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Extracts from the Wilshamstead Parish Registers

The church from the south-west March 2012
The church from the south-west March 2012

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a series of copied articles which seem to have appeared in the Wilshamstead parish magazine just before the First World War, presumably written by the Vicar (Richard Charles Whitworth). Extracts below are from an article he wrote about the parish registers [CRT130Wils4].

“Under the year 1598 [P22/1/1] occurs the burial entry of Thomas Aldrich who in his day was a distinguished ecclesiastic. Though stating the fact that he died Vicar of Wilshamstead, the simple record is silent concerning the posts of eminence in the church, which he held during his career. It runs thus –“

“”1598” Thomas Aldrich, Vicar of Wilshamstead, was buryed the 28th daye of Maye”.

“He was vicar here from 1573 to 1598, and in addition to this honourable position he was at different times of his life Archdeacon of Sudbury [Suffolk] in 1569, and the same year Proctor at Cambridge and Master of Corpus Christi College in that University. In 1570, he was installed Prebendary of Westminster Abbey, and of Lincoln cathedral in 1588. Prominently associated with Colleges, Abbeys and cathedrals during life, it seems to indicate a beautiful simplicity of mind in the man that in death he rests beneath the shadow of his humble village church. There is a certain magnetism, about Wilshamstead (it might be difficult precisely to define it) which draws her children to her in life and death. An entry under the year 1883 [P22/1/15]is another illustration of this attraction:-“

“”1883 Burial. Sir William Morgan K. C. M. G., November 7th, aged 54 years”. Born in this village, and of lowly antecedents, this man rose to considerable distinction the other side of the globe. As his tomb on the south side of the church relates he was “a member of the Legislative Council, and some years Chief Secretary of the province of South Australia”, and yet he comes home to lay his bones in the remote and quiet peacefulness of the churchyard of his native parish”.

“For the most part our registers run on year after year, merely recording the bare facts of baptism, marriage and burial in monotonous uniformity, but here and there the scribe has added a remark which throws a sidelight on the subject of the entry and more often than not sounds a note of sadness. Sometimes also without such comments, tragedy is patent to the reader’s eyes in the terms of the entry itself, e.g.-“

“”1722, Thomas Wilson, the son of Jane Wilson, a travelling woman from Staffordshire was baptized, May 10th”” [P22/1/3].

“1722, Jane Wilson, a travelling woman from Staffordshire was buried, May 14th”. A simple record this but what a depth of pathos beneath its surface! It repeats the sad story of Rachel “a travelling woman” of the Bible. “They journeyed from Bethel, and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath and Rachel travailed and she had hard labour – and Rachel died and was buried in the way to Ephrath” Gen. xxxv. 16-19” [P22/1/3].

“1751. Burial. Richard Gobby, alias Lovewell, a vagrant, December 20th” [P22/1/3].

“1756. Buried. An old traveller, December 1st” [P22/1/3].

“1758. Buried. Edward Favel, a very old disabled man” [P22/1/3].

“Another couple of extracts tells a story of bitter desolation, a mother deprived of husband and two sons within little more than four weeks [P22/1/3]:-“

“1787, Buried. Henry Yarrel, labourer, April 18th”.

“1787. Buried. Joseph and James, sons of the above Henry Yarrel and Martha his wife, May 21st”.

“1796. Buried. Kemp, William, labourer, (was unfortunately drowned in getting water from a pond at Wilstead in a dark night), January 17th” [P22/1/3].

“What are now termed “Gipsies” were originally called by their full name “Egyptians” hence we can interpret the following entry: -“

“1801. Buried. Smith, Solomon – an Egyptian – March 8th” [P22/1/3].

“The sea does not claim all “that occupy their business in great waters” for there was buried here in “1808, Green, Samuel, formerly a sailor, labourer, September 25th”” [P22/1/3].

“Here comes a series of tragedies: -“

“1824. Burial. Thomas Kendall, Wilstead, 26th March, Aged 24 years, died of the bite of a mad dog” [P22/1/14].

“1874. Burial. George Roberts, Wilstead, March 10th, aged 3 years, accidentally drowned [P22/1/15].

“1876. Burial. William Hebbs, Wilstead, June 13th, aged 7 years, accidentally drowned” [P22/1/15].

“1879. Burial. Catherine Smith, otherwise Howlett, Wilstead, September 4th, aged 63 years, found drowned” [P22/1/15].

“1889. Burial. Frederic Redman, shot by misadventure, July 24th, aged 10 years” [P22/1/15].

“1900. Burial. Sidney Fuller, crushed to death by a trolley, January 30th, aged 12 years”.

“And in quite recent years”

“1910. Burial. George Berrington, sua manu [“by his own hand”] January 26th, aged 45 years” [P22/1/15].

“1910. Burial. Walter Burnett, accidentally burned to death, February 25th, aged 7 years” [P22/1/15].

“1910. Burial. Albert Edworth Gambriel, accidentally shot by his own hand, January 28th, aged 21 years” [P22/1/15].

The south door June 2012
The south door June 2012