A message from Anne Brooker, Churchwarden at St John the Baptist Church, Northwood.

Posted by Admin on Tuesday, 2nd October 2012, 00:42

The Life and Responsibilities of a Northwood Churchwarden in the Eighteenth Century

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The wardens were at the centre of life in the parish at this time, together with the Minister, Overseers of the Poor, the Waywardens and Church Vestry. They described themselves proudly as Yeomen in the Parish Records and included men such as Biles, Trickett, Cole and Heal.

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Their duties were many and various. The churchwardens were responsible for keeping order during services and evicting dogs from the church. The boundaries of the parish were their responsibility and stones were laid at the appropriate places.

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In 1702 the walking of the bounds reported that these stones were still laid twenty years before. The wardens, who met at the Flower Pot Public House were also responsible for the administration of the church charities namely the Mann, Smith and Cole Trusts. This usually resulted in the apprenticeship of a poor boy and could either mean in him learning a very good trade, often in London, or being used as cheap labour.

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Later in the century the wealthy of the parish (usually farmers) were obliged to take a child from the workhouse. Refusal meant the risk of a fine. Wardens paid parish expenses, raised from the rates and these included such varied items as payment for 6 Hedgehogs (2 shillings), 13 dozen sparrows heads (2 shillings), new stocks, painted and with a lock £3. 8s. 7d.

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All the parishes at this time had to keep a cannon, and in 1780 the cannon had to be taken to Newport and returned to the parish, at a cost of 10s 6d.

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Marriage then was cheaper than today, costing in total 18 shillings.

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To bury someone cost 6s 8d if they were a stranger or 3s 4d if the person was a soldier or classified as poor.

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Suicides were often not buried in the graveyard but elsewhere. If they were interred in the graveyard, it was usually on the North side of the church on a north/south axis. In 1786 the wardens claimed £22 5s 6d in expenses for “presenting William Mack, a carter, at Winton for the murder of a soldier”.

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The general repair of the church and graveyard was the responsibility of the wardens. The Church wall, windows and gate were repaired at this time. The sexton was responsible for the repair of Church linen and grave digging.

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The above gives you a taster of what the duties of a warden were three hundred years ago.

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Personally I am relieved that we are no longer required to do many of them. However, other things have taken their place and I regard it as a great honour to be following in their footsteps.

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Anne

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