Review number 33 – April 2005

No wicker bottles or Taverne potte

A black and white pen drawing of a wicker bottle - rather liker a chianti bottle of the 1960's.

Bury Record Office has many 18th century bills and receipts relating to Walsham. Enthusiasts from the Research Group have been transcribing and puzzling over them for the last few years. There are transactions with the town wardens relating to a variety of matters, from medical care to bridge building. There are also the constables’ accounts, now published in booklet form. Smaller and more manageable is a set where each paper is headed ‘The Churchwardens Bill’, (not many apostrophes in those days), and they run from 1714 until 1759, with a gap from 1737 to 1750.

The office of churchwarden still exists, although it lacks the prestige it once held. During the period under consideration churchwardens were usually gentry, as in the case of Ezekiel Sparke, elected to the office repeatedly during the 1750’s. This gentleman, entitled to a coat of arms and resident at The Lawn, is buried in the south aisle of St. Mary’s.

A modern handbook for churchwardens states: “the office had already merged into legal recognition by the 13th century. Two centuries later churchwardens were chosen annually in parish meeting, all adult parishioners having a voice in the election…The churchwardens were guardians of the parochial morals”. Modern churchwardens would not presume to guard parochial morals, but both wardens are, as in early times, elected annually around Easter. On St. Mary’s ancient parish chest, now housed at the west end of the church, there are three locks, one for the parson and two for the churchwardens. Nobody knows where the keys are now.

It is difficult to separate the responsibilities of town wardens, town constables and churchwardens. For instance, in Ezekiel Sparke’s Churchwardens Bill for 1750, John Rich is paid twelve shillings, quite a considerable sum, for 12 days worke done in the Towne Lands. This, one would think, should have been dealt with by the town wardens, whereas renewing the bell ropes and washing the parson’ surplice are items annually charged to the town wardens, not to the church.

Charges found in the constables’ accounts are also frequent in the churchwardens’ papers. Typical examples are Gave to a Seaman: fower pence for 1723, or Gave to six poore seamen:1s 8d. It seems that these gifts, appearing almost every year, were not altruistic. Sailors, at the end of a voyage, travelled miles searching for work. While they were in the parish, they were the responsibility of the parish officers and according to the constables’ accounts, they were sometimes housed overnight at the ‘blewbore’. As soon as possible, they were sent on to the next parish. This ‘pass the parcel’ policy was also regularly applied to other vagrants, such as travelers, Passengers and Viserters, all paid by the churchwardens to move on.

Handouts to sailors are unexpected expenses for inland churchwardens, but paid for a prayer Booke:1s presents no surprises. These prayer books, always in the singular, were presumably for church officers, not for the congregation in general. The books were handled with some care, for only seven were bought during the whole period studied. Two other prayer books are mentioned; one in 1715 for fourteen shillings, and another in 1736 at fifteen shillings. These must have been handsome volumes displayed at services. Also bought in 1736 with the Prayer Book for the Church was an even grander book, obviously for the lectern: a new Bible costing £2. 10s.

The other expense relating to liturgy is for Communion wine. It is evident from the bills that Holy Communion was not celebrated by the parish every Sunday. From Advent in November, when the Church Year begins, the bills are for wine at Christmas, Easter and Whitsontide, (seven Sundays after Easter). For most years no other services using wine are mentioned, and this limitation to three parish communion services for the whole year seems the pattern for the Georgian church as a whole. Some indication of the number of communicants can be arrived at by the amount drunk. In most years the cost of 3 pints of wine at Cristmas is three shillings. William Greengrass, who supplied the wine in the 1750’s, was associated with the village hostelries. His wine would have been decanted into a suitable flagon, usually silver. Walsham was at this time in the Norwich diocese, and there were strict injunctions from the Bishop that no wicker bottles ‘(Similar to modern Chianti bottles) or Taverne potte be brought unto the Communion Table.

Brian Turner

Sources consulted

  1. Suffolk Record Office (Bury) FL 646/5/7/1-26
  2. Suffolk Record Office (Norwich) DN/FCBI p.24r
  3. K.M.Macmorran et al: A handbook for Churchwardens 1983

The Ancient Order of Foresters

The Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society was active in Walsham for many years. Known as Court Royal Oak No. 4195 it was established in 1863 at the Six Bells where George Catling was landlord. Later the monthly meetings were held at the Blue Boar. By 1901 there were 170 members. The names of J.S.Hockett, W.Kerridge, G.A.Clamp and F.Large appear as secretaries and T.Easlea, W.Crowfoot, W.E.Bullock and H.F.Clark as treasurers. The Court continued to exist until 1992 when it was amalgamated with another group. This account of their fete and gala appeared in “Foresters Miscellany” in October 1881.

The Annual Fete and Gala of Court Royal Oak, No. 4895, of the Ancient Order of Foresters, took place on Monday, the 4th July. At early morn many of the members were up and bestirring themselves in decorating the High Street with flags etc.. The Union Jack floated from the tower of the old and handsome church, and many other decorations were carried out. The day was all that could be desired. This gala being the only holiday in this neighbourhood during the year, it was largely attended. About one o’clock the brethren, dressed in their regalia, with seven mounted Foresters decorated with robes of the Order, and their steeds also, formed a procession, headed by the band of the West Suffolk Militia, paraded the principal streets, and visited many residences of the gentry of the town: and, in spite of the intense heat, a large quantity of people, particularly juveniles, accompanied them the whole journey. At each house where they stopped they were well received. The route was completed about three o’clock. As usual, the members had met at the Public Hall on Sunday evening, and marched to the church, headed by the band. The sermon was preached by the Rev. C.W.Jones, Vicar of Pakenham, who took for his text Matthew vi.34, and the discourse was most appropriate throughout, and was listened to with much attention by a crowded congregation. A collection was made in aid of the Suffolk General Hospital and the Foresters’ Lifeboat. The preacher dwelt much upon the good services rendered by the lifeboats, having witnessed some shipwrecks himself, and seen the good of lifeboats. The collection amounted to £3 8s 1d, which was considered good under the depressed state of things, this being an agricultural district. To return to Monday’s proceedings, a little after three o’clock the members and friends repaired to a marquee in a meadow kindly lent by Mr. H.Woods for the occasion, where a good repast awaited them. The chair was occupied by J.Martineau, Esq., who was supported by some of the principal inhabitants. After ample justice had been done to the good things that had been provided by host and hostess Carpenter, and the cloth having been removed, the customary loyal toasts were drunk, followed by the “Army, Navy, and Reserve Forces” by Dr.Gilder, who said he was the son of an old officer who was in the battle of Waterloo, and as to what had occurred since, he could not see any lack of spirit then shown. Bro. W.Baker responded for the “Executive Council and District Officers” in appropriate terms. The Secretary then responded to the toast “Court Royal Oak, No.4195, A.O.F.,” which the chairman gave in an eloquent speech. He alluded to the good done by these Societies. This Society was known through the length and breadth of the world, and numerically the strongest. He wished not only this Court, but the Order generally, hearty success.”

John Champion

What the Papers Said

Bury Free Post 8th September 1868

“The first cottagers’ fruit and vegetable show was held in a meadow adjoining the boys’ school under the auspices of Misses Martineau and Wilkinson and assisted by the Rev. Octavius Wilkinson of Hinderclay. The whole village seemed animated with one desire to make the show worthy of the place thus there was an attractive and abundant display. Among the contributors was an immense cucumber grown by Dr. Short and a dish of black outdoor grapes grown by Mr. Proctor. Mr. Jaggard’s Observatory Hive attracted a lot of admirers, as did his two supers (quite a work of art) in which he had caused the bees to form one comb into a perfect cross and another into a star. The beauty of the show was greatly enhanced by the contributions of flowers in various forms. Among them the word Welcome in scarlet geraniums on a white leaf background by Miss Martineau, a cross of pure white dahlias in a bed of scarlet geraniums by Mrs. Short and a model parterre by Mrs. Young. Among the winners was James Germany for his carrots and potatoes and George Frost for apples and cucumber. George Bird had the best collection of wild flowers gathered by children. The village brass band headed by John Stevens greatly enlivened the proceedings. On distributing the prizes the Rev. Wilkinson urged all cottagers to improve their gardens in the coming year. He remarked that the cultivation of the garden elevated the character, showed a superior mind and often betokened a well cared for home and a prospering family”.

Bury Free Press 7th March 1885

“A sad accident befell a man named James Pamment. He and his two sons were employed by a farmer Mr H. Lock to fell trees. Whilst pulling on the rope, it snapped and he fell with one leg under him causing a compound fracture. The village doctor, Dr. McNaught, set the injury.”

[This may be the Mr. Pamment who can be seen with one leg, in early photographs. James Pamment died in 1907 aged 80]

Bury Free Press 6th June 1885

“A man named Robert Bird was returning to Walsham from Elmswell with four horses and a wagon loaded with 30 coombs of maize and lentils when apparently he fell and the wagon wheels passed over the bottom half of his body. An account says that the accident happened at Long Thurlow in Shipgate Lane and that a girl named Cocksedge found him lying in the road. Dr. Square was called to scene and managed to put the poor fellow in his trap but the injuries were so great that he expired before he reached home. Robert Bird was a hard working industrious man who worked for Mr. Leatherdale at Walsham Old Hall Farm. Much sympathy was felt for his widow and nine children and at the inquest they were given 25 shillings collected from the men of the jury.”

[The widow Jane was to marry again. The 1901 census shows her living on Cranmer Green with Emmerson Read, who was a widower and father of eight children. Also living with them was Herbert Bird one of her sons who was later killed in action in the First World War.]

Bury Free Press 20th June 1885

“Accidental drowning in Walsham le Willows. At an inquest at the Six Bells into the death of Octavius John Pollard, described as a gardener aged 16, witnesses were called. Robert Sharpe, who was a butcher’s assistant, said “I went to Clapper Close Pond and saw the deceased at the bottom with his face down in 5 or 6 feet of water. I got him out but he seemed quite dead, his father had told me he was in the pond and I got there in 6 or 7 minutes.” Another witness Edward Pollard aged 10 said,”He was my brother and with George Hunt we started for the pond at 2 pm. The deceased undressed and walked in the water until it was up to his mouth but seemed to be taken off his feet and went under, he came up three times. I carried his clothes home and told my father. I suppose it took half an hour.” Doctor McNaught said,”I was brought to the scene but was unable to restore animation.” The verdict was accidental death.”

[This pond may have been the one at Hill Watering on the road to Ixworth where, in the past, many villagers learnt to swim. Octavius was often used as a name for the eighth child born in a family as indeed Octavius was.]

Bury Free Press 1st July 1885

This issue carried a report on the annual Foresters gala in the village. In the sports a boy named Daw won the under-tens 150 yards race and received a knife as a prize. A Mr. Warren who won the 100 yards flat received a half-pound of tobacco. [How times have changed.]

Bury Free Press 10th August 1885

The quarterly register’ report for Walsham stated that 16 boys and 23 girls had been born in the village. Deaths were 6 males and 11 females. The report concluded,

“the district is therefore very healthy.”

A later report stated that there had been fewer deaths this year than for many years thus the sanitary state is very satisfactory.

Bury Free Press 24th October 1885

“For the last 3 weeks the inhabitants of Walsham le Willows have been very inquisitive and many enquiries have been made as to the erection of a wooden building on the premises of Mr. Cawston next to his butcher’s shop. [now David Rolfes] The secret was only known to a few but on Monday the object of the building became known when a new coffee tavern was opened. The Band of Hope and the Blue Ribbon Army, who feel sure their efforts will be appreciated, promoted the building. The building has a front entrance with coffee bar and kitchen and a reading room at the back where newspapers and periodicals will be provided free.”

Bury Free Press 6th February 1886

“A peal bell was rung on the bells in Walsham in memory of James Weavers Sharman that consisted of 360 changes in 15 minutes by the following ringers – E.Hayward treble, A.Hayward 2nd, J.Woods 3rd, W.E.Hayward 4th and J.Wales tenor. The deceased, aged 74, had been a ringer for 52 years and took part in a peal only a few weeks ago.”

James Turner