Morley Parish Council

Serving the people of Morley Derbyshire

Clerk/RFO: L Storey
P O Box 8108, Derby
Derbyshire DE1 0ZU

Chapter 3

It is from the parish records that we found much of the history of Morley in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Among the documents are records of the work of the churchwardens, the Overseer of the Poor, the Constable and of the Overseer of the Highways. The parish was made administrative centre for local affairs in the Tudor period, but in Morley there are few records before the eighteenth century, and the fullest records are those covering the years when Robert Wilmot was rector.

Appointments were made in Morley of people, usually men but occasionally women, who were landowners or people of some standing who had to take their turn for a year in doing these various duties. They had to go to Derby to be sworn in by the appropriate County officials, and they responsible for carrying out the law of the land in so far as it affected the parishioners of Morley. They were paid their expenses but otherwise there was no payment, and although they to do their duties for only a year many of these posts involved their holders in a lot of work. It was in a way, government on the cheap, but in small communities such as Morley it must have meant that many people were actively involved in the affairs of the parish, and from turn their in office got a taste of the problems and difficulties of administration.

Today only the churchwardens still carry out duties in the parish. The roads passed in part to the Turnpike Trust and then at the end of the last century to the County; the Constable eventually became a paid and full-time member of the police force; and the care of the poor was taken over by the workhouses and then by the National Assistance Board. The old system would never work in large communities, but it is very interesting to look back and see a parish running its own affairs, and being responsible for its wellbeing.

The Churchwardens' Accounts

In some place's churchwardens' accounts exist from the middle of the sixteenth century, but in Morley the first mention of churchwardens is in 1647 when Wm. Bennett the Rector died and the various books belonging to the church - 'a Bible, Jewell's Apology, a_Psalme Book and also one Quushion, one carpett, one linen tablecloth marked with M.C. and an Erasmus Paraphrase' were handed over to Henry Hibbert, churchwarden safe keeping.

The churchwardens' accounts themselves start with 'Seth Brentnall his accompts, being churchen Anno 1711' but they were not kept regularly in any great detail until the nineteenth century. There are two officers, one of the people's warden who was appointed annually, and the other the rector's warden. Through much of the eighteenth century this latter post was held by a Brentnall, and in the latter part of the century and also in the nineteenth Thomas and then Robert Stainsby take over. The churchward were responsible for the general moral standard of the parish, and they had to ensure that the rector carried out his duties and that any ecclesiastical laws that the state made were enforced. It was the duty of these officers check that everyone attended church and to inform the local J.Ps if there were absentees. Derbyshire record of Presentments however, has no mention of any non-attendance in Morley. Churchwardens were also responsible for the upkeep of the fabric of the church, the apportionment of seats, the provision of fittings, the leasing of church lands and the administration of charities. To carry but these duties they could levy a church rate on all the landowners of the parish. (These church dues had to be paid until this century when they were ended because of opposition from people who were not members the Church of England.)

One duty that was carried out, was the result of a law ordering all churches to ring bells on Sundays and on important occa¬sions so a recurring expense was payments to ringers:/p>

1711 Paid the ringers for Nov. 5th 1s 6d

1756 Paid the ringers for Nov. 5th 3s 6d

1757 Paid the ringers for New Year's Day 2s 6d

Paid the ringers for ye King's birthday 2s 6d

(and also in that year 'spent at ye Smithy on ye king of Prushias birthday') 3s Od

By 1811 the ringers' pay had gone up to six shillings and in 1839 they received ten shillings for ringing for Queen Victoria's Coronation.

In 1789 the accounts show a typical year's work:

June Pd. Bread and. Wine 4s 8d

July 4th Pd. the Archdeacon's fee at the visitation bs 6s 8d

Pd. with the breefs 1s 6d

Pd, the paietor 2s Od

my jorne and expenses 1s 6d

12th Pd. to Mr. Bareson: for Mending clock wite. 1s Od

Pd. for oile clock and the bells1s 1s Od

Oct. 17th Bread and Wine 4s. 8d

Pd. the visitation fees 4s 10d

Pd. with the breaf 1s Od my jorne and, expenses 1s 3d

Dec. 25th Pd. Bread and Wine 4s 10d

Mar. 23rd Pd. Bread and Wine 4s 8d

for 2 new: botteS 8d

for packing the same 1S Od

for washing the sarpes 4s Od

for thred and mending 4d

for loucking the clock and clening 13s Od

Mr. Talers Bill 1s 11/2d

The ringers the year 6s Od

for macking the Lave and counts ls 6d

(they had to go to. Derby to be sworn in for the year by the Archdeacon.)

Some things however were not mentioned in the accounts. The Reverend Charles Kerry in the History of Smalley writes 'the late Mr.Whittaker the distinguished botanist of Ferriby Brook House informed me that a Black Letter Bible for¬merly belonging to Morley Church was said to be in the possession of Mr. Moses Smith of Alles¬tree, and that there was a memorandum on the cover that the book was sold by the churchwar¬dens of Morley to defray the expenses of a par¬ish bull-baiting'.

The nineteenth century marked a time when Churches were being put in repair and modernised and the churchwardens accounts became much lar¬ger in consequence. New laws were passed too about the books in which births, the banns of marriage and the record of burials had to be kept, and every parish had to buy these books and also an iron chest in which to store them safely. In 1813 Morley bought one (still in the church) for £4.4s.Od., and the marriage register in 1823 cost 7s.6d. In 1811 the total expenses for the year came to nine pounds, and include a Prayer Book, the usual expenses for bread and wine, £1.14s.6d. for a new figures board, pay¬ments to the ringers and to the man who oiled and wound the clock, for washing the surplices, and for materials for the repair-of the church. For the repairs they bought lime and hair, plas-ter stone and brick, and in that year too they paid for some of the stonework to be pointed. In 1815 it cost £2.19s.8d to clean the windows, and a bill for £23.19s.Od was presented by Wm. Cross for four new pews and the repair of others.

1816 was an expensive year:-


Feb. 13th Mr. Jn. Smith for painting and
repairing'vindows £ 9.178.8d
Saml. King's bill for ironwork £ 3.13s. 3d

Mr. Thos. Dolts bill for drawing whitewashing etc. £12.12s.2d

Mr.Jn.Weson for estimation and laths etc. £19s. 0D

An alteration that took place about this time is recorded by Mr. T. Osborne Bateman in the Reliquary 1873. 'The Rev. Mr. Fox (who died in 1870) told me that the old people in the village remembered a rather handsome but decayed wooden screen which separated the chancel and the nave, and which had disappeared about fifty or sixty years before and of which there is now no trace. It was not thought well of by the then rulers of the church and it was sold to a farmer in the village for a guinea or so to serve for a hen-roost or some such other agricultural purpose'.

In 1822 the church was heated by two stoves costing some some £9, and typically the expenses of having them installed is followed by the entry 'for ale' 1s.9d. These stoves than have to be cleaned and coal bought, usually from Kilburn, which cost in 1848, with cartage and toll charges £1.1s.6d. In 1830 a curious entry refers to the bricking up of windows, but this probably is the doorway at the west end of the church high up in the north aisle, which had once been an entrance to a gallery used by the Sacheverells. In the same year the church wall was raised at the considerable cost of £25.33.7d. but which wall this was is not made clear. Perhaps it refers to the wall at the roadside since the ground is so much lower than the ground on which the church stands.

There is no reference in the accounts to the lease of church land, though during Robert Wilmot's time there are references to this in general vestry meetings. Only in 1802 do we see the Church as a landowner when there is:-

Lacey for cows Bulling 14s.0d

Pd. Jn. Lacey for 4 cows bulin each 8s.0d

The administration of the charities, ano¬ther of the churchwardens' duties was actually carried out by the Rector and the Vestry and the accounts appear in the Town Book.

A restoration of the church took place in 1850 and these are also listed by Mr. T. Osborne Bateman. 'Many of the monuments which are of alabaster were repaired, painted and restored at a cost of about £30 shared between the families of Pole, Wilmot, Sitwell and myself'.

'The old stained glass was in a most dilapidated condition and up to the time when Mr. S. Fox entered on his curacy about 1829 it was the custom of the friends and visitors at the vill¬age at times of hospitality such as Christmas and the Wakes, to show their regard for the church and its interesting objects, by pulling a bit of stained glass out of the windows to take home as a relic'.

The old windows and stained glass were res¬tored in 1850 by W. Warrington of London. Mr.F. S. Ogden reports that a roll of 'cartoons' (one or two of them coloured) still exists, which appear to be of some of the windows as they were before the restoration. Mr. T. Osborne Bateman mentions several inaccuracies in the "History of Morley" by Samuel Fox relating to the inscrip¬tions in the stained glass. He also has an in-teresting story to tell about one of the windows. 'Mr. Fox in his book describes a 'cross' as occupying part of a light in the East window of the South aisle. Mr. Warrington when he was superintending these restorations said this was some of the very oldest glass in the church. It is made of floreated fragments of a very peculiar character. One of Mr. Warrington's workmen had laid his hand on them, and because they were not connected with the picture glass, he he thought he might keep them as a relic. When I saw them in London and the use he had turned them to by making this singular and elab¬orate piece of work somewhat resembling a cross, insisted paying the value of the workmanship and returning it thus made up, as an additional ¬and legitimate object of interest in Mor¬ley Church'. Mr. Osborne Bateman gives the cost the restoration of the windows as a guide to anyone engaged in similar works. 'The entire quantity of glass releaded, refixed, repaired and somewhat augmented was measured at 185 feet according to the workman's peculiar way of measuring. Mr. Warrington's original estimate to make a good job of this was one hundred pounds, but when on completion he told me that two hundred pounds would barely remunerate him, I paid him the money without objection so highly was I satisfied with the result!'

The Gazeteer and Journal of Derbyshire by Francis White also records the restoration that took place at the church in 1850 and particular¬ly mentions that the old pews were worked up in¬to the present open pews, and the spire was heightened 2 feet 7 inches (thus making the height of the tower and spire 113 feet). The whole restoration was done at an expense of £426 raised by subscriptions.

Church Music

There were regular payments 'to singers' in the nineteenth century and in 1807 fifteen shillings was paid 'for desks for the use of the singers'. Music was provided by a bassoon at one time and this can still be seen in Derby Museum with the following particulars. 'Used in Morley Church, Derbyshire about 1820. Presented by the late Mr. Shaw Allsop'. It is very probable that other instruments were used as well but no other record has survived.

Mr.T. Osborne Bateman throws some light on the arrangements in the church at the time.

'Previous to the year 1840 there was a singers gallery projecting into the church in front of the present tower arch, which was then filled up With lath and plaster. About that time Mr. Fox suggested to me to have this gallery be set back and placed within- the tower, the arch being opened. It was accordingly done at my expense, and was according to our then lights a great im¬provement, as the church was very short in proportion to its width. This improvement involved no great coat perhaps about thirty pounds. At the final restoration of the church in 1850 this gallery was taken down, and the singers were moved into the chancel, in accordance with the church arrangements now so generally better un¬derstood and practised.'

Canon K. H. MacDermott A.R.C.M. gives some very interesting facts in his book "The Old Church Gallery Minstrels".19...'Many churches had their own bands which came into being soon after the Restoration and throve with variable fortune for about two hundred years, and there were keen musicians in nearly every village and town in England. The bands usually consisted of from three to eight players, half playing on stringed and the others: on woodwind instruments. Minstrels usually performed in the gallery at the West end of the church, when there was no gallery the musicians performed in some conven¬ient place in the nave, they rarely seem to have occupied the chancel. It was the custom for whole families for generations to serve in the choir or band: any member of a household who had failed to try to take part was regarded almost as an outcast. Not many children seem to have been employed in the old choirs, probably because the melodies of the hymn-tunes were sung by the tenor voices down to about 1850, the treble part being rendered by women. It is well perhaps that the old choir men were satisfied as a rule with their own performance, for very few writers on the subject of church music in the past ever had much praise for them, and scathing of both the singing and playing are frequent in the books of the period. Thomas Mace in "Music's Monument" (1676) in allusion to the psalm singing of the day says 'It is sad to hear what whining yelling and screeching there is in many congregations, as if the people were affrighted or distracted. Dr. Burton in his Journal(1750) wrote - 'They sing psalms by preference not set to the old and simple tunes, but as if in a tragic chorus, changing about in strophe and anti-strophe and stanzas with.good measure, but yet there is something offensive to my ear when they bellow to excess and bleat out some goatish noise with all their might.'

The 'musickers' were often ignorant, somewhat without musical talent, frequently poor exe¬cutants and generally somewhat irreverent, but full of zeal in matters musical. They practised singing several nights a week at home or in church; or they learned their instruments slowly and laboriously, often without any tuition save that afforded by an instruction book or a fellow player. Many a young fellow who had little 'schooling' would learn some instrument vith unflagging earnestness and laboriously copy out his music; the cost of printed books being far beyond the reach of his slender means.

The privilege of occupying a seat in the gallery was most jealously guarded, and ordinary non-musical members of the congregation were not allowed 'up among the gods', and sitting in the minstrels gallery was obviously reserved for the few.

Apparently the singers were encouraged to regard themselves as among the elect in the mus¬ical portion of the service, at whose feet the ordinary members of the congregation had to sit and humbly learn!

There can be little doubt that the singing in the olden days was more lusty than refined, more original than artistic, more vigorous than tuneful; but the whole-hearted efforts of the devoted musicians largely made up for a lack of knowledge and skill. There was a simple direct¬ness about their voluntary labours which makes one regret the bygone days.

In 1850 the church was presented with Harmonium by Mrs. Sitwell of Morley Hall. This was later transferred to the school and was in constant use for many years by the day school and for Sunday School hymn singing.

The present organ was installed beneath the south chancel arch in 1885 and was removed to its present position in the tower arch in 1952. The choir stalls were installed in 1884 and were a great improvement to the former simple benches.