23 AUGUST 1856, Page 15


RORERT$' S SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE SOUTHERN COUNTIES.* THE predominant fashion of putting the manners, social condition, common arts, and everyday customs of a nation, into history, may be a questionable principle of composition when carried to the extent necessary to render it interesting, from its encumbering and diverting effects. Whether the fashion is right or wrong, Mr. Roberts has furnished a store of materials for the historian ; having pleasantly brought together a vast number of facts bear- ing upon the daily life, town government, customs, condition, and opinions of the middle and lower classes of England for many ages, especially for the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- turies. Pails to servants, presents to their masters is politic office or with courtly influence, the visits of stage-players to country towns the sports and amusements of the people, with a variety of similar matters, are expounded by Mr. Roberts. The danger of the Western coast through a long series of ages, from the attacks of enemies, pirates, and Algerine corsairs carry- ing off the inhabitants for slaves, as well as the systematic efforts made by the inhabitants to defend themselves, are indicated from the municipal records or the townspeople's complaints to the King. The really absolute municipal or county government, ex- tending not only to laws and trading regulations but to nearly the affairs of life, is exhibited by many instances. The state of

the roads and the mode of travelling for many centuries, to- gether with their gradual improvement till the days of coaches about the middle of the last century, are almost demonstrated from the payments made to Members of Parliament and the fuller particulars of disbursements by municipal agents. Domestic ' architecture " is described, the furniture and wardrobes or " stuff " of our ancestors ages ago are presented from the inven- tories themselves, as taken down at the time for taxation or other purposes. Beverages are investigated with something like gusto, as well as a variety of circumstances extending to nearly all the actions of life, that can in any way come before the public.

It may be that much of what the book contains is presented in a corpselike rather than a living form. Account-books, petitions, legal records, proclamations, and even business letters, rather mark that life has been, than actually exhibit it. Mr. koberts, indeed, does his part in " setting" his materials; and his style, though not vivacious, has the fulness which arises from thorough knowledge and mastery of the subject in hand. But the reader must to a great degree animate the materials before him, and re- produce for himself the latent life which they contain. The. Social History of the People of the Southern Counties of England in Past Centuries is a very valuable and curious collection of facts, illustrative of ancestral manners, usages, and opinions. It is well arranged, well presented, and very rarely overdone. Still, to a great extent it is a collection of raw materials.

One of the most striking impressions which the work will leave is the minutely extensive and really absolute power that the local authorities exercised. An Eastern cadi is not more prompt or determined, than were the Corporation of Lyme Regis or the Dorset Justices in session; a " paternal des- potism " would not interfere more completely with the conduct of its people. This may in part have arisen from circumstances and necessity—the difficulty of communicating with the centre of au- thority—the utter impossibility in the then state of the country of securely transmitting a number of offenders to any distant place, so that all offences below the highest felonies must be punished on the spot if punished at alL The state of opinion which rendered these .summary proceedings possible was the deeply-rooted principle of Anglo-Saxon policy, that made a dis- trict responsible for what was done within it. If a man was to be answerable for his neighbours, he must know something of their coming and going, and might reasonably claim to exercise a con- trol even over their private actions. The absence of all efficient police, the thinly-inhabited and wild and woody state of the country at large, the number of lawless men without means or occupation, " landless or masterless," who appear from the sta- tutes to have spread terror through many districts, created in the minds of our ancestors a not ill-founded horror of the vagrant and sturdy beggar, and induced them to deal very_promptly with him. Yet a sentence of death for vagrancy, and that by quar- ter-sessions only, so late as 1635, seems a startling proceeding. However, there it stands at Bridport- " Elizabetha Johnson, alias Stevens, pro vagrant tang. vagabund. inoor-

rigibil. suspend. per eollu. usque dm. mortua att."

In these later times the attorney is generally a great man in a small place. He influences the Squire, or may be the Member ; he outtalks the Doctor or the Divine ; and, however frankly or freely he may treat the more respectable inhabitants, shows in his bear- ing his sense of the maxim " knowledge is power." If there be several attorneys, the very humblest is not a man to be put upon with impunity. " Nemo me impune lacesset " might be the motto of the brotherhood. How different in early times, when statutes played root and branch work with the whole body ! nay, how different in the days of " good Queen Bess," when a cor- poration thinned them off like too thick-grown plants !

• The Social History of the People .of the Southern Caustics of England in Past Centuries; illustrated in regard to their Habits, Municipal Bye-laws, Civil Progress, 4.c., from the Researches of George Roberts, Author of "The History of Lyme Re- gis,' " Life of the Duke of Monmouth," • Dictionary of Geology," q-c. Fob-- Imbed by Longman and Ca. "In the year 1694, Thomas Densloe Richard Ellyot, and all other at- torneys practising in the Hustings Court of Lyme, except three, were, for certain good causes, which moved the Mayor and his brethren dismissed from their attorneyships. The three attorneys were obliged to take an oath to observe all lawful orders about the practice of the Court of Hustings. They did this before George Wadham, Recorder. "That this expulsion or exclusion was more than a forensic entry in the court-books of Lyme—mere words, and nothing enforced after the hour when the order was passed—is clear from the history of the borough. Mr. Thomas Densloe set up a school; his scholars were the subjects of a pre- sentment in the year 1597. He submitted to the decree of the borough

• magnates, and inculcated the rudiments of Latin grammar. * • •

" The orders passed for the lucky trio who were allowed to continue to practise were stringent. No attorney was to advise his client to bring in any demurrer touching any action for debt or detinue, being but of 208. or under. If above 20e., the attorney or party shall inform the court of the insufficiency of the declaration or plea., and pray to have the defaults amended before further proceedings. If this be refused, then the party may enter his demurrer. And likewise, in actions of trespass, breach of cove- nant, if but of 208. or under, the attorney shall not advise a demurrer. Also, not advise the removal of causes begun and depending which may be lawfully tried and determined in the same court. Also, not to take more than the ordinary and accustomed fees, except for journeys. Also, not to plead any foreign plea in bar in any plaint, action, or suit, but such plea as the attorney shall swear that the matter or averment is true and above 208."

Whether Mr. Thomas Denslowe's practice was of a dirty kind, does not appear. According to the following presentment, he did not teach cleanliness to his scholars.

" 1597. Item, that henceforth Thomas Densloe's scholars do not use to go into the cleves to dung there, to the annoyance of those that go that way, i nor the way that leadeth into the cleves, upon pain of 38. 4d.

Item, that henceforth the schoolmaster which teacheth grammar do not let his Scholars to filth the churchyard, nor going into Silvester Jurdeyn's clews, upon pain of 38. 4d."

The patriarchal or censorial character of the interference is singularly striking. The county justices or corporate officers in- terfered with questions of morals or manners, which, if now punishable even civilly, are only punishable on the motion of the


it the Dorset Sessions in 1626, the Court was informed that one Eleanor Martin, the wife of Thomas Martin of Burton, is a woman of ill name and fame, and suspected tcolive very incontinently with one John Patie, of the same place, tailor. "Eleanor Martin was forthwith committed to the House of Correction, there to remain at the pleasure of the Court ; and a warrant was issued against John Patie for his personal appearance at the next session. It was further ordered, that if the said Eleanor Martin shall again frequent the company of the said John Patie, the said order was to be a sufficient war- rant for the constables of the hundred of Sherbome, forthwith, upon such her suspected society with the said John Patie, to apprehend and convey her to the House of Correction. This case gave their worships trouble at seve- ral sessions • for, notwithstanding the prohibitions, the parties continued their familiarity in a suspicious manner. "The Court ordered, that if at any time Patie should be seen or known to be in the company of, or to frequent the house of Eleanor Martin, he was, u pon complaint before a Justice, to be sent to the House of Correction, and likewise Eleanor Martin. • • •

"W,li,aur Steevens, of Swanage, for having frequented the company of Christian, the wife of Edward Coles, in a very suspicious manner,' had lain in gaol for the space of three-quarters of a year, or thereabouts. His liberation had been effected after promise and hope of reformation ; but he relapsed. into his former habits of suspicious visits to Goodwife Coles, and was again consigned to gaol."

Interference connected with tippling as an offence leading to public indecorum, and that great bugbear of our ancestors "breach of the peace," is not so remarkable, though of a kind that would not now be submitted to. The regulations connected with trade and apparel (under the sumptuary laws) are curious, but the general character of the topics is familiar to most readers. The oppression exercised under the new Poor-laws of Elizabeth sometimes passed from tyranny into a cruelty which set aside the closest ties of blood.

"A.D. 1592, Andrew Ham of Lyme was directed to remove his sister from his house,—subpcena [under the penalty of] 40s.

" William Martin to remove Anne Dolman, 5a. "It was finally ordered in 1584 that no person do take in any under- tenant [lodger] into his house at any time without Mr. Mayor's licence, under pain of 10s. ; and this sum was raised in 1594 to 408.

"At Leicester the Mayor chose two discreet persons to search their ward every month to discover under-tenants. " ineu a trespasser within the precincts was detected the process for ex-

pelling him was simple. "Henry Webb, the new tailor at Lyme, had a day given him, in 1595, by which day he was to depart the town. "The jury made a presentment in 1597 that one Clattey had received into his house a man and his wife ; and William Skorch harboureth his wife's sister, a maisterless maid; and Joan Peter_, a masterless maid, a wrangler from house to house, and a common tale-teller.

" Also they present, that Edward Borough keepeth a young child in his house, which is not to be harboured, and Poynter doth the like ; and Wm. Crewe keepeth his mother in his house, which is not to be harboured, and Poynter doth the like ; and that John Domett likewise harboureth his wife's sister ; and Mary, Mrs. Barret's servant, is not removed, being often warned and commanded to depart the town. George Hoop harboureth Thomas Tucker ; and that Mary Cooke, a maid masterless, being a common picker

and filcher, is harboured by Thomas Lacy. • • •

" Sonic men preferred jobbing about as casual labourers. The Jury of Seaford presented for the offence, viz. living at their own hands.' The parties were ordered to get into service within a fortnight. 14 Charles I."

Where these people were to go to, or how they were to live, was no affair of "respectability," though it was possible that death in many cases might result. A humane man in a higher position than Crewe or Poynter was not dealt with so summarily, but with as much stringency. " Beaminster, Mich. Quar. Sessions, a. D. 1625. " It is ordered by this Court, that Mr. Jefferies, parson of Beere Hackett, within this county of Dorset, clerk, shall, within one month next, give se- curiae to the overseers of the poore of the said parish of Beere Hackett, to defend them in time to come against anie charge or burthen which maie arise or be by reason that he hath received into the said parish one Christo- pher Sprage, a man of no worth, [1. e. having no property,] with seaven children and three apprentices, verie likely to be chargeable to the parish; which if he shall refuse to do, that then the said overseers shall have power, by vertue of this order, to rate the said Mr. jefferies to the poor at ha or us. yid. per week more than his ordinary rate, and so to continue untill he shall remove them out of the said parish."

There are many indications of the differences that sprang up soon after the Reformation between the Puritans and the laser Protestants, who more or less adopted the principle of King James's Book of Sports. When the Puritans were in municipal office, they proceeded on the letter of the law against Sabbath-breakers. During the Commonwealth, they had it all their own way.

"On the 1st of April 1657, proceedings are taken against Thomas Pouneye, on the charge that he did travaile upon the Lord's day a horse- back towards Charmister in ye afternoon.' And on the same day informa- tion is laid against Robert Fooks for riding in the cross lanes above Broad- close towards Charmister, and soe towards Som'ton, as hee (the informant) thinks.' So strict was the surveillance in this respect, that one unfortunate Wight is proceeded against for travailing vpon the Lord's day at three of the clock in morning, who was taken by the watch.'

"Even a rural stroll in the neighbourhood on a summer Sunday evening was deserving of condign punishment in the eyes of the sturdy Puritans of the time. On the 9th of July 1655, informations were laid against no fewer than ten individuals for walking abroad on the Sabbath, including Thomas Standish and his wife, for walking in Frome Lane in sermon-tune.' On another occasion a pair of swetehartes ' were convicted of a similar offence. On another day an unhappy lad is ordered to be whipt by his master' for riding on a gate at West Mills on a Sunday afternoon. Whipping and stocking appear to be the punishments more frequently awarded for this de- scription of offence. The following entry is curious as showing a mode of recreation prevalent at the time, and the cost of such an entertainment. " May 19. 1656.—Mathew Traske being vested for Boeing to Charmes- ter esterdaye, being the Lords daye, sath that hee dad goe to Charmester emedyately after dener, and came home agayne a letell after the sermon wase done at trentie, it beinge the parish in which hee leveth. Further hee saith that there went with him Edward White, Josef Foye, Mary Foye, Thomas James, Edward Wingate, George Toogood; and further hee saith that Josef Foye, Mary Foye, and Josefe Foy's sweteharte, eate milke and creame in a rome by themselves; and the said Traske, -White, James, Wingate, and Toogood, eats milcke and creme in another rome by themselves, and further saith that they spente there 2d. a pece in melcke and creme.' The record goes on to state that this examt. was stockt 3 owers for said offence.' "

One object of Mr. Roberts is to dissipate the delusion about the " good old times," or the conclusion drawn by some persons that this popular idea of a golden age, if somewhat exaggerated, was yet founded on fact. Facts, on the contrary, show that the history of the country has been one continued course of improve- ment and progress. In those good old times, individual liberty was infringed in all modes—personal, domestic, industrial, and, as we have seen in the case of the unlucky lawyers, professional. A man could not live as he pleased—authority would interfere with him ; he could not move the least distance without trouble ; he could not travel without a certain expense and hardship, a probable risk of life itself. In the country, the sick could rarely get a doctor at all ; when he came, she perhaps more 'effectually aided death than if he had stopped away. In- stead of our present security, the coasts, till the time of Cromwell, were harassed by frequent forays from enemies or pirates ; the inland parts were frequented by troops of " valiant [stout— able-bodied] beggars," who not only frightened but robbed, as- sisted after 1512 by gangs of gipsies. Till the times of the Tudors, men went armed, and the peaceable were continually liable to be set upon by a brawler in his cups. General famines were of frequent occurrence ; from the absence of means of transport a local failure of crops caused a local famine ; prices fluctuated with a rapidity of which we have no conception, and rose far, far beyond the means of the poor. Those ,who could. eat butcher's-meat during the long winter must eat it salted : our ancestors welcomed May with such ceremonious delight, not altogether so much from a perception of its charms as for its chance of fresh meat. Tavern and other bills printed by Mr. Roberts indicate that our forefathers were coarse feeders, and limited in their choice of tipple,—almost confined for many ages to " malt" ; the " good cheer " was comparative ; the jollity —an enviable characteristic certainly—in themselves. The well- to-do might spend a good deal on apparel; it was the only way in which they could get rid of their money, for their houses were wretched, their household stuff was below that of the merest peasant of the present day. Mr. Roberts seems to think taxation had much to do with this ; everything a man had was valued to a subsidy. We rather conceive general poverty was an equal cause.

"According to the erroneous system of ancient fiscal policy, every article in a household was liable to be rated, and a proportionate part of that value had to be paid in money. This led our ancestors to dispense with every article nearly, except the necessary and indispensable household stuff.

" Convenience, comfort, luxury, ornament, found no one ready to enter- tain them : these would have been the cause of intolerable charges, and yielded, as would be found to be the case at any sera, to circumstances. "Roger the dyer, of Colchester, lived when the most minute taxation On record, that of the year 1300, was made. " He had in his several apartments but few articles for luxury or conve- nience. The inventory gives us an insight into the internal economy of a house in the reign of Edward I.

"Roger the dyer (there were then no surnames) had— In his Treasury or Cupboard, a. d. 1 silver buckle, price 0 18

1 cup of mazer (maple) 0 18 In his Chamber, 2 gowns 20 0

2 beds half a mark

1 napkin and 1 towel 2 0 In his House, 1 ewer with a bacon 0 14 Andiron 0 8 In his Kitchen, 1 brass pot 0 20

1 brass skillet 0 6

1 brass pippin 0 8 1 trivet 0 4 In his Brewhouse, 1 quarter of oats 2 0 Wood ashes half a mark Great fat (vat) for dying 2 6 Item, I cow 5 0 Calf 2 0 2 pigs (each 12d.) 2 0

1 sow 015

Billet wood and faggots for firing 1 mark Sum 71 5 Fifteenth of the above which had to be paid 4 9 "What a low state of domestic civilization does this portray ! The tax- gatherers took nearly the value of the dyer's cow for one contribution."

These extracts are not to be looked upon so much as specimens of the book, as of some of its matter. This matter has been drawn from numerous sources. Mr. Roberts is well known for several works connected with the Western counties, which if not of an antiquarian nature involved antiquarian inquiries, and have led to a collection of his own. His History of Lyme Regis natu- rally introduced him to the archives of that place, which as well as the records of Weymouth have furnished much matter for his work. He has also had recourse to public repositories—as the State Paper Office, the British Museum. Private collections, and the half-private publications of antiquarian societies or of indivi- duals, have been largely consulted ; in addition to which, he has drawn from county histories and similar books, as well as from periodicals, any scattered facts that answered his purpose.