The Reverend Canon John Atkinson

Bride Valley Team Vicar 1994-2003



John was born in 1938 in Huddersfield, in what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire.  On leaving Huddersfield College, a local Grammar School, he was keen to enter the world of business and commerce.  He followed his father's footsteps into the accountancy profession, serving articles for five years.  On qualifying as a Chartered Accountant he joined Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. in their West Riding practice in Leeds.  His work took him all over Yorkshire and to London.


During his articles John had met Pam, a Huddersfield girl herself.  In due course they planned to marry, but by this time John had experienced a call to the priestly ministry, had deliberated long and hard, had had his vocation tested, and at the age of twenty five begun studying for that ministry.


John trained for priesthood at The Queen's College at Birmingham.  He and Pam were married after his first two terms there.  In those days training for the ministry was full-time and fully residential. There was no accommodation for wives and families.  So during term-time John lived in Birmingham, while Pam lived at their flat in Huddersfield, working hard to keep them both!


In 1966, at the age of 27, John was ordained at St Albans Cathedral to serve his first curacy at Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire.  It was for him and Pam a wonderful time, though saddened by the stillbirth of their daughter in 1967.  John had an excellent training Vicar in David Farmbrough, who was to become Archdeacon of St Albans, and later Bishop of Bedford.  The work was new and exciting, in an area of the country unfamiliar to them, with days off by the sea and in the lovely villages of Suffolk and Essex - and their first son, Simon, was born in Bishop's Stortford in 1968.


John and Pam together served the Church in their adopted county for twenty-eight years.  In 1970 John was appointed Priest-in-Charge of St Thomas of Canterbury, in Letchworth (the first Garden City), where their second son, Timothy, was born in 1971.  St Thomas's was then the daughter church of the parish of Norton, whose Vicar was Michael Mayne, later to become  Dean of Westminster, another excellent training Vicar.  John's next move was to be parish priest of Markyate, then a village of some 3500 people  on the A5 near Dunstable, with Whipsnade Zoo almost in the parish, where he was Vicar for six years.  John's last post in Hertfordshire was Rector of Baldock with Bygrave (a commuter market town on the A1, with a population about 10000; and a village of some three hundred people).  For part of his time in Baldock he was also Rural Dean of Stevenage, which in addition to Stevenage itself included many large and small villages.


John speaks warmly of Hertfordshire, the people he met there and those with whom he worked.  It gave him many opportunities for ministry.  He served on the Diocesan Board of Finance and the Diocesan Synod, he was a Sub-Warden for Readers, an Adviser to the Diocesan Fellowship of Prayer, a Chaplain to the Hertfordshire Constabulary, and to Letchworth and Baldock Fire and Rescue Station.


After fourteen years in Baldock John thought a move would be good both for him and the Church there.  He was looking to spend the final years of his full-time ministry in a smaller community, where there would be plenty opportunity for pastoral work.  So he came to The Bride Valley as Team Rector in 1994, working initially with Team Vicar Andrew Salmon and then with Anthony Ashwell.


John and Pam greatly enjoyed their next nine years, in the country and by the sea, living in Burton Bradstock's large Rectory and attempting to keep the garden tamed.  As well as the Church, they were keen to involve themselves in many aspects of the day-to-day life of the Bride Valley villages, where their friendship, and John's ministry and Pam's thespian activities, were greatly valued.  In 1998 John was appointed Rural Dean of Lyme Bay.  Although he did not care much for meetings, he did value the opportunities for ministry over a wider area, and enjoyed especially being in the smaller communities of west Dorset.  In 2002 the Bishop appointed John a Canon and Prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral.  He was delighted to be supported at his installation by so many Bride Valley people.


After thirty seven years of parochial ministry, in 2003 John and Pam retired to Ledbury, Herefordshire.  They are able to take their place in their local churches, now in a less prominent way; to spend more time with their family in Gloucester; and to discover another part of the country unfamiliar to them.  They like their smaller garden, though Herefordshire clay is hard work.  They love living among the apples and hops, the black and white buildings, and some very good places to eat and drink!



.............Howard Bongers

A few photos from John Atkinson's leaving party