The Church of England was the Church of the Colony of VA & Governor Wyatt's instructions under date of July 24 1621.
Required him "to Keep up religion of the Church of England as near as may be."

The fees of ministers for marriage were 2 shillings and for burying, one shilling. Their deportment was regulated by law, which prohibited them from drinking to excess, spending their time idly by playing at dice, cards or any other unlawful games.

From the Earliest records of Lower Norfolk County (LNC)  there was a church at Lynnhaven near the home of Capt. Adam Thorowgood.  On Nov 21 1638 an order came from the courts to build a church and the court appointed Capt. John Sibsey and Henry Sewell to carry out the order and the church was located on Mr. Sewell's Land on a site donated by him.

On May 15 1637, it was ordered that John Wilson, minister of Elizabeth River parish should solemize bans of matrimony between the parties there in named, so i conclude that he was the first minister of the parish.  He died due to debts in 1640.

Rev. Thomas Harrison was appointed as minister by the court on July 6 1640. Lt. Francis Mason & Thomas Mears qualifed as church wardens of Elizabeth River Parish. The Court ordered the residents of the parish to pay Rev. Harrison 100 pounds yearly.  And by the following: Capt. John Sibly, Lt. Francis Mason. Mr. Henry Sewell are to pay for themselves and teh inhabitants of this parish for Capt. Willoughby's plantation to Daniel Tanners Creek 32 pounds, ten shillings sterling. Mr. cornelius LLoyd. Mr. Henry Cotten and job hill are to pay for the inhabitants of the western branch and carney point 33 pounds sterling. Mr. William Julian, Mr. John Gatier, Engsign Thomas Lambert Thomas Swayn, Thomas Meare and Ira Atkin are to pay 36 pounds sterling for the inhabitants from Daniel Tanners Creek and of all the eastward and southward branches.

In 1648 The vestry included:
Capt. John Sibsey                       Francis Mason               Thomas Lambert           John Hill
Cornelius Llyod                           Henry  Catlin                 Thomas Sayer               Mathew Phillips
Thomas Browne                          John Fferinghaugh        Thomas Ivy

William Crouch & John Hill were Church Wardens. In 1649 William Crouch & James Warner were churchwardens.
Church Wardens were required to keep the church in repair, provide books and oraments, to collect ministers dues and tender an account of disbursements, to present to court blasphemous wicked and sisolute person, to cause vestries to be summoned to meet within one month after receiving order for prrocessing land. to give notice at church of person and tiems appointed to procession, to examine in presence of vestries and ocmpare with originials , the registers of returns made by processioners and certify the same, to bind out by order of court children of poor persons unable to maintain or educate them. 


UNTIL THE YEAR 1691, That which is now PRINCESS ANNE (VA BEACH) and NORFOLK was called LOWER NORFOLK, in comparison to UPPER NORFOLK which is called NANSEMOND OR SUFFOLK today. It was in 1691 that  LOWER NORFOLK was divided into NORFOLK & PAC, the parishes being still called ELIZABETH RIVER AND LYNNHAVEN parishes.

Mr. Thomas Nash was both, a clerk of the vestry and lay reader of the south branch chapel. 

In 1734
Rev. Moses Robertson                  John Ellegood              Col. George Newton       Major Samuel Boush
Stephen Wright                            John Corprew               Thomas Wright               Willis Wilson
Samuel Smith                             

MEAD States That REV. CHARLES SMITH was the minister during he period of 1749-1761 of the PORTSMOUTH PARISH.
HIS TOMBSTONE says: here lies interred the Rev. Charles Smith, rector of the Portsmouth parish, who died the 11th day of January 1773, in the 61 year of his age. He officiated as minister upwards of 30 yrs and his conduct through life was exceptional. Also mentions son in law James Taylor and his Daughter Alice Taylor.

On March 5, 1761, The General Assembly at Williamsburg, VA. upon the petition of the inhabitants seeting forth the great inconveniences of so large a parish, divided the ELIZABETH RIVER PARISH into three distinct parishes from the May 1, 1761.

All that part of the old parish lying northward and eastward of the Elizabeth River and the Eastern Branch was to retain the name of ELIZABETH RIVER PARISH.

All that section between the Eastern & Southern branches of the elizabeth river running up new mill creek to rothery's mill hence south 30 degress west to the great dismal swamp, as far as the line dividing the colony from North Carolina and then down the said line to the line of PAC, hence along that line to the eastern branch. was named ST. BRIDES PARISH.

And all that section west of this parish was named PORTSMOUTH PARISH. ST. BRIDES alludes to the spiritual marriage
of ST. CATHARINE who according to legend had the bridal ring place on her finger by Jesus in his childhood. As ST. CATHARINE was never married corporally, She has been called the bride of heaven, That is ST. BRIDE. The vestry of the Old ELIZABETH RIVER PARISH having been guilty of illegal practices oppressive to the inhabitants was dissolved.

The first vestry's of the new parishes are:


June 4 1761
Matthew Godfrey                  John Hutchings             Joshua Nicholson          George Abyvon             Robert Tucker
William Orange                    Saunders Calvert          Lewis Hansford             Charles Sweny              Christopher Perkins
John Tucker                         William Ivy                    


June 5, 1761

John Tatem                          Thomas Creech            James Ives                     John Ferebee               Giles Randolph
John Herbert                        George Veale               Thomas Veale                Thomas Grimes            William Crawford
Jeremiah Creech                  Richard Carney


John Portlock                       Robert Tucker               Samuel Happer             James Wilson                James Webb
Joshua Corprew                   William Smith               Thomas Smith               Thomas Nash Jr.           Henry Herbert
John Wilson                         Malachi Wilson jr.         William Happer

As provided in the Act of General Assembly dividing Elizabeth River Parish into 3.  The Vestry Men:

Henry Herbert                       William Smith               John Portlock                Thomas Nash jr.           James Wilson
Joshua Corprew                   John Wilson                  

Vestry men of St. Bride's Parish, sold the glebe land at public auction to John Tucker for 3 pounds and six pence per acre. 172 ares, amounting to 520 pounds and six shillings their deed is dated Oct 20 1731.

Aug 1, 1763 for L 350, 200 acres of land in St. Brides Parish

William Smith & Ann his wife SOLD TO:

James Pasteur. Minister       John Portlock               James Web                    Joshua Corpew             Robert Tucker jr.
Thomas Nash Jr.                  Samuel Happer            William Happer              Malachi Wilson jr.         John Wilson
James Wilson Jr                   Henry Herbert

Oct 12 1765

Samuel Boush & Catherine his wife, in consideration of L125, conveyed to (ELIZABETH RIVER PARISH) 4 LOTS OR TWO ACRES OF LAND KNOWN BY THE NUMBERS, 49,50,57,58.

Rev. Thomas Davis Minister William Orange             Joshua Nicholson         John Hutchings Sr.        William Ivy
Robert Tucker                      George Abyvon               Lewis Hansford           Mathew Godfrey            John Willoughby
John Hutchings jr.                Paul Loyall  

Thomas Nash & Samuel Happer were churchwardens for St. Brides Parish

Mathew godfrey & Lewis Hansford for Elizabeth River Parish.

Thomas Creech & Amos Etheridge for Portsmouth Parish.


John Whiddown & John Corprew - St. Brides Parish


Arthour Boush & Matthew Phripp  & John Taylor for Elizabeth River

William Happer & John Corprew for St. Bride's Parish

Matthew Phripp & John Hutchings for Elizabeth River Parish.

Under the Common wealth the vestries of Portsmouth & Elizabeth River were dissolved.
New vestries ordered before April 1, 1779

Thomas Veale      John Herbert          Samuel Veale        John Morris    William Baily       William Booker
George W. Burgess                             John Baine            William More David Porter         Joshua Miers
John Powers
took the oath of the vestry men of the parish of portsmouth and entered upon the duties of Vestry Man.

For the Parish of Elizabeth River Parish on March 18 1779

Mathew Godfrey    James Taylor        Mathew Phripp      Thomas Newton jr.        Paul Loyall    George Abyvon
John Tabb             Goodrich Boush     John Willoughby   Pruson Bowdoin

These were the first church officials in Norfolk County who qualified under the COMMONWEALTH OF VA.

On Oct 16 1783 Isaac Luke & William Porter qualifed as vestrymen of Portsmouth parish.






This page was last updated: August 16, 2017