THE CHURCH RECORDS
THE CHURCH REGISTERS The Church Registers date from 1715, the earlier records having disappeared. Unfortunately, the duplicate copies of the entries sent, year by year to the Bishop, have also perished, some in the great fire at Blandford (where there was a branch registry) in 1731, and others when the Bishop's Palace at Bristol (in which diocese West Parley then was) was burnt by the mob during the riots of 1829.
THE CHURCH BOOK The Churchwarden's Accounts were kept from 1692 to 1926 in "The Church Book", a vellum covered volume, which after 133 years use is still in excellent condition. When the book opens, the funds which the Churchwardens administered were derived only from the rent of the Church Land and the Church Rate, compulsory on all house and land holders on the parish.
The Churchwardens had various duties of which some are now undertaken by other authorities while others are no longer performed.
For instance, until 1837, payments were regularly made as rewards for the killing of vermin; foxes, hedge-hogs and "stotes" all had a price on their heads, while sparrows' heads fetched 2d. a dozen.
In 1792, 9s 2d. was paid for repairs to the woodwork.
A typical entry of the earlier years is :-
"Relieved a man with a Pass, 3s. 6d" This shews the Poor Laws in action. If a man became a pauper and by 28 days residence in a parish had acquired a "settlement" therein, he became chargeable to that parish. In order to prevent this, a man likely to become a pauper was given a pass to proceed to any place where he had already established a settlement, by birth or residence, and was quickly hustled from parish to parish on his way, it being considered better for the parish to pay him a modest fee to be gone, than to run the risk of being saddled with his maintenance for the rest of his life.
There were heavy expenses in 1793. No details are given, only the total amounts of bills paid, but it is certain that the amount of over £40 was expended on the purchase, carriage and setting up of the bell, including rebuilding the West wall. The Church Rate rose accordingly.
Other entries are :-
|1793||A New Prayer Book (not now in use but preserved in the Church Box)||£1. 8. 6|
|A New Bier||£1. 0. 9|
|A New Surplus (presumably Surplice, but it seems surprisingly costly)||£3. 3. 10|
|1802/3||Thanksgiving Prayer, doubtless for the short lived Peace of Amiens, as we have to wait until after Waterloo for a similar entry.||1s|
|Trimming the Pall||£1. 2. 6|
|1813/4||"A New Copey of the Ragister"||2. 0d|
|1819/20||Notice for altering the Prayer (on the death of George III)|
In 1817/18 the Rector's signature is appended to the accounts for the first time.
In 1818/19 the interesting entry, Violincello £6, Bow 7s. 0d., Case £1 1s. 0d. shows that the village musicians provided the church music and from other entries we know that there was also a bass viol and a clarionet.
In 1843 a Parish Constable was appointed, with a salary of 40/-- per annum, but he never seems to have been paid and the experiment was never repeated.
From 1841 to 1843 the Rector and Churchwardens were greatly troubled over some houses owned by the Parish, and occupied by poor parishioners, known as "the Barracks." They had been built in 1830 with borrowed money, and the creditor pressing for payment, the debt was eventually paid by selling two other parish houses and by a parish rate.
In 1868 the last compulsory Church Rate was made and with the main source of revenue cut off, the Churchwarden was heavily in debt by 1874. A voluntary church rate brought in a certain amount, but the Churchwarden generously made up the balance. Next year for the first time, church collections were made, and, henceforward, with occasional "lean years," the Church became self-supporting, by the efforts of Churchmen and women alone.
From 1895 to 1911 the entries are in the striking handwriting of the Rev. R.A. Chudleigh, a rare example of penmanship.
In 1912 "pious and charitable" organizations outside the parish were first supported.
In 1925 the administration of the Church Funds was transferred to the newly formed Parochial Church Council and the Church Book was closed.
1. CORBYN'S CHARITY In 1615, Thomas Corbyn left the fields known as "Frizzel's Land" value £5 per annum to be expended in "Linen and Woollen Cloth for the poor where most need should be"
2. REEK'S CHARITY In 1775 Thomas Reeks bequeathed the annual sum of £1, for the Poor who do not receive Parish Relief.
3. BALDWIN'S CHARITY In 1855, Mrs. Mary Baldwin left the annual sum of £1. 7s. 0d. to be paid on St Thomas' Day, "sixpence apiece to the oldest Residents, who in the judgement of the Trustees shall be most deserving, with the exception of Jonadab Troke, so long as he lives." One wonders how Jonadab gave offence to this charitable lady.
The above Charities are now administered by the Parish Council.
The Church Land Charity, derived from the proceeds of the sale of a piece of land, the donor of which is unknown, is applied to the upkeep of the Church. It was originally two "marks" (a mark was 13s. 4d.) and now amounts to £1 7s. per annum.