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Gutch, Johnlocked

  • Alan Crossley

Gutch, John (1746–1831), antiquary and Church of England clergyman, was born at Wells on 10 January 1746, eldest son of John Gutch (1705–1772), town clerk of Wells, and Mary (d. 1765), daughter of Abraham Mathew of Shaftesbury. In 1765 he matriculated at Oxford University from All Souls College. In 1766 he began 'looking after the museum', and in the same year, on 7 November, was appointed a clerk of his college. He graduated BA in 1767, proceeded MA in 1771, and in 1768 was ordained and took charge as curate of Wellow and Foxcote, near Bath. In 1770 he was appointed chaplain of All Souls, a post which he held for over sixty years, combining it from 1771 with the librarianship of the college, from 1778 with chaplaincy of Corpus Christi College, and from 1795 with the rectory of St Clement's parish in the suburbs of Oxford. More briefly he held other cures, notably the rectories of Waterstock, Oxfordshire, and Kirkby Underwood, Lincolnshire. He became a notary public at Oxford in 1791, and registrar of the university in 1797, before retiring in 1824; he was also registrar of the chancellor's court and clerk of the Oxford market, a university appointment. He married in 1775 Elizabeth Weller (1753–1799), daughter of Richard Weller, sometime butler of Magdalen College. Through her he acquired his Oxford house, 8 Longwall Street, which survives much as he rebuilt it in 1793–4. They had six sons and six daughters; two of their sons were John Mathew Gutch (1776–1861), journalist, and Robert Gutch (bap. 1777, d. 1851), fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge. Elizabeth long predeceased him, dying in 1799.

An active man of business in his generation, Gutch is best-known to posterity by his books. In 1781, with the support of 750 subscribers, he published two volumes of Collectanea curiosa, miscellaneous tracts on historical and university matters taken chiefly from the manuscripts of Archbishop Sancroft in the Bodleian Library, together with selections from the archives of All Souls. The book caused a brief stir in Oxford because of its inclusion, albeit with reference to earlier times, of some anti-Jacobite material and a paper urging the limitation of fellowships to twenty years' tenure, to prevent dons becoming splenetic or 'sottish' (Letters of Richard Radcliffe, 190–91). His more lasting contribution was to edit Anthony Wood's English version of his history of Oxford University. Wood had been so displeased by the Latin version, bought from him by the university and altered and published by Dr John Fell in 1674, that he later translated and augmented the whole. From that version (now Bodl. Oxf., MSS Wood F. 1–2), with the encouragement of Thomas Wharton, Camden professor of ancient history, Gutch edited Wood's account of the colleges and halls (1786), with an appendix containing Wood's lists of university officials, the Fasti (1790), and finally the History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford, published in two volumes in 1792 and 1796. The Fasti, to which Gutch made additions up to his own time, were later re-edited and enlarged by Philip Bliss, his successor as university registrar; Gutch's summary of Wood's manuscripts in the History and Antiquities retained its value until replaced by Andrew Clark's work in the 1890s. Otherwise Gutch's edition, prepared 'on the whole with great faithfulness and completeness' (Wood, History and Antiquities), has never been superseded. His evident intention to publish a revised edition was not, however, fulfilled and his surviving papers (mostly in the Bodleian Library) suggest that he did little further historical research. E. F. Jacob's assessment of him as 'one of the finest antiquaries Oxford has produced' (Craster, 92) seems generous.

Gutch was a popular man, who lived a life of 'peculiar serenity and content' (GM, 203). He was small in stature, courteous and suave in manner, and of a gentle disposition, somewhat negligent in looking after his own money matters, and ever ready to help antiquaries. He was a friend of Richard Gough, who 'shewed great kindness' (Nichols, 5.555–6) to his family, and in his will left a third of the residue of his estate to Gutch. Gutch seldom quit home and left behind little correspondence. His diary reveals him in youth as an active sportsman, involved in shooting, skating, riding, and even hunting; his maturer years were dominated by antiquarian pursuits, university administration, and clerical work. He was a diligent college chaplain and All Souls showed its appreciation by presenting him with an engraved silver inkstand in 1819. The university granted him an annuity of £200 when he retired as registrar. As a parish priest his effort seems unremarkable, even before he grew old. His memorial in St Clement's Church credits him with the relocation and new building of that church in 1828, but much was owed to his energetic curate from 1824, John Henry Newman. It was Newman who inspired the subscription campaign, and Gutch's parishioners drew pointed contrast between their new 'proper minister' and the old man who 'preached very good doctrine but did not … visit the people at their houses' (Letters and Correspondence, 1.88).

Gutch died in Oxford of influenza on 1 July 1831, aged eighty-five, the oldest resident member of the university; he was buried on 7 July 1831 in the churchyard of St Peter-in-the-East.


  • GM, 1st ser., 101/2 (1831), 91, 201–3
  • Letters of Richard Radcliffe and John James of Queen's College, Oxford, 1755–83, ed. M. Evans, OHS (1888), 47n., 190–91
  • A. J. Jewers, ed., Marriage licences in the diocese of Bath and Wells (1909), 176n. [family genealogy]
  • parish registers (burial), Oxford, St Clement's
  • parish registers (deaths), Oxford, St Peter-in-the-East
  • private information (1890)
  • H. E. Salter, ed., Oxford city properties, OHS, 83 (1926), 66, 315
  • H. H. E. Craster, The history of All Souls College library, ed. E. F. Jacob (1971), 83, 92
  • Letters and correspondence of John Henry Newman during his life in the English church, ed. A. Mozley, 2 vols. (1891)
  • A. Wood, The history and antiquities of the colleges and halls in the University of Oxford, ed. J. Gutch (1786) [Gutch's annotated copy, Bodl. Oxf., G. A. Oxon. 4°74–9]
  • Gutch's surviving MSS, Bodl. Oxf., MSS Top. Oxon. c.34–7, c.125, d.45, f.2; MS Add. B 74


  • All Souls Oxf., diary
  • Bodl. Oxf., historical collections, notes, and papers


  • T. Wageman, engraving, repro. in A. Wood, The history and antiquities of the University of Oxford, 1 (1792)
  • T. Wageman, stipple, BM, NPG; repro. in A. Wood, The history and antiquities of the colleges and halls in the University of Oxford, ed. J. Gutch (1786), 1
J. Foster, ed., , 4 vols. (1887–8), later edn (1891); , 4 vols. (1891–2); 8 vol. repr. (1968) and (2000)
, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
Oxford Historical Society
Bodleian Library, Oxford
Gentleman's Magazine
J. Nichols & J. B. Nichols, , 8 vols. (1817–58); repr. (1966)