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Scandal in the Church reconstructs the extraordinary story of Dr Edward Drax Free DD, the rector of Sutton in Bedfordshire, and the sequence of events that led, following a series of court battlers, to his deprivation in 1830.
Free is the only Church of England clergyman in the last two hundred years to have rivalled the notorious Harold Davidson, the rector of Stiffkey, defrocked in 1932 following the disclosure of his links with prostitutes. Dr Free was a fellow of St John's College and vicar of St Giles, Oxford, whose behaviour had been so outrageous that the college had considered expelling him.
In the event, they were only too glad to appoint him the living of Sutton when it fell vacant in 1808. Free soon offended his new parishioners, failing to perform his duties, selling the lead off the church roof and allowing pigs and other livestock to desecrate the graveyard, and quarrelling with all and sundry, both when sober and drunk. He kept pornographic literature and seduced a series of housekeepers, producing five illegitimate children, besides causing at least one of the women to miscarry.