Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Duncumb, John
DUNCUMB, JOHN (1765–1839), topographer, born in 1765, was the second son of Thomas Duncumb, rector of Shere, Surrey. He was educated at a school in Guildford, under a clergyman named Cole, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He proceeded B.A. in 1787, and M.A. in 1796. In 1788 he settled at Hereford in the dual capacity of editor and printer of Pugh's ‘Hereford Journal.’ Two years later he accepted an engagement from Charles, eleventh duke of Norfolk, the owner, jure uxoris, of extensive estates in the county, to compile and edit a history of Herefordshire. The terms were 2l. 2s. per week for collecting materials, with extra payment for journeys out of the county, the work to be the property of the duke. The first volume, containing a general history of the county and account of the city, was published, 4to, Hereford, 1804; and the first part of a second volume, containing the hundreds of Broxash and Ewyas-Lacy, with a few pages of Greytree hundred, in 1812. At the death of the duke in December 1815 the supplies stopped and Duncumb ceased to work. The unsold portions of the work, with the pages of Greytree hundred then printed but not published, being part of the duke's personal estate, were removed from Hereford to a warehouse in London, in which place the parcels remained undisturbed and forgotten until 1837, when the whole stock was purchased by Thomas Thorpe, the bookseller, who disposed of his copies of vols. i. and ii. with the pages of Greytree (319–58), to which he appended an index. After p. 358, vol. ii. was completed with index in 1866 by Judge W. H. Cooke, who issued a third volume containing the remainder of Greytree in 1882. A fourth volume will include the parishes in the hundred of Grimsworth. A useful supplement to Duncumb and Cooke's history is George Strong's ‘Heraldry of Herefordshire,’ fol., London, 1848 (Duncumb, preface to vol. i.; Cooke, postscript to vol. ii. p. 401, preface to vol. iii.).
Duncumb's connection with the local newspaper ceased in 1791, when he entered into holy orders. He was instituted to the rectory of Tâlachddû in Brecknockshire in 1793 (Gent. Mag. vol. lxiii. pt. ii. p. 1219), and to Frilsham, Berkshire, in the same year. In 1809 he became rector of Tortington, Sussex, but resigned the living soon afterwards on his institution to Abbey Dore, Herefordshire (ib. vol. lxxix. pt. ii. p. 778), the Duke of Norfolk being the patron of both benefices. In 1815 he obtained the vicarage of Mansel-Lacy, Herefordshire, from Mr. (afterwards Sir) Uvedale Price (ib. vol. lxxxv. pt. i. p. 561), and held both these Herefordshire benefices at his death.
Duncumb was secretary to the Herefordshire Agricultural Society from its formation in 1797, and published in 1801 an ‘Essay on the Best Means of Applying Pasture Lands, &c., to the Production to Grain, and of reconverting them to Grass,’ 8vo, London. Another useful treatise was a ‘General View of the Agriculture of the County of Hereford,' 173 pp. 8vo, London, 1805, for the consideration of the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement. He also published two sermons, one preached 7 March 1796, the day appointed for the general fast, 16 pp. 8vo, London; the other preached in the cathedral church, 3 Aug. 1796, at the annual meeting of the subscribers to the General Infirmary in Hereford, and printed for the benefit of the charity, 16 pp. 8 vo, London, 1797 (Watt, Bibl. Brit. i. 323 o). By 1809 he had become a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
Duncumb died at Hereford 19 Sept. 1839, aged 74 (Gent. Mag. new ser. xii. 660-1), and was buried in the church of Abbey Dore, where a monument is placed to his memory. He married in 1792 Mary, daughter of William Webb of Holmer, near Hereford, by whom he had three children: Thomas Edward (d. 1823) and William George (d. 1834), and a daughter. All died unmarried. Mrs. Duncumb died in 1841. Duncumb's manuscript collections were sold by his widow to a local bookseller. He lived in Hereford from 1788 to his death, and was never resident on any of his various preferments.
[The above memoir has been for the most part compiled from information kindly communicated by Judge Cooke. See also Gent. Mag. vol. xciii. pt. ii. p. 644, new ser. i. 219, v. 209, xvi. 664; Oxford Graduates (1851), p. 199.]