First Ash Parish Register

1548 to 1653 ~ The Book Itself

Basic Facts

  • Small leather-bound book purchased around 1597
  • 54 parchment pages
  • Hand bound in silk
  • Landscape orientation
  • Margins hand drawn with a ruler
  • Writing done with a goose-quill pen with a metal tip
  • Ink made from a combination of soot, ground oak galls, copper, and gum arabic

A Note on Images: Original records from the Ash Parish Register are included and transcribed with edits to simplify the language, including names, for the modern reader. Image quality may not be the best as the records were written on parchment over four hundred years ago. Parchment was made from treated animal skins so pore marks show in some of the images.

Help with reading Secretary Hand Script:

Background to Register: In 1538, Thomas Cromwell, Vicar General, ordered every clergyman to ‘kepe one boke or register wherin ye shall write the day and yere of every weddyng, christenying, and buryeng made within your parishe for yowr time’. Further, the clergyman was to ‘lay upp the boke in a sure coffer with two lockes and keys’. With this decree, the Parish Register of baptisms, marriages, and burials was born. The Ash Register was kept in a coffer as the following entry in Volume II of the Ash Register, written by Parish Clerk, George Cobbett, in the 1650’s said: ‘There is yet in being in the Church Chest a more ancient Register’ 1550 to 1653.

Typical Church Chest

In 1597, another decree was issued: ‘Parchment register books were to be purchased by each parish, and into them should be transcribed all the records from the paper books currently in use. The parish was to bear the cost of this transcription.’ The entries in the Ash Register from 1548 to 1599 are copies of the original records.

Leather Covers: According to a note inside the back cover, the Register’s leather covers were re-lined in 1813.

Front Cover of Ash Register Volume I
Back Cover of Ash Register Volume 1
Note attached to inside of front cover

Register of Ash Vol I 1549-1653

A Parchment copy, copied from the paper 1599. Entries, after the beautiful copy was made, are for a few years, careless and irregular. There is a complete gap for Queen Mary’s reign, but none for the Commonwealth. The volume contains; Baptisms: 1548-1653, gaps 1555-1559, 1571-1573. After the Baptisms Register is a note of the apportionment of ‘Pannells’ or ‘Railes’ of the churchyard fence. Marriages: 1550-1553, several gaps and scanty entries. Burials: 1549-1653, gap 1555-1559, 1584-1593. At the end, a note on the building of the gallery in 1730 and the allotment of the seats in it.

 D.A.F. October 1919

**The identity of D.A.F. is unknown as Ash St Peter had no clergyman with those initials in 1919; possibly he was a Church Warden.

The Binding Material: The hand-tied knot (shown below left) is in the middle of the book’s pages. This cord may date from 1813 when the covers of the Register was relined. The image on the right shows the original finer silk binding:

Damage to Register: Water damage, age spots, and degradation of the parchment are evident and distort some of the images. On the page containing the 1608 burial records, there is actually a hole in the parchment. One or two pages are ‘dog-eared’. Other than these issues, the Register is remarkably well preserved.

Torn Parchment
  • Thomas Dymes was buried 20 July 1608
  • Edmund Shorter was buried 24 July 1608
  • Thomas Inwood was buried 10 February 1608
  • William Compost was buried 20 February 1608
  • Francis Hyde was buried 13 April 1609

Missed Entries: Missed entries were sometimes squeezed in between two others or written down the margin:

Mercy Draper ye da etc of Thomas
John the son of William Harrison baptised 8 July 1648
Robert Wexham the son of Nicholas Wexham baptised 12 February 1586

Double Entry

  • Thomas Loveland buried 6 April 1570
  • Margaret Turner buried 5 May 1570
  • Thomas Loveland buried 20 April 1570 note the day changed!
  • Margaret Turner buried 5 May 1570

Counting Marks

Thomas Dymes was buried 20 July 1608 – followed by boxes of 5

Marks Added Later

The Register was available from the Parish Clerk for review and many of the West family records have an X in the margin as some West descendant looked up the family history: Rowland West son of Thomas West was baptized 12 May 1621.

Jeremy Cox of Hartley Wintney (curiously spelled Winkle) had two children baptised at Ash and both records have been marked with an X. Jeremy Cox had married Anne Taylor in Ash 9 September 1641.

Reminder how ‘C’ and ‘X’ were written in Secretary Hand

Page Layout: When the scribe copied the earlier records into the new book, he divided each page into two and drew margin lines to keep the entries relatively straight. This format of two columns per page was used throughout the Register right up to 1653. Some water damage is evident here on the first page of the Register.

First Page of Registernote the water damage

Horizontal Lines In an attempt to be tidy, the recorder drew horizontal lines in the Register from 1605 to 1611 but as this image shows, but he was not entirely successful. The handwriting suggests that Curate Matthew Gulston made these entries.

Page from Ash Register
  • John Bayly and Magadalen Grover were married 10 February 1606/07
  • Anthony Fulvent and Alice Sythe (?) were married 5 May 1608
  • Gap in records
  • Thomas Munger and Elizabeth Moon were married 14 March April 1611/12


The Parish Clerk (1907) eBook

Select Sources

Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: AS/1/1