The First Parish Register: II

Following on from Part I.

A new century brought with it a new language to the register: Latin. A combination of Thomas Drax becoming vicar in 1601, a prideful Anglican and Latin scholar, and James I ascending to the throne in 1603, led to the clerk at the time seamlessly transitioning to writing records in Latin, and with the odd exception this remained the case until Drax’s death at the start of 1619.

The register reverted to English for the majority of the incumbency of the succeeding vicar, William Innes, and from then until the register ends, the language switches between English and Latin largely depending on who wrote the entries at the time. While it was by no means unusual for Latin to be used so prominently in those days, the inconsistent approach was certainly peculiar, and perhaps indicates a constant power struggle of a sort, vicars with different backgrounds and approaches.

A perfect example of this came in the 1640s, a period which could charitably be described as the height of factional conflict. Innes’ successor, Charles Bainbridge, took an unscheduled leave of absence from the vicarage in 1643, and so in his place was chosen Thomas Wood, described as an “orthodox Divine“. Wood was perhaps too orthodox, however – as this record explains, he “enveighs against the Church of England, refuses to bury, baptise, or marry, except after a fashion of his own etc., etc.“. The patchy, muddled records in the register during this period attest to this (and in the case of marriages, no records at all for four years), though of course the Civil War may have played a part as well.

As mentioned in the first part, although this first register only goes up until the end of 1652 (old style), it continued to see use until the late 1670s – as woeful as the tales of neglect are from the first register, they are not a patch on the shocking state of the second register during the latter half of the 17th century. Records were sporadic at best, and some were put into the first register for seemingly no reason besides that there were spaces and it was convenient to do so!

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