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This was however not the first time, I may mention, that the revenue officers had taken an interest in the affairs of domestic life, for the same three offices of the church had been laid under taxation by William III. in 1695, the duty being proportioned to the rank and means of the person taxed. As the collection of this however was not connected in any way with registration, it scarcely falls within the compass of my subject. The only reference to it that I have anywhere met with is in the Avebury register, where I find, under date 1698, "Henry, the son of John Smith, who was assess'd for £600, was baptized Sept. 8." What is perhaps more akin to the matter in hand is that in the time of this same sovereign, the clergy were deprived of their fees for the search of the register books, to which (by 6 and 7 Wm. III., cap. 6) they were bound to allow access without fee or reward. Nor was this most inequitable provision repealed, so far as I have been able to discover, until the passing of Sir George Rose's Act, in 1812, though the very following year (1695) the sum of sixpence was allowed to the clergy for each entry that they made in the register.
In 1813 the whole system of registration was changed, in accordance with the Act of the previous year. Forms similar to those now in use were supplied in paper for baptisms and burials, while the marriages were continued in very much the same form as before. The record of the banns was transferred to another book, and the words "by consent of" were added, this blank intended of course to be filled up with the word "parents," or "guardians," as the case might be, when the bride was under age. But one wise clergyman has made it read (in 1824) "With consent of the parties," forgetting that such consent was orally given in every case during the ceremony in facie ecclesiæ. In 1837 occurred the last change, when the shape of the marriage books was altered, and two volumes were provided, one to be sent, when filled up, to the Registrar of the diocese, and the other to remain permanently in the custody of the Incumbent (6 and 7, Will. IV., c. 36). The books for baptisms and burials remained unaltered.
I may mention in passing that besides the parochial registers which form the subject of this paper, there exist a considerable
number of similar records belonging to various dissenting bodies, lists and descriptions of which are comprised in the report of a Commission on the subject which was appointed in 1836, and which reported the following year. The earliest of these registers are those of the French Protestants in London and Canterbury, which go back as far as 1567. The Baptist community come next in point of antiquity: their registers begin in the reign of Charles I. See Parliamentary Papers, vol. xxviii. There are some singular entries in the marriage registers of Shapwick Church, Dorsetshire, occurring at intervals from 1695 to 1722, and running thus, " Marryed elsewhere," or else "Marryed, or pretended, at a lawless church." I imagine that these must refer to a chapel of the Nonjurors, though the Vicar of the parish tells me that he has not been able to obtain any evidence of the existence of such in the neighbourhood. He says however that there were a large number of Royalists in Shapwick at the time of the Great Rebellion, and he thinks it not at all unlikely that their children would be led by the principles in which they had been brought up to espouse the cause of the Nonjurors in the next generation.
Modern foreign registration does not of course come within the scope of our investigation as an archæological society; but for the benefit of anyone who may be curious in such matters I may say that there is a considerable amount of information on the subject derivable from the report of the Commission of 1832. See Parliamentary Papers, vol. xiv.
In the same volume I see a very remarkable statement by one witness to the effect that "At the last York Assizes upon Mr. Serjeant Jones stating that an obliteration appeared in a register which was produced, Mr. Justice Alderson, who tried the cause, observedAre you surprised at that, Brother Jones? I am not at all surprised. I have had much experience, and I never saw a parish register book in my life that was not falsified in one way or other, and I do not believe that there is one that is not.'" (Page 64.) I cannot help thinking that this was by far too sweeping a statement of the learned and distinguished Judge's; although unquestionably in the very careless and un-business-like way in which registers
were too often kept, there were great opportunities of falsification, of which advantage is known to have been sometimes taken. The only instance of this which has come to my own knowledge occurred at the Church of St. Peter, Cornhill, and for the following account of it I am indebted to the Rev. Richard Whittington, Rector of the parish, and I believe a collateral descendant of the well-known Lord Mayor of that name. "In 1829," he says, "a Chancery suit was pending, the issue of which turned upon an entry in the register, and two persons came to see the books in company with the parish clerk. They afterwards induced him to retire to spend the evening at one of the taverns in the parish, and then, after making him drunk, as the evidence sworn before the Lord Mayor would seem to show, he delivered up the keys of the church and registers, that they might search them (as they said) early the next morning. They paid an early visit, it would seem, to the church, erased the original entry, and in a very clumsy manner inserted another and then decamped."
I have already incidentally given several examples from burial records of epithets or descriptions attaching to the persons whose decease is recorded. I proceed to add a few more. At St. Oswald's, Durham, "Lyonel Martine, a very honest man, aged lxxxxvii. years, bur. 23 July, 1616." And in the same book, "Mrs. Margaret Pudsay, and old maid, papist." At Great Staughton, Hunts, in 1618, "Sepulta est Jana Poole, anicula." At Teddington, Middlesex, "James Parsons, who had often eat a shoulder of mutton, or a peck of hasty pudding at a time, which caused his death, buried March 7, 174, aged 36." At Norton in Cheshire, was buried in 1743 a gentleman who is lauded in the register book almost as much as he might have been on his tombstone: "Comeliness and cheerfulness shone brightly in him: his expressions were handsome, facetious, and mild: to all easy and just: to his friends particularly respectful;" and so on.
In the marriage registers I have only come across one descriptive entry, and that is at Sea Salter, in Kent, where is the following: "John Housden, widower, a gape mouthed lazy fellow, and Hannah Matthews, an old toothless hag, both of Faversham, were trammelled
by license at the Cathedral of Sea Salter, June 6, 1744. A Caspian bowl of well acidulated glumigrim."
At Eltham, in the same county, on the other hand, is an entry of marriage wherein the description errs by defect, "Johannes Layton, duxit in uxorem Letissiman Puellam," Oct. 18, 1640. And still more shortly at Hoddon, in Northumberland: "Twizzels, man and maid was married on Lady Day, 1706.”
There is one curious superstition with regard to marriages, of which not a few old register books preserve the record, viz., that a woman who is in debt at the time of marriage may avoid saddling her husband with her liabilities if she appear at the altar clad in one garment only, and that of the lightest. At Chilterne All Saints, in this county, I find " John Prideaux and Ann Selwood were married Oct. 17, 1714. The aforesaid Ann Selwood was married in her smock without any cloathes or head gear on." So also at Broad Hinton, "John Farmer and Ann Stagg were married November the 17th, 1718. N.B. She was married in nothing but her shift." The theory of this curious custom is thus explained by Burns: The husband is liable for the wife's debts, therefore he acquires an absolute interest in the personal estate of the wife. And therefore again he concludes that if the wife has no estate, the husband is not liable. The fallacy of which reasoning scarcely requires to be pointed out. And so, pursues the author, "with more care than refinement he (the husband) lets the world know that the bride brings him nothing. Ex nihilo nihil fit." For this singular statement the writer claims the authority of Bacon's abridgement. But I, on the contrary, having carefully examined that work, can find no other information bearing on the subject than the absolute and unexceptioned statement: "The husband is liable for the wife's debts, contracted before marriage, whether he had any portion with her or not." Vol. i., p. 708. Compare also Brand's "Popular Antiquities," iii., 305.
I will now proceed to give a few examples of curious inscriptions which I have met with in parish registers. At Rodmarton, in Gloucestershire, is the following good advice: "If you will have this book last, bee sure to aire it at the fire or in the sunne thrice or foure times a yeare-els it will grow dankish and rott, therefore look to
it. It will not bee amiss when you find it dankish, to wipe over the leaves with a dry wollen cloath. This place is very much subject to dankishness, therefore I say looke to it."
At Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire, is the following table of contents::
"Hio puer ætatem, hîc vir sponsalia noscat;
This is rather truistic. A better preface runs as follows [I find it jotted down in my note-book, but have accidentally omitted to mark where I got it] :
"Janua baptismus: medio stat tæda jugalis.
I see given in Notes and Queries (I., vii., 257) as existing at Ruyton, in Shropshire, what sounds very much like a translation of the above:
"No flattery here, where to be born and die
Enough if virtue filled the space between
At Norton, in the county of Durham, there occurs the following preface to the register of marriages, according to Sir Cuthbert Sharpe, from whose Chronicon Mirabile I quote it: "Marriage comes in on the 13th of January, and at Septuagesima Sunday it is out again until Low Sunday, at which time it comes in again, and goes not out till Rogation Sunday: thence it is unforbidden until Trinity Sunday, from thence it is forbidden until Advent Sunday and comes not in again till the 13th of January." This note bears date 1745.
At Fittleton in this county: "Wee are borne crying, wee live laughing, wee dye sighing." This inscription is signed by the same gentleman to whom I have already referred-" Ste. Jay," and appears to have been written about 1650.
Of colophons of any sort or description I have met with not a single instance.
And now, leaving the wide pastures in which, note-book in hand,