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The small but enthusiastic group of people involved in the reading and transcription of over 80 documents relating to Appleby and its inhabitants have learned a great deal about the town and several interesting details have emerged. The people in Appleby at that time seem to have been fortunate to live in what comes across as a well-ordered town in the 1500s and 1600s.
Unusual, now obsolete, words were found and also some words which were probably very local to the immediate area. Using a variety of topographical dictionaries, reference works on archaic words and dialect handbooks it has been possible to suggest definitions for most of these unfamiliar words. The following words appear in a bundle of documents, mainly Chamberlain’s Accounts, reference WSMBA/2/3/1 – 24 and documents WSMBA/2/5/1-10 held at Kendal Archives. Date range 1585 – mid 1600s. The use of capital letters for personal names was inconsistent and non-standard so for the purpose of this report I have used the modern convention of capital letters for names.
freeligde / freelege and other variants – payment to be a freeman or for a privilege of some sort, sums of money ranged from 10d to the rather considerable amount of 8s 4d.
stallege / stowligde and other variants – payment to have a stall at the market with sums ranging from the most common 1 shilling to 3s and 4d.
metlay / martlye and other variants – we have not found a definitive explanation other than a type of tax or toll with reference to corn.
gatelay / gaitlay and other variants – as metlay above.
Martin Holgate makes reference to these in “The Story of Appleby in Westmorland” published by Hayloft. Early Corporation Minute Books refer to them as tolls.
The word “layfee” does not appear in any of the documents but could the “lay” element of metlay and gatelay be linked to layfee – a payment to the “lay” lord as opposed to an ecclesiastical landlord?
Occupations mentioned in the documents seem to be numerous and varied, and it looks as though the town had plenty of locals with a range of expertise in various trades and crafts – not many “outsiders” were called upon. Edward Lowson was employed as a “theeker” (thatcher) for the roof of the “common backhouse” (the bakehouse). “Glasner” (glazier) Thomas Wharton repaired the “mute hall glasse windowes” in 1610 and received 15 shillings. A few years later John Gryse repaired the same windows for 20 shillings. A “pavior” was paid by the town to make sure paving stones were kept in good order and to lay new ones. In 1615 Robert Dodynge received 3 shillings for “payvinge the prison and lyeing of the steeppes”.
Hedge–lookers and Swine-lookers were often one and the same. It was someone appointed to supervise and ensure that fences and enclosures were maintained fit for purpose and that pigs were not allowed to stray.
Aletasters were what could be considered as early enforcers of weights and measures – a manorial official who tested the quality of ale and beer and made sure it was being sold in the correct quantity.
These early documents were mostly precise, detailed reports and accounts – who did what work in the town, what they were paid and who owed money for tolls, taxes or other payments. As an example the records for work done by William Robinson the carpenter working on the “common backhouse” shows that he received 7 shillings “for supplying bandes and crookes and a locke to the backhouse Doore, fower plankes to be the two tables in the backhouse and wood for two frames to set them on”. (WSMBA/2/3/14)
There is a reference to “task money” in WSMBA/2/3/17 – possibly payment for an extra “shift” or an extra payment for working on a specific task? Robert Bayliffe and Thomas Harrison “constables for Bongate” received five shillings for their “task monie for the bridge” as did Thomas Wilson and James Darbie “constables for Scattergait and Burelles”. Shortly after the period covered by these Chamberlains Accounts constables were empowered to levy a local rate to meet their expenses; this may not have endeared them to everyone and it will be interesting to see if there is any reference to this in further documents in the next stage of the Dig Appleby project.
Another curious reference is to a “spice seller” in document WSMBA/2/3/4. Beekeepers were often beeswax sellers and both trades belonged to confection and spice-selling – was the “spice seller” purveying beeswax, honey or actual spices?
Several words in the various documents are immediately recognisable – “wauller”, “lattes”, “morter”, “sparres”, “nayles”, “chimlay” and some posed a bit more of a challenge such as “showling” (shovelling), “watlinges” (wattle) and “astriee” (a hearth) which occurs only once in all the documents examined. WSMBA/2/3/13 shows that Thomas Ubancke was paid nineteen pence “for wood to be part of an astriee in the backhouse”.
WSMBA/2/3/14 and WSMBA/2/3/15 make up an exhaustive inventory of payments “Disbursed for the Commonbackhouse” while the following document is an equally comprehensive account of the money “Disbursed for the Prison”. Local labourers and skilled craftsmen worked on both buildings, with some turning their hand to a variety of jobs. Edward Bonson “redded the grounnd” (prepared the ground) for the bakehouse and was paid for “goeinge to Dribeck for the wauller”, for “serving the wauller of the prison”,for “ serving of the pavior for a barrell to use in the prison” and for “two Dayes worke at the prison”. Thomas Lowson was paid for “getting and leading morter to the backhouse to the maysons for walling the same”, for “leading of coble stones morter and sand to the ovens” and for “leading of lime to the prison”. In addition to providing the wood for the astriee (above) Thomas Ubancke also “lead stones there” and had a hand in the construction of the prison being paid for “planckes to the prison Doore”. Some individuals appear less often or only once – for example M Smith for “fower bushels of lime”, J Bolas for “leading spares”, Barnabie Unthancke for “leading two cartfull of stones from Kirkland”,Stephen Pinder(?) “for lime” and William Robinson “for Iron and workemanshipp” in the prison and on the town bell. Several wives and widows appear in some documents- they are always referred to as “wife of” or “widow of” a named male. Usually the entry is that these wives and widows were providing “Drinke to the workmen” and receiving a fairly standard payment of 4d. The picture emerging from these documents is one of individuals working together for the good of the town and all being fairly recompensed for their efforts.
Momentous events nationally are recorded – there was a payment of 2 shillings “to one messenger for bringing letters from Yorke of the birth of the young prince” in 1630. It has been suggested by a researcher in to the 17th century that this event was so significant that even far-flung, difficult to reach Appleby was included in the news because the birth of this particular prince (the future Charles II) was celebrated throughout the realm. In Appleby at this date older people would remember the chaos and anxiety in the country caused by the death of a childless Elizabeth I- so the birth of the new prince was good news indeed and news for which the town was happy to pay 2shillings. Thanks to PJ Womack researcher and author of “Darling of Kings” for her thoughts on this matter.
Taking the documents as a whole the earlier ones seemed to reveal a considerate and caring town- there are instances of people evidently in arrears with various payments and the documents record what we would probably now call “interim payments” of small sums to reduce debts – 10 shillings “shopp rent” paid where a bigger sum was owed, “parte of pament “ for metlay, a transaction of “parte payment” by a poor widow and a record of lending a helping hand to “fower travellers”(four).
The situation began to change a bit following the Poor Law acts. The first of these was in 1563 and several amendments followed. A major effect was that poor inhabitants across the country began to be treated harshly. Appleby was no exception. In 1640 Poor Law administration became a permanent feature of local government. Paupers, vagrants and those unable to work found themselves under scrutiny as parishes did not want to be burdened. The later documents record the erection of the gibbet, a whipping post and a pillory and one Reynold ? being paid 6s and 4d “for keeping of vagabondes and beggars out of the towne”.
Revd CML Bouch has already written extensively on local government in Appleby in the following two centuries – C&WA&AS/NS LI- but maybe the transcribers involved in the project so far might turn up something new for the Dig Appleby project.
Thanks are due to the staff at Kendal Archives for their assistance.
Chamberlains Accounts 1585-1625
During the period covered by these accounts several large building projects took place in Appleby and we are very fortunate that detailed records of the cost of procuring materials as well as the associated labour costs have survived. The accounts are not just a bare record of income and expenditure by the chamberlaines who recorded them, instead they provide us with a unique window on everyday life in Appleby four hundred years ago as each skilled workman is named and his renumeration recorded. The fact that the layout of Appleby has remained almost unchanged to this day, and that many of the surnames mentioned in the accounts still flourish in the town, make it very easy to visualise what life was like when the chamberlains wrote their accounts.
Appleby appears to have been almost completely self-sufficient as regards the ability to carry out a wide variety of crafts, especially those involved in the building and maintenance of town property as well as keeping the all-important bridge over the River Eden in good repair.
The most important civic building, the Moot Hall, was built about 1596 but unfortunately the accounts for that year have not survived. However, we know from the accounts for 1617 that the windows were repaired by Thomas Warton, “glasner”, and that the building was important enough to be slated, unlike most of the other buildings of that period in Appleby which were thatched.
It may seem odd that the Moot Hall roof needed attention only 20 years after it was errected but we must remember that underfelt was still a long way in the future and such roofs were subject to rain and snow blowing under the slates in the winter. The answer to this problem was to pack any voids under the slates and between the laths with moss and then to apply a coat of lime mortar. This process is called underdrawing and was very effective as sphagnum moss can absorb up to 25 times as much water as its dry weight without releasing it, however when the moss eventually degrades the mortar would then start to drop down into the interior of the building.
The accounts make it clear that this process was used on the roof of the Moot Hall, the slater was named as John Smith who provided one cartful of slate for twenty pence and 6½ bushels of lime for four shillings and six pence. In addition John was paid eight shillings for “mossing and limeing the same” while Christopher Sowerbie received eighteen shillings for “getting the mosse”. This detailed description of an early 17th century roof repair in the Eden Valley is extremely rare and emphasises the importance of these accounts.
We are also fortunate to have even more detailed accounts of the building in 1614/15 of a Common Bakehouse in High Wiend. The building had stone walls which were raised by an anonymous team of wallers from Drybeck. It is very unusual for workmen not to have been named in the accounts but these men were consistently referred to simply as “the wallers” however, we assume that there were three of them as they were provided with “three paire of gloves”.
The timber for the roof was supplied by Thomas Ubanke and cut from Dufton Wood. After the roof had been framed and raised it was lined with “turfes” brought to the site by Hugh Murton then laid upside down on the roof timbers. Threescore threave of straw “lead from the South Field” by James Warriner was used by John Fairer, the “theeker” and Edward Benson was paid sixpence for “getting of spelks and drawing of thatch” for one day.
The floor or “sole” of the oven was constructed using a redundant millstone bought for two shillings and sixpence from Willyam Robinson of Brampton Mill. It took seven men to get the millstone to Appleby; four men to help load it into the cart, John Lawe to lead the horse and two men to walk behind “for the kings carriages”
Only two tasks in the whole of these accounts have been noted which required a skill not available in Appleby and they were both related to the holding of the market, the most lucrative source of income for the town.
Selling on Market Day could not begin until the Market Bell was rung at a predetermined time so it was essential to have the clock repaired as soon as possible. This neccesitated Anthonie Stewardson and the chamberlains carrying it to Bolton to be re-cast by John Sanderson at a cost of three shillings to include “fower pounds of mettall to be put to it”.
In order to ensure that the Market Bell was rung at the correct time a reliable clock was needed and although it received frequent attention for minor faults throughout this period it eventually resisted all the usual efforts to repair it and a clockmaker named Simonde Washington had to be sent for “upon he came to see the clock” which cost two shillings.
 The Story of Appleby in Westmorland, Martin Holdgate, Hayloft Publishing Ltd., Kirkby Stephen 2006; page 144.
 Chamberlains Accounts WSMBA/2/3/AB
 Chamberlains Accounts WSMBA/2/3/AF
 This seemingly deliberate omission may have been because the men were not freemen of the Borough (pers. comm.)
 Dialect name for a thatcher.
 Pliable young hazel branches which were bent in half and used to pin down the straw into the previously laid turf.
 WSMBA/2/3/AN Presumably a requirement for carts travelling very slowly on the Kings Highway?
 WSMBA/2/3/AN Unfortunately the accounts do not provide his home town.
A few words from a novice
As a complete novice I attended Carol Dougherty‘s first session on palaeography. I was intrigued and overwhelmed but decided to order “Palaeography for Family and Local Historians” an invaluable if expensive book. Mine already has a well used look to it. I then attempted, not very successfully, to transcribe a few documents. A long holiday and other activities meant that I was unable to attend any further sessions and it was early this year that I sought advice from Carol as to how to proceed.
I had a rapid response when she sent me a document relating to Appleby and gave me immediate feedback on my attempt at transcribing it. In the last few weeks I have worked on several other documents sending my attempts for correction and this combined with a very helpful session with Barbara Blenkinship, have made me keen to pursue solving the puzzles of the scripts and learning more about Appleby.
I may only have reached a Beta minus level but I am keen to pursue this interest and perhaps achieve an Alpha one day!
An Introduction to Palaeography
The sessions have provided me with a very useful introduction to paleography, especially of the handwriting of the 16th and 17th centuries. Though I have some experience of the language of the period, and earlier this has mainly been through my English literature A level course in the late 60s, which focused on Chaucer and 15th and 16th century poets, playwrights and essayists. Of course the texts were always neatly printed and legible, and I had never had to read old hand writing.
Carol’s introductory session, which I attended at Brampton, provided an excellent foundation and was accompanied by a useful introductory booklet, which contained further references, one of which, Lionel Munby et.al. I purchased. These helped me with the documents Carol sent for us to practice our transcriptions by providing more examples of the alphabet and handwriting of the period, together with more information on punctuation, abbreviation conventions, and dates and numerals as well as rules for transcription.
I also attended 3 sessions at Carol’s house with 2-3 others where we discussed, compared and finalised the transcriptions of the documents Carol sent and other documents. These were probably the most useful activities.
I learned something of local buildings, such as the jail at Appleby; social and economic life of the area, and of course the names of local people many of which, including my own, remain common in the locality today. Perhaps the few transcriptions I managed were too focused on lists of payments, but they still provided useful practice.
Though I am sure they are available in local history books etc, one thing that I think would help the beginner to make more sense of the documents,would be a list of the titles of 15th/16th century officials, (legal, financial etc) and the titles/status of the various craftsmen and workers involved in local activities.
Description of the roles of municipal officials (Draft)
Mayor – the highest ranking municipal official, his executive powers governed by borough charters and legislation
Serjeant? – aide to the mayor, may carry out mainly ceremonial duties, but possibly also responsible for order in meetings and law enforcement
Sword Bearer – official appointed to carry the mayor' s sword of state on ceremonial occasions.
Town Clerk – responsible for the day to day administration of the borough
Coroner – main responsibility as today was to hold inquests into sudden, suspicious or unexplained deaths.
Chamberlain – the chamberlain had responsibility for the borough's revenues and keeping accounts.
Attorneys – may have referred to someone with legal expertise appointed to act on legal or business matters
Bailiffs– responsible for summoning the court and executing decisions of a court, but they could also hold an administrative role in their locality, for example overseeing lands and buildings, collecting rents and managing accounts
Aletasters – Responsible for measurement and quality of ale and beer, forerunner of modern weights and measures inspectors
Searchers and sealers of leather – responsible for ensuring the quality of leather goods, forerunner of modern trading standards officials
Hedge–lookers and Swine-lookers – Hedge–lookers and Swine-lookers were often one and the same. The terms referred to someone appointed to supervise and ensure that fences and enclosures were maintained fit for purpose and that pigs were not allowed to stray.
Peck Cutter – ?
House lookers – ?
Apprisers – ?
Surveyor of highways – officer responsible for the survey and repair of roads, the office dates from the Highways Act 1555.
Constables – in addition to arrest and detention of suspected criminals, the constable could have a range of duties including supervision and removal of vagrants and beggars, maintenance of gaols, suppression of riots and training of local militia and collecting taxes.
Overseers of the poor – officers appointed under the Poor Laws to levy a poor rate and supervise its distribution
Scavenger – responsible for clearing refuse from the streets
Waites – band of musicians whose duties could include waking townsfolk on dark winter mornings, leading the mayor's procession on civic occasions and other ceremonial duties.