Chosen by the Reception Team
Parish registers are wonderful documents which record some of the happiest and saddest moments in people’s lives. This very early register is what is known as a composite register; unlike modern day registers, which are separated into different volumes for baptisms, marriages, and burials, this contains all three! Unusually for a register of this age, the volume records the names of godparents, as well as parents and it is information like this which makes parish registers such invaluable sources for family history. They can give a unique sense of the network of families and friends who lived in a particular community.
Parish registers were introduced by Henry VIII in 1538 who ordered that every vicar should keep a book recording of all of the baptisms, marriages, and burials in his parish. A fine was to be levied if the parish failed to obey but despite this, many parishes ignored the order, partly because they thought that it would be a precursor to a new tax. As a result, early registers like this one are relatively rare and it’s extremely lucky that this one has survived. From 1596 onwards, parish registers were kept more consistently and from 1813, separate printed registers were to supplied for baptisms, marriages and burials, formalising the process further.
It’s really interesting to think about the differences (and similarities!) there must be between the ceremonies which were held in 16th century Horsham and those held today.