At Stoulton Church a clerk died in 1812, and it is recorded on his epitaph that “He was clerk of this parish more 30 years and much envied.” It was not his office or his salary which was envied, but “a worn’t much liked by the t’others,” and yet followed the verse:
A loving’ husband,
A faithful friend lies buried here.
An epitaph without a “werse” was considered very degrading.
THE WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF PARISH CLERKS
The story of the City companies of London has many attractions for the historian and antiquary. When we visit the ancient homes of these great societies we are impressed by their magnificence and interesting associations. Portraits of old City worthies and royal benefactors gaze at us from the walls, and link our time with theirs, when they, too, strove to uphold the honour of their guild and benefit their generation. Many a quaint old-time custom and ceremonial usage linger on within the old halls, and there too are enshrined cuirass and targe, helmet, sword and buckler, which tell the story of the past, and of the part the companies played in national defence or in the protection of civic rights. Turning down some dark alley and entering the portals of one of their halls, we are transported at once from the busy streets and din of modern London into a region of old-world memories which has a fascination that is all its own.
This is not the place to discuss the origin of guilds and City companies, which can trace back their descent to Anglo-Saxon times and were usually of a religious type. They were the benefit societies of ancient days, institutions of self-help, combining care for the needy with the practice of religion, justice, and morality. There were guilds exclusively religious, guilds of the calendars for the clergy, social guilds for the purpose of promoting good fellowship, benevolence, and thrift, merchant guilds for the regulation of trade, and frith guilds for the promotion of peace and the establishment of law and order.
In this goodly company we find evidences at an early date of the existence of the Fraternity of Parish Clerks. Its long and important career, though it ranked not with the Livery Companies, and sent not its members to take part in the deliberations of the Common Council, is full of interest, and reflects the greatest credit on the worthy clerks who composed it.