Centre for Metropolitan History



J. V. Kitto (editor)

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'Preface', St Martin-in-the-Fields: The accounts of the churchwardens, 1525-1603 (1901), pp. V-VII. URL: Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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"'Tis hard, methinks, that a man cannot publish a book but he must presently give the world a reason for't, when yet there's not one book of twenty that will bear a reason, not one man of a hundred, perhaps, that is able to give one, nor one reason of a thousand (when they are given) that was the reason of doing it." (Translation of Cicero's Letters, Robert L'Estrange, 1680.) Whether this book be or be not that one of twenty, or this writer that one of a hundred, here is the one reason of a thousand which has the merit of truth. The book seems worth publishing and therefore it is published. For my share of it—let me say I was not importuned but importunate, that the book is meant well, and I hope that, being weighed in the balance, it will not be found wholly wanting.

This volume contains the Churchwardens' Accounts of St. Martin-in-theFields from June, 1525, to Christmas, 1603. These Accounts are contained in thirty-eight books, which have been bound together in one large volume; they are here reproduced verbatim and page for page. In the majority of cases a year's accounts are preceded by a list of burials; these are of the greater value, since the extant Registers do not begin until 1551. Until that date these lists are the only hunting-ground our parish records offer to the genealogist, and after that time they will be found, by those who are curious to search, to give names not in the registers, and to supply interesting enough details about several persons whose names appear in both sets of records. After 1550 I have made a point of indicating those names which occur in this book only, and I have used the Registers for filling up some of the blanks in the Churchwardens' lists; such additions are given in [brackets], while the footnotes distinguished by (R.) give variant forms of names from the same source.

A volume of this nature is bound to contain many repetitions; from personal experience I am sure that these are less exasperating than a suspicion that something of interest or value has been edited away.

In documents prepared by professional scriveners there are, naturally, not many difficulties of transcription; for reasons of economy the marks of contraction and abbreviation have been uniformly represented by an apostrophe; I have not noticed any case in which this leads to ambiguity. In the matter of punctuation I have followed the scribes; each Book of Accounts, therefore, is a law unto itself, and I have not aimed at enforcing consistency. Capital letters are given where the writers of the MS. have taken pains to make their intention clear; where, from carelessness or other cause, they have left the matter in doubt, I have adopted modern usage. Various types have been used in an endeavour to reproduce in print something of the effect produced by the written pages.

The notes are intended primarily for the help of those who may wish to learn something of the history of St. Martin's, but, from lack of time or specific training, may not always be able to see the interest which belongs to some apparently uninteresting items. I have done my best, under difficulties which were my own, and therefore need not be blazoned abroad, to render them accurate and clear. Many of them will be found superfluous by the trained reader; the text is all he requires, and for that he owes a debt of gratitude to the long succession of parish officials by whose care these documents have been preserved, and to the late Vestry by whose direction they are now printed.

I must not take any credit to myself for the absence of an Introduction. This admirable self-restraint is forced upon me by limits of space and money. I felt a strong temptation to add a short essay which might serve as a guide to the matters of chief interest in the following pages, but came to the reasonable conclusion that much the same information would be conveyed with more detail and precision by the Subject Index; I am thus able to find room for a few extracts from the Vestry Minutes and other sources.

I am indebted to several friends for timely aid ungrudgingly given. Mr. Hubert Hall, F.S.A., has given me much invaluable help, besides superintending, at the Record Office, searches which my continued absence from London prevented me from making for myself. Professor W. E. Collins, of King's College, kindly solved a number of my difficulties, and made several useful suggestions on other points which he foresaw would arise. Mr. Thomas Mason, F.R.Hist.S., has allowed me to use him as a court of reference on all manner of questions touching the production of this volume, and I have profited greatly by his ready sympathy and advice. I would also acknowledge the courteous assistance of Mrs. C. C. Stopes, Mr. H. G. Lee of the Bishop of London's Registry, and Mr. H. E. Johnson, Deputy Registrar of the Archdeaconry of Middlesex. The help I have thus received has gone far to remove the blemishes due to my inexperience; but, for those which remain, I must bear the responsibility.

I cannot think it out of place if I here acknowledge some small part of my debt to my father, who first aroused, and has since continually fostered, the interest in this parish and in its history, which constitutes my chief qualification for the task of preparing this volume. I hope the book may prove not unworthy of the parish of which he is vicar.

The Index of Persons has been compiled by Miss Rose H. Schloesser and Miss Wynifred M. Willis-Swan under my directions, and I have verified every reference which it contains. The Subject Index is of my own making; it does not pretend to be complete, and, with a view to keeping it within due bounds, it has been constructed on an unscientific system which I trust will not detract from its usefulness.

The plates have been executed by Messrs. J. C. Drummond & Co., of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. Those in the text have been chosen as illustrating the style in which the accounts were engrossed and as examples of penmanship. The frontispiece is a reproduction of a Vertue's print. This has the disadvantage of being an eighteenth century work, but is the earliest obtainable likeness of the Church with which these Accounts are concerned.

I cannot close without expressing my thanks to Messrs. J. Davy & Sons, of The Dryden Press, for the interest and care with which they have performed their part in the production of this volume. I am in their debt for several valuable suggestions.

St. Martin's Vicarage.
July, 1901.