Old Duffield Village, Church, and Castle,
With some Personal Reminiscences.

A Lecture given before the Duffield Branch of the Church of England Men's Society, Dec., 8th., 1921,

Parish Registers and Churchwardens' Books


We have a set of Parish Registers that go back to the year 1598. From them, and from the church-wardens' books, many interesting extracts might be made. There are the usual curious entries of payments made by the churchwarden, whose duties then covered a much wider ground than now. Payment for ringing the curfew bell crops up regularly, and also payments for ridding the parish of what they considered to be vermin, such as 1s. for each fox's head, and for the poor hedgehog, 4d.

Of course, there are numerous references to "ale"; indeed, an important part of the churchwardens' duty seems to have been to provide ale on all sorts of occasions, and particularly at the Easter meeting, when churchwardens were elected. In the year 1747, it seems to have become necessary to curtail this expense, for a formal resolution was passed that "no more than 10s. was to be spent at the meeting at Easter for the choice of churchwardens." Apparently the 10s. did not provide enough ale to "go around," for in the following year, 1748, they solemnly rescinded this resolution, and decided that the churchwardens might spend 15s., "and no more!"

Other occasions when much meat and drink were consumed were annual perambulations, or processions. Thus, in 1704, we have "paid for ale at Sam Stone's, when we went ye procession, 8s."; "paid for ale, etc. at John Harrison's on ye same account, 6s."; "for ale at my house on ye same account, 7s."; and again in 1712, "paid for meat and drink when we went a possessioning (sic), 18s." These processions were what are known as "beating the bounds" or boundaries of the parish. They could scarcely have been Rogation processions for the blessing of the crops - they were much more solemn occasions.

It is interesting to see in these entries how the names of old Duffield families keep recurring, whose descendants are still amongst us. The family Sowter has a long continuous connection with Duffield and its church. As early as 1604, a Jacob Sowter was baptised there. In 1682, Sam Sowter was paid 1s. for "whipping ye dogs out of ye church." The name, "dog-whipper," still clung to the verger within the memory of many of us. The last Duffield verger to bear the name was a Hollingworth, whom I remember walking up and down the church bearing a long wand with which he kept the schoolboys in order. In 1702, and for several years afterwards, Matthew Sowter was paid 6s. a year for ringing curfew; more recent members of this family were James Sowter, of Church Street, a ringer for more than half-a-century, and Peter, the well-remembered parish clerk for over fifty years, and the third of his line to hold the office. Other old families still represented in Duffield (or until recently) are Tempest (a daughter of Michael Tempest, of Burley, was baptised in 1722), Statham, Cooper, Clark, Chadwick (1628), Winson (Wm. Winson, churchwarden, 1777), and Garton. In 1701 we have an entry: "Samuel Garton, de Duffield, demursus in Derwent infra Duffieldiae pontem." Several other drownings and casualties are recorded. In 1673, "Robert Randall, of Denbigh, who, going from a cock fight at Duffield, and being drunk, fell into water above Duffield Bridge, and was drowned."

Extracts of this sort could, of course, be multiplied, and they shed some light on the customs of our forefathers, the value of money and labour, etc. For instance, in 1661 the churchwardens paid for a labourer's wages 9d. a day, and a skilled workman's 1s. 4d. a day. But if wages were small, commodities were cheap, as three loads of coal cost 2s 6d. From the Parish Registers and earlier sources, Dr. Cox has compiled a list of the rectors and vicars of Duffield from the year 1253. He kindly gave me permission to copy it from his book, "The Churches of Derbyshire," and supplied me with additional names more recently traced, which have not previously been published. For the purpose of recording these, and as it may be of interest, I give a full list as an appendix.

First published 1922, Derby, Harpur and Son. Website copyright 2001 Jed Bland. 16.04.01