Adam Martindale of Rostherne

In June, I went on pilgrimage. I stayed in a cheap hotel by Manchester Airport (the lack of flights persuaded the management to lower the prices to a modest 34 pounds per night). I was visiting Rostherne in Cheshire, a pretty village with an ancient church. It was there in the 1640s and 1650s that Rev Adam Martindale ministered. Unlike many puritans of the time, none of his sermons are extant, but he did write a diary, which I enjoyed reading. The puritans lived in a golden age of theology, yet Adam, as a parish minister, faced many humdrum problems which face many of today’s pastors. For example, he had people in his church who did not approve of his ministry, much preferring his predecessor. He had to navigate the perils of changing governments and their regulations of worship. He is vexed by ‘charismatic’ Quakers, who would infiltrate his congregation, and take people away with them. Congregationalists, like ourselves, caused him particular grief, insisting he allow ‘gifted brethren’ to preach, ie non-ordained but godly male members of the assembly. He had also to deal with some serious pastoral issues, such as a young victim of a predatory uncle, whom he referred to the local magistrates. Despite having a difficult, but successful ministry at Rostherne, he was expelled from his church in 1662 and spent some time in prison, as his local enemies enjoyed accusing him of unspecified crimes. He eventually became a chaplain and tutor at the home of Lord Delamar.

Reading the man’s diary cheered me, for it made it clear that all pastors and ministers face an endless queue of difficulties and problems. Doubtless, he wrote his diary for his own reasons, perhaps to vindicate himself in the eyes of a suspicious government. Yet it gave me an affection for him. I often think of that golden generation of puritan clergy as merely preaching and writing, not having to deal with the mundane affairs of running a church. Martindale certainly did, and it was an honour to visit the place where he so faithfully pastored.

Martindale is buried under the church’s chancel, a place I had hoped, but failed, to visit. I had contacted the current vicar, who courteously informed me that the building was closed to visitors because of Covid and some electrical work. Still, he offered me a church guidebook which arrived a couple of weeks later. I wandered around the chancel’s perimeter, even finding old gravestones from the 1630s and 1680s, but alas, though Adam may have known some of these people, he would not have been the one to bury them.

Let us remeber the great men and women who went before.