In 1538 Thomas Cromwell ordered that each parish priest must keep a book and enter all baptisms, marriages
and deaths weekly. The book was to be kept in a secure coffer with two keys and a fine of 3s 4d was to be
imposed if this was not done. Most parishes ignored the order, believing it to be the forerunner of a new tax.
The order was repeated in 1547 with the stipulation that the fine was to be used for the relief of the poor of the
parish. Records were now to be kept in great books of parchment and copies of the new entries [Bishop’s
Transcripts] were to be sent each month to the diocesan centre.
Previous records had often been kept on scraps of paper, these old records were to be copied into the new
books but many records had already been lost or had deteriorated and were illegible.
The cost of the new books which were to be kept in a chest with three locks, was to be covered by charging for
the entries, and finance was to be met by the parish. As before, many parishes opposed this, and the act was
not enforced until 1603.
During the 17th century many protestant countries had a state involvement in the marriage ceremony; it was no
longer just by consent and vows between a man and woman. There was now the dual requirement of state
registration and church consecration to constitute a marriage.
Records were poorly kept during the Civil War and Commonwealth period [1644-1647], many being destroyed or
hidden by the clergy
The registration of births, marriages and deaths was taken over by civil officers [1653-1660] confusingly called
Parish Registers but following the Restoration, the parish registers were returned to the churches.
In 1695 the cost of the entries was drastically increased to help finance a war against France and in 1696 a tax of
6d was introduced for any birth not reported within five days.
Until 1752 the year began in March and Parish Registers took March as the first month of the year, entries show
this with dates entered e.g. 5th January 1600/1601.
We have transcribed the registers from 1559 through to 1725 and it is our intention to complete this work to the
end of the 19th century. Where the quality of the originals makes it possible we will provide high quality images
of the original pages.
You can view the original Register for 1687 to 1769, this is much easier to read than those starting 1559.
Draft transcription copies of the 1559 to 1725 reqisters in Adobe Acrobat pdf format can be downloaded below:
Langham Village History Group ~ © 1996 - 2022
The Parish Registers 1559 - ...