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December 1913 - Churchwardens' Accounts

Monthly Magazine for the Parishes of S James, Badsey, with Aldington & S John Baptist, Wickhamford
Transcription of article


Churchwardens' accounts of the Parish of Badsey, with Aldington, in Worcestershire

from 1525 to 1571: Transcribed from the Original Manuscript by the late Rev. W. H. Price M. A., sometime Vicar of Badsey, and edited by E. A. Barnard, F. S. A. Hampstead: The Priory Press 2s. 6d. net.

As some of our readers are aware, Badsey possesses a treasure of rare value and of more than ordinary interest in an old volume of Churchwardens' Accounts. In 1898 a considerable portion of this volume was transcribed by the Rev. W. H. Price, a work demanding both knowledge and patience. Mr. Price's transcription of the earlier entries has now been edited by E. A. Barnard and published by Mrs. Drysdale Bowden (Mr. Price's sister) as a memorial to her brother. Mr. Barnard, whose qualifications for such a task are well-known, contributes an Introduction and Notes, in the preparation of which he has had the advantage of consulting notes made by Mr. O. G. Knapp who, with Mr. C. A. Binyon, assisted Mr. Price in the work of transcription.

The extracts now published cover one of the most, critical periods in the history of the Church in England, and also throw some light on the social life of the period to which they relate. Beginning with the middle of Henry VIII's reign then carrying on through the vicissitudes of the reigns of Edward VI and Mary to what is known as the Reformation Settlement under Elizabeth. Particularly interesting are the entries for 1550-53, when images, stone altars, rood-lofts, "Judassys" and such like were sold for what they would fetch (which, was often very little), and those for 1553-57, when all such ornaments were restored at the expense of the parish. How these various reforms and counter-reforms were received by the good folk of Badsey the Accounts do not reveal. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, however, we may assume that Badsey people were of an adaptable disposition and accepted each succeeding change with resignation if not with indifference. It may be observed (though it does not appear from this transcription, the names of the wardens for 1553-54 being unfortunately omitted) that the same gentlemen, to wit Wyllyam George and Thomas Roberdys, who in 1552-53 were busy disposing of 'yrne' and 'gyldynge' and the 'rowde lofte,' were in 1553-54 equally busy buying 'Judas taperys' and a 'sawnse bell' (probably they re-purchased the original one which had been sold for old metal) and spending money on the 'peyntynge of the rowde.'

In an Appendix containing the names of churchwardens and the more important entries from 1571 to 1600 the following entry for 1571-2 occurs:

"Item . . when the chalys was changed for a cup Receved of ouer plusse. . . 10s. 6d."

The editor notes that there are a large number of cups of this year, all of much the same pattern and ornament and apparently made from the old chalices. Archdeacon Lee found no less than 83 of them in the Archdeaconry of Worcester. It may be added that Archbishop Sandys, who was Bishop of Worcester 1559-1571, and whose eldest son, is buried at Wickhamford, is said to have been responsible for the design of these 'cups.'

The volume concludes with an Inventory of Badsey Church Goods in 1604 and two exhaustive Indexes, which considerably enhance the value of the work. The text appears to be practically free from errors other than a few misprints of no great consequence. It should scarcely be necessary, e.g., to warn readers that the bull purchased by the churchwardens in 1564-5 cost 29 shillings, not 29 pence! At the bottom of p. 46 a note is omitted which would be of little importance but for the fact that it is in the same hand as the note at the top of p. 47, and which runs, "this 6s. and 4d. is at thys acount on payed." It must have been a Badsey scribe who was responsible for these reflections on 'the men of Aunton.'

With the notes, as with the text, little fault can be found. They give just the information necessary to make the text intelligible to a person, possessed of ordinary intelligence but with no special knowledge of the subject. The editor is neither too brief not too discursive. His quotations from other Churchwardens' Accounts and similar sources are singularly apposite and to the point; e.g., if anything could possibly help the uninitiated in so intricate a problem as the 'tythyng off shepe,' it is to be found in the extract from the tithing customs of Godmanchester. The notes on such subjects as 'Church Ales,' ' Cocke Money,' and the 'gathering' of the 'yonge men' and the 'yonge mayds' throw light on one side - some would say the seamy side - of 16th century Church Finance; but it must be remembered that a considerable proportion of the funds which passed through the churchwardens' hands was applied to purposes by no means strictly ecclesiastical. We think the editor is in error with regard to the statement in note 3 on p. 11. The names, if not the date, there referred to are, in our opinion, in the same hand as a number of other notes scattered about the book, including those quoted on p. 38 (the last two of which, by the way, should be transposed) and another as late as 1707, whereas the expression 'Cum Jocunditate' looks uncommonly like part of the original. On p. 39 Siyeame' is surely a misprint for 'Siyeane.' We must also take exception to the description of Wickhamford as 'for many years united to Badsey for ecclesiastical purposes' though 'originally an independent parish.' Wickhamford is still, as it appears to have been since at least the 13th century, a distinct and separate ecclesiastical parish, with sympathies sometimes very different from those of the adjacent parish of Badsey (e.g., the Wickhamford people do not appear to have been as anxious as those of Badsey to provide their church with the Hanoverian edition of the Royal Arms), and enjoying an independence which even Ireland under Home Rule might reasonably envy. As a matter of fact Wickhamford and Badsey have not invariably been held by the same priest, nor can they ever be except by dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It remains only to say that the volume is produced in, a style worthy of the work of the transcriber And editor, the Accounts being beautifully printed with the abbreviations in the original faithfully preserved, on paper with wide margin for MS. notes, and tastefully bound in a slip-on cover of vellum enriched with a drawing of Badsey Church by Mr. Frank Gillett, the well-known black-and-white artist. Mr. Binyon has copies of the work for sale, and all who are interested in the Badsey of other days, or who would like to possess some memento of the late vicar, should secure one. We would also suggest that a copy of this publication would prove a most acceptable, Christmas gift to old parishioners who have left the neighbourhood.