Parish Accounts

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. IX, (January 1916 to January 1917), illus. p. 247.


Fred Day

Prepared by Michael Steer

Until 1868, churchwardens could levy a rate from parishioners for church maintenance. Churchwarden's accounts record payments for work on the fabric and fittings, while vestry minutes record decisions to undertake works. These parochial records are now mainly deposited in County Records Offices. The extract, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

COUNTISBURY, a parish in the hundred of SEERWILL, county of DEVON, 15½ miles (E. by N.) from Ilfracombe, containing 118 inhabitants. The living is a perpetual curacy, annexed to that of Linton, in the archdeaconry of Barnstaple, and diocese of Exeter, endowed with £600 royal bounty, and £200 parliamentary grant. The church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist The parish borders on the Bristol channel, and is bounded for some miles on the south and west by the small but rapid stream Lyn.

Note 200. PARISH ACCOUNTS. — In bygone times little public business appears to have been transacted without drinking. I append extracts from the Churchwardens' Parish Accounts of Countisbury showing what an indispensable adjunct beer used to be:

1703Pd when I fox was killed for beer -20
 Pd -more for beer when do. - -26
 Pd - for beare when 2 foxes killed - -70
 Pd - when the ware a fox hunting for beare another time . . - -6 
1718Pd- for beare to drinke ye Kings helth on Coronation Day - - - 10 
 Pd - for ale ye fift of Nov. - - 26 
 Pd - for ale for the foxhunters - -20
1721Pd - for beer for ye Dean Ruler - - 6
1732Pd - for ale when ye bell was carried up -46

Also beer when ye Dean Ruler visited and beer when the psh went to view the tower.

Ale for vestry meetings appears down to 1861, after which £1 is allowed yearly for expenses of the Lady Day Vestry till 1884. These expenses were for a dinner at the Blue Ball at which the Curate presided, supported by the Churchwardens and all ratepayers.

In 1681 beer was paid for ' when the bell founder talk with the psh - for casting the bell, and beer when the bell was cast and beer when the bell was 'taken out of the peet."

How different were our ancestors, and how times have changed!

                       Fred Day.