Rosliston – The Strange Case of John Vallancy

It’s hard to find a history of St. Mary’s Church in Rosliston which doesn’t mention John Vallancy (1843-1906), the village’s vicar at the end of the nineteenth century.

It was reported by the Reynolds’s Newspaper in July 1894 that:

“The Rev. John Vallancy, the representative of Christ at Rosliston, near Burton, teaches us the meaning of Christianity as interpreted by the Church established by Parliament in that part of the kingdom called England. Miss Mary Wright and her father placed flowers on the grave of a relative, after being warned by the state-manufactured ‘reverend’ against this display of affection. The representative of Christ swept the tributes away from the grave and brought an action for trespass against the lady, claiming 1s 6d in the special ‘mansion’ in the Father’s House which will be allotted to the Rev ‘Vallancy’, he is likely to be the sole tenant. Boarders will not stay, and in vain will be exhibit a notice ‘apartments to let'”.

This was a devastating attack on Vallancy, but matters were to get worse. The Derby Mercury reported on 13 May 1896:

“At the Swadlincote Petty Sessions on Tuesday before Mr. L Barber and a full bench of magistrates John Holden, of Rosliston, appeared in answer to a summons taken out by the Rev. John Vallancy, perpetual curate of Rosliston, who complained that he was in bodily fear of the defendant, and asked that he should be bound over to keep the peace. Mr. Vallancy conducted his own case, and Mr. Capes represented the defendant.

From the evidence, it appeared that on the 18th April the defendant went to the complainant’s house and asked Mr. Vallancy where the cross had gone that had been placed on his brother’s grave, and why it had been removed. Upon that the complainant ordered him off the premises, but defendant refused to go until he got the information required.

Complainant said that the defendant threatened to “do” for him, that he had “one wing broken” and that he would break the other. He also stated that the defendant threatened to strike him with a stick which he carried. Mr. Vallancy called four witnesses, whose evidence was most contradictory when under cross-examination.

Mr. Capes submitted that there was no case for him to answer, but the Bench decided that he must proceed. Mr. Capes then addressed the Court, and called a witness and the defendant himself, who denied either threatening the complainant or using bad language.

The Bench retired, and after a brief absence, Mr. Barber said they had come to the conclusion that the case must be dismissed for they did not think Mr. Vallancy was in need of any protection.”

The church authorities had to act as allegations against Vallancy started to pour in and the Bishop of Southwell summoned Vallancy to the consistory (or church) courts in April 1897. The vicar had been accused of holding a revolver in the air against a parishioner, which he denied and said “it was a large church key”. Some parishioners responded by burning an effigy of their vicar outside the church, which isn’t really an ideal state of affairs.

Vallancy had been so incompetent in role that he was starting to threaten the church’s reputation in the region, with the Bishop noting that:

“He has been cruel and wicked, utterly unworthy of his position and fatal to any usefulness in the parish of which he was at the present moment the incumbent”.

There’s no easy way of coming back from that allegation from the local Bishop and Vallancy was suspended from his position for eighteenth months. Vallancy was fortunate that the tabloids didn’t exist then in the same way that they do today, he would have found himself getting international attention.