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A History of Randwick
By E. P. Fennemore
1893

Chapter 6

CHURCH WARDENS, CLERKS AND SEXTONS

So now the parson having done,
The clerk again strikes up his tone;
He warning gives, and tells the day
You must your rates and taxes pay.
THE COUNTRY Churchyard

The graves around for many a year,
Were dug by him who slumbers here,
Till worn with age, he dropp'd his spade,
And in the dust his bones were laid,
As he now mould'ring shares the doom
Of those he buried in the tomb;
So shall he, too, with them arise,
To share the judg'ment of the skies.
EPITAPH IN NIDDERDALE, YORKSHIRE.

On the very first page of the very oldest register are the signatures of the Churchwardens; and they appear at intervals down to 1792, when I suppose the space in the registers became too valuable for such signatures. Between 1693 and 1752, a space of fifty-nine years, the church-wardens' siunatures are conspicuous by their absence, after which they again appear at intervals. The following is a list of the names and dates

End of first Register.

End of second Book.

A large gap in the dates now appears, doubtless by the loss of some end pages of this book.*

.(*The Churchwardens' Book gives the names of William Watkins as Churchwarden in 1711. An inscription on Bell No. 2 gives Mr. Nathaniel Eiles (or IIes) as Churchwarden in 1717.
The Latin document was copied into the Registers in 1739 by Richard Watkins, who was then churchwarden.)

No Churchwardens' signatures till:-

End of third Book.

Next signatures by Churchwardens appear in:

The names of the last nine years were obtained from the Churchwardens' Book, and as there. were no entries from 1802 till 1806, consequently there were no Churchwardens' signatures during those years. The following names were also obtained from the Churchwardens' Book:--

It is interesting to note the way some of the names are spelt :-thus the modern Holder is Houlder (sometimes even spelt with a small "h"),Mills is Mill, Aldridge is Aldrych and Aldridg, Hayward is Hayord, Williams is Gwiliams, Pearce (a common name in Randwick, some families being Vick-Pearce) is Pearce, while Egols changes toEagles, and Priday is Pridy.

Amongst the notices of churchwardens must be remembered the late Mrs. Martha Sophia Barrow, who was vicar's warden for seventeen years, and a most energetic one. She was one of the rare instances of a lady churchwarden. There is a chandelier erected to her memory in the chancel of Randwick Church, with an inscription recording the fact.

The office of parish clerk was formerly a most important one. In church he read the notices, announced the numbers of the hymns (and also started them, if no one else could), led the responses, and many other duties fell to his share. He received 2 a year from the Church rates as stipend. Randwick always had its clerk till within the last two or three years, since which the office seems to have become obsolete. The first clerk of whom mention is made (and this on a tombstone) is William Lawrence, who died in 1710, having been clerk twenty-three years, since 1687. He was probably followed by Joseph Lawrence, who was " Clerk of the Parish thirty-two years, and buried June 20th, 1744." Next came Edward Chandler (about) 1750,

In 1780 Giles Newman signed himself "clerk of the Parish."

William Harmer who signed the Register in 1740 may have been the "Register" or sworn "Clerke of the Parish."

George Harmer, whose portrait hangs in the school, was clerk for fifty-two years. After him came Mr. Farr, who was also schoolmaster; three generations of the Pearce family, viz. James Pearce, John Pearce, and John Pearce, junior; after these the offices of sexton and clerk were combined in the person of H. Bassett, who vacated them in 1890, since which time there has been no parish clerk.

As George Harmer was clerk for such a number of years, a few particulars concerning him may not be out .of place:--
George Harmer, or as he was generally called "Master Harmer," was born at the Charity School House in the year 1754. His father, George Harmer, had been master of the Charity School forty-four years and nine months. The subject of this notice succeeded him as master of the school, and also became clerk of the church, which office he held fifty-two years. his wife was Hester, by whom lie had three children, and descendants of his are now owners of property in the village. Master Harmer wrote a good round hand, and was often employed by the villagers to write their letters when they could not write sufficiently well themselves. The writer has in her possession a family Bible, with the names and dates of birth of nine children, all inscribed by him. He was one of the "principal inhabitants" of the village who signed the petition to the Bishop in 1824 regarding the enlargement of the church, etc. He died January 9th, 1836, aged 82 years.

The office of sexton seems to have been taken no notice of in any way, in the historical records of the place. There is, however, an oil painting in the school of the old sexton, Thomas Bassett, who held the office for many years, and was contemporary with "Master" Harmer. Both this picture and also that of "Master" Harmer formerly belonged to the late Rector, and were presented to the Parish by his daughters at his death.

Thomas Bassett, or as he was familiarly called in the village, "Tommy Bassett," was at one time a familiar figure in the village. Dressed in brown leather breeches, his short thick-set figure was a terror to the village lads when playing in the churchyard. He, failing to catch them, would shake his stick and vow future vengeance. After performing his duties as sexton, he always, without fail, repaired to the house of mourning, and there regaled himself at the inmates' expense. The story goes that at these times he would relate wonderful tales of his experience as sexton in the old churchyard. He married twice. His first wife, Hester, died in 1826, being sixty-eight years of age. After this he lived several years, without a wife, and when eighty-two years of age, wishing to marry again, the supposition is that the minister expostulated, for he is known to have said that "if he (the minister), wouldn't marry 'n, he'd make 'n." He held the office of sexton for many years, and died in 1847, being ninety-two years of age.' He is buried, with his wife and daughter, just inside the churchyard gates, on the right hand side.

As shewing what an extensive parish Randwick has always been I may just mention the residences of a few of the known Churchwardens: John Lawrence, who was succeeded by his son, Samuel Lawrence, lived at Lower Westrip Farm; the Butchers, one lived at Westrip Farm, the other at Standish Park; William Knight, who was also succeeded by his son, lived at Tyled House Farm, Oxlynch; Charles Organ, also at Oxlynch; John Perks lived at the Roadway Farm; Arthur Dickman at the Golden Cross Inn, Cainscross; Thomas H. Smith at Golden Cross Inn, Cainscross; Henry Lewis, Oil Mills, Ebley; W. C. Wathen, at Red House Farm, Westrip; Samuel Vick, at Ebley; John Libby, at Blenheim House, Randwick 'Thomas Godsell held Randwick Farm; while M. S. Barrow was the signature of Martha Sophia Barrow, the lady of the manor. The family of the writer have good reason for remembering Daniel Dangerfield, who was churchwarden in 1806; he having mulcted them of 20 in an unlawful law suit. William Chapman was the person who meant to have left the property to the Church, but whose will was disputed by Benjamin Hill, who served in 1849. It was, the writer believes, William Chapman who, as churchwarden, introduced the collection for Church Expenses on Wap Sunday.