The South Tawton Churchwarden's Accounts
from Feasibility Report Cynthia Gaskell Brown 13th October 2003
South Tawton is fortunate in retaining a relatively long run of accounts. Only some 200 sets of Churchwardens accounts survive from Tudor England (Duffy, 200, p.17). These accounts are annual reports of the cost of maintaining the Church and the Church House and include inventories of the church's possessions.
The Accounts begin in 1524 when Henry VIII was on the throne and continue through the reigns of Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth I and continue on until 1613. Significantly ten pages, which covered the period from 1540 to 1555, have been cut out of the account book. This coincides with the crucial period of the establishment of the Church of England and the painful swing into extreme Protestantism under Edward VI and the reversion to Catholicism in Mary's reign.
The dates of the surviving accounts deposited in the Devon County Record Office are 1524 - 40; 1555 -1613; 1648 -1679; 1732 - 1904. The accounts were transcribed and discussed by E Lega-Weeks between 1906 -1909 (typescripts in South Zeal Village Archive and West Country Studies Library) and have been analysed in the Keystone Report for information about the building, repair, alteration and use of the Church House.
The Tudor account books open a window onto the life of the parish as it was some five hundred years ago. Amongst much else the accounts give the names of the local people involved in constructing and repairing the building, the places where timber, stone and thatch were brought from, how much the materials and labour cost and provide many clues to the use of the building.
Extracts from the Churchwardens Account
Who built and repaired the church house?
1567 William Heywood of Spreyton was paid 8s 5d for boards and timber
1567 Roger Conebye and John Somer were paid 6s. for four days work with their meat and drink
1570 Rychard Bucher was paid 18d for footing the Church House
1572 John Roger was paid 8d for ryddyng the foundation of the Church House
When was it repaired and what did it cost?
1569 Thatching cost 12d for labour, 21d for straw, 4d for carrying straw, 6d for attending the thatcher
1589 Thatching, repairs to locks and keys
What was it used for?
Church Ales, cooking, eating, drinking, storage
1558 The inventory includes "three crocks, an old pan, a little cauldron, a spit, a table-cloth, a trestle, a plank"
The parish store of weapons
1575 The oven was thatched for 4d (the oven formerly projected from the west wall)
1663 Application to the bishop for the appointment of James Dynham as schoolmaster
1664 Benches bought for schoolhouse
1804 First mention of Poor House
1812 Poorhouse chimneys swept
1841 Census Return lists 6 households in the Poor House including John Webber age 80, Mary Rowe age 70, William Cann age 60 and 3 families with children. The Census Returns give the names of the occupants for the next forty years.
c.1916 to 1930's Dairy School in Church House
1941 - 45 World War II Dormitory for soldiers from Dunkirk retreat and thereafter; the Gloucesters and Americans (0ral history)
Sunday School, Quaker Meetings, Parish meetings, Harvest Suppers, etc
1945 to present day