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High Littleton & Hallatrow
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High Littleton Parish Registers

High Littleton's first parish register disappeared many years ago. One knows that a register once existed because the annual copy (or Bishop’s Transcript) survives for 1599 and for several years afterwards. Theoretically Bishop’s Transcripts (BTs) should provide a duplicate record of events in the lost parish register from 1598. However, the BTs retained in the registry at Wells were transferred during World War II to Exeter, where it was thought they would be safer. Unfortunately, the building housing the documents in Exeter suffered a direct hit in the blitz and BTs for High Littleton for only 13 years between 1599 and 1640 now survive.

In 1653 the High Littleton ratepayers elected a Register, who was made responsible for recording the parish "events", in place of Simon COTTON, who had been vicar since 1639. The Register (Registrar) – probably John BEDFORD, who was holding that office in 1655 - started a new register. It may be that High Littleton’s first parish register was lost or destroyed at this time. The first page of what is now the oldest surviving register is so faded that it is unreadable, even under ultra violet light and the next few pages are partly illegible, as a result of damage by water, vermin and general wear and tear. BEDFORD died in October 1656, whereupon Francis AMOR was appointed Register. After the Restoration Simon COTTON resumed his full duties as vicar and continued using AMOR’s civil register book, which became the parish register. AMOR died in March 1665.

Simon COTTON remained as vicar until his death in 1684. No successor to COTTON was appointed after his death and the church gradually fell into decline. The few baptisms, burials or marriages that might have taken place at High Littleton were not recorded in the register. Periodically some of the more influential parishioners caused the events for their own families to be entered retrospectively in the register but it was not maintained regularly for the next 52 years.

Following the rebuilding of High Littleton Church Philip WHITAKER was appointed curate in 1737 and Joseph DANDO parish clerk. DANDO started a new register and from then to the present time, events have been recorded without a break. At the beginning of the 1737 register, "by order of some of the gentlemen and chief inhabitants of the parish" DANDO entered the previously omitted events of members of their families, some of which went back 60 years. A few of these were duplications of entries recorded as a result of earlier retrospective "rounds-up" in the previous register. To DANDO’s credit he recorded dates of death alongside burial entries. This was not continued by his successor.

Baptisms, marriages and burials were originally recorded in different parts of the same register. After the passing of Lord HARDWICKE’s Act, marriages after 25th March 1754 were recorded in a separate register. Although pre-printed marriage registers had been available since then, High Littleton clerks did not use one until 1811, preferring to copy out all the detail in longhand. Similarly, a pre-printed Banns Book was not used until 1823. Although Philip WHITAKER was only a curate he rather pretentiously signed himself as vicar in the Marriage Register, which started in 1754. In fact High Littleton was without a vicar from 1684 to 1782.

Although many parish clerks had been recording ages at death in burial registers from the latter part of the 18th century, it was not made compulsory until 1813. High Littleton clerks felt no need to provide gratuitous information. The burial registers also make no reference to deaths by accident or contagious disease, from which one might conclude that nothing exciting ever happened. However, other parish records like Overseers Accounts and School Log Books reveal the usual range of tragic deaths from such causes as coalmining accidents, drowning and epidemics of smallpox, measles and scarlet fever. 

From 1813 onwards baptisms and burials were recorded in separate pre-printed registers. In 1955 the vicar started a Cremations Book, which was maintained until 1991.

There were several religious denominations represented in High Littleton but, with one exception, they all used the same parish churchyard. The exception was the Society of Friends, who had their own burial ground in Hallatrow until 1817. Plymouth Brethren operated in Hallatrow for over a hundred years from around 1856. Their burials can be easily identified in the register, because they were certified by a layman (from 1880 onwards, under the Burial Laws Amendment Act). Methodist burials can also be identified in the burial register by recognising the name of the ministers officiating.

In transcribing the parish registers, differences between BTs and the register have been noted. Additional details from the Banns Books and Marriage Licences have also been noted against marriage entries. It has been thought useful to record "strays". These are out of parish baptisms, burials and marriages of people whose abode was recorded as High Littleton or Hallatrow.

Indexes appear after the various transcriptions. It has been considered more user friendly to arrange these alphabetically by surname and then by date, so that the baptisms of a single family tend to appear in a batch together. The author has used his local knowledge to index under a standard spelling a few surnames, which were commonly misspelt or evolved over the years such as STICKLER to STICKLAND or STRICKLAND or WHITEHEAD to WHITING.

Readers may find it helpful to read the History file listed below before searching the transcriptions.

History of Parish Registers & Registration

HL Baptisms 1599 to 1948 & Index

HL Baptisms 1948 to 1992 & Index

HL Marriages 1599 to 1957 & Index

HL Marriages 1958 to 1986 & Index

HL Burials 1599 to 1961 & Index

HL Burials 1961 to 1991 & Index

HL Stray Baptisms & Index

HL Stray Marriages & Index

HL Stray Burials & Index

QUAKER REGISTERS

The only Register for Hallatrow Meeting has its first entry in 1651 but this was probably entered a year or two after the event. This contains Births, Marriages and Deaths and was maintained rather imperfectly for some forty to fifty years.

Records of "events" at the local meeting were also reported and registered at Monthly and Quarterly Meetings, so that in theory events should be registered more than once. In practice variations occurred between the different registers and it is clear that many events were not recorded in the local register. Indeed no entries at all were recorded in the Hallatrow meeting register after 1707. From then on the only source of information about births, marriages and deaths for Hallatrow meeting was the record of the Monthly Meetings of the North Division of Somersetshire and the Quarterly Meetings of Bristol and Somersetshire. Whilst their registers record the events with names and places of abode, the birth and death entries do not mention to which local meeting the parties belonged. To make the transcription of the Hallatrow register more meaningful the transcriber has noted the additional events, which he believes related to Hallatrow meeting. Events occurring at other meeting houses involving Hallatrow quakers have also been included.

Because of the comparatively small number of events, births, marriages and deaths have been included in the same file and have not been indexed.

HL Quaker Birth Marriages and Deaths

REGISTERS of OTHER DENOMINATIONS

Although various denominations met in High Littleton and Hallatrow over the centuries, only the baptism records of the Wesleyan Methodists from 1841 to 1955 have survived and these have been transcribed and indexed.  The next baptism register, covering the period from 1956-1988 may be found at Bristol Record Office under ref. DABRO22, Acc. 40690.

HLWesleyan Baptisms1841 to 1955 & Index

 

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