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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Fingringhoe Wills (3): Transactions 'New Series' Volume 20 Part 1

{Part 3}

The bad state of the roads in the Middle Ages was the cause of much inconvenience, and since they were entirely dependent on individual effort, their maintenance was regarded as a work of mercy.  Bequests for the purpose were therefore common, and occur in the wills under consideration. John Sowthow (1504) left a remnant of money "to the ways";  Alice Hampkyn (1517) left 13s. 4d. "for the highways of Fyngryngho"; similarly, John Obre (1522) left 20s. "to the repair of the highway between Fyngryngho and Colchester"; and John Sowthow (1530) left 10 marks "to the repair of the highway from Fyngryngho church to Weststrete house." A bequest by John Cowper (1524) of 26s. 8d. "to the repair of the steps" is somewhat puzzling. The same term occurs in the will of Thomas Beriff, dated 1563 (P.C.C. Chayre 40), who left money for the "mending of highwaies, bridges and the steepes" in Brightlingsea. Evidently "the steps" were connected with the water-side, and Dr. E. P. Dickin has suggested[1] that they might have been the steps of a quay or stepping-stones across a fleet.

Bequests to the parish church were numerous and, as is frequently the case, these and kindred items throw a fresh light on its history.  Naturally, its needs in connection with repair and upkeep were remembered:  William Webbe (1502) left 26s. 8d. for its reparation; Agnes Hankyn (1505), John Hankyn (1506), and Alice Hampkyn (1517), left the residue of their goods to the church, the earlier bequest being for repairs; John Feryer (1504) left 20s. for two stocks, i.e. two separate funds to provide for certain expenses, and also ordered his son to pay 10s. to the church "in shorttyng of dettes"; and Gonor Dorell (1513) desired certain proceeds to be disposed of for such things in the church as the vicar should deem of most profit.

The following references to various images, each with its attendant light, occur:
1400.   Lamps of St. Mary, St. Michael and St. Katherine.[2] 
1505.   The painting of the image of Our Lady of Pity.
1508.   Light before Our Lady of Pity.
1508.   Light before St. Anthony.
1509.   Two tapers of a pound apiece, to be kept burning before Our Lady for ever.
1524.   A tabernacle and image of Our Lady in it, to be set in the chapel of Our Lady; and a candle, of half a pound, to be kept perpetually before the said image.

A testator also left 10s. in 1504, for lights in the church.

In addition to the above there would have been, according to the invariable rule, an image of the patron saint near the high altar; and no doubt one of the images of Our Lady also stood in the chancel, probably at the north end of the altar. "Our Lady of Pity" was the group called the Pieta , and represented the Blessed Virgin seated, with the dead body of her Divine Son on her lap, a conception very popular in this country during the century preceding the Reformation.[3]  The tabernacle, or·canopy of tabernacle work, and image of Our Lady ordered to be set in the chapel of Our Lady, gives us the hitherto unknown dedication of the south chapel.  This chapel is some decades later than the south aisle,[4] and was added c.1360, when the chancel was rebuilt.

Images in two neighbouring churches are also mentioned, namely, at Langenhoe:
1506.   Lights before Our Lady and St. Clement.
and Donyland:
1508.   Repair of the image of Our Lady.

The certificate of the church goods at Fingringhoe in Edward VI.'s reign is unfortunately lost, so it is interesting to know that the parish was provided with some exceptionally rich vestments. In 1504 John Sowthow left the large sum of 20 marks, i.e. something like £200 in modern money, to buy a cope of "tyssu," or cloth of gold, to match the chasuble already in possession of the church.  The "church box" is also referred to in the same will.

We learn from the will of John Hankyn (1506) that a Gild of St. Peter, hitherto unrecorded among the Religious Gilds of Essex,[5] existed in the parish.

The following is a list of the clergy mentioned, generally as witnesses, in the various wills.  The vicars are given by Newcourt;[6] the other names are those of curates and clergy of uncertain status:
1502-3.   Sir Richard Pyngull (alias Pyngyll, vicar).
1504.   The parson of Donyland.
1504-5.   Sir John Wodward alias Woodward), vicar.
1505-18.   Sir John Webbe, vicar.
1505-6.   Sir John Well,[7] curate.
1506-7.   Sir John Parke.
1521.   Sir James Tunstall.
1522.   Leonard Richardson, priest.
1524-29.   Sir Richard Warde, curate.
1532.   Sir Richard Saye, vicar.
1539-51.   Sir (or Mr.) Nicholas Gladman, vicar.

[1] History of Brightlingsea (1913) p 166.
[2] Emblems of these saints and of St. Anthony, together with a winged heart pierced by a word, suggestive of Our Lady of Pity, are carved on an oak curtain-beam, which has recently been erect ed at the Entrance t o t he south chapel.
[3] See E. Peacock, ‘Our Lady of Pity’, Archaeological Journal, vol xlviii (1891) pp 111-116.
[4] The foundations of the original east wall of the so uth aisle were revealed in July, 1930, when a step was being laid down at the entrance to the south chapel.  Two or three fragments of stained glass were also found among the debris.
[5] See EAT vol xii pp. 280-290; vol xv p98; vol xvi pp. 59, 307
[6] Repetorium, vol ii, pp. 266-267.
[7] Probably a transcriber’s error for ‘Webbe’.

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