|Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village
Churchwardens' account book, 1634 - 1675
Pages 29 - 33
Source: Churchwardens' Accounts, vol. 1 (Wrington Parish Records): original MS.
This book contains the Annual Accounts of the churchwardens of the parish of Wrington from the year 1634 to 1675. The accounts are written on parchment purchased in 1634 and bound and made into a book during that year at a total cost of 16s. In 1655 a few loose leaves of script were inserted into the front of the book by the then churchwardens, giving information on money left to the poor of the parish by the late Rector Samuel Crooke (£20) and by the late
The only previous study of this volume of accounts seems to have been a short article by Prebendary Scarth, Rector of Wrington, in Proceedings of the Bath Field Club, vol. 2, which included a selection of random quotations. The work of the churchwardens at this period obviously reflected, through their concern for their pockets, many different aspects and details of village life. But as this is the longest of all the documents studied, with some 185 pages of closely written 17th century script of varying legibility, it seemed advisable to concentrate on the accounts at the beginning and near the end of the volume, in order to ascertain whether there had been any change over the years in the sources from which parish income was drawn, or in the manner in which it was disbursed.
" 1. The Account of Henry Bakewell and John Halestone,
Received £ s d
Deficit to be collected from parishioners and paid to Henry Bakewell and
There follow details of interest received on money lent to certain parishioners, an interest rate of approximately 8% being charged. The parish church, with its traditions of stability and security, and wealth, often acted as a simple forerunner of the local bank; local charitable bequests sometimes encouraged this arrangement.
This fund appeared to be used for charitable purposes within the parish and was disbursed as follows :-
This left a balance of £2 9s. 11d. which was handed over to the new churchwardens
The account for this year finishes with a memorandum "It is agreed by the Minister, churchwardens and for the rest of the parishioners, at the giving up of this account on 9-5-1634 that John Bennett and Henry Bakewell shall hold the seats newly erected by them in the choir and under the S. window at their own cost, paying yearly 4d. a pew during their lives.
It is also agreed that John Amory, William Fford, William Macy and John Halestone for a charge of 6/8 a pew paid to the churchwardens, shall have their seats adjoining the North wall, and shall also pay 4d. a year a pew for the rest of their lives. And John Amory and Edmund Ffoord for a yearly rent of 2d. a pew to have the seats set up by them at their own cost in the middJe alley near the north door.
Signed William Capell Samuel Crooke Henry Barkwell
-and 2 undecipherable.
During 1634-1635 the church was inspected by the Commissioners sent by the Lord Bishop. The churchwardens were called to Wells to discuss the flooring of the seats and other work about the church. The churchwardens received £21 9s. 4d. for flooring 229 seats at 1s. 10d. per seat. At this time particulars were inserted in the front of the account book giving details of those who paid for seats, and all the pews and seats in the church were enrolled.
In 1635 a Terrier was drawn up, a copy of which was sent to London to my Lord of Canterbury's Court. A Register was also made of all the christenings, weddings and burials and in succeeding years a new item appears in the accounts, the annual expenditure on the making up of this register. Most of the expendi-ture during this year arose out of the above items.
CHURCHWARDENS' ACCOUNT 1665-1666
From 8th May 1665 until 14th May 1666, William Hort and Edmund
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.