I am indebted to many sources for much of what follows but, in particular to Wikipedia which often provided a starting point.
Knight Service, Knight's Fee and Sergeanty
Following the conquest in 1066, William the Conqueror divided the lay lands of England among his followers, to be held by the service of a fixed number of knights in his host, and imposed the same service on most of the great ecclesiastical bodies which retained their landed endowments. This was the first introduction of the concept of knight service in England although the Normans were already familiar with the principle of the knight's fee, as it came to be termed in England.
At this time, the fief (feoff, fiefdom, or feudum in Latin), consisted of inheritable lands or revenue-producing property granted by the king to a knight who held the land in return for allegiance given by homage and fealty. However, other items of value could be held in fief, such as the right of exploitation (e.g., hunting, fishing) or any other type of revenue, rather than just the land it comes from.
The quota of knight service exacted in return for the fief was not determined by the area or value of the lands granted (or retained), but was based upon the number of knights to be supplied when required. Of the lords who held fiefs directly of the crown, the principal were called on to find ten or more knights, while of the lesser ones some were called on for five or fewer.
Later, in mediaeval England, a knight's fee, also sometimes called scutage, was the amount of money and/or military service a fief was required to pay to support just one knight. Under this system, land was exchanged for military service, and the knight's fees were used to describe the value of land. A fief could provide either the service of a knight, or an equivalent amount of money to allow a lord to hire a knight.
A single fief could have a value of anywhere from 1/5 of a knight's fee to 50 or more knight's fees, depending on its size and resources. By this time, fiefs would also contain sub-fiefs, such that the knight's fee value of the fief was made up for by the value of the smaller fiefs contained within. In this way, a hierarchy of lords and vassals lay over the land with the knight's fee as the base unit of denomination.
However, knight service in war was far less common than other forms:
- castle-guard (the obligation of a vassal to serve in a castle garrison of the lord),
- suit in court (the vassal's obligation to attend the lord's court, to give him counsel, and to help him judge disputes)
- attendance in the lord's entourage (accompanying the lord when he travelled or attended the court of his lord so as to increase the social status of the lord),
- hospitality to the lord or to his servants (accommodation).
A lord in late 12th-century England could also claim the right of:
- wardship and marriage - right to control descent of fief by choosing husband for female heir and guardian of minors (preferably in consultation with heir's closest male adult kinsmen);
- "aids" - payments to aid the lord in times of need (customarily given to the lord to cover the cost of knighting of eldest son, marriage of eldest daughter, and for ransoming of lord if required);
- escheat - the reversion of the fief to the lord in default of an heir.
Serjeanty originated in the assignation of an estate in a lord's land to a vassal on condition of the performance of a certain duty other than knight service, usually the discharge of duties in the household of the lord (or king). It ranged from service in the king's host, distinguished only by equipment from that of the knight, to petty tasks scarcely distinguishable from those of the rent paying tenant.
Capite, in English law, was a tenure by which either person or land was held immediately of the king, or of his crown, either by knight's service or socage.
Socage was one of the land tenure forms in the feudal system. A socager held the land in exchange for a clearly-defined, fixed payment to be made at specified intervals to his feudal lord, who in turn had his own feudal obligations, to the socager and to the Crown. In theory this might involve supplying the lord with produce but most usually it meant a straightforward payment of cash, i.e., rent.
Frankalmoigne (or frankalmoin) was one of the feudal duties and hence land tenures in feudal England. By it an ecclesiastical body held land in return for saying prayers and masses for the soul of the granter. Not only was secular service frequently not due but in the 12th and 13th centuries jurisdiction over land so held belonged to the ecclesiastical courts. Thus, in English law, frankalmoigne was tenure in free alms. Gifts to religious institutions in free alms were defined first as gifts to God, then to the patron saint of the religious house, and finally to those religious serving God in the specific house.
Religious houses in receipt of free alms could not recognise a secular lord. The gift of land or other property made over to God and to a patron Saint was inalienable, and the relationship between the grantor and the religious house was subsidiary. In the 12th century the institution came to be misused. Land could be donated to a church organization and then leased back to the donor, allowing the donor to avoid the feudal services due to his lord.
The Book of Fees
The Liber Feodorum or Book of Fees refers to a book compiled in c. 1302 for the use of the Exchequer. In two volumes of parchment, it gathers together some 500 written surveys of fiefs or lands held directly of the Crown, as recorded between 1198 and 1292. From an early date, the book has also been informally known as the Testa de Nevill, after one of its two major source collections.
However, because the standard edition, whose volumes were published between 1920 and 1931, draws to some extent on the original documents, the title Book of Fees is more often used by modern scholars to refer to a reconstruction of the collections used by the transcriber of the book.
Medieval Latin Measures of Land Area
A carucate (latin: carrucata, carucatas, etc.) was a unit of land area measurement used in medieval England, and was held to be the amount of land that a team of eight oxen could plough in a single annual season.
A hide (latin: hide, hyde, hydam, etc.) was a unit of land area measurement used in medieval England, and was held to be the amount of land sufficient to support a household.
A virgate (latin: virgata, virgatus) was a unit of land area measurement used in medieval England, and was held to be the amount of land that a team of two oxen could plough in a single annual season.
A bovate (latin: bovata, bovatus) (saxon: oxgang) was a unit of land area measurement used in medieval England, and was held to be the amount of land that a single ox could plough in a single annual season.
The acre was in use in Medieval England as a land area measure, so it was adopted in Latin texts (latin: acras etc.)
- A virgate was equivalent to a quarter of a hide, so was approximately 30 acres.
- A bovate was equivalent to half a virgate, so was approximately 15 acres.
- A carucate, consisted of eight bovates, and was equivalent to one hide, so was approximately 120 acres.
- A hide consisted of four virgates, or eight bovates.
A hundred was a geographic division used in England and Wales for administrative purposes. Originally, when introduced by the Saxons, a hundred had enough land to sustain approximately one hundred households.
- A hundred contained a hundred hides.
A wapentake was the equivalent of a hundred in the Danelaw counties of England (Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Lincolnshire).
Some Useful Latin Words
Note that latin word endings vary according to the surrounding words, and depend on verb tense, plurality and gender.
|capite||to hold (directly from the king)|
|heres||heir or heiress|
|lapacida or lithurgus||stone-cutter|
|marcam||mark, german coin|
|mercator ferrarius||iron merchant|
|ob||on account of|
|plebeius||labourer, or some indistinguishable calling|
|pro||on behalf of, for|
|scilicet||one may know, certainly; of course|
|servicium||service, knight's service|
|tenet, tenent||hold, keep, possess|
In latin texts the cardinal numerals were written as lower case to represent quantities, and in their written form, the final i in a number was written as j.
- i = 1 (unus)
- ii or ij = 2 (duo)
- iii or iij = 3 (tres)
- iv = 4 (quattuor)
- v = 5 (quinque)
- vi = 6 (sex)
- vii or vij = 7 (septem)
- viii or viij = 8 (octo)
- ix = 9 (novem)
- x = 10 (decem)
However, there were several ways to write some numbers, so 4 (four) was expressed as both iv and iiij (or even iiijor - see below).
The ordinal numerals were also used:
- first: primus
- second: secundus
- third: tertius
- fourth: quartus
- fifth: quintus
- sixth: sextus
- seventh: septimus
- eighth: octavus
- ninth: nonus
- tenth: decimus
Fractions played a part:
- dimidiam: half
- quartam: quarter
- terciam: third
- sextam: sixth
- partem: part
The ordinals and numerals were sometimes used as a superscripted suffix to numerals to provide clarification.
jus means j(prim)us = first,
iiijor means iiij(quattu)or = four,
vjtam means vj(sex)tam = sixth.
Scribes using this method of superscripting numerals could produce less obvious and possibly unique combinations such as: que, cie, mam.
MoneyCurrency in the 11th-13th century was represented in texts as li or l, s, and d, to denote the denarius, solidus and libra inherited as terms from Roman latin. However, the marcam (german mark) was also used, and represented in texts as m.
- denarius: silver coin (penny)
- solidus: gold coin equivalent to 12 denari
- libra: a pound equivalent to 20 solidus
- Bathoniensis, or Bathoniensis et Wellensis: Bath and Wells.
- Bristoliensis: Bristol.
- de Burgo Sancti Petri: Peterborough.
- Cantuariensis: Canterbury.
- Carleolensis: Carlisle.
- Cestrensis: Chester.
- Cicestrensis: Chichester.
- Couentrensis: Coventry
- Dunelmensis: Durham.
- Eboracensis, Eburacensis: York.
- Eliensis: Ely.
- Exoniensis: Exeter.
- Glocestrensis: Gloucester.
- Heliensis: Ely.
- Herefordensis, Herfordiensis: Hereford.
- Lichfeldensis: Lichfield.
- Lincolniensis: Lincoln.
- Londiniensis, Lundoniensis: London.
- Noruicensis, Norwicensis: Norwich.
- Oxoniensis: Oxford.
- Petriburgensis: Peterborough.
- Roffensis, Rouecestrensis: Rochester.
- Sarisburiensis: Salisbury.
- Vigorniensis: Worcester.
- Westmonasteriensis: Westminster.
- Wigorniensis: Worcester.
- Wintoniensis: Winchester.
Mediaeval latin scribes were not always very particular and did not stick to a fixed spelling for the English counties. They also had a tendency to include Bishoprics in the same category as Counties. However, here is a list of the more common ways they used to denote some of the English Counties:
- Bedeford: Bedfordshire.
- Berkesir: Berkshire.
- Buk': Buckinghamshire.
- Cant': Canterbury.
- Cestrie: Chester.
- Cornubia: Cornwall.
- Dereby: Derbyshire.
- Devonia: Devon.
- Dors': Dorset.
- Ebor': York.
- Gloucestria, Glovernie: Gloucestershire.
- Kancia: Kent.
- Lancastrie: Lancashire.
- Leycestrie: Leicestershire.
- Norff': Norfolk.
- Norhumberlandie: Northumberland.
- Nort', Norhamt': Northamptonshire.
- Notinghamie: Nottinghamshire.
- Oxonie: Oxfordshire.
- Salop: Shropshire.
- Staff': Staffordshire.
- Suff': Suffolk.
- Sumerset: Somerset.
- Surr': Surrey.
- Suth', Suthampt': Southamptonshire.
Benefices: Canon Law and Practice
Advowson was the right in English law of presenting a nominee to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice. In effect, this meant the right to nominate a person to hold a church office in a parish. The process of appointment was initiated by the holder of the advowson, who for this purpose was termed the patron, presenting his nominee. Patronage was associated originally with ownership of the right to the tithes - the lord of the manor. Later, the patron was someone who had purchased or obtained the advowson, often by inheritance but sometimes in payment for a debt. Patronage could be provided by a body rather than a person, such as a priory or monastery.
If the patron's right to present, and the qualifications of his presentee, were found acceptable in canonical law, then the bishop authorised institution to the benefice; the deed of institution was a written instrument under the episcopal seal. If the bishop was also the patron then this was termed collation. Institution to the spiritualities of the freehold office was followed by induction by the archdeacon or his or her deputy into possession of the temporalities of the benefice. This was not recorded in writing but was usually effected by placing the priest's hand on the key of the church door or other part of the building. Before being admitted to office, the priest made the declaration of assent and took the oath of allegiance to the Sovereign and of canonical obedience to the bishop. An example of an oath was bound with the register of Ricardi Mayew and is reproduced here.
Induction to a prebend or other cathedral office was often delegated to the hebdomadary to perform. The hebdomadary was a member of a chapter or convent, whose week it was to officiate in the choir, and perform other services, which, on extraordinary occasions, were performed by the superiors.
The Hereford benefice data on this website has been extracted from the list of institutions, collations, exchanges and resignations included with the registers published by the Cantilupe Society. This list includes those presentations to a parish made by the holder of the advowson as well as those made to non-parish appointments such as prebends and other offices in the cathedral church. The exception is that of the register of Thome de Cantilupo which, when published by the Cantilupe Society, did not contain such a list. In this one case, an extract has been made from the text of the register and, due to my lack of knowledge (which might be expected of a diocesan historian), the resulting data is more prone to errors and misunderstandings. In all cases, the data includes the:
- date of presentation,
- name of the benefice (and its name as written by the scribe),
- indication of the type of living recorded by the scribe (V, P, C, etc.),
- name of the presentee,
- name of the patron,
- name of the previous incumbent, and,
- reason for the vacancy.
Tithes were taxes (traditionally of ten percent) levied on the agricultural output of the parish.
A benefice was originally a gift of land and, in England, most of these gifts arose after 1066 with the division of land-based income amongst William's knights and bishops. Under pre-Reformation Canon law it came to mean an income enjoyed - often linked to some land administered - by a priest in chief of an ecclesistical office, such as a parish, monastery, or a post of canon in a chapter. There were therefore a number of different types of benefice.
The most common benefices were rectories and vicarages whose tithes provided a living for the incumbent priest(s), and therefore formed a parish. Tithes were divided into greater tithes levied on wheat, hay and wood, and lesser tithes levied on the remainder. A rector received both greater and lesser tithes, and a vicar received the lesser tithes only. A resident rector tended to the cure of souls in the parish, whereas an absentee rector lived elsewhere and appointed a vicar to act as the parish priest, but still enjoyed most of the profits arising therefrom. A perpetual curate received no tithe income and was supported by the diocese. A perpetual curate was usually priest-in-charge of a newly created parish carved out of a larger rectoral or vicarious parish. The patron expected to receive a small yearly fee from the parish priest taken from the tithes of the church, and, in some parishes, custom dictated that the patron received a much more significant pension. I have included chantry as a type of benefice but the funding of a chantry differed from others. A chantry was located in a church and associated with a specific priest. The chantry priest was funded by a sum of money lodged with the diocese, usually by inheritance following the benefactor's death, specifically for the saying of prayers on behalf of the benefactor.
However, some benefices were prebends whose tithes funded a prebendary, or official of the Cathedral Church. If the parish also supported a parish priest (a rector or vicar) then it was customary for the prebendary to be the patron for the presentation of a new occupant of that post. In some cases the income from parish tithes was divided into portions and the right to each portion could be owned by different portionists. And, in a few cases, the portions might each fund prebendaries. Early registers made little or no distinction between portions and prebends and refer, in the case of Hereford's Bromyard, Burford, Dixton, Holgate, Ledbury, Llanwarne, Pontesbury, and Westbury to "portion or prebend".
A table of common abbreviations used in the entries has been provided.
The diocese of Hereford had, at various times, benefices located in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, Mongomeryshire and Radnorshire. However, the habit of the civil authorities of moving county boundaries has made this attribution rather more complex than it might seem.
Benefices were sometimes passed from one diocese to another and there are indications that Hereford, Lichfield, Worcester, Gloucester and St Asaph operated in this way. Note that the benefice histories included here are derived only from the registers of the diocese of Hereford and there might be more information held elsewhere.
The register entries sometimes indicate that some benefices changed from perpetual curacy to vicarage and vice versa (although this could sometimes be simply clerical error in the register). Note that wherever the term curacy is used it means perpetual curacy. In some cases, the benefice justified both a rector and a vicar.
It was permitted for the owner of the advowson to present himself or a close relative for appointment to a benefice, and this seemed to be particularly frequent during the 19th Century. There are, therefore, parishes where the living passed by inheritance down the generations in parallel with the patronage.
Because the advowson was often passed by inheritance, it sometimes resulted in ownership by a minor, in which case a parent or guardian acted as patron on his behalf. It also resulted in the special case that a widow could act as patron if her husband left her the advowson.
The entries include not only the name of the presentee but also his academic qualification and these changed over time. I suspect some of these changes were clerical errors but it was customary for the bishop to release priests for academic study to improve their qualification.
The cause of the vacancy was almost always one of cession, death, deprivation, exchange or resignation; in a few rare cases it was amotion, preferment, promotion or void. Cession was giving up or vacating a benefice, by accepting another without a proper dispensation. Deprivation was the result of an act in ecclesiastical law to deprive the living from the incumbent. Exchange occurred when two priests swapped benefices. Resignation was the formal retirement of a priest from a living. Amotion was the unilateral removal of the incumbent. Preferment and promotion were the career advancement of the incumbent to a senior position in the church. An appointment was void if some ecclesiastical reason was found which invalidated it. The term vacation was used if no reason was given in the entry.
Missing and Suspect Data
Most of the Hereford data has been extracted from AT Bannister's publication on Hereford Institutions 1539-1900, and the other data has been included from earlier registers from 1275 to 1539. Note that some registers are unavailable and those presentations are therefore missing. Details of the availability of Hereford registers can be found in the list of Bishops.
In addition to missing registers, there were particular problems around the time of the Civil War. There are some Hereford institutions in the register of Theophilus Field (1635 to 1636) which were made in the vacancy of the see. Field's register is very confusedly kept, and contains no institutions during the time Theophilus Field was actually bishop, and, with no explanation, includes four institutions to Coreley made between 1508 and 1591. Between 1635 and 1661 there are no institutions entered in the registers. The institutions of 1661 are entered in the register of Herbert Croft (1661 to 1692) although they must have been made by bishop Nicholas Monk (1660 to 1661). Readers will therefore find gaps in the lists of entries only some of which will correspond to a missing register.
I become your man from thys day forward of lyfe and lymb and of wordely worshyppe and faith that y owe to ower sovereign lord the kynge and to my elderer lordys. So helpe me godde at hys holy dome and by my trewth.
And I, as ye lorde of such londes and tenementys as ye hold of me by knyghten service, for the whyche ye have done your hommage unto me, I accepte you - and take you - as my tenant and hommager.
|B.A.||baccalaureus artium||bachelor of arts|
|B.C.L.||baccalaureus civilis (or canonicae) legis||bachelor of civil (or canon) law|
|B.D.||baccalaureus divinitatis||bachelor of divinity|
|B.V.M.||beata virgo maria||blessed virgin mary|
|D.C.L.||doctor civilis (or canonicae) legis||doctor of civil (or canon) law|
|D.D.||divinitatis doctor||doctor of divinity|
|in art. bac.||in artium baccalaureus||bachelor of arts|
|in art. mag.||in artium magister||master of arts|
|in artibus. mag.||in artibus magister||master of arts|
|in dec. bac.||in decretis baccalaureus||bachelor of doctrine|
|in dec. doc.||in decretis doctor||doctor of doctrine|
|in jure can. bac.||in juris canonicaus baccalaureus||bachelor of canon law|
|in leg. bac.||in legum baccalaureus||bachelor of law|
|in leg. doc.||in legum doctor||doctor of law|
|in leg. mag.||in legum magister||master of law|
|in utroque jure bac.||in utroque jure baccalaureus||bachelor of civil and canon law|
|M.A.||magister artium||master of arts|
|s. theol. bac.||sacrae theologiae baccalaureus||bachelor of theology|
|s. theol. doc.||sacrae theologiae doctor||doctor of theology|
|s. theol. prof.||sacrae theologiae professor||professor of theology|
|S.T.B.||sacrae theologiae baccalaureus||bachelor of sacred theology|
|S.T.D.||sacrae theologiae doctor||doctor of sacred theology|
|S.T.L.||sacrae theologiae licentiatus||licentiate of sacred theology|
|S.T.P.||sacrae theologiae professor||professor of sacred theology|
|utriusque juris bac.||utriusque juris baccalaureus||bachelor of civil and canon law|
|utriusque juris doc.||utriusque juris doctor||doctor of civil and canon law|
History of Parish Registers
"The Story of Parish Registers": an edited extract from Buckland's "Parish Registers and Records in the Diocese of Rochester".
Cromwell's Injunctions, 1538.
Parish Registers were instituted by the Injunctions of Thomas Cromwell, Vicar-General, dated 5 September 1538.
Thomas Cromwell was the son of a blacksmith at Putney in Surrey. As the result of some offence be was obliged to leave the country, and after a chequered career as a soldier in Italy, a merchant at Middleborough, a scrivener and a money-lender, he was introduced to the notice of Wolsey, who employed him in the dissolution of the monasteries, by which the Cardinal's colleges at Oxford and Ipswich were endowed. He managed to extricate himself from being involved in Wolsey's fall, and no doubt Henry VIII. saw in him one who was likely to be a useful instrument in his hands. From that time his rise was rapid and unchecked as long as be served the King's purpose. He became successively Privy Counsellor, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary of State, Master of the Rolls, Vicar-General, Lord Cromwell, Baron of Okeham, Knight of the Garter, Earl of Essex, and Lord High Chamberlain. He was the King's chief agent in the dissolution of the lesser monasteries in 1535 and of the greater monasteries in 1538. Armed with supreme and absolute power, both civil and spiritual, he established a reign of terror in England, and thereby made many enemies. But his career was brief. He lost the King's favour by his recommendation of Anne of Cleves as a desirable wife, which he supported by a flattering picture painted by Holbein, was charged with high treason by the Duke of Norfolk, uncle of Catharine Howard, and was beheaded 20 July 1540.
As the famous Injunctions were issued in 1538, the very year of the dissolution of the greater monasteries, by the very man who was the chief agent in their dissolution, it is no wonder they were received with mixed feelings.
Early in the Injunctions was the order that the Great Bible, a revised edition of the translations of Tyndale and Coverdale, should be placed in every church:-
" Item, that you shall provide on this side the feast of Easter next coming, one book of the Whole Bible of the largest volume, in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that you have cure of, Whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it."
This injunction was received with acclamation. Far different was the reception of the 12th Injunction ordering parish registers:-
" Item, that you and every parson vicare or curate within this diocese shall for every churche kepe one boke or registere wherein ye shall write the day and yere of every weddyng christenyng and buryeng made within yor parishe for your tyme, and so every man succeedyng you lykewise. And shall there insert every persons name that shalbe so Weddid christened or buryed. And for the sauff kepinge of the same boke the parishe shalbe bonde to provide of these comen charges one sure coffer with twoo lockes and keys wherof the one to remayne with you, and the other with the said wardens, wherein the saide boke shalbe laide upp. Whiche boke ye shall every Sonday take furthe and in the presence of the said wardens or one of them Write and recorde in the same all the weddinges christenynges and buryenges made the hole weke before. And that done to lay upp the boke in the said coffer as afore. And for every tyme that the same shalbe omytted the partie that shalbe in the faulte therof shall forfett to the said churche iiis. to be emploied on the reparation of the same churche. THOMAS CRUMWELL."
Endorsed: "Injunctions devysed by the Lord Crumwell, Vicegerent to the King for all his Jurisdiction ecclesiasticall."
Rumour had even preceded the issue of the Injunctions that Cromwell intended to levy a tax on the ministering of the sacraments, and this was put forward as one of the grievances of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. So great was the alarm and mistrust, increased by the injunctions ordering the destruction of all images superstitiously used and the restriction of the use of lights in church, and the order for the destruction of the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury, that in December 1538 the King ordered Justices of the Peace to search out those " cankered parsons, vicars and curates" who have " blown abroad that he intends to make new exactions at christenings, weddings and burials".
In 1547 the Council of Edward VI. reissued the Injunctions of 1538, and the visitation articles of the Diocese of Canterbury enquired whether the Injunctions had been obeyed. In 1555 Cardinal Pole directed the bishops to make enquiries, which were repeated in 1557. In the first year of Elizabeth, 1559, it was necessary to issue further Injunctions repeating those of 1538 and 1547, and to repeat the enquiry. In March 1562-3 a Bill was read in the House of Commons for the first time, ordering transcripts of the parish registers to be kept at the Bishops' registries, but was not passed.
The Constitution of Convocation of Canterbury, 1597, and Canon of 1603.
The original registers were paper books, deemed perishable and unsuitable for permanent records, and in some cases it is probable that the entries were made on loose sheets of paper. So in 1597 a Constitution was made by the Convocation of Canterbury ordering parchment registers to be provided, the old paper registers to be transcribed therein, and duplicates to be sent to the Bishops' registries. This Constitution was embodied in the Canon 70 of 1603, thus: " In every Parish Church and Chapel within this realm, shall be provided one parchment book at the charge of the parish, wherein shall be written the day and year of every Christening, Wedding, and Burial, which have been in that parish since the time that the law was first made in that behalf, so far as the ancient books thereof can be procured, but especially since the beginning of the reign of the late Queen."
It appears that skilled writing clerks were employed in the larger parishes to transcribe the paper books into books of parchment, and that in the smaller parishes the transcription was done by the clergy, who often recorded the fact in the transcript; but the Accounts of Churchwardens at All Hallows, Hoo, shew that in some cases the registers were transcribed at " the office," probably that of the Diocesan Registrar. As a rule the transcripts were well written, but the transcribers generally welcomed the limit of the first year of Elizabeth as a maximum instead of a minimum, and omitted all entries prior to 1558, ignored all entries except baptisms, marriages and burials, and then destroyed the original paper books. The continuance of one handwriting for many years at the beginning of a parchment register is evidence of transcription from an earlier paper book, and in many cases the transcripts were evidently made long after 1603.
From the above outline of the origin of Parish Registers it is probable that they were not universally established till well on in the reign of Elizabeth. A part from the fear that they might be used as a basis for taxation, the medieval churchman abhorred statistics, and the clergy generally met the Injunctions of the hated tyrant Cromwell by a policy of passive resistance.
Ordinance attached to the Directory, 1644.
The period of the Civil Wars and Commonwealth was one of ecclesiastical anarchy, which seriously affected parish registers. The Long Parliament usurped the Royal supremacy and made itself the supreme judge in ecclesiastical matters. In 1640 a Committee was appointed to deal with scandalous ministers, that is, with the Clergy who were loyal to Church and King. Episcopal authority lapsed and Puritan mobs wrecked and pillaged churches. In 1643 the Commons accepted the Solemn League and Covenant, and the work of the so-called reformation of the Church was committed to the Westminster Assembly, consisting of English Puritan divines, Scotch Presbyterian ministers, and laymen. In 1615 the Commons abolished the Book of Common Prayer, and made the Directory the only legal service-book in England. In 1646 Presbyteries were set up all over England to govern ecclesiastical affairs, under the supervision of Parliament.
The advent of Cromwell to supreme power in 1653 affected the Clergy even more severely. In 1654 he appointed a Committee of Triers, consisting of thirty-eight Puritans, to examine every candidate for a benefice, and in each county Committees were appointed with power to summon the beneficed Clergy and enquire as to their learning and sufficiency. Many Clergy had been ejected in 1643, on refusal to take the Covenant, more in 1645, when the Prayer Book was forbidden, and most of those who had so far retained their benefices were ejected by the Committees. From that time till the Restoration the services of the Church were performed by stealth.
The ejection of many Clergy in 1643 had produced much disorder, and even entire cessation of entries in parish registers. So Parliament, in 1614, instructed the Committee charged with the establishment of the Directory " to bring in a clause in that Ordinance for registering the time of baptizing of children and their parents' names, and for registering of burials ".
In the same year it was ordered that " there shall be provided at the charge of every parish or chapelry a fair Register Book of velim, to be kept by the minister and other officers of the church," and directions were given as to the entry of baptisms, marriages, and burials, and the right to search and take copies and certificates.
Appointment of Civil Registrars, 1653.
As, however, confusion still increased owing to the ejection of Clergy and the intrusion of ministers, the " Barebone " Parliament in 1653 ordered "an able and honest person," to be called " The Parish Register," to be elected triennially by the parishioners of every parish, who should enter fairly banns, marriages, births, and burials, and charge 12d. for each entry of marriages, and 4d. for each entry of births and burials, the entry of baptisms being excluded from the fee. This was no doubt intended to deprave the sacrament of Holy Baptism. The surrender of the registers to laymen thus elected was bitterly resented by the Episcopal and Puritan Clergy.
Marriages to be performed by Justices, 1653.
At the same time the " Barebone " Parliament ordered that all marriages should take place before a Justice of the Peace, banns having been published " three several Lord's-days at the close of the morning Exercise, in the publique Meeting- place commonly called the Church or Chappel; or (if the parties so to be married shall desire it) in the Market-place next to the said Church or Chappel on three Market days in three several weeks between the hours of eleven and two."
Reversion of the Registers to the Clergy, 1660.
When the King came back to his own, the Church came back too as a matter of course. It required no Acts of Parliament to abolish the various ordinances by which the Church had been superseded and persecuted. In the eye of the law they were the acts of a rebel government and had no legal validity. The Bishops and Clergy who survived, about one thousand in number, came back from exile or retreat, and reclaimed their Sees or Livings.
An Act was at once passed to legalize all marriages which had been illegally solemnized since 1 May 1642.
The custody of the Parish Registers reverted to the Clergy. But whereas in 1640 England was virtually a baptized nation, in 1660 it was virtually unbaptized, and the Clergy faced the task of adult baptism. The office for "The Ministration of Baptism to such as are of riper years" was drawn up and approved by Convocation in 1661, and the folios of the Registers are crowded with entries of Baptisms from 1660 onward.
Acts for Burial in Woollen.
The first Act ordering Burial in Woollen, to encourage the wool trade, was passed in 1666. In 1678 a second Act was passed, with more stringent regulations, ordering an Affidavit signed by a Magistrate to be brought. In 1680 a concession was made allowing the Affidavit to be signed by a Minister. The effect of these Acts ou the Registers will be considered later on.
Registration of Births, 1681.
In 1681 parents were ordered to register the birth of every child with the Clergy, and to pay a fee of 6d., but the Act was generally neglected and nullified by an Act of Indemnity for negligence in 1706.
Tax on Marriages, Births, and Burials, 1694.
In 1694 an Act was passed to raise money " for carrying on the war against France with vigour," which imposed taxes for five years on entries of marriages, births, and burials, and also on bachelors and widowers, giving right of access to the Registers. The general tax was for burial 4s. 0d., birth 2s. 0d., marriage 2s. 6d., for bachelors and widowers 1s. 0d. annually, with very heavy super-taxes for Dukes, Earls, and other nobility.
Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act, 1753.
Until the year 1754 a marriage by a priest of the Church was valid, without either banns or licence, although the parties were liable to censure and the priest to heavy legal penalties, but such penalties were useless where the priest had neither liberty nor benefice to lose. So legal marriages were performed by disreputable priests, especially by those imprisoned in the Fleet for debt, as is described in Walter Besant's novel, " The Chaplain of the Fleet ". Clandestine and scandalous marriages were also performed in Churches or Chapels which had real or pretended exemption from the jurisdiction of the Bishop. Entries of the marriage of persons, neither of whom resided in the parish, may be found in most registers, though perhaps the licence of the Bishop was obtained.
This state of laxity was stopped by Lord Hardwicke's Act of 1753, entitled "An Act for the better Preventing of Clandestine Marriages," which ordered (1) all marriages to be by licence or banns; (2) in the parish where one of the parties resided, and (3) to be entered in a special printed book. This Register, the first in printed form, is a paper book, and has an elaborate title page with the Royal Arms of George II. The first part contains the form for the publication of banns, and the second part that for the entry of the marriage, with spaces for the signatures of the priest, the parties, and the witnesses.
Some parishes neglected to provide the Hardwicke Register at all.
It is amusing to notice how a novelist may fall into a mistake. Thus Wilkie Collins in " The Woman in White " hangs his plot on the forged entry of the marriage of Sir Felix Glyde, and describes the Marriage Register of Old Wehningham as "of the old-fashioned kind, the entries being all made on blank pages in manuscript, and the divisions which separated them being indicated by ink lines drawn across the pages at each entry," and the forged entry in 1603 as "at the bottom of a page and for want of room compressed into a smaller space than that occupied by the marriages above." Evidently Wilkie Collins had never seen the Hardwicke Marriage Registers covering the years 1754 to 1612, which provide four printed forms on each page. Even if the Register had not been provided, the prescribed form with the signatures would have been written out in full for each entry.
The Stamp Act, 1783.
The Stamp Act in 1763 imposed a duty of 3d. on each entry in a Register, but this Act was repealed in 1794.
George Rose's Act, 1812.
In 1812 an Act known as " Rose's Act " was passed " for the better regulating and preserving Parish and other Registers of Births, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials in England." It is printed in full at the beginning of the Baptismal Registers issued in 1813. It ordered Registers of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials to be kept in every Parish, such Registers to be printed in a prescribed form, provided by the King's Printer in the first instance, and afterwards by the Churchwardens, to be kept in the custody of the Incumbent in a dry, well-painted iron chest, and copies of the entries to be made annually and sent to the Registrars of each Diocese and preserved by them in safe buildings. Persons making false entries or altering or damaging or destroying the Registers were made liable to be transported for fourteen years. No other penalty was provided, but yet provision was made that one half of the Fines or Penalties should go to the informer, and the remainder to the poor of the parish, or to such charitable purposes as the Bishop might direct. It also ordered lists of all extant Register Books to be sent to the Bishop of the Diocese.
This Act ended the parchment Registers and introduced the familiar books, which are devoid of entries recording other events of interest.
The General Registration Act, 1836.
In 1836, just on three hundred years after the Church had instituted registration of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, the State passed the General Registration Act instituting civil registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths. This Act left the Parish Registers of Baptisms and Burials in the forms provided by Rose's Act, and issued from the office of the Registrar General the Marriage Registers bound in green cloth which are now in use. Copies of the Marriage entries have to be sent each quarter to the District Registrar, and through him to the Registrar General. Since the passing of this Act Parish Registers have ceased to be the sole records, and certificates are seldom required for civil purposes.
Change of Calendar and the "double date"
The following simplified explanation is sufficient for the purpose of understanding dates in Parish Registers of the period, but for a more complete explanation there are better sources.
The Julian calendar was used in Great Britain up to 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted. The Calendar Act 1750 (enacted in 1752) altered the start of the year, and also aligned the British calendar 11 days later to comply with the Gregorian calendar. Thus Wednesday 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14 September 1752.
The same Act standardised the start of the year to 1 January. Up to the time of the reform of the calendar in 1754, the civil year commenced on 25 March, while the historical year, as now, began on 1 January. Consequently the period from 1 January to 25 March was in two years. Thus, for example, 1 February, 1732, according to the civil year, was 1 February, 1733, according to our (historical) reckoning, and it is often written 1 February, 1732-3, or 1732/3, the last being the historical one.
In parish registers the civil reckoning was usually adopted, and this must be remembered when dealing with entries from 1 January to 25 March, before the year 1754.
Unfortunately some transcribers assume the modern start of the year in all cases and will, mistakenly, transcribe all dates after 1 January as belonging to the next year.
Some Relative Date Notations
It was customary in the medieval period for scribes who had been taught in Latin, to use the Latin notation for dates. In this notation dates were written as relative to the Kalends (Kal), Nones (Non) and Ides (Id) which were fixed days in each month.
Kalends was always the first of the month. In March, May, July and October, Nones was the seventh, and Ides the fifteenth day. In all other months, Nones was on the fifth and Ides on the thirteenth.
Dates were written as a number of days prior to Kal, Non or Id, e.g., 4 Non. Jan. = 2 January.
Similarly, years were often expressed relative to a fixed point relevant to the originator of a letter, directive or bull. Thus a document sent by the king's scribes would often have a regnal year below the king's signature.
Regnal years were calculated relative to the coronation of a king (or sometimes the death of his predecessor). Thus 5 Ed. II is the fifth year of the reign of Edward II.
Popes followed the same principle, so a papal bull might have a year expressed as relative to the enthronement of the pope, e.g., 1 Boniface IV was the first year after the enthronement of Pope Boniface IV.
Common practices of scribes and transcribers
The letter "p" or "pauper" occurring in registers against some entries in the period 1783-96, merely indicates that they were exempted from payment of the tax then levied on register entries.
The following abbreviations were often freely adopted in transcriptions, save when there seemed to be a special reason for giving the entries exactly as they stand:-
|b. ... bachelor.||sep. ... sepultus (buried).|
|sp. ... spinster.||s. ... son.|
|wid. ... widow.||d. ... daughter.|
|widr. ... widower.||w. ... wife.|
|p. ... parish.||lic. ... license.|
|wit. ... witnesses.||gent. ... gentleman.|
|bap. ... baptized.||esq. ... esquire.|
|chr. ... christened.||clk. ... clerk.|
|mar. ... married.||co. ... county.|
|bur. ... buried.||dioc. ... diocese.|
|ch.w. ... churchwardens.||f. ... filius or filia (son or daughter).|
|ux. ... uxor (wife).|