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sprung from the stake which was driven through
the body of the self-murderer."' In 1823, the
Royal Assent was given to an Act " to alter and
amend the law relating to the interment of the
remains of any person found Felo de se." It
directed that the bodies of suicides be buried
without a stake being driven through their bodies,
and that the interments be in the churchyard or
other burial ground, and be made within twenty-
four hours after the coroner's inquest, and
between the hours of nine and twelve at night.

It was believed for a long period in this
country that the body of a dead person might be
seized for debt. Hidden away in ancient parish
registers, old newspapers, and magazines are
particulars of authenticated instances of funerals
being stopped on their way to the graveyard.
The following are amongst the more notable
cases, and form a strange chapter in English
history. The first example we have found occurs


in the parish register of Sparsholt, Berkshire.

It is therein stated that :

The corpse of John Matthews, of Fawler, was stopt on the
church way for debt, August 27, 1689. And having laine there
fower days, was by Justices warrant buryied in the place to
prevent annoyances— but about sixe weeks after it was by an
Order of Sessions taken up and buried in the Churchyard by
the wife of the deceased.

A gravestone in North Wingfield, Derbyshire,

contains an epitaph referring to this theme. The

following is a copy of the inscription :

In memory of Thomas,

son of John and Mary Clay,

who departed this life December 16th 1724,

in the 40th year of his age.

What though no mournful kindred stand

Around the solemn bier,
No parents wring the trembling hand.

Or drop the silent tear,
No costly oak adorned with art

My weary limbs inclose :
No friends impart a winding-sheet

To deck my last repose.

We learn that Clay was a man of intemperate
habits, and at the time of his death was indebted
to the village innkeeper to the extent of twenty
pounds. The publican determined to seize the
body ; but the parents carefully locked the door
until the time appointed for the funeral. As soon
as it was opened, the innkeeper rushed into the
house and seized the corpse, which he removed
to the open street, and placed it on a form in


front of the residence of the parents of the
departed. After the body had been exposed for
some days it was committed to the ground by the
publican in a bacon chest.

Some interesting details of an attempt to stop
a funeral were published in the Times, September
5th, 1794. " On Tuesday last," says the report,
" the corpse of a gentleman, as it was proceeding
in a hearse to the burial ground, was arrested by
a Sheriffs officer and his followers, under a
warrant as usual granted against the body. The
friends who followed immediately left their
coaches, and told the officer if he chose he was
welcome to the body, but he should have neither
coffin, shroud, nor any particle in which the body
was enveloped, and if he took them by force he
should be indicted for a highway robbery, as
those matters were the property of the executors ;
nay, they went further, and said, that as the
deceased had, by his will, bequeathed his body
to his executors, no execution would hold good
against the corpse, the process must be against
them. The bailiff, very properly being persuaded
that the spirit of the law meant the living, not
the dead body, marched off without insisting on
the legality of his capture. This is the first
instance of the kind that has happened since the


arrest of the dead body of a sheriff of London,
not many years since." The latest recorded
instance of seizing a body for debt is given in the
pages of the Gentleman s Magazine. It is stated
under date of October 16, 1811, as follows:
" As a funeral procession was preparing to
proceed from Hoxton to Shoreditch burial-
ground, the ceremony was prevented by a sheriff's
officer and his assistants, who, having presented
a writ, removed the body into shell, and conveyed
it away. The authors of this disgraceful pro-
ceeding applied the following day to the minister
of Shoreditch to inter the corpse, which he very
properly refused to do, unless the service was
read over it, which would insure the security of
the body in holy ground. The sheriffs have
caused inquiry to be instituted into the circum-
stances of the case, and finding that, though the
officer did not disturb the body himself, he
improperly left it with the plaintiff without having
made any communication at the sheriffs office,
they have dismissed him from his employment."

Since the foregoing case we have not found
any further account of the dead being detained
for debt.

The facts about Mrs. Elizabeth Woodcock,
who lived eight days and nights without food



under the snow, are familiar to most readers who
ramble in literary byways. Her case and that of
others are fully set forth in the pages of
Chambers's "Book of Davs," vol. i, p. 342, but
no mention is made of the following remarkable
case, which is given in the parish register of
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire :

On March the 16th, 17 16, one Phoenix, a girl of about 13
years of age, a parish apprentice with Mr. Ward, of Teak
Forest, went from George Bowden's house, of Lane End,
about five o'clock in the morning, towards her master's house.
She sat down on Peaslow between the ruts on G. Bowden's
part (or road), and stayed that day and the next, and the
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday following, two of which days —
viz., the 16th and 17th — were the most severe for snowing and
driving that hath been in the memory of man. She was found
alive on Monday, about one o'clock, by W. Jackson, of
Sparrow Pit, and W. Longden, of Peak Forest, and after
slender refreshment of a little hot milk, was carried to her
master's house, and is now (March 25, 17 17) very well, only a
little stiffness in her limbs. This was the Lord's doing, and
will be marvellous in future generations. She eat no meat
during the six days, nor was she hungry, but very thirsty, and
slept much.

The Youlgreave register contains a most
interesting account of the "great snow of 1614-5."
It commenced on the 16th of January, and on
some of the hills it remained until Whitsun
week. Says the record :

Uppon May-day, in the morning, instead of fetching in
flowers, the youthes brought in flakes of snow, well lay above
a foot deep uppon the moores and mountayftes.


The following summer [1615] was very dry,

and amongst other particulars of it we find in the

register that :

There was no rayne fell uppon the earth from the 25th day
of March till 2nd day of May, and then there was but one
shower, after which there fell none tyll the 18th day of June,
and then there fell an other ; after yt there fell none at all till
the 4th day of August, after which tyme there was sufficient
rayne uppon the earth ; so that the greatest pt of this land,
especially the south pts, were burnt upp both corne and hay.
An ordinary sumer load of hay was at 2/., and little or none
to be gott for money.

The winter of 1623 was severe. The Wad-
hurst, Sussex, register states :

This year fell the greatest snow which was in man's
memory ; it did abide from the end of January till April.

We will conclude with a strange story from

the register at Ashover, Derbyshire. It runs

thus :

1660. Dorothy Matley, supposed wife of John Flint, of
this parish, forswore herselfe ; whereon the ground open, and
she sanke over hed March 1st ; and being found dead sh.e was
buried March 2d.

Bunyan introduces this remarkable record into
his "Life of Mr. Badman," first published in 1680.
It is stated that " Dorothy was washing one day
upon the top of a steep hill, about a quarter of a
mile from Ashover, and was there taxed by a lad
for taking of two single pence out of his pocket,
but she violently denied it, wishing the ground
might swallow her up if she had them. She also


used the same wicked words on several other
occasions that day." Then follows the narrative
of one George Hodgkinson, " a man of good
report." He says that he saw the woman, and
her tub and sieve, twisting round, and sinking
into the ground. She cried for help, and when
the man was thinking how he might assist her,
it is asserted that " immediately a great stone,
which appeared on the earth fell in upon her
head, and broke her skull, and then the earth fell
in upon her and covered her. She was after-
wards digged up and found about four yards
within the ground, and the boy's two single
pence in her pocket, but the tub and sieve could
not be found.."

We have in this article reproduced some of
the extracts given in " The History of Parish
Registers in England," by J. S. Burn (London,
1862), also a few from "Parish Registers in
England," by R. E. Chester Waters, B.A.
(London, 1883). In the pages of Henderson's
" Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties" (London,
1879), we nave found information of a suggestive
character. Dr. Cox's valuable volumes on the
" Derbyshire Churches " have also been drawn
upon, and many parish registers consulted.


WO quaint offices, known as Dog
Whippers and Sluggard Wakers,
existed in the olden time in the
church. The duties of the two
positions were frequently performed
by one person, and on this account we treat the
two together in this chapter. Not a few persons
in bygone ages felt it a duty to leave part of
their worldly wealth to pay persons for going
about the church during the time of public
service, to keep awake the congregation, and to
drive out any stray dogs which might find their
way into the building. At Claverley, Shrop-
shire, one Richard Dovey, in the year 1659,
left certain property near the church on condition
that eight shillings per year be paid out of the
rent to a poor man to awaken sleepers in the
church and to drive out dogs. In 1725, at
Trysull, Staffordshire, John Rudge left a pound
a year to be paid quarterly, for a poor man to


walk about the parish church during the time
of preaching the sermon to keep folks awake.
He had also to keep dogs out of the church.
Another Staffordshire man named Richard
Brooke left a piece of land, part of the proceeds
of the rent were to be paid to keep boys quiet in
the church and churchyard, in the time of divine
service. At Chislet, Kent, is a piece of land
known as " Dog-whipper's Marsh," from which
a payment of ten shillings a year was to be
devoted to paying for the services of keeping
order in the church during the time of public
worship. We also find it recorded by Edwards
in his " Remarkable Charities," that from time
immemorial an acre of land in the parish of
Peterchurch, Herefordshire, has been appro-
priated to the use of a person for keeping dogs
out of the church, such person being appointed
by the minister and churchwardens.

There were various modes of awaking
sleepers. It was the practice in one church for
the beadle to walk quietly round the sacred
edifice carrying in his hand a long staff, at one
end of which was a fox's brush, and at the
other a knob. If he caught a lady asleep
he gently tickled her face with the brush, but if
a man were found napping, a sensible rap with


the knob end of the rod was bestowed upon him.
At Dunchurch a sluggard waker was employed.
He is described by a correspondent as a
respectable-looking man, having much of the
air of a churchwarden. He says that he carried
a long stout wand, with a fork at the end of it.
11 At intervals," he states, " he stepped stealthily
up and down the naves and aisles of the church,
and whenever he saw an individual whose senses
were buried in oblivion, he touched him with his
wand so effectually that the spell was broken,
and in an instant he was recalled to all the
realities of life. I watched as he mounted, with
easy steps, into the galleries. At the end of one
of them, there sat in the front seat a young man
who had very much the appearance of a farmer,
with his mouth open, and his eyes closed, a
perfect picture of repose. The official marked
him for his own, and having fitted his fork to the
nape of his neck, he gave him such a push, that,
had he not been used to such visitations, it
would probably have produced an ejaculatory
start highly inconvenient on such occasions.
But no, everyone seemed to quietly acquiesce in
the usage, and whatever else they might be
dreaming of, they certainly did not dream of the
infringement upon the liberties of the subject,


nor did they think of applying for a summons
on account of the assault."

In the earlier years of the present century at
Holy Trinity Church, Warrington, a masculine
sort of woman named Betty Finch was employed
as " the bobber." She is described as walking
majestically along the aisles during the service,
armed with a long stick like a fishing-rod, which
had a " bob " fastened to the end of it, and
when she caught any one sleeping or talking
she gave him a " nudge." Her son was
engaged in the belfry, and often truthfully sang :

My father's a clerk,

My sister's a singer,
My mother's the bobber,

And I am a ringer.

In Baslow Church, an ancient chapel of
Bakewell, Derbyshire, there is still preserved
the dog-whipper's implement. There are also
persons alive or recently deceased who can
recollect its use. The thong of the whip is
about three feet long, and is fastened to a long
ash stick, round the handle of which is a band
of twisted leather. In the church of Clynnog-
fawr, in North Wales, is an instrument for
dragging dogs out of the church. It is a long
pair o( lt lazy tongs " with sharp spikes fixed at
the end.


It will not be without interest if we next
furnish a few examples of entries bearing on this
subject, extracted from our old parish accounts.
Wakefield churchwardens' accounts present the

following items :

£ s. d.

16 1 6— Paid to Gorby Stork for whippinge

doggs o 2 6

1624 — Paid to the dogwhippar 020

1625 1 Paid to Lyght Ovvler for whippinge

1628 j dogs 014

[Mr. W. S. Banks says " Dog-whipper is the name by which the
verger was called for a century or more. The name has come down to our
own time in the form of ' Dog-navvper.' ' Nawpin ' is striking on the

1664 — Dog whipper for his qr. wages 040

1703. ..For hatts, shoes, and hoses for sexton

and dog-whipper o 18 6

[These officers were clothed down to 1820, and there are payments
on this account throughout.]

Barnsley churchwardens' accounts record :

1647 — T° Richard Hodgson's wife for whip-
ping dogs 00 02 00

At East Witton, Yorkshire, was an official
known as the dog-whipper, who received a
salary of eight shillings a year.

Mr. John Nicholson, Librarian of the Hull
Literary Club, author of " The Folk-Lore of
East Yorkshire," writes us an interesting note
respecting the office of "dog-noper," the East
Yorkshire designation for dog-whipper. " The
office and person," says Mr. Nicholson, " are



now obsolete ; but many years ago, the dog-
noper was an important and indispensable
personage, plurality of offices being a great
source of strength. He was not unfrequently
beadle, sexton, constable, dog-noper and slug-
gard waker all in one. When such was the
case, on the occasion of a funeral, he headed the
procession from the house of mourning to the
gate of the churchyard, bearing in his hand his
rod of office, decorated by a piece of black crape.
While the bearers rested a moment at the lych-
gate, he went to the belfry to toll the death bell,
until all the mourners entered the church. It is
related that on one occasion, he had suspected
that the grave was not large enough, and while
the mourners aw r aited his signal for leaving the
church, he went up to the coffin, measured it
with his spade, and ejaculated, ' She won't go
in ! She won't go in ! ' So there was a tem-
porary delay until the grave was made larger.

"In rural districts, where the parish was ex-
tensive, and some of the worshippers from
solitary farmhouses, lived miles away from the
church, something was gained if spiritual profit
could be combined with worldly advantage. So
the farmer would take his sheep-dog with him,
and look after his flocks and herds by the way.


Arrived at the church, the dog entered with him,

and crouched under the seat, for a time, until other

canine brethren were discovered near at hand.

Restlessness followed the discovery, then motion,

then locomotion, until two or three met in the

aisle. There might only be a sniff and friendly

greeting, if so, all well ; but if the collision

produced growls and snarls, culminating into

warfare, then could the office of dog-noper be

glorified. Bearing down upon the combatants,

who were oblivious to the cries of their owners,

he with his stout cudgel quickly made third man

among them, and as the beaten dogs slunk to

their places to lick their bruises, he returned to

his post near the door with a glad heart, proud

of having ' something attempted, something

done ; ' and as the congregation settled in their

places, and the noise subsided, the clergyman

resumed the service.

"When children sing :

Bells is ringin',

Cats is singin',

And dogs is gannin' ti chotch,

they give us a fairly good picture of the days of

the dog-noper. When the church bells were

ringing for service, the cats were left at home,

to bask before the fire, and sing * three-thrums '

on the hearthrug, while the dogs went to church


with their masters, and lay under the seat of the

pew until the service was over."

From the parish accounts of Burnley,

Lancashire, we have the following item : —

1728-9, April 29. — For whipping dcgs 040

We have extracted entries from the accounts

of four Lincolnshire parishes.

At Croft it is stated, in the old town's book,

under the year 1718 : —

For dog's whipping 00 07 06

In the churchwardens' account of Kirton-in-

Lindsey : —

181 7 — For dog whipping 068

The Louth churchwardens' accounts for the

year 1550, contain a charge of twopence " to the

bellman for beating the dogges out of the

church." Similar entries occur at intervals until

1705, when we find one shilling paid for the

performance of the duties.

In the churchwardens' accounts of Barton-on-

Humber is an entry :

1740 — Paid Brocklebank for waking sleepers 020

\Ve have next items from the accounts of

three Derbyshire parishes. The churchwardens'

accounts of South Winglield contain an entry :

Accounts of Robert Smith, churchwarden of ye hamlet
of Oakcrthorpc, for yc yearc of 1728, September 28.
Paid to dog-whipper for his wages, is. Sd.


The parish accounts of Castleton record :

1722... Paid to sluggard waker o 10 o

From the register of Youlgreave we have two

items :

1609 — To Robt. Walton, for whipping ye dogge forth of

ye churche in time of divyne service, is. 4d.
16 1 7 — Robert Benbowe for whipping out ye dogges, 2s.

The parish church accounts of Worksop,

Nottinghamshire, contain entries as under :

1597 — Paid to Old Verde, for whipping of dogs, 9d.
1616 — For whipping dogges out of ye church one whole
year, i2d.

The accounts of the parish of Forest Hill,

near Oxford, furnish an example :

1694 — Pd. to Tho. Mills, for whipping dogs out of church,
one shilling.

In the foregoing jottings we have only given
a few examples of payments made for the ancient
service of whipping dogs out of the church and
awaking sluggards, but we think sufficient to show
that the usage was kept up vigorously in different
parts of the country.

We have received for this and other sketches
in this work important suggestions and notes
from Mr. H. Syer Cuming, the learned author
of many able papers on popular antiquities. His
studies in the byways of history have brought to
light much that is curious and historically


" <<L.




• - .-.

OME curious and interesting glimpses
of bygone time may be obtained
from old parish accounts. They
deal with many subjects, including
manners, customs, superstitions,
social and religious life, and other topics. In this
chapter we give a number of items of a mis-
cellaneous character of more or less historical

Cure by Royal Touch.

From the time of Edward the Confessor
down to the days of Queen Anne, with a few
exceptions, the English sovereigns have touched
for the cure of scrofula, a malady more generally
known under the name of king's evil. Holinshed
has a note in his " Chronicle " on this subject.
He states, in his account of Edward the Con-
fessor, that it was believed he was inspired
with the gift of prophecy and of healing diseases
by touch. " He used to help," says Holinshed,


" those that were vexed with the disease com-
monly called king's evil, and left that virtue, as it
were, a portion of inheritance to his successors,
the kings of this realm." Shakespeare introduces
this superstition in Macbeth. Old parish books
and accounts include items bearing on this topic.
Here is a copy of an entry in the Ecclesfield
accounts :

164T. — Giuen to John Parkin wife towards her
trauell to London to get cure of his
Ma tie for the disease called the Euill,
which her sonen Thorn is visited wthall £0 6s. 8d.

A journey from Yorkshire to London in the

days of the First Charles was a most serious

undertaking, and would be the theme of much

talk amongst the villagers. Dr. Samuel Johnson,

when a child, was taken to London by his mother,

and touched by Queen Anne for this complaint.

He says, in " An Account of the Life of Dr.

Samuel Johnson, from his Birth to his Eleventh

Year, Written by Himself" — " This year [171 2]

in Lent I was taken to London to be touched

for the Evil by Queen Anne I always

retained some memory of this journey, although

I was but thirty months old." The touch was

without any effect. With the death of the

Queen passed away this singular ceremony ; but

the reference to it remained in the Litany as late

as 1719.

184 curiosities of the church.

Bargaining with a Conjuror.

The village officials of Bramley, near Leeds,
seem to have been very superstitious. Their
credulity prompted them to spend money in such
a manner as would not satisfy the ratepayer of
the present time. The overseers' accounts con-
tain disbursements as under :

1783, Dec. 8th. — Expenses on bargaining with

conjuror from Skipton to cure
Matthew Hudson's daughter is. od.

1784, Feb. 1st. — Astrological Doctor for Hud-

son's daughter 12s. 6d.

We gather from previous entries that this
female was subject to fits, but we have not been
able to discover whether or not the strange mode
of treatment proved beneficial.

Bishops and their Beer.

The old chapel accounts of Bewdley for the

year 1593 include an item :

Pd. for a galland of beere given to the Beishopp of

Hereford iiij^.

Some of the bishops in years gone by appear

to have enjoyed their pipe and glass. It is said

of Dr. Reynolds, a Bishop of Lincoln, that in the

year 1724 he held a confirmation at St. Mary's

Church, Nottingham, and that after concluding

the service he retired to the vestry and desired

the parish clerk to go and obtain for him a


supply of ale, pipes and tobacco. He proceeded
without delay, and on his return met the vicar,
who inquired for whom he was taking the
refreshments, and on being told, ordered him to
leave the church at once, saying that so long as
he remained vicar of St. Mary's, neither Bishop
nor Archbishop should make it a tippling house.

Treating Parsons.
Particulars frequently occur in old church
accounts of money spent in treating strange
ministers when they preached. Generally the
" treating " consisted of paying for wine, but
occasionally sugar would be given, and some-
times small sums of money. Numerous entries
similar to the following occur in the Worksop
accounts :

161 7. For a quart of wine and sugar bestowed

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11

Online LibraryWilliam AndrewsCuriosities of the church; studies of curious customs, services and records → online text (page 9 of 11)