The Registers.

These ancient books are the most interesting records that any ordinary parish Church possesses. But unfortunately their value was not always realised in past days, and very often some of the earlier registers have been lost. Until the Act for Civil Registration was passed in 1837, the Church Registers were the only records in the country for births, marriages, and deaths, and they are still of the greatest use to those who want to trace the history of their family. Many interesting notes referring to the events of days long past are often found in these ancient volumes. In large parishes these records become very extensive; Mansfield Parish Church has a safe full of them, and the old Collegiate Church at Manchester (now the Cathedral) required a whole room to contain them. It may be well to give some general facts in the history of Parish Registers.

1538. Thomas Cromwell, Vicar-General of Henry VIII, issued the order that all Parish Churches should keep Registers. Baptisms, marriages, and burials were to be entered in a book every Sunday by the clergy and churchwardens, who should lock up the book in a coffer or chest.

1555. Cardinal Pole renewed the order with the addition that names of Godparents were to be recorded.

1597. Registers were to be kept on parchment and copies of these old registers were to be made which had been written on paper, especially since 1558, the first year of Queen Elizabeth's reign. The Wardens were to send a complete copy every year at Easter to the Diocesan Registrar. These were called "Bishops' Transcripts."

1603. King James repeated the above order. Every parish was to buy a parchment book. The registers to be kept in a chest with three locks and three keys, one for the Minister and one for each Warden, so that it could only be opened when all three were present.

1644. Cromwell ordered registers to be kept strictly in every parish, as the confusion of the Civil Wars had caused great neglect.

1653. A "Parish Register" was to be appointed in every parish, by Cromwell's Parliament. The word here means a Registrar. The householders of the parish were to choose their official, before 22nd September, and he could charge 12d. for each marriage entry and 4d. for each birth and burial. He had to be sworn and approved by the local Justice of the Peace. In some old registers we find his election recorded, and very often the clergy were elected. Banns could be published after "Morning Exercise," which was the form of Presbyterian Service used when the Prayer Book was abolished for fifteen years. Marriages were civil and took place before a local justice.

We find an interesting local instance of this in Gamston registers, where it is recorded that on 20th February, 1654, Francis Birkhead, the Minister, was chosen as Parish Registrar. Marriage entries record that the ceremony took place before the local magistrate at Grove, Edward Neville. The Rector of Fledborough was also appointed by his people on 18th July, 1654, and sworn before William Wightman, magistrate.

1660. Parish Clergy again to keep registers on the Restoration of Charles II.

1678. An Act passed that all burials should take place in woollen. Entries are frequently found in registers referring to this.

1694. Act of William III imposing various taxes on every entry in Church registers. The duty on the marriage or burial of a Duke was £50, and an ordinary person 4/-. The Act was soon repealed.

1754. Lord Hardwicke's "Act for the preventing of Clandestine Marriages." All marriages were to be performed by banns or licence. A new set of marriage registers with fuller information was begun, and banns books were used for publication. Certain Churches had become local "Gretna Greens," and couples were married there secretly without banns or licence. Although the Minister was liable to penalties these runaway marriages were legal. Dale Abbey and Peak Forest were two such Churches in Derbyshire, and Fledborough in our own county, where the obliging Rector, Rev. William Sweetapple, solemnized 490 marriages in the years 1730-1754! He seems to have issued licences to anyone who came to this out-of-the-way place. Before this date there was usually only one marriage a year.

1813. Another Act put the whole matter upon a 6urer foundation. New registers were again issued, which are in the same form to-day. Hence we find many Church safes and iron chests with the date 1813 upon them.

1837. Civil Registration began on July 1st. Births and deaths are now registered by the State, and copies of all marriages have to be sent to the Registrar-General at Somerset House every quarter, and when the volumes are full, one copy is kept at the Church and one sent to the local Registry Office.

This is briefly the history of parish registers,and it seems that the Church performed this valuable service for the nation for exactly 300 years, before the State began its own system. In the same way all wills were formerly proved at the Bishops' Diocesan Registry Offices near the Cathedrals before the Probate Act of 1858.

THE PARISH REGISTERS consist of many volumes, which are kept in the safe and an iron chest. Naturally, the two earliest hooks are the most interesting.

Vol. I, 1538-1783, 15 by 6 inches on parchment. The book is bound in oak boards covered with vellum. On the first page is written:

"The Register of Ordsall of the names of such as have been baptised in the said parish since the yeare of our Lord One Thousand Five Hundred Thirty and Eight. Baptising them in the name of the Father, the Sonne and the Holy Ghost.''

The marriages begin in 1557, and burials in 1556. This was the year in which Rev. W. Denman was restored to the Rectory. All the entries are written in tho same handwriting, a very neat court hand, until the year 1656. This shows that the Rector, Rev. W. Haughton, made a new register and copied from the old parchment books, which had probably become dilapidated with age. It must have taken a long time, as there are more than fifty pages, all beautifully written in the old style, which is not easy to read until one gets used to it. Marriages begin with the sentence:— "Marriage is honorable amongst all," and the burials with the words, " It is appointed to all once to dye."

The baptisms in 1538 were three:—Alexander Young, Richard Barbour, Anne Wray.

The first two entries of Marriage do not give the name of the bride. "Henry Hollin was married on the 25th day of October, 1557. Richard Watson was married on the 17th day of Januarie 1558. Robert Jeniver and Agnes ffrith were married the last day of April, 1558."

There is only one burial in 1556-John ffoster on October 15th. Evidently the year is not complete, as there were 14 burials in 1557, and 21 in 1558. This last number is explained by the fact that there was an outbreak of the plague in Retford during the summer of that year.

For the years 1643-1648, there were no marriages or burials recorded. Most parish registers are deficient about this time, and records were not properly kept owing to the Civil War. Curiously enough, baptisms in our register are all recorded for that period. As we have already remarked, marriages were Civil and solemnized before a magistrate in Cromwell's time.

Among the earliest years we find records of the families of Cartwright, Denman, and Bevercotes.

There were three branches of the Cartwright family in the XVIth Century in this county, at Norwell, Ossington, and Ordsall, In 1584, there were no less than five families of this name in Ordsall. At a later date branches of the family settled at Marnham and Wheatley, where their coat of arms can still be seen above the door of a handsome old red brick house dated' 1673. There is also a fine monument to William Cartwright in the little Church at Ossington, which stands in the Hall gardens.

The Denman family have a long history in Retford, and Rev. William Denman was Rector of Ordsall, 1550-1587, and his sons, William and Nicholas, were baptised in 1572 and 1575.

The Bevercotes family came from the village of that name, and lived there for 400 years. They were Knights in early days, and we find Sir John de Bevercotes bearing arms at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. They were all buried in the little Church there, which has long been in ruins. A younger son, Anthony, came to live at Ordsall and held property here. He died in 1579 and was buried at Ordsall. The memorial in the North Aisle is to his son, Samuel, who attained some distinction in the legal profession, and was Recorder for Newark. This Samuel Bevercotes died in 1603. He married Miss Leigh, and their only daughter, Anne, was baptised at Ordsall and married Thomas Cornwallis. After this the family name died out altogether.

Many other family names occur, including Sprigg, Brett, Johnson, Foster, Dobson, before the year 1600, and at a later date we find the families of Halfhide and Mason frequently mentioned who have memorials in the Church.

From 1662-1679, the Churchwardens also signed their names at the end of every year.

Among the baptisms for 1689 there are two pages devoted to the Ordsall Charities existing at that time, which we have already described.

The burial of the Rev. William Haughton in 1673 is given in Latin, of which the translation is "William Haughton, once Reverend Rector of this Church, died on the 23rd of June, and his life hidden in the tomb on the 25th." His widow died on November 6th in the same year. He was a Schoolmaster, and left certain lands in Ordsall for the Grammar School, where he is still remembered as a Benefactor. The land was sold about 1855, and the money used for the building of the present school.

AMONG the burials we find the following: "Memorandum: that I, Ed. Raynes, Clerk, Rector of Ordsall, did upon the ninth of November 1673, being the second Sunday after Induction, read the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, in the time of Divine Service, and after such read did declare my unfeigned assent and consent to the same."

We also read his assent to the Book of Common Prayer, and the Declaration required of all Clergy by Act of Parliament.

These were signed by Thomas Ufton, and Stephen Stoakham who were Churchwardens. This Rector married Anno Halfhide at Ordsall in 1653. In 1678 we find an entry "Anne Ingold was buried in woollen according to Act of Parliament the 6th of October.

A.D. 1679. Here the Minister being ill, the Register was neglected until his death." The minister at that time was Rev. Edward Raynes, who died in 1695 when the Burials begin again. The Baptisms and Marriages, however, are recorded for these years, by the Curate or Parish Clerk. But the Burials for these 16 years are unfortunately lost. The Marriage section of

Vol, I closes with the brief remark,

"Marriages 1783.  Not one this year."

Vol. II, 1784-1812. 15 x 6 on parchment with vellum cover. The Register is signed at the beginning with the names of:

Samuel Stokes. Overseer.
Stephen Hemsworth. Churchwarden.

There was only one marriage in 1784 and five in 1785. Among the Marriages in 1791 we notice "Rev. Joshua Flint of East Retford and Elizabeth Richardson of this Parish by Licence, November 8th." He was Curate of Ordsall for 53 years 1769-1822. He was also Minister at Clarborough, and he and his wife are buried in Fledborough Church, where their graves can be seen near the pulpit.

Another interesting entry in Vol. I, is: 1652, August 5th. Mr. Marmaduke Moore. Buried. This Rector was a Royalist and evidently had made no secret of it, as we know that on November 18th of this year "his paternal estate was forfeited for Treason." He had 10 children, all baptised at Ordsall in the years 1636-1652. Some of them died very young. Their names were Marmaduke, Lydia, Thomas, Barbara, Anthony, Cassandra, Mary, William, Pelham and Elizabeth. What happened to this unfortunatefamily afterwards we do not know.

Other Entries are :—


Leonard, son of Clement and Anne Coxon. Baptised, five weeks before Feast of St. Michael.


Mary, daughter of William Haughton and Anne, borne October 1, between 11 and 12 at night. Baptised Oct. 23.


Old Stephen Johnson, buried 10th Feb.


Moses, son of Moses Maxfield and Jane, a stranger. Baptised.



Aug. 29. William Denman, Clerk.


April 5. Stephen Coe, Clerk. Parson of Ordsall.


Aug. 10. Mrs. Turbutt, widow to the Rev. Mr. Turbutt, late of Saundby.


Aug. 29. Rev. Mr. Pigot, Rector.


Joseph ye son of Mr. Justice, Vicar of Clareborough and Anne his wife.


Nov. 17. Rev. Mr. Mason, Rector.


Mrs. Raynes, Dyed Novbr. ye 6th and was buried the 9th at Caunton.


Mary ye daughter of John Hodson of East Retford was buried Dec.5. She was killed by earth falling upon her when getting sand in Cobwell Close. [This was the old sand pit now known as Cross Hills


Mary Wilson, Widow, Sorjourner, April 19th. (She did not belong to this parish).


Thomas Temporal,  Feb. 10th.


Captain Charles. Boies, Esqr., Sojourner, Sept. 15.


Richard Frier, a Papermaker, Aug. 27.


John Temporal, son of Elizabeth Newton, was buried.


Buried a stranger taken ill on the Turnpike Road, could not get his name or wherefrom. Aged about 60.


Charles  Tuckwood, Guard. Killed on G.N. Railway.


William Nicholson, killed at M.S. & L. Station.

There are 1,663 Burials recorded 1556-1812, all in the old part of the Churchyard.



William Haughton, Minister, and Anne Halfhide, 7th Feb.




Mr. Joseph Hall & Mrs. Catherine Pigott were married, June 4th. [The north window in the Chancel commemorates this marriage].

AMONG the Registers is a small book with the name "The Town's Book 1777."

In those days there were usually three sets of Accounts to be kept in every parish. The Churchwardens', the Overseers of the Poor, and the Parish Constable.

The first of these was connected entirely with Church expenditure such as Visitation Fees, Altar Wine, Payments to Ringers, and repairs. Some parishes have these Accounts complete for some centuries. Worksop Priory books begin in Henry VIII's time, and they are often very interesting. Several parishes near Retford have their accounts for the last two centuries. Unfortunately our own do not begin until 1834. The Overseers were concerned with Poor Relief and Charities and their Accounts are often found in the same book as the Warden's but entirely separate for each year.

The Parish Constable had the letting of the Parish land and grass-lanes, the collection of fines for any straying horses or cattle, the destruction of rats and vermin, and fees at the Quarter Sessions! These officers were all elected annually at Easter and the Accounts for the previous year duly presented. The Overseers' books for Ordsall are lost too, but the Town's Book contains the details of the Charities in the hands of the Minister and Overseers.

A list of those who received them is given for each year 1777-1892. At the beginning is a list of the Parish Charities which we have already described.