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Reverend Peter Braby's Survey of Churchwardens' Presentments from the Vale of Evesham, 1660-1717

Articles by Peter Braby

These articles first appeared in The Vale of Evesham Historical Society Research Papers. Permission to reproduce the articles has been granted by The Vale of Evesham Historical Society. The author of the articles, the Reverend Peter Braby, a former Vicar of Badsey, died in 1994. His son, Jonathan, has also given permission for the articles to be reproduced.

Maureen Spinks, November 2003

Vale of Evesham Historical Society Research Papers, 1975, V, pages 61 - 69.



In the Hereford and Worcester County Record Office (at St. Helen's, Worcester) are twenty-four boxes of presentments and other papers relating to parochial dealings with the bishop's consistory court.1 Very few of these papers are earlier than 1660 and there are even fewer later than 1790. They are filed in separate folders for each parish, but within each folder (except for a few parishes) there is no systematic arrangement, chronological or otherwise. The greater number of these papers are presentments by churchwardens in answer to the official articles of enquiry at episcopal visitations. Some that do not correspond to the dates of bishops' visitations in the court act books or the detecta (notes of cases at the visitations) may be presentments at archidiaconal or peculiar visitations or, more probably, at interim visitations by commission from the bishop.

Besides answers to articles, there are special presentments of particular matters or persons: of churchwardens or other parishioners by ministers, or (less commonly) of ministers by their churchwardens. In addition there are orders from the court, certificates to the court of instructions having been carried out, and letters to the registrar concerning particular cases. There are returns from some parishes of the so-called Compton census in 1676, enumerating the population over 16 years of age and the numbers of conformists, papists, and dissenters.2 There are returns required by the Commissioners for Trade in 1696 concerning the expenditure on the poor and the parochial rate levied that year. These also are incomplete; it is probable that the originals had to be sent to London and that not all parishes sent copies for the bishop's registry. There are also answers to a special enquiry by Bishop Lloyd in 1705 and 1706 of the number of papists in each parish and what property they owned.3 These special returns will be considered in the second part of this article.

Not only the special returns but also the regular presentments at episcopal visitations are incomplete, and it seems to have been a matter of chance whether a particular presentment was preserved or not. Many of the papers are torn or damaged by damp and some are only fragments. They vary greatly in legibility. Some presentments set out complete and wordy answers to all the articles, but the majority pick out only those matters that they wish to present, or say that they have everything in order and nothing presentable. Most bear a date; many do not. It is possible in some cases to ascribe a date from internal evidence. One would expect to find corresponding material in the court's own records (a laborious task, for these are mostly in Latin and in difficult handwriting) but this is not always so; neither do some of the cases in the court records appear in the parochial presentments. No statistical analysis is therefore feasible. Yet from this collection of documents it is possible to obtain a fairly clear picture of the relationship between the diocesan authorities and the parishes. With the help of such vestry books and churchwardens' accounts as have survived, one can also gain from the presentments some insight into the workings of parochial administration in this period. The changes in official policy and the parochial reactions to them are often reflected; needless to say, these are much more human documents than the official court records.

The period covered in this article is from the Restoration to the end of Bishop Lloyd's episcopate in 1717. The area is roughly the rural deaneries of Evesham and Pershore as they were at that time (Pershore Deanery extended as far north as Feckenham and Crowle, and to Overbury in the south). Over sixty parishes or chapelries are included but more attention is given to examples from the Vale.


Very few presentments have been preserved from the visitation of Bishop George Morley in 1661. I can find only one from this area, from Bretforton. He died in September 1662 and was succeeded by John Gauden, who died after a few months without having held a visitation. Nearly as short was the episcopate of John Earle, who was translated to Salisbury in September 1663. He certainly held a visitation between August and September 1663 but there are some presentments for a visitation in the previous winter. Bishop Robert Skinner followed (d. June 1670); in his time there are presentments for each year except 1666 and 1667, all in April. His notebook, continued by his immediate successors, contains many useful lists.4 The short episcopate of Walter Blandford (1671-5) was important in the administrative history of the diocese. There are presentments in May 1671 but a much larger collection for the two episcopal visitations in 1674 (May and September). The two sets of articles seem to have dealt mainly with the same subjects. Why were there two visitations at such a short interval? The answer is to be found in the bishop's letter book.5 On 25 July he wrote to a number of his clergy, appointing two or three for each division of the diocese to inspect certain church buildings and ministers' houses and to report to the registrar by 26 August. In his letter he wrote of his concern at the decay and neglect of many of these buildings and their 'utensils'. No doubt he realized the uselessness of many of the presentments at the former visitation; some parishes reported year after year that there was nothing amiss. A letter from Timothy Baldwin, the chancellor, to the registrar, Thomas Vernon, states that the bishop's object is 'to awaken the churchwardens to make true presentments'. The system of regular inspections (detectiones)6 initiated by Bishop Blandford was continued by the next two bishops: James Fleetwood (1675-83), for whose term there are formal presentments for all but three years, and William Thomas (1683-1689), who held visitations in 1684 and 1687. For Edward Stillingfleet (1689-99) there are formal presentments every year for his first four years (in May or June) and he held another visitation in 1696. In 1699, during the vacancy of the see, a visitation was held in June by Dr. William Talbot, dean of Worcester, as official to the archbishop of Canterbury. William Lloyd (1699-1717) held visitations in 1699/1700, 1702, 1704, and triennially from 1705; there are also formal presentments in 1707 and 1716.

The visitations for this area were mostly held at All Saints', Evesham, and Holy Cross, Pershore. At some of the visitations held at Evesham notes are added occasionally to presentments over the signature of Dr. John Jephcott, vicar of All Saints' 1663-1706; they vary from the urging of action to be taken, to the information that certain churchwardens had been sworn. It is known that Jephcott was rural dean of Evesham but it seems unlikely that he was acting in that capacity, for some of the presentments he annotated are from Pershore Deanery; more probably it was as special commissary of the bishop. Copies of the original articles of enquiry do not seem to have survived. The sort of official questionnaire that we are accustomed to, with a blank space or dotted line after each question, was not used except in the case of the 'Compton' returns. But the articles can generally be inferred from those presentments that give full answers (e.g. All Saints', Evesham, September 1663). Although the questions varied to some extent from one visitation to another, the main subjects of the enquiries did not, and were usually under seven heads or 'titles', in the same order: 1. Church fabric, ornaments, and books; 2. Churchyards and minister's house; 3. Minister; 4. Parishioners; 5. Parish clerk; 6. Hospitals, schools, etc.; 7. Churchwardens.

The apparitor was the court officer responsible for delivering the articles of enquiry and collecting the presentments, for which he received a fee from each parish (a frequent item in churchwardens' accounts). In the advices for Bishop Lloyd's visitations of 1702-4,7 presumably compiled by Chancellor John Price, it is expressly forbidden for apparitors to write out the presentments themselves: 'It has been too much practised to carry blank presentments, which has ensnared the churchwardens and hindered the presenting of such crimes which their innocence and honesty would otherwise have prompted them to do. Rather than this, give a fortnight's time to them to make it themselves'. Nevertheless, from about 1707 (Price died in 1705) the practice of issuing 'nothing presentable' forms is noticeable; indeed for the triennial visitation of 1714 they are all in the same neat hand, no doubt that of one of the clerks in the registry office. Churchwardens might avail themselves of these forms or add at the bottom any special matters they wished to present; the space provided, at first about two and a half inches, becomes smaller as the years go by. Alternatively they could write out their own presentments. From this time there was on the same form a certificate to be signed by them that their minister had catechized regularly. From about 1770 the form was usually printed. Naturally most parishes availed themselves of these 'nil' return forms although some did make quite lengthy presentments late in the 18th century.

Most of the presentments were written out by one of the churchwardens. Spelling is often idiosyncratic and the handwriting sometimes undecipherable. In a good many instances the minister has obliged, as can be seen where we have examples from his hand in other documents in the file. It is not unusual to find that he himself has copied out the laudatory remarks about him which his wardens have made in the section 'Concerning the minister'. It is also quite clear that some of the presentments, though signed by the churchwardens, have been composed by the minister. But some presentments are in a clerkly hand that is not that of the minister nor that of either churchwarden. Where the parish clerk was literate it might be his; or else that of some other writer employed for the job, often perhaps the apparitor himself (for an extra fee). Statistics of literacy (or rather the ability to sign one's name, which is not necessarily literacy)8 are difficult to compile from these documents. Sometimes the writer of the presentment signs the churchwardens' names for them! Sometimes, too, the churchwarden who writes the presentment signs his colleague's name as well as his own; on another document one finds that the same man is only able to make his mark. For what they are worth I give from sample parishes percentages of churchwardens apparently capable of signing: Evesham 100; Pershore 96; Broadway 94; Bretforton 85; Wickhamford 71; Inkberrow 90; Elmley Castle 69; Overbury 94; Badsey 100. Later in the 18th century the standards were lower.


What sort of men were they, from the evidence of these documents? They had to be of some standing in the parish in order to exercise the necessary authority, civil as well as ecclesiastical. It appears that they were the chief holders of land in the parish, occasionally (but not often) gentry; in most villages they were of the yeoman class. Where there was lack of goodwill, or even opposition, from a squire or large landowner, their task was extremely difficult, as will be seen. In small villages the same men had to bear office again and again. In the larger places the parochial offices were generally held each year by rotation according to the position of a man's land. At Bretforton in 1676 the churchwardens sign themselves as 'John Morris of the buttystile and John Morris of the upper end'. The churchwardens had to declare (or the minister certify) that they had consulted the minister about their answers to the articles. The section concerning the churchwardens themselves had to be answered by the minister. He had to state that they had been duly appointed in Easter week and that the 'old ones' had rendered their accounts. There are several instances of failure in this respect: Queenhill 1663, Dormston 1674 (the late churchwardens obstinately refusing), Holy Cross, Pershore 1675, Cropthorne 1684, Peopleton 1690, Inkberrow 1699, Badsey 1699 ('we leave it to the judgement of the court'), Defford 1705. The newly elected churchwardens at Flyford Flavell in 1687 refused to appear to take their oaths. This pair was presented for other defaults at the same time by the last churchwardens.

At Inkberrow in 1699 the vicar, Henry Mugg, presented that the choice of churchwardens had been of late interrupted by James Heming imposing himself on them. Two men were duly elected in 1696 but he put himself in to be admitted and neither would serve with him. He had made a defective presentment, signed by himself only and rejected by the chancellor. Mugg accused him of embezzling metal for casting the bells, of receiving rent for church land but not distributing it for charitable uses, of failing to provide bread and wine for the customary communion after harvest ('whereby a great duty prevented and unseasonably deferred'), of various neglects in repairs of the church and fencing of the churchyard, of taking away some communion wine for himself and seldom communicating, of rarely coming to church at the beginning of divine service and hardly ever coming in the afternoon at all, 'when he should see to the ordering of the youth, prevent their playing and others tippling and profaning the Lord's Day. But he is often at the alehouse himself in time of divine service and instead of promoting the duty and observance of it, the decay of piety and growth of irreligion imputable to so ill man's bearing that place'. In fairness it must be said that Mugg's own conduct was not altogether exemplary, as will be seen in the section below concerning ministers.

A similar charge of 'not restraining the youth and young people in the parish from profane sportings on the Sabbath' is made by William Willes, minister of Cleeve Prior, against the old churchwardens in 1663, while Samuel Astley, vicar of White Ladies Aston, presented a churchwarden in 1699 'for breach of the Sabbath in countenancing of dancing, playing, and revelling on Sunday mornings after admonitions given'. Other presentments by incumbents of churchwardens for various defaults included neglect of the churchyard fencing (very common), taking no note of absentees from church, failure to provide certain books, detaining a writing concerning lands in the parish and also the keys of the church chest (Crowle 1714), and 'not providing some repast for the procession' (Cleeve Prior 1663). The latter was a recognized duty of churchwardens at Rogationtide, when they had to entertain the parishioners after the annual 'beating of the bounds', and is often an item in churchwardens' accounts.9 In parishes (such as both those in Evesham) where sidesmen were customarily elected, they were usually associated with the churchwardens in the presentments at visitations. At Church Lench it seems to have been the rule that the sidesmen elected in one year automatically succeeded as churchwardens in the next. Ab Lench was represented by a sidesman. One of these was presented by the churchwardens of Church Lench in 1714, 'being sidesman the last two years, for not coming to our Easter meetings nor giving no account'.

The hamlet of Aldington was represented by its own churchwarden chosen annually to serve with the two elected for Badsey. This was important because the inhabitants of Aldington were allotted the transept of the parish church and by custom paid one third of the rate towards repairs. John Bugden, the miller of Aldington, who professed to be a Quaker and would not come to church or pay any dues, was chosen churchwarden in 1673 but 'refused to do anything at all in the said office, whereby the whole charge was upon Badsey'. Next year the people of Aldington did not nominate a churchwarden at all. The churchwardens of Badsey requested the court that they should be made to do so and to pay the proportionate amount.

Badsey and Aldington might have their temporary differences but the problems of Honeybourne were perennial. They arose partly through the parish being divided between two jurisdictions. Church Honeybourne, having been a chapel of Evesham Abbey, was then in the diocese of Worcester whereas Cow (or Chapel) Honeybourne, which had belonged to Winchcombe Abbey, was in Gloucester Diocese. The poverty of the parishioners and indifference of absentee landlords were further factors that made the ruinous state of the parish church and its deficiency in furniture deplorable.

The churchwarden, says Thomas Pickering, the vicar, in 1678, 'made a levy for repairs and other charges, but could not get a penny towards it, so that he hath nothing to account for nor knows he how to get his charges; the inhabitants, being all (except 2 or 3) poor labouring people, are neither able nor willing to pay; the gentlemen which own the town and are not resident think it does not belong to them and will not pay anything to it; so that the churchwarden is greatly discouraged, fearing that the necessary charge of the office will light upon himself who has nothing but what he gets by his labour to live upon. He made several demands upon his levy but my Lord Windsor, who is a president to the other gentlemen and whose good example should have promoted so necessary a work, put a stop to any proceedings by sending word to his steward that he would not be compelled by a common levy, and this is the only cause why our church is not repaired'. A few years earlier, before the inspections ordered by Bishop Blandford and the appointment of Thomas Pickering as vicar in 1675, another churchwarden, Thomas Phillips, had presented the church to be in good repair: 'There are some small things wanting but the parishioners do desire the court would forbear till the times are settled a little better for they are in want of money and we may be without them till the times are better'. Now in the presentments of 1676 and 1678 the true state of affairs is revealed.

The church is in all parts out of repair, the windows quite open Without either glass or bars, the pavement all broken up, the seats thrown down, the chancel in like state, the aisle without any roof at all, 'and all things unfit and unbecoming a house dedicated to the public worship and service of God'. 'Our font is broken and will not hold water; we have a communion table but no furniture to it, neither carpet nor chalice nor flagon (either of pewter or silver) or any other thing'. The reading desk and pulpit are 'indifferently good', the bible very much unbound and many leaves lost out. They have none of the other books required except one prayer book, 'no surplice nor ornaments for the minister nor have had so far as I know for 30 years or more [. . .]. We have the five tuneable bells (all that ever were) but have no ropes but one to ring them'. The churchyard is 'neither railed nor paled nor walled nor hedged' and lies open to the common street. 'Our communions are very thin by reason of the poverty of the church furniture for the purpose, which makes the people not come to the feast because they cannot drink out of the Lord's cup'. Neither aid nor encouragement could be expected from the people of Cow Honeybourne: 'Most of the parishioners live in the other town, and they come negligently and many wilfully absent themselves from the church. Those that come, come only to the sermon, and it may be they stay awhile to hear that neither; their manner is (the church being open when service is said) to be laughing and talking and playing under the walls all the time of prayer, to the great disturbance of the congregation. They can look in when they please and idly or deridingly gaze upon us, making themselves sport with our manner of worshipping God, and all this commonly done of all sorts, both young and old, being emboldened by a too long impunity through the want of a churchwarden to observe their names and present them'.

Some ten years later Thomas Phillips, again churchwarden, presents a slightly better picture. He has got seats newly set up and a new reading pew. It will cost £14 10s. but he has not yet any money to pay for it. He will do his endeavours by Easter to get money for what has been done and to provide the other things necessary, 'and my humble request to the court is that, considering the many difficulties I meet with, I may have this time granted me'. For the next few years in succession he reports the church to be 'at present in good repair by the late great charge of the parish, only a few small things wanting, but when the times are settled we hope they will be provided'. Such complacency could not much longer be tolerated by the diocesan authorities. In June 1698 the following order was issued to the vicar and churchwarden: 'Whereas, upon a search being made in the registry of the consistory court of Worcester, it is manifest that, by a presentment of the churchwarden of 23 April 94, there was wanting in the church a chalice and flagon, a covering for the communion table, a surplice, the book of canons and homilies, and the table of degrees wherein marriage is prohibited, the style of which presentment has been continued in 95, 96, and 97, and even in this present year 98, and the neglect in not providing these things being scandalous in the example and not to be suffered any longer, you are hereby required to give notice to your parishioners upon Sunday the 10th day of July next by publishing this order immediately after the Nicene Creed, appointing them to meet at a certain time and place to consider how much money will be required to buy the utensils, books, and other necessaries before mentioned, and to proceed to make an assessment of a full moiety, or one half of the same, upon the inhabitants of Church Honeybourne and Poden and to sign the same with your own hands and those of the parishioners present, and bring or send it by a safe hand to the said court in the cathedral at Worcester upon Thursday the 14th July. Whereupon a course will be taken that the other moiety may be assessed upon the inhabitants of Chapel H. that these things may be provided. So far as this affair concerns Ch. H. you are effectively to execute and bring in or send the said assessment; as you will prevent proceedings against you in case of any further neglect'.

I have quoted this order in full so that the procedure for an extraordinary levy may be seen. In this case it was quite ineffective. A year later Thomas Phillips presented that he had already given a levy to the court for Church Honeybourne but could not collect it until 'the like proportion was according to custom levied upon the town of Cow Honeybourne in the diocese of Gloucester, which is not yet done, but there is an order to their chapel warden from the last visitation made at Campden for that their levy will be shortly made - and then will ours be without fail collected'.10 Six years later the communion table was still unfurnished, there were no vessels, and the vicar had no surplice to wear. Furthermore the church fabric was now in urgent need of repair, and Cow Honeybourne still not raising a penny towards it. The top of the spire had blown off, according to Bishop Lloyd's visitation notes,11 and the south aisle and nave were in ruins. The presentments do not mention this but say that the chancel floor is in a bad state and the rafters so decayed that there is a great open space between chancel and nave. Workmen said that the roof could not be repaired properly without taking it down. In 1704 it was reported that 'in hasty showers it rains down between the tower and the body of the church [. . .]; the floor all on a level, without steps or rails to secure the Holy Table from profanation. I spoke to Mr. Walker, attorney, of Evesham, who had purchased the tithes of the Church town, about a levy to repair the chancel and he denied the consent to the making of a levy, for which we present him'. In 1720 the churchwarden and vicar are able to make this presentment: 'Our church is now in good repair and decent, having been lately beautified, as is also our chancel [. . .]; nothing required by law is wanting as to the furniture and divine service there'. It had taken sixty years.


Honeybourne is perhaps an extreme case but difficulties in raising the necessary funds for maintaining the church fabric were no less than today, and after the Civil Wars and Interregnum much restoration work had to be done in most parishes. The only source of revenue for ordinary repairs, apart from rents for church land where there was any (see below), was the annual levy, agreed at the Easter vestry and assessed on all householders, later known as the church rate.12 For bigger restoration work requiring extraordinary expenditure a special levy would have to be agreed at a parish meeting held on the orders of the court (as we have seen in the case of Honeybourne). A parish might be fortunate enough to obtain a brief (a royal warrant for collections to be made in other churches on its behalf) but this was rarely granted where the estimated expenditure was less than £l,000.13 Even the regular levy was hard to raise in full. There were usually some like Widow Booker of Wickhamford who said she would see the church on fire before she would pay anything towards it (1675). A frequent item in the presentments is a list of names of parishioners who will not pay the levy. Bengeworth in particular had many defaulters and the church at this period began its long decline into dilapidation. Presentment of offenders to church courts, which were not allowed to impose fines and whose severest punishment was excommunication, could not produce the necessary money. In 1675 Thomas Brooke, vicar of Bishampton, requested for his churchwardens further time to provide certain ornaments because they could not find the money at present; many of the inhabitants lived on annual rents and had great charges to maintain.

The parishioners of Holy Cross, Pershore, in an undated document damaged by damp (probably 1674) ask the consistory court for an order to make a special levy to save the abbey tower. Several meetings have been held: 'The breach in the walls of the said church hath been beyond the memory of any man now living in the said parish, and that (by the opinion of several able workmen) it cannot be put into better condition except the tower be wholly taken down, which will amount to a greater charge by many thousands of pounds than the parish is able to defray, but it is agreed that a course shall be taken that the breach may be stayed and prevented from any further decay'. Next year the churchwardens could not present their accounts through so many parishioners not paying for the repairs.14 They had to face another crisis in 1699, when the following application was sent to the chancellor: 'Whereas the parish church of Holy Cross in Pershore, by the pulling down of a window and some other defects, hath been so far out of repair for about 4 months last past that the parishioners could not meet there to the worship and service of God, but were constrained to meet in the church of St. Andrew, which not being large enough to receive the great numbers of people that come there to attend the service of God, some wholly forbear coming to church, others go astray to separate meetings; and whereas public notice hath been given in general kinds by order of the churchwardens, to desire the parishioners to meet to consult about and make a levy for the repair of the said church, which have been altogether slighted or to no purpose', they ask accordingly for an order for a parish meeting 'that may enable the churchwardens to repair the said church, which will be to the joy and comfort of all good people amongst us'. The letter is dated 18 May, and as early as 26 August the churchwardens certify that the church is now well repaired. In this same year All Saints', Evesham, reports: 'We have this last year laid out a great sum of money in repair of our church but it is yet out of repair'; Bengeworth: 'Our master beam without some help is in great danger of falling'. During the 18th century St. Lawrence's Church almost fell into complete ruin.

During our period the court seems to have kept a fairly strict surveillance of the church fabrics and allowed only short periods before a certificate was required that the work ordered had been done. Parishes frequently asked for extensions of time for various reasons. Sometimes the weather was against them, or the materials were not to be had, or workmen could not be procured. Thomas Wall, rector of Rous Lench, wrote to the registrar in March 1677 that the churchwardens had not been careless in their duty of repairing the church since the last inspection 'but the winter season would not afford us materials for the doing of it; the things wanting are brick and tile, which are constantly in their season made in our own parish; we request time till Mayday'. But the registrar has noted: 'My lord has given time till our Lady Day*. Again, in 1685 Wall writes: 'As to the ceiling of the church, it was never done before the badness of the roof and the greatness of the charge and therefore the parish do desire that that may not be imposed on them'. Little Comberton says in October 1684: 'We have no Bristol lime to whiten our church and chancel at present by reason the water in the river is so low, wherefore we desire liberty until spring and we intend (God willing) then to do what belongs to our office in that respect'.


Much more difficult to enforce was the repair of chancels, the responsibility of the rector or the impropriator, often a layman or a corporate body. We have seen the difficulties over Honeybourne chancel. Sometimes when a chancel was in urgent need of repair much time was taken up in determining who was liable. At Stoulton the churchwardens kept presenting the chancel out of repair, and that it was believed to be the responsibility of Esq. Wilde ('we know not his pre-nomen'). This went on for forty years without anything being done. In 1689 there is a note of exasperation: 'We present (as our predecessors have for several years past) our chancel much out of repair; we expect one end of it to fall, and if we cannot be heard here we must make our address to some other court'. Nevertheless the same presentments are made to the consistory court about the chancel for some years after that.

It was no easy matter where the liability was shared. At Hampton in 1668 it was stated that the chancel ought to be repaired by John Clarke, Philip Scarlett, and William Style, 'who receive the tithe corn of the parish', but it was difficult to keep track of the constant changes in tithe ownership. In 1718 Philip Scarlett's name is still there but there is also a gentleman in London 'or his tenants'. As late as 1772 the chancel was still greatly out of repair. At Great Comberton the chancel was said in 1674 to be in part the responsibility of the dean of Westminster and in part that of Walter Hanford, Esq., of Woollas Hall (a papist): 'We cannot tell how to write to the said dean but Mr. Hanford saith that if the said dean will join with him to repair the said chancel he will pay his proportion, otherwise if the chancellor will appoint him how much to repair he will speedily do it'. Later it appears that the manor is 'in controversy', Mr. Hanford having died, and that the chancel is very much 'ruinated'. In 1687 the joint liability is said to be that of Mrs. Dorothy Hanford of the city of Worcester and Mr. Kendrick, vicar of Eckington. Later it is presented that the former has repaired her part of the chancel but Mr. Kendrick has not.

Unlike Hampton and the other Vale parishes whose advowsons belonged to the dean and chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, the chancels of both the Littletons were the direct responsibility of the college and not of tithe farmers. Presentments in the 1670s constantly complain of Christ Church's negligence in repairing them; in 1677 'our chancel is ready to fall, the roofs of it being very much decayed' (S. Littleton), while at Middle Littleton the chancel, 'if it be not speedily taken into consideration, will in a few years fall to the ground'. To both, Dr. Jephcott has added: 'I pray take especial care that this presentment be prosecuted'. Yet next year the churchwarden of S. Littleton complains: 'notwithstanding our frequent presentments thereof we find no redress'. The bishop of Worcester himself had responsibility for several chancels. The churchwardens of Blockley, where he was also lord of the manor, complained in 1663 of the neglect of theirs 'by means whereof [ironically quoting the words of the visitation article] the most diligent care cannot keep the church in that cleanliness and decency as becometh the house dedicated to the solemn public worship and service of God'. In the following year the chancel had still not been repaired. Prompter action seems to have been taken at Elmley Castle and Bishampton in 1684, both chancels being the liability of the bishop.

At Bengeworth Sir Thomas Haselwood (who had purchased the manor and advowson in 1684,15 appropriated the minister's dues to himself (1688), and was later to be presented by the churchwardens of Holy Cross, Pershore, for refusing to pay his levy for repairs)16 wrote to the registrar in July 1693: 'Sir, Yours lets me know that, notwithstanding the fair promises made under my hand, my lord bishop is much surprised to find by the presentment of the churchwardens of Bengeworth that the chancel there is still very much out of repair. I cannot doubt my lord to have that common good opinion of gentlemen that they generally make good their words, and as to the charge against myself in this particular I assure my lord I took good care last year to have it amply repaired immediately after I had notice to do it'. He says he will see to it that anything amiss is mended and adds patronizingly: 'Pray my humble thanks to my lord for the notice his lordship pleased to order me'. This was followed up by a certificate from the churchwardens as to the sufficient repair of the chancel, but three years later we find that notice has been served on the squire again for speedy repairs to it. There was a remedy against the neglect of chancels by impropriators but it does not often seem to have been enforced. Nevertheless the threat of it may have been effective in some cases. At Dormston in 1694 an order came from the court for sequestration of the tithes of the lay impropriator and his farmer, but the rector wrote to the apparitor to say the repairs had now been done.

The unseemly state of Bishampton chancel in 1684 (see above) was not entirely the fault of the bishop. The pavement below the altar rails was uneven through certain people having broken it up for burials and not having repaired it. This was just after the churchwardens had provided communion rails and a new carpet for the communion table. In such cases of burials in the church the executors were responsible for making good afterwards and also for paying the 'lairstall' fees.17 There are several presentments for negligence: at Broadway, Great Comberton, Peopleton, Bradley, Himbleton, Hill Croome, and Abbots Morton where Mistress Jane Tubbs had buried her husband in the chancel 'six years past and not repairing or paving the ground which lies very unseemly by the communion table'.


The repair of bells figures often in these presentments. Their importance when few had clocks or watches is shown in a presentment from Stoulton in 1684; the steeple had been burnt down in the Civil Wars and was not yet rebuilt, so for lack of bells 'no sign or notice to be given to the parishioners to come to divine service'. At Pinvin (1664) 'the greatest part of the town cannot know when to go to divine service for want of a clerk to ring the bells'. At Inkberrow in 1699 the bells had been lately cast 'and by order of the court, published by the vicar, one was to be added to the number, viz. a sixth, by subscription of gentlemen, but instead of that a diminution is made or embezzling of 400 or 500 lb. weight of the metal against the vicar's consent, to the dissatisfaction of the parishioners, chiefly because the tenor or biggest bell now is not so audible as before and, the parish being large and also the home and burying place to two others, is not useful on funerals and notice of sermons'. It was also stated in the same parish that no passing-bell was tolled when anyone was dying 'nor rung till the day of burial, whereby (besides other inconveniences) no notice is timely given the minister thereof. It seems that the custom of ringing the passing-bell had fallen into disuse in most parishes during the Interregnum, for the question is asked in the earlier articles of enquiry after 1660. Both the Evesham churches in 1663 say that they have no such custom but will see that it is done in future. In 1669, however, the churchwardens of All Saints' write: 'We have not the custom in our corporation of a passing-bell', while Kempsey (1676) says 'it is not usual with us in the country'.

There were occasional misfortunes in the casting of bells, as when Hampton churchwardens ask the registrar in December 1709 for extension of time because 'the bell-founder has cast the bell but not all things go well as it should be, so that he has begun a new mould to cast it again, and as soon as it is cast and furnished we will be sure to certify the same and shall think ourselves happy when rid of our trouble'. The same thing happened to a Badsey bell the previous year: 'We have had him cast a second time but he is not yet hanged'.18 Bishampton (1690) had a bell actually in the furnace when the bell-founder died suddenly.


Complete lists of all the requirements in answer to the articles at the visitations of October 1674 and July 1684 are found in the presentments for White Ladies Aston and Holy Cross, Pershore, respectively. Presentments in the 1660s do not show so much deficiency in church furniture as might be expected but allowance must be made for the general slackness until the inspections initiated by Bishop Blandford in 1674.

'A font of stone' was required 'with a good cover to it, standing in the ancient place in the lower part of the church'. In 1663 Bredon had no font, and that at Church Lench had been set up after having been formerly demolished 'by some disorderly persons'. Most parishes report that they have covers for their fonts. Communion rails were not provided at Bricklehampton till 1682 or at Bishampton till 1683 or at Honeybourne (as we have seen) till very much later. In the chancel there had to be 'a decent communion table with a fair carpet and with another of fine linen to place thereupon at the administration of the Lord's Supper'. No parish in this area except Honeybourne presented the lack of a fair linen cloth, but 'a carpet of silk or other decent stuff' prescribed by Canon 82 did not always meet the requirements. Bredon had none in 1663 and one was not bought till 1684, in which year Sedgeberrow reported the lack of one. Wyre had none in 1674. Bishop Thomas's primary visitation in 1684 seems to have been particular in this. White Ladies Aston had 'a very decent carpet but not of silk we think'; Bricklehampton had one that, 'although made of stuff, is decent, being far comelier than the old one, worn out, when it was whole and had been allowed for many years'. Wick provided one of fine broadcloth; Peopleton's was said to be too scanty. Elmley Castle, however, had two: one of crimson velvet, another of green. Ripple and Severn Stoke had their frontals stolen in 1693, presumably by the same thief. Inkberrow's in 1699 was 'very undecent or worn and much spattered and stained'.

'A comely and decent pulpit [. . .] to be seemly kept for the preaching of God's word' (Canon 83). Wyre in 1674 had no pulpit 'nor never had but only a reading place'. At Fladbury (1684) there was neither door nor seat to the pulpit and 'the stairs whereby the minister is to go up are undecent and of difficult ascent'. Rous Lench (1685) certify that they now have a decent canopy for the pulpit, and a door, and the steps are 'not yet full done but are now doing'. They have not yet provided a cushion because a new one and pulpit cloth have been given by Mr. Francis Rous. These two items were generally required by the visitation articles, and a number of parishes at various times report the lack of them. Mrs. Isabel Wagstaffe gave a green pulpit cloth with green fringe to Bishampton Church in 1675 to match the communion table carpet that the churchwardens had provided. Elmley Castle boasted a rich velvet cushion and cloth. The reading pew does not often feature in these presentments. In 1713 and 1716 that at Fladbury was said to be too small and in an inconvenient place, and that at Inkberrow in 1685 was removed and placed by the pulpit, being considered too far from it before. Stoulton wardens write in 1674: 'the usual place in our church where our minister readeth Common Prayer and preacheth is more fit for a pulpit than a pew or seat to read prayers in. We pray that there may be a view before trouble cometh'.

Every church had to provide a bier with a black hearsecloth. The visitations of September 1674 and of 1684 seem to have been strict about the latter.

The strong chest with three keys prescribed by Canon 84 seems to have been duly provided, except at Wyre and Pirton in May 1674. Even Honeybourne (1678) had 'a good strong chest though very little to put in it'. Sometimes there was trouble over the locks and keys. Stoulton reported none in 1689 and Inkberrow in 1699. At Sedgeberrow (1684) the locks were at the smith's 'and shall suddenly be put on the chest and the chest amended'.

The royal arms, set up anew after the Restoration, could be an expensive item. Middle Littleton (1663): 'We have got up the king's arms (which hath been a great charge)'. Eckington (1708): 'We have the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the queen's arms in fair figures and legible letters'. As late as 1752 Offenham Church had neither the Ten Commandments nor the board displaying a table of charitable gifts, which had been obligatory since 1711. A list of these had also to be deposited in the bishop's registry. Among the presentments of 1711 there are nineteen parishes from this area that had not yet put up a board. Stoulton and Abbots Morton say they have no charities, while Ripple 'have not been able to discover what they be'. The conscientious vicar of Overbury, Stephen Bradley, wrote to the registrar in October asking for an extension of time because they could not find the name of the donor of a piece of land for the repair of the church (they having enjoyed it for that end time out of mind) and wanted to do justice to this benefactor: 'I have some information of a place that is likely to afford us some ancient writing that may give us satisfaction, but cannot go to examine them till the days be longer and the roads better'.


A good example of the requirements is from Bretforton (1716): 'A good silver chalice with a cover and flagon and bread plate with a linen cloth over it, and none of them profaned that we know of. Elmley Castle possessed 'very rich plate belonging to the parish': a very large silver flagon, a silver chalice with cover, and a silver paten.19ladbury besides the other vessels mentions a silver plate for the oblations.20 Many churches besides Honeybourne were not well provided for some years after the Restoration. St. Lawrence's, Evesham, in 1663 had nothing but one silver bowl, Bredon a chalice very much out of repair and no paten 'either of silver or pewter', Bengeworth no flagon or paten as late as 1684. Neither Wickhamford nor Wyre had a flagon in 1674.21 At Church Lench there were only a handsome pewter bowl and a flagon, the chalice having been sold by an impoverished parish clerk 'in the time of the troubles'. Inkberrow at a later date sufficiently trusted their parish clerk to let him keep the vessels at his own home, though one small cup was missing. At Himbleton (1688) the vicar, Rowland Dennis, had taken the chalice to Worcester and was believed to have pawned it.22


'We have a large surplice and hood for our minister, who is a bachelor of divinity, according to his degree and he doth constantly wear it' (White Ladies Aston 1674). These were to be provided by the parish according to Canon 58. The churchwardens were also expected to keep them washed and in repair. One of the complaints of Henry Mugg of Inkberrow against the churchwarden in 1699 was that the surplice was 'not kept so mended and washed as is fitting, the said James Heming either forbidding or refusing to pay for the washing as the minister orders, four times a year'. It appears from the replies that the articles required the surplice to be large, whole, and untorn. Robert Griffiths, curate of Defford, complains in 1705 that the surplice is very old; Bishampton's (1684) is 'overworn'; Hampton's 'very much out of repair' (1718). In the early years after the Restoration most parishes had to buy surplices but in 1674 there were still some, such as Honeybourne, Bredon, and Bredons Norton, without them. Very few seem to have provided their minister with a hood or tippet, as appears from the presentments of spring 1674.


Every church had to have a large bible 'of the last translation' (of 1611); it would have been better if the articles had been more explicit since some churchwardens did not know what this meant.23 Some, however, stated that they had only a bible of earlier translation (St. Lawrence's, Evesham, 1663; Cleeve Prior 1674); at Birlingham (1679) the rector presented the churchwardens for not providing a bible of the last translation. At Abbots Morton in 1674 they had a bible in a large volume, but a Queen Elizabeth translation of 1595;24 they provided an Authorized Version, however, a few years later. At Bishampton in 1684 they say that their bible is of the old edition 'and that it is a fair one adorned with maps and that it was allowed in the late bishop's visitation and we pray that it may be continued'.

A pathetic letter to the registrar from William Pace, vicar of Bretforton (10 February 1661/2), complains that, among other trials, 'I can get no Common Prayer book but one that I have borrowed; my Common Prayer book was cut to pieces in the time of the Rebellion'.25 He would not have to wait long until a copy of the new Prayer Book would have to be provided for him by his parish, as well as one for the clerk. This latter requirement was not fulfilled in Bretforton many years later. Several other parishes also had no service book for the clerk until the general tightening up of such matters in the primary visitation of Bishop Thomas in 1684, and some very much later still. Other required books were the Canons Ecclesiastical, the Homilies, the Articles of Religion, and the Table of Degrees of Marriage. It is not surprising that the Book of Homilies, which had been abhorrent to many of the puritans and was now some hundred years out of date, was in short supply. Of surviving presentments twenty of the parishes in this area (about 30 per cent) did not possess a copy, and of these only one is recorded to have bought one. The Homilies were often bound with the Canons. In 1663 All Saints', Evesham, had neither, nor the Table of Degrees. Fifteen of the parishes covered presented not having the Canons during this period, fifteen (not the same list) had not the Articles, and seventeen not the Table of Degrees. Severn Stoke reported their Book of Canons stolen in 1693 with their communion table cloth.

Twelve parishes at different dates had no copy of the proclamation of a solemn fast for King Charles the Martyr to be read out on the Sunday before 30 January, St. Lawrence's, Evesham, saying they were unable to get one in 1674. This ceased to be a requirement in visitation articles after 1688. In the visitation of 1687 parishes were asked if they had copies of the Acts for observing 29 May (the Restoration) and 5 November (Gunpowder Treason). Such few replies as we have are in the negative. The forms of service for these three commemorations were annexed to the Prayer Book. Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Jewel's Works, and Erasmus's Paraphrases do not often feature in these presentments. Rowland Dennis of Himbleton is presented in 1688 as having taken the two latter with him to Worcester at the same time as the chalice. Bretforton made interesting provision (in Thomas Pickering's time)26 for these books to be seen and read. In 1704 the churchwardens certified that they had carried out the chancellor's order to remove the boards ('a filthy desk': visitation notes)27 fixed to the communion rails, on which were placed the books on Sundays and holy days when there was no communion: 'In their stead by the direction of our minister [we] have had a joiner who has fixed a fir-deal in the south wall and ledged for the said books to lie open and be read on the aforesaid days'.

Another book required was for recording 'strange' preachers (Canon 52). In 1663 All Saints', Evesham, had one but at St. Lawrence's 'we have no occasion for that, for few or none preach in our church', and Middle Littleton say that there have been no strange preachers in their church since their minister came.28 Every parish had to possess a parchment register for baptisms, marriages, and burials, in which the minister was to register weekly in the presence of the churchwardens. Transcripts had to be brought yearly to the bishop's registry within a month after Lady Day (Canon 70). Several parishes stated that they had only paper books (two in this area: Honey-bourne and Inkberrow). Peopleton in 1664 had no register at all. The churchwardens' accounts had to be entered in a book for that purpose. At Evesham in 1663 All Saints' kept a paper book but St. Lawrence's accounts were on rolls. Cleeve Prior (undated) reported that they had no books of accounts.


This was a very important requisite for every parish after the encroachments and spoliations of the Interregnum; there is always an article concerning them in successive visitations. Very few parishes had a complete terrier and some did not possess one as late as 1714. A copy had to be deposited at the bishop's registry. Wickhamford in 1663 say they have no terrier and ask for a commission to the churchwardens to enquire and make one accordingly. At the same visitation South Littleton say: 'The ancient terrier was made away in the late wars, as also the terrier of our church lands'. North and Middle Littleton (1674) had a terrier 'but such a one is very imperfect and, unless some means be used, great confusion in gathering of tithes, and differences between the minister and his parishioners must unavoidably follow in a few years'. Honeybourne (1678): 'There is an old terrier in the bishop's registry signed by the minister and churchwardens in Queen Elizabeth's reign, but we have no copy of it in the church chest or anywhere else, but the minister of the parish do very much desire a copy of it'. Thomas Willes, vicar of Bretforton, writes (18 February 1684/5) to the registrar's clerk: 'As for a terrier [. . .] the churchwardens would entreat you to search the office and transcribe what you can find there relating to the dues of Bretforton and send it over to me before it bears the seal of the court; the churchwardens will satisfy you for so doing and desired me they so wish in their behalf, who would by no means be liable to any contempt of the court'.

Blockley (1663): 'There is no terrier of the tenants, etc., belonging to the vicarage, only the composition which shows what was granted the vicar by the bishop (as lord of the manor), which mentions certain rents of land and several cow-pastures granted to the vicars of Blockley, which of late they have not enjoyed, but how or by whom they were alienated we cannot tell'. Such ancient compositions were easily evaded, as appears by a presentment of Richard Bedoes, curate of Defford, in 1697. The churchwarden at Honeybourne (1678) says that Lord Windsor pays a composition for enclosed glebe and privy tithes by consent of the former minister, but it is not known whether it is by licence from the ordinary. Enclosures were indeed making it very difficult to trace such glebe land and also lands given in the past for the repair of the parish church, which had been scattered in the common fields. Bredon (1674): 'There are many enclosures, to the great detriment of the church' ('of the rectory': Bredons Norton). South Littleton (1685): 'There are certain parcels of land and houses belonging to the church fabric, whereof we have no perfect terrier, and in process of time, these bounds being forgotten, they will come to be lost to the church, being scattered in several more enclosures'. Some years later, in 1704, they ask the court to order a view of the boundaries 'by some of the most ancient inhabitants and others within this diocese'. At Middle Littleton the church house with the medieval tithe barn was the property of the parish and was let. The barn was reported to be very much out of repair in May 1690 and the churchwardens asked for extra time to complete the repairs. Later in the year the minister certified that the work had been done.


At the regular visitations almost every parish has something to present concerning the churchyard. The maintenance of the boundary fences or hedges (often called by the general term 'mounds') was usually the responsibility of the parishioners who held the land adjoining. Only in two cases can I find that they were repaired at the public charge: Hill Croome (1708), and Severn Stoke (1690) where the churchwardens could not find out to whom the repairs belonged and asked for an order of the court to repair the mounds and reimburse themselves by a levy on those parishioners who owned no particular share in the repairs! At Upton Snodsbury also, in 1684, the churchwardens did not know whom to present. Cropthorne (1682): part of the church walls are in decay but 'a notice thereof hath been given to the neighbours and they promise, as soon as the weather shall serve, to fetch stone and repair them, which if any shall fail to do, the names of such persons shall be presented to this court'. This work was duly certified but there was trouble some ten years later. In spite of constant presentments the walls were in disrepair because of a dispute between Mr. Henry Smith and Mr. Edward Millington as to whose liability it was, and the churchwardens asked for an order of the court. Another parishioner, James Meyrick, had to be presented in 1690 for making a gate and causing a way to be made in the churchyard where there was formerly none.

Neglected 'mounding' resulted in nuisance by animals. At North Piddle (1693) the rector presented last year's churchwardens for not causing the churchyard to be sufficiently fenced nor presenting the parties responsible, so that there was annoyance by cattle and the graves were 'digged up by swine'. At Inkberrow in 1699 the vicar complained that through inadequate fencing the churchyard was much 'trespassed on by sheep and swine - one part only a quickset hedge they get through, and part walled so low as they leap over - where the vicar built on the wall, which is by consent and is designed for a school-house'. The churchyard at St. Andrew's, Pershore, was apparently divided, for in 1714 'the person to whom the churchyard belongs now in the possession of Thomas Phelps' was presented for allowing pigs to get into it, 'there being no fence between the place of burial and the other part thereto belonging'. Thirty years later Thomas Phelps's pigs were still routing among the graves. At Abberton (1674) Joseph Nokes was presented for defiling the churchyard by driving his cows out of his own grounds, taking them into the churchyard, and constantly milking them there. At Ripple (1681) the churchyard was said to be indecent 'by reason of the dung and rubbish that lies under the walls of the church, and cattle that pasture there'. At Evesham (1714) William Barber (Barbone?) was presented for 'keeping pigs by the churchyard, which filth runs into it, being a nuisance'.

Although the churchyard was normally the incumbent's freehold some encroachments made during the Interregnum were still maintained. At Badsey in 1663 the churchyard 'formerly belonging to the minister is detained by John Pidgeon the elder'; it subsequently passed to the Wilson family and was not recovered by the incumbent until 200 years later. At St. Lawrence's, Evesham, in 1714 Jabez Munslo had made a garden; so had Thomas Bradley at Flyford Flavell in 1709. Unauthorized tree-felling in churchyards is sometimes mentioned, as at Holy Cross, Pershore, in 1664. At Broadway (1707) John Sandford had cut down and carried away a tree in dispute between him and the church although a jury of the parishioners had 'surely determined' the tree to belong to the latter.

Who was responsible for the upkeep of the 'church way'? Mr. Walter Savage of Broadway wrote to the registrar on 10 June 1708: 'The last time I saw you at Worcester I begged at the visitation you would charge our churchwardens with the church way, which is intolerable from a stile called Harbers Stile to another called Crabtree Stile; the mending that way will be much for the public, which I would be glad to have though it will be at my cost as much as anybody's'. In June 1714, however, the churchwardens asked for orders for the overseers of the highways to put it in repair.


The upkeep was the responsibility of the minister but the churchwardens had to answer articles of enquiry at the visitations. Inkberrow (1674): 'The chancellor would not receive our presentment unless we presented the vicarage house, which we find to be in sufficient repair'. The parsonage or vicarage houses, like the churches, were subject to periodic inspections by other incumbents specially commissioned by the bishop.

At St. Lawrence's, Evesham, the minister's house had been pulled down in the wars and never repaired. As a result Dr. John Jephcott of All Saints' performed the duties at St. Lawrence's too; indeed the two parishes shared the same incumbent from this time onward. The minister's house at Middle Littleton was also ruined during the wars. Year after year it was presented as out of repair and the roof about to fall in. Ralph Norris the minister was presented by the churchwardens in 1676 for carrying away stones from the house, presumably to repair his residence in South Littleton. In 1705 (now a non-juror) he claimed he was only a curate to the dean and chapter of Christ Church and thus exempted from the charge of repairs. At Hampton it was presented in 1674 that the house reputed to be the minister's house was 'seized upon by the lord of the manor as his'; he had pulled it down, carted away the materials, and possessed the ground.29 At Elmley Castle (1711): 'our vicarage house is down'. At Earls Croome (1708) the parsonage house is said to be new built.

On leaving a parish the incumbent (or his executors) was liable for the house of residence being in a fit state of repair. At Cleeve Prior in 1717 the vicarage house and its out-buildings are presented as being very dilapidated but 'the vicar and the late incumbent's widow are upon an accommodation'. On the other hand at Stoulton the new incumbent in 1687 found the house very much out of repair and 'knows not who will repair because the relict of the last incumbent is poor'. Fladbury 1684: the house and buildings are 'some of them so far out of repair at the death of our late rector Mr. Elliott that we conceive it will cost his successor an hundred pound to make them good'.30 At the same visitation it was stated that Grafton Flyford parsonage house and outhouses were left in great disrepair by their minister's predecessor; three years later the minister is said to have done much the last two summers towards it. Crowle (1676): 'in better reparation than it hath been in the memory of any man living'; Norton (1692): the buildings are 'far better than the parson found them'. At Pinvin in 1693 Richard Bedoes, the curate, says the house would have been put in good repair before Christmas if the weather had been good, 'therefore it is no fault of mine, let who will inform against me'.31 At Severn Stoke in 1696 the churchwardens' presentment has this insertion in a neat, educated hand (perhaps that of the rector, John Cother): 'For our oath's sake we present the parsonage barn burnt down long before the minister came to it, but he hath rebuilt 5 bay upon the same foundation, but much better and higher than the ancient buildings, and hath provided some timber and other materials for the speedy rebuilding of the rest'. Evidently this did not satisfy the chancellor, for two years later a carpenter, William Tuncks, certified that Cother had employed him to rebuild his barn and that, with other men under him, he was now at work.

The court, as we have seen, kept itself well enough informed through the regular inspections to be able to reject false or lazy presentments about the state of buildings. M istakes could be made, as is alleged by John Newberry, rector of Pirton, to the registrar in a letter of 20 September 1674 delivered by a churchwarden of Defford. Newberry, one of the inspectors commissioned by the bishop, had reported with his colleague that they had found none of the places within their inspection in better order than Defford, but now the churchwarden had told him that the vicarage house at Defford was presented by the inspectors to be out of repair. Newberry could not go himself because 'confined to an attendance upon a sick person' but sent his curate Paul Whitefoot, 'a person whom I can as confidently trust as my own eyes', who assured him that the house was in as good repair as when he was there, 'only two of the windows want glazing'. There seems to have been no mistake about Himbleton ten years later. It was easier to get churchwardens to comply with the court's directions than an absentee incumbent like Rowland Dennis. 'Whereas by a late inspection' an order from the registrar stated, 'it was found that the pavement of the S. aisle was broken' (and various other defects in the church) 'and that the vicarage house is exceedingly decayed [...] it is therefore ordered by the said court that Mr. Dennis [. .] do forthwith repair the said vicarage house and that the present churchwardens do take good care for the repairs of the church in the particulars abovementioned and that they certify [. . .] by the feast of St. Michael next'. On the reverse is the certificate of the vicar and churchwardens that everything has been done except the vicarage An unsigned report four years later (January 1688) states that 'the vicarage house is in great decay, the house and glebe land set to Widow Teft and her son, the house filled with pulse, corn, and hay, the wainscot of the house pulled down and nailed upon the barn walls'.

It is fair to say that this is exceptional and to conclude that during this period the jurisdiction of the consistory court was on the whole effective in the maintenance of ecclesiastical buildings and property and that there was reasonable co-operation from the parochial officers. That there was not quite the same success in the attempt to regulate personal behaviour will be seen in the second part of this article.

  1. H.W.R.O. ref. 807 BA 2289.
  2. A complete copy of all the returns is in the Wm. Salt Library, Stafford From it the returns for Worcester Diocese have been printed in Associated Architectural Socs. Reports and Papers, xviii (1885-6), 69 - 75.
  3. H.W.R.O. ref. 736.1 BA 2875.
  4. Ibid. ref. 712 BA 3965.
  5. Ibid. ref. 713.021 BA 2777.
  6. Ibid. ref. 807 BA 2058.
  7. In a folio vellum notebook formerly in the Hurd Library at Hartleburv Castle then in the Worcs. Record Office, but now lost It was used by A. Tindal Hart in William Lloyd 1627-1717 (1952), with extensive quotations on pp. 193-5. Fortunately Mr. Paul Morgan made notes and transcriptions from it when preparing a thesis on the subscription books. A copy of his notes, with short biographies of the clergy, in in H.W.R.O. ref. 899.243 BA 2100. Other information supplied by Mr. Morgan has been very helpful in the preparation of this article.
  8. See J. A. Johnston, 'The Vale of Evesham 1702-8: the evidence from probate inventories and wills', Vale of Evesham Historical Soc. Research Papers, iv (1973), 91-2.
  9. Eleanor Potter, Seventeenth-century life in the country parish (1919) 25.
  10. Another churchwarden, John Higgins, was cited 5 Feb. 1701/2 to show cause why he should not be excommunicated for not appearing in court to exhibit a true presentment after admonition: H.W.R.O. ref. 807.093 (ii), detecta.
  11. See n. 7.
  12. Church rates had no statutory authority but were levied by ancient custom W E Tate The parish
    , 3rd edn. (1969), 93-5; Potter, Seventeenth-century life, 28, 35.
  13. W. A. Bewes, Church briefs (1896). The only places in this area that were granted briefs during
    this period, as recorded by Bewes, were Elmley Castle (1661-2) and Rous Lench (1671-2), both cases
    of damage by fire (but probably not to the church). Pershore and Evesham were granted briefs for
    church repairs in 1729-30 and 1731-2 respectively.
  14. One of the two buttresses on the N. side of the tower has an inscription to the effect that it was
    built in 1686.
  15. J. P. Shawcross, Bengeworth (1927), 41.
  16. There are Haselwood monuments in the abbey.
  17. Potter, Seventeenth-century life, 27.
  18. There are several instances in these documents of personalization of bells (in the masculine
  19. W. Lea, Church plate in the archdeaconry of Worcester (1884), listed only Georgian plate for
    Elmley Castle and this is agreed in modern works (W. A. Peplow, Church plate of the archdeaconry of
    [1968]; N. Pevsner, Worcestershire (The buildings of England, fxxxv,] 1968), 143). Yet The
    Victoria history of the county of Worcester
    , iii (1913), 345, lists a silver cup of 1633 and paten of 1635.
  20. 1674. Later given to Wyre, as was also the flagon from Fladbury.
  21. Seen. 20.
  22. The chalice, given in 1656, was augmented in this same year of 1688 according to the charities
    board in the church. Either Dennis had taken it to the silversmith for the purpose, which seems unlikely, or the churchwardens recovered it and had it enlarged at the same time: see Lea, Church plate. 79. There is also a paten of 1688: Pevsner, Worcs. 196.
  23. e.g. Redmarley d'Abitot 1662: 'of the last translation for ought we know'.
  24. Presumably a reprint of the 'Bishops' Bible' (1568) or of the 'Geneva Bible' (1560).
  25. H.W.R.O. ref. 795.02 BA 2302/5/1229; and see W. H. Shawcross, The story of our ancient
    village: or historical memorials of the parish of Bretforton
    (1890), 89. Pace had been vicar since 1632 and was buried 23 Oct. 1663: ibid. 77, 92.
  26. After 1690 he held Bretforton in plurality with Honeybourne.
  27. See n. 7.
  28. Ric. Cragg, until 1660 minister of Badsey.
  29. Perhaps Sir Edw. Dineley or one of the Martin family: see V.C.H. Worcs. ii (1906), 406.
  30. New rectory built by Wm. Lloyd, the bishop's son, in 1710 and burnt down a few years ago.
  31. Bedoes had earlier been curate of Stoulton, where Mich. Perry found the house in such a bad
    state (see p. 77).

Articles from the The Vale of Evesham Historical Society Research Papers -