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THE CHURCH REGISTERS 1

The old register book belonging to St. Nicholas' Church is an interesting document; it consists of 28 leaves of parchment with a parchment cover and contains entries of Baptism, Marriage and Burial from 1664 to 1746. The title or heading is "A REGISTER Booke for the Parish of ffeltwell St. Nicholas made in the year 1664 in which yeare the former was burnt."

On the first leaf are three Mortuaries of 10/- each. A Mortuary or Corpse-Present was originally paid to the Church in lieu of tithes or offerings which may have been forgotten and the second best animal belonging to the deceased - horse, cow, sheep, etc. - was paid to the Rector. The ancient custom of paying the Mortuary was by leading, driving or carrying the animal before the corpse at the funeral. Payment of Mortuaries in cattle was greatly resented and in Henry VIII's reign a fixed sum of money was ordered instead.

On the first leaf there is also a memorandum of a dispute with the Rector of Hockwold-cum-Wilton over three half-acres of land "butting and bounding next ye high road that leads from Feltwell to Hockwold," as to which parish they belong. It was settled that the three half-acres were situate in Feltwell to which parish all tithes and dues are to be paid.

In the Baptisms for the year 1679 two infants, Bridget and Jean, are described as "the dafters" of Edward Clarke, i.e. the daughters; the word is now obsolete. The wrath or disgust of the parson is shewn in entries of baptism of illegitimate children. Sometimes the mother is described as a base woman. e.g. "Miles the son of the base woman Elizabeth S- was baptised Januarie the first, 1674"; sometimes the infant is described as the base child or the base-born child; sometimes the name of the father or reputed father is given, e.g. "Bap. John and Mary, base born children of Mary D- the Father John W- confessed December 31, 1699." In one case of illegitimacy there is a note which says "The Father not yet publicly declared." Among the baptisms for the year 1688 is that of Amye Swanton "born July 8 about 2 in the morne, being Sunday." Possibly the parson, when making the entry, had in mind the old folk-rhyme-

But the bairn that is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and lucky and wise and gay.

There are several entries of Burial in Woollen. In the reign of Charles II it was enacted that the dead should be buried in woollen only; the reason for passing this fantastical Act being, so it was said, for the stimulating of the woollen trade in this country. The Act was rigidly enforced.

Among the entries for the year 1741 is written: "Deo Gloria. N.B. arrived an Express from Admiral Vernon of his great and happy success at Carthagena. This announcement seems to have been rather premature. It is said that a medal was struck to celebrate the -capture of Carthagena which was looked upon as a certainty but the expedition was a complete failure and the place not taken.

The following entries made in the Feltwell Church Registers may be of interest.

1671. "Mrs. Ursula, daughter of John Boreman, Esq., and Dame Ursula Cremer his wife was buried ye 12th day of Februarie at ye lowest step in ye Chancell." (Mrs. Ursula was 15 months old. The prefix "Mrs." was the correct title of unmarried women of position in those days).
1672. "John Wace, gentleman, was buried in ye Chancell of St. Marie’s at ye westend between ye seates in ye floore. 14th Februarie."
1676. "Robert Drinkmilk, a stranger found dead on ye Droveway was buried 6th Sept."
1677. "Adam, son of me John Parsley, clerk, and Mary, my wife, our first-born and especially dear, alive on 23rd, was buried 24th Nov."

This pathetic entry is in Latin. John Parsley, a native of Feltwell St. Mary, was Curate-in-charge; he married Mary Swanton of the parish of Feltwell St. Nicholas.

1695. "A Register of Marriages and Christening granted to King William for the term of five years for carrying on the war against France. To commence and be accounted from the said first day of May.

A graduated scale of taxes to help carry on the war was imposed on Marriages, Births and Burials; a Duke, for instance, upon marriage, paid a tax of 50; a Marquis 40 and so on down to the man in the street who paid 2s. 6d. Under this Act a tax was imposed on Bachelors, and Widowers.

1703 "John Bream was buryed in woollen only, July 16
1731. "Baptised William, the son of Henry Barefoot and his pretended wife, March 31."-
1733. "Buried a vagrant woman whose name we could not learn."
1739. "Buried John, the son of Great John Shinfield and Ann his wife, Oct. 23rd."
1744. "A travelling Boy found dead in the Fens was, buried, December 16."
1741. "Buried William Pooley, an old Bachelor, June ye 3rd."
1749. "Buried Elizabeth Holden, an old maid, Feb. 26
1760. "John, the son of the base woman Eliz. C- by Jno. H-, the reputed Father, was named Sept. 18th and publickly bapt. Sept. 21st."
1788. "Bapt. Henry, son of William and Betty Tuck, on Powder Plot."
1789. "Buried old Ned Hodson, 75. March 28th"
1789. "Buried old Goody Eastgate, Aug. 25th."
1790. "Buried Rebecca Carridge, Hemp-breaker's wife, Jan. 21st."
1802. "Bapt. Jane, Daughter of lame Sarah Brown, May 31st."

Richard Stephenson was Curate-in-charge at Feltwell from 1772 until his death in 1824 at the age of 81 years, a period of 52 years. He served under at least six rectors who, judging by the registers, were absentees and did little or nothing in the parish beyond drawing the stipend.

For the 100 years from 1st Jan., 1813, when ages are first given in Burial Registers, to 1st Jan., 1913 there were 2,683 burials at Feltwell; of these 224 were octogenarians, 42 nonogenarians and one a centenarian. This means that nearly 10 per cent. of the population reached the age of 80 years which speaks well for the health of the parish. On the other hand Infant Mortality at one time was appalling. For the 50 years l813 to 1863, there were 1,426 burials at Feltwell of which 289 were under 1 year and 112 between 1 and 2 years of age; in other words 28 per cent. of the burials during that period were little children under 2 years oid.

Sarah Archer, buried at Feltwell 18th Nov., 1828, was 101 years old; Robert Flatt, buried at Feltwell 14th July, 1933, was 100 years old; and Gregory Walker, buried at Feltwell, 28th May, 1947, was 101 years old.

The last marriage solemnised at St. Nicholas' Church, Feltwell, was on 3rd Nov., 1855, between Robert Kettringham and Mary Ann Bell, single persons, of Feltwell.

On 27th June, 1877, Christopher Feetham, of the Almshouses, Widower, and Rebecca Laws, widow, were married at St. Mary's Church, Feltwell. He was 81 and his bride 76 years of age.

Banns of Marriage between James Fitch and Susan Sparrow published at Feltwell St. Mary's on 18tb August, 1901, were forbidden by the father, James Fitch, senior, on the grounds of age, his son being 17 years old only.

A memorandum in the registers says: "Anno Domini 1747. There was a great Mortality among the Horned Cattle and they were Buried upon ye Heath ground. Registered by B. Dobson, Curate."

Another memorandum says-. "The Lime Trees in St. Mary's Churchyard were transplanted from Isleham, near Mildenhall, November 27th, 1750.

Inside the cover of one of the registers is written: "The Old Elm Tree having become much decayed and dangerous, it was taken down in the beginning of the year 1844 and another planted in its place. Miss Clough gave the Iron Railing which was made of the same circumference as the trunk of the old tree, namely, upwards of sixteen feet. Mattw. Parrington, curate."

The Rev. M. Parrington was curate at Feltwell from 1837 to 1847; he then moved to Chichester and shortly afterwards married Lucy Jane daughter of Dr. William Henry Roberts, Apothecary and Surgeon, who was in practice at Feltwell and lived at Rosenheath, by the Oak. Miss Clough, of Feltwell Hall, died in December, 1851, aged 71 years.

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