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Introduction St Nicholas Registers St Mary's Registers

On 25th March, 1754, Lord Hardwicke's Act for the prevention of Clandestine Marriages came into force, and printed register books were used for the first time. St. Nicholas and St. Mary, then separate parishes, each have a register book containing entries of marriage and banns of marriage from 1754 to 1812; during which years there were 191 marriages at St. Nicholas and 183 at St. Mary's Church. These two registers tell a sad tale of rectors who did not reside on their benefice but put in curates at a small stipend to do the work; not one of the 191 marriages at St. Nicholas was taken by the rector and only one at St. Mary's. The Rev. William King was for many years Curate-in-Charge of both parishes; he died in 1769 and was followed by the Revd, Edmund Green; then from 1772 the Revd. Richard Stephenson was Curate-in-Charge for over 45 years.

There are some interesting entries in these two registers. Banns of Marriage between Robert Lee of Ely Trinity and Sarah Newton of St. Nicholas were published for the third time on Sunday, November 9th, 1760, and a note in the register says "The woman recanted and was married to William Harrison"; the marriage took place by licence the following Saturday, November 15th. In 1787 Banns of Marriage were published between Richard Smith of Hockwold and Ann Ward of St. Nicholas, and opposite the entry in the register is written "uncoupled." On 29th September, 1755, John Murrill and Sarah Hooker, widow, were married at St. Mary's Church "by licence at the charge of the Overseer"; the witnesses of the marriage being John Smith, Overseer, and Ambrose Whiteman, Constable. In those days every. parish had to maintain its own poor; evidently the Widow Hooker was a pauper, perhaps with a family, living on the parish, and not uncommonly in these cases an Overseer would pay the marriage fee out of parish money, provide a wedding feast and even give a marriage portion to get a woman married and no longer chargeable to the parish. In this particular case it would seem that pressure was brought to bear, for not only the Overseer but the parish Constable was present to see that the marriage took place.

Some of the marriages entered in these two registers were performed by the Rev. Cyrill Clough, of Feltwell Hall, who always spells his Christian name so and signs himself as Curate of Weeting.

On 11th July, 1776, Richard Stephenson, Curate-in-Charge, was married by the Revd. Cyrill Clough, at St. Mary's Church, to Mary King, widow, of St. Mary's parish. On 15th July, 1777, Cyrill Clough, of Feltwell Hall, was married by the Revd. Richard Stephenson, at St. Mary's Church, to Mary King, spinster, of St. Mary's parish.

In the Church safe is a book of 24 leaves, with paper covers, containing entries of Baptism, Marriage and Burial for the years 1774-84 at St. Nicholas and 1772-91 at St. Mary. It appears to be a rough copy from which the registers were filled in and though the penmanship is not of the first order, it is an interesting document containing matter not to be found elsewhere. Most of the marriages are described as "by Bands"; e.g., "1773 August 19 Maried by Bands John Porter and Mary Fendike." Different grades in the social scale are shewn: Robert Clough, buried in 1777, is described as Esquire; some are described as Gent; some as Mr. or Mrs.; but the majority have no description at all. Mention is made of that unpopular Act of Parliament known as the Stamp Act of 1783 which imposed a duty of 3d. on every entry of Baptism, Marriage and Burial made in parish registers. It fell heavily on the poor and placed the Clergy in the unpleasant position of tax-gatherers; the Act was repealed in 1794. Occasionally the figures 7ber and 8ber are used for September and October, they being the 7th and 8th months of the year under the old style of reckoning when the year commenced on Lady Day, March 25th. Some of the Christian names are unusual, e.g. Pymor, Verily, Wellom, Ufley, Prissella, Hix, Thickpenny, Poole, Sharlot, Alinora. It is interesting to find that of the surnames many still exist in the parish such as; Spencer, Spink, Banham, Pryer, Gathercole, Rolf, Eyres, Porter, Vale, Rudland, Youngs and others.


1772 Novmbr. 2. Killed by the fall of a cart in Geog. Spencer's Pitt the son of Tho. Fuller, Methwold.
1782 Oct. 3. Baptized Alice daughter of Bret and Margaret Kentin the first that paid 3d. according to the New Act of Par.


1776 Oct. 17. Buried Widd Mayes
1780 Oct. I7. Buried Mary Clough. Gent.
1783 March 12. Baptized Bobt. son of Marth.
1783 July 8. Baptized Mar Daughter of that base woman Francis R . . . .
1786 No. 10. Baptized John Son of that Base woman Hannah B . . . .
1786 .No. 17. Baptized Eliz Daughter of that Base woman Mary B . . . .
1788 Another child of Ned and Ann Rolfe, 2 years old, Buried 8ber. 7.
1789 Sept 13. Buried Old Scott.

Entries and memoranda of an unusual nature are met with in old Church Registers. In the old Register belonging to Feltwell St. Mary is the following : -

"Francke ye base daughter of Mary M---- of Methwold and Robert H---- said to be the father, was brought and baptized heer October ye 13, 1674; Mr. Francke vicar of Methwold aforesaid refusing to give it Baptisme because a bastard."

The Vicar of Methwold was at fault in refusing Baptism and the mother appears to have retaliated by naming her illegitimate child after him.

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