Thursday, 10 August 2006

Old English social life as told by the parish registers

You don't have to look far to find odd items in the Internet Archive. This book includes oddities relating to births, marriages, deaths and local customs, including a reference to "the parish bull", the responsibility of the parson but very different from a papal bull.

"Among the old entries in church books, reference is occasionally made to the parish bull, a charge having been levied upon the parson for keeping a bull for the use of his parishioners. As the Rector was entitled to the tithe of calves, it was to his interest to promote increase of tithable produce.
A correspondent of Notes and Queries (sth S., x. 334), says that, 'by custom of the parish of
Quarley, Hants, the parson was bound to keep a public boar and bull for the use of the parish
This he had neglected to do, whereupon his parishioners refused to give him the tithe of milk.' A memorandum dated April, I683, at St. Nicholas', Durham, affirms that ' it is ordered that Simors Lackenby is to keep in lieu of his Entercommon ground, one sufficient Bull for the use of the City and Borough kyne, for three years next ensuing ; and to give ten shillings towards a silver plate for a Course.'
From a copy of a Court Roll of the Manor of Isleworth Syon, dated September 29, 1675 it appears that Thomas Cole surrendered four acres and one rood of customary land lying in several places in the fields of Twickenham, called the Parish Land, anciently belonging to the inhabitants of Twickenham, for keeping a bull for the common use of the inhabitants in trust for the use of the said inhabitants, for keeping and maintaining a sufficient bull for the use aforesaid."

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