The parish church of Thistleton is fortunate to have a copy of some of its earliest parish records. In beautiful copperplate handwriting, the copy is a wonderful record of the births, marriages and deaths of our ancestors who were living in Thistleton between the years 1574 to 1799. The copy appears to have been assembled from four original registers, books I - IV. However, from the slightly ad hoc way in which the entries have been written, it’s likely that some of the original entries were written on loose papers or parchment which were then collated together. Much more than just a record of births marriages and deaths, there are many details within the four books that give us clues to the major and minor events that affected the lives of Thistleton residents over a 200-year period. Here are a few examples
The entry, placed out of date order on the first page of the book, was likely made originally on a loose piece of paper or parchment and later copied in to the parish record as being of significance or interest.
The French Protestants or Huguenots were followers of the teachings of the theologian John Calvin. Violently prosecuted under the French catholic monarchs of the 16th and 17th centuries, they fled their homeland setting up large communities in England, protestant Europe and the Americas. Particularly large numbers of these refugees arrived in England in the 1680s, which fits nicely with the record made in the register. Their plight was generally sympathetically felt by the English people, anti popery was at a peak and there was a general fear that what was being done to protestants in Europe, could spread to England under the present monarch, the Catholic James II. This translated into generous public donations such as the one made in Thistleton in May 1686. (The likely population for Thistleton at this time was between 110-120, most of whom would be employed on the land. The average daily rate of pay for and agricultural labourer in southern England in the 1680s was 11 pence per day.) It is interesting to surmise how news of the Huguenots plight reached the people of Thistleton in an era before mass media.
The huge number of protestant refugees settling in the UK, 40-50 thousand between 1660-1714 alone means that many of us will have Huguenot surnames and ancestors. Would any Huguenots have settled in Thistleton? Unlikely, as they tended not to have been agricultural workers in their home country but were artisans such as silversmiths or watchmakers. Many also were doctors, soldiers, teachers or merchants so once having found safety in England, they tended to settle in the towns and cities.