Local Parish Registers

Titchmarsh History Association [THA] has been delighted to receive rare copies of the parish records of Thorpe Achurch, Wadenhoe, Lilford and Clopton, from 1559 – 1812.  Church Warden Stephen Barber was offered these records by their previous owner who was keen to dispose of them – preferably to a good home! Stephen immediately thought of the THA; what a great decision, thank you Stephen.

The records were laboriously transcribed by Stephen Swailes between 1989 and 1996. They show baptisms, marriages and burials, and not only do we have the transcriptions along with an alphabetical summary, we are lucky to have photocopies of the original records [which are amazingly difficult to read]. 

We are delighted to have these registers and to make them available to anyone with an interest in them.  If you would like to use them as a reference, or just to admire these amazing documents, just contact THA.

Association chairman, Terry Higgins, has been reading through the records and has made the following observations.

The records are a fascinating record of life in the district. The family names will be of great interest to those who wish to follow the genealogy of the families.  However, my fascination is the light that they throw on life in the villages back as far as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, nearly 500 years ago.   

In these registers, births were not recorded, only baptisms, marriages and burials.   During those times, the church was the only institution that recorded these events, so if you weren’t baptised, or buried in the churchyard, it seems that you didn’t exist! These were the days when the Church was the only authority to record births, marriages, and deaths; long before birth certificates and County Council registrars of today.

Along with the usual record of parishioners’ names, there are occasionally unexpected entries, for example:-

The Clopton register records, in 1608 ‘The burial of a poor man, a stranger’; and in 1687 ‘Gletherow Henry of Dean, Northamptonshire, dying upon ye road to London, buried in this parish 26 March’.

There are many references to the departed being wrapped in wool. The Burial in Woollen Act of 1666 required the dead (except plague victims and the destitute) to be buried in pure English woollen shrouds to the exclusion of any foreign textiles.  It was a requirement that an affidavit be sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace (usually by a relative of the deceased), confirming burial in wool, with the punishment of a £5 fee for noncompliance. Apparently burial entries in parish registers were marked with the word “affidavit” or its equivalent to confirm that affidavit had been sworn; it would be marked “naked” for those too poor to afford the woollen shroud.   The Clopton register has entries that reflect this  –  In 1689 Sarah Gilbert was buried on 17 Dec ‘affadavit made of her being buried in wollen by Eliz Collis before Mr Gardiner in ye presence of Sr M Dudley, Mr Richards and myself’.   But in 1679 John Maller, a shepard is recorded as being ‘buried in flannel’.

The Thorpe Achurch register has some intriguing entries referring to schism, for example ‘Saunders, child of Thomas baptised at Lilford in schisme 20 Dec 1629/30’.    The term schism suggests that either the church rejected the parents or the parents rejected that particular church, which could explain why this Thorpe Achurch child was baptised in Lilford.    

Another touching entry reads ‘Unknown Irish youth dying in the manor house patch for want of succour and buried Oct 24th 1630’.   

The Wadenhoe registers record the baptism of Elizabeth Baylie on 28 Jun 1663 ‘the reputed child of John Chattel’ and ‘John Gates son of Elizabeth a bastard, Height of Thrapston the reputed father. Jan 1665’.

Interestingly the Wadenhoe register also states in 1644,  ‘This yeares borne children omitted to be registred by reason of ye trouble of England’, this would have been a reference to the Civil War.

At the beginning of the Lilford register, there is a statement referring to the change to the start of the year. The statement says: ‘Lilford and Wigsthorpe Con North. Here it is to be noted that the date of our Lords in this booke doth beginne or channge upon the first day of January, comonly called New yeres Daie, although in other wrytings it doth channg att the Annunciation of our Lady ye Virgin Anno dom 1560’.  In old times the new year reflected the agricultural year and the first quarter day was when rents were due and the farmer sowed the seeds of the new crop.

It is also recorded in the Lilford register that in 1718 ‘the minister and parishioners, upon Ascension Day, made a perambulation setting out the bounds of the parish by marks made in 14 several places’.  This was repeated annually through to at least 1726.



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