Frensham Parish Records are Lost!

Frensham Parish birth, marriage, and burial records, along with nuggets of local interest that were often jotted down in the Parish Registers, are LOST! Parish Registers began, by Royal Degree in 1547 but the first surviving one from St Mary’s Church in Frensham begins in 1649. The following record from the 1580’s sheds some light on how records may not have been kept or lost!

For Comparison: A Map showing Surrey Parishes with Start Dates of their Parish Registers

The First Surviving Parish Record for Church of St Mary, Frensham is INTERESTING!

  • Buryalls 1649:
  • Eliz: wife of Mr Tho: Holney buryed Feb ye 26th 1648 (according to the old style calendar)
  • Mr Thomas Holney Curate buryed May ye 29 1649

This tells us that Frensham Church lost its curate in 1649 and had to await the appointment of a new one by the Archdeanery of Surrey. Elizabeth Holney (Thomas’s wife) died just a few months before him and has the honour of being the first burial recorded in a Frensham Parish Register.

The Holney Family were very much inclined to become Church of England Ministers; Richard Holney (perhaps father of this Thomas Holney) had been Frensham Curate in 1606 and eventually became Vicar of Witley and Thursley. These were university-educated men (either at Oxford or Cambridge) and were referred to as ‘Master’ (here shortened to Mr). The title ‘Reverend’ was not in use in at this time in history.

Delving further into Frensham Parish Register Volume I (1649 to 1810), we find that the records between 1649 and 1710 were not the original records but were copied into a book purchased in 1710. Copied records are better than no records at all!

Today, the historic Frensham Parish Register Books are kept at the Surrey History Centre, at Woking, Surrey.

As a postscript, it should be noted that Frensham was entitled to a ‘Perpetual Curate’ and the right to appoint this person was nominally the Archdeanery of Surrey but in reality, the right to appoint the Curate and to collect the Parish tithes were often leased out to the highest bidder.

Brief Notes to Set the Scene for the Upcoming Posts on People of Frensham

  1. Frensham is an ancient Parish partly in Surrey and partly in Hampshire;
  2. It was divided into the Tythings of Frensham, Churt and Pitfold (in the Farnham Hundred) and Dockenfield (Alton Hundred). Tudor England was not short of layers of government!
  3. Parish Church: Originally a chapelry of Farnham (which explains why it was staffed by a Curate and not a Rector or Vicar), the present St Mary’s Church was dedicated in 1239; at a time when church attendance was compulsory, some Frensham residents lived closer to other churches ~ such as Farnham, Tilford, Headley ~ and would have walked to one of those every Sunday; this was allowed as long as people took communion once a year (usually on Easter Sunday) at their designated parish church.
  4. Manors included Frensham Beale, Pitfold, and Dockenfield ~ these manors contained almost all the land in Frensham so there was only a handful of landowners. Yeoman and husbandman families held their land by leases from the ‘Lord of the Manor’ (the owner) and these leases (known as copyholds) traditionally passed down through the generations.
  5. Frensham Wills concerned themselves with goods and chattels, and financial bequests as the leases of the family property descended by custom as long as the family acknowledged the Lord of the Manor as overlord; occasionally, reference is made to freehold property where a person has acquired surplus income to purchase some land.
  6. Most Frensham residents were wage labourers living a sometimes tenuous existence relying on work being available; these families did not leave wills so, unfortunately, they tend to fade into obscurity. The loss of the Frensham Parish Register from Tudor and Jacobean England, means that the Frensham labouring families are entirely unknown to us ~ a lacuna of history indeed!

Select Sources

  • The Victoria History of the County of Surrey (1905) available on Google Books
  • The Clergy Database of the Church of England
  • Exploring Surrey’s Past
  • Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: FREN/1/1
  • Parish of Frensham on British History Online
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