Wedmore Parish Records: Burials 1561-1860
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Original Introduction To The Wedmore Parish Registers.
by Sydenham Henry Augustus Hervey.
Vicar of Wedmore 1876-1898.
I have given some account of the state of the Wedmore Parish Registers in the preface to the printed volume of Marriages. It will there be seen that there are no very serious gaps, though a certain number of entries are sure to have been omitted. Here in this printed volume of Burials are 12,947 names, spread over exactly 300 years, viz., 1561 to 1860. That gives a yearly average of about 43. In the first 100 years are 4,638 names. In the second 100 years are 4,149. In the third are 4,160. Thus the burials are most in number during those 100 years wherein the population must have been smallest. The high rate of mortality then must have been owing to the frequent epidemics, and they to the want of cleanliness and neglect of sanitary laws. The years wherein the mortality was highest seem to have been 1597 (87 burials); 1624 (95); 1638 (110); 1639 (83); 1643 (103); 1671 (101); 1678 (90); 1680 (83); 1705 (86) ; 1706 (83); 1729 (94).
There is a reaper whose name is Death. These are they whom he took from a single parish during a space of 300 years. One naturally asks, What was the population from which he took them? The earliest account of the population of Wedmore that I know of at present is in a Presentment of Jurors, November 26th, 1650. (Lambeth MSS., Vol. xv. 471.) It is there said that "the Parish of Wedmore consisteth of about 300 families." Whether that would bring the population up to 1,000 I know not. Judging from the high rate of mortality amongst infants, one would say that the average number to a family must have been smaller then than it is now.
The next account of the population that I know of is in Collinson's History of Somerset, published in 1791. The population is there said to have greatly increased since the recent enclosure of the moors, and to have amounted to nearly 1800.
Since 1801 there has been the decennial census, showing the following results
The following table shows how long it took to complete each thousand of the 13,000 names, and in what year that thousand was completed. Column A gives the thousand; Column B gives the year in which that thousand was completed; Column C gives the number of years that it took to complete it.
It must be remembered that since 1830 the burial grounds of Theale and Blackford district Chapels have to a certain extent relieved Wedmore Churchyard. The first burial in the Theale Registers is dated October, 1828; the first in Blackford is dated March 1826.
It will be seen that the Church bells have to answer for three untimely deaths; viz. in 1728, 1796, 1843.
In February, 1651 (o.s.) is entered the burial of Roman Tutton. I see no entry of a Baptism with this name, and I wonder whether this Tutton might not have been one who clave to the old unreformed faith, and thence got a nickname which superseded the name given him by his godfathers and godmothers. I have known a man who was commonly called Baptist So and So, instead of by his proper name William; and that would be a somewhat parallel case.
There are three entries of a family named Brussell living at Mudgley, in 1594, 1595, 1597. Mudgley belonged to the Deans of Wells till 1547; it then passed into the hands of the Duke of Somerset, who was beheaded in 1552. In 1550 or thereabouts the Duke planted a colony of French and Flemish weavers at Glastonbury, who after his death were scattered abroad. One wonders whether these Brussells may have been part of that colony, called from the foreign town whence they came.
In the earlier pages one sees traces of days when surnames were not yet universal. I have gathered these traces together, and put them into an Index by themselves, Index No. 2.
One word as to the General Index of names. The idea that each name or each word must have one kind of spelling and one only, and that any other but that one is wrong, is a comparatively modern idea. It came in slowly and gradually after the invention of printing. Formerly good scholars would spell a name in two or three different ways on the very same page. So long as the letters used represented the sound to be made, they were satisfied. We have now gone into the other extreme, and there are many people who, if they see so much as a single letter different to what they would have written, are horror-struck and faint dead away. Education has a tendency to make prigs, and prigs are always being horror-struck and fainting dead away. Sometimes learned Professors write volumes on the question how Shakespeare spelt his name, whether this way or that way, whether with an a or without one. And they cannot be got to see that probably Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have been perfectly satisfied with either way So if one writes a volume to prove that he spelt it this way, and another writes a volume to prove that he spelt it that way, both may be right, because he probably did both; and just because both are right, therefore both are wrong, because each thinks the other wrong; whereas the whole point is that one way was considered as right as the other; and that is just the point which they cannot see by reason of the priggishness of their minds.
We must expect therefore to find each name spelt in several different ways, not only when the Registers were kept by illiterate men, but also when they were kept by good scholars. I have not cumbered the index with all the different forms in which a name is spelt, but have generally selected one and grouped the different entries under it. Sometimes I have given two or three different forms bracketed together: e.g. Harford, Harvey, and Harvet; Champeney and Champion. Sometimes it may have happened that two names are really the same, though they are entered separately in the Index and not bracketed together: e.g. Einon and Yonon; Rinion and Roinon; Stoverd and Stafford. Sometimes, at any rate in one case, two names have been bracketed together though really they have got nothing whatever to do with each other. I must explain why that was done. The names are Tyley and Tilley. These are not two forms of the same name, but two distinct names. The pronunciation shows that. Tilly is probably a corruption of Tilbrook as Holly is of Holbrook. I don't know what Tyley is. At any rate the two names are distinct. But a little carelessness in spelling will make the two exactly allke to the eye. I andY are interchangeable letters; L may be doubled when it should be single or singled when it should be double; and then there is no longer any difference to the eye. There is still the difference in pronunciation; but the voice of the writer has long since been silent, and you know not what he pronounced, and you have only your eye to go by. So you cannot separate the Tyleys from the Tilleys, and are obliged to put them all down under a common heading. Probably all the Tileys or Tyleys are Tyleys, but not all the Tilleys or Tylleys are Tilleys. Some of these are Tyleys.
For other observations as to how the index is made, see the Preface to the printed volume of marriages.
At the end of this volume I have given a complete list of all the Christian names to be found in it. I have added the year wherein it first occurs. I should have liked to have given the number of times that each name occurred in each century, as I did in the volume of marriages; but the labour of counting them was too tedious. The forms Christian and Julian or Jelian are always feminine, not masculine as now; France is used for both Francis and Frances, but more often for Frances. Some few of the names are now quite gone out. The result of the Reformation was gradually to drive out names taken from the Romish Calendar, and bring in names taken from the newly translated Scriptures. One may be very thankful that the custom of having several Christian names has only come in quite lately. Till the last few years country people never had more than one. If all these 13,000 had had three Christian names each, the labour and expense of printing this volume would have been greatly increased.