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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES




BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE



BY THE SAME AUTHOR.



ARCADY : for Better, for Worse, By the Rev.

Uootor Ji.s-soi'P. Fourlli Edition. Crown Svo, liiiJi)
cloth, silic sewn, 3s. 6d.



THE COMING OF THE FRIARS, and other

Medieval Sketches. IJy tlic Kcv. Doctoi Jkskoci". Sixth
lidition. Crown Svo, limp cloth, silk sewn. 3s. del.



RANDOM ROAMING, and other Papers. With
I'urtrait. liy the Kcv. Doctor JessOPP. Second and
Cheaper Edition. Crown Svo, limp cloth, sill; sewn, 3s. 6d.

STUDIES BY A RECLUSE: In Cloister,

Town, and Country. iJy tlie Kev. Doctor Jlissopp.
Second Edition. Crown Svo, limp cloth, silk sewn, 3s. 6d.

THE TRIALS OF A COUNTRY PARSON :

Some l-'uf^itive Papers. liy the Kev. Doctnr jKssopp.
Third Edition. Crown Svo, limp cloth, silk sewn, '3s. Cxi.



FRIVOLA. By the Rev. Doctor Jessopp, Crown

hvo, ciolh, 3s. 6(1.



T. FISHER UWVIX, P.\TEKXOSTER SQU.\RE, EC.



Before the Great Pillage



iUBHb i>tt)et a^iscellantcs



BY

AUGUSTUS JESSOPP, D.D.,

RECTOR OF SCARXIXG

Honorary Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge
Honorary Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford
Honorary Canon in the Cathedral of Xorwieh



SECOND IMPRESSION



XonOon
T. FISHER UNVVIN

I'ATEKNOSTER SQUARE
1901



[All rights reserved.)



DA

176



CONTENTS



I

PAGE

PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND BEFORE THE GREAT

PILLAGE (Part I.). , . , .3



PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND BEFORE THE GREAT

PILLAGE (Part II.) . . . -35

II

THE PARISH PRIEST IN ENGLAND BEFORE THE

REFORMATION . . . . '75

III

"robbing god" . . . . .123

IV

THE CRY OF THE VILLAGES .... 147

V






0000 crfi



vi CONTENTS



V

THE BAPTISM OF CLOVIS

VI

DAVID AND JONATHAN



ADAM AND EVE



cu cu !



VII



VIII



• «



IX



MOLES . . t



« «



• «



• *



PAGB

. '83







• •



221



231



239



249



PREFACE



T ^ THEN, some twenty years ago, the country
' ^ living which I now hold was offered me by
the kind friend to whom the patronage belonged, I
accepted it with little hesitation, and I did so with
my eyes open and not without counting the cost.
I knew that in joining the ranks of the country
clergy I was burning my ships and that there was
no professional future before me.

1 have never regretted my decision. I have
found an abiding joy and pride in doing my best
for my people and studying them and their ways in
the present, while trying to learn something about
their forefathers and their ways in the past.



viii PREFACE

In my first volume — entitled Arcadyy for better
for ivorse — I gave the world the result of my
observations upon men and things as I found
them. I believe it was and is a faithful picture ;
but there was nothing retrospective in it reaching
further back than the first half of the eighteenth
century.

It so happened, however, that certain antiquarian
tastes, which were born with me, led me into
researches here and there which appeared to me
to throw some new light upon mediaeval history.

The discovery of the immense body of direct
evidence which the Manor Court Rolls afford
regarding the incidence of the great plague of 1349 ;
the study of the Rougham charters, which yielded
such a minute insight into the life of a village
community in the thirteenth century ; and the
extraordinary find of a prosperous country parson's
annual audit for the year ending Michaelmas, 1306,^
were instances of the fact that even in History there

• The first two of these papers are printed in my Coming of
the Friars; the third in Random Roamings.



PREFACE ix

are still many discoveries to be made, and also that
some men are curiously fortunate in their finds.

The essays in the present volume on Parish Life,
as distinct from village life, and on the Parish
Priest, as distinct from the country parson, are
in great measure supplementary to or elucidatory
of the earlier papers referred to. If it were at all
probable that a re-arrangement of my writings
should be undertaken, I should like to see these
five or six papers on Mediaeval Parish history
published in a volume by themselves, so only that
I were permitted to add two more contributions
on the same lines of research, supplementary to
these earlier ones.

To some readers the attempt to deal with the
Baptism of Clovis may appear out of place in
a volume so English as this is. Nevertheless, I
am sure that there are others who will readily
understand why this essay should be found in
such company. P'or the student of English Origins
when confronted by the thick darkness, say, of the
fifth century, often finds himself mastered by a



X PREFACE

kind of passionate impatience to break away from it
and to get into the light again — anyhow — anywhere.
"I can find nothing," he says to himself, "about
what was passing here when the Roman legions
deserted our island ; let me follow if I can for a
while, the movements of those fierce barbarian hosts,
never at rest, a day's sail from our own coast line ! "
And so the historic instinct leads him to widen
his purview, and mental refreshment comes which
brings with it clearer vision and a profounder
appreciation of the unity of history.

As to the other trifles in the book, they must
apologise for themselves.



PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND BEFORE
THE GREAT PILLAGE



PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND
BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE



I



WHEN the results of the Great Inquest,
commonly known as the Domesday Book,
were handed in to William the Conqueror in 1086,
this island had in the thousand years preceding that
great event suffered three conquests. That is, the
land and the people inhabiting it had been passed
over to the sway and dominion of three successive
masters.

The first conquest was that by the Romans, who
held the whole island from the Firth of Forth to the
Channel. Their rule lasted, roughly speaking, for
four centuries, and they abandoned the province of
Britain at the beginning of the fifth century of our
era, leaving the luckless people to take care of them-
selves.

The second conquest was that effected by the



4 PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND

Saxons and Angles — the English folk, if you prefer
it — whose rule, at its widest, extended over pretty
much the same stretch of territory as the Romans
had brought under their obedience, with the
exception of the Principality of Wales and the
north-western district known as Strathclyde. The
Saxons took another six centuries to consolidate the
kingdoms they had won, and during the last two of
those centuries they had hard work to hold their
own against the Danes, who were trying to super-
sede them.

Finally, the Normans under their great Duke
William got their firm footing here ; they were the
last successful invaders of our fatherland. They
won it literally by the sword, held it by the sword,
and in less than twenty years the Conqueror proved
how thoroughly he had made England into a
kingdom under a single master by the carrying out
of that magnificent survey to which allusion has
been made.

It was not till more than 700 years had gone
by since its compilation, that the Domesday Book
was printed, and only during the reign of Her
Majesty Queen Victoria has this unique document
been subjected to the minute and scholarly scrutiny
which it so well deserves, and which is being
bestowed upon it.



BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE 5

In the Domesday Book there is so much that
affords a basis of certainty from which inquiries
may be pushed forward into many unsolved
problems of history, that it is not to be wondered
at if the students of origins, and enthusiastic in-
quirers into the beginnings of our institutions
should be found embracing very different views
on the questions that have arisen and still remain
to be answered finally. Any man less than a
specialist, and a specialist fully equipped for the
work, would be guilty of immense presumption
in pronouncing an opinion, and still more so if
he expressed himself as a dogmatist, upon the points
now under discussion among some of the ablest and
keenest intellects in Europe. But we can hardly be
wrong in saying that tiie main questions which are
now occupying the attention of experts resolve
themselves into these : first, What did the several
conquerors — Roman, Saxon, and Norman — find
here when they settled among us ? and, secondly,
What did they do for the nation they subdued ?

The difficulty of dealing with these two questions
in the case of the Roman occupation is rendered
almost insuperable, because it seems certain that
before the coming of the Romans there never had
been anything approaching to a united England.
We have to take into account differences of race



6 PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND

and differences in civilisation, which render it
impossible for us to make any generalisations that
can be relied on. Thus much, however, may be
safely afhrmed : that our Roman conquerors did
find organised communities, settled in defined areas,
and probably differing in their constitution very
widely according as they were met with in the east
or the west, the north or the south. It is probable
that, with the wisdom which characterised their
foreign policy, the Romans did just what our
English rulers in India did, and are still doing —
i.e., they left the old areas, whether of the " village
community" or any other organised social or
political unit, as little disturbed as possible ; they
left the people such self-government as they had
attained to. There is no evidence of such a clean
sweep of old laws, and old sentiments, and old
judicial procedure (if one may use the term) as was
made in Ireland by the English conquerors when
they suppressed the Brehon laws in that unhappy
island. The result was that when the next con-
querors took possession of the land they must have
found a number of survivals in the social, political,
and economical condition of different parts of the
country. But it is difficult to believe that the
centralising instincts of Rome did not impose upon
the subject population some form of coercive



i



BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE 7

administration which, while leaving to the mixed
people, passing under the name of Britons, a certain
measure of self-government, superadded thereto
some machinery for dealing out even justice as
between man and man, such as might afford
security for the lives and property of all subjects
of the Roman Empire. How that machinery
worked in detail we shall never know, but that
it must have been carried on in certain definite
geographical areas we can hardly help assuming.
It will go some way towards helping us to a co-
herent theory if we take it for granted that what
Professor Maitland calls the geographical unit of the
Conqueror's survey, namely the vil, was of Roman
origin ; that it was in the main identical with what
the Saxon folk called the /////, the town, or the
township ; and that the dwellers in that area were
by those same Saxons organised into a community,
presided over by the reeve, an official with fiscal
as well as judicial duties to discharge.

When the Normans came in they found the vils
or townships still enjoying a certain measure of self-
government. It was the policy of the new con-
querors to substitute for this the government by
a lord over the inhabitants of the old area, the lord
to be responsible to the sovereign for the taxes
levied from the community, and the inhabitants



8 PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND

of the area being bound to render allegiance, service
and tribute to the lord, who was their master and
(/»<is/-chieftain. When this came to pass the vil of
the Romans had passed out of the stage of being
tlie ioic'iisliip of the Saxons, and had become the
manor of the Norman rulers. The change was
gradual, and it must not be supposed that it was
effected by some coup dc main, so that every vil
became at once a manor, or that every manor
constituted a vil. All that can be said seems to be
that in the course of a century or so the manorial
system, as it is called, became dominant, and that, as
a rule, over that geographical area which constituted
the Roman vil and the Saxon township the lords of
the manors were petty kings, exercising authority,
exacting homage, and imposing burdens on their
" tenants," i.e., on the inhabitants of the old town-
ships.

But long before this great revolution had come
about a much greater revolution had taken effect
up and down the length and breadth of the land.
When Rome loosened her hold of Britain, Christianity
was the established religion of the empire, and
Britain was in some sense or other a Christian
land. It was that or nothing. Two centuries later
the Saxons had almost as effectually blotted out
any organised Christian Church, in the eastern half



BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE 9

at least, of Britain, as the Moslems, a century later,
had blotted it out in North Africa, Asia Minor, and
Palestine. Then came the new era, the prodigious
awakening, and before the seventh century closed,
Britain was a Christian land once more.

A momentous change ensued. How it was
brought about at all, again it may be said, we
shall never know ; but that, during the Saxon
occupation, the geographical areas of the town-
ships up and down the land became little
territories subject to the rule and influence of
another functionary — this time not a political,
but a religious, personage — to wit, the priest ; and
that the priest exercised a very real and sub-
stantial authority over the community inhabiting
the area of the township or the vil, admits of no
question. That it was Archbishop Theodore who,
in the seventh century, " divided England into
parishes " is a mere fable ; but the fact remains
that, however slowly or however gradually, it came
about at last, every geographical area, whether
occupied by a community of co-operative Socialists—
\ for it really amounted to that — or occupied by a com-
munity with a constitution, which may be said to be
that of a limited monarchy on a small scale, became
also the home of a community which in religious
matters was brought under the rule of an ecclesiastical



10 PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND

Rccior as he was in fact, and as lie got to be called.
When this had come about the vil or the town-
ship, without ceasing to be either the one or the
other, became at the same time the priest's domain ;
and whatever designation the area might receive
viewed as a poHtical unit, it was henceforth called
the parisJi, and the people living in that area, of
whatever status, condition, or degree, became his
parishioners. As such they were members of a
community over which no lord of the manor nor
any other political magnate, had any sort of
authority ; in matters religious and ecclesiastical
these personages had not a word to say.

The word Parish indicated originally the geo-
graphical area over which the jurisdiction of a
BisJiop extended. It was not till a later time, and
when that area had been subdivided into smaller
areas, each of which was committed to the over-
sight of a priest, responsible for such functions as
only a priest could discharge, that the smaller area
got to be called the parish, while the larger area,
comprehending an aggregate of parishes, was called
the bishop's diocese. As time went on, by a con-
fusion in language of which abundant examples
might be given, the name, which was strictly a
designation of the geographical area, got to be
applied to the community inhabiting that area j and



BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE ii

thus the word parish is, even in our own days, used
sometimes to indicate the area inhabited by the
community, and sometimes the community itself.

In the latter sense the parish was a purely religious
organisation, distinct in its origin, its working, and
its aims from the manor, the township, or the
tithing, though composed of the same personnel, man
for man, ''The parish was the community of the
township organised for Church purposes and sub-
ject to Church discipline, with a constitution which
recognised the rights of the whole body as an
aggregate, and the right of every adult member,
whether man or ivoinan, to a voice in self-govern-
ment, but at the same time kept the self-governing
community under a system of inspection and
restraint by a central authority outside the parish
boundaries." ^

The community had its own assembly — the parish
meeting — which was a deliberative assembly. It
had its own ofiicers, who might be either men or
women, duly elected, sometimes for a year, some-
times for life, but in all cases subject to being
dismissed for flagrant offences. The larger number
of these officials had well-defined duties to discharge,
and were paid for their services out of funds pro-

' Bishop Ilobhousc, in "Somerset Record Society," vol. iv.
Preface, p. ix.



12 PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND

vidcd by the parishioners. The finance of the
parish presents some ditticulty ; but a strict account
was kept of all moneys received and paid, and the
balance-sheet laid before the annual meeting of the
community assembled in the nave of the church,
where a kind of audit was held and discussion
ensued upon such measures as were of serious
importance and concern to the whole body of the
parishioners.

The president or chairman of the church council
or parish meeting was the rector of the parish or
his deputy ; but he was by no means a " lord over
God's heritage." There is no evidence — but quite
the contrary — to show that he initiated to any great
extent the subjects of debate ; and the income raised
for parish purposes, which not infrequently was
considerable, was not under his control, nor did it
pass through his hands.

The trustees for the parish property and the
responsible representatives of the parish were the
churchwardens, who were very rarely less than two
in number ; and in the case of the larger parishes
they had assessors, who shared with them the bur-
dens and the responsibilities of duties which were
not seldom irksome. The wardens were elected
annually. The oftice was an honorary one, and
often entailed some risk and expense.



BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE 13

The permanent officials of the parish, beginning at
the parish clerk, the grave-digger, watchman, keeper
of the processional cross, and others who, for the
present at any rate, need not be specified, ivcre thepaid
seirants of the parish. They were in no sense the
nominees or subordinates of the rector ; they were
supported by the parishioners, and removable, when
removable at all, by the parishioners, who presented
the offender to the rural dean, from whom an appeal
lay to the archdeacon ; and occasionally such an
appeal might be carried to the bishop, whose
decision was final.

The property belonging to the parishes during
the centuries before the great spoliation was enor-
mous, and was always growing. It consisted of
houses and lands ; of flocks and herds ; of precious
jewels and costly vessels of silver and gold ; of
ornaments and church furniture ; of bells and
candlesticks, crosses and organs, and tapestry and
banners ; of vestments which were miracles of
splendour in their colours and materials and in-
comparable artistic finish of needlework ; not to
speak of the fine linen and the veils, the carpets and
the hangings ; and last, not least, the service-books,
which were continually needing to he mended,
bound, or replaced by new copies, and that at a
cost which we moderns even now find it difficult
to accept as credible.



14 PARISH LIFE IN ENGLAND

All lliis immense accumulation of treasure and
wealth was strictly the property of the parish, and
was held, as I have said, in trust for the community
by the churchwardens, elected in the assembly of
the church council or parish meeting. In the
Record Ot'lice there is one most precious manu-
script, which contains a minute account of the
contents of every church in the Archdeaconry of
Norwich in the year 1368. It is, in fact, a return
of parish property to be found in the churches of
the Archdeaconry during that year. For years I
have been continually worried and consumed by
the desire to have that manuscript transcribed and
printed — a manuscript which would be hailed by
wise men as one of the most valuable contributions
to parochial history which has ever been made
public. But, alas ! this is a wicked world, and I
have never been able to find the money to pay for
transcribing and publishing, for the benefit of a
favoured few, this deeply interesting record ; and
this generation has gone mad on bicycles and other
vanities, and has no money to spare for more
desirable and less dangerous amusements. And so
poor men, whose crime is that they love to peer
into the past — a crime that is quite unpardonable,
because it is so ridiculously useless — such poor men
are kept a great deal too short of the ways and means



BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE 15

to allow of their indulging in a hobby whereby their
fellow-creatures would be greatly benefited, if only
they could be taught to see that the past — even the
queer old crumpled-up past — has something to
teach the present, for all the self-complacency
which contributes to make the aforesaid present so
cheerful and so proud. ^

Now it must be understood that all this enormous
amount of property (which if it were in existence
now and were brought to the hammer would repre-
sent a gross value of several millions of pounds
sterling) belonged to the parishes. It no more
belonged to the clergy, the parsons, the parish
priests, than it belonged to the lords of the manors.
Hundreds of the vestments and ornaments are
expressly set down in these inventories as having
been presented by the officiating clergy themselves :
presented, i.e., to the parishioners, and passing
over to the parishioners as parish property — the

' A few daj's after this paper appeared in print it was my
liappincss to receive a letter from a lady, tiien an entire
stranger to mc, offering to defray the expense of transcribing
the MS. referred to in the text. A week later came a similar
offer of a very liberal contribution towards the cost of printing
the work which, from its nature, could never pay its expenses
if thrown upon the market. The task of editing it is neces-
sarily very laborious, and some time must elapse before the
volume can be issued from tlic press.



i6 PARrsn LIFE IN ENGLAND

parishioners, who had the li^ht of custody of
that property and the power, witliin certain hmits,
of deaHng witli it as parish property.

And this property was, as I have said, always
growing and increasing in vahie. It was rare — very
rare — for any man or woman of substance enough
to make a will to forget to leave some sort of legacy
to the parish, i.e., to the community assembling in
the church. Those legacies varied greatly, accord-
ing to the wealth or poverty of the testators. Very
common were the bequests of a poor widow's
wedding-ring. Never a year passed without the
parish accounts showing that articles of dress, brass
pots, lamps, candlesticks, honey, wax, were left by
the poorest ; sheep and cattle and lands, great
goblets, and occasionally considerable sums of
money, being bequeathed by the well-to-do. The
churchwardens, when at the end of the year they
went out of oflice, were required to hand in a strict
account for every pennyworth they had received.
They set down what this or that article had been
sold for — the rings, the kettles, the brooches, the
cups — the rents received for the houses, lands, or
for the use of the flocks and herds ; and per contra
they told what expenses they had been put to, and
they finished up the account by showing the balance,
whether in money or goods, which they handed



BEFORE THE GREAT PILLAGE 17

over to those who succeeded them in their office.
This brings me to the question what those expenses
were.

First and foremost, and of course by far the
largest portion of the expenditure, was that which
the maintenance of the fabric of the church and the
conduct of the worship in the church entailed.

As to the fabric, again, it must be borne in mind
that it was the property of the parish. There are
two most mischievous and widespread mistakes,
which people have been making and repeating
for the last two or three centuries, with regard
to the building of the parish churches in England,
which I am never tired of protesting against. The
first is the stupid and ignorant assertion that the
monks built our parish churches.

It is impossible to enter into the matter here.


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