Blackmore Area Local History

Blackmore.  Parish Registers

This is not a transcript of Blackmore's baptisms, marriages and burials but a brief survey of the content of the Registers.  Reference is also made to Acts of Parliament which regulated the recording of BMD. This page first appeared as a booklet entitled 'Hatched, Matched and Despatched' (Andrew Smith, 2005).
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Hatched, Matched And Despatched
A brief survey of Blackmore’s Baptism, Marriage and Burial Registers


Any church history must inevitably reflect the social changes within the parish. These can be found in numerous documents, not least the Parish Registers. At Blackmore (
), these date back to 1602. This booklet does not regurgitate the contents, but comments on the social changes over the past 400 years.

The origin of Parish Registers

On 28th September 1538, Henry VIII decreed: 

that every Parson, Vicar or Curate … shall for every Church keep one book or Register, wherein he shall write the day and year of every Wedding, Christening, and Burying made within the parish … and also, there insert every persons name that be so wedded, christened or buried … which book he shall every Sunday take forth, and in the presence of the Wardens or one of them write and record in the same al the weddings, christenings and buryings made the whole week afore, and for every time that the same shall be omitted shall forfeit to the said church iiis iiid.1  

At Blackmore, with a commencement date of 1602, it seems likely that one volume is missing.

Transcripts of early Registers

A transcript of the “Blackmore Register 1602-1812” was completed in August 1897 by R. H. Browne. At the back of the volume, Mr Browne gives a summary of his findings. These are worthy of reproduction.2   

“The first part or book of this Register is unfortunately lost that is to say from 1538 to 1602 – a period of sixty four years. 

“It will be seen that the copie or transcript of all that was in existence at the time was made as usual in 1608 – some however were copied a few years earlier viz in 1598 – and that it is signed by the two churchwardens Edward Bradeby and John Tarling – the curate in charge or Vicar does not sign which is somewhat unusual.   

“This Register, like all others, has its own particular points of interest which will be better understood by those who are acquainted with the parish.

“There is no mention of the appointment of a ‘Civil Register’ under the Act of 16533 which may possibly account for the unfortunate lapses at this period: only one baptism for the year in question; four for 1654; two for 1655; none for the years 1656-7; two only for 1658, and two for 1659. The following year – ‘the Restoration’ – the account of the Baptisms is fairly well kept and so on to the end – no less than twenty being set down for the year 1672 and twenty four for 1673.

“The marriages were not so numerous as was seldom the case in these rural parishes – Widford being a remarkable exception. For several years in the early part of the [seventeenth] century only one took place; but after 1649 to 1662 – 13 years, only one is recorded as having taken place (ie) Chris Sache in 1658 and none whatsoever for the 4 following years to 1663.

“From 1695 many marriages took place at Fryerning … Some explanation might be found for such an unusual occurrence – was Blackmore without a resident minister at the time?”    We know that during this period, John Glascock was an absentee curate, holding the post of Rector at Meesden, Hertfordshire.

“The same irregularity is found when we turn to the burials, none being recorded after Mrs Walmsley in 1652 to John Sayer in 1660. If a layman had been appointed at the time he might have kept a separate book which is now lost”. 

A notable burial, that of Simon Lynch, in 1660, is not recorded.

Simon Lynch, died 1660

“Turning back to the marriages, only 5 took place from 1712 to 1720 and what is still more remarkable none for the long period of ten years – 1730-40. 

“Two of the Inns are mentioned: the “Bull” in the year 1607 kept by a family named Cooke and the Swan in 1700 by John Clarke”.

The entry in which the “Bull” is mentioned reads:  

Marie Lanes – du of -----? & Maria. Born at Wm. Cooke’s of ye Bull.     17 May.

The Bull, Blackmore (photograph, 1974)
Throughout the Baptism Register we note those who stayed in the parish. For example “Mary Dickenson da of Joan a wanderer of whom she was delivered in this parish” (1686); a marginal note regarding Margaret Whittaker “inhabitants of the parish of Cootes in Lankashire” (1712); “William Winthorp son of Thomas and Elizth” bearing a note “a traveller” (1727).      

The Burial Register records “William Stane de Beauchamp Roding, yeoman dyed at John Wealdes on the Hill” (1602); “Mary Oakham an infant of Wapping, Stepney” (1721) and “Joseph Burton. Stranger” (also 1721).

“The trades or handicrafts are rarely mentioned. Petchie was a smith – are there any survivors of this ancient family?”

It is worth pausing mid paragraph here to reflect that until relatively recently people were born, brought up, married, worked and died often in the same parish. To illustrate several points I will refer to Robert Petchey, the name on the oldest headstone in the churchyard.

Robert Petchey was born on
27th January 1665/6, baptised 15th February 1665/6 and died, unmarried, on 8th June 1699. The date of burial in the register is given just as June. He was the eldest son of Robert, a mercer by trade, and Elizabeth, whose marriage is not recorded but had four children: Elizabeth Peachy (baptised 26th January 1663/4), Robert, James (14th April 1668) and Benjamin (27th December 1669). Their father was buried on 7th March 1672/3.   

From this family the following points can be made:   

1.  Very often the eldest son of the family was named after his father and the eldest daughter after her mother. This can make family history research difficult.
2.  Illiteracy meant that family names were spelt in different ways. 
3.  Robert Petchey’s baptism is recorded as
15th February 1665. This is not an error but due to the fact that, until 1752, New Years Day was on 25th March not 1st January. Entries between these two dates are entered as the old year.
4.  Children were generally baptised soon after birth.
5.  Robert senior’s early death probably accounts for the fact that there were only four children resulting from the marriage. In his Will, dated
19th February 1671/2 he mentions his four children, Elizabeth, his wife to whom he leaves his house, and a child unborn.4 
6.  Entries for children often appear in the baptism register at one to two yearly intervals. The first child was often born within two years of marriage. We should therefore presume that Robert married
Elizabeth in about 1662.
7.  The Petchie’s mentioned as holding occupations are not the same Petchey’s as this nuclear family, but perhaps close relatives. 

It is possible to trace several generations of a family by referring to the Registers.

Taking another example, the relatively wealthy Twogood family: Arthur, the father of John and husband of Frances, was buried on 10th December 1711, having survived his sons John and Joseph by some two years. Arthur Togood (note spelling, also called Toogood) is said to be “of Stondon”, so that the family history from Blackmore registers is incomplete. We know though that Mary, married John Ponde on 20th December 1704 and Dorothy married Francis Ailet of Basildon on 19th September 1706. Both these marriages happened at Fryerning. In terms of distance, Basildon is some fourteen miles away from Blackmore and at that time was the furthermost recorded place of origin of any bride or groom since the marriage register commenced in 1602.     

Resuming the text: “Another Petchie was a sawyer [1604]; Hogg, the miller, 1602. Thos Bones weaver, 1671; John Nicholson miller also in 1671; Robert Hall shoemaker in 1685”. In addition, John Reve butcher (1607); and references are made to an innkeeper, glover, wheelwright and clerk. The most intriguing of all the trades is a burial entry to “Thomas ------ comonly called ‘The Tinker’” (1738).     

“The Act of Chas II 1678 for making the burying in woollen only compulsory is always interesting and in this instance many names of local clergy and magistrates are given before whom the affidavits were made. Two or three instances are recorded for non-compliance – Lady Smyth, 1693; Frances Stanes and William Lee in 1702.

“Several notable people were connected with the parish – Smyths, Luckins, Tendrings and Barretts of Ramsden Bellhouse”.

All social groups are of course present in the Registers. From “Moses Lee son of Willm decd and Elizth – [baptised] 14 Febry 1702/3”, bearing a margin note, “a pauper” (William was laid to rest 9th November 1702) to:   

Thomas Smyth son of Thos Esq & Mildred. Born on the 25 day of Decemb being the festival of the nativity of our Savir and Baptised he first day of Jany being the festival of Circumicision. Dyed on St Pauls Day 1720 & was buryd on Candlemas Day.

There are also burial entries for wet-nursed children. For example:    

Christopher Tucke son of Charles of London, a nursechild of Thos Willet    30 May 
Thomas Baule son of Richd of London a nursechild with Thos Groves     3 June

The names of their wives, who must have taken on the responsibility for these children, are not recorded.  

These Registers are great levellers in social standing “for in Adam all must die”. Godfrey Jones, who became Curate in 1720, wrote this rhyme in the Burial Register. 

In me alas how vainly do you strive
To keep the memory of the dead alive 
To time and end I, as your subject am
And I shall want a Register for my own name
To no book immortality is given
But to the book of life which is in heaven
In that then strive to have your name engraven.

“One or two instances of longevity are mentioned. Ann Murrell, 1778, age 96. Richard Preston, 84; Henry Johnson, 94; Daniel Rust, 82; John Clarke, 84, [recorded between 1803 and 1812]. But on the other hand there was the usual great infant mortality during the prevalence of small pox and inoculation at the close of the last [eighteenth] century together with the distress and occurrences of all the commodities of daily life”.

In a ten year period, between 1803 and 1812, there were 90 burials. Of these, 27 were described as infants and a further 11 burials were under the age of ten, i.e. 42 per cent before the age of adulthood.  

Infant mortality affected many families.

John Glascock (already mentioned), licensed Curate from 1664, married
Elizabeth, probably in 1670,5 but not in Blackmore. They had eight children:

Grave of John Toogood
Name Baptised
Elizabeth 25th November 1672
Dorothy 26th April 1675
John 29th January 1676/77
James 19th November 1678
William 16th November 1680
Sarah 6th July 1682.  
Buried. 11th February 1682/83
Mary 30th December 1683
Francis 16th May 1686

In the case of Sarah, the Registers, without adjustment for the New Year, show a date of burial before baptism. Of course, there may also be the appearance of baptism of the first child before marriage of the parents. 

What the Victorian transcriber does not mention is the number of illegitimate children recorded in the Registers. In the seventeenth century, illegitimacy was considered socially unacceptable.

Equally, cohabiting couples caused disapproval, considered to be in an adulterous relationship. There is a record in 1615 of “Robert Godfrey et Margareta Cooke” being “suspected incontint but now married”.6 Their entry appears in the marriage register on
10th May 1615.

Turning now to illegitimate offspring, examples of such entries in the Baptism Register are:

William Morrys (Petchie) – son of William the deputed [sic] father & of Agnes Petchie single woman.    8 Jany. 

Robert Woollard – base son of Elizth pr. Robert Hindes reputed father.       6 May      

Ingatestone. Martha ------- - base da of Abigail wife of John Godsave      15 May

These three examples show the use of both parents’ names on the Register and the word ‘base’ being another term for bastard.    

“Briefs. A few only are put down – the first being in 1689 but the purpose for which the collection was made has been omitted. Public feeling must have been aroused at the persecution of the Protestants, for the inhabitants to have subscribed £2-0-0 on one occasion.

“Many more comments might be made: but I must content myself with just mentioning that this year [1897] has been a remarkable one in several respects. The Queen’s [Diamond] Jubilee celebrations causing universal rejoicing. There is an abundant harvest both of hay and corn despite the great storm of June last, which devastated about seventy square miles in the County between Epping and
Chelmsford7. Large sums are being subscribed locally and at the Mansion House for the relief of the sufferers”. 

The entries for Burials end in 1812 with a note, “In printed books from this date pursuant of an Act of Parliament known as Roses Act”. Entries for marriage ends in 1754 with a note, “In printed books from this date pursuant to the Act of Geo II”: known as Hardwicke’s Act. 

Bishop’s Transcripts, 1800 to 1865 

As we move into the nineteenth century more detail is given in the Registers8. For example of the 170 children baptised from 1812 to 1821, over one half have fathers who were labourers. There is the nobility: Esquire, appearing on five occasions and “base born” or “single woman”, appearing on ten occasions. Various professions and trades occur as expected: surgeon, farmer, bricklayer, carpenter, sawyer, baker, blacksmith, butcher, shopkeeper and grocer. The most intriguing is recorded in 1814: “soldier 69th Rgt” (William Horshin), probably serving at that time in the Napoleonic War.

Other professions found in the baptismal transcripts for the period include an egg merchant (1826), gardener (by the name of Bush!: 1829), cow doctor (1829), church clerk (named John Sutton, 1834), schoolmaster (1836) and hay binder (1842). There is also a reference to a goldsmith (1826) but his abode was

In 1821 there were nine burials, but four children were from the same family: Eliza Sitch (buried 13th October, age 6), James (17th October, 14), William (23rd October, 1), and Hannah (7th November, 4). These were probably the children of farmer, James, and his wife Ann.

Child mortality remained high. In the first ten years of Queen
Victoria’s reign (1837 to 1846) there were 93 burials. Of these, 12 were described as infants and a further 24 children under the age of ten, i.e. a death rate of 39 per cent before adulthood.

In 1845, two of the longest lived, Abraham Shuttleworth, aged 80 and Richard Stones, aged 87, ended their days in the Union Workhouse. For the parish of Blackmore, the poor were sent to Ongar. This reorganisation of poor relief from 1834 transferred responsibility away from the parish to a Board of Guardians.

William Caton, was the Overseer for Blackmore and also Churchwarden.

Another Caton, Henry, was a butcher by trade. His father, buried on
9th October 1835, age 75, is described as “Henry Caton, Senior”. 

Henry Caton married Ann Clark on
9th February 1813. They had nine children:

Name Baptised
Henry9 7th November 1813
Harriott 2nd April 1815
James 13th November 1817
John 31st May 1818
Ann Elizabeth 13th February 1820
Emma 24th February 1822
Charles Whose burial is recorded as 11th September 1823: infant
Esther 7th March 1824
Stephen 16th June 1827
Although Henry lived until 1858 and Ann to 1862, their children’s marriages are not recorded at Blackmore. There are two possible reasons. Firstly, after 1836, civil marriages were permitted. Secondly, and more plausible, the offspring probably migrated from the parish. 

During the nineteenth century, the number of baptisms exceeds the number of burials by a proportion of two to one10. This suggests a large growth in population but census returns show the population of the parish rose from 591, in 1801, to only 619, in 190111. It seems clear that many people left Blackmore to find their fame and fortune elsewhere: perhaps
London and the suburbs, which were growing at a rapid rate.

In his book, “Meagre Harvest” (1990), A.F.J. Brown charts the patchy success of the agricultural labourers’ union cause. He notes that many girls either went into domestic service or factory work in
London, or married an agricultural labourer, enduring grinding poverty when their families were young. Many ended their days in the Workhouse. Brown also comments that Union policy, especially during the agricultural depression of the 1870s, was to encourage migration, if only to produce a smaller labour supply. Some Essex men emigrated to America or New Zealand in search of better wages and working conditions. At Christmas 1874, the Vicar of the nearby parish of Navestock openly endorsed the policy.  

Recent Registers    

There were less burials in Blackmore during the first ten years of the twentieth century (1900 to 1909: 75 in number) than the first ten years of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837 to 1846: 93). There is also a notable decrease in the death rate of children (to 21%): ten died within their first year and a further six by the age of ten. Some lives were short: “five minutes”; “two hours”: these children not given Christian names. On the other hand many residents lived to at least “
three score years and ten”, but until 1910, could not receive a state Old Age Pension. There are records of individuals ending their days in the “Stanford Rivers Union House”, too poor and infirm to work and earn a living. For example, William Halestrap died, in the workhouse, aged 97 in 1904.     

Various hospitals are mentioned, including “Essex County Asylum,
Brentwood”. “Gunner Ted Sutton”, a victim of the First World War, died at “1 War Hospital, Exeter”. His body was buried at Blackmore, 30th November 1918, almost three weeks after the Armistice.    

In the majority of cases the officiating minister was W Layton Petrie, Vicar (1888 to 1922) and his neat script can be seen in the original register which is still in the care of the Churchwardens. On other occasions, E.H.L. Reeve, Rector of Stondon Massey and D Wilkie Peregrine, Rector of Kelvedon Hatch are recorded. They were incumbents of neighbouring parishes. 

Two of the most notably entries in the Burial Register appear consecutively. Henry John Barrett of Strathmore Lodge, Caithness was buried 11th June 1901, aged 77 years and James Robert White of Blackmore was buried 9th August 1901, aged 59. Both local worthies are commemorated in one of the windows in the north aisle. 

Recent registers show a varying number of Baptisms at the Church. In the years 1965 and 1967 there were 44 baptisms each year, but through the period 1987 to 1996 the number in each year never exceeded single figures. The figure though increased to 18 in 2001. Fewer parents now present their children for baptism, but the dip in numbers may be attributable to the stance held by the incumbent at the time.

Civil marriage ceremonies are now of course available in many different premises. 11 couples were married in 1995, 8 in 2002.

Concluding comment    

The whole subject of genealogy, population and social trends are fascinating topics, sufficient to cover numerous pages. But here I must leave the subject – for now.


1.  Petrie. A Country Parish (1898) p31
2.  A photocopy of the transcript may be found in the Essex Record Office: reference ERO T/R 219/1
3.  The Act, passed during the time of the Commonwealth, removed completely the right of the clergy to perform marriages.  Until 1657 all marriages were made before Justices for the Peace. Between 1657 and 1660, both JP's and the clergy could perform marriages. During the Civil War (1642 - 1649) and the Commonwealth (1649 - 1660) it is estimated that one third of all marriages were not registered.
4.  Transactions of the Essex Archaelogical Society. Vol 13 (1915) p190
5.  Again the eldest child is named after the mother.
6.  Essex Record Office. ERO D/AZ/1/4 p201
7.  In 'Romantic Essex' (1901) p201, Reginald Becket wrote: "Ingatestone will make a good starting point for the district we are about to explore.  This is the centre of the hundred square miles of Essex which was devastated in a quarter of an hour by a hailstorm on that black Midsummer Day of 1897. When I passed through it at harvest-time in that year, the crops seemed to have been cut off a few inches above the ground, though no harvest had been reaped".
8.  Essex Record Office. ERO D/CR 38.  This is a Bishop's Transcript of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1812 - 1865.
9.  Note the repetition of the family name.
10.  Essex Record Office. ERO T/Z 227/12
11.  Victoria County History. Vol II (1977) p345

Last updated: 25 March 2009