Plague 1603

In 1603 there was another outbreak of the bubonic plague. Here are the records of the measures taken in Hull. The quotations are from Hull Bench Book Four [Hull History Centre C BRB/2] 

In mid July news of the plague spread. It was thought that there was a danger that it would be brought to Hull by ship. The Mayor and Aldermen did not shut the port to traffic, but no one was allowed come ashore from any ship without permission. 

14 July 1603. It is agreed this present Thursday by Mr Mayor and his brethren the aldermen, that whereas the plague not only is in the City of London and Newcastle but also in diverse other places dispersed, that from henceforth no masters of ships, sailers nor any other persons coming from any places infected or suspected, having warning from Mr Mayor, shall not come on shore or enter this Town or any house therein, until such time as they have licence and be permitted by Mr Mayor. [f.348v.] 

Two weeks later provision was made to prevent potential carriers from entering the town by land. 

28 July 1603. It is agreed this present day being Thursday, that during such time as the plague shall continue in any the places aforesaid or any other, there shall be reserved out of the watch of every half ward when their turn cometh, eight sufficient householders to ward, in their own persons, all the next day following, two of them at the Southend two at Myton gate two at Beverley gate and two at North gate to the end to keep out such as came from infected places, and likewise idle persons and vagrants. [f.348v.]

The Hull night watch was made up of householders on a rota. The were allowed to send ‘sufficient’ substitutes, but, as these substitutes were paid as little as 3d, a night they were not always very reliable. This plague order extends the regular night watch into the following day, and allows no substitution. These gate guards are to keep out both those from known infected places, and also the ‘idle’ (that is the unemployed) and vagrant (that is unsettled) people. Neither the idle not the vagrant were  welcome in Hull, even when there was no plague.

Despite these orders the plague is in the town, and so the pubs are closed down.

The same day and year. Forasmuch as it is greatly suspected that some persons within this Town are infected with the pestilence or plague, and likewise feared that divers, ignorantly or otherwise, may frequent the company of them so infected, and after resort into the companies of others, especially in alehouses and tippling houses within this Town (a thing too common in this so dangerous a time of infection) whereby much inconvenience may ensue and the infecting of the whole inhabitants. 

For better avoiding whereof and restraining of such assemblies at alehouses and tippling houses it is thought very fitting that no person or persons, inhabiters within this Town, neither any of their servants or apprentices, at any time hereafter, during so longe time as their shall be any suspicion at all of any infection, shall go to any alehouse or tippling house within this town or the liberties thereof, or to the doors of the same, to the end to drink any ale beer wine or other drink there, upon penalty and forfeiture every inhabiter for every time doing 2s 6d. And for default of payment to have imprisonment till satisfaction thereof be made. And every servant or apprentice to pay and forfeit likewise 2s 6d or to have imprisonment by the space of six days and nights. 

And to the end that all may hereof have notice, it is agreed that the Constable of every ward shall go from house to house and give notice hereof. [f.349]

By August cargoes coming into the port are being restricted, and those that are allowed have to be disinfected by “airing”. The plague carrying fleas usually travelled on people, clothes or bedding, so this is not unreasonable.

This last of August 1603 it is agreed that no manner of goods coming from London shall be taken into any house, cellar or room, or other place within this Town during the time of infection, except soap, oil, iron or steel, and inhabitants of this Town, and not before the said goods first be taken up on the groves and there be aired, washed and dressed for the space of 24 hours at the least. 

And if any Burgess or inhabitant do or suffer to be done to the contrary, that is that any soap, oil iron or steel be found taken up into his or their houses, cellars, rooms or other places without airing, washing and dressing the said goods, then all and every person taking receiving or admitting any such goods into his or their houses, cellars, rooms, stathes or other place without airing, washing and dressing the said goods shall pay the sum of forty pounds to be levied of his goods or chattles, and in default of such goods to be committed to prison there to remain without bail for the space of one half year, And if he be a free man to forfeit his freedom and to be imprisoned as aforesaid. [ff.349v.-350]

A ‘free’ man was a burgess of the town, one entitle to trade in Hull. I do not know what or where “the groves” are. I am pretty certain that my transcription in correct but the meaning eludes me.  

By December it was apparent that the closing down of the pubs hadn’t fully worked, and the new mayor (who took office in November) brought in the other twelve Aldermen (two of whom were responsible for each of the six wards) to enforce the closure. 

Whereas in the time of Mr William Barnard late mayor it was thought good to him and the rest of the Aldermen his bretheren that order should be made and establised for the inordinate resort to alehouses and tippling houses, whearby great danger might grow by reason of the infection and plague which then reigned amongst us, and as yet is suspected. And the rather because the basest and worst sort of people, as well strangers as townsmen, did frequent thither both on the Sabboth days in sermon times, and also at unseasonable times in the night, offensive as well to the laws of God as to his Majesty’s. 

And whereas also the same order took no such effect as was expected, by reason so great a charge, for the most part being laid upon the Mayor, could not by him be duly executed, Now it is ordered set down and agreed that no person or persons burgess or inhabitant within this town shall from henceforth use any such inordinate repair to the alehouses and tippling houses by day nor night in pain to forfeit for every time so offending 20s and the owner of the said alehouse or tippling house to forfeit and lose for every time that such repair is in his house 12d or either of them as well the guest as the host to suffer two days and two nights imprisonment without bail.

And for the better execution of the premises, it is this day ordered, agreed and consented by the right worshipful Joseph Feild now Mayor and the rest of the Aldermen, that every Alderman or his deputy in his several half ward shall have power and authority at his direction to commit all such persons, as well host as guest, as shall offend, and that it shall be lawful for the Aldermen in their half wards at their discretions, as need shall require, to command the constables of their several half wards, with other officers belonging to Mr Mayor or Mr Sheriff, to be aiding and assisting to them in the execution of this order. 

It is further ordered and agreed by the now mayor consented unto that if any Alderman of any half ward are from home upon thir necessary occasions, premonition & intelligence being given thereof to the mayor by the alderman, that then, for the better effecting of this act, Mr Mayor shall take upon him all such authority according to his discretion as the Alderman had if he had been at home. Set down at the Council house in the Guildhall the 5th of December 1603. [ff.354v.-355]

In May 1604 the plague was still in the town, and a new and more radical plan was approved. The sick and the others in their houses were ejected from the town.

3 May 1604. Whereas divers houses within this Town at this present are visited and infected by means whereof and the abode of the inhabiters of the same houses if they still remain great danger is likely to ensue to the neighbour houses and so to the whole Town For remedy whereof it is ordered and set down that the inhabitors of the said visited houses and of such houses as hereafter shall be infected shall be removed forth of the Town into the Carr to cotes there most convenient. And that to that end Mr Mayor for the time being shall take or cause to be taken repaired and made fit such and so many of the said cotes as shall be necessary and thought most fitting for that purpose whether the owners or occupiers having notice will consent thereto or no, Considering the necessity of the cause and present use thereof. And that so soon as it shall please God to cease the sicknes restitution sufficient to be made to the owners of the said cotes for their damages upon view by indifferent persons made for the same. [f.358]

A cote was an agricultural building, and the Carr was presumably Myton Carr, the agricultural area just outside the town to the West. 

The plague may have subsided, because this is the last plague order entry for some time. 

Money: The £1 can be divided – an eighth is 2s 6d – a sixth is 3s 4d – a quarter is 5s – a third is 6s 8d – a half is 10s – two-thirds is 13s 4d – three-quarters is 15s 

The Plague

On 27 Nov 1575 Hull corporation took measures against the plague 

The Mayor is not in the town, we don’t know why, but John Thorneton one of the Aldermen has taken his place as Lieutenant. This is great for us, as Thorneton was very keen on record keeping. The accounts of his Mayoralties are half as long again as most of the others, and ten times as long as some. Without him there might have been mention of the plague, but not the careful copying out of the regulations. The Town Clerk, John Lewes, would write as little as he could get away with.

Here is the first entry in the record. I have modernised the spelling and very lightly edited it to make it easier to read, but the words and the thoughts are pure 1575. Their first need is to control the poor. The plague tended to spread fastest amongst the grubbier section of society, unlike the 1558/9 outbreak of “the new disease” a flu-type virus which had struck everybody, without a pattern. The “new disease” had killed perhaps four of the eleven Aldermen and the Town Clerk, and nothing had been written about it, as the town records were not kept at all for two years. But back to the plague, it is 1575. . . 

Mr John Thorneton, Lieutenant in the absence of the Mayor, with the full assent and consent of his brethren the aldermen of the town, minding by God his permission to foresee as much as in them is the great peril and damages that may happen to this commonwealth, by means of the inordinate going abroad of the poor people on the streets this time, in which it hath pleased God to to visit this town with the plague (a sickness greatly feared and to all men known to be infective) Have thought it meet and very convenient that the poor people should be relieved at home in their dwelling houses and be utterly restrained from this day, being the 27th day of November in the eighteenth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth the Queen’s Majesty, from going abroad in the streets or from door to door begging. 

And therefore do enact order conclude and agree that if there shall be any of the poor people taken going abroad in the streets or from door to door begging that then he or she shall be committed to prison and shall also loose the weekly aid that he or she hath allowed them of the collection for the poor. 

And because this order may be known to all it is agreed that it shall be openly published in both the churches 

And for that it is thought the money weekly collected towards the relief of the poor of this town by the collectors is not sufficient to maintain the poor in their houses and that charity willeth they should be sufficiently provided for, it is therefore also ordered and agreed that every person in habiting within this town which by the discretion of the Justices of Peace shall be thought able to pay any thing towards the relief of the poor people shall be by them forthwith assessed to pay weekly so much as the Justices shall think meet and convenient. This assessment to have continuance no longer than it shall please God to permit the infection to endure. 

And if any of the inhabitants shall not weekly pay as they shall be assessed by the said Justices that then he she or they refusing to pay as they are assessed shall be punished according in the statute made and ordained for the relief of the poor. 

That was Hull Bench Book Four (HHC C BRB/2) ff.138v.-139

So money is collected to pay the poor people to stay indoors, and those who do venture out are to be sanctioned.

Next we have a lockdown of all households containing infection. We know that the plague was spread by fleas, in 1575 they did not know this, but they had observed that, as well as person-to-person transmission, plague could be caught from cloth, especially clothes and bedding, (where the fleas lurked). People then did not have as much “stuff” as we do. If you and your family went to stay with someone, it was usual to bring your own bedding, they were unlikely to have guest blankets. This entry also identifies Blackfriargate as the main area of concern. Blackfriar gate runs today on the Humber side of, and practically underneath, Myton Bridge.  

The same day and year by Mr Lieutenant and his brethren the aldermen did with one full assent and consent enact order conclude and agree That no person inhabiting within this town shall at any time or times hereafter by day or night take or receive into their houses or possessions any bedding apparel or household stuff from any the houses or places infected or suspected to be infected with the plague or forth of the Blackfriar gate upon pain of imprisonment and fine at discretion of the said Mayor and Aldermen, besides the shutting up of their doors and shop windows of what estate so ever the same person or persons be so offending contrary the tenor and effect of this ordinance. 

And further by the assent and consent aforesaid it is enacted ordered and agreed that no person or persons inhabiting this said town shall at any time or times receive or take into their houses or any part thereof any person or persons whosoever forth of any house infected or suspected to be infected with the said sickness or forth of the said Blackfriar gate without the licence and consent of the said Mr Mayor and the most part of the said Aldermen. And that no person or persons shall at any time or times approach or go nigh to the doors or windows of any house infected or suspected to be infected with the said sickness there to talk with them that be within the same houses but to stand a far off from the same houses or in the mid of the street upon the pains and penalties aforesaid. ff.139-139v.

Blackfriargate was closed in with a wooden wall, and a keeper appointed to guard it and to be paid weekly. They don’t say how much, but it would be unlikely to be very much. The fees and bribes of those inside the wall to carry messages and allow illicit excursions would have been very tempting. 

Item the day and year abovesaid for the better safety and preservation of the body of this said town from the danger and peril of the said infective sickness it was fully ordered concluded and agreed that the said Blackfriar gate (at this time sore infected) should be impaled and enclosed at the east and west ends of the said street and at the south end of the lane going from thence southward And that at both the ends of the said street there shall be two doors made and one honest and discrete person appointed to have the charge and keeping of the said street and door and to have a weekly consideration for his travail and pain who shall see these acts and ordinances hereafter ensuing made touching the better safety of the said street from time to time duly executed and observed. f.139v.

And here are the rules for the gate keeper. He was only responsible for the daylight hours. It is likely that the regular Night Watch took on the overnight surveillance. I like that he was instructed to be polite to those he was imprisoning.

Articles to be observed by Richard Long keeper of the Blackfriar gate.

1. Inprimis that he shall keep both the gates of the said street shut and be attendant at the gate towards the west end thereof all the day from day light in the morning until five of the clock at the night there to be ready to open the gate when any of that street (not being of the houses infected) shall have necessary occasion to go forth or come in or to bring forth or take in such things as be needful for the reparations of their houses and that he behave himself towards them with courteous and gentle words and behaviour. Provided always that he do not suffer any bedding, apparel, or any household stuff to be carried forth at any time either any person or persons forth of any house or houses infected or suspected to be infected to come abroad forth of their houses with the special commandment of Mr Mayor or his Lieutenant in his absence. 

2. Item when any of the inhabitants within that street shall have any occasion to carry forth or to bring in any burdenous or heavy thing to or from the High street as hops beer or such like. That then he (upon request to him made) shall open the gate at the East end of the said street for those purposes only and that being done he forthwith to shut the same gate again. 

3. Item if there be any person or persons inhabiting that street or any other that be disobedient to these orders devised and set down for the safety of the whole town or that do in word or deed murmur grudge or repine that then the said keeper shall forthwith impart the same to the common officer and he to inform Mr Mayor or his Lieutenant in his absence that such persons may receive and have condign punishment. 

4. Item that the said keeper shall admonish all persons dwelling in any house in that street to forbear for a time the church market and other open and common assembly. 

5. Item that the inhabitants of that street shall weekly of Wednesdays and Saturdays betwixt six and seven of the clock in the evening bring all the filth offal and sweepings of their houses to a place in that street to be there unto appointed by the common officer and the said keeper From thence to be carried to the Southend on a sled and there cast over into Humber. ff.140-140v.

And here our detailed record ends and normal service is resumed, the Mayor, Robert Gayton, was back in town. The next plague related entry was nine days later. The Blackfriars lockdown was still in place, and someone reported to the authorities that there had been a breech. f.141

The sixth day of December complaint was made to Mr Mayor that Robert Wardell contrary to the tenor and effect of the order had received into his house in the Chapel [Chapel Lane] forth of Blackfriargate one Edward Prince with his wife, family and bedding. It was therefore by the Mr Mayor and his brethren the Aldermen agreed that the said Robert Wardell should have his door shut up and he imprisoned and that the said Prince and all others in that house should keep them close in the said house until further order were therein taken. 

The same day it was agreed that upon Saturday night it shall be lawful to Steven Prestwood, Birde, Henry Luter and Burton to open their doors and go abroad so as they do not come in the church, market or other open assembly until their estate for the sickness be better known. And that they shall be charged in the mean season to cleanse and smoke their houses. f.141

Four days later, one of the Blackfriargate residents is in trouble with the authorities, but  “lewd words” does not mean what you think it means. He was rude and contemptuous of the authority of the Mayor. The Wait’s collar was silver, so every time it was issued or recalled, it was weighed. On the10th December . . 

Henry Luter one of the town’s Waits for his disobedience in the time in which his house was infected with the plague and for his misdemeanour and lewd words uttered in the presence of Mr Mayor was displaced from his said office and in his place was appointed for that office one Henry Storey and the collar of silver belonging to that office was taken from the said Henry Luter and delivered to the said Storey to use during the time that he shall enjoy that office. Which collar doth weigh six ounces and three quarters. f.141

There is no record of the end of the lockdown, but the town was thought to be in need of more government. On the first of February the number of Aldermen is increased from the Mayor and ten Aldermen to the Mayor and twelve Aldermen, and the two new men are elected from a field of only three candidates, the losing candidate was already the Sheriff. No reason is given, but the next order is for two Aldermen to be appointed to manage each of the six wards of the town, and “to take charge rule and government of the wards within this said town and see within those wards all good laws and statutes of the realm and all ordinances made or to be made for the good and quiet government of the common wealth from time to time duly observed” f.143

And on the same day they issued “Orders for avoiding of infection” and each ward took turns in implementing them. 

For the better safety of this town from further infection of the plague it is by the said Mayor and Aldermen with one full assent and consent ordered and agreed that there shall be forthwith a nightly watch kept to the number of twelve men every night. Who, by the Aldermen of that ward that shall watch, shall be appointed to attend at the places following to foresee that none go abroad forth of any place infected or suspected to be infected with the plague or carry from thence any apparel bedding or household stuff viz. two at the Southend two at either of the ends of Blackfriargate, two in Mytongate, two in the Church yard and two in Whitefriargate. And also that there shall be certain men of every ward appointed who shall be from time to time attending upon the Alderman of their ward when they be sent for and with the constables shall for see that the poor go not abroad neither any of the persons infected go abroad in the day time nor any clothes bedding or other thing carried or conveyed forth of any house or place infected or or suspected to be infected. f.143v.

The threat was now external as well as internal, and there seems to have been a group of infected people outside the town in the manor of Myton, which was then an agricultural area to the west starting just outside the town walls, not far from the new foot bridge. I am not sure how far it stretched, but probably at least as far as the present Infirmary on Anlaby Road. We are not told who these infected people were, but there is no suggestion that they were townspeople. It is most likely that they were refugees, who had not been allowed into the town, and they had set up camp in agricultural outbuildings outside it. 

The same day it was also by the said Mr Mayor and his brethren the Aldermen concluded ordered and agreed that the common officer shall hire one man daily to watch Myton Carr from day light till night and not to come forth of the Carr until night. And he to see that none of the infected persons there talk with any nor go abroad in the said Carr neither to come into the town at any time. And when the said man at night shall return forth of the said Carr to this town he shall give knowledge of his home coming to the keeper of the town’s gates who shall immediately cause all the gates to be shut. ff.143v.-144

On 18th of May 1576 the plague was still thought to be a threat when it was invoked to cancel the annual midsummer “Cakes and Ale” when the Mayor traditionally dispensed hospitality at his house. Those trying to turn Hull into a Godly Commonwealth may also have been at work here. 

The Mayor and Aldermen considering that this town is partly infected with the plague and that the assembly of the people together in great companies is very perilous for danger of further infection. Have with one full assent and consent concluded and agreed that the Mayor of this said town shall be dispensed with for keeping of Midsummer even this year according to the ancient customs heretofore used without incurring any danger or forfeit. And yet to the end the poor people who at that time had some relief be not hindered, it is agreed that the said Mayor shall content and pay the sum of £5 to be indifferently bestowed amongst the poor people dwelling in Kingston upon Hull, whereunto the said now Mayor did willingly consent and the same £5 did disburse to the use aforesaid. f.147v.

By the 6th June 1577 the plague had passed, but there was still a stray claim for compensation to be settled.

The Mayor and Aldermen did with one full assent and consent order condescend conclude and agree that Mr Goslinge of Kingston upon Hull, mariner, towards the re-edifying of the cote within the Lordship of Myton which was burnt in cleansing of it after such persons as were infected with the plague were gone from it shall have payed unto him by the common officer the sum of 40s  f.168

And in late November 1577 the economic harm done to the town by the plague was still felt. The “late suits” mentioned were for a government subsidy to repair the castle. Hull were responsible for keeping the castle in good repair, but chunks of it had fallen down and they wanted help. They were successful, but it cost a lot in travel and bribery, not only of great men but also of their servants. It was accounted for as “making friends”.

For as much as the highways to this town are of late greatly decayed on every side and grown to be so foul and especially on Holderness side that hardly any laden horses can get to this town. By means whereof it is greatly to be doubted that corn will in this market grow to be very dear. It is therefore thought good to the said Mayor and Aldermen that some corn, especially wheat and rye, be bought to serve the market as need shall require, to the end that dearth may be avoided and the scarcity provided for as much as reasonably may be. And because the town is destitute of money at this present by reason of the great charges it hath been at as well by their late suits as by the relieving and providing for those that were infected with the plague, it is agreed that some of those Burgesses as are of ability shall be required to lend some money to make the provision of corn. f.178

This last entry is not really a part of the story of the 1575/6 plague, it happened six years later, but it shows how the plague was still an issue. 

11th Jan 1582 One Jane Smith widow did curse Mr Mayor the Justices his brethren and the preacher speaking false and slanderous words against them: videlicet That they went about to punish the town with water, and punished her son, and therefore she wished and trusted to see as great plague to come to the town as ever there was: And that Briskin (who was the preacher) was the cause of it, the devil brisk him out of the town as she doubted not but he would shortly: The said Mayor and Aldermen did for her offence therein the 11th of January anno predicto order and appoint That the said Jane Smith the day following should be set in the stocks in the market with a paper on her head And she was also discharged of the town’s house wherein she dwelled and warned to provide her of another against Whitsunday then next. f.226v.

The Charmer of Swine

Report on Barholmew Preston, the Charmer of Swyne (HHC C DMT 5/3)

This is a moderised version. A more accurate transcription can be found at the end of this post.

Firstly. Bartholmew Preston was born at Wyton and brought up there with Margery his sister who was a bone-setter and a midwife and also suspected to be a charmer. Her married name was Ganton, but she is now dead.

Secondly. He confesses that he deals with the Fairies (or some kind of Spirits) and he will admit it, and that he gets his spells from them. He confessed as much to someone of Sutton.

Thirdly. If a man has a bewitched animal and needs the spell lifted, Preston can tell him what colour the animal is, before he is told what it is. John Ruksby a miller of Tunstall has been a regular customer for this service.

Fourthly. He can tell what has become of any thing that is stolen if he is asked about it within nine days of the theft. John Thompson of Lanthrop is witness to this, and so are others.

Fiftly. Some people in Swine have had their goods and even themselves witched and charmed by him. They offer to affirm this on oath, including Henry Moore a wright.

Sixthly. A man of Hull, had a child that Preston is accused of witching to death. The man came to Preston with a warrant to arrest him, but he and Preston came to an agreement. Willim Cob of Swine was Constable or debuty at the time, and on Friday he will bring the man’s name to your worships. (John Wormsey Hull Gaol)

Seventhly. He was sent for to a young man of Paull who was strangely visited. Preston tied a handkerchief about the young man’s neck assuring the people there of the young man’s recovery. But after he had gone, the young man cried out that the rat which was on the handkerchief was like to kill him, and so he dyed. A boatman called Wintringham affirms this to be true.

Eighth he is infamous in Hull. A gentlewoman or aldermans wife has visited his house for cure for her son, and gaves him much [?money ?credit]. Barack Newton a butcher of Hull has dealt with him for years for charms for his wife, and Rowland Savage a mariner of Hull for his son. And there are many others. He is as popular as any cunning man can be.

— — — — — — — — — —— — — — —— — — — —— — — — —— — — — —

I was looking for the historian Abraham De La Pryme and a search of the Hull History Centre Pryme holdings included (for no apparent reason) “The Report on the Charmer of Swyne” This turned out to have little to do with Elizabethan Hull and less to do with Pryme. Nevertheless I was unable to resist sending for it. A colleage drew my attention to a brief interpretation of the report by T Tindall Wildridge, who has for a long time been one of my top ten worst historians of all time, and so, I decided to look into it.

The document is in the class DMT. It was therefore one of the documents stolen by Wildridge during his tenure as city archivist and generously returned to the archive by bequest in his will. Or so I believed. There is apparently an alternative view, that Wildridge rescued them, having been instructed by the corporation to destroy them. I am not sure where the discredit should properly fall, both versions are equally likely.

The document is a single leaf of paper, It is fairly standard paper for Hull documents up to 1590 or after 1600. (The paper between those dates was a lot worse.) It is written on one side only, in two hands. A third hand (probably Pryme in 1699) has numbered it “615”. This is likely to have been a page or folio number, and the left hand edge shows signs that the document was at one time part of a bound volume. The main hand is not a highly educated or clerkly hand, and is corrected by a more educated hand. The corrections are however likely to be almost contemporaneous. If it was just the first hand I would date the document at 1600 plus or minus 30 years, but the second hand is slightly more seventeenth century. On the document is written “COMMONWEALTH?” in pencil. possibly by the Hull archivist Stanewell, who is usually to be trusted.
The date in the Hull History Centre catalogue was 1650-1700, which in my view is far too late. The catalogue may well have been changed by now, as I did share my opinion with the archive staff. If I had to put money on it, I would say 1620.

The report is in a bog-standard secretary hand in a bog-standard brown ink. The penmanship is perfectly reasonable but the language and the brain behind it are far from sophisticated, and someone has amended and enarged the text, also in secretary hand, but in a black ink with a thinner nib. At a guess, the town clerk sent out a man to collect evidence, but the report was poorly written, so the clerk enlarged and corrected it by questioning the man. To be wildly speculative, I can then see him making a fair copy of the result to give to the magistrates, and keeping this corrected draft as a minute (his record).

It calls itself a report. It was probably made for the Justices of Peace of Hull (The Mayor and Aldermen) with a view to charging the Charmer under the Witchcraft Act of 1604 (1 James Cap. 12). If I am wrong about the date, and it was much earlier, it would fall under the Witchcraft Act of 1563 (5 Elizabeth Cap. 16). Actually it doesn’t make much difference as the law, as it would affect the conduct reported, didn’t change.

There are two sorts of witchcraft here, ill-intentioned and well-intentioned. Both were criminal. The penalty for causing death by witchcraft was death (by hanging), the penalty for using witchcraft for good intent was imprisonment and pillory, but if the charge included the invocation or conjuration of evil spirits the punishment was death. Obtaining charms from the faries is probably borderline. Faries were certainly spirits, and could be inimical, causing disease in people, animals and crops and spoiling food and handiwork. They were not however usually considered as inspired or directed by the Devil. They belonged to a completely different set of beliefs. The use of charms to cure or prevent the harm that faries had caused was common, and probably no-one lived far from a competent charmer. Charmers were also known as cunning men and cunning women or collectively as cunning folk. They tended to be called witches by those who disapproved of them.

As far as I can tell in the Elizabethan East Riding there was no officially recognised physician closer than York. Medical care was in the hands of apothocaries, surgeons, midwives, bonesetters and charmers, with self-help books for the literate. and household remedies. Manuscript recipe collections for the seventeenth century include recipes for medicines, both preventative and curative, and often the occassional useful spell.

I looked for the people:
Bartholmew Preston the Charmer of Swine born at Wyton and brought up there with his late sister Margery Ganton a midwife and bone-setter. Wyton is a part of the parish of Swyne and the parish registers before 1706 are lost. This also covers Moore a Wright of Swine.
The early parish registers for Paull are also lost and therefore the unfortunate young man of Paull has not been traced nor has Wintringham the boatman who may also have been of Paull.
[Jo]hn Thompson ?of lanthroop. I haven’t identified Lanthroop.
John Raksby a miller at Tunstall looked possible at first, but the early register for Tunstall is so decayed and fragile that it is no longer produced. I was allowed to look at it under supervision but the best that I could do, on an admittedly superficial examination of a very difficult document, was:
1625 Christopher the sonne of John Rowksbie was buried the 19 Day of November (ERALS PE/42 p.33). Now this John may be the son, father, or other relation of John Raksby the miller, the man himself or no relation at all. On the page there was recorded 19 burials in 2 years including a still born child, which gives an idea of the size of the parish.
We now turn to Hull. I had previously transcribed the parish registers for the reign of Elizabeth, which had been very neatly copied into a new register up to 1598 (with who knows what loss and innaccuracy) but the chaos that followed has yet to be transcribed. I read through the burials. I have always found the burials to be the most useful when looking for a man. From burials one gets not only the man’s own death but also the death of any wives and infant children. I did not find a Wormsey, (or Wormley) or Rowland Savage, but there were at least two families of Newtons in the town; one family were of ketchmen and the other were indeed butchers.
1611 John Newton butcher buried the first of June [ERALS PE158/1 p423] and on a page shortly after there was buried Henrie Hubert potticarie (apothocary) [ERALS PE158/1 p429].
I can find no record of Preston being hanged, and the court records for Hull are lost.

— — — — — — — — — —— — — — —— — — — —— — — — —— — — — —

Hand one is in normal type, hand two is in bold type.

Reports of the Charmer of Swyne
Barh[o]lmew Preston

Imp’ that he was born at wyton and brought up
ther with his sister a bone settor & suspected Charmer
which is now dead hir name was margere Ganton
a midwyfe

Confessed to [blank] of Sutton [that] he delt with the [fa]yries and had his [spe]ll from them
Secondly he doth Confesse he deals with the Fares
or thes kynde of Spirits and he will avouch it.

Thirdly he Can tell any man what Coollor
his forspoken or witched beasts ar before they
name them to him John Ruksby a miller hath
had much triall of him this way he dwelle at Tunstall he hath
bene often with him.

[Joh]n Thompson
Fourthly he Can tell of any thing that is stoln if they
Com to him within Compass of nyne dayes one
of lanthroop and divers will affirm it from him

Fiftly Som in Swyne have had ther goods witched
and Charmed by him as they say and themselves
also and this they offer to affirm upon oath one
Henry moore a wright with others more.

[Jo]hn wormsey [ ] Hull gaole
Sixtly he is Challenged to witch a Child to dead
of a mans in Hull and the man Cam to him with
a warrant to apprehend him but he did agre with him
Willim Cob of swyne was Coonstable or debuty at the tyme
and will upon fryday bryng the mans name before
your worships

Seaventhly he was sent for to a young man of pall
which was straungly visseted and he tyded a handkyrchif
about his neck assuring them of his recovery but when
he was gone From him the young man Cryed out that
the Ratt which was on [?in] the handkerchieff was lyk to kill him
and so he dyed one wintringham a boatman did
affirm this for truethe

Eyghth he is infamous in hull a gentlewoman or aldermans
wife hath ben at his house for hir son and gaves him much[ ]
and barack newton a butcher of Hull for his wyfe Certay[ne]
yeares to gether hath had to deal with him
and Rowland savag of Hull marriner for his soon with others mo
and he is as much frequented as any Can be that do
posess yt are

1604 Witches

“In this monthe [September 1604] vz the 4 Daie was kept heare a generall Gaole
Delivery Baron Savile being Judge & Mr John Paler Clarke of
the assise at which time weare arreayned for witchcraft divers both
men and women and 5 onely founde Guyltie who had Judgement
and weare executed on Satturdaie after vz Roger Beadneye
John Willerby Marie Holland Jennet Wressell alias Beamo[n]t
and Jennet Butler the afforenamed Willerby confessing many
thing and at his deathe accusing divers for witchcraft at the
same time one Henri Oliver was condemned for horstealing
but had no Judgment but was reprived and was ordered
by the Judg to be topman which he was accordingly.”
[KHRO Bench Book Four f.359 (this week called HHC C BRB/2)]

This seems to have been quite an event.

It was not in Elizabeth’s reign and was under the new witchcraft statute of that year.

None of the names Beadney, Willerby, Holland, Wressell, or Butler are Hull names so it seems likely that they were from Hullshire (south Haltemprice).

Topman or hangman in Hull was hardly a full time job and would have gone to anybody competent who was sufficiently in need of the extra cash. It seems that there were no volunteers this time, perhaps no-one wanted to hang these particular felons. This pardoning of a felon in order to hang other felons is not unique. I have heard that in Lancashire once no man could be found and a woman was given the job, and proved competent, although I expect that she was not paid as much as a man would have been.

The gallows in Hull were probably on what is now Adelaide street, in the royal manor of Myton, where a field was once called Gallows close.