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A paper document of four leaves, text on seven sides, bound with other documents in a volume titled
Transcripts of political and other letters and papers, collected for Sir Francis Fane....
The leaves of the volume are through-numbered.
The original folio numbers of this document, 94-97, have been emended in a modern hand to 96-99.
The modern numbers are used here.
This document is titled "Objections to the act for incorporating the churchwardens of St Saviour's
Parish, Southwark", and consists of two parts, a complaint by certain parishioners, and the response
of the vestrymen.
These are paper copies of what were presumably parchment documents intended for submission to
See the Vestry Minutes for 1 March 1606/7.
In the manuscript, the response of the vestrymen comes first, on ff.96r-97r, and the complaint of
the parishioners follows on ff.97v-99r.
In this transcription, the complaint is presented first, then the response.
Our thanks to Professor Paul Whitfield White for drawing our attention to this document.
Abstract: Robert Horne, Bishop of Winchester, appointed in 1566 a select vestry for the parish, and prescribed certain rules, to which all the parishioners were alleged to have assented. As a consequence, thirty of them acquired the sole right to elect the churchwardens at such times as they chose. In the present documents, these officers are accused of granting leases of church property for their own benefit, wasting the parochial funds in feasts and banquets, and involving the church in dangerous lawsuits. A Bill (below) was presented in the Commons to transfer the right of electing the churchwardens to the two preaching ministers and all parishioners who were taxed at £3, and the management of the property of the church to two of the churchwardens, whom the former body should appoint and should cause to enter into a bond and to render accounts. No extraordinary payments were to be made, no leases granted and no action in reference to the property taken, without the agreement of "the major part of the multitude". The bill was objected to by the vestrymen (below) and its provisions did not become statutory. Source: VCH Surrey.
[I. The Complaint of the Parishioners]
In 32 H 8 By Acte of Parliamt The two parishes of St Margaretes and St Mary Maudlen in Southwarke were vnited and made one The Church of the monastery of St Mary Overie made the parishe Churche and called by the name of St Saviors, The parishioners enabled amongest them selves yerely to nominate and elecy 4 or 6 Church wardens. The Churche Wardens made a bodye Corporate & Capable in the Lawe, To them is graunted Landes & tenementes to the value of 20 markes per annum blonging to a frqaternitie in Sainte Margaretes and dyvers Messuages Landes and tenementes belonging to the Church Wardens of the same Saint Margarets.
The parishioners did Choose Church Wardens 18 yeres together, according to the expresse lettre and meaninge of the sayd acte, and did take the Church wardens accomptes They provided that the Revenues & profittes of the Church were carfully imployed for the common good, They prevented lavishe, & vnnecessary expense, & ministred vnto euerye man equall righte, vntill about 5o Mary Anno 1556. some of the provisiouns perceaving, that the revenues & profittes of the Churche to be increased to 300li per annum or thereaboutes, and being desyrous of the rule & swaye thereof pretended that the assembly of the multitude at the Choice of Church Wardens occasioned muche Confusion. Therewth suggestinge That yf the ellection of Church wardens and the dispencacion of the Revenues & profittes of the Churche were transferred to a selected number The Confusion would be avoyded and all other busynes better ordered.
By wch Intimation 30 Parishioners have assumed to them selves the sole auctoritie to mannage the revenues and profittes of the Church to exclude the ministers and parishioners for ever, from the eleccion the Church Wardens accomptes, & asll other busynes & priviledges belonging to them They Choose the 30 them selves 6 Churchwardens, & 4 auditors to take their accomptes of the 30. They call them selves vestrimen and maisters & gouernors of the parishe, They spende 30li per annum in ffeasting them selves and their wyves vpon the revenues of the Churche. They allowe the Church-wardens 4li a yere ffees, and their Auditors 20s. They benefitt them selves wth leasses of the Church Landes to the greater hinderaunce of the poore, They make by lawes and Constitucions against the Statutes. They yerelie loose greate sommes of money by the Receipt of tythes Clarkes wages and at the Communion table, The parishe hath loste 56li by one of their companie that ran awaye being Church-Warden 141li two Communion Cupps and a Cover that was supposed to be stolen owte of the vestrie by a vestriman, And is manie hundred poundes the worse for their eleccion and mannaging the revenues & profittes pf tje Churche but noe way advauntaged by the same. Therefore the parishioners desyer that the former Acte may be confirmed wth these alterations.
That the ministers & Subsidie men of 3· 4· or 5·li may have the eleccion of churchwardens and an ouersight in all busynes belonging to the Churche & the Revenues therof That the Churche wardens may enter into bondes to make true accomptes & doe no acte but wth consent of the ministers & Subsidie men. That all the Landes belonging to the parishe, & all other profittes may be Confirmed & established. That the Church-Wardens wth consent may purchase Landes to the value of 40li per annum, & take legacies to the value of 20li. That all the Accions of the precedent Churchwardens may be good & effectuall. That the Surplus of the Revenues may be converted to the poore. That 5li ffine or vnder may be imposed vpon them that refuse to beare the office.
That the Statute wch firste gave lyfe to the Corporacion & firste endowed yt wth Revenues and proffittes maie noe longer serve the private affeccions & passions of such as seeke their owne good but be reverently obeyed, That the eleccion of Church-Wardens may be lymitted by Statute bycause those that are Chosen by the 30· are not capable of Landes possessions nor to do anie Acte as a Corporacion, That the landes & possessions of the Churche and parishe nowe subiecte to suite by the vndue eleccion of Churchwardens & all the former accions of the precedent Church Wardens yet void in lawe maie be confirmed & made good, That tje :amdes & Revenues consecrated to the Churche & Charitable vses may be preserved from Lavishe and private expence, & be imployed to the Common good. That the Civill office of Churchwardens maie hereafter be mannaged according to lawe Custome equalitie & paritie wch for manie yeres hath been vnequally distributed to the discontent of the better sorte of parishioners & to the evill example of manie other parishes. That the Church wardens may make their accomptes before the ministers and Subsidie men wherby all meanes of Corruption to Creepe in againe may be prevented.
The maner of Eleccion of Church-Wardens by 30 vestrimen now sought to be altered hath these groundes to vpholde & defende it.
1. Obiection. The eleccion of Churchwardens was by consent of the parishioners transferd to 30.
Answere. The parishioners cannot transferre the eleccion to some, wch by the expresse lettre of a Statute is Conferd to all neither can the auctoritie be deputed to fewer but all must be actors or the most parte, And if the parishioners might consent to transfere the eleccion yet the same must be yerely & bindeth the succeeding parishioners no longer then they shall see that duly executed wch they consented vnto. The parishioners have as much power now to dissolve the eleces and reduce it to the primitive order as the former parishioners had to transferre the same. The parishioners might be induced for their ease & vpon hope of succeeding good to transferre the same to 30· But now it is founde by experience vnproffitable & inconveniente.
2. Obiection. It was established by Constitucion of the Ordinary.
Answere. The Ordinarie Cannot alter the eleccion because the Churchwardens are incorporate by Statute, & are made a Civill body & not Ecclesiasticall & they are no lenger Capable of landes or possessions nor of Capacitie in the lawe to doe any Acte as a Corporacion yf they Contynewe not such a body & so Chosen as by the Acte it was intended & established And yf the eleccion were ecclesiasticiall yet the Choyce by a seclected number is contrary to the Statute.
3. Obiection. The eleccion hath Contynewed 50 yeres peaceably & noe fault founde therwth.
Answere. Thinges lawfullie done cannot be made void to all yntentes. And this wch was altogethr void at the firste cannot be made good & strenghtn4ed by Cuastome & contynewance of tyme, The eleccion contynewed peaceably bycause the Church Wardens knewe not by what auctoritie they exercised the same. There hath been faulte found wth it before 40 yers so so longe at the least the vestry hath been termed the sharinge howse by some of their own Reporte.
4. Obiection. The Gouernment is Auncient & it is matter to tollerate some wants in magistrates then by supposing to amende them to ouerthrowe auctoritie for alteracions & Changes are daungerous.
Answere. The gouernment wch the 30 assume is derived from the Church Wardens whose office is not to be gouernors & maisters of the parishe but to be gardians & Stewardes of the Revenues of the Churche Their auctoritie extendes not to anie gouernment in the parishe for that belontes to the Lo: Maior & Justices therefore the Attributers of maisters & gouernors of the parishe are ambitious titles & appellations wch they have derogated to distinguish them selves from the equallitie of their neighbours. The antiquity they vrge dothe Consiste in the eleccion of Church Wardens, wch is not so auncient by 18 yers as the eleccion by parishioners from whom the 30· vsurped yt. The obiection therfore makes them neither maisters nor gouernors yf they were yet gouermtes & lawes may be abrogated by those that haue auctoritie for apparant benefyt, And it hath been vsuall in all common weales to make new lawes & repeale the olde to amende the evill & wth dispensations to mitigate the severe. But yf it be absolutly evell to Chaunge olde lawes Then the 30 are offendors that violated & chaunged a statute lawe & fell from the integritie and perfeccion therof to bring in ordinances & Customes of their owne inventions.
5. Obiection. There woulde be greate Confusion yf the whole parishe shoulde be electors, as by the Acte was intended.
Answere. In all ages and Countries where Civill Offices are elective the Common people & handicraftes men (thoughe they were not admitted to exercise anie Publike office yet they never were denyed voices in eleccion of Civill Officers. The examples in our owne Lande are infinite. ffor the Maiors Sheriffes Bayliffes & cheife officers throughowte the Realme are Chosen by the Inhabitantes & Cominaltie assembled excepte onely in suche places where there is power gyven by their Charter to make Lawes to the Contrary. The Knightes of the Shier and Burgesses of the parliamt are chosen by the ffreeholders, wthin moste places consiste of greater multitudes.
6. Obiection. The eleccion by 3li Subsidie men wilbe popular & invite the ruder sorte to extreame libertie to Choose such officers as are insufficient & not able to discharge the same.
Answere. The Subsidie men consiste not above 200. It is not intended that all of them shall beare offices but have voices in the eleccion of officers, and yet the meaneste of them is as sufficient as some of the 30 vestrimen amongest whom the greatest parte are never accomptantes & cheife Church Wardens, as they are termed for those are elected owte of 10· or 12· the reste in substance are noe other than electors, & doe serve onely to furnishe their assemblies att their eleccion & banquetes. The popularitie opposed againste the Subsidie men is frivolous beinge Compared wth that of the two Howses of parliamt the Convocations Common Counsells Lectos & other assemblies in Cities Boroughes and parishes in England yet yf the number be to greate yt is at the pleasure of the Howse to Contract them to 5li. And touching the obiection that like will effect the equall and the worser sorte will Choose such officers as them selves. The same may aswell be obtruded against the ffree holders of England and the Subsidie men and Cominalty of euery Citie Towne & parishe. The one consistinge of a greate multitude of Countrye men will Choose the insufficienteste and weakeste men to be Knightes of the Shier & Burgesses. The other Composed of Artificers Handicraftes Labourors &trades men will electe such Maiors Sheriffes, Baylyffes and other officers as sort wth their owne disposition.
[Instances of abuse follow]
Rochett a vestriman helde a lease of a Tenemente belonginge to the parishe at the rent of 20s per annum, wch is lett for 5li per Annum He gave the Remainder of yeres after his deathe to Gordon his kinsman who desired House a vestriman to be his frende to helpe him have his Lease renued because his vncle Rochett had gyven 4li per Annum to the parishe. House did will him to forbeare to sue for yt promising he woulde begg yt and deale well wth him, but having gotten a newe lease over his heade refuseth to lett Gordon have the same He will gaine by this 4li per Annum.
The same House holdeth by Lease of the parishe Landes a Howse wherein his daughtr dwellethe, for wch he receives 10s per annum He also holdeth fforestes howse for wch he receives 40s for Richmonds howse 40s for Powndes howse 40s for Raies Howse 58s for knightes howse 40s for Brookers howse 3li·3s·4d for Binbricks howse 3li·3s·4d for Cookes howse 44s for all wch he payeth to the Church Wardens but 32s per Annum soe he gaineth by them 20li·6s·84d
[in left margin:] House gayneth 24li·6s·8d
Garlande a vestriman hath begged a Lease of 3 Tenementes in the occupacion of Elford, wydowe Johnson & widowe Browne the rent to the Churche is but 40s but they are well worth 18li per annum, These Howses were formerly Lett to Treene a vestriman whose sonne solde the Remainder of yeres to Mr Brooker a vestriman.
The same Garland holdeth also by Lease of the Churche Landes these Tenemtes for wch he receaveth these rentes followinge ffor Crowders house
1li·13s·4d3li·6s·8d ffor Vaughans house 3li·6s·8d for Hantes howse 3li·6s·8d ffor the dice makers house that married his Sister 20s· ffor Rice Jones howse 1li·13s·4d for all wch he payeth 50s per annum for that he gaineth by these 10li per annum or thereaboutes.
[in left margin:] Garlande 26li·0s·0d
Haies a vestriman holdeth 3 tenementes by Lease wch he newe builte whate he had towardes the buildinge is not knowen, but he had 25li ffyne for the one and 30li for the other he payeth but 40s per annum and lettes them owte for 21li·9s·8d soe that he gaineth by these 19li·2s·8d and hath had 55li ffine towardes his buildinge.
[in left margin:] Haies 19li·2s·8d
Drapier a vestriman holdeth two tenemtes wch he had from Mr Trehearne a vestriman he payeth but 3li per annum, and did lett one of them for 10s a weeke alowing 3 Chalderon of seacole a yere or there aboutes for 8 yeres together and redeives nowe 12li a yere for the same howse, and 7li a yere for the other, soe that he gaineth 12li a yere.
[in left margin:] Drapier 12li·0s·0d
They do gaine and will 81li·9s·4d And the Revenues of the parishe Comes not to 80li.
[II. The Response of the Vestrymen]
Obiections against the Bill preferred into the lower howse of parliamt intituled an Acte for explanacion & inlarging an Acte of Parliament made in 32.H.8 for incorporating the Churchwardens of Saint Saviors in Southwark.
The Inhabitantes of the seuerall parishes of Scte Margarettes and Scte Mary Mawdlyn doe vse one onely motive in the sayde Acte for the vnitinge of the sayd parishes into one, videlicet That the Churche of the monastery of Scte Mary Overy was a very greate Churche, and that the same was very Costlye to be maintained in due reparacions.
In the body of the sayd Acte of 32o.H.8 was graunted amongst other thinges, That the parishioners amongst them selves yerely after their discretions should nominate & electe sixe or fower able persons to be Churchwardens.
This branch of election of 6 or 4 able persons Churchwardens to be chosen, by the parishioners, is by this newe Acte of parliament soughte to be repealed.
The surmizes or causes motive of Complainte to obtayne this newe Acte are 7.
ffirst That 30 persons parishioners being desirous of the sole rule & sway of the parishe by vndue & disorderly meanes doe vniustly assume to them selves the power & aucthoritie to choose Churchwardens to oversee the disposicion of the Churche Landes and goodes
Secondly That they distinguishe them selves from other parishioners and call them selves vestry men pretendinge that the assemblie of the multitude breedes confusion.
Thirdly That they pretendinge A selected nomber to be a greate ease and benefitt of the parishioners in generall obteyned therevpon A tolleracion of their course for some tyme vpon home & confidence they woulde execute that trust for the comon & publique good.
ffowrthly That they began by degrees in processe of tyme to call them selves Masters Governors of the parishe and to disdaine their labour shoulde be Accompted service to the Churche of God.
ffyftly That they denied thother parishioners and the Ministers of the Churche to have anie knowledge or Accompte howe the Landes & revenues of the Churche were bestowed or ymployed.
Sixtly That they benefitt them selves wth the Leasses of the Landes apperteyning to the Churche and dispende greate sommes of money vnnecessarlie and inconveniently in ffeastes and banquettes vpon the Churche stocke to the greate wastinge thereof and hinderance of the poore.
Lastly That by their vndue courses and proceedinges, the Churche Landes and stock are drawen into question, and be in daunger of suites.
First it will appeare that theis Complaintes, are both vntrue, and of them selves ydle, and wilbe proved to have their ground from malecontented spirittes conceaving them selves to be wronged that they are not allowed to be in election of Churchwardenshipp and not placed in the Churche accordinge to their pride & ambition, And owte of that discontentment doe calumpniate and slaunder the goverment of the vestrymen, Wthowte anie iuste cause whatsoever.
Vpon theis pretended allegacions theis Complaynantes exhibited their byll of Complainte into the highe Courte of Chauncery against such as had been Churchwardens and obteyned A Commission to be directed to Sr Edmond Bowyer and Sr George Ryvers knightes to examine thestate of the parishe Accomptes, but not to medle wth the Ordynance of election of Churchwardens, for the Lo: Chauncellor thought yt not fytt to ynnovate or alter the goverment nowe in vse for the choise of Churchwardens, as by his order may appeare.
The course nowe held in the affayres of the Churche, were established by Robert Byshopp of Wynchester in Anno Domini 1556 (being bothe their Ordynary and A parishioner) who appointed a sett vestree, And for goverment prescribed xxv good and godlye orders to the parishe, as by a Book thereof may appeare redy to be shewed.
Theis orders soe appointed and sett downe by the sayd Byshopp, were wth the full and whole Consent of all the parishioners accepted & ymbraced, and for theis 50 yeres have been practized and gone in vse in the sayd parishe wthowte quarrell or Contradiction, and have allso receaved the allowance and good approbacion of all the Byshopps of Wynton succeeding to this daye.
The vse for election of Church Wardens by 30 discreete persons doth stande well wth the Acte of 32.H.8 for theis indeffinite wordes (parishioners) in Common vnderstandinge, doe not strictly tye the election to the popular will of the multitude, but rather to a temporate and quiett proceedinge herein of A compotent and fytt nomber of the discreetest sorte of the parishioners.
The tyme for election of Church Wardens is by that Acte lymytted to the discreetion of the parishioners, Whereby is ment the discreetest sorte of them, and not the multitude, Whoe are allwayes factious and turbulent.
Yt cannot be proved that anie parte of the Church stock hath byn expended in ffeastes and banquettes or otherwyse then in the ordynary meetinges of the parishioners, suche meetinges as are accustomably observed in all or the most parishes of the Citie of London, as at their visitacions, gyving vpp of Churchwardens Accomptes, going in procession and suche like, at wch tymes there hath byn always wonte to be A convenient and neighbourly meetings and of noe greate Coste.
There are some of theis owte of whose spirittes this newe Acte of parliament is desyered, that vpon deniall made by the parishe to satisfye an vniuste suite by them made for A Leasse of the Churche Lands did therevpon practize to finde the Churche Lande concealed, and putt the parishe to greate expence in defence of their tytle. And therefore iin that pointe they will discover their owne treacherie, and not be able to offer the leaste tutche to the credittes of the present goverment of the parishe.
In the body of the newe Acte of parliamt is peticioned as followeth.
ffirst That it shalbe lawfull for the 2 preaching Ministers of the Churche or one of them, & for the parishioners being iijli in the Kinges bookes to assemble at the time appointed by the Canons of the Churche, and by the maior parte to nominate & electe fower or sixe able persons to be Church Wardens owte of the sayd Subsidy men.
The nomination and election of Church Wardens, being tyed to the will of the popular multitude can be neither good nor safe for the affayres of the parishe, for that euerye one will Covett to name and electe his frende whether he be an able person or not, wherein wilbe rather faction then Judgment.
In this kynde of heady and popular election of Church wardens, due order & circumstance can never be well observed as it owghte, and as it hath hetherto beene in the parishe, That is th saye euerye person elligible to be Church warden by the orders nowe in vse owghte
ffirste for antiquitie of tyme to be of eight yeres standing in the parish. Secondlie for Abilitie to be A Subsidy man, and well setled in his estate. Thirdlie for integritie to be vndetected of Cryme. Lastlye for Order to have passed throughe the Offices of Constable, Collector, and Sydeman.
This newe Acte of parliament is not desyred but by 5 or 6 discontented persons, and by some fewe drawen therevnto by their indirecte courses and vntrue suggestions, whoe therefore doe offer abuse to his Matie and the honorable howse of parliament in craving this ynnovacion in the name of the Inhabitants and parishioners of the same parishe consisting of 1400 howseholdes.
In this parishe consistinge of manie Allies and by places have byn dyvers Lewde persons whoe procure them selfes of purpose to be putt into the Subsydy to enable themselves to become common bayleis, Soe as the whole nomber of subsydy men consisting of 200 persons, whereof 112 wch is the maior parte being iinli men, yt is very probable that the election will still fall vpon the Worster sorte of people in the parishe.
Secondly That it shalbe lawfull for the persons aforesayd to appointe the Charge of the Church stock, and the receaving of the rentes and profittes of the Churche Landes to 2 of the most sufficientst of the saye 4 or 6 Church Wardens and to cause them to enter into bondes to their fellowes to the vse of the parishe to make a true Accompte to the sayd Ministers, and the Maior parte of the sayd Subsidie men.
Thirdly That the parishioners shall make noe extraordinarye paymentes, Lett no Leasses nor doe anie Acte touching the sayd Churche Landes and stock, then such as shalbe agreed vppon by the maior parte of the multitude.
Thereis noe man of abilitie and countenance but will desyer to be ioyned in Office wth his equall, and will rether refuse his election them be yoked wth base and meane comperes, Soe as then yf the better sorte refuse, and the election fall vpon the meanest or poorest sorte, whoe knoews not but that povertie havinge the meanes will ffirst respecte yt selfe, Soe that by this Acte, yf two of the 6 Churche wardens agree together and be dishoneste, the parishe may be cosoned and abused, and thother 4 Church wardens never the wiser.
ffor the matter of Accomptes yt is eassilie discerned that 4 discreete persons elected for Awditors, accordinge to the Auncient receaved order of the parishe, is farre more convenient, then to have two mens Accomptesaudited by the maior parte of 200. And in the Common Affayres of the parishe, to have nothinge done, but by the direccion of the maior parte of the multitude, will bringe interrupcion, disorder, and confusion.
Lastly That all the Landes Tenementes and hereditamentes holden by the nowe Church Wardens in the righte, and to and for the vse of the Churche, shall remaine and be to the sayd Church wardens and their Successors for ever, for the maintenaunce and reparacions of the sayd Church the officers and ornamentes of the same, And that the surplusage remaining (wth may welbe spared) shalbe ymployed for the vse of the poore of the parishe by the discrecion of the 2 preachinge mynisters and Subsydy men.
To have the Stock of the parishe made publique to the notice of the multitude, will occasion A dissembled povertye in the ydler sorte of people, and encourage ydlenes where bread may be obtained wthowte sweate, and soe consequently bringe A needles Charge vppon the parishe, to the contynuall miswastinge of the Churche stocke and revenue.