On the Parish Registers of Waters Upton

By the Hon. and Rev. G. H. F. VANE, M.A., Rector of Wem.

[Published 1897 in Transactions of the Shropshire Archæological and Natural History Society (2nd Series, Volume IX, pages 21 to 33). Transcribed from a copy at Archive.org]

This little parish, formerly called Upton Parva, and containing at this day just about two hundred souls, is a limb lopped from the mighty trunk of Ercall Magna, alias High Ercall. Eyton states that in 1341 the assessors reduced the taxation of Great Ercall Church from £20 to £13 6s. 8d., for the ninth of wheat, wool, and lamb, because the Chapels of Rodington and Upton Parva were now separated from the Mother Church, and assessed as distinct parishes to the current tax, and for other reasons. Yet the little daughter excels in the antiquity of her registers her venerable mother; for while the parochial records of the latter, “since the burninge of the old register,” begin “the first day of Januarie in the yeare of our Lord God 1585,” the register of Upton Magna may be said to resemble Melchizedek, and to have no “beginning of days.” A solitary leaf, indeed, sere and yellow, having suffered many things of time and of the waters of Upton, has in the autumn of its days fallen from off the thin and coverless quarto in which the earliest existing records are to be found. This melancholy fragment has no heading, showing apparently that other leaves are as hopelessly lost as the MSS. of Aristotle were once supposed to be. It appears to contain christenings from 1549 (or possibly from 1547) to 1564, a highly respectable antiquity, considering that the royal injunction of Henry VIII. on the subject was published by Cromwell in 1538, and that a parchment book was not ordered until 1597. The first page which yet adheres to the book contains two christenings of 1564, two of 1565, three of 1567, and so on, with fair regularity. Towards the end of the book, however, Dryasdust will light upon a list of weddings from 1547 to 1612. 1547 is, therefore, the earliest date of which any Uptonian record has survived.

To take first, however, the list of christenings. Each page of these until 1616 is signed “by me Roger Lowe, rector;” and Roger Lowe’s signature is found again after an interval of 15 years, in 1631, thus embracing the huge total of fourscore years and four. The explanation of this thing incredible is, no doubt, to be found in the fact that the first few pages of his record are a copy which he made of the old “paperbooke,” now perished. His burial at High Ercall in 1632 would imply that the signature in 1631 is genuine. No rector’s name is entered after his until 1699, when one Miles Field appears, and makes this entry concerning himself: — “The fees for churching and registering was demanded Jan. 14, 1699, by me Miles Field and rendered before Rich: Jucks warden.” Here surely we have bad law going hand in hand with bad grammar, for the prayer book speaks of “accustomed offerings” at churchings, and not of fees. However, the overseers of High Ercall paid tenpence each for “the Registering of two children” only four years after the combative Miles took the field at Upton, and “churching fees” varying from sixpence to one and threepence from the middle of the century onward.

Hark we back now to the baptisms in the waters of Upton. In 1568 was christened Richard ap Robert; in 1585 Ambros ap Thomas, son of John Thomas; in 1589 Roger ap Homfrey, son of Homfrey ap even (?); in 1620 Anne ap Hugh, daughter of Ralfe ap Hughe, while in 1574, 1588, and 1622 respectively Ales ap Robet, John ap Richard, and Richard ap Hughe entered into the holy estate of matrimony. Though the delimitation of the boundary between England and Wales was not finally completed till the 28th year of Henry VIII., it is interesting to find the Welsh patronymics and the ancestors of our common Pugh, Probert, Pritchard, &c, recurring so frequently, and well on into the 17th century, in the registers of a tiny parish at least 20 miles from the Welsh border. This “ap” is, I believe, philologically the same word as “of,” and our favourite Shropshire “off.”

In 1598 we find the first mention of any man’s occupation, and in 1604 the first base born child so described. Illegitimate births in Upton appear to be fewer in proportion than in Seville, where they cause small scandal, as being possibly only the result of having eaten of the lily, which is sacred to the Virgin! It is refreshing to find baptisms of such at Upton at such intervals only as 1604, 1616, 1625, 1627, 1680, and 1705. In the evil times of the last century, however, they become much more numerous, and baptisms are also very frequently noted then as having been performed in private. Is there any connection between these two things? or did the private ministration of the first sacrament “proceed much from the pride of women, bringing that into custom which was only indulg’d in case of imminent danger, and out of necessity during the Rebellion and persecution of the Clergy in our late civil wars?” The latter suggestion is from pious John Evelyn, and was urged by him upon the Bishop of St. Asaph and the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1689. Their lordships assented “utterly disliking the practice as novel and indecent.”

To return, however, to the occupations of fathers and men of honour at Waters Upton. In 1598 the word “husbandman” has been added to two baptismal entries, and “weaver” to one, the parents being undescribed in the remaining three. In 1603 “labourer” first appears, and in 1605 “yoman.” In 1604 one Socrates Poole is described as a smith, who on his marriage two years before posed as a “joyntemaker.” “Taylier,” “carpenter,” “poore traveller,” “blakesmith,” and “baker” come into view in the next few years, and in 1611 and 1612 the less common occupations of “vintener, of London,” “whitesmith,” and “wood colliar.” In 1616 the parish boasted of a clothworker, and in the few years following of a “joyner” and a “myllar.” In 1631 the entries begin to be in Latin, and accordingly some of our old friends reappear as “pistor,” “textor,” and ” molitor.”

The learned language, however, held sway only for five years, and after a spasmodic reappearance in 1673, became dead for the second time in 1675. In the second volume, which covers nearly the whole of the 18th century, only “householder,” “pauper,” “Attorney-at-Law,” “wheelwright,” and “ship-carpenter, late of Bristol,” need be noted.

Among the older baptisms, that of the child of a tailor from Whixall, in 1609, has appended the “memod. that John Crumpe of Bowton gave his worde (?) to discharge the p’ishe from the childe.” It appears to be the only one so guarded, though in the Ercall register there are several.

Between 1643 and 1646, when “war and battle’s sound was heard the world around,” and when High Ercall Hall was stoutly but vainly defended for God and King Charles by “212 souldiers and officers, all good plucked, brave fighting men,” there are no entries in the Upton register, though that of the mother parish confusedly reflects the turmoil of the times. Two baptisms in 1646 have for their sequel an “hiatus valde deffendus,” for cold steel and wicked mishief have cut out at least one page, and perhaps more. Waters Upton in the time of the Commonwealth is a blank: no record of birth, no note of a lay register, no “intention of matrimony!” Perhaps loyalty, more zealous than discreet, made it so at a later date. Yet before Miles Field, as a brass in the church asserts, William James, M.A., rector, “laboured here in the word and doctrine 64 yeares,” and died in 1691, at the age of 81. This long life, whose ministry seems strangely to have begun when Lowe was yet rector, and at the extremely uncanonical age of 17, bridges the chasm, and preserves intact the Church’s continuity. Of the vicissitudes of this ministry, however, the ejection and usurpation, the return and re-possession, if such there were, the parochial records show nothing. Leap then we the chasm, and we find ourselves in 1663, with a notice that “this yeare should be inserted at the bottom.” And no wonder, for the remainder of the page shows the records of 1660, 1661, and 1662 in order. Moreover, the year 1663, which came before its time, tells not only of two who were “babtized,” but also of one who was buried. Never before was any buried in Waters Upton, save three in 1662, which follows 1663! They buried again in 1679, two, both in woollen, as the powers had just ordained; and in 1680, one, also in woollen; and in 1681, one, not in woollen; in 1687 and in 1692, one each year, both in sheep’s clothing. After that they let wool alone, but they went on burying, about two in each year, some at Upton, and some at Bolas. And where did they bury before? Well, the Resurrection will show. However, Ercall churchyard contains certainly a vast quantity of Upton bones, and Ercall register many Upton burial entries. And a late rector of Upton—of whom more hereafter—enters among marriages in 1793 the following note, which is as clear as mud:—”Waters Upton Rectory is not dependent upon High Ercal Vicarage, except that it pays Eight Pence to the Vicar of High Ercal for every Person buried in the Parish.” Moreover, as Pepys phrases it, “it is pretty to observe,” that at the end of vol. 2 of the High Ercall records is a “Registrum Rodintoniæ et Waters-Upton per se separatum et inchoatum Undecimo Die Octobris Anno Christi 1679.” This extends to 1685, and contains five burial entries from Upton. Being the handiwork of “Johannes Hotchkis minister Ecclesisæ de Ercal,” it is writ very large indeed, and two dubious entries in the Upton book become clear enough when placed side by side with the fasti of the caligraphist of Ercall. These two burials are, in fact, recorded in the books of each parish; and so is yet another, for Hotchkiss, “pious towards God and painfull in his place,” as his epitaph records, went on with his appendix in his next volume. This second appendix extends from 1686 to 1692, and contains eleven other entries from “Aqua-Uptonia vel Uptonia juxta aquam,” which the Uptonian scribe has not inserted in his own register.

From the first volume of the Upton registers, with its tangled chronology, we have now only to extract the following couple of couplings, which must surely be rare in the annals of matrimony:—

1607. Richard Upton thelde of Waters Upton yoman and Anno Rodon of Weston in the p’ishe of Norbury wyddow were married the xvith daye of November An’o Dm. 1607.
Richard Upton the younger of Waters Upton yoman and Judith Rodon of Weston in the p’ishe of Norbury were married the xvith daye of November Ano spdict.

On opening the thin octavo which forms the second volume of the Fasti Uptonenses, and which, as it covers the period from 1718 to 1792, is nearly coæval with the long life of John Wesley, we find ourselves confronted by the following record, which is eloquent enough of the age to which it belongs:—

“Anno Æræ Xtianae 1718.
“(Ego) Johan Tourneour, ad Rectoriam Ecclesiæ parochialis de Waters Upton alias Upton Parva in Com: Salop in Diocæs: Cov: & Lich: per serenissimum in Xto Principem ac Dom: astrum Dom: Georgium, Dei Gratia Magn: Brittan: &c. Regem, Præsentatus fui, decimo nono die mensis Aprilis, institutus ad Rectoriam prædict: per Reverend: in Xto Patri et Dom: Dom: Edv: Cov: et Lich: Episcopum decimo quinto die Mensis Maii Inductus in Realem et Corporalem Possessionem ejusdem Ecclesiæ et Rectoriæ per Reverend. Jonath. Laurence vie: de Wrockwardine decimo septimo die Mensis Maii.”

O shade of Cicero! O “ampullas et sesquipedalia verba.” O Georgian junction of Church and State, royal arms and sacred offices! The “calamus velociter scribentis” of the dying nineteenth century wearies and wears in copying. Yet the grandiloquent Tourneour found a more grandiloquent successor. “I Thos. Hatton was inducted Rector of this Parish April 21st, 1764, by James Hewitt Curate of Stoke. Revd. Borlase Wingfield present “is a simple record, and a sufficing. But the learned leisure and loose Latinity of a descendant of the dancing Chancellor of Queen Elizabeth swelled and inflated it into “Anno Salutis 1764. Ego &c. &c. &c. per serenissimum in Xto Principem ac Dominum nostrum Dom. Georgium tertium, Dei Gratia, Magnæ Britan. Franciæ et Hiberniæ Regem Præsentatus fui . . Institutus . . . per Rev. in Christo Patrem et Dom. Dom. Fredericum Cov. et Lich. Episcopum decimo quinto Anno Consecrationis . . . Inductus &c. &c. &c.” To quote in full would weary writer and reader alike. Yet the present rector informs me that this Thomas Hatton was a remarkable man, and a devoted parish priest. Village tradition yet recalls how evil boys would pilfer his wig and his cane, and how in the absence of she-bears he himself would pursue these youths “trium literarum” along the street; and this when he kept a free day school, and himself was their Orbilius. But boys are not always respecters of benefactors, and the activity inherited from that ancestor who “led the brawls” before good Queen Bess was useful oft times. Hatton was buried at Waters Upton in 1807, and his hatchment exhibiting the armorial bearings of the family of the Earls of Winchelsea is yet in the vestry, and his record exhibiting himself in the book.

This record is fuller than that of Magniloquus No. 1, for the entries of Johan Tourneour contain little of interest besides his pompous manner of recording weddings “after a Canonicall Publication of the Banns of Marriage in both churches,” or “by virtue of a License directed to this church,” as the case might be, and his love for “Æræ Xtianæ.” Wedged in between the two, however, comes plain John Brooke, who “was Inducted Rector of this Parish September ye First 1741.” Soon follows the brief entry, “Anno Dom. 1742. The Church new Built.” Of this building I need only say that it continued to be used until 1864, when it became too small for the congregation, and being considered unsightly to boot, was pulled down, and gave place to the present substantial and suitable building.

And now for Thomas Hatton’s long reign, which, beginning in 1764, continued for 43 years. Clear is his caligraphy, and most careful are his entries. Christenings, weddings, and burials are now separated, while his predecessors had for the most part recorded them confusedly. Very many of the christenings, as the manner of the age was, were private, and to these the date of reception into the Church is for the most part added. Occupations and the manner of death add interest to the record: as for instance, “late a private Soldier in the first Regiment of Foot, of a Consumpn;” “drowned wth 2 horses at Slape Bridge the preceding day;” “she dy’d of a Consumption;” “N B The above Wm. Turner is a Sergeant in the 38th Regt. of Foot lying at Dublin in Ireland;” “He was kill’d by a loaded Waggon going over him;” “late a Soldr in ye 47th Regt of Foot commanded by Genl Lascelles & recd a Pension from Government.” These all occur between 1773 and 1778; but in 1769 and the following year the note “of a Malignant Small Pocks,” or an equivalent thereof, occurs no less than five times, and shows that that fell disease, which filled the places with the dead bodies and smote in sunder the heads over divers countries, which had once smitten a Queen of England, had recently slain a Queen of Sweden, and was about to strike a King of France, spared not the humble and the poor in our tiny village. “An Infant aged 2 years;” “She was a faithful servant, patient in her sickness, & dy’d in Faith;” “15 days after sick:” these are pathetic additions to the black list which Jenner’s great discovery was so soon to curtail, if not to abolish. A still more awful death, and that at the holy season of peace and goodwill, is thus recorded by Hatton in 1785:—”Jan. 4th, Octavius Cæsar Augustus Hitchcock, aged 22, murdered by John Gore, Publican, Dec. 30th, 1784, 10 p.m., according to the Verdict of the Coroner’s Inquest which finally sat upon the Body Jan. 4th.”

This imperial Hitchcock’s tragic end is one of those recorded between 1783, “New Act commences Oct. 1st,” and “Oct. (?) 6th, 1794, Duty expired.” These brief notices, the first of which is repeated among the baptisms, refer to the objectionable Stamp Act, which for the first time imposed a duty of threepence upon every entry in a parish register. That Act continued in force only for the eleven years indicated in our register, after having sat as light as air on the rich, and pressed as a burden grievous to be borne upon the poor. Moreover, it had pressed the clergyman into the service of the State as a tax-gatherer, though good old Hatton, ever “painfull in his place,” was too conscientious to omit registration under it, as did many parish priests. Nay, things of supererogation he inserted sometimes, as for instance among his marriages a statement that a parishioner of his and a parishioner of Hodnet were “thro’ Ignorance or Misinformation married by Banns at High Ercall, Feb. 11th, 1793. As the Marriage was illegal I insisted upon my Marriage Fee and was paid it upon Mar. 18th, as Witness my Hand the Day and Date above written: Thos. Hatton, Rector.” Hatton’s neat handwriting ceases in 1798, illness with age having perhaps laid him low. A gap melancholy to behold then occurs in the register until 1804. After this some illiterate clerk writes of “Shusanna” and “Lidea” and “Margreat,” and other such perversions, and makes about one entry per annum, while Hatton had made about three, then suddenly buries twelve in one year and five in the next; and in fact, makes woful exhibition of grievous incompetency and carelessness that deserves the severest rebuke. Contrast herewith the care and precision of one of Hatton’s later entries:—”1790, Sep. 19. Privately baptis’d Hortense the Daughter of Captn René Nevé and his wife Lady Theresa Beatrix L’lssoir. She was born the preceeding Day at ½ past 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Recd into the Church Nov. 22nd 1790. Sponsors, Mr. and Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Adney.” This was the second daughter of these portentous personages, the first being named Maria Cleophile, and both being provided with a full complement of god-parents. It will be observed how much more the names of these sponsors savour of our native Salopia than do the names of the parents or children; for, indeed, the Captain and his Lady were French refugees, and copies of these entries were sought for and obtained by two visitors from France but a few years since.

And now note another work of mischievous imagination carried out by ruthless steel. Vol. 3 contains baptisms and christenings from 1793 to 1816. It contains also one wedding, which was solemnized shortly before the battle of Waterloo was fought; but that wedding page is more than half cut out, an omen of divorce, which, I hope, found no fulfilment; and about ten other pages are cut out altogether, after which the record marches solemnly on to our own day in the dull and formal manner which the prosaic conscience of the nineteenth century demands.


In compiling the following list, I have had the assistance of the Rev. J. B. Davies, the present rector, and in consulting the Episcopal Act Books at Lichfield I have boon much aided by the Rev. W. G. D. Fletcher. The first eleven names are taken bodily from Eyton’s great work (vol. viii.,p. 58). The Episcopal Act Books supply the names following up to 1529, after which date the names occurring in the Parish Registers have been mostly corroborated from the “Liber Institutionum” or from other sources. The Abbey of S. Peter, Salop, appear to have obtained the advowson about 1245, and to have always presented up to 1529, at least, i.e., until their dissolution.

Peter, Parson of Upton, was found dead in his bed, as reported by the Bradford Jurors at the Assizes of 1256. He had been buried without view of the Coroner, an omission for which the Vills of Upton, Crudgington, Howton, and Cold Hatton were answerable.

John le Enfaunt, being dead on Jan. 27, 1310, Master John do Bruneshope was instituted to Opton on the presentation of the Abbot and Convent of Salop, who likewise presented in the following instances until their dissolution:—Sir Robert Ridel resigning the Curative Chapel of Upton Parva on June 29, 1318,

Sir John de Hatton, Chaplain, was admitted on July 14 following. He is, probably, that “John, Parson of Upton Waters” who occurs in 1345-6 as having been disseized of a considerable estate in High Hatton.

Sir John de Hodynet, Rector, dying on April 23, 1350,

William de Walsche, Chaplain, was admitted on May 11 following. He died in 1382, when on June 27

John, son of Thomas Gech, having the First Tonsure, was instituted to this Free Chapel. He died in 1387, when on May 23,

William de Rodenhurst, Priest, was admitted. He resigned in 1389, and on July 3 of that year, Nicholas de Peshale was instituted. In 1384 Peshale, till then rector of Kyngeslyne, in the diocese of Lincoln, became rector of Edgmond by exchange. He resigned Edgmond in 1425, having apparently held Waters Upton as well for some years.

Thomas Harlyng, Rector of Upton Parva, died in 1423. On the death of Harlyng

Dom. Johannes Corbet was instituted 5 Aug., 1423. Corbet having resigned,

Dom. Willelmus Slepe was instituted 24 March, 1427.

Dom. Thomas Mynde, rector, resigned before 31 Jan., 1477, when

Dom. Robert Wellyn Achadcn Ep’us was instituted.

This “Rev. Father in Xt. Robert Bp. of Achaden,” as he is called on his resignation, is somewhat puzzling. One Robert Wellys was Bishop of Achonry, in Ireland, for some years after 1473, though a correspondent in Notes and Queries insists that Episcopus Achadensis must mean Bishop of Aghadoe, which See is now united to Limerick and Ardfert. Anyhow, this rector appears to have been an Irish Bishop. On the resignation of Wellyn

Thomas Lylleshull was instituted 21 July, 1483.

John Hyll, rector, having died, was succeeded on 6 April, 1529, by Rogerus Haynson.

In the Valor of 1534-5 the preferment of Roger Haynson is put at £4, chargeable with two shillings for procurations and 10½d. for synodals.

Roger Lowe had no degree and no license to preach. He signs the registers from 1 547 to 1631, and was rector from at least 1602 to the latter date. He and his wife were both buried at Ercall Magna.

William James, M.A., was instituted 10 April, 1632, on the presentation of the King. Died 14 Feb., 1691, æt. 82. Buried at Waters Upton, where a memorial brass states that he laboured 64 years!

Miles Field occurs in the register as rector in 1699.

John Tourneor was instituted 19 April, 1718, on the presentation of the King; died 2 July, 1741; buried at Bolas Magna.

John Brooke, instituted 1 Sep., 1741 , was also second master of Shrewsbury Grammar School. During his incumbency the church was “new built” in 1742, and a silver flagon, chalice and paten were presented in 1748. He was buried at St. Mary’s, Shrewsbury, in 1763, and was commemorated there by a brass tablet behind the choir stalls.

Thomas Hatton, B.A., was instituted 22 Feb., 1764, and inducted 21 April, on the death of John Brooke and on the presentation of the King. He and his wife were buried at Waters Upton.

Robert W. B. Hill succeeded Hatton in 1807, was buried at Waters Upton in 1815, and is commemorated by a brass in the church there.

Richard Hill, 1815-1822, lived principally at Hawkestone with his father; Sir John Hill. Buried at Prees.

Richard Corfield, 1822-1865, was also rector of Pitchford, and lived but little at Waters Upton. Buried at Llangattock-upon-Usk, where his son William was rector and his grandson William Booth is the present rector.

John Bayley Davies, M.A , Cantab., instituted 16 Jan., 1866, is the present rector.

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