Burials & Memorials, Old Churchyard


John Middleton’s Burial Register: “When life was uncertain”

When life was uncertain

The Revd John Middleton became Vicar of Penn in 1787 and his registry entries run for 20 years from 1788 to 1807.  He kept meticulous records of all that he did, including adding the notes below to the burial register when there was an unusual cause of death:

1788  Edmund Hunt, “accidentally drowned in a tub of water”.
1788  Charlotte Dennis, “found dead by Mother supposed to have died in a fit”
1790  Ann Pusey, “falling into the fire in a Fit and being dreadfully burnt”
1793 “Buried two of three children at one birth” and four days later, “the remaining child of the three”.
1796  “Alice Darvill, “She died of a lock’d Jaw, in the Workhouse (Typically a symptom of a tetanus infection)
1797  “John Fawkes, “crushed to death by the accidental fall of Building”
1800  John Pattison, aged 17, “He died in consequence of the broken bones & bruises he  received from the falling in of a chalk pit”.
1801  James Harman, “terribly burnt”.
1802  Thomas Winter, labourer aged 25 ½, “He hurt his hand at Gravel cart for Lord Grenville and died after it was amputated”.
1803 Job Carter, aged 2yrs 8 months, “accidentally drown’d in a Clay Pit”.
1803 William Wade, “he died of the Venereal, that foul and loathsome disease”.
1804 Charlotte Wright, “Her death was occasioned by pricking her finger with a bone salting some meat”.
1805 Sarah Charlton, “who died in the Workhouse in Child-bed of twins, one of which, still-born”.
1806 Ferdinand D’Aguisy, “young Gentlemen at the French School, aged 16 years & 5 months, lately appointed to an ensigncy in the 60th Regt.”.
1807 Eliz. Chapman, aged 77, “She died in a fit in the Harvest field”.

These were the unusual entries, but they came at a time when life generally was very uncertain.  During those 20 years when John Middleton was the vicar of Penn, with a population of only 180 families, he recorded 66 infant deaths, mostly at birth or soon afterwards; a further 16 teenagers, or near teens, died of undisclosed causes; there were 9 deaths from smallpox, 9 from consumption (TB), and 3 from ‘dropsy ‘, and 2 from scarlet fever.

Wealth and position were no protection and during this same period Assheton Curzon, the lord of the manor and owner of most of Penn, lost his eldest son and two grandsons.   Another victim, this time of scarlet fever, was the grandson of General Haviland, who had lived in the mansion overlooking the front common.

Surprisingly enough, if you survived these risks there was a chance of living to a respectable old age.  In those twenty years: 42 lived to their 70s, a further 27 to their 80s, and a lucky 7 to their 90s. The winner was a 96-year-old widow, Mary Stratford.

Miles Green, 19 Feb 2023

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