Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hutchins, John

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HUTCHINS, JOHN (1698–1773), topographer, born at Bradford Peverell in Dorsetshire on 21 Sept. 1698, was son of Richard Hutchins (d. 1734), who was for many years curate of Bradford Peverell, and from 1693 rector of All Saints', Dorchester. His mother, Anne, died on 9 April 1707, and was buried in Bradford Peverell Church. His early education was under the Rev. William Thornton, master of Dorchester grammar school, and on 30 May 1718 he matriculated at Hart Hall, Oxford. In the next spring (10 April) he migrated to Balliol College, and graduated B.A. on 18 Jan. 1721-2, but for some unknown reason became M.A. of Cambridge in 1730. Late in 1722 or early in 1723 he was ordained, and served as curate and usher to George Marsh, who from 1699 to 1737 was vicar of Milton Abbas and the master of its grammar school. In his native county Hutchins remained for the rest of his life. Through the interest of Jacob Bancks of Milton, a memoir of whom he contributed to the 'London Magazine' in May 1738, he was instituted to the rectory of Swyre on 22 Aug., and to that of Melcombe Horsey in 1733. The last of these benefices he vacated on his institution to the rectory of Holy Trinity, Wareham, on 8 March 1743-4, but he retained the cures of Swyre and Wareham until his death. Political excitement among his parishioners at Wareham involved him in difficulties, and his weak voice and growing deafness diminished his influence in the pulpit. On Sunday, 25 July 1762, when the town of Wareham was devastated by fire and his rectory-house was burnt to ashes, his topographical papers were rescued by Mrs. Hutchins at the risk of her life. At the close of his days Hutchins was seized by a paralytic stroke, but he still laboured at his history of Dorset. On 21 June 1773 he died, and was buried in the church of St. Mary's, Wareham, in the old chapel under its south aisle. A monument on the north wall of the church commemorates his memory, His wife Anne (daughter of Thomas Stephens, rector of Pimperne, Dorset), whom he married at Melcombe Horsey on 21 Dec. 1733, died on 2 May 1796, aged 87. Their daughter, Anne Martha, married, 3 June 1776, at St. Thomas's (now the cathedral), Bombay, John Bellasis, then major of artillery in the service of the East India Company at Bombay, and afterwards major-general and commander of the forces at Bombay. She died at Bombay on 14 May 1797, and her husband on 11 Feb. 1808.

Jacob Bancks, the patron of Hutchins, urged him to compile a history of the county of Dorset, and Browne Willis, when visiting the county in 1736, persuaded him to undertake the work. Three years later Hutchins circulated from Milton Abbas a single-sheet folio of six queries, with an appeal for aid, which was drawn up by Willis and printed at his cost. The work dragged for many years, but a handsome subscription encouraged the compiler in 1761 to search the principal libraries and the records in the Tower. In 1774, after his death, it was published in two folio volumes as the 'History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset,' but there was prefixed a dedication by Hutchins, dated 1 June 1773. The accuracy of the author's investigations and the excellence of the type and prints secured general recognition, and the price of the volumes advanced far beyond the cost of subscription. The first volume of the second edition was issued in 1796 and its successor in 1803, but all that was printed of the third volume, with the exception of a single copy preserved in Gough's library at Enfield, and all the unsold copies of vols. i. and ii., were consumed by fire at the printing-house of John Nichols on 8 Feb. 1808. Not long afterwards Nichols printed a special appeal for further support (Gent. Mag. 1811, pt.i. pp.99-100), and in 1813 the third volume appeared with Gough's name as its editor. The fourth volume came out in 1815. On this edition Bellasis expended much of his own means. A further edition has since been published in four volumes, dated respectively 1861, 1864, 1868, and 1873. It began under the editorship of William Shipp and James Whitworth Hodson, but the former was sole editor from 1868, and although the prolegomena are dated September 1874 he died on 8 Dec. 1873. Many parts of this noble history have been issued separately. From the first edition were extracted descriptions of Poole and Stalbridge, and 'a view of the principal towns, seats, antiquities in Dorset, 1773.' Accounts of Milton Abbas, Shaftesbury, and Sherborne were selected from the second edition, and a history from the Blandford division, taken from the last impression, was circulated in 1860. Further use of his labours was made in 'Doomsday Book for Dorset, with a Translation by Rev. William Bawdwen, and a Dissertation on Doomsday by Rev. John Hutchins.'

An engraving by John Collimore of a portrait of Hutchins by Cantlo Bestland appeared in Bingham's 'Memoir,' 1813. The library of Hutchins was sold by Thomas Payne in 1774. Many letters by Hutchins are in Nichols's 'Illustrations of Literature' and 'Literary Anecdotes,' Stukeley's ' Family Memoirs' (Surtees Soc.), lxxvi. 128-34, and in 'Notes and Queries,' 5th ser. x. 343.

[An anonymous memoir entitled Biographical Anecdotes of the Rev. John Hutchins, M.A.,the work of the Rev. George Bingham, was printed in 1785 with a separate title-page, and in John Nichols's'Bibl. Topogr. Brit. vol. vi. pt. v. pp 19; a second edition with additions appeared in 1813. It was also reprinted in the second and third issues of the History of Dorset and in the Literary Anecdotes of Nichols, vi. 406-20. See also Foster's Oxford Reg.; Mayo's Bibl. Dorset, pp.2-4, 20, 114, 177, 221, 228, 278; History of Dorset, 2nd edit. i. 60, ii. 34, 141-2, 335, iv. 206; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. and Literary Anecdotes, passim; information from E. Bellasis, F.S.A., Heralds' College.]

W. P. C.