Hertfordshire Genealogy

Guide to Old Hertfordshire


The Churchwarden's Book for







When they survive the Churchwarden's account books can tell you a lot about what was happening in the village at the time, often mentioning many names, as this example shows:

THIS interesting local record has been transcribed, line by line and page by page, by Mr. Arthur Mayes, and with an index of names and places added has been generously presented to the Society. The original is a quarto volume of about 250 pages, many of which are blank, bound in vellum with a clasp. In 1901 the Rector, observing its dilapidated state, had it rebound. Portions of leaves are unfortunately missing in a number of instances, and in the transcript the missing words are indicated by red lines.

The volume commences with a list of the parish officers chosen for 1658, and a similar list is given for every year afterwards. These comprised two churchwardens, two constables, an overseer, and two surveyors of highways. Then follows a statement of receipts and expenditure, but it is only here and there that we meet with unusual items worth recording.

In 1659 there is a reference to a fire of some magnitude. "To ye watchman yt watched the night after ye fire 4s." "To James Oakley to make provision for the poor that wanted houses 5s. 4d."

In 1663 Richard Bigg, the constable, reports that "Robert Duck was taken up by me at Welwynne, and then punished according to the law and sent to Hatfield parish the place of his last abode". Daniel Hill was arrested and served similarly, being sent on to Felingham in Norfolk, while in 1665 Anne Tynie was arrested, whipped, and sent to Framlingham in Suffolk.

In 1667 Goodman Crouch was given 10s. for writing the rate; presumably making out the assessments and sending to each parishioner a demand note.

In 1683 we have a reference to that curious belief in the power of healing possessed by the Stuart kings, and known as "Touching for the Evil". "These are to certify to whom it may concerne that Ann Harper of the parish of Welwynne in Hertfordshire supposed to be troubled with the disease commonly called the King's Evil hath not (that we know of or ever heard) bin at any time touched by the King's Majesty to the intent to be healed of that disease. Witness our handes & seales this 23rd of March, 1683." This is, however, not signed.

In 1690 "Mem, that the parish child was paid for to this April 14, 1691," referring probably. to a foundling who was put in a foster-mother's charge.

In 1698 (and again in 1704 and .1706) the overseer's expenses and visitation fees, citations (in which the apparitor or bishop's summoning officer figures largely), repairs to and disbursements for the parish church are mixed up cheek by jowl with accounts for bricklayers' and glaziers' work to the fabric. We have "1/- for a warrant to move Eliz. Willis with her child to Hertford"; "5/- for horse hire and expenses to Hertford to defend the parish for Sarah Cass"; "for Communion bread and wine" 31s. was paid for the year; for washing the surplice four times per annum 10s.; 1s. each was paid for fox-heads (they were usually single cases, but there is an entry for three and another for five-a total of nine for the year). [Mr. Mayes believes that these were nailed either to the church door or church gates, much as the gamekeeper of to day nails up so-called vermin.] The sum of 8s. 6d. was paid for exhibiting the terrier of glebe lands to the Bishop of Lincoln, and the Archidiaconal Visitation cost the parish 8s., while the apparitor's fees and expenses amounted to a further 10s. 6d. In the same year the boundaries of the land belonging to the parish were set out with stakes and stubbs, the action being witnessed by the churchwardens, overseer, and the representative of the Lord of the Manor.

In 1702, referring to the appointment of a constable, it is set down that "Ye late constable to be headborough for ye year ensuing", that is a kind of deputy-constable.

In 1 703 there are set forth the rents received for the town lands at Caddington and in the parish, the "half yard money", the "town-piece", and the "anchor pightel".

In 1704 (May 14) the parish went a-processioning and paid at Heath's, Burnham Green, 17s., doubtless for refreshment, Mr. Diggs having 16s. for his disbursements on the same account. The sum of 9s. 4d. was expended upon the "Stock house" and churchyard wall, and 1s. 6d. were for expenses at "binding John Cramphorne", no doubt a parish apprentice.

In 1 705 there was a great storm, for we find the churchwardens paid £2 10s. for glazing and 'plummers' work occasioned by "ye great wind". They also rewarded Cutler 2s. for "catching 2 foxes ", and Basset 13s. 4d. for two others.

In 1706 the Vestry place on record that Mr. Denny's gift of £30 is in the hands of Mrs. Joanna Vaughan, the interest of which is to be paid about a month after, Easter in 30s. worth of bread to the poor of Welwyn, and there is a reference to Mr. Bernier's gift of £5 annually for putting of a prentice to some trade.

In 1708 there are references to some four or five places "left out of ye overseers rate", and the announcement that "Ye constable Thomas Camp field continued another year for a Punishment for his Excess in charges".

In 1713 a recipient of out-relief dies, and the poor furniture of the cottage is sold for the benefit of the parish. "Recd. for Widow Big's goods £1.0.0."

In 1715 among the receipts is that of £7 10s "By Thomas Mason's petition", which looks like a collection for a sufferer from fire or other calamity, but, strange to say, nothing appears on the disbursement side of the account.

In 1731 there is an item of repairs to the church-house, and it was ordered at this Vestry that the stock-house be pulled down and sold, but for what purpose these buildings were used is not indicated. Probably the church-house was the parish meeting-place, and the stock-house may have been used to store material and implements in, or possibly, as Mr. Mayes suggests, to cover the parish stocks from the effects of the weather.

Some fifty pages of the book are taken up with lists of briefs or letters of requests for alms in aid of persons or places suffering from fire, storm, or other calamity. These appeals were usually read in church, although in a few instances house-to­house collections were made, and the amount collected sometimes transmitted to the beneficiaries, but more frequently to the person who had issued the brief, and who usually made a large profit by the transaction. There are recorded no less that 328 of these petitions, besides several that are lost, extending over eighty-six years, or approximately four a year. Space forbids the enumeration or any except those for local objects and brief reference to two or three others.

February, 1659. "Collected for the inhabitants of Willion in Hartfordshire the sum of thirteene and 10 this 5 Feb. 1659".

March, 1659. "Collected for Thomas Ivory of Wheathamstead in Hartfordshire, the sum of 9s 11d this 11th March 1659 wch was payd to ye man himselfe the same day".

March, 1660. Collected for the poore men of Hitchin the sum of 10s this 3rd March 1660. This was payd to Richard Ford churchwarden.

March, 1660. Collected for Giles Oliver of Walkern in ye County of Hertforde the sum of 9s 5½d this 29th March 1660. This 9s 5d was received by me Giles Oliver.

August, 1661. Collected for John Harlot of Bigrave in ye County of Hertforde, miller ye sum of 9s 6d the 11 Aug. 1661. This 9s 6d was payd to Goodman Chamberlaine of Baldock, waggoner Aug. 29th.

April, 1662. Collected for Thomas Greenaway of Cheshunt the sum of 6s 4d this 6th April 1662. This given to Welwynne people by order from the parish April 9 and promised to be repaid if demanded. (This very curious diversion of money collected for a definite purpose also occurs with a collection for Bolingbroke on March 9, 1661, and for Sowerby in August, 1662, and no satisfactory explanation can be given for it.)

On September 6, October 4, and December 6, 1666, and January 3, 1667, collections were taken for the sufferers from the plague.

August 4, 1668. Collected then in the parish of Wellwyn the sum of 8s 3d for John Preston of Hertingfordbury, given to the constable.

August 9, 1668. Collected then the sum of 7s 7d for Thomas Burapp of Stanstead Abbot in Hertfordshire upon a recommendation of the Sessions. Delivered to Mr. Goldsmith constable.

December 19,1669. Collected then in the parish church of Welwynne upon the recomendation of the justices the sum of 6s 3d for Martha Durden &c of Hormead. Sent by Goodman Crouch to Richard Ford, constable.

In 1663 the steeple and .part of the church at Welwyn fell down (vide County Records), and in 1670-1 a brief was issued to raise money for the rebuilding thereof. The particulars are missing in the book, but the list of donors is of distinct interest, forming as it practically does a directory of the parish at that period.

Rev. Gabriel Towerson 10s, Mrs. Margaret Towerson 6d, their servants 6d, Mrs. Wentworth 2s 6d, Edward Wingate Esq. 10s 6d, his servants 4s 6d, Henry Pursey 6d, his servant 2d, George Crouch 6d, Will Hitchin 4d, Rob. Gun 6d, his servant 6d, Thomas Basset 2d, Jonathan and Sarah Fletcher 8d, Fra Goldsmith 6d, Jo. Wilsher 1s, Tho. Slaughter 4d, Ja. Tivey 6d, Elisha Ford 9d, Will Nash 1s, his servant 6d, Mrs. Mead and daughter 1s 3d, Will Asbrook 1s, Mr. Manesty 1s, Jo. Harriot 6d, Sarah Guthridge 6d, Henry Welch 4d, Will. York 4d. Mrs. Horsey 6d, Jona. Wacket 6d, Edw. Rowghan 6d, his son 4d, Edw. Catlyn 4d, Mrs. Cathrine Camfield 1s, Ester Mead 6d, Tho. Goldsmith 4d, Edw. Day and his son 6d, Thos. Slaughter -, Jo. Moore 6d, Will Beamond 1s, Tho. Maple 4d, Will Ansell 6d, Jo. Nash 1s, his servants 8d, Amin Phillips 6d, Jo. Bird 8d, Fra Kimpton's children and servant 1s 4d, Will Blyndell 1s, Jo. Martyn with field 6d, Jo. Webb 1s 6d, Luke Eales, Dr of Phisick, 5s, his servant 6d, Mr. Stephen Adams 2s 6d, his mother-in-law 1s, his servant 4d, Nicolas Beamond 1s, Edw. Pennifather 2s, his servant 6d, Edw. Halsey 2s 6d, his servants 2s 3d, Will Battell 2s, his servants 1s 10d, Mr. Hill 1s (four others whose surnames are lost). Total £4. 9. 8. Paid by me to Mr. Juice, Register to the Archdeacon October 18, 1674.

October 18, 1674. Collected then the sum of 10s 11d, for Redbourne in Hertfordshire. This recd. Oct. 29, 1674 by me Edward Night Dep.

February 24, 1677. Collected then for Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire 4s 8d. Recd. this Aug. 12, 1678 by me John Weedon, collector.

1680. The brief for the rebuilding of St. Paul's after its destruction in the great fire of 1666 realized £2. 8. 7. By a house collection and a brief in aid of the prisoners taken by the Dey of Algiers the same year brought forth £1 5 1½

May 1, 1682. Collected then for the church of St Alban's in Hertfordshire 16s from persons hereafter names to wit of Gabriel Towerson, Rector 5s, Dr. Luke Eales 5s, John Wilshire 6d, Robert Watkyns 6d, Mrs. Vaughan 1s, Mrs. Hester Mead 6d, George Lavigton 6d, Jonathan Wacket 6d, Edw. Rhowgan 6d, Robert Gun 6d, John Twidal 6d, Mrs. Halsey 1s, Total (with 1s received afterwards) 17s. The whole paid by Mr. Halsey to Thomas Juice May 2, 1682.

1688. Another house collection for the poor Protestant Refugees who fled from France to this country realised 11s 9d, and a second collection the following year was still better responded to, quite £4 being subscribed.

1692. An appeal for the sufferers by the great storm which resulted in so many casualties at sea realised 6s.

1716. A murrain among the cattle in the counties adjacent to London (Middlesex, Essex, and Surrey) brought forth a brief upon which £1 12. 0. was collected here.

1720. "The great hailstorm" produced a brief for which 8s 6d was collected here, but who the sufferers were does not appear .

April 24, 1723. Received of the minister of Wellwyn for the brief following, Caldecot 4s. 8d. (This, the smallest village in Hertfordshire, appears to have been almost wholly consumed by fire in that year.)

It is believed that a considerable number of other parishes in the county possess churchwardens' books containing many entries of local and general interest, which could at no great expenditure of time and labour be copied and sent to the Society for preservation. If this were done it would be practicable to print descriptions, giving the more interesting entries, in these volumes year by year; indeed, it is hoped to deal with such records at Barkway and Ashwell in the next issue.

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