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Saturday, 27 December 2014

Fingringhoe Wills (2): Transactions 'New Series' Volume 20 Part 1

{Part 2}

Commemorative services were constantly arranged for.  In some cases these consisted of a repetition of the funeral services of: (1) Mattins of the Office of the Dead,[1] called Dirige, dirge, etc ., from its first antiphon, Dir'ige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam (based on Psalm v., 8); and (2) Mass for the Dead, known also as Requiem, owing to its introit, Requiem aternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. These services were repeated at varying times and intervals. Sometimes they were said on the thirtieth day after death, or Month Day, e.g., Joan Sowthowe (1505) enjoined that her thirty day should be kept; and Harry Smyth (1508) ordered 20s. to be disposed for his burial and month day.  John Hankyn (1506) left 16s. to the vicar to say mass and dirige for his soul four tim es a year for four y ears.  Frequently they were said on the anniversary of death, called the Obit, e.g., John Harryes (1504) directed his wife to keep an obit for his soul, paying the vicar 3d., and the sexton 1d.  These obits were often ordered to be continued for a term of years, as in the case of Alice Hampkyn (1517), who desired that obits should be kept yearly for sixteen years, for herself, her son and daughter, 6d., 4d., 4d. respectively, being paid to the vicar for mass and dirige; provision was also made for their maintenance in perpetuity, as in the will of John Ferier (1502), who ordered an obit to be kept in Fingringhoe church for evermore, the curate to be paid 4d. for mass and dirige.

In other instances the commemoration included, or took the form of, a Trental, or half a trental, i.e. a set of thirty (or fifteen) requiem masses said on one day or on successiv e days. The money for this purpose (10s. or 5s.) was usually, though not invariably, left to the Grey Friars, of Colchester, and, as we learn from the will of Joan Cole (1508), the masses were sometimes celebrated there instead of in Fingringhoe church.

Daily masses were also ordered for terms of varying length, e.g.: Thomas Dorel (1509) gave directions for a priest to sing for his  soul for three months, and the like for his wife's soul after her death; Richard Harries (1504) bequeathed 5 marks to a chaplain to sing for his soul for six months, and for the souls of his parents, friends, and benefactors and of all faithful dead, to the praise of God; similarly, Richard Smyth (1510) left 10 marks, and John Sowthow (1504) 20 marks, for celebrations for one year and two  years respectively.  Apparently 10 marks was the usual rate of payment for a year's masses.

ln some cases the bequests for commemorative services included further sums to provide refreshment for those who came, thereby ensuring a larger attendance of worshippers. For instance, John Harryes (1504) left 8d . for bread and ale for people being at his obit; and John Hankyn (1506) left 2d. to each poor person who came to his month's day.  It is noticeable that these commemorations ceased after 1532; also that a few years later there is a marked change in the words of commendation, Our Lady' s name, with one exception in 1544, being omitted in, and after, 1539.

In one case only do we find any reference to a mortuary gift.  It occurs, under the term "fordrove," in the will of Clement Cocke, dated 1400, and is interesting as being more than a century earlier than the first recorded use of this word in the New English Dictionary. The Foredrove was a mortuary offering in kind, to the incumbent, of a live animal or animals, which were driven before the corpse at a funeral. Practically all that has been written on the subject is based on a paper which Mr. H. W. King contributed to these Transactions over fifty years ago.[2]  Extracts from a number of Essex wills, dating from 1504 to 1534 are there given, in which the actual word 'foredrove' is found; and an extract is printed from an earlier will of 1493 in which the observance is mentioned.  The word is rare and seems to have been confined to Essex, and the custom which it denotes does not appear to have been at all prevalent.

Nor in the "discharging of their consciences" did the testators entirely overlook the claims of the needy: John Sowthow (1504) left 20s. to the prisoners of Colchester castle; John Hankyn (1506) left 16l. to be given to twenty poor people in Fingringhoe during the course of four years, also 30 "seme," i.e. 60 sacks, of rye for distribution among the poor of the parish; and John Hulbord (1532?) requested that 40d. be given to forty poor folk.



[1] The Office of the Dead consisted of two parts: the Evensong, or Placebo, so-called from the opening antiphon , Placebo Dimino in regione vivorum (Psalm cxv i ., 9); and the Mattins (with Lauds). Both services -Placebo and Dirige - were frequently specified by testators the former, however, is not actually mentioned in any of the wills in question, although at least in one instance (see will of Richard Harries, 1504-5) we may infer tha t it is included in the directions given.

[2] EAT, vol I (n.s.) pp 166-169.  See also Gepp in Essex Review, vol xxx (1921) pp 14-16, and G G Coulson, The Medieval Village (1926) pp 76n, 448-452.

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