Oliver House (aka 93-97 High Street), Cranleigh is a C16th Grade II listed property with Victorian alterations (although the listing describes it as C17th). My research into the property and its owners and occupiers took me all the way back to within 70 years of it being built!
Cranleigh (or Cranley as it was known until the mid 19th Century) is now said to be the largest village in England. It is located within the Weald valley approximately eight miles south of Guildford in the County of Surrey close to the border with West Sussex.
Saxon settlements in the surrounding villages of Shalford, Chilworth, Albury, Shere, Gomshall, Wotton and Abinger. Cranleigh however does not appear to have been a settlement and was not mentioned in the Doomsday book in 1086.
Cranleigh was part of Blackheath Hundred which in 1086 was held by six manors although only five were enumerated. The parish of Cranleigh fell within three of these manors: Shere Vachery, Bramley and Gomshall. What developed as the central village was part of the Manor of Shere Vachery which as held by the Bray family from 1498 with the Bray estate continuing to exist today mainly in and around the village of Shere. Some key dates in the development of Cranleigh are:
On contacting the local history society I was told “little is known about the owners/occupiers up to the nineteenth century when census and parish records are available…filling in the gaps should prove to be quite a challenge. A challenge I was more than happy to take on!
“Oliver house” is said to be so-named following the visit by Oliver Cromwell to the village in 1657 and the belief that some of his men lodged at the property (no records!) The neighbouring cottage to the west is known as Cromwell Cottage.
Whilst paper records do not appear to survive the timbers from the oldest part of the property were dendrochronology dated in 2008. The report found three precise felling dates in the winter of AD 1559/60 and that the timbers were probably sourced relatively locally and describes the property.
It was known from census returns that Oliver House was once the home of the Holden Family – a family of timber merchants whose property included a timber yard and other substantial land and renowned for building bell frames from local oak, exporting them to Australia and Russia.
Land Tax assessments provided the clue to the earlier owners. 1830 George Holden owner/occupier of house and garden; 1824 first entry for George as owner/occupier; 1821 first entry for George as occupier. Owner was “Hunt” -the only entry for “Hunt” in these assessments. 1820 the owner/occupier was a James Champion. Searching neighbouring parishes found a Richard Hunt and family in Shere who appeared to be significant land holders. The search turned to Surrey History Centre for any possible deeds between for the names Hunt and James Champion.
I found a deed dated 30th September 1820 Conveying the freehold from James Champion to Richard Hunt “of Shere, Timber Merchant”. This in turn enabled me to trace earlier deeds for the property, tracing the ownership back to the early 17th century. The first of those deeds was was a Lease and release dated 1st and 2nd June 1714 Between Arthur Foster of Bramley And James Harmes of Rudgwick. This deed detailed the ownership of Oliver House through four generations of one family spanning the 17th century from which I was able to research the family and prepare this family tree
John left a will dated 6th June 1631, proved at the 8th September 1631 at the Commissary court held at Guildford, in which he detailed only one property in Cranley (in which he lived) which bequeathed that property to his son Richard with a proviso that if Richard died without Issue the property should go to his eldest daughter Jane. All his children were in fact under the age of 21 when John died. I haven’t yet found any records for Richard but it can be inferred from the terms of his will and the information in the deed from June 1714, that Richard died leaving no surviving children and the property went to Jane then passing to Arthur Foster (snr & jnr).
The deed dealt with the rightful heir of John Smallpeece, Arthur Foster, agreeing to effect the legal papers to formalise the ownership of James Harmes who had, it appears, been the legal owner for sometime. Perhaps the original paperwork had been lost?
Although the deed of course does not name Oliver House (a name most likely adopted following alterations in the 1870/80’s) by following the trail of deeds and the evolving description in those deeds it is most likely this property is what later became known as Oliver House.
Only three months later in September 1714 James conveys the respective properties to their occupiers John Harbroe and Richard Worsfold. The property this time is described in very similar terms.
Richard Worsfold married twice having five children (four sons and one daughter) to his first wife who sadly died in 1713. It is possible he had a further three children with his second wife but it is not clear from the parish registers whether it is the same family. He died in 1764; Buried 3rd July 1764, Cranleigh; Will dated 20th April 1764; Proved Prerogative Court of Canterbury 23rd July 1764 stated
His Grandson Richard was the son of Richard seniors eldest son Thomas.
No deed or other record was found for Richard the grandson conveying the property but sometime between 1764 and 1777 he must have conveyed it to James Champion because the next deed found was a mortgage dated 18th November 1777 between James Champion of Wisborough Green, Sussex, Carpenter and his son James Champion junior of Cranleigh, Carpenter And Sarah Smith of Loxwood, Sussex, Spinster for the Sum of £100.
From 1780 to 1821 James Champion appears in Land Tax records for Cranleigh (earlier records do no survive). Researching the Champion family produced this family tree – note the dates in BOLD.
There was a Remortgage dated 18th September 1815 Between John Rapson, executor of the estate of Sarah Smith, James Champion of Cranley, Carpenter and Robert Boughton of Wonersh, Miller for the Sum of £200. The deed confirms the death of Sarah Smith and that James Champion senior died intestate in 1813 BUT James Champion (1) described as ‘senior’ in the 1777 deed died in 1798 leaving a will.
So we have three generations of James Champion ownership: James (1) (‘Senior’ in 1777 deed) died in 1798; James (2) (‘junior’ in 1777 deed) buried at Cranleigh on 22nd February 1812 age 88; James (3) party to 1815 deed.
Next was a bargain and sale dated 30th September 1820 between (1) James Champion “of Cranley, Carpenter”, (2) Robert Boughton “of Wonersh, Miller”, (3) Richard Hunt “of Shere, Timber Merchant” (4) George Potter “of Guildford, Gent, a Trustee appointed on behalf of Richard Hunt”. The deed recites the 1777 mortgage and the 1815 remortgage and the description of the property is again virtually the same. freehold was conveyed to Richard Hunt (in trust). Sum stated £250 (including the outstanding mortgage stated to be £210 7s 7p).
Although no deeds survive conveying the property to George Holden, given the name Hunt only appears in the Tax assessments for Cranleigh for one property and the dates coincide with this last deed in 1820, there is little doubt this and the series of deeds concerns Oliver House.
The ownership and occupation of the property was brought forward through the 20th century up to date using census returns, electoral registers, wills, newspapers to a name a few of the resoures.
Looking at the history of the property there is a common theme as to the occupations of is owners/occupiers. John Smallpeece was a Taylor and in 1966 No.93 once again became a Taylors shop (although more recently has been a charity shop).
The property remains on the market today being sold as commercial premises and is currently under offer. It will be interesting to see what happens with it.
There is so much more I found out about this property and its owners, but I hope this gives you a flavour of the history that can be uncovered with some forensic genealogy detective work.
Do you live in an old house and every wondered what stories it could tell you about its inhabitants and it surroundings? Do you live in a newer house and wonder what came before it? Was your house built on the footprint of an earlier one?
Ever wondered where your ancestors lived? What type of property they lived in? How did they come to live in the house they did? Who owned it before them? Does the house provide any links to your earlier ancestors?
I grew up in an old farm house, known as Weeland Farmhouse, Hensall in North Yorkshire (although I believe the name has now been changed to Hensall farmhouse) built in the early 18th century which l my parents bought when I was aged 4! Even though I was very young, I remember the small narrow staircase hidden away behind a wooden latched door in the old kitchen which I was always told had been the servants stairs to their quarters. My brother and I used to run up and down them. They never led anywhere by this time as above it was the bathroom and the old door at the top of the stairs had been blocked off by the bathroom floor. These photos are from abuot 1998.
As I child, I always imagined the house had originally been something like the old tv programme “Upstairs Downstairs” but I’m sure it wasn’t really! My parents lived there for 32 years (I lived there for 22 years) and spend all that time renovating it. Sadly the area is subject to mining subsidence which greatly devalued the property when they came to sell it (that was 13 years ago). Further modernisation has now be carried out by the current owners and the house is beyond all recognition to when I was growing up there, which in many ways I find very sad but there is no denying the property perhaps looks the best it ever has! Current images can be seen here: https://www.onthemarket.com/details/9688824/.
I must admit I left it too late to think about researching the history of the property whilst my parents owned it – at that stage I was single, no ties, working as a solicitor and only dabbling in my own family history. At the time they sold it I was also going off on a major sailing adventure – the Clipper Round the World Yacht race which changed my life forever not only did I meet my husband but for the first time ever in my then 38 years of life, I moved to live away from Yorkshire to the wooded county of Surrey! This in turn led to my change of career into professional genealogy.
There is however no wonder I have always had a fasination with old properties. Growing up in one, living through many years of its renovation had to have rubbed off on me! So when it came to buying a property in Malton, North Yorkshire, where I was working it was no suprise that I was drawn to the older properties! The first one I looked at funnily enough needed a lot of renovation! Alash however that one was just not to be – the sellers wanted too much for it in my opinion. So I bought the next best thing – a Grade II listed building which had already been renovated and modernised.
And whilst I may no longer live there, I simply can’t part with the house – I now rent it out (although sometimes I could do without all the joys and stressed that come with being a landlady of a old property!😂😍)
The property is a three storey mid terrace stone-built cottage which was once part of a Malton Manor (with the land on which it was built probably having previously being part of Old Malton Manor), part of which still exists today in the area and is still owned by the Fitzwilliam Estate.
The properrty was first listed as Grade II on the 10th June 1974 and is described along with the neighbouring property:
It is interesting that ther description begins “Probably two shops” because the front window certainly representative of the old shop style windows and my mum tells me she remembers passing by the properties when she was young on the way to the seaside and recalling them being shops! And looking at the census returns many of the occupiers in the street in the 19th century were tradesmen who may well have worked from home along with grocers and the like.
However, a map dated from 1730 shows properties along Old Maltongate
and a further map (found on the same website) with an associated “Particular of the Houses and Garths within the Burrow of New Malton” dated 1732 which lists the houses, occupiers and type of tenancy within the “Burrow” of New Malton” lists forty five occupiers of Old Maltongate of which fourteen were desribed as freeholders, suggesting my property was in existance at this time although of course, my house may have been built later that century on the site of an older property, only a deeper investigation into the estate record held at North Yorkshire County Record Office would help determine this (but living in Surrey this is proving difficult to undertake at present). The records they hold include:
Title deeds relating to Malton 1639-1945, New Malton 1568-1908, Old Malton 1710-1935;
Wills, settlements and mortgages 1828-1898;
Manorial records relating to Old Malton, New Malton manor courts 1730-1902;
Estate records including terriers valuations and surveys 1593-1870;
Rentals for Malton 1712-1902;
stewards’ and agents’ account books 1750-1924;
Malton estate accounts, vouchers and rentals 1750-1924 including Derwent Navigation accounts 1805-1855;
tenancy records 1750-1904;
building and repair records 1780-1903;
taxation records 1797-1913;
sales catalogues 1853-1953.
Enclosure records for Malton 1731-1775; Old Malton Moor, parliamentary enclosure 1790-1812;
Civil parish and borough records including rating and valuation in Old and New Malton 1822-1849;
Of course a lot of the history of the propery and its occupiers for the last 200 years can be established from census returns, electoral registers and the lovely pack of deeds I hold!
Abstract of Title from 1974
The Deed dated 1st January 1926 is a deed entered into between, on the one part “The Most Honourable Lawrence Marquis of Zetland and Sir Edward Wallis Duncan Ward Baronet G.B.E, H.C.B, K.C.V.C., of No.5 Wilbraham Place Sloane Street Chelsea late a Colonel in His Majesty’s Army” (“the trustees”) and on the other part, “The Right Honourable William Charles De Meuron Earl Fitzwilliam” (“Lord Fitzwilliam”).
What we learn from this deed is that at the time it was entered into, the property was settled land, settled “by the Will of the Right Honourable William Thomas Spencer Earl Fitzwilliam dated 2nd October 1895 except…….subsisting limitations of the settlement made by the said Will of the Right Honourable William Thomas Spencer Earl Fitzwilliam’s English and Irish Settled Estates” and that the property included in the deed (in England and Wales)“was vested in Lord Fitzwilliam as to freeholds in fee simple”. The deed also gave Lord Fitzwilliam the power to appoint new trustees.
So, we already have details of four individuals which are of genealogical importance. Firstly, the names, status (inc. previous occupation leading to army records) and addresses for the two trustees. Secondly, the full names and status of the two Fitzwilliam men and that Earl Fitzwilliam had property in England and Ireland. What it does not tell us is the family connection between Earl and Lord Fitzwilliam, one would assume they were father and son, but not necessarily, the terms of the settlement set out in the Will would need to be checked although other genealogical records, such as birth records and census records, could provide the necessary information. Unfortunately, there is no copy of the Will attached to the papers. We do know that the Will was dated 2nd October 1895 and therefore that Earl Fitzwilliam died sometime between 1895 and the making of the deed in 1926.
The next entry is dated 11th September 1928 “The said SIR EDWARD WILLIS DUNCAN WARD died on this day in Paris”. This information is ‘gold’ to the genealogist, not only does it give us the day this man died but where. This is invaluable when trying to search for his death record, particularly because when I searched for him on the Ancestry website there is no death record for him, although there are two records of his burial, one is a link from the Find a Grave website which stated he died in England, the other is a record of his burial which only provides his date of burial. Research in France may be required to find his record of death.
The next entry is the appointment of a new trustee on the 23rd November 1928, “CHARLES TULIN HENNAH of Richmond Yorkshire late a Colonel in His Majesty’s Army” so this again provides some genealogical information for this man – name, status and where he was from.
The next entry is dated 11th March 1929 “The said Lawrence Marquis of Zetland died on this day at Aske Richmond, Yorkshire” so again we have a date of death and place of death which will help to find or corroborate any death record, probate record and burial record.
The next entry is the appointment of another new trustee on the 20 March 1929, “SIR EDWARD SIMONS WARD Baronet of Berkley House Hay Hill London”. More genealogically invaluable information – name, status and address. Note the surname, Ward, and his location, London, it is likely this is a relative of the first trustee who died in 1928 (above). Further research, civil registration, census records, probate records etc, would confirm this.
The next entry is another death, this time of the recently appointed trustee, Sir Edward Simons Ward, on 21st July 1930 and again it provide his place of death “died at Meopham in the County of Kent”, perhaps he had other property in Kent where he was staying when he died? Or a relation? Another address to research for this man.
Interestingly after his death they appoint two trustees in his place on 1st August 1930 “JOHN NESTON DIGGLE D.S.O. of Wentworth in the County of York a Lieutenant Colonel in His Majesty’s Army and WADHAM HEATHCOTE DIGGLE D.S.O. of Eden House Malton in the County of York a Lieutenant Colonel (Retired)”. These two new trustees are no doubt related but further research (civil registration, army records etc) would confirm this. Given the second is retired, I suspect they are father and son but of course the further research would confirm their relationship. Their addresses would help the further research or confirm any research already conducted.
The next entry is interesting as it is a Resettlement by Supplemental Deed dated 19th April 1933, and is essentially a marriage settlement, whereby Lord Fitzwilliam, with the agreement of the trustees, settles part of the estate to “The Right Honourable William Henry Lawrence Peter Viscount Milton the son of Lord Fitzwilliam of the second part Olive Dorothea Plunkett of the third part….(being a Resettlement made on the intended marriage of the said Viscount Milton and the said Olive Dorothea Plunkett)”.
So, we now have information about the next generation of the Fitzwilliam family, Lord Fitzwilliam’s son, along with the name of his intended wife and starting date after which details of their marriage should be searched for.
Within the deed of resettlement there is also mention of a Deed of Disentail entered into on 27th December 1932 between Lord Fitzwilliam and Viscount Milton and Ralph Frederick Pawsey but there are no other details. This would suggest that Viscount Milton and Ralph Pawsey had a future interest in whatever property was the subject of that Deed which they have gave up. Ralph Pawsey is appointed a joint executor of the Will of Lord Fitzwilliam (1st August 1930) along with “The Right Honourable George Richard Baron Bingley….and Dermot Henry Doyne”. Unfortunately, no other information is provided for these three men at this stage so whilst this is a record of their existence there may be little genealogical value without further research.
Of further interest is the next entry dated 11th October 1933 in which Lord Fitzwilliam sells the settled land he had retained to his company “EARL FITZWILLIAM’S MALTON ESTATE COMPANY” in the sum of £349,998 by way of shares.
Lord Fitzwilliam then dies on 15th February 1943 and his Will and a Codicil dated 23rd August 1931 (which is mentioned in the Abstract but with no details) were proved in the Principal Probate Registry by “The Right Honourable George Richard Baron Bingley and Ralph Frederick Pawsey the survivors of the Executors”. So, we know where to where the Will was proved and when which will help in obtaining a copy. The Will is likely to be of important genealogical value, providing details of family members and relationships.
George Richard Baron Bingley then dies on 11th December 1947, no place of death is provided but these details would help trace or confirm his death. There is then a Deed of Appointment dated 5th April 1948, in which Ralph Pawsey, the remaining executor, appoints new trustees (there are no details of the deaths of the previous trustees or their retirement of appointment) including himself, “HUGH MYDDLETON PEACOCK of The Ferry Peterborough in the County of Northampton Esquire and ARTHUR RALPH KEEPING of Barnsley in the County of York Solicitor”. Again, this provides names, status and addresses/locations, all details which are vital to genealogists in tracing ancestors.
We next find out that Ralph Pawsey “died at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London” on 18th August 1953, further important information if he was an ancestor. Also regarding his death with have documented the proving of his Will on 7th December 1953 in the District Probate Registry at Wakefield (helpful information for obtaining a copy of his Will) with probate being granted to “Thomas Arthur Pawsey and Arthur Ralph Keeping both of Barnsley Yorkshire Solicitors”. This information is interesting as it is likely that Thomas is the son of Ralph and we know he was living in Barnsley so again great information for him if he was an ancestor, as too is the fact he was a solicitor working with Arthur, a trustee appointed in 1948 (above). This gives a lead into occupational records of solicitors.
Epitome of Title 1980
This is an Epitome of Title relating to 36, 38, 40, 42 and 44 Old Maltongate, Malton. This is a row of terraced cottages. In addition to the Abstract of Title from 1974, this Epitome includes:
Deed of Exchange dated 15 March 1968;
Conveyance dated 14 February 1975;
Conveyance dated 28 November 1979
The Deed of Exchange was entered into between Milton (Peterborough) Estates Company and the Earl Fitzwilliam’s Malton Estate Company to exchange land between the two estate companies, it does not name any individuals and there appears on the face of the deed to be no obvious relationship between the two companies or the individuals/families behind them. However, when we look at the signatures of the Directors for the two companies on the last page of the deed, the director of both companies is the same, it is very clearly the same signature. Reading some of the history about the Fitzwilliam Estate on their website, we learn that “Fitzwilliam Malton Estate (FME) is the trading name used by Milton (Peterborough) Estates Company for the company’s interests in Malton. Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland, grandson of the last Earl Fitzwilliam, and his son and heir, Tom Naylor-Leyland, look after the interests of this company” so the genealogist would be well advised to conduct research into the Milton (Peterborough) Estates Company. The deed does provide the company’s address to help with such research.
From local knowledge, previous research I have carried out and from the Fitzwilliam Estate website I know that in 1948 William Henry Lawrence Peter Viscount Milton (also known as Peter Wentworth Fitzwilliam, the 8th Earl) died without a male heir, so the Estate was divided up to represent the interests of different parts of the family; and that the “Fitzwilliam Malton Estate is the freehold owner of much of the commercial heart of Malton and represents the family interests of Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland who, with his son Tom, is taking his family’s work for Malton into its fourth century”.
The Conveyance dated 19 February 1975 is between “Milton (Peterborough) Estates Company…(herein after called ‘the Vendor’) of the first part HUGH MYDDLETON PEACOCK of…. And ARTHUR RALPH KEEPING of…. (hereinafter called ‘the Trustees’) of the second part and RYEDALE DISTRICT COUNCIL of…”. This is the sale of the premises of 36 to 44 Old Maltongate to the local Council thus the property is no longer subject to the trust, the sum paid by the Council (£8,500) would vest in the trust in its place. In the circumstances this conveyance is of little genealogical value save in researching the history of the various properties rather than individuals.
The Council then sells the properties to Broadmanor Limited on 28 November 1979 for the sum of £11,000. Again the genealogical value here is in the history of the properties rather than individuals.
Conveyance and Mortgage Deed dated 1 July 1980
This is the first document relating solely to my property, number 38. It is the sale of the property by Broadmanor Limited to Lindsay Charnock and Gloria Charnock. Both documents provide the current address for the Charnock’s and the Mortgage deed confirms that Gloria Charnock is the wife of Lindsay. The property itself is also now known as “Lilac Cottage”.
Both documents contain the signatures of Mr and Mrs Charnock. Their signatures are witnessed by Malcolm A. Foggin Solicitors Clerk of 123 Welham Road, Norton, Malton. One may be mistaken in thinking this is the address of the solicitors he works for; however, I know this is his home address. I mention this because of my personal interest, in that I worked with Malcolm Foggin from 2005 until his retirement in 2008 and I know he spent his entire career working for the same firm of solicitors. No other information of genealogical value is provided.
Legal Charge dated 23 April 1987
This is of genealogical value to the extent that it is a further mortgage between Cedar Holdings Limited and Mr and Mrs Charnock and confirms they are still living at the address.
Conveyance dated 1st July 1988
Mr and Mrs Charnock sold the property on the 1st July 1988 to Clive Howard Thompson and Joanne Mary Burkill and their previous address is given. Their relationship status is not provided but the previous address for them both is the same, suggesting they are most likely an unmarried couple
Abstract of Title 1991
This 1991 abstract begins with the conveyance and mortgage from the purchase by Mr and Mrs Charnock from 1980. There is then further reference and further documents relating to the further mortgage they took out in 1987. A copy of the Credit Agreement itself is attached which provides further information on their names, in so far as we learn Mrs Charnock’s first names are Gloria Selina. This could be of vital importance to a genealogist in distinguishing between two people who may otherwise have the same name. We also learn from the agreement that their neighbour at number 40 is Marie Lockerbie, she has witnessed their signatures on the agreement.
We then have copy of the conveyance from 1988 (above) and a copy of the mortgage deed entered into by Clive Howard Thompson and Joanne Mary Burkill in 1988, which provide no extra information.
We then find my suggestion that Mr Thompson and Ms Burkill were an unmarried couple confirmed with a copy of their marriage certificate dated 1st July 1989. This if of course a vital piece of information for the genealogist, providing their ages, occupations, residence at the time of their marriage which interestingly is not given as 38 Old Maltongate which they had bought the year before. The certificate provides separate addressed for them both prior to marriage, Mr Thompson’s address being their previous address as given in the conveyance from 1988 and Ms Burkill’s a completely new address. Perhaps this is her parent’s address? Their father’s names and occupations are also provided.
The next document is then a further legal charge this time in their joint married names dated 2nd March 1990 which confirms they still live at the property.
Conveyance dated 8th July 1991
This is the sale of the property by Mr and Mrs Thompson to Mr and Mrs Bowes. With this conveyance (an abstract of title above) the property is registered at the Land Registry. The conveyance provides the names of all parties and their respective addresses prior to completion of the sale. No other information of genealogical value is provided.
Registered Land Documents
Following the property being registered, the records are minimal providing little in the way of genealogical value save for someone researching the history of the property and wanting to know who lived there. The ‘Official copy of the Register Entries’ provide the name(s) of the owners and information relating to the property itself with only one other owner between Mr and Mrs Bowes and myself.
There is of course so much more to research and learn about the property and its role in the local and social history of Malton and hopefully one day I will complete a full house history it (before I sell it).
WHilst I may not be able to research my own property at the moment for geographical reasons all this did spark my interest in house history to which I am now bringing my professional knowledge and skills to. A house history is far more than just the bricks and morter, it is the people, their families, their occupations and their lives along with the social and local history background whch makes up a complete house history (which as ever is all subject to the survival of records).
If you would like your house/property or an ancestors house/property resaerching, being is a house, pub, work place or other building, then pleae contact me to discuss further email@example.com or go to my contact page to book a zoom or telephone call.
Early baptism registers can vary significantly in the information provided. The usual form only records the name of the baptised and the date of baptism, but simpler forms do exist for example:
“1588 June 9th The childe of a poore vagrant woman bapt”
((Broughton-under-Blean) Bradbrook, W, The Parish Register, 1910, page 26)
“1556 Jan 27th A child of Robert Welshe bapt”
((Bruton) Bradbrook, W, The Parish Register, 1910, page 26)
Later registers are more likely to include the name of the father (and even later the mother) and the sex of the child for example:
“John Deene the sune of Henere Deene bap September 27 (1687)”
(Shere, St James, Surrey, England, Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: SHER/1/1 available on Ancestry.co.uk, Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812)
“[born] Feb 11 Charles Son of Mattheas and Sarah Williams March 11 [baptised]”
(St George, Bloomsbury, Camden, Middlesex, England; London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: P82/GEO1/003 available on Ancestry.co.uk, London, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812)
In the 16th Century ‘sponsors’ or god parents were sometimes included in the baptism register and in fact in 1555 Carinal Pole ordered that ‘sponsors’ were to be included in every baptism entry however this was infrequently obeyed and thus disregarded after only a few years.
During these early years, because the book/register was to be completed on a Sunday, it is not difficult to understand how some incumbents may have forgotten names leaving blanks, or forgot an event completely thus there may be missing entries.
Over the years, often due to the need to be able to distinguish individuals with the same name, the occupation of the father or residence of the parents may be provided. There are also rare examples of baptism entries mentioning three generations of a family such as
“1640. Jan 5th. John S. of Jo. Hutcheson wch was ye sonne of Richard Hutcheson & Elizab. his wife
((Bishop Middleham) Bradbrook, W, The Parish Register, 1910, page 28)
The baptism register will also record if a child was “half baptised” or “privately baptised”. This often occurred where midwives were permitted to baptise babies at risk of dying before a clergyman was available. Such baptisms occasionally include mistakes as to the sex of the child where the child was baptised in haste following the birth for fear of its imminent death. For this reason, many such baptisms do not include the name of the child but refer to the child as “Creatura Christi”, essentially meaning “child of god”.
It was also the case that during the civil war period, many children were not baptised and the baptism registers are therefore full of adult baptisms in the years following 1660.
Following the Act for Tax on Marriages, Births and Burials 1694, because paupers were exempt from paying a fee, there was a noticeable increase in the baptism registers of paupers being baptised. However, there were also many children not registered or baptised as many parents wished to avoid paying the required fee, hence the reason for the further enforcement in 1696 for the registration of births.
It may be that there was an increase in baptisms following the end of the imposition of these taxes with the baptism of those children whose parents had wished to avoid paying the 2s fee.
There would usually be some comment in the baptism register if the child was illegitimate with descriptions such as ‘base-born’, ‘illegitimate’ and ‘bastard’. It was more common to find the mothers name than a father’s name in these circumstances although sometimes the fathers name may be included or may be included discreetly, in that the fathers name may be used as a middle name for the child.
If there was anything unusual about the baptism, the incumbent may include those details in the baptism register, for example where there was choir present at the ceremony
“May 26 Baptized Mrs Alice, daughter of Sir Robt. Eatan, Secretary to King Charles I. The Quire attended: the boys had £3, 16s. 8d”
(Cox, J. C., The Parish Registers of England, 1910, page 47)
or where noble men stood as ‘sponsors’ for a ‘commoners’ son “1638 May 12. John, sonne of Edwarde and Cisley Davies, of Albrighton, sawier, was baptized the 12th of May, being Whitsunday even. Sir John Corbett Knight barronett, and his kinsman Mr Thomas Riton coming from London accidentally being ye two godfathers who desired to doe good unto a poore man and so baptized his childe”
(Cox, J. C., The Parish Registers of England, 1910, page 55)
Are parish registers found in some parishes across North Yorkshire, East Lancashire and Durham from around 1765 to 1837 developed by William Dade, a Yorkshire Curate. The Archbishop of York ordered that they should be used across his diocese from 1777.
There were no universal changes to baptism or burial registers during this period however from about 1765 Dade Registers, as they became known, began to be used in some parishes in the northern counties of East Lancashire, North Yorkshire and Durham. These were the result of a growing recognition that parish register entries were inadequate and William Dade began more comprehensive parish registers for baptisms and births. Baptism registers included:
• Date of birth
• Date of baptism
• Position of the child in the family
• Occupation of father
• Place of origin of father and mother
• Often details of the grandfather (provide details of three generations)
Thus such registers record more information than other registers of the period. In particular baptism registers can be full of genealogical information such as mother’s maiden name in baptism registers; parentage of both the father and mother of the child being baptised (thus providing details of three generations of the family) along with their occupations, place of birth or residence; the child’s date of birth as well as the date of baptism; the position of the child in the family.
A burial entry often may record an age; cause of death; occupation; information on parentage of children; for a married woman, the name of her husband may be given.
The use of such registers however was somewhat haphazard and many clergymen, particularly in more populated areas, resented the extra work involved in making these lengthy entries. The thought of duplicating them for the Bishop’s Transcripts put many of them off and some refused to follow the new rule, so when the Archbishop indicated there was no punishment for vicars who failed to comply the scheme began to flounder.
The next significant change to parish registers came in 1812 when Rose’s Act was introduced. From 1813 separate parish registers where to be printed and bound in a standard form for baptisms, marriages and burials. Of course separate marriage registers were already in existence and the Act concentrated on baptism and burial registers.
Bishops’ transcripts continued, with the Act ordering that copies of the entries be sent to the registrars of each diocese each year with existing ‘old style’ parish registers to be sent to the Bishop of each diocese.
Rose’s original proposals were more detailed than the final Act which was ‘watered down’ by “the more conservative elements of Parliament”. Rose had included allowing non-conformists to send their registers to clergymen.
The Act was badly drafted, particularly in relation to penalties for those making false entries or altering or damaging or destroying registers. The Act states that anyone who informed of such acts should receive half of the fine or penalty imposed (with the poor of the parish or other charitable purpose as the Bishop chose, receiving the other half), yet the Act did not provide for any fine being imposed, the only penalty was fourteen years transportation!
Because the registers were now in standard form providing sections for the information required, there was little or no space for extra information which may previously have been found in parish registers (as discussed earlier). However the standard form has the advantage that in many parishes more information (particularly that which is of use to the genealogist) had to be provided than had previously been the case.
Baptism registers were now set out in columns, with a column for each of the following:
Forename of Child
Forename and surname of parents
Where the family lived (usually only the village in rural areas whereas the street name may be provided in a town)
Occupation of the father
Name of the officiating clergy
Dates of birth were sometimes entered by the most diligent incumbents and particularly if there were multiple baptisms in a family simultaneously to show that the children were of different ages, or possibly to show they were the same age and thus twins.
An illegitimate child’s baptism record most often only includes the name of the mother, but may include the name of the alleged father.
Parish registers did not ‘die out’ with the introduction of civil registration in 1836, and Rose-style registers are still used today for baptism and burial registers although are no longer the “official” records of a person’s existence, those now being the birth and death records introduced by the General Registration Act 1836 and maintained by the Registrar General. Baptism and burial records have therefore largely remained unchanged since 1812.
As a consequence of this, Bishops Transcripts ceased with the introduction of civil registration, in that clergy were no longer required to send copies of parish records to the bishop of the diocese, although some did continue until into the 20th century.
Where are parish registers now? Under the Parochial Register and Records Act 1978 (which came into force in 1979) clergy were encouraged to transfer their parish registers to the county records office for safe storage. Where clergy did not wish to do so, strict conditions were set for their safe storage.
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