It was 1626; the churchwardens of St James’s Church were excited. An expensive new book had been bought, in which to record their accounts. It had cost all of five shillings and fourpence. Gingerly the pen was lifted and the first entry was made:
The generall accountes of the Church Wardens of this parish of Chipping Campden to wit: … – there followed the names of four churchwardens, including ‘Geoarge Holmes’. You can almost hear them saying his name.
That was on page 1.
On page 663 the final entry was made in that same book – it was 4th April 1907. That day there was a meeting ‘at ten o’clock in the morning’ when amongst other items of business the ‘accounts for the past year were presented and found satisfactory’. I wonder, did they look back to page 4 to compare their receipts and expenditure with those of their predecessors? In 1627 when the final accounts for 1626/7 were added up they had received £14 10s 6d and had spent £14 10s 4½d. The equivalent figures for 1906/7 were £91 18s 6½d and £91 10s 6½d.
The book survived and during the 1980s was transcribed by a specialist in old handwriting, Leighton Bishop, who also provided a 201 page detailed index including every name and topic. In 1992 this was published, the one and only volume – so far – in the Campden Record Series. It tells an amazing story, especially for the earlier years when every item was listed in detail. In the latter part of the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries the tradesmen’s bills were not given in full. Even so there was much recorded of interest to us today – including some discussions and resolutions at Vestry meetings.
You may be as surprised as I was to find that in the inventory of property handed over from the outgoing churchwardens to their successors on 6th June 1709 was ‘1 Large Gunne the Gift of Mr John Goodwin’. A quick check in the index reassured me – Campden was not about to start a new Civil War. Leighton Bishop explained that this was ‘the word used in early 18th century for a flagon’. There are many other surprises (perhaps no others quite so dramatic) in the volume.