Parish registers were ordered to be kept from the 16th century, largely it seems to keep track of marriages for the overseers of the poor. They are fascinating documents as they often provide fascinating snippets of history – abandoned children, paupers, itinerants, and the way in which they are named tells us how they were treated. The cage was an early and very temporary form of prison.
This is from the selection of Notes and queries in Ringing churchbells to ward of Thunderstorms. This is a selection of entries from the parish register of Barking in Essex:
1558 Elizabeth and 3 of her children, buryed the xxvth November
1592 Thomas Williams and Magdalen Milbourne, nec virgo nec vidua [neither virgin nor widow] marryed ultimo Januarii
1592 Anne, an old woman who died in the cage, buried 27 Aprill
1593 A poore man, who dyed in the field beyond the brewhouse, bur. Aug 4
1593 Peter Cecil, out of the cage, bur. 24 Novr
1594 Dionice, servant with Edward Fortescue, Esquier, was slaine, and buried April 1
1595 Edward Snags, slaine at Nevilles house in Goodmay Street, bur. Feb13
1595 John and Elizabeth, children of a travailler who was brought to bed at the Crowne at Illford, bat on the 11th of Octr.
1596 Elizabeth, the wife of Mr John Tedcastle – bewailed of rich and pore – bur. Nov. 2
1597 Two vagrant persons from Loxford, bur 10 Feby
1597 One other vagrant person from Illford cage, bur. Same day.
1610 A driver unknown, diiing sodenley at Ilford, bur. 27 June
1665 July 29 Nathaniel Pagit, and 3 of his children
1665 Sep 26 A glover, his wife and his daughter.
1684 April 22 Mr Edmund Halley of London, merchant murthered, and buryed in Linen, £2s 6d pd to this parish for ye use of he poor. 1717 Feb 10. Thomas, son of John archer, by his first wife’s own sister (Baptised)
1720 March 13 Jasper, a black of Capt Brownes (Buried)
1737 Decr 29. Jane, an Indian black (Buried)
1750 June 17 A stranger (suicide)
The murdered merchant was the father of the astronomer Edmund Halley [f comet fame]. A rich soap boiler and a yeoman warder of the Tower of London, he was found dead on the shore at Stroud, Kent. It was rumoured that he had been killed because he knew too much about the mysterious death of the Protestant plotter Arthur Capel, Earl of Essex, whose body had been discovered in the tower on 13 July 1683 a day Halley was here. Like other wealthy people Halley was buried in linen, for which a penalty had to be paid for not being buried in wool as per the Burial in Wool Act.