Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Parish Clerk (1907).

[Footnote 29:  If that is the correct translation of profestis diebus disciplinis scolasticis indulgentes.  Dr. Legg thinks that it may refer to their own education.]

It is certain—­for the churchwarden accounts bear witness to the fact—­that in several parishes the clerks performed this duty of teaching.  Thus in the accounts of the church of St. Giles, Reading, occurs the following: 

     Pay’d to Whitborne the clerk towards his wages and he to be
     bound to teach ij children for the choir ... xij s.

At Faversham, in 1506, it was ordered that “the clerks or one of them, as much as in them is, shall endeavour themselves to teach children to read and sing in the choir, and to do service in the church as of old time hath been accustomed, they taking for their teaching as belongeth thereto”; and at the church of St. Nicholas, Bristol, in 1481, this duty of teaching is implied in the order that the clerk ought not to take any book out of the choir for children to learn in without licence of the procurators.  We may conclude, therefore, that the task of teaching the children of the parish not unusually devolved upon the clerk, and that some knowledge of Latin formed part of the instruction given, which would be essential for those who took part in the services of the church.

Nor were his labours yet finished.  In John Myrc’s Instructions to Parish Priests, a poem written not later than 1450, a treatise containing good sound morality, and a good sight of the ecclesiastical customs of the Middle Ages, we find the following lines: 

     “When thou shalt to seke[30] gon
     Hye thee fast and go a-non;
     For if thou tarry thou dost amiss,
     Thou shalt guyte[31] that soul I wys. 
     When thou shalt to seke gon,
     A clene surples caste thee on;
     Take thy stole with thee ry’t,[32]
     And put thy hod ouer thy sy’t[33]
     Bere thyne ost[34] a-nout thy breste
     In a box that is honeste;
     Make thy clerk before thee synge,
     To bere light and belle ringe.”

[Footnote 30:  Sick.]

[Footnote 31:  Quiet.]

[Footnote 32:  Right.]

[Footnote 33:  Sight.]

[Footnote 34:  Host.]

It was customary, therefore, for the clerk to accompany the priest to the house of the sick person, when the clergyman went to administer the Last Sacrament or to visit the suffering.  The clerk was required to carry a lighted candle and ring a bell, and an ancient MS. of the fourteenth century represents him marching before the priest bearing his light and his bell.  In some town parishes he was ordered always to be at hand ready to accompany the priest on his errands of mercy.  It was a grievous offence for a clerk to be absent from this duty.  In the parish of St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street, the clerks were not allowed “to go or ride out of the town without special licence had of the vicar and churchwardens,

Follow Us on Facebook