An insight into Parish life through extracts from parish registers
Extracts Relating to Parochial Expenses
The basis of our present system of relieving the poor in
England originated in the famous Act of Elizabeth 1601, the professed objects of
which were “to set the poor to work, to relive the lame, impotent, old, and blind,
and to put out their children as apprentices.”
It was required in carrying out these objects that a fund
should be raised, in every parish in England, for the maintenance of its own poor.
The application of this fund was placed in the hands of the parish officers, justices
of the peace having control over it. Another object of the Act was the subjecting
of able-bodied men to a “test”, in order to prove that indolence was not the
cause of alleged want. Such persons were to receive relief only on condition that
they should work for it.
About eight years after this, an Act was passed in the reign
of James 1st, ordering houses of correction to be built, provided with mills, and
other appurtenances, for the purpose of setting the vagrant able-bodied poor
to work. Although these houses of correction might be looked on virtually as penal
establishments, they may be considered as having originated the workhouse system
of England. (Dr. Joseph Stevens)
Extracts from the old parish books
The necessity of preserving extracts of this kind needs no
advocacy, for it is to be regretted that parochial records too frequently find a
depository in damp places in vestry rooms, in badly constructed ecclesiastical chests,
and even in the church tower, and become the prey of mildew and spider.
Although many of the entries from the parish books of St.
Mary Bourne will be found merely trivial and amusing, collectively they throw some
light on past parochial history. From them we are enabled to learn what two hundred
years have done in matters of education, as well as in the prices of some of the
commodities of life. We find reference to diseases then rife, and how they were
treated; with extracts bearing on the operations of past laws, such as the old poor
laws. We also learn a little respecting some old families; and there are notices
concerning church usages’ and repairs, together with references to curious old books
which were formerly employed in the church for public reading. Also what was done
at vestries, and who conducted them. The earliest entry refers to the year 1633;
but my first extract will be from the year 1635-exactly 250 years since. Now
this period forms a large slice in the history of our country. It is the period
of most of England’s improvements, and should have to tell a good deal in the parochial
history of any district. It takes us back to the disturbed times of Charles 1. Contrast
that with the present one. It was a period of civil strife. Newspapers in the country
were quite unknown. The first copy of the Reading Mercury, which was one of the
earliest issues, lies before me in facsimile. It bears the date 1723, and consists
of four leaves measuring 10 inches by 7 ½ inches, in double columns. The English
Mercurie was nearly the only London paper in the time of Elizabeth; and the London
Weekly News bears date 1622. The population of 1635 was about a fourth of what it
is at the present day. (Dr. Joseph Stevens)
The Salisbury and Winchester Journal Saturday April 19th. 1833
Richard Privett, who hung himself to a bar in his chamber window, deceased was a
man of good character, but very poor, willing to work even beyond his strength,
but so severely afflicted with rheumatism, that he was not equal to much hard labour,
thus compelled to seek parochial relief, he was in the habit of receiving 5s. Every
Saturday, towards the support of himself and his wife and his daughter. But the
pittance was doled out to him so unfeeling a manner, that the poor fellow could
not bear to apply for it, and declared on the Friday preceding his death “that his
life was a misery to him”. At length, on Friday last dreading the approaching day,
he committed the fatal act. Which terminated his existence, on the following morning,
his widow applied for the usual allowance, which was paid to her, with a notice,
that in future she was to expect half that sum, and if she applied to the parish
to bury her husband, her goods would be seized to defray the expenses! Verdict
Extracts from the parish registers (1)
For digging a grave 7d.
1659 Pd. Wm. Merry for going for ye bone setter 1s.
1661-17 Nov. Pd. Wm. Miles for digging a grave for a
poor alien that died.6d.
1676-March 9 for a stone wall bound (the boundary wall)
1683-Pd Acct. of Robert Thorngate and Robert Holdway:
paid for a horse to fetch the book of martyrs from Redding 3s.
1683-Pd Wm. Poare for binding ye book 16s.6d.
1686 Given to two impoverished by the sea. (About this time
a good deal of money appears to have been paid yearly to maimed soldiers and sailors.)
Payd farmer Serle for curing Mary Hollens lame leg and James Horn's boy 10s,
1719-Pd. Mr. Willis for to have Sarah Freemantle cured
1721-Pd. old Charter curing Faune (Bourne?) children
being bit with mad dogg.6d.
1729-Gave to a man at Wintoun (Winchester) that was
burnd by litneng.
1731-Apl.21 Pd. Farmer Serle for curing the widow Goodalls
Apl.25. Pd. For the marriage of Susan Hall and having her away.£4.15s.4d.
Susanah the wife of Stephen Burgis was delivered of 3 children,
2 sons and one daughter May 31-1756 and buried June 3rd 1756, all in one coffin.
For a licence and ring for Charles Lewis £2.Minister and clerks fee's,
also for four men for (a sisting) Charles Lewis. (He seems to have been a very refractory
Afterwards 2s.6d. For a horse to have Charles Lewis to Kingsclere.
1786-Expenses of taking up and marrying George Admens
and Wm. Swain, £9.11s. With other expenses for rings, Licences, etc, and marrying
1803 and 1814.Only three marriages are recorded in each year,
probably on account of the younger men having gone as soldiers. (Dr. Joseph Stevens)
Some of those mentioned
as " Bone setters and treating "bad legs" were commonly herbalists
of some local repute, who practised healing by "simples" (dried herbs)
before the passing of the apothecaries act in 1815, anyone could practice medicine,
The last member of this fraternity wandered about the North Hampshire villages as
late as 1865 dispensing gathered herbs in a dried state to the poor. He was an odd
retiring kind of man, whose confidence it was difficult to obtain, but he once informed
me that some of his simples were of but little service in healing unless they were
"gathered at some particular phase of the moon". He sold a kind of soap
stated to contain Solomon’s seal for removing discolorations and freckles from the
skin. Other helpers at times of sickness were aged matrons, who did their best with
A Dr. Batter of Market Lavington in Wiltshire, was a happy
specimen of such, and really possessed considerable practical skill. He was a poor
man, and lived in a cottage by the road side, where his ancestors for a generation
or two had lived before him, and practiced as a bone setter. It was his custom to
take his chair and table out alongside of a hedge, and having seated his patients
he proceeded to prescribe for them with herbs gathered near, and his extensive acquaintance
with wild plants and there localities enabled him to direct his visitors where to
find what they wanted in the neighbourhood of their own homes. (Dr. Joseph Stevens)
The reference to "a sisting" Charles Lewis might
I think be more truthfully rendered by the substitution of the word "coercing".
That these marriages were compulsory there can be no doubt, for in the next entry
we find "expenses of taking up", etc. such transactions were wasteful
of the poor rates, and demoralising to the people, they were nevertheless of frequent
occurrence under the old bastardy law, which positively gave encouragement to female
unchastity. An allowance of money was made for each illegitimate child, so that
the means increasing with every spurious addition, a woman with several such became
as well provided for as a mother with a similar number of lawful children. The same
law, further, subjected the putative father to punishment often at the woman’s discretion,
rendering him liable to the alternative of marriage or the prison. Of course he
commonly chose the former as the least of the two present evils. All this was however
small compared with the consequences of such influence on the female character.
Where these measures largely prevailed chastity ceased to be valued as a virtue.
In short, the woman as well as her husband and parents became in a great measure
indifferent to it. (Dr. Joseph Stevens)
Extracts from the parish registers (2)
Pd. for 2 foxxes heads 2s.
for killing of ffoxes 9s.
Payd to farmer Monday for killing rooks, 6s.
Pd for one ould foxx, 2s. 6d. (This I suppose was old offender.)
Sparrows bought in large quantities, as many as 70 dozen yearly.
Pd. Goodman for a fox, 2s. 6d. Pd. for 4 foxes 6s. John Houldaway for 8 foxes.
Forty to duzen sparos 7s. John Lamden
After this foxes were killed in increasing numbers, from
twenty to thirty yearly. The Bourne authorities appear to have bought them from
any other neighbourhood, mention being made of Andover, Litchfield, Vernham, "Don
Husburn", "Up husburn", etc. It is evident that the destruction of
poultry and game by foxes, stoats, polecats, etc, and even lambs by foxes, determined
the churchwardens to exterminate them in every way possible. Two shillings each
seems to have been about the regular price. The destruction of the animal began
to wane at about the end of the eighteenth century. In 1735, twenty four foxes are
mentioned; and in 1765, £1.12s. Was paid for "Fockes" If similar
purchases were made in other parishes the slaughter must have been enormous. The
heavy, slow, old fashioned harrier then occupied the place of the modern dashing
foxhound; hare hunting formed the principal sport of the country squire. There was
more woodland as shelter for foxes; and a good deal of the land now under cultivation
was down, as shown by the names of Wadwick down, Eggbury down, Week down, the greater
part of which, if not the whole, being now arable. (Dr.
Extracts from parish registers (3)
Pd. for a pair of shoes for Maidde Smith 2s.2d.
June 5th. Given to a Marchant's wife for relief to redeme her husband out of
slavery 1s. Also 1739 Gave to a man out of Turkey 1s.(This entry refers most likely
to slavery in Turkey, as similar entries occur in church records, notably an entry
quoted by Lieut...Col. C. King, in his History of Berks, of "2s.to two merchant’s
wives whose husbands were taken slaves in Turkey": taken from the Windsor Register.)
Arrangement of ye Tithe at Easter that for time to come if there be any reporations
done to ye church that the workmen shall be "A Lowed noe strong bear att a
Jan.21st. Buried a man stranger that came out of new found land.
1715- March ye 19th.-Jane Beckley daughter of Richard
and Jane Beckley born but not baptiz'd being an antabaptist.
Paid ye dial £1.15s. (Sundial)
Received of Mr. John Munday for a seat in ye church £3.3s.
Nov.5th. Rachel Hegar, a traveller, was buried.
1740- Feb. ye 8th.-Mary Stanley a traveller, daughter
of Richard and Millie Stanley, travellers, baptiz'd. (Evidently gipsies; the
name is still well known in the district).
March a young child, stranger, was buried.
Occasionally there are familiar entries, Christian names
being omitted, as-1747, March ye 24th widow Bunny was buried.1749 Oct.9th.Joseph
Portsmouth wife was buried. (Rebecca is spelled "Bekkah").
Bourght at Weyhill, stockings, shoes, and shirt, 15s.6d.
Agreed at vestry to pay £3 towards paying Thos. Piper's debts (Debts being
(The Piper here referred to lived at Butler’s farm, which
belonged to him at one time. He did not get on very well and ultimately sold the
1759- Sept. 16th.-Mary Rudder was burried in a meadow plot at Eggbury-3
graves in a meadow plot.
The name Hooper first appears.
The name Rudder appears again. (He was a singular man, according to report, and
one of the fraternity of Quakers. He lived at the house lately occupied by the last
of the name of Munday in St. Mary Bourne parish, and it is stated that his bones
repose in a meadow at Eggbury, known as "the Roman burial ground", where
his wife also lies, and a dog that had been a faithful companion.)
1759- April 11th.for setting ye yew tree 6s 6d. This tree was planted on top of Paul
Holdways grave a bushel of oats being put into
the grave so reports say, to prevent the remains from being disturbed." The
practice of planting a yew tree in a church yard was usually when the burial ground
was to be extended and consecrated often the ceremony was carried out by the bishop.
There is a notice dated Wednesday, Oct. 25th, 1848, that
a new piece of land to enlarge the churchyard was consecrated. The bishop was to
plant a yew tree, which was to be called "The Bishop's yew". (This
was done on the day of consecration.) The land here alluded to enlarge the graveyard
on the east; and was presented to the parish by the late Mr. Thomas Longman of Diplands,
and the late Mr. John Longman of Warwick.
Among the papers is one executed on May 20th.1884, by which
Ann Elizabeth Longman of Wadwick, in the parish of St. Mary Bourne grants and conveys
to the person or persons in whom the churchyard of the parish is now vested, and
his successors, a piece of land of 27 perches, on the north side of the churchyard,
as an addition to the churchyard for burial purposes.
(Dr. Joseph Stevens)
Rate book. pd. Lambden for laying out Bendel and for Quiden (providing ?) ye woath
and woob 3s.9d; Paid ye clark for ye grave and nell, 2s.4d.Providing the "Woath
and woob", refers to the "winding sheet" to encase the dead and making
it, which was done by means of the spinning wheel. Spinning was an important method
of administering relief to the poor, who according to the act 43rd.of Elizabeth
were to be "set to work" when able bodied. Linen wheels were sometimes
provided by the overseers for the use of the females, the cost being about 3s.each
in the time of Elizabeth; but they were to be seen as ordinary articles of furniture
in the kitchen of the yeomanry, and their agreeable hum was a familiar sound when
the wheel was in full operation. Some of the clean albeit coarse sheets made at
that period are still preserved by old families. The last implement of the kind
was in St. Mary Bourne was used by Priscilla Goodyear of Stoke in spinning mops,
but "granny" Bright and others spun silk, most likely in connection with
the silk mills at Whitchurch.
The grave cloth of the period of the entry must have been
of wool, the employment of wool at that time compulsory. During the middle ages
it was customary to wrap the dead in the sheet or shroud usually without a coffin;
and the practise often led to the placing of the body in a grave with the face downwards.
In the act 30th of Charles 2nd entitled "An act for the lessening the
importation of linen from beyond the seas, and the encouragement of the woollen
and paper manufactures of the Kingdom", the use of wool was insisted on to
encourage the consumption and increase the trade of the clothiers and wool growers.
The Act was repealed by George 3rd. in 1814.The curate of every parish was required
to keep a register of all the burials in woollen. There was a fine for evading the
act, which was willingly paid by some who were desirous to decorate the dead with
lace, and even kid gloves, as in the case of Mrs. Oldfield who died in 1731.Even
the ligatures of the feet and the coffin dressing were required to be of wool. The
practice then in vogue has its survival in the present woollen shroud. (Dr. Joseph Stevens)
Extracts from the Churchwardens books
/ Overseers accounts and Rate book
1730. Charges of the woman that was deliverd in Paul Holdways cart house.
Feb 27th.in the year 1781-A high wind that blowed all
the sheets of lead except two from the tower of the chancel in the middle ILe.
1782-Apl 3rd. pd. for an act against swearing 6d.
1784 - April-
Thomas Hopgoods bill for repairing the great bridge and planks and piles under the
church wall £ 6.18s.1d.
David Cox Pd. For repairing the great bridge 19s.9d.
Feb 14th. 1796 Amy daughter of Mary Phillips was born baptised
Mar 25th, 1796 baseborn.
1804- Apl.4th.-Puling in the pigg dying in the
church yard 1s.
March 13th. The Rev. W. Hodge vicar preached the first time at Husband and Bourne,
very March day and cold.
A snowstorm, lasting the 19th, 20th, and 21st April, afterwards very cold.
1808 Apl.23rd.The shandelear was put up, gave by Mrs. Hannah
Oct.18th. Robert Moore of East Woodhay fell from his horse in Hurstbourne Tarrant
and not spoke afterwards.
1814 only three marriages in each year probably on account of the younger men having
gone as soldiers.
1813 -March 19th. Gave the Ringers on account of peace
£1 (Bell ringers)
1826 St. Mary Bourne church clock was donated by Richard
Poore of St. Mary Bourne.
(It seems the clock needed regular repair and maintenance
as there is constant reference to it in the parish book.)
1849. First mention of Church Insurance £1.2s.6d.per
(Dr. Joseph Stevens)
The Parish vestry
Important functions in the life of the parish continued to
be performed by the parish vestry meetings till 1894. After which the Parish council
took over in accordance with the local government act of the same year. It made
assessments for rates, fixed the poor rate, and each year appointed overseers, Guardians
and Way wardens. At the Easter Monday Vestry, the Churchwardens were appointed for
the ensuing year. The Churchwardens accounts, pew assessments, etc, were presented
to a parish Vestry Meeting. Between 1884 and 1894 rates varied from 10d. To 1/6d.
In the £1.
The last meeting of the parish vestry was held on October
11th, 1894. Mr.
Selfe was chairman. The rate was fixed at 1/6d in the £. Assessments were apportioned
on some property of Mr. James Neale, who was present, and “this concluded the business
of the parish vestry”.
One of the biggest parish vestry meetings recorded was held
on August 12th.1882,”for
the purpose of enabling the rate-payers to determine if it be necessary or
not to erect a bridge over the river leading to Warwick”.
John Berry and William Day were the churchwardens present,
and Alfred Charles Medhurst and James Eyles the Overseers.
Twenty three rate payers assembled, including two – Charles
Davis and William Longman – who arrived after the decision that the bridge was desirable
had been carried unanimously, and added their assent; and thirteen voted by proxy
including six women, (none being present). S. Lockheart, vicar, was chairman.
A foot bridge was erected and is useful for pedestrians when
the Bourne flows at the foot of Baptist hill. Other “traffic” still splashes through
the water. (Kathleen Innes 1946)