Sunday, 9 December 2012

Chapter 3. The Village & its Vestry

Village affairs in England were run by the Parish Vestry, a parish meeting that had developed over the centuries largely unregulated by legislation.  It took its name from the church ante-room in which it was held.

The Vestry officials, elected or appointed, were unpaid – the constable was responsible for law and order, the overseers for the poor relief, the surveyor of the highways for the upkeep of the highways and bridges in the parish, and the churchwardens for the upkeep of the church and a varied range of duties from the baptism of foundlings to the extermination of vermin.  The funds for the churchwardens' duties were provided by the church rate, set by the Vestry.

Each township was responsible for the care of its poor and sick, who were given relief in money or kind from the parish rate, and the Vestry could engage the services of a medical man to attend their poor.  Hutton township had adopted the 1819 Sturges Bourne Act, which enabled it to elect a committee, the Select Vestry, to administer its poor relief.

Very few records from the early 19th century have survived, the most significant being the overseers' accounts for Rudby township between 1779 and 1830, and the churchwardens' accounts from 1787 onward.

These show that at the meeting held in the vestry in 1830 on the usual Easter Tuesday to set the church rate and elect the churchwardens, the election was signed in the minutes by the Revd Richard Shepherd, William Sayer, miller and bleacher of Middleton, the Hutton farmer William Wood, the Hutton cabinet maker John Eland and yeoman Simon Kelsey.  The men elected to be churchwardens were George Swalwell, saddler of Rudby, and Phillip Gowland, a Sexhow farmer who also owned property in Hutton.

Hutton Rudby was a lively village.   Some of the inhabitants, particularly the linen manufacturers and yeomen, were prosperous and more must have felt themselves to be very definitely respectable, but apart from the vicar, a gentleman by definition, there were really no gentry living in the village.

The village doctor was Thomas Pulman.  At this time the medical profession was divided between surgeons, apothecaries and physicians, with only the latter enjoying any social status.  Pulman had been in the village for some time – in 1820 he was one of the witnesses of the Revd Grice's Will, made twelve days before the old gentleman's death.  A couple of years before Mr Barlow's arrival, Pulman had faced some competition. In December 1828 William Pannell Marshall, whose father was an architect in Northallerton, set up as a surgeon, apothecary and accoucheur and sent out cards announcing his arrival to "the inhabitants of Hutton Rudby and its Vicinity" [1].   He does not seem to have remained long in the village.

The parish was strongly Methodist – with the Wesleyans and Primitives at loggerheads with each other – but still retained a small Roman Catholic community of three inter-related households from the days when Cleveland was a centre of recusancy.

A much larger number of Catholics lived a few miles away in the nearby village of Crathorne, tenants of the ancient Catholic family of Crathorne, whose estate had passed from father to son unbroken for 500 years.  The male line failing in 1825, the lands had at last come into the hands of a daughter, Mrs Maria Tasburgh. The Hutton Rudby Catholic families, who were related to people in Crathorne, would attend mass in the Catholic church there, built only ten years earlier by Mrs Tasburgh's father in 1821.

There also seems to have been a small Calvinist congregation in Hutton Rudby.

However, all marriages and burials in a parish were carried out by the Anglican clergyman under the law of the time, and this was naturally a source of grievance to Nonconformists throughout the country.  In addition, under the Sturges Bourne Acts, the resident clergyman had a rĂ´le in parish administration as an ex officio member of the Vestry.

Mr Barlow's predecessor, the Revd Richard Shepherd, had previously acted as curate to the Revd Jeremiah Grice, the elderly bachelor who had been the vicar of Rudby for nearly forty years.  Born in Halifax and educated at Cambridge, Mr Grice died aged seventy-one in 1820 and was buried in the sanctuary of his church, behind the altar rails.   Mr Grice had owned property in Halifax, and had bought a house and land in the area called Hutton Fields, on the western side of Hutton, and another house and land at Trenholm [2].

Four years after becoming vicar, on 21 April 1824, the Revd Richard Shepherd married Ann Brigham, the daughter of Robert Brigham of Rudby Farm, who was agent to the Rudby and Skutterskelfe estates, High Constable and many times churchwarden.  The vicar of Egton came to officiate at the wedding.

Richard Shepherd had lodged in Hutton before his marriage [3], and it seems his married life was spent at Hutton House on the east side of the green [4].  Two sons were born, Richard and Robert, but in the early summer of 1830 Mr Shepherd took ill and died a few months later in November at the age of forty-two.  He left his widow an estate worth several hundred pounds [5], less outstanding debts.


[1]  see photograph of a business card, in Hutton Rudby: A second collection of old photographs; and local history MSS held by the Wellcome Library

[2]  North Riding Deeds Registry, Deeds of 18 & 19 Jun 1819 EK48 55, and Mr Grice's Will

[3]  A Deed of declaration of abode by George Thirkell of Middleton was sworn before R Shepherd Vicar of Rudby "at my lodgings at Hutton in the parish of Rudby" on 2 Nov 1822

[4]  the present house is the result of alterations in the 1880s. Recitals in deeds (in the possession of Mr and Mrs John Lees) state that a dwellinghouse and lands belonging to Mr Shepherd bounded Barkers Row to the east and south. He did not own property there, so was presumably the occupier of Hutton House, owned then by Lady Amherst.

[5]   Mrs Ann Shepherd took out Letters of Administration on 9 Apr 1831 in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, the estate (gross personalty only at this time) being valued at under £600 gross. He must therefore not have owned land in the jurisdiction of York, but probably stocks such as Consols


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