Justice and Pestilence in Tudor and Stuart Buckinghamshire

Justice and Pestilence in Tudor and Stuart Buckinghamshire

As seen in the Little Brickhill Register of Burials


Little Brickhill parish register

This register is one of the county’s oldest lists of those baptised, married and buried in an individual parish; that of Little Brickhill. The first registers were created following an order in 1538 by Henry VIII’s Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell that every vicar or rector should record all baptisms, marriages and burials that took place in their parish. A subsequent order (dated 1598) required that new parchment registers be purchased and the earlier entries copied up. Many parishes only went back as far as the beginning of the Queen Elizabeth’s reign in 1558, the approximate date of the first entry in this volume. It is likely that this register is not the original, but the later parchment copy and probably dates from around 1598.

 It contains very valuable information for family historians, but is interesting from other perspectives too. Perhaps most importantly, it gives some administration of justice in the county. The most serious offences (including capital crimes) were tried by judges on circuit from London at the Court of Assizes. Hosting the Assizes bestowed great prestige on a town, and the honour of doing so was a central feature of the battle between Aylesbury and Buckingham for hegemony in the county in the 18th Century. It is therefore slightly surprising to find that the Assizes were held at Little Brickhill until 1638. It probably owes this honour to its location close to Watling Street, the ancient route from Canterbury and St Albans. The road made Little Brickhill a convenient stopping off place for the justices before they continued on their circuit.

Most Assize records are at the National Archives at Kew, but this register is the best evidence held in the county. The register includes entries, marked with crosses, recording the burials of thirty nine people executed in the years between 1559 and 1618. The executed include three women hanged during one of James I’s witch hunts in 1618. The unfortunate Cicely Revis was another executed by the Assizes. She suffered the agonising fate of burning. She was probably convicted of heresy or petty treason (murdering her husband) rather than witchcraft, although frustratingly little in the way of other documentation survives so we can’t say for sure. Her sentence was carried out on the same day as 10 men were executed, again for crimes unknown. The listing in the register can be seen below, Cicely marked with two 'X's either side of her name.

Image from register showing Revis listed as being burned the same day

 "Cicely Revis was burned the same daye."


The register also shows strong evidence of the plague or similar malady striking the village. The burial of Alice Dawson in April 1569 was the first in the parish since August 1568. There wasn’t another until September, following which twelve people were buried in just over three weeks. Those twelve included John Andrewes, his daughters Sibill and Elizabeth, his sons Henry and Edward, their maid Agnes and servant Edward. The Rastell and Clubbe families were similarly afflicted in 1563 and 1571.


Image showing burials of a several Andrewes family members




"                1569

Alice Dawson was buryed Aprill 3rd

One Morgan Afoords September 10th

Elizabeth the daughter of John Andrewes September 20th

Sibill the daughter of John Andrewes. September 23rd

Henry the sonne of John Andrewes. September 25th

Thomas Andrewes

John Andrewes the father of them all September 26th

Agnes a mayde who dwelt with the same Andrewes September 27th

Edward the sonne of John Andrewes September 28th

Edward Groome servant to John Andrewes September 30th"



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