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Tasters of the 'Remembering the Parish' Symposium on 7 November 2020


Click here for full documentation of Symposium proceedings

While the pandemic forced us to postpone the 18th Warwick Symposium on Parish Research and turn it into a webinar, some participants kindly offered teasers of research due to be presented on the day. From 15-24 May 2020, around the originally planned meeting date, My-Parish published these contributions in daily instalments and they all now appear below (with many thanks to the authors).

Hannah Reeve (Newcastle)

Boozy antics & chicken's heads: tracking perambulation into the eighteenth century


Perambulation - or “boundary beating” - was the traditional manner in which parish boundaries were maintained. The old and the young of the parish would gather, and the group – usually led by the rector or parish officers – would proceed to walk the boundaries of the parish. At certain points along the walk, it was customary for bread and ale to be distributed, and parishioners would be ordered to take notice that they were within a certain parish’s boundaries. For the last year or so, I’ve been looking at the progression of perambulation into the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. While not strictly necessary, I couldn’t resist recreating one of the perambulation routes I’d come across around the city of York. For the most part, it was lots of lovely open fields and riverside views along the Ouse:

Picture Hanah Reeve

However, when I finally found the boundary stone I’d been looking for, you can imagine my bemusement when it actually turned out to be in the car park of a supermarket. What struck me most about this experience was not the frustration at being unable to photograph it without the Aldi or Iceland sign in the background, but the commemorative plaque which stood next to it: remembering these stones as “marking boundaries, battlegrounds and meeting places for preaching, proclamation and religious processions”. Whilst all these things are true, it didn’t seem to do justice to the boozy antics and mischief which occurred here as part of perambulation celebrations. No mention is made of the buns, booze or ham served, or the chicken’s head which once hung at the top of the post to denote the stone as being within the parish’s boundaries. My paper in November will resurrect some of the fun that was had at the boundaries, particularly in understanding why perambulation survived into the eighteenth century and the memories created to forge a collective parish identity.


Joe Chick (Warwick)

Belfries, wills and parish politics


The origins of the belfry of St John’s church Cirencester, still standing today, demonstrate how remembering the parish could act as an expression of political will. The construction of the belfry was beyond the scope of a single parishioner and saw numerous contributions across a twelve-year period. Work began in 1402, when a certain John Cosyn left 40 s. in his will for the construction of a belfry, with many other testators bequeathing money up to its completion in 1414. These testators registered their wills with the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, thereby representing the wealthier inhabitants of Cirencester who had interests beyond parish life.

St John's church in Cirencester. Wikimedia commons.

The reason for such commitment to seeing through Cosyn’s plans for a belfry was that it was about more than remembering the parish. The project was undertaken at a time when the leading inhabitants of Cirencester were asserting their independence from their monastic lord. In 1385 the abbot had been attacked during a town rising and in 1403 the town successfully secured a charter granting a merchant guild. A decade later, the organisation was abolished and abbey powers reasserted, but the belfry remained as a reminder of a hopes of one generation of Cirencester’s inhabitants.


Alexander Hutton (King’s College, London)

HMS Rutland


The entirely landlocked county of Rutland is not known for its naval prowess. And yet in July 1960 its flagship, the HMS Rutland, managed to launch a surprise attack on the county’s arch-rivals, firing a broadside at the Leicester County Halls. Throughout the summer, the ship was sighted mounted on the back of a lorry, at the County Agricultural Show and elsewhere, firing broadsides of fireworks “at all those who sought to put an end to the county”.

Under the slogan ‘Rutland Fights for Minority Rights’, local enthusiasts, supported by parish and county councillors and local elites, launched a campaign directed against the government’s proposed reforms to county boundaries and structures, which would see Rutland and other small counties merged with larger ones.


Rutland’s campaign was a careful blend of the archaic and modern: presenting the county as an archaic symbol of English rural life threatened by the encroachment of modernity –W.G. Hoskins’ 1963 County Shell Guide advocated turning it into ‘England’s first Human Conservancy’ area. And yet the whole campaign was very carefully stage-managed by hired PR representatives to create the maximum national impact through letter-writing campaigns and plebiscites and similar spectacles, consciously using wartime tropes of aggression against smaller nations.

Behind the scenes over the space of several years there was a persistent lobbying campaign of government ministers which came to a head in the summer of 1963 at the height of the Profumo Affair when it appeared that Macmillan’s government would fall. The decision to reverse the decision and to allow Rutland’s continued existence defied all economic rationale, undermining the entire local government reform process.

The ‘David and Goliath’ case of Rutland versus the government demonstrated that even in the fiercely-loyal Tory ‘shires’ local resistance was still possible – even if it meant that Rutland continued to have some of the worst local service provision in England. And yet the sense of county identity fluctuated dramatically and relied on concerted leadership and orchestration. Whilst in the early 1960s the County was up in arms, less than ten years later the government succeeded in abolishing the county with only the slightest hint of protest. The local MP had been placated and local leaders, several of whom had died or moved away, no longer had the stomach to fight. It would take a further twenty years of local activism, to the point of waging a guerrilla war vandalising Leicestershire signs, erecting border posts, and issuing fake passports to again secure the county’s independence.



Maria Tauber (Warwick)

Parish problems

Parish life in a face-to-face society, where one’s private life and official roles overlapped, could prove difficult. John Fisher, a parishioner of St Mary and local official, made sure his efforts would be remembered accordingly. Dedicated to the town, but equally self-obsessed, Fisher, who served as bailiff at the time, described the following event in The Book of John Fisher.*

On a market day in November 1580, Richard Donghill the younger, for no apparent reason, struck a fellow parishioner and gave him a bloody face. Brought before the bailiff the next Monday, it was settled that he should be sent to gaol. However, scenes of humbleness and forgiveness followed, and all parties agreed to give Donghill a second chance. To make sure he would ‘never again trowble the towne’, suggestions were made that he should be sent to London.


David Stowell / Church Street and St Mary's / CC BY-SA 2.0

Two nights later at ten o’clock, Fisher, who was lying in bed sick, could hear Donghill and another parishioner quarrel in the streets, when suddenly, the drunk Donghill, shouting indecent words to Fisher’s wife and servants, came into his house in Church Street and into his chamber. He was thrown out again, but ‘thinking to molest the bailief’ found a secret way back into Fisher’s bedroom. Fisher ‘being very weke & sick ill and newely fallen aslepe’ was suddenly struck with great fear ‘being in doubt of his lief’ when the noisy Donghill appeared at his bed. Being thrown out by a servant, Donghill went on ranting and entered the house of William Mattrevers until finally the neighbours caught him and sent him to the sergeant. The next day Mattrevers and his wife complained about the disorder, saying that they could not lie in bed for fear of Donghill, and Fisher set out to solve the matter. Donghill the troublemaker was sent to gaol after all.

*The Book of John Fisher, transcribed and edited by Thomas Kemp (Warwick, 1900[?]), pp. 9-11.


Michael Sewell (Essex)

The rebuilding of St. Botolph’s Church in Colchester 1835, 200 years after its destruction in 1648


The destruction of St. Botolph’s the Civil War had a lasting effect on the community in Colchester, a loss that was certainly felt by the town’s ruling elite. In 1835, the Essex Standard stated, ‘there has been no Church for the accommodation of the Inhabitants for nearly two hundred years. The evil has from time to time been seriously felt by the true Friends of Religion.’[1] In rebuilding the church, it became a way for local people such as the Rev. James Round and prominent Tory Anglicans to memorialise the parish history. The inscription on the church plaque as they laid the first stone, stating that the area had been without a church since the ‘venerable siege of 1648’[2], brings to light the importance of the siege. It also suggests a political statement to remain loyal in the uncertain political climate, perhaps as a response to the Chartists. This new building caused a stir in the town, with people flocking to see what was happening next to the site of the old priory. It caught the towns attention and imagination.


Botolph Colchester

Anglican church of St Botolph, Colchester. Pic: Saltmarsh 2009 under Creative Commons.


I have set up a project called HistoryIndoors where PhD students at Essex provide free history talks for the public, these can be accessed at

[1] ‘St Botolph’s Colchester’, Friday 02 January 1835, Essex Standard, British newspaper archive, date accessed, 40/08/2018.

[2] E.R.O., D/P203/8/4, Minutes of meeting at St Botolph's Priory, about subscribers for the new church in 1835.


Hàìghlèàgh Winslade (Winchester)

South Harting in the South Downs


South Harting, a settlement below the scrap of the South Downs, has a medieval church and is surrounded by hillforts on Torberry Hill and Harting Beacon:

Harting 1 Harting 2

Harting 3 Harting 4

Hàìghlèàgh Winslade BA (Hons) (Southampton) BA (Hons) (Cicestr), MRes (Portsmouð), PhD Candidate, Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, University of Winchester.

My research focuses on 'Recusants in the Landscape: the English Catholic Community of the Weald and Downland', with a special focus on finding out how the spatial dynamics of the Weald and Downland affected the lives and worship of Catholics in the later sixteenth century


Beat Kümin (Warwick)

Remembering the summer of 1645


According to a message which its author, councillor J. F. Helmlin, intended for posterity - i.e. all of us - and thus deposited in the tower ball of the parish church of Reiden (a village in the city-state of Lucerne) in 1645, it had been ‘a very good, warm and dry year yielding lots of corn, to the extent that no one in the Swiss Confederation could remember’; in fact, ‘lots of brooks carried no more water, fountains dried up and most mills had to stop working for want of water’. On the positive side, people could expect, ‘God willing, a very fertile year with lots of good wine, so that hopefully many a thirsty soul would be refreshed’.

Source and link to the full transcription of the 1645 chronicle (preserved in a copy of 1790): State Archives of Lucerne, PS 256.


The tower of the parish church of Reiden, with its golden ball just visible under the cross,
in an extract from a public-domain copperplate print by David Herrliberger (c. 1758).

This lecture summary provides a preview of the larger project on tower ball deposits in the German lands.


Lydia Fisher (Exeter)

Removed and Rearranged:
Recovering Medieval Glass from Nineteenth-Century Accounts


In 1829 the topographer John Rutter recorded a number of features contained within Burrington parish church in Somerset. After commenting on the old fragments of heraldic glass surviving in the north aisle, Rutter noted, ‘this church had, till within these last few years, a fine and almost perfect window of painted glass, which was removed for the purpose of re-arrangement, but subsequently was lost, and has never been recovered’.[1] To someone who researches late medieval stained glass this statement is as intriguing as it is perplexing. My first reaction is to question how a complete window can be misplaced or lost! However, more significantly, this statement prompts a contemplation of how the actions of nineteenth-century restorers and craftsmen have impacted the survival and appearance of much of the medieval fabric that can be seen in parish churches across the country today.


Burrington Church

Burrington church. Picture by Rod Ward (2006) under Wikimedia Commons.


Many medieval schemes and pieces of stained glass were removed, rearranged and redesigned over the course of the nineteenth-century. Statements similar to Rutter’s are echoed numerous times in other contemporary documents, including descriptions supplied by nineteenth-century gentlemen and antiquaries, as well as restoration accounts and architect’s reports produced in the midst of church rebuilding. In many cases, these records reveal the original design, situation and composition of a window before it was subjected to renovation. Thus, they are indispensable evidence in reconstructing aspects of the visual and physical environment of the medieval parish church. By sifting through such documentation it is possible to recover what has been lost and altered.

[1] John Rutter, Delineations of Delineations of the North Western Division of Somerset (London, 1829), 117.



Stanisław Witecki (Kraków)

Reminiscences from the diary of an early modern Polish clergyman


”Na św. Mikołaj był u mnie jegomość ks. Czarniecki kanonik krakowski. Na to święto kazanie miał jegomość ksiądz Stanisław Grusikowski”

“On saint Nicolas day, the canon of Kraków, reverend Czarniecki visited me. A sermon was delivered by reverend Stanisław Grusikowski.” (6 December 1694)


”Jegomość ksiądz działoszycki pleban nawiedzał mnie w chorobie. Bóg mu zapłać”

„The reverend parson of Działoszyce parish visited me in my sickness. God bless him.” (23 March 1695)


„Przyjechała do mnie Jejmość Pani Omańska dobrodziejka moja, bawiła się przez tydzień. Odjechała 10 augusti zostawiwszy mi na wakacjach Kazimierza syna swego śrzedniego. Koń jej mało w drodze nie zdechł odjeżdżając ode mnie.”

„My dear benefactress lady Omańska visited me and stayed for a whole week. She drove away on 10 August and left in my care her middle son Kazimierz for a vacation. Her horse almost died, when she was leaving.” (2 August 1695)


“Przyjąłem był do rządu domowego panią Winiarską z Cieszkowa, ale dowiedziawszy się, że syn jej rozbojem się bawi, zarazem ją odprawił w tydzień"

„I hired as a head of domestic service Mrs. Winiarska from Cieszków, but I fired her, one week after I had found that her son had been a robber.” (1 January 1696)


All excerpts taken from the diary of priest Kazimierz Dziuliński, parson of Słaboszów parish in the Diocese of Kraków: Jagiellonian Library Manuscript Department, sygn. 2433. See also the new searchable inventory of 18thC parochial and parsons' books from several Polish dioceses.



Imogen Peck (Warwick)

St Botolph without Aldgate, London:
England’s First Veterans’ Commemoration?


Veterans’ commemorations have been – and remain – an integral part of the memorial culture of many modern conflicts. In the aftermath of the American Civil War, Unionist veterans held annual reunions on the anniversaries of major engagements, while on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg former Confederate and Unionist soldiers gathered together on the battlefield in an overt display of reconstruction and reconciliation. In the UK, surviving veterans continue to participate in commemorations to mark the events of the Second World War – most recently, the 75th anniversary of VE day. The prevalence of veterans’ commemorations in the years after 1800 means there has been a tendency to regard these events as a modern phenomenon. However, while researching the memory of Britain’s Civil Wars, I have encountered evidence which suggests that veteran commemorations – that is, annual, public occasions to mark the anniversary of a military engagement organised by, or principally involving, former soldiers – emerged as early as the mid-seventeenth century.

Botolph Aldgate

Front elevation of St. Botolph's church, Aldgate, London.
Pic: Superbfc 2007, under Creative Commons.


In the London parish of St Botolph’s without Aldgate, residents who had fought together in the city’s trained band organised an annual occasion to remember their divine deliverance at the Battle of Newbury on the 20 September 1643. Every year for more than a decade, the veterans of St Aldgate’s gathered in their local parish church at 10am to hear a sermon delivered by a specially selected guest preacher. This is the earliest known example of a veteran-led commemoration that has been identified in England, and, by tracing its organisation, purpose, and significance, my paper considers what it reveals about the diverse ways in which communities of memory might form and the broader commemorative culture of early modern England.