John Dixon Wortley

JOHN DIXON WORTLEY’S father John was born in North Walsham in 1835. He belonged to a wealthy farming family; by the age of 25 John Wortley was already established with a dairy herd and a farm of 218 acres. In 1867 he married a young lady called Sarah Wright who was born in Trunch in 1845. Her father was a corn merchant and another wealthy landowner. The eldest son of John and Sarah Wortley was John Dixon Wortley (the name Dixon after his maternal grandmother’s maiden name), born in 1870 at Swafield, which is the village that lies between Trunch and North Walsham. Sarah died aged only thirty, about eighteen months after her second son Earnest  Dixon was born in 1874. Her widower John soon remarried; his second wife Victoria Barber was born in 1837 to the squire of Hobland Hall in Bradwell near Lowestoft. The family later moved to Skeyton, which is another village not far from North Walsham. John Dixon Wortley went up to Trinity College (Cambridge) to read Divinity in 1889. By then the family were living in Frettenham, an area between Spixworth and Coltishall and only 6 miles from Norwich. It is well-known for its  rich soil and superior farmland. John Dixon’s younger brother Ernest trained in medicine. He became a doctor, eventually practising in Nottinghamshire. Their stepmother Victoria had two daughters. Their father John Wortley died in 1910 and his wife four years later.


After various curacies, first in Liverpool and then in Kent and Surrey, John Dixon Wortley was given the living of Swannington by his old college Trinity Hall. He was inducted in 1917 and remained at Swannington until his death at the age of 79 in 1950. His predecessor, the Revd George B. Aitkinson, had taught Wortley as a Fellow of “The Hall”, while Wortley was an undergraduate there in 1890. John  Dixon Wortley was the last Rector to live in Swannington Rectory, built in the 17th century. He was a bachelor, and his two half-sisters also remained single, but his brother Ernest had a son who emigrated to Canada.

John  Dixon Wortley was a prolific author on local history subjects during the first half of the 20th century. The following bibliography makes no claims of completeness. The duties associated with the care of the souls of Swannington obviously did not occupy him all his time. The father of one of my sister school friends, the Revd Frank Jolley, was Rector of an adjacent village before the last war, and must have known the Rector of Swannington.

Swannigton: its church, Rectors and History; 1921
An Account of the Parish Church of Skeyton 1923
Downham Market; its Church and History; 1924
The Parishes and Churches of Attlebridge and Morton-on-the-Hill; 1925
Alderford Church; 1928
Antiquarian Treasures discovered at Swannington, Norfolk; 1930
The Charm and Beauty of our Commons and Heaths; 1931
The Story of Swannington Parish Church from prehistoric times; 1932
 Slyvan Scenery: the Charm and Beauty of our Trees and Woodlands; 1932
Miscellaneous Poems; no date.




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