Presentment Bills of the Archdeaconry of Nottingham

I have posted about the Presentment Bills of the Archdeaconry of Nottingham before, but only in passing. They are such a fascinating resource that I thought they really deserved a post of their own.

What are they: The presentment bills are a collection of documents created by church wardens in the 16th and 17th centuries detailing the names (and often other information) of people who had broken church law. Typical ‘offences’ would be such things as failing to attend church, failing to have a new baby baptised or indulging in immoral behaviour. As far as I know, all parishes maintained such records, but only Nottingham has created an online catalogue.

Which areas do they cover: The bills cover the Bingham, Retford, Newark and Nottingham deaneries. To find out which area your ancestors lived in try the table on this page.

How can they help: If you happen to have ancestors from Nottinghamshire, there is a good chance you will find some reference to them in these bills. Or, if not your direct ancestors, then members of their extended family. Some entries are quite detailed and will provide more than just a name. I have found spouses and occupations in entries pertaining to my relatives.

Furthermore, they can tell you a little about the kind of people your ancestors were. I discovered one branch of my family were regularly penalised for not attending church. This makes sense. The family were Anabaptist therefore they did not recognise the authority of the Anglican church and were classed as non-Conformists. Another branch received similar penalties, they were recusant Catholics. Of course, if your ancestors were penalised for non-attendance, that does not mean they followed a non-conformist religion. It could simply mean they were not particularly religious at all. Then as now, many people only really felt the need to attend church for ‘hatches, matches and dispatches’ and would have resisted attempts to force them to attend every Sunday.

You can find a longer and more detailed description of the bills here.

Examples: The easiest way to search, is to open the page you want to view and use your computers built in search tool. I clicked on the link for the Bingham Deanery for Easter 1608 and didn’t find any of my relatives listed – they must have been behaving themselves LOL However, there a few interesting entries.

AN/PB 293/2/47 24.9.1603 Wilford
Summer and winter 1603/4
Churchwardens present the following: Joan Stafford, widow, a railer, a scold and an uncharitable liver.
Bound together with other documents from the same series, AN/PB 293/2.

Thankfully I’m not related to Joan – although I do wonder if she really was as unpleasant as that description suggests.

AN/PB 293/2/49 24.9.1603 Shelford
Summer and winter 1603/4
One churchwarden presents the following: Wm Smyth for detaining the surplice from the parish, and for using very uncomely words as ‘turd in the churchwardens teeth’, which was spoken in the church porch.
Bound together with other documents from the same series, AN/PB 293/2.

Not much to add there except to say Mr Smith sounds like a very rude man.

AN/PB 293/2/56 1603 (c) Barnby in the Willows
Summer and winter 1603/4?
Churchwardens present the following: John Burt and Alse Nealer for a common fame that John Burt said that he lay on the bed with the said Alse in the night time; Robert England for a slandering of his neighbour Edmund Ward, saying that he lived upon ‘sheefts’ and made a benefit of cavilling with other men, and the said Robert said with slanderous speeches on 10 July last that Edmund Ward had practised this two years to take his house on his head; the said Robert was slandered by Roger Richardson’s wife that he came to her bed and would have lain with her, and that he brought her some plums in his hat.
No place name given; identified as Barnby in the Willows from names of churchwardens.
No date given; found in series of presentment bills from 1603 and 1604.
Bound together with other documents from the same series, AN/PB 293/2.

Trying to seduce a woman with a hat full of plums – it sounds like a scene from a Carry On film LOL I suppose this was the pre-chocolate era so the poor chap would have had to make do with whatever was at hand.

And finally, my favourite entry . . .

AN/PB 294/2/66 7.5.1607 East Markham
Easter 1607
Churchwardens present the following: Elizabeth Cowper for fornication with Thomas Browne, as she says; Nicholas Storke for being absent from church on the Sabbath day and being at bowls; we asked him a reason for his absence and he answered ‘he can reade as much at hoam & that he knoweth our reder for no lawfull minister’, but we know our reader has a licence by one Mr Dodsworth of York for Mr Field’s absence.
Written in another hand above each of the names: ’emt’.
Written in another hand at side of page: ‘R’.

If I were in Mr Storke’s shoes I think I would have gone bowling rather than spend my Sundays with a bunch of people who felt the need to police my morals LOL


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