorian artist, Charles McArthur, examples of whose work may be found on the internet.
Louis and Alice retired to Cheltenham, though he returned in 1923 to conduct the funeral of his successor, Charles Kirsopp. He was born in Lincoln and is notable for his 33 year tenure, a span only exceeded in our church's entire history by Henry Gabell above. He bought the right of presentation from the Andrew family above and seems to have retained it until his death, being shown as presenting the next four Rectors after his own retirement. The advowson then passed to the Diocese of Oxford, where it remains.