|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
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.
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
Money RECEIVED came basically from :-
(a) A rate levied on heads of households or estates in the district.
(h) Occasionally through the years gift money was received, as in
(i) Occasional legal fines: as when "those that kept ill order at the inn " in 1647 paid
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
(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.
(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".
(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.
MR. AND MRS. A. B. SIDDONS.