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Volume XXXVIII, Berkhamsted St Peter Churchwardens' Accounts, c.1584-1660

These churchwardens’ accounts relate to the parish of Berkhamsted St Peter, in western Hertfordshire, for the period 1584-1660. They have been extracted from a much larger account book, now held in the British Library, which continues until 1748. The early years very fragmentary, but from 1589 through to the 1630s there are detailed accounts for most years. They record income from parish properties and payments for burials, and expenditure on church administration including building works, particularly on the church roof, and the refashioning of the bells. Payments for work such as the improvement of the pulpit indicate the parish adapting to the changing requirements of worship after the Reformation. The late 1620s were a time of hardship and the vestry made attempts to regulate the assistance given to the poor and the conduct of parishioners during church services. The accounts between 1632 and 1637 are missing. The accounts from 1638 are no longer detailed but do include lists of church rates and the names of those receiving benefits from charitable donations as well as various items of parish business during the 1640s; then from 1656 detailed accounts resume. Thus, unusually, these churchwardens’ accounts cover the years of the Civil War and the Commonwealth.

Beyond the accounts themselves, significant other material is recorded: for example, details of those who provided purveyance for the royal residence at Hatfield; inventories of church goods, including one from the late Commonwealth period; and lists of parish arms and armour, including one dated 1588 at the time of the Armada. The church was in great decay and money for extensive repairs was needed. Funds were raised through rates, so there are numerous rating lists and indications of disputes with parishioners over the amount of money claimed by the parish.

The Introduction puts these records in context and discusses the various types of expenditure. There is detailed analysis of the rate lists and of the treatment of the poor. The text itself offers information which can be examined to throw a light on many aspects of parish life in the first half of the seventeenth century.

  • Edited and with an Introduction by Nick Brown, assisted by Christine Whittingham
  • xlix + 447 pp
  • 6 illustrations, 2 maps, plus illustrated jacket
  • ISBN: 978-0-9501741-5-0

Non-Members: £22 • Members: £17.50
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