Mercurius Politicus

A blog (mostly) about early modern history

Kingston parish register

I posted recently about the parish register for Much Wenlock compiled by Sir Thomas Butler, and the glimpses of his own life and of the life of the parish that it affords us. By way of follow-up, here are some snippets I came across yesterday in the parish register for Kingston in Surrey. As with Much Wenlock, every so often they provide an insight into far more than births, marriages and deaths.

First there is the walk-on part played by characters at the bottom of the social pyramid, who would otherwise be lost to history. The poor and the dispossessed continually appear in the register:

1575 February 14. A straunge woman the which followed the courte.

November 30 1578. Jhon Byrder a stranger folloinge the Court.

January 19 1593. A poore woman founde dead in a barne buryed.

17 January 1624. Wm Foster son of Wm a goer about.

I love the phrase ‘goer about’.

Parishioners could also prove objectionable. Here, for example, is the unfortunate fate of Mrs Downing, wife of the parish gravedigger:

1572 August On Tewsday being the xix day of this monthe of August [left blank] Downing wyfe to [left blank] Downinge gravemaker of this parysshe she was sett on a new cukking stolle made of a grett hythe and so browght a bowte the markett place to Temes brydge and ther had iii Duckinges over hed and eres becowse she was a common scolde and fyghter.

A later person has tried to obliterate this entry by ruling lines through it.

The register also records some lonely or violent deaths:

June 4 1593 John Akerleye wentte too bathe hymsellfe and was drownde & buryede.

24 June 1597 Christopher Atkyngson found dround in the cheker well and was bered.

June 12 1598 An Flood was found mordred at Mr Hiliers shop hous on the downs.

August 25 1598 William Hall was bered being shott by theves when he was Constabl at Coblers Hol.

June 27 1601 Jone Chapman widdow an inhabitant of Temmes Ditton killed by meanes of a Carte going over her neare Westby Temmes the 27 of June 1601 was buried the sayd 27.

This protracted note, giving permission to a parishioner to eat meat during Lent, is particularly interesting:

Kingston upon Thames.

Decimo octavo mensis Martii tricesimo tertio regni Elizabethe.

M yt ye day & yeare abovesaid I Thomas Lammyng Clerke did give licence to eate flesh to Francis Cox wyfe unto John Cox of Kingston gent being weake and sickely in the tyme of Lent & upon other dayes prohibited for eating of flesh such flesh as might be convenient for ye helth of her body & to ye best liking to her stomak in as large & ample manner & for so long tyme as I ye said Thomas Lammyng may or can grant by force and vertu of her majties lawes & statutes.

Before William Yong one of ye Churchwardens & Thomas Haward and Thomas Wartholl.

By me Thomas Lammyng Curatt of Kingston aforesaid.

And then there are the glimpses into parish life, which range from the mundane to the wonderful:

December 1569. Item in this monthe of December was the Ponde made in the Horse Market.

8 September 1572. This day in this towne was kept the Sessions of gayle Delyverye and her was hangid vj persons and seventene taken for roges and vagabonds and whyppid abowte the market place and brent in the ears.

July 11 1629. A Bird called a Cormorant light on the top of the steeple and Aaron Evans shot but mist it.

Carnivalesque 68


A New Almanack and Prognostication

For the Yeare of our

Lord God


Setting forth the great changes, mutations,

and revolutions in Early Modern Blogges

in October and November








Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll


And finally…

The next Carnivalesque, an ancient/medieval edition, will be hosted by Kaye Jones in December. In the meantime, you have just nine days to get your nominations for the best history blogging of 2010 submitted to the Cliopatria awards: