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John Gorsuch: our ‘Scandalous Malignant Priest’

by janet on 31 January 2012 · 39 comments

John Gorsuch became rector of Walkern in the 1630s, in the climate of political and religious turbulence preceding the English Civil War. In fact he was one of the few village priests to be ejected from their living by Act of Parliament. Ultimately, this was to lead to his mysterious death, and the emigration of much of his family to America.

This article is taken from Esme Overman’s booklet ‘Gorsuch: Parish Priest’, and thanks go to her family for allowing us to use her writings.
From London to Walkern

His father, Daniel, had inherited property in London where he and Alice his wife and their three children John, Katherine and Mary, lived in the vicinity of St Paul’s, possibly at Bishopsgate. Daniel invested in property in the village of Walkern, a good move as although Walkern is tucked away in a small valley, it is on the route from London to Cambridge which was already a thriving seat of learning.

Indeed, Daniel?s son John, who was born in 1600, the same year as the future King Charles I, took his Bachelor of Arts and then a Master?s degree, at Cambridge, entering the church in 1624 and becoming a Doctor of Divinity in 1636.

In about 1628, John Gorsuch married Ann Lovelace, daughter of Sir William and Anne Lovelace and sister to John?s friend, Richard Lovelace, a Cavalier poet famous for the lines:

Stone walls do not a prison make
Nor iron bars a cage


I could not love thee dear so much
Loved I not honour more.

John and Ann initially set up home in London and three children were soon born to them. This was a time of change and the patronage of church livings (advowsons) were being bought by individuals and corporations. Soon after his son’s marriage and having invested in property in Hertfordshire, Daniel Gorsuch bought the advowson of St. Mary’s, Walkern.

When Daniel bought the living the old parsonage house was at Clay End, a good distance from St Mary’s, so he built a new rectory, close to the church. The rectory was one of the earliest all-brick houses built in England and had glazed sash windows in oak frames. It is basically still the same, square in outline, with brick walls, three floors and a ‘hipped’ tile roof sloping on all four sides. The only difference is in the front facade which was changed sometime in the late 1700s, and a “long” room added on the south side (this was built to house the library of Benjamin Heath, the rector of Walkern 1781-1817). The front entrance could conceivably have faced the church on the east side with a path and bridge over the river Beane to the churchyard.

Four years after their marriage John was instituted as Rector at Walkern, the mandate signed and sealed on behalf of King Charles, and he and Ann had moved with their growing family to the newly built rectory.

The clash of views

It was during this period that the Gorsuch family repaired and improved St Mary’s, building a monument into the south wall of the chancel and installing a plain square East window (a window that was lost at the time of a major renovation in the 1870s). It was also during this time that John had the altar, or communion table, set behind altar rails under the new East window. This was a controversial move.

Altar rails for communion had been introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud as a religious and political statement. Laud believed in ritual and the divine right of kings, and was opposed to religious toleration. John Gorsuch was a follower.


left: Archbishop of Canterbury
William Laud, after Sir Anthony
Van Dyck (circa 1636)


The first incident occurred at Christmas 1636. Thomas Humberstone of Walkern Park and his wife, with Puritan leanings, refused to come up to the altar rails for communion. They knelt at the chancel steps but John Gorsuch refused to give them the sacrament.

Again at Easter the same couple raised their objections to approaching the altar rails and being denied the sacrament they referred the matter to the Archdeacon who after interviewing Gorsuch wrote them a “persuasive letter to reform their carriage”.

So they petitioned John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. He was sympathetic to the Puritan faction and ordered Gorsuch to administer the communion “to all who presented themselves kneeling in any part of the church under pain of suspension? and with the threat to depose Gorsuch’s curate, Francis Beckwith.

Gorsuch appealed. John Williams had by this time been imprisoned in the Tower for malpractices in State Affairs, and Archbishop Laud had taken charge of Lincoln Bishopric, so the rector was supported. On 28th October a bond was filed against Thomas Humberstone “… to exhibite a true and full certificate of his due frequenting of his parishe church of Walkerne and divine service …”

The Humberstone couple conceded and no further steps were taken against them either by John Gorsuch or his curate Francis Beckwith.

The death of Daniel Gorsuch

In the meantime John’s father had died. Daniel’s burial is recorded in the Walkern Parish register on 8th October 1638, signed by John Gorsuch, Rector.

The Gorsuch memorial in St Mary’s reads: “Daniel Gorsuch, Citizen and Mercer of London in the month of July 1638, caused this Tomb to be made for himself and his wife Alice by whom he had three children, John, Katherine and Joanna, his age being 69 years 6 months and odd dayes. And he died on the 8th day of October, 1638.”

In Daniel’s will, made at Walkern two days earlier, he left property in London to his wife and to John Gorsuch, a sum of…

Above: Detail of the memorial for
Daniel & Alice Gorsuch

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Tambria Kelley August 14, 2020 at 1:34 am

John Gorsuch and Anne Lovelace are my 8th great-grandparents. I have enjoyed reading about them and learning of the community in my family’s past.


Tambria Kelley August 14, 2020 at 1:56 am

I felt it may be helpful to include more information as I understand it. My 5th great grandmother is Elizabeth Gorsuch, daughter of Thomas, son of Charles, son of John and Anne. It was Thomas who was born in America, and it appears that Elizabeth was his second child who married my 5th great-grandfather, William Kelley.


Kerry Daniel August 7, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Hi, I am researching my family tree on ancestry.com.au (Australia) and have just found that JOHN GORSUCH, born in1600, is the husband of my 2nd cousin, 4 x removed (Anne Lovelace)! If there are any relatives that would like to connect that would be great.


Samantha Parry ne Hubbard June 20, 2020 at 9:53 am

Hello fellow relatives.
I have just found out my 10th Great Grandfather was Rev.John Gorsuch and 10th Great grandmother Lady.ann.B.Lovelace. My line follows down to Susanna Gorsuch who married a William Lee who’s daughter married into the Hubbard line.Reading all this has been fascinating.Little did I know back when I was working in the Pub in Walken in the 80’s as a school kid that I had a connection to the village.I now live in Australia but as soon as I’m home next i will be popping into the Church.


Charmaine June 10, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Hello all,

I wanted to know if anyone has tested with Ancestry I found two with the Gorsuch surname so far but, I would like to find more and make sure this were my connection to DNA matches I finding on these lines truly are. John and Anne would be my 11th GG by way of their GG Rachel Gorsuch Bosley. If anyone is on gedmatch my kit number is A920344 or you find me on Ancestry or contact me by email. I hope some see this I have seen it’s been a while since the last post.

I hope all are well God bless


samantha Evangelista April 18, 2020 at 9:36 pm

I believe I am Descended from the Humberstone family Gyles being my 11th great grandfather


Debbie McCusker March 3, 2020 at 10:45 pm

Hi Allison, I am also a descendant of the 2 Sarah’s. Sarah Gorsuch was my 6th great grandmother, Sarah Parlett Roberts was my 6th great aunt (unless some incorrect writings have led me down the wrong rabbit hole) I don’t see an Alfred at all in my info. My ancestry site is above. Do you have an online tree? Is your part of the family still in Baltimore? Mines is still in the general area. Debbie


Ladelle Talley December 25, 2018 at 5:17 am

Reverend John Gorsuch and Ann were my 20tg great grandparents.


Ladelle Talley December 25, 2018 at 5:19 am

Sorry I typed it wrong 10th great grandfather and grandmother.


Rob Holland October 30, 2018 at 4:47 pm

Thanks for making this page!


Jonathan Gorsuch August 31, 2018 at 1:15 am

G’day Gary!

Always glad to know about the characters in the family tree.

While I am not descended from Thomas Gorsuch 1755 and Fanny Clarke 1761, I suspect that there is a connection between them and my line. I do know of a number of UK Gorsuch’s who are descended from them and would therefore be your cousins. Would be happy to put you in a touch. (If you are on facebook, search for “gorsuch- pronounced just like it’s spelled” we have close to 200 Gorsuch or Gorsuch descendants on the group.)


Jonathan Gorsuch


Juanita L Brown May 24, 2018 at 1:18 am

I am completing my family tree on ancestry.com,and have just found out I am related to him from his daugther Anne L. Gorsuch,through her son Thomas,from his daugther Jane Scott, and so forth. He is my 9th great grandfather, and interestingly enough I am a black American lol


Rob Holland October 30, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Cool …. he’s my 13ggfather so we’re cousins!


Chrystal Simms December 31, 2020 at 5:06 am

He is my 11th ggf his daughter Elizabeth married William Powell (Quaker). My 6th ggm Anister Stapp married William Simms and they are from Albemarle, VA . I’m African American what a journey connecting with folk through ancestry. I guess we are a world of cousins :).


Chrystal Simms December 31, 2020 at 5:12 am

John Gorsuch and Anne Lovelace were my 11th ggp, their daughter Elizabeth married William Powell (Quaker) and had a son Thomas Powell. My 6th ggm Anister Stapp Simms married William Simms and they are from Albemarle, VA . I’m African American what a journey connecting with folk through ancestry. I guess we are a world of cousins :).


Gary Gorsuch March 4, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Hi fellow Gorsuches,
Gorsuch women were real characters. We have a Frances (Fanny) who was the first Gorsuch to emigrate to Australia in 1839; one of a handful of single women to travel for 8 months by sailing ship to South Australia on a boatful of sailors and single men! Later she married John Henry Smith in Tasmania returning to Melbourne to live. Her brother Edward followed 13y later to Melbourne from Chichester with his wife Emily Barnes of Selsey. All Australian Gorsuches have descended from Thomas Gorsuch 1755 and Fanny Clarke 1761.


Tana Anderson March 16, 2017 at 9:17 pm

Hey, cousins, I just discovered the joy of genealogy and am filled out my family trees—my daughter’s father’s family, too.

Thank you for this information about Anne Lovelace. I’ve been using Google maps to “fly” to England and put pins all over the map. Every place my people were born or died or married—I mark the town and, when possible the churches. The best part of this is that some of the churches have recordings of their bells on YouTube, and you can listen to the same bells your grandparents did. It’s lovely.

I’m in California, but was born in the Deep South. I think genealogy is like sticking your arm all the way into the sand and pulling up diamonds. Or occasionally, skeletons—like the ones of the servants that “Ancient Planter” (and horrible person) John Gray Proctor killed in Virginia.

I am so happy to know that Anne’s brother is the poet. I have long loved the line, “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.”

What happened to AnneLovelace.com? I was so excited to see it. Thanks, y’all.


JodyCornelius October 24, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Do you know where I could get the full article, the beginning of which is posted above? I am intrigued to find out what happens after: “In Daniel’s will, made at Walkern two days earlier, he left property in London to his wife and to John Gorsuch, a sum of”….


Helen Kimble December 16, 2018 at 3:27 am
Alison Griffiths August 24, 2016 at 10:37 pm

I have only just read the interesting reply Jonathan Gorsuch sent me nearly 2 years ago? I didn’t have an email to reply directly. It is a shock to be told my gt grandfathers’ mother was married twice – we did not know this! We have photos of her and other family members from the early 1860s. I am descended from Sarah Ann Gorsuch’s daughter Sarah Ann. We were always led to believe she only had one other full sibling a brother Alfred – but that there was some scandal involving a child she had by a William Parker prior to her marriage. In fact we had a bible given to this child Charles William Gorsuch for his 21st birthday – Hope this is of interest A


Jonathan February 25, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Hi Alison.

Only just seen your posting – I did ask the moderators to forward my email address so thought you were ignoring me!

Would love to catch up, both on Gorsuch research and other family news.

your 4th cousin

Jonathan Gorsuch
High Wycombe, Bucks


Jonathan Gorsuch March 8, 2017 at 9:25 am

HI Alison.

Only recently seen this post – glad the note I sent was of interest.
I thought you were ignoring me!

would love to catch up, have found some other information that might be of interest.


Jonathan Gorsuch
High Wycombe


Debbie McCusker March 3, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Hi Allison, I am also a descendant of the 2 Sarah’s. Sarah Gorsuch was my 6th great grandmother, Sarah Parlett Roberts was my 6th great aunt (unless some incorrect writings have led me down the wrong rabbit hole) I don’t see an Alfred at all in my info. My ancestry site is above. Do you have an online tree? Is your part of the family still in Baltimore? Mins is still in the general area. Debbie


Daniel Wheatley April 7, 2016 at 10:46 pm

Does anyone know if portraits of John Gorsuch or Anne Lovelace exist? Thank you. D. Wheatley.


Daniel C. October 27, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Friends, I’m also an American descendant of Anne Lovelace Gorsuch Todd. What a fascinating woman and family. For some time I had been thinking descendants should have a place to come together to discuss Anne’s life and that of her husband and family. A few moments ago, and to that aim, I registered annelovelace.com. Very shortly, I will have the site minimally up and running. Please go to the site to find contact information. If I can, I will also make a discussion forum available. I don’t want to lead, but just take the role of happy participant. Anyone who wants to serve as the site’s facilitator is more than welcome to take over. My proposal would be to form a society of descendants, enthusiasts and researchers. Thank you, and I hope to meet some of you soon. Warm regards, Daniel C.


Kathy Greenwood March 10, 2015 at 2:14 pm

I am an American descendant of John Gorsuch and his wife Anne Lovelace through their son Charles who was born in Walkern in 1642. I visited Walkern last week to see the house and church, but I wasn’t able to get over to the Hertford County archives to view the Esme Overman pamphlet that is the source of information on your website. I find it curious that she says that John met Anne through his friendship with her brother Richard, the poet and cavalier. Most sources site Richard’s birth as December 6, 1617, and we know his approximate age from his father’s will. This means Richard was only about 10 years old when John and Anne married in 1628. If John was born in 1600, their age difference makes a friendship seem unlikely. According to the Encyclopedia of National Biography, Lovelace was “educated at the Charterhouse and at Gloucester Hall, Oxford where he matriculated 27 June 1634…he was incorporated at Cambridge in the following year.”


Charmaine June 10, 2020 at 8:53 pm

Hello Kathy,

I may also descend from their son Charles. Could you please contact me when you able I would love to pick your brain.


John goulder November 7, 2014 at 11:28 pm

It’s a very big family. I know I’m related to a Thomas Gorsuch who was a watchmaker in Liverpool. Who I think was one of Johns brothers… We have a family tree on old parchment that if I rememer goes back to the 17c. Plus some wills of the family in Liverpool.. The Liverpool side of the family is related to James Ratcliff the 3rd Earl Of Demantwater. He lead the Jackabite attack on Preston. Who was beheaded on Tower Hill.. I think one of James children marred into the Gorsuch family.


John goulder November 7, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Very interesting.. I am a descendant of John Gorsuch who once owed Gorsuch Hall Farm near Liverpool. On my Fathers side. johns brother was a Vicker in London. Gorsuch Road is named after him…


Jonathan Gorsuch September 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm


Very interesting web site – thanks for posting it.

As far as I know, I’m not descended from Rev John Gorsuch – we are different twigs on the family trees, however I am always interested in hearing from other Gorsuchs, from around the world.



Catherine August 1, 2014 at 4:19 pm

This is pretty fascinating. My family is decedent from John Gorsuch down to Ellen Rebecca Gorsuch in the 1850’s when the line was believed to have snuffed out in name. She was an only daughter and Married a Cole. Most of the family stayed in the that Baltimore county and only more recently have families splintered off here and there. But growing up, there were often lively discussions about why the family came here and the various descendants (Dickerson Gorsuch in specific – the lout!). There were regular trips to the family graveyards. But it was always told to me as I grew up, that the reason the family came over was about a dispute with the king not a priest scandal. And no one ever mentioned a “Scandalous Mailgnant Priest.” I find this to be very amusing.


Debbie McCusker March 3, 2020 at 10:11 pm

Hi Catherine! I’m guessing we are cousins of some sort of cousins. I just found this site. I am also a descendant of John Gorsuch and the Coles! My family is from Baltimore I havent found an Ellen Rebecca Gorsuch on my tree. Who’s child is she? Do you have an ancestry tree?


Patricia Moody July 10, 2014 at 11:28 pm

This is fantastic! I recently inherited our family history and used Google to find Walkern on a map (I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, USA). I accidentally found this instead. I am a descendant of John Gorsuch (through Charles), and my grandmother will be thrilled to read this history. Thank you so much!


Carol F. Holliday January 22, 2014 at 8:08 pm

The reason that Anne Gorsuch came to Virginia was because her father and grandfather were members of the Virginia Company that founded the colony. They were both named Sir William Lovelace. Although they never set foot on America’s shores she had inherited from them the land where she went. It must have been a desperate move to go there with children. No wonder she died shortly thereafter.

Her grand daughter, Mary Keene, married Thomas Clagett II of Upper Marlboro, Maryland and became the ancestress of a large clan.


Alison Dufton May 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm


Fascinating – I have a family bible from a branch of the Gorsuch family- it belonged to my gtgtgrandmother who was a Gorsuch – thanks so much for filling in the connection between where Iwas brought up in Bps Stortford where the Gorsuches were cordwainers for many generations and Weston. There are few records on line for the Hert Gorsuches – I always wondered if they were non-conformist at some point?
Good luck with your research Alison


Jonathan Gorsuch September 15, 2014 at 11:54 am


I would be very interested to hear from you regarding your Gorsuch gt.gt. Grandmother, because my gt.gt. Grandfather, Thomas Gorsuch, was from Bishop Stortford. I know that he had at least four sisters (Elizabeth, Sarah, Ann and Fanny) and if one of these is your ancestor then that would make us 4th cousins!

If we are on the same branch, then I would especially like to know if you have any information regarding the origins of the Daniel Gorsuch who married Ann Warwick c. 1780. He was my 4xgt Grandfather and is as far back as we have been able to trace our lineage.

Many thanks for your time and attention, and I am looking forward to hearing from you. Even if it is only to confirm receipt of this message.

kind regards,

Jonathan Gorsuch
High Wycombe


alison September 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm


Yes we do appear to be fourth cousins! I am descended from Sarah Ann – she had a double barrelled Christian name. I know she married a William Waterman (a non conformist) in 1849. The family were cordwainers for generations but Thomas fell on hard times losing his business. I have been unable to trace Daniel before his marriage – he does appear in poll books for the 1780s and 90s in Lt Hadham and so could vote. He is also listed in the militia lists of the period. There is also a Charles Gorsuch who – infuriatingly – is also listed in the same records but is also well documentated in St Michael’s church records. Someone once commented Gt Hadham records are lost so maybe he was recorded there but I have not had the opportunity to verify this. I have a hunch they are brothers but can’t prove it. I would also add the family is literate, including Sarah Ann, which would indicate they were of the artisan class. Hope this helps – would love to hear from you. regards


Jonathan Gorsuch September 20, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Hello Cousin!
Delighted to get in touch.

Thanks for the information, very interesting – I will be passing it on to my Uncle (your 3rd cousin once removed) who is the historian of our branch of the family.

Would be very interested to know about your lineage from Sarah Ann – according to our records she had 4 children. 3 by William Waterman and one by A N Other, we also have details of a second marriage to a William Parker.

There is a way of proving – or disproving – that Charles and Daniel were brothers. If we could find a direct male descendant of Charles then we could do a DNA comparison between him and me. Such a test would show if we have a direct male ancestor in common within 10 generations – I would be happy to provide a sample for such a test.

Love to hear more – my home email is [forwarded by email], or find me on face book (I saw one Alison Dufton on face book in Kent- is that you?)


Jonathan Gorsuch
High Wycombe

(Note to moderators: if it is not your policy to show email addresses on this site, could you forward mine, please).


LuRee Shannon Todd Sanford April 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Anne Lovelace Gorsuch Todd was my 7th Great-Grandmother. My findings of her husband’s family, my 7th great-grandfather go back to the 1500’s. I am still working on Mr. Todd’s family ancestor’s and Anne’s family ancestors. 4-14-2013.


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