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The account is well worth reproducing :— " The
lower rim, or circlet, was a broad hoop of wood,
whereunto was fixed at the sides thereof two
other hoops, crossing each other at the top at
right angles, which formed the upper part, being
about one third longer than the width. These
hoops were wholly covered with artificial flowers,
dyed horn, and silk, and more or less beautiful
according to the skill or ingenuity of the
performer. In the vacancy inside, from the top,
hung white paper cut in the form of gloves,
whereon was written deceased's name, age, etc.,
together with long slips of various coloured
paper, or ribbons ; these were many times inter-
mixed with gilded or painted shells of blown
eggs, as further ornaments, or it may be as
emblems of bubbles, or the bitterness of this life ;
while other garlands had only a solitary hour-
glass hanging therein as a more significant
symbol of mortality."

We have found not a few traces of funeral
garlands in the North of England, and they
must have been general during the earlier half
of the last century, more especially in country
districts. In a volume dealing with the dialect
of Craven, in Yorkshire, it is recorded that in
many of the churches of the Deanery of Craven


were to be seen garlands. Two girls, it is
stated, bore the garlands before the corpse, and
during the reading of the funeral service it was
placed on the coffin. At Bolton Abbey, one
was suspended in the church which had been
carried at the funeral of a young woman aged
about 21 years. At Grassington it was the
practice, on the death of a young maiden, for a
girl nearest in age and appearance to the
deceased to carry before the corpse a chaplet of
white flowers, which was afterwards hung up in
the church. In a charming little work now out
of print, and we presume seldom seen, called
" Gleanings in Craven," we find an impressive
account of a village funeral of a little over a
century ago. " I heard a funeral dirge swell-
ing from the distance," says the author, " and
looking through a little window I could see a
procession wending along a lane which made an
angle with the principal street, and as it was
not far from the inn, I could distinctly hear the
Psalmist's truthful words : —

But howsoever fresh and fair,

Its morning beauty shows ;
"lis all cut down and withcr'd quite,

Before the ev'niog close.

" The procession now passed the door, pre-
ceded by two children dressed in white, holding


between them a chaplet of white flowers ; they
were followed by six young women dressed
alike in white, singing with much feeling
the Ninetieth Psalm — they were to relieve
the six young women who followed them,
holding the pieces of ribbon attached to the
handles of the coffin of their young friend. —
There were no relatives following for she was
an orphan. ... I followed the procession,
remaining at some distance from the grave,
which was happily situated under the only tree
in the churchyard. The clergyman, an elderly
gentleman, read the beautiful service very
impressively, until his voice was drowned in the
grief of his listeners, and it was only by the
inclination of the heads of those at the grave
side that I could tell all was concluded. At
last came the heavy fall of earth — the signal to
the living that they are left— and all parted to
their several homes in silence and in sorrow."
Mr. W. H. Dawson, the historian of Skipton,
contributed to Andrews' " Modern Yorkshire
Poets " a poem on " The Burial of the Craven
Yeoman." The strewing of flowers and the
singing of psalms formed a beautiful feature in
the funerals of gentle and simple, which in a
measure yet lingers in some of the remote parts of


Craven. The yeoman's funeral was impressive.

Not with gaudy, not with gloomy
Rites they bore his corse along,

But the way was bright with flowers,
And the air was sweet with song.

In the " History of Thirsk," by Jefferson,

published in 1821, is a notice of Garlands in

Topcliffe Church. Some notes are also included

in the appendix, mainly compiled from the

" Gentleman's Magazine," for June, 1747, and

they are described in the same words we have

reproduced in this chapter from the " Antiquarian

Repertory." Wolsingham and Stanhope, in the

county of Durham, are named in Brand's

" Popular Antiquities," as places where garlands

were to be seen.

" In this church," says Nichols, writing about
Waltham in Framland Hundred, " under every
arch a garland is suspended ; one of which is
customarily placed there whenever any young
unmarried woman dies."

Sir Henry Ellis, in 1794, saw garlands of
white paper hanging in the Church of Paul's
Cray, in Kent.

" At Llandovery," says a contributor to
" Chambers's Book of Days," " the garlands and
gloves hang a year in the church, and are then
taken down, and on each anniversary of the death


of the virgin, the grave is by some friend
decorated with flowers, and a pair of white gloves
is laid upon it. These gloves are taken away by
the nearest relative who visits the grave that

At Abbots Ann, near Andover, may be seen
in the church a number of garlands ranging in
date from 1740 to 1884, forming an interesting
link between the past and the present.

We have particulars of several other churches
where the garlands were only suspended in the
churches for twelve months, and of other churches
where they were buried in the graves of the
maidens in whose honour they were carried.
Many other places might be named, but we have
mentioned sufficient to show how general was
the custom in different parts of the country. It
still lingers at a few retired places where modern
display has not swept away these simple and
poetical ancient customs.


NGLISH parish registers date back
to the days of Henry VIII.
Shortly after the Reformation it was
deemed desirable to keep an account
ofchristenings, marriages, and burials
in each parish. An order was given in 1536 for
establishing registers, but it does not appear to
have been generally acted upon, for only eight
registers are known to exist prior to 1538. It
was generally believed that the records were
devised with a view of creating a new tax, and
they were the first of the popular grievances
which the insurgents of the Pilgrimage of Grace
widely circulated to stir up the people against the
leaders of the Reformed Church. When'those in
authority saw that the project met with disfavour,
registers were allowed to stand in abeyance for a
couple of years until the strife had abated. On
September 29th, 1538, Thomas, Lord Cromwell,


the Vicar-General of the Kingdom, issued the

following injunction : — " The curate of every

parish shall keep one book or register, which

book he shall every Sunday take forth, and in the

presence of the churchwardens, or one of them,

write and record in the same all the weddings,

christ'nings, and burials made the whole week

before ; and for every time that the same shall

be omitted, shall forfeit to the said church iijs.

m]d.," &c. Some 812 registers, dating back to

1538, have come down to our time.

The old churchwardens' accounts contain

entries of payments for registers. The following

is from St. Margaret's, Westminster : —

1538. — Paid for a book to registre in the names of

buryals, weddings and christ'nings 2d.

Many clergymen turned their registers into
common-place books, and recorded in them
particulars of national and local events, remark-
able conditions of the weather, and a variety of
other topics of more or less importance. It is
chiefly from such memorabilia that we shall
select illustrations for this chapter.

The notes on marriages are amongst the more
interesting passages in the old records. Formerly
the season for marriage was strictly kept in the
Church, and allusions to it are preserved in prose


and poetry in old registers and other books.

The Rev. Nicholas Osgodly, vicar of St. Mary's,

Beverley, wrote at the commencement of his

register the following lines : —

Rules for Marriage, the Time, &c.
When Advent comes do thou refraine
Till Hillary sett ye free againe,
Next Septuagesima saith the nay,
But when Lowe Sunday comes thou may,
Yet at Rogation thou must tarry
Till Trinitie shall bid thee marry. — Nov. 25, 1641.

The register of Everton, Nottinghamshire,

supplies another version of these rhyming

regulations, as follows : —

Advent marriage doth deny,

But Hilary gives thee liberty.

Septuagesima says thee nay,

Eight days from Easter says you may.

Rogation bids thee to contain,

But Trinity sets thee free again.

Little notice is taken of the foregoing regu-
lations at the present time. During the reign of
our beloved Queen, Lent has been a favourite
season for royal weddings, although an old

couplet says : —

If you marry in Lent
You will live to repent.

In Scotland the prejudice is greater against
the month of May than the time of Lent. Lock-
hart observed that it was a classical as well as
Scottish prejudice, and it will be remembered


that Sir Walter Scott hurried away from London
so that his daughter Sophia might be married
before the inauspicious month commenced.

During the Commonwealth, couples were
joined together by a magistrate. In 1654 an Act
was passed, directing that no marriage be cele-
brated without a certificate from the registration
proving that the banns had been published three
" successive Lord's Days at the close of the
morning exercise, in the public meeting place,
commonly called the church or chapel, or, if the
parties preferred, in the market-place, on three
successive market days." In many towns the
bellman proclaimed the banns in the public
markets. At Boston, Lincolnshire, the announce-
ments in the market-place were more popular
than those of the church. It appears from the
registers in the years 1656, 1657, and 1658, there
were proclaimed in the market-place, 102, 104, and
108, and in the church during those years, 48,
31, and 52 banns. The following is an entry of
a marriage, drawn from the parish register of
Winteringham : —

The purpose of marriage betwixt Thomas Wressell, of this
parish, aud Margaret Davison, of Burton-super-Stather, was
first time published in our market, upon Saturday, April 19th,
the 26th, and the 3rd May, 1656. They were married."

Armed with a certificate, the pair who wished


to be united in wedlock appeared before the

nearest justice of peace, and the man, taking the

woman by the hand, pronounced plainly and

distinctly the following words : —

I (A. B.) do here, in the presence of God, the searcher of
all hearts, take thee (C. D.) for my wedded wife, and do also
in the presence of God and before these witnesses, promise to
be unto thee a loving and faithful husband.

The woman in like manner declared that she

would be " a loving, faithful, and obedient wife."

They were then pronounced man and wife. The

Puritans, knowing the wedding ring to be

of heathen origin, felt that it should be omitted

from the ceremony. Butler, in his Hudibras,

aims his shots of ridicule at those who would

banish it. He thus writes : —

Others were for abolishing

This tool of matrimony, a ring,

With which th' unsanctify'd Bridegroom

Is married only to a thumb

(As wire or ringing of a pig

That used to break up ground and dig)

The Bride to nothing but her will,

That nulls the after marriage still.

The Act only remained in operation until 1658,
when the old rites of religion were allowed to be
performed by those who preferred them.

The marriage of the deaf and dumb is now
performed by the manual process. In the days
of yore it was attended^ with much more cere-


mony. The parish register of St. Martin's
Leicester supplies some curious details on this
subject. Under date of February 15, 1576, it is
stated : —

Thomas Tilsye and Ursula Russel were maryed; and
because the sayde Thomas was and is naturally deafe, and also
dumbe, so that the order of the form of marriage used usually
amongst others, which can heare and speake, could not for his
parte be observed. After the approbation had from Thomas,
the Bishoppe of Lincolne, John Chippendale, doctor in law, and
commissarye, as also of Mr. Richd. Davye, then Mayor of the
town of Leicester, with others of his brethren, with the rest of
the parishe, the said Thomas, for the expressing of his mind
instead of words, of his own accord, used these signs : first he
embraced her with his arms, and took her by the hand, putt a
ring upon her finger, and layde his hande upon his hearte, and
then upon her hearte, and held up his hands toward heaven.
And to show his continuance to dwell with her to his lyves
ende he did it by closing of eyes with his handes,and digginge
out of the earth with his foote, and pullinge as though he
would ring a bell, with diverse other signes.

The register of St. Botolph, Aldgate, London,
has a detailed record of a similar marriage which
was celebrated in 16 18. Before the happy pair
were united, the Lord Chief Justice of the King's
Bench was consulted, and he said such marriages
were legal.

The old parish of Dudbrook, near Halstead,
Essex, furnishes two notable instances of devoted
worshippers of Hymen. An inscription on a
tablet says that u Robert Hogan was the husband


of seven wives successively." An entry in the

parish register records that :

Mary Blewitt, ye wife of nine husbands successively, buried
eight of ym, but last of all ye woman dy'd and was buried,
May 7th 1681.

In the margin of the register it is written,
" This was her funeral text."

The following romantic record appears in

the parish register of Bermondsey Church, and

was entered in 1604 : —

August. — The forme of a solemn vowe made betwixt a man
and his wife; the man havinge bene long absent, through which
occasion the woman being married to another man, took her
again as followeth : The man's speech — Elizabeth, my beloved
wife, I am right sorie that I have so long absented mysealfe
from thee, whereby thou shouldst be occasioned to take
another man to thy husband. Therefore I do now vowe and
promise, in the sight of God and this companie, to take thee
again as my oune ; and will not onley forgive thee, but also dwell
with thee, and doe all other duties unto thee as I promised at
our marriage. The woman's speech-Ralph, my beloved husband,
I am right sorie that I have in thy absence taken another man
to be my husband ; but here, before God and this companie,
I do renounce and forsake him, and do promise to keep
mysealfe only unto thee during life, and to perform all dufies
which I first promised unto thee in marriage." The entry
concludes as follows: "The first day of August, 1604,
Raphe Goodchild, of the parish of Barkinge, in Thames
street, and Elizabeth, his wife, weare agreed to live together,
and thereupon gave their hands one to another, making either
of them vows so to doe, in the presence of Willm. Stere,
parson ; Edward Coker, and Richd. Eire, clerk."

Yorkshire history supplies an account of a
woman being twice married to the same man.


" On the 1st October, 1827," it is stated that
" Samuel Lumb, sen., of Sowerby, 83 years of
age, was married, at Halifax, to Mrs. Rachael
Heap, to whom he had been previously married
about 25 years before. Her first husband had
entered the army, and was, at the time of her
first marriage with Mr. Lumb, supposed to be
dead. In a few years, however, he returned,
and demanded his wife, whom he found living
with Mr. Lumb, and by whom she had three
children. However, after some negotiation, Heap
agreed to sell her, and Mr. Lumb bought her,
and she was actually delivered to him in a halter,
at Halifax Cross. At her last marriage she was
given away at the altar by Mr. Lumb's grandson."
Her first husband had died a few months prior to
the last marriage.

The Sheldon register contains the record of a
strange marriage. It is therein stated : —

6th January, 1753.
The man was 14 years of age.
Marr'd. — Cornelius White and Ellen Dale, of Sheldon.
The woman 70.

A correspondent of the Derby Mercury, in

a letter dated two days after the wedding,

gave a racy account of the matter, and, in

course of his communication, it is stated that

the bride was a gentlewoman and a widow, and


that the youthful bridegroom had the consent
of his parents to take Mrs. Dale for his wife.
" As she was rendered incapable of walk-
ing by a complication of disorders," says the
writer, " she was carried in her chair from her
house to the chapel, about a hundred yards
distant, attended by a numerous concourse of
people, where the ceremony was performed with
becoming seriousness and devotion ; after which
she was reconducted in the same manner, the
music playing, by her orders, the Duke of
Rutland's Hornpipe before her, to which (as she
was disabled from dancing) she beat time with
her hands on her petticoats till she got home,
and then she called for her crutches, commanded
her husband to dance, and shuffled herself as well
as she could." Further details are supplied of
the merrymaking at the marriage, including the
ringing of the church bell and other demon-
strations of joy. She did not long survive her
marriage, for in the same paper and in the same
month is a record of her death and funeral. This
says she lt was handsomely interred " at Bakewell
Church, and " a funeral sermon preached on the
occasion to a numerous and crowded audience,
by the Rev. Gentleman who had lately performed
the nuptial ceremony."


In one of our papers contributed toChambers's

Journal for February 18th, 1888, on "Some

Armless Wonders," we state that there is a record

in the parish register of St. James' Church,

Bury St. Edmunds, of the marriage of an armless

woman. It is stated on the 5th November,


Christopher Newsam married Charity Morrell. Charity
Morrell being entirely without arms, the ring was placed upon
the fourth toe of the left foot, and she wrote her name in this
register with her right foot.

The same article includes a notice of Sarah

Tissington, the armless wonder of Carsington,

Derbyshire. The particulars respecting her

which have come down to us are brief, but full

of interest, and occur in the parish register of

her native village, under date of September 29,

1688, and are as follows :

Sarah Tissington, a poor young woman, born into the world
without any hands or arms, yet was very nimble and active in the
use of her feet, with which she could not only take up things
from the ground, and play at most childish games with her
playfellows when she was a child ; but also when grown up, she
could knit, dig in the garden, and do divers other services
with her feet. She was aged twenty-four or twenty-five years,
and departed this life the day and year aforesaid, born and
buried at Carsington.

Several entries have come under our notice
relating to settling quarrels. It was not an
uncommon custom to make up misunderstandings



under the shadow of the church instead of in a
court of law. Such reconciliations were frequently
recorded in the parish book. The earliest register
at Twickenham, Middlesex, contains the following:

The fourth day of Aprell in 1568 in the presence of the
hole paryshe of Twycknam was agreement made betwyxt Mr.
Parker and hys Wyffe, & Hewe Rythe and Sicylye Daye, of
a slander brought up by the sayde Rythe and Sicylye Daye
upon the aforesayde Mr. Parker.

The 10 daye of Aprell 1568 was agreement made between
Thomas Whytt and James Heme, and have consented that
whosoever giveth occasion of the breaking of Christen love and
charyty betwyxt them, to forfeit to the poor of the paryshe 3s.
& 4d. being dewlye proved.

This practice may be traced back to an early
period in our annals. We have a note of a great
quarrel being made up in the reign of Edward
III., and the fact enrolled in the missal of
Eastbourne Priory. We find it stated that in
the year 1691, John Hall left to the Weavers'
Company a dwelling-house, with instructions to
pay out of the rent ten shillings per annum to the
churchwardens ofSt. Clement, Eastcheap, London,
to provide on the Thursday night before Easter
two turkeys for the parishioners, on the occasion
of their annual reconciling or love feast for the
settlement of quarrels or disputes.

Fools found a place in the great halls of the
nobility until the period of the Civil War, when


they appear to have fallen into disfavour.

Records of their deaths appear in parish registers.

The following is from St. Anne's, Blackfriars : —

1580 William, foole to my Lady Jerningham, bur. 21

The one as follows is from St. John's, New-
castle-on-Tyne : —

1589. Edward Errington the Towne's Fooll, bur. 23 Aug.
died in the peste.

Alderman Hornby, in a note on the last entry,
questions the accuracy of a statement occurring
in a local work, that Errington, like the fools in
the palace of the king and the hall of the noble,
was employed for the amusement of the Corpor-
ation. He believes that he was an idiot kept at
the expense of the town.

A famous fool, named Dicky Pearce, died in
1728, at the age of 63 years, and was buried at
Beckley, and Swift wrote the following epitaph
for his gravestone :

Here lies the Earl of Suffolk's Fool,

Men call him Dicky Pearce ;
His folly served to make men laugh,

When wit and mirth were scarce.
Poor Dick, alas ! is dead and gone,

What signifies to cry?
Dickys enough are still behind

To laugh at by and by.

The last fool retained in an English family


was the one at Hilton Castle, Durham, who died
in the year 1746.

Ben Jonson had the misfortune to kill an
actor in a duel in Hoxton Fields. The poor
player's burial is thus recorded in the parish
register of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch :

1598. Gabriel Spencer being slayne, was buryed 24 Sept.

Jonson was made a prisoner, and narrowly
escaped the gallows. " Indeed," says J. A.
Symonds, " it is now proved by a document
brought recently to light, that he was tried and
convicted of felony, that he pleaded guilty,
claimed benefit of clergy, and was set at large
with the letter T branded on his left thumb."
His peril made an impression on his mind, and
caused him to give religious matters serious con-
sideration, and to amend his wayward life.

A large number of Danish soldiers came

over to this country to join the army of William,

Prince of Orange. At Beverley two of the

Danes quarrelled, and had an encounter, which

unhappily proved fatal to one of the men. The

register of St Mary's states : —

1689 December 16. — Daniel Straker, a Danish trooper,

,, December 23. — Johannes Frederick Bellow, a Danish
trooper, beheaded for killing the
the other, buried.


I6 5

A tablet on the south side of St. Mary's
relates to the melancholy circumstance. We
give an illustration of the monument.



Vlen 'twoyoim% : D<ini/l Sou/J/wv lycXjhMti
The one in quarrcll cfmnr'd to die; *'■"-
[f'/iE p/hrrs Head by their own Law
[With Sword, was Jeutr'd id uiu'Blou

December the 23d


llll "iliHil


This is a remarkable instance of a foreign law

being enforced on English soil.

The parish register of West Hallam, under

date of April 13, 1698, states :

Katherine the wife of Tho. Smith alias Cutler was found felo
de se by ye Coroners inquest & interred in ye crosse ways
near ye wind mill on ye same day.

It was formerly the practice to bury suicides
at midnight, with a stake driven through their


bodies, at cross-roads. On October 29th, 1887,
appeared in the "Local Notes and Queries" of
the Nottinghamshire Guardian, a curious note on
this subject. " About one and a half miles south
of Boston, on what was called the low road to
Freiston, a very ancient hawthorn tree marked
the spot, and the tree itself was said to have

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Online LibraryWilliam AndrewsCuriosities of the church; studies of curious customs, services and records → online text (page 8 of 11)