Last year, an exhibition of historical documents in High Ham church included R.G. Crossman’s Adrian Schaell’s Memoir of High Ham Church and Rectory, A.D.1598.
There is a PDF of the document available online, but it seemed appropriate to post an HTML version so that search engines might find Schaell’s work.
For as much as no mention that I know either in writing or other monument is left of the rectory of Higham or of the first edifying thereof, that hath come into my knowledge, who alwaies accordinge to my understandinge and utterance have sought the benefit of that congregation comitted to my charge now the space of 28 yeares, and lest the remembrance of that Churche newly erected from the foundation together with diverse other things perteininge thereunto, throughe the continuance of time and death of the auncient inhabitantes therabout should utterly perishes (to the intent that the age to come might have some briefe compendious description) I have thought good, as well as for the love of antiquity as for the commodity of the parishe, to comitt these things to writinges which either by relataion of credible persons and the same very auncient, I have often hard, or by the windowes of the church chap and mansion house I could collect and gather.
The Church of Higham in old time of popery after the example of the temple of Wells being dedicate to St. Andrew, was builded anew from foundacon and troughly finished in the space of one yeare, which was from the nativity of Criste 1476 and this was performed by John Selwood, then Abbot of Glaston naturall patrone and donor of the rectory, and certain other personages as Paulett, Peter and John Roberts, John Irland etc and some parishioners as Robert and John Paddogge, John Hurd and Christian Alpton and many others which at that time in the thicke miste of error and superstition (with a certaine devoute intent as they thought) did both bountifully and readily contribute charges to the same. The chauncle or quier of the same church being cunningly wrought was reddified the same time and yeare at the costes of the said Abbott and especially at the charges of the reverand man John Dier, Batchelor in both lawes, the person of Higham, who being
the sonne of Ralph Dyer of Wincanton did sett forth or illustrate (as men call it) the originall and name of the Noble Dyers, to the great praise of theire family. The same John after the church and chauncell was finished lived twenty thre yeares and died at length the twenty of September in the year of our Lord 1499. After whose death the Abbot of Glaston challenging the patronage of the rectory, through the favour of the King appointed no rector, but onely certaine monaches by turn fv fashions sake to serve the cure, and transported fro thens out of eche personage borne by the space of forty yeares or thereaboutes for the maintenaunce of the Abbey all the come to Glaston by botes and
litters trough a dytch made by hand for that purpose which ditch at this day the comonly call Hardens ditche, whereof is yet manifest signe to be seene. The same Abbotes (lest anie thingg for the maintenaunce of the belly should be lackinge to theire greasy mouthes providinge cunningely for theire Society) had determined to reduce the Rectory into a Vicareage as in manie other places therabout(to encrease their substance) they had diligently effected, but, when they sawe how that could not be conveniently be brought to passe because the personal and lesser tithes were not sufficient to maintain a vicar, they gave over that enterprise, and impudently imposed a perpetuall yearly pension of forty shillings uppon the personage, which yea even at this day is every yeare paid into the Kinges excheker. After these thinges the Abbot being compelled by lawe, appointed one John Newton a gent of the family of those which dwelt in the parishe of Swill, parson of the church who being Archedeacon of Noridge was absent, and taking but little care of the stocke came hither very seldome, and that for the most parte at harvest, having put foorth his personage to his Kinsfolks.
In this man’s time, when as Kinge Henrye the eight in- the xxvl yeare of his raigne abandoninge from heare the pope did by most just and right title chalenge unto him selfe all tenths of this lande, and ther upon caused by the Commissioners or visitors through the whole realme in every parishe by a jury of twelve men a ratement to be made of every benefice, personage, vicaradge, or whatsover sprituii promocion; The personage of Higham was most wonderfully rated above most parishes in the diocese, very few excepted, and beyond equity with such enhauncment rated and valued by the yearely vaieue of 38 lib and 19s and that by reason of the hatred and ill will of the parishioners which they had conceived against ye parson, for that he being alwaies absent, smale regardinge his flock, by his proctors and farmers pilled the parishioners to the nicke, and by extreame straigntnes, wronge out all duties and for all that did the parishe no good, being defrauded of doctrine nor anie thing distributed among the poore to relief them nor bestowed anie charges uppon the decayed places of it happeneth that as well as tenthes subsidies and pension, theire is paid yearly to the Kings treasurie 13 lib not whithout great hinderaunce of the incumbent.
After whome succeded that honest man John Helpes born in the parishe of Meare sometime mounche of Glaston, who professinge the art of physicke scarcely lived two yeares after his induction, and about the laste of December going late to bed well and lusty was the next morninge very erly found sodainely dead. The neighbours then living reported the hee surfeited with fatt souse meatcomonly called braune at supper being fryed by an oid woman, a meat very hard of digestion, and this happened about or but a little before the death of Kinge Edward the sixthe of godly memory; which Kinge to the greate sorrowe of ail the faithful being taken away Queene Marie gave personage to her chaplain Anthony Salvin, born in the northe, who all the time of Queene Marie despisinge Higham, was absent and gave the fruites and revenues to be gathered unto a certaine
citizen of London, a skinner or peltmonger of his owne name and kindred; who after the death of Queene Marie at the cominge our most gratious soveraigne Queene Elizabeth, obstanately refusinge to consent and subscribe unto the wholesome doctrine of the land being thereunto by the space of one whole yeare and more required was worthily deprived and put from his personage. In whose room theare was placed by the noble lord
John Gray at ye time by a grant from the prince indued with the rents and revenues of the parish of Higham, and also with the patronage of the rectory one John Kenell, who co-pounded for his first fruits the 9°” of October 1560, and the second yeare of Elisabeth, being a servant or bondslave born at Odry, a man meanly lerned and very olde, who (under the title of domestical chapleine) being absent att the comaundement of the foresaid noble Gray set forth his personage by the space of tenne yeares to one Anthonie Wells alias Attwell for the yearly rent of xxxv poundes,and the same being a most miserable man, at length became twise a child, dotinge, in short time consumed prodigally upon a most notorious harlott fower hundreth poundes, and at last being brought into
extreme poverty and cast out of the honourabe ladie Mary Gray, widowe, having married the daughter of a certaine frenchman, a rustique rude and foolish woman adorned with no good properties, died shortly after most miserably, not without shame, in the suburbs of London at St. Giles, comonly called St. Giles in fields, both ragged and aged, being 90 years of age an upwards greatly indebted, not leaving his wife being a widowe one farthing.
To whom I Adrian Schaell a germane (borne at Roetowe in the province of Meissen, x miles from the the famous marte towne and excellent universitie Lypsia a rich and strong defenced city under the dominion of the Duke of Saxony prince elector) after that through desire of seeing divers countries I had often time diligently travailed the same, havinge otained a reasonable knowledge in sundry languages, through the pour of god, called to be schole master of the foresaid honorable Lord Gray and fower years after made an unworthy minister of the word by Edmund Grindale then Bishop of London, a most learned and sound man, of whome I had the Vicaradge of Childerditch in Essex given unto me which I governed ix yeares, at length succeded , and being inducted the 29″ July 1570 in the twelve yeare of the raigne of Queene Elizabeth, I undertooke the charge of this flocke and to this day for the most part live in the same pishe being about the age of 68 years, for I was borne about St. Gregories day, about the spring equinoctiall, the yeare of incarnation of our Lorde 1530. God almightie graunt that I being mindfull of his benefittes plenteously bestowed uppon mee unworthy, may accordinge to the capacitye of my wytt (now waxing dull and decaided with drowsines) and also according to the slendernes of my strengthe and senses (being almost exhausted) alwaies spend and bestow the residue of my life that remaines to the honor of God and profit of the common weale, and this I do humbly and earnestly pray and begge, and crave the father of all mercy through the mediation of his sonne Jesus Christe, my onely saviour.
Neither is it in this place to be passed over in silence (without envy be it spoken , that as a snarling and bitter depraver of others vainely flattering myselfe. I may not seeme unfitly to advance mine owne praises) that from the death of that reverend man John Dyer, through to Abbottes gredy and imoderate desire of getting riches, throughe the absence of all the parsons troughe the insatiable covetoushess and unreasonable pillage of the farmers(as they call them, intending wholy to theire own profitt) – the people livinge in utter darkness, beinge neglected, perished for lack of teachinge, and the cure of soules was not regarded, sometime Frenchmen sometime Irishmen and the like unlearned Curates being hired for a small stipend prophaned the holy things, and also there was no show of hospitalitie or almes, the Proctors alledging for themselves yet they were charged with great and immoderate rentes to the parsons, the Parsonage houses also with the hedging and other stoppinge being never repaired at my cominge were in a manner utterly decaid, which to my great charges of more than 300 poundes not without great hinderance of
my sustance, I was constrained to repaire and altogether restore anewe. It is well appaurrent how much labour and monie I have yearly bestowed in dounginge and dressinge of the parsonage land, before my time sett out to ungrateful persons and such as maintained there owne ground onely, in long processe of time being worne out made unfruitfull. For by this means I have susteined a greater familie, I have interteined my richer neighbours more bountifully, and have not bin unmindfull to relive the poore. Concerninge the orchardes and gardens, what wisedome and diligence I have used in fencinge and stoppinge them, in graffinge of trees and plantinge of diverse sortes of hearbes wth grente diligence sought out of sundry places, vercye necessary as well as for the Kitchinge and man’s bodie as for the delight of the senses, the daily prafittes loth witnesse to the great benefitt and comfort of him that shall suceede after my death.