A 1598 History of High Ham Church and Rectory

Last year, an exhibition of historical documents in High Ham church included R.G. Crossman’s Adrian Schaell’s Memoir of High Ham Church and Rectory, A.D.1598.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 MysNe, 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.

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In the tradition of Francis Urquhart

There is a moment in the television version of Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards when Francis Urquhart puts the new King Charles firmly in his place. Urquhart alludes to the fact that his family had come south at the beginning of the Seventeenth Century with James VI of Scotland, the monarch who became James I of England. ‘We were defenders of the English throne before your family was ever heard of,’ says Urquhart in a snarling assault on the king, whom he forces into abdication.

It was a line that resonated with something deep in my memory. I have childhood memories of the Royal Family being referred to as ´German interlopers.´ It seemed an absurd suggestion, the Hanoverians had arrived two and a half centuries when I was born.

Perhaps the objection had arisen from forebears’ recollections of the Royal Family changing their surname from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1917, German names not being very popular during the First World War.

Perhaps folk memories remained from the slaughter of local people during and in the aftermath of the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685. Although, that seemed unlikely, the Prince of Orange was favourably received when he passed through in 1688, on his way to eject James II, whose forces had destroyed the local men at Sedgemoor.

Perhaps there still remained something of the Parliamentarian spirit that had motivated members of the family to join Cromwell’s forces at Langport in 1645. Although, as one of my uncles comments, our family would have been no more than pike bearers.

The more likely explanation for having felt a sympathy for Urquhart’s comment is a lifelong dislike for hierarchies. It was a thought that recurred whilst researching family history this afternoon.

One of the positive aspects of coming from an unremarkable family of small people is that most of them have never moved very far. The families researched today were from Kingsbury Episcopi and Aller, both within a few miles of Langport. In one case, the records went back to 1515, in the other back to 1494.

Five hundred years of family history in one small area, there is a sense of security, a sense of place, a sense of pride.

I laughed at the thought of Francis Urquhart, we were here two centuries before his forebears rode south.

Five centuries of written records, who knows how long before that? These were people who had endured, survived, struggled, battled.

Why should families who have laboured through the years, endured hardship, suffered tragedies, created farms acre by acre, joined the colours in wartime, not regard themselves as the equal of anyone?


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Becoming a grumpy old git

There was a pub I used to sometimes frequent which had a table and chairs set in one corner of the bar, on the wall beside the table there was a sign, ‘Grumpy Old Gits’ Corner.’ There were particular regulars who sat there each Saturday. It would have been interesting to hear the conversation of a group comfortable with their status.

Trying to be other than grumpy has become difficult, increasingly difficult. It is hard not to be a candidate for the pub corner when encountering particular people.

I write this post whilst sitting in a window seat on a Ryanair flight from Dublin to Bristol.

Ryanair in itself is enough cause for grumpiness. They seem sometimes to strive to cause their customers the maximum inconvenience. But if you want to fly for €17.71 (plus €29.99 for a bag), then the bus station-like experience has to be endured.

It is the unanticipated moments that cause the most grumpiness. Moments like the encounter with the teenage girl who scowled when I asked if I might be able to get to my seat. Sitting in the middle row, she seemed to have assumed a proprietorial air towards the seats.

Having allowed me to my seat, she then took out her phone and started taking selfies. At least a dozen must have been taken before she lowered the table in front of her and placed her phone on it to record a video of herself brushing her hair back.

Once the selfies were complete, she then started watching videos. The videos were of herself standing in a hallway of a house and talking to the camera.

What is going on?

I am not out of touch with young people. I teach hundreds of them every week. I have conversations at every opportunity. I cannot for the life of me comprehend the culture of narcissism that seems to have taken over.

I remember when to be a teenager was to be rebellious, was to be radical, was to be a dissident voice. Did the culture of obsession with self come with the smartphone and the potential for self-regard that it created?

I don’t know where the culture is going to take them, what I do know is that it is not a culture rooted in reality. The fantasy world of the influencers and TikTok celebrities is far removed from the nasty reality of the world they will have to face.

Sometimes, I fear I have drifted into a social Darwinism that would suggest the selfie takers have not adjusted to the environment in which they live and that they will therefore not survive as a group.

Other times, I just think I have become a grumpy old git.


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The lands of delusions

‘I prefer to concentrate on my own music.’

The occasion of the comment has long disappeared into the realms of forgetfulness, but there came an occasion when what was meant by ´my own music’ was revealed.

It was a charity evening and there was an expectation that we would be impressed by the presence on the bill of the player of  ‘my own music.’

The singer sat a keyboard which seemed more intended to create an impression than to be played. Occasional chords accompanied a thin voice with a limited vocal range.  Most of the sound came from a backing track on an iPad, and it was dull and repetitive.

The audience, who had been asked to be generous in parting with their money, became bored and started to chat among themselves. Out of respect to the performer, they had to be shushed. It was an embarrassment.

We had been told that the singer had a professional contract with a pop promoter and had done interviews for the press (the only one I saw was in a local free newspaper and seemed a work of imagination, for some reason the singer claimed to be Spanish). The singer was presented as an ’emerging star,’ a cynic might have suggested that it must be a star in a remote galaxy.

The singer seemed not overly impressed by the lukwarm response of the audience, but suggested they were too old to appreciate the music.

The singer did not go on to emerge, and, in retrospect, it seems odd that such a future had been seriously expected. There had been no attempt to serve an apprenticeship by touring pubs and clubs, no preparedness to play venues where the crowd might jeer as well as cheer, no attempt to go along to festivals and play on minor stages in the early afternoon. Instead, there was an expectation of instant recognition and success.

An online search reveals the most recent links to the singer are fourteen years old. Presumably the failure to achieve instant stardom prompted a petulant departure from the stage.

Why was there such an easy drift into the realms of self-delusion?

It was at a time when social media were on the rise. Early arrivals could achieve an immediate impact. But, from the outset, the platforms were places where people would not accept any criticism, no matter how mild. Any negative comment meant being blocked.

The confirmation bias in the social media relationships of those early years has strengthened. Any whisper suggesting that someone is less than brilliant is unacceptable.

There are probably numerous artists out there who are similar to the singer in their expectations of fame, but, being blocked, those who would wish to express a balanced opinion will never encounter them.


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Moments to be hated

The test of endurance becomes worse.

Third Year students have sat a two hour mathematics paper for their mock Junior Certificate exam. They then had a twenty minute break before returning to the examination room for ‘study time’.

Study time is meant to be undertaken with a silence as profound as that which pervaded during the exam.

Third Year students in Ireland are the age of Year 10 students in England. Many of them are not academic. Many find the idea of sitting reading school books a very difficult prospect.

Being responsible for supervising a room of thirty-six students for the second hour of the study time, a handful of restive students are not difficult to spot.

The preparation is for the history paper this afternoon. The examination is a common level paper. The writers of the textbooks have been aware of the need to challenge the most able students, and, thus, they have written excellent material, the vocabulary of which is beyond the weaker students in the room.

It is such moments as this that make non-academic students hate school. The one size fits all, mixed attainment approach is not doing a service to anyone.

I would not argue for a return to streaming, but instead an approach far more radical, an education system that is designed to equip the students instead of the administrators who regard grade inflation as a mark of success and who find it difficult to comprehend anyone from outside of their academic mindset.

It was the Conservative politician R.A.  Butler who had a vision for education in England that was focused upon the needs of those who sat in rows in the classrooms. After the Second World War, there was an idea of there being three strands. The secondary grammar, the secondary modern, and the secondary technical.

In Conservative-controlled Somerset, there was an attempt to create the secondary technical strand. There still exists one school where students go for a secondary education that is focused upon agriculture.

It seems odd that with the pervasiveness of technology, the technical schools have not been revived on a systematic basis. Schools that prepare students for particular industries or sectors, schools which students choose to attend.

Some academies have been rebranded as being focused upon particular disciplines, but the reality has been that the labels assumed were more appearance than substance. (The local academy for my village was branded as a ‘science’ college for a while, before returning to being a mainstream academy, and recently being placed in special measures after being judged ‘inadequate’ in an Ofsted inspection).

Anything has to be better than subjecting students to moments that they hate.



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