Churchwardens' Presentments

Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries vol. VII, (1912-1913), Exeter: James G. Commin. 1913, pp. 236-240.


Beatrix F. Cresswell

Prepared by Michael Steer

Churchwardens and "sidemen" were required (By Canons 109-119 and Canon 26) to present offenders against ecclesiastical law at least once a year (usually twice, at Easter and Michaelmas) and at visitation; they could also make "voluntary presentments" at any time. Presentments were written out by the churchwardens on single sheets of paper or were in the form of answers to a set of articles of visitation and enquiry sent by the archdeacon, bishop or archbishop before visitation. In the 18th century the answers were written in the margin of printed books of articles. The articles were prefaced by the churchwardens' and sidemen's oath: "You will swear, that you will diligently enquire, and true Presentment make, of all Defaults and Offences committed in your Parish, against the Ecclesiastical Law of this Realm, to the best of your Skill and Knowledge". By the 19th century they were written on printed forms. Although most of the single folio presentments are merely certificates that there was "nothing presentable" in the parish, the answers to the articles give much valuable information about the clergy and church officers, services, church fabric, behaviour of the parishioners,The article, 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.

Note 165 A. CHURCHWARDENS' PRESENTMENTS. - Some little time ago I was asked to look over a bundle of old papers from the Cathedral Library and to ascertain its contents. These proved to be Churchwardens' Presentments, the majority of them referring to the first visitation of Bishop Sparrow, and dated September, 1668. Recent ecclesiastical litigation has shewn us that "visitations" imply that the church dignitaries stay at home to receive in state visits from churchwardens and incumbents, for the purpose of discussing parochial affairs. Modern churchgoers may not all be aware that churchwardens still have the right to present (i.e., report) those parishioners whose conduct, either moral or spiritual, does not meet with their approval. In connection with my Notes on the Churches of the Deanery of Kenn, the following Presentments may prove of interest. Congregations were more sharply looked after in 1668 than they are at the present day. Whether parishes were better or worse off under such supervision must be left to the reader's judgment. 

                                          AISHCOMBE Septbr - 8 68.
We have according to the articles given us in charge made diligent enquiry And have seene things in good Repayr and Order to our knowledge Except the Churche fHoore which was Broaken very lately by reason of sum graves made there but it shall be repay red as soone as it may be with convenience. 
                    James Chiffe Warden. 
                    Edward Coysh Sideman.
Susan Wareman died widdow. 
Eliz. Wareman Executrix.
                                          In Ashton in ye Deanery of Dunsford Omnia bene. 
W. Sheffield R r - (rector 1662-1671).
                Matthew Langaller Churchwarden. 

Articles of presentment exhibited to the Consistory at the Visitation held at Exon the 8th day of September 1668 by the churchwardens and sidesmen. Wee certifie that William Wills and his wife are excommunicated for the space of on (sic one) yeare. Wee present mr. Edward Hole and his wife and Mary his sister for absenting themselves from there parish church & for not receiving the Sacriment at Ester last. Wee present Thomas Tucker for not comming to the church & not receiving the Sacriment at Ester last. Wee present Thomas Thorne and mr. Bingman Risdon & Peeter Pasmore mrs. ffrances Shorte & mr. John Parr for refusing to pay the clark his customary dues. 
                    Rowland Pope Churchwarden. 
                    Richard Hayne Sideman. 

The presentement of the warden of the Parish of Bridford in the county of Devon made & presented on the xxv day of September 1668.
Imprimis All thinges wt in or Paryshe is well & in good order Thee knows note my hand presented there. 
                       John Holman warden. 
September ye 8th 1668 

                                          CHERITON EPS         By ye Churchwarden for this yeare.
Decā de Dunsford. 
Presented     John Eastibrooke Roger Eastibrooke  For refusing to come to Divine service. 
Wee have nothing else to present. 
                          William .... (illegible name). 
                           John (mark) Jordaine churchwardnes. 

                                          CHRISTOWE 8 Sept. 1668.
Wee the minister and churchwardens there doe present 
1. That George Reynell of our parish standeth excommunicate. 
2. Item all other things are in order so far as wee knowe. 
                              Wm - Miller vicar, 
                (marks) The marke of Edward Hanell. 
                              Samuel Whites sygne. 

                                          DUNCHIDEOCH PlSH.
The minister and wardens of ye said pish have nothing att present to present but all thinges are in good repaire & as for any of ye pishioners they doe not refuse to come to Divine service or sermons or Act according to ye injunctions of ye Church of England Witnes our hands. 
                    Thomas Birdall rector. 
                    The mark (x) of John Tregoe. 

Wee the church wardinges of Exminster dooe have presentments to make att our Lord Bishops vissitation of all deforters (defaulters) as near as wee can know or understand as foloweth.
Imp. Wee present Marthyr Combs for not paying the church rate for a yeare & a half 6s. 8d.
And also we present James Bond and Mary his wife for not receiving the Sacramente.
And also wee present Mary Wiit and Elizabeth Thome being recusants.
And also wee present Sanders Jarmon for being in an Ale house overtaken with bear in an Alhouse on the 
Sabbath Day. 
                    John Bannet. 
                    Peter Sainthill. 
The Presentment of Holcombe Burnell Imprimis we present Margaret Hill widdow for not provinge the will of Robert Hill her late husband desceased. Item wee present Richard (sic) Wescott widdow for nott ffrequentinge the church. 
Wee have nothinge else to present Omnia bene. 
                    Robert Townsen warden. 

                                          KENNE. The 8th day of September, 1668.
The presentment of the churchwarden .... the book of Articles given him in charge.
ffirst I present Richard Browne for irreverent sitting in ye churche at gloria patri & being frequently absent from the church in the afternoons.
Then I present Peter Avery and Joane .... 
                    William Gould rector. 
                    John Saw (?) Presenter. 
Jo. Browne & Eliz Rouston of this pish say they are marryed together & live together But whether they are marryed or noe or had any license we know not. 

The presentment of the wardens of Kenton made the 7th day of September in the yeare of Our Lord 1668. 
Imprimis we do present Katheren Burgoyn for fornication with .... Burgone of Tiverton. 
We have nothing else to present to our knowledge but Omnia bene. 
                    Edmund Dolling. 
                    Robert Chape. 
(Edmund Dolling vicar 1662-1668).

                                          MAMHEAD. Sept. 8th 68.
Wee have according to the Articles given in charge diligently enquired conserning them and now have seene all thinges in good repayr and order to our knowledge except the churchyard by reson that Sr Peter Ball is a new erecting but it will be repayred with all conveniencie. 
                    Joseph Kingwill warden. 
                    George Sewell, sideman. 
(Sir Peter Ball was at that period "new erecting " Mamhead House). 
Ye churchwardens of Poudran doe present the Clarke as unfitt for the place.
Wee of the parish dow present William Thorne the fitter man for that office. 
                   Signed Rychard (R mark) Potter churchwarden.
                                          TEDBOURNE ST MARY.
I Marke Woodley churchwarden do present Samuel Heard for not coming to church & Marke Horwell for the same & Nicholas Moxhay for not coming to church. I do present Thomas Skinner for not coming to church.
I have presented them to the Justices and yet they do not amend.
And I do present that Anthony Westinton hath stood excommunicated about a whole yeare. 
                       Marke Woodley churchwarden.
St. Thomas the Apostle as to presentments to oure knowledge ail things is well only John Gandie the quaker an excommunicated person before our time. 
                        John .... 
                        John King wardens.
The following presentment, though of different place and date is worth rescuing from oblivion. 
The presentments of Thomas Mayne churchwarden of the Parish of Bradford at the Bishops Court held at Okehampton the fifth day of July 1782. 
I present myself to be churchwarden and have no thing more to present.
                         Thos. Mayne. 
                        BEATRIX F. CRESSWELL.