Pages 34 - 38

Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

Churchwardens' account book, 1634 - 1675
Pages 34 - 38

At this time the churchwardens appear to be having trouble with absentee
seatholders with non-payment of rent for seats, and from others making a personal profit by subletting their seats. A memorandum is therefore added, that if anyone without an estate in the parish absents himself from his purchased seat for one whole year, he shall lose it. It was also agreed that those who had purchased a parish seat, having land in the village, should lose their seats if they neglected to pay the yearly rent after due warning from the churchwardens.

It was also decreed that if any parishioner sublet his seat for profit the churchwardens should have the power to take the profit and use it for the benefit of the parish.

Outgoings during the year were

"Paid to Thomas Wilshire for covering a grave and for
tending bell carpenter for 4 days
Hospital money for midsummer quarter
William Godwin for 4th bell wheel
To the ringers for thanksgiving day for victory over the
Edmund Winson for mending the church wickett
William Fflement for work about thc church wickett
William Brean for polecat
Hospital money for michaelmas quarter
Thomas Howell for a rope for the clock
For 5 dozen and 5 hedgehogs
Laid out at the visitation at Bath
Hospital money for Christmas quarter
The ringers 29th May
To John Bath for mending the clapper of the 4th bell
Thomas Wilshire for mending graves and tending carpenter
Hospital money for Ladyday quarter
Benjamin Curtis for mending the church windows Wilshire
for tending
Thomas Howell for a new rope for the third bell
For brushing and cleaning the church
The ringers on 5th November
Lords rent for Butthayes
For 2 polecats
For a transcript of the register and carrying it to Wells
John Winson for stocks for the bells and other work
Richard Reynolds for work about the same
William Fflement for work about the wickett and other
And given to poor people that came with passes in the whole
Thomas Wilshire for his wages for the year
For a double rate and a single for the town and the hill
Ffrancis Palmer for bread for the communion
Mr. Mason for wyne for the communion
Edward Avery for oyle and a whisk
William Webb for keeping and mending the clock
Mary Turban for washing the linen and cleaning the plate
Richard Keene for labour about the bells
for 8 hedgehogs
For engrossing this account and writing
Expense at making this account

£   s   d

3   0
1      6  0
1   10   0

10   0
4   6
3   6
1   6   0
4   0
10  0
16   6
1     6 10
8   6
15   6
3   0
 1     6 10

1   18   0
7   0
4   0
17   4
2   10
6   0
1   7

4   0

14   6
3   0   0
2   0
2   8
1   15   0
5   0
12   0
1   3
1   6
1   4
4   6
£21   19   1"

During this year money loaned out to parishioners totalled £141. Interest appeared to be paid on these amounts at the rate of 6%. However, interest received was £7 18s. Od. It is perhaps worthy of note that 2 sums which were on loan in 1635 (a) To Richard Willett and John Willett (£5) and (b) to Richard Willett (£3) were still outstanding, and no interest appears to have been forth-coming on these amounts for some years.

On 16th May, 1666 £4 4s. Od. was distributed to the poor .


It would seem that over the years there was little change in the main sources
of income for the church and in the manner in which it was spent.

Money RECEIVED came basically from :-

(a) A rate levied on heads of households or estates in the district.
(b) Additional donations from them towards the cost of bread and
wine for other members of the family.
(c) Payment for seats in the church; a charge of 6s. 8d. towards the
initial cost of the seat persists throughout these years.
(d) A smaller charge, 4d. or less, for the annual rent of seats.
(e) Rent received for the church garden and for Butthayes.
(f) Payment for burials.
(g) Selling of scrap (1) 10s. for communion table boards in 1633.
(2) 10s. 6d. for 13 cwts. of organ pipes and lead in 1654.

(h) Occasionally through the years gift money was received, as in
1649-50, when young men donated 16s. 4d. towards the great bell ;
and in

(i) Occasional legal fines: as when "those that kept ill order at the inn " in 1647 paid
in 8s. 4d. which was to be distributed among the poor of Wrington. This was a usual penalty imposed by the J.P. for "nuisance" offences.

Throughout the years a separate account has been kept of capital loaned to parishioners, and interest on this varied from 8% in 1633, to 6% in 1666. This interest was distributed on behalf of the needy of Wrington.

EXPENDITURE was mainly on :-

(a) Repair and Maintenance of the Church-on walls, bells, windows, church robes, etc. ; most of the expenditure was for labour and materials for this purpose. There are also annual items for sweeping the path and washing the church linen and plate. Occasional items of special interest are :-

(I) In 1638 there were major repairs carried out to the organ, and
the Rector had a new hood costing £1 15s. Od. ! The church was white limed by Richard Reynolds, a local craftsman who charged for this and a small amount of other work, £3. Thomas Wilshire and his wife received 2s. Od. for "cleaning up after them".

(2) The church was next whitelimed in 1652, when £1 1s. Od. was paid to whitelimers who came from a distance, and additional sums were spent on their board and lodging. Thomas Wilshire was paid 1s. Od. for carrying the ladder and 2s. 6d. was paid to Goodwife Wilshire for cleaning up after the whitelimers on this occasion.

(3) Continually recurring were sums for glazing the windows; much annoyance and damage was caused by fives players who used the wall of the tower as their court. There are said to be marks on the tower where the fives boards were put up. In 1642 the sum of £8 9s. 1Od. was spent on glazing windows broken by players, but it was not until 1647 that there is any record of action being taken to stop them. In this year Thomas Wilshire received an additional 1s. 1d. "for sitting before the tower to hinder the fives playing". In 1648 there is a cryptic payment to him of 1s. 6d. "for digging before the tower", and in 1651 there is a more explicit entry when Thomas Wilshire was paid 1s. for digging pits to save the church windows.

(b) Payments made for services rendered to the church;-

(1) Thomas Wilshire is apparently sexton receiving an annual sum as wages (£2 13s. 4d. to £3), and also additional sums for such work as grave digging, attending the carpenter, blowing the organ and various repairs.

(2) In 1639 the then organist Llenard Fuller received £6 7s. Od. annual wages and Thomas Wilshire was paid 6s. 8d. a year for blowing the organ.

(3) From payments made to the ringers, events of national importance can be traced. Throughout the accounts, even during the time of the Protectorate, substantial sums were paid to the ringers on 5th November. Until the Civil War, the bells were rung to commemorate the anniversary of the Coronation of Charles I.

In 1642, 3s. 10d. was paid for ringing the bells ''as the Queen went through the town", this being a reference to Queen Henrietta Maria's journey through Wrington as she fled to France. In the year 1649, 1s. Od. only was paid on ringers to celebrate Cromwell's victory in Ireland, whilst 10s. was spent during this year for ringers on 5th November. Guy Fawkes, for all the Royalist fervour bell ringing in celebration of his downfall implied, was obviously popular even in highly Parliamentarian Wrington!

The year 1650 saw the rebellion of the Earl of Montrose in Scotland and 3s. was spent on ringers to celebrate this victory. In 1653, Cromwell was made Lord Protector and in the same year there was Thanksgiving for Victory over the Dutch, the cost of ringers being 5s. on each occasion. But 10s. was still spent for ringers to celebrate 5th November. In 1656, 6s. was spent to celebrate the overthrowing of "the bloody plot against the Protector", but in 1660 on the day the King was proclaimed, 13s. were spent on ringers and drummers, and on Coronation Day 10s. were spent on ringers.

(c) Pest Control was a responsibility of the churchwardens and an item that cropped up in the accounts annually. The standard rate of payment was 2d. per hedgehog, ½d. per sparrow, and 4d. for a polecat.

(d) Church Records. Various expenses are attached to Visitations to and from the Church Commissioners regarding church business. There is an annual charge for drawing up the church accounts and for making up the Register of Christenings, Marriages and Deaths. In 1634, a terrier of the glebe lands was drawn up, and sent to the registrar at Wells at a cost of 3s. 4d. and in the same year a terrier was also sent to my Lord of Canterbury's court. In 1642 £1 10s. Od. was laid out by Edmund Horte, churchwarden, when he was summoned to Wells by the King's Commissioners, to inform against those of the village who had refused to sign what he disdainfully calls the "pretended petition for peace".

He however, refused to "undoe all his neighbours by informing against them", and as a later entry shows, was imprisoned for his contempt -an early indication of Wrington's Parliamentarian views, encouraged no doubt by their outstanding, Presbyterian-inclined rector of the day, Samuel Crooke. Had the Commissioners, however, seen the accounts, they would have found what they wanted; for - using the book almost as a personal diary - Mr. Horte, having confided in it his refusal to give away his neighbours,
continues " ....
specially Mr. Dollinge, John Amory and John Tilley" !

(e) Charity. There are numerous recordings of charitable bequests being made. The poor and needy of Wrington were helped out of the interest received on money lent by the church.

Out of the current accounts, help was given to needy passing through the parish. Under the Poor Law, each parish was responsible for its own poor, and folk in distress were expected to return to their own place of birth or legal settlement. Each wayfarer requesting help had to produce a pass or certificate of need. There are also many notes of payment made to "shipwrecked Irish" or "Irish vagrants". As Ireland had no organised Poor Law and consequently no law of settlement by which papers could be despatched to a specific parish like parcels, many habitual vagrants claimed to be Irish in order to obtain relief as they were simp]y handed from one parish to its neighbour in their endless wanderings.

A regular sum was paid quarterly "to the hospital for poor maimed soldiers", and it seems likely that this was the former Woodspring Priory Dear Weston-super-Mare. This had become a hospital after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and remained so until well into the 18th century. Many parishes in the locality contributed regularly to its upkeep. Wrington paid £1 6s. 8d. a half year in 1632, but by 1663 was contributing £5 7s. 4d. per annum.

(f) Through the years covered by this book the churchwardens were paying 3d. per annum rent for Butthayes - and subletting it for 6s. 8d. ! They did, however, contribute towards the maintenance of its hedges. For an account of the Butthayes or archery ground, see paper The Manor and the Manor House. By this time it would not be used for archery; hence the churchwardens are able to sublet it.

Odd items worthy of special mention are ;-

(1) A mixture of figures are in use: Arabic figures for dates and at first, cumbersome Roman numerals for the sums of money, are used concurrently. Arabic figures are first used for money in 1642.

(2) Thomas Wilshire persists as "Sexton" from 1632 until the end of the book. His son is mentioned in 1649, and by name as Edmund in 1654, when the two worked together on specific jobs. In 1670 the churchwardens speak for the first time of "Old" Wilshire's wages, which may have been an ominous portent, as in 1671 Edmund Wilshire received £3 for his year's wages.

(3) A Richard Parsley, one of the oldest local surnames still flourishing in Wrington today, is mentioned in 1653, at the time of the death of his mother; and someone of that name was buried under the nave of the church at a slightly later date.