St John the Baptist Church in Okewood

In this beautiful little church of St John the Baptist in Okewood, near Ockley, Dorking, Surrey, Thomas Malthus was a curate for almost ten years, from 1788 to 1798.

"Malthus's main studies in Cambridge centred on mathematics, and he emerged as Ninth Wrangler in 1788. Despite a speech defect resulting from a cleft palate, he was ordained immediately after leaving university, and first took up a curacy at Okewood near his family's home in Albury, Surrey. In 1793 he was elected to a non-residential Fellowship at Jesus College. During the ten years that followed graduation, therefore, Malthus lived the quiet life of a country curate, carrying out the modest duties of his post, and completing what had already been a thorough yet leisurely education, while continuing to live with his parents and two unmarried sisters"1.

"It was the eighteenth-century baptisms in the Okewwod Register which so much astonished subsequent clergymen, who knew nothing whatever about Malthus. They noted with amazement that there were so many pages and pages of baptisms, and that the baptisms were so greatly in excess of the burials. Of course, this was not of any statistical significance, as the Ninth Wrangler would have known, but one can hardly deny that it must have been these poor cottage babies, in the 1790s, who first set the curate thinking about the principle of population"2.

  • Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (July 2011)

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