Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Stondon Massey: High Country Strays in Stondon Massey Parish Register

I am currently writing a biography of Revd. Edward Henry Lisle Reeve (1858 – 1936), who was Rector of Stondon Massey for 42 years and a local historian. In the Essex Record Office are many of his manuscripts but in the Church Safe is a certified copy of the Parish Registers for 1708 – 1791 in his hand. This article has been produced with thanks to the present Rector and churchwardens.

A stray, I understand, is someone who turns up in the records of other parishes. Stondon Massey has many of them. Rev. Reeve wrote:

“Out of 121 marriages between 1708 and 1754 entered in the book only 17 show one of the parties to have belonged to Stondon. In every other case both bride and bridegroom belonged to outside parishes. And this is the more strange seeing that in the succeeding 37 years after 1754 no fewer than 68 marriages are entered showing either a Stondon bride or bridegroom. Sometimes, again, a wedding is entered when a ceremony took place elsewhere. Mr Thomas Smith united the Curacy of Blackmore in 1756 to his other cures, but it is embarrassing to find the following in the Stondon books in 1744:

July 18th. “Married at Blackmore John Baker Batchelor and Martha Belcher Spinster, Both of the Parish of Danbury in this County”.

“One wonders whether other Rectors were as much in request for tying the nuptial knot as Mr Smith, and whether, in cases where the entries were merely records of their work done in other parishes, the parishes interested were favoured with a copy for their own books. Otherwise the work of hunting up materials for a pedigree must be felt to be a harder one than has been realized hitherto.

“It is, I fear, extremely probable that our Rector was known to be a man who would ask no awkward questions. Previous to 1754 any marriage performed by a priest was accounted valid, though it might not be legal; and, although the officiating clergyman was liable to heavy penalties in such a case, the law was not often put in force, if the parson could be found ready to run the risk. The increase in so-called “Stondon” marriages after 1754 points some way, and tends to show that somehow Mr Smith still contrived to remain a popular clergyman”[1].

Reverting to the ‘certified copy’, the following entries exist relating to people living in the High Country parishes.

Married Jan 17 1709/10. John Glascock of Bovingworth [Bobbingworth or Bovinger] and Sarah Rust widow of Stanford Rivers parish.

Married Apr 20 1730. John Bridges and Sarah Thorougood both of the Parish of Stanford Rivers.

Married Feb 20 1730/1. James Crosingham of the Parish of High Ongar And Susannah Young of the Parish of Stanford Rivers.

Married May 6 1734. Richard Warne & Elizabeth King both of the Parish of Stanford Rivers by Licence.

Married June 22 1734. Benjamin Archer of ye Parish of Knavestock [Navestock] singleman and Rebecca Robjant of yr Parish of Stanford Rivers singlewoman.

Married Apr 16 1741. John Smith of Stanford Rivers Batchelor and Dinah Cox of ye same Parish Spinster.

Married Dec 17 1742. Ebeanezer Nichols of the Parish of Horn-Church [Hornchurch] singleman and Elizabeth Whybrew of the Parish of Stanford Rivers singlewoman.

Married Apr 17 1743. John Stanes, singleman of the Parish of Chipping-Ongar and Sarah Boulter of the Parish of Stanford Rivers singlewoman.

Married Nov 24 1749. Married Mr Matthew Webb singleman and Mary Eaton singlewoman both of the Parish of Stanford Rivers.

Married Dec 25 1749. Edward Brocas singleman and Elisabeth Barker singlewoman, the man of the Parish of Grinstead [Greensted], and the woman of the Parish of High Ongar, both of this county.

Married 17 Dec 1749. Robert Halls singleman and Margaret Kelly singlewoman, the man of the Parish of Matching; the woman of the Parish of Stanford Rivers – by license.

[1] Reeve. A History of Stondon Massey in Essex (1900) p103.

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