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The following article has been kindly prepared by Wendy Morgan who,
amongst other things, edits the Carterton Community Magazine and
serves as both Secretary for St Britius DCC and archivist.
ST BRITIUS PARISH RECORDS.
LIFE (AND DEATH) IN BRIZE NORTON
During Queen Elizabeth 1st's reign the clergy, by law, had to record
all baptisms, marriages and burials in special books.
In Brize Norton our first records began in 1538 when Agnes, daughter of
John Ballow, was baptised and John Whiting married Allice Hutchings,
(spelling as in book). The first burial was that of Richard Coxe in 1568.
Before that there were of course many baptisms, marriages and burials by
the clergy and any records would be elsewhere. In the churchyard there
would be no stone memorial stones - these came a couple of centuries later
and with the main population being peasants many graves would have
multiple burials i.e.common graves. Baptisms would take place on the day
of birth as infant mortality was high, sometimes as many as 6 or 8 a year.
Yet people did live to a great age considering all the health and
environment hazards of centuries past.
By 1810 the Vicars were noting the ages of the deceased, the first one
in 1810 being Elizabeth James age 90 and in 1853 there was Mary Hall age
96. Throughout the years there were many illegitimate births and according
to the Vicars, during their term of office, and their way of thinking they
were noted down as bastards, baseborn, natural or illegitimate. Nearby was
the Sworn Laynes house of ill-repute where high born ladies came to give
birth to children born 'on the wrong side of the blanket'. Very few of
these babies were baptised, most of them buried. Some mothers in the
village made clear to the Vicar who the fathers were and these were
recorded - Harriott Colbury, reputed father James Sanson (farmer). John
Hale, reputed father John Lord (farmer). William Baston, reputed father
Daniel Upstone. Amelia Steven's entry noted she was baseborn as her
mother's husband had been transported. Several entries declared that the
parents had married after the birth of their child and in one case on the
same day! Amongst all the usual names given to children we find some more
unusual names such as Julian, Frydesweed, Jochebed, Cinderella for girls
and Ambrose, Augustine, Tobias, Paris, Harkwood, Theophilis, Hewkeete,
Zacharias and Limborough for boys.
Fever struck the village in 1802 and between August 29th and December
14th ten people died (noted in the burial book as 'of the fever') and they
included members of the same families. William and Mary Steptoe, William
and Sarah Bennett, Francis, Thomas and Mary Cox, Edward Weatherstone,
Sarah Norris, Edward James.
Then there were the accidental deaths, in 1809 William Field the
younger died falling from a hayrick followed in 1812 by William Field the
elder who died falling from a barleyrick. A family failing! Falling into
wells and drowning was also a hazard, 1835 Thomas Hale age 72 and in 1868
Edwin Drinkwater age 4. Horses were an equal danger, 1869 Alfred Butler
died from a horse kick and in 1871 Richard Lord died from a fall from his
horse. Fires were a danger especially to the young and being 'burnt to
death' was a frequent description of death by this means. In 1834 Mary
Akers, an infant, William Timms age 2 in 1835. Matilda Hunt age 2 1/2 in
1848, Joseph Hawkes age 6 in 1854, with adults being equally careless,
Catherine Bayliss age 26 and George Broadist age 45, both dying by this
means in 1838. In 1858 the Vicar recorded that John James age 68 and
Elizabeth James age 67 died 'supposed to be poisoned'.
Marriages were not without their upsets. Banns were forbidden between
William Porter and Charlotte Timms in 1854 and between William Higgs and
Mary Taylor in 1859 - Mary's father declaring her being under age. During
Oliver Cromwell's 'reign' there were a few changes in the Brize Norton
parish, some marriages were conducted by Justices of the Peace rather than
by the Vicar in church and in one case by the Mayor of Oxford. In another
marriage both the Justice and the Vicar performed the ceremony -just to
make sure? Between 1691 and 1698 there were 15 marriages by special
licence rather than by banns, which was more usual before and after those
dates. After 1754 the names of witnesses to the marriages were noted,
these were invariably the names of the church clerk and churchwarden.