Notes on Ash Parish

Ash Parish, Surrey in the 16th and 17th Centuries

“Ash ~ a parish on the western border of the county of Surrey, 36 miles south-west from London, 8 miles from Guildford, and bounded on the east by Pirbright and Worplesdon, on the south by Wanborough and Seale, on the west by Aldershot in Hampshire.” Frimley was formerly part of Ash Parish.

Sketch Map of Ash Parish
  • Ash in the 16th century was a large parish of around 10,000 acres and, unlike today’s parish, contained Frimley but not Wyke.
  • Ash was a rural society of farmers, wage labourers, and artisans such as blacksmiths, woollen cloth weavers and potters and a sprinkling of gentry.
  • Ash Parish has been described as ‘lying between the intractable London Clay and the ungrateful light soils of the Heath’ causing a lack of good farmland and this, along with large areas of heath known as ‘the waste‘, meant that the density of people was low with a few hundred people scattered across the parish in farms and cottages.
  • The population of the parish was given as 273 in 1550, rising only to 316 by 1696.
Ash Parish Register

The People of Ash Parish were subject to quite an amazing array of governing bodies!

The County ~ Surrey: The Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey was the Crown’s direct representative; during our timeframe this position was given to nobility such as Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham in 1585. But it is the people delegated with the task of governing Surrey that had the real impact on Ash:

Sir William More (1520-1600) and Sir George More (1553-1632), were dominant figures in the government of Tudor and Jacobean Surrey. The letters and papers they accumulated as justices of the peace, sheriffs, muster and tax commissioners and respected local landowners are of national significance, and illuminate almost every aspect of Surrey of the time, from farming and land ownership to religious controversy, crime and local unrest.

The Surrey History Centre has dozens of documents showing the involvement of the More family with Ash residents. Here are a few examples:

  • 1571: Letter from the Warden of the New College of Winchester, to William More. He replies to More’s enquiry about the inclosure of ground called Lothers Moor, now in the tenure of John Boylet, in the Manor of Ash, a manor granted to the College in 1551
  • 1585: Letter from Francis Browne and William Harding, Ash, to William More. They recommend that the honest bearer be granted a licence to keep an alehouse in Ash, ‘very necessary for the parish’. With names and marks of 15 parishioners.
  • 1571: Letter from Sir Laurence Stoughton to Sir William More. He refers to certain warrants for arrests in Ash … These warrants were from ‘The Commission Concerning Jesuits, Seminaries, and Recusants’. Ash Parishioners who were Catholics and refused to attend church could face significant fines, imprisonment, and loss of property.

If you are interested in reading more of the fascinating Loseley Papers, then visit https://www.surreyarchives.org.uk/

The County was also the primary judicial authority. Crimes committed in Ash that required a jury or an inquisition were handled by the Surrey Assizes at Guildford and Ash parishioners who owned land or had considerable leases could be called to go to Guildford as jury men.

The Parish ~ Ash

Two tiers of responsibility: a) Ecclesiastical ~ the Rector of Ash might deal locally with residents who broke church law, were involved in matters of morality, and or were guilty of non-attendance of church or he could send the issue up the chain of ecclesiastical courts. b) Civil Affairs ~ Ash Parish was responsible for the upkeep of nearby roads and was also responsible for administering the Poor Law, and was required to collect money for their own poor. Like all Parishes, Ash had a Parish Clerk and a Constable.

Ash Parish Church (dedicated to St Peter) ‘The Norman construction of flint and stone dates back to 1170 and provided a fine Norman door entrance leading into the nave.  In the 16th century, a stone tower was added to the west end of the church and a porch was erected over the doorway’.

Ash Parish Church is tucked away in the south-west corner of the parish, a location which has everything to do with the 12th century landowner who built it and nothing to do with ease of access.  Parishioners were expected to attend church or explain their absence so to help with this, a Chapel of Ease known as Frimley Chapel served the Frimley residents. Wyke hamlet was surrounded by Ash but assigned to Worplesdon Parish whose Church was quite distant so many Wyke residents used Ash church. The Register has references to people ‘of Frimley’ and ‘of Worplesdon’.

Ash Parish Register
  • Elizabeth the wife of Robert Elyot of Worplesdon was buried the 12th Day of December 1639;
  • Margerie the wife of Francis Snelling of Worplesdon was buried the 22th day of Februarie (1639/40). Note that 22nd is written as 22th.

Of course, Ash residents used other churches too; here is the baptism at Seale St Lawrence Church of William Russell, son of John Russell of Ash 17 March 1582/3:

pishe’ was the standard abbreviation for ‘parish’ at the time
Ash St Peter Church

The Diocese

Ash Parish was in Winchester Diocese and subject to its directives issued by the Bishop of Winchester who lived just down the road at Farnham Castle!

Windsor Royal Forest

This was so large in the 1600’s that it covered parts of Ash Parish and the hundreds of deer kept for hunting were off-limits to the locals. Ash residents caught encroaching on forest land, illegally hunting and committing other forest offences were handled by the Forest Court at Bagshot.

The Hundreds

Ash was in Woking Hundred and Frimley in Godley Hundred. These hundreds were used for such things as tax collection and mustering of the local militia. Both paying taxes and having to serve in the local militia were big deals to Ash men and their families.

The Manor

Almost all the land in Ash Parish belonged to one Manor or another. Only a few Ash residents owned freehold land; most had fixed term copyhold leases and had to pay annual homage to the Lord of the Manor. These copyhold leases could, by right of ancient custom, be passed down in the family, mortgaged, or sold as long as the Lord of the Manor was party to any transaction. In turn, owners of manors had to get royal permission to do so.

Some examples of the control exercised by the Lord of the Manor of Cleygate:

  • 1551: William Chewter of Ash ordered to scour his ditches in Stony Lane; 
  • 1555: John Costen of Ash (tanner of leather) ‘doth pour out stinking and filthy water from his lime pit into the common water course of Flexford flowing unto Cleygate, to the common annoyance of the tenants’; 
  • 1620: Richard Canter of Ash had ‘encroached upon the waste land of the Manor and enclosed four rods on which he built a cottage near Henley Park’. Allowed to keep the land and admitted as a tenant; required to give homage to the Lord of the Manor; 
  • 1620: George Boylett, freeholder, affirmed his holding and paid homage;
  • 1579 William Clyfton was ordered by to make two passes over the small brooks on his farms.

The Family

Ash Society paid much attention to the Family Unit and loyalty to the head of the household was expected. Personal wills from Ash demonstrate this:

  • 1604: John Stoneham of Ash – ‘overseers to let my farm in Sheet, Hampshire (owned by Magdalen College, Oxford) with £10 from this rent to my wife to educate my children’
  • 1614: George Wakeford of Ash – wife Elizabeth Wakeford to ‘have no part in bringing up son nor to meddle in goods left with overseers’
  • 1618: Hugh Goring of Ash – son Robert to have £10 ‘if he came back to ask for it’ within 7 years.

Of course, county, parish, forest, hundred, manors, dioceses, families were all accountable to the English Crown and Parliament.

Lastly, Some Historical Context

The Protestant Reformation Until the Protestant Reformation and the creation of the Church of England, churches and parishioners of Ash were, naturally, Catholic. The huge societal change that happened, can be seen in an excerpt from the will of John Thayre (Ash Husbandman) written in 1534 before the Reformation where Catholicism is much evident in his religious bequests: To be buried in Ash churchyard; to the mother church of Winchester 2d, to the high altar 3s 4d, to rood light of Our Lady 4d, to the Brotherhood of St James 4d, masses and for parent’s souls 10s. Ten years later, the will of Clement Monger (Ash Potter) written in 1544, shows no reference to rood lights, monastic brotherhoods, masses, and prayers for people’s souls, simply ‘To be buried in Ash churchyard, 2d to the High Altar’ (in Winchester). 

1552 Edward VI’s government ordered inventories taken of all church goods. Here is the inventory for Ash Church:

Commission of Church Goods Report for Ash Parish Church 1552

The Civil Wars Monumental events raged from 1642 to 1660 involving the raising of Parliamentary armies and Royalist armies, battles like Marston Moor, Naseby and Worcester, the execution of Charles I in 1649, the creation of a republic ruled by Parliament, followed by Oliver Cromwell ruling as Lord Protectorate, and finally, the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. This letter written to Sir Poynings More of Loseley House in nearby Guildford Parish, describes events in West Surrey:

25 Feb 1645 Letter from John Wight: He is afraid of encountering the ‘untoward’ and ‘pilfering’ soldiers. Soldiers have removed iron bars out of More’s windows … they have been able to lay no seed or peas aside to sow for next year’s crop … We have no news of our soldiers removing, neither I think they will before we be all eaten up. Many of our townsmen are leaving their houses, and the County leads the way.   

Richard Patience of Ash Parish wrote in his 1649 will “if, in these troublesome times my estate should be wasted by soldiers or any other outrageous incident, then my children and wife to share the loss” reflecting the concern of the above letter with soldiers quartered in the area.

Sources

  • Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: AS/1/1
  • British History Online
  • Normandy Historians
  • The National Archives
  • Surrey Archaeological Collections @ Google Books
  • Exploring Surrey’s Past
  • The Victoria History of the County of Surrey, Editor: Henry Elliot Malden,1905
  • The History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey. Manning and Bray. EP 1974