Sunday, June 26, 2011

Vile November

From the archives last week ... a law suit that could have come straight out of Jane Austen or Dickens. I listed over one hundred documents last week, and suspect there are at least as many to go - a mix of reports of court proceedings, lawyers' notes and letters.

The gist of the case was that in 1811 a certain clergyman was accused of not being resident in his parishes, contrary to a recent Act of Parliament . Given that he had two - one in Yorkshire and one in Buckinghamshire - residing simultaneously in both would have been somewhat difficult. His reason for not living in either was that the rectories of both needed too much expensive work to make them habitable for his family. He claimed that he had permission from the bishop to live away from his parishes, and had paid a vicar to perform his duties in both - there didn't seem to be any question that his parishioners were provided for spiritually. He was also working as a clergyman in another Buckinghamshire parish, without pay other than the provision of a house.

The odd thing was that it seemed he was the victim of a vindictive prosecution. I don't know enough about legal processes at the time to be sure, but I think an accuser in a lawsuit at this time could claim financial compensation from the accused even if the accuser himself had not suffered any damages. Poor Reverend Archibald was accused by a local man known to be a money-grabber, who had recently incurred costs in an unrelated lawsuit of his own and apparently spotted an opportunity to make this back and more - the amount he claimed from the clergyman ran to several thousand pounds. One pathetic letter from the Reverend told his lawyer that in the past November had been a favourite month, but that this November he could call "nothing but vile". Things were so black he was tempted to hang himself. Several months later he had passed beyond anger with his accuser to resignation and pity.

Despite Reverend Archibald's best efforts he initially lost the case, then reopened it claiming that there were errors in the legal process. This is where I left it. Presumably further down in the box will be something that describes the ultimate outcome of the case. I hope the poor clergyman won in the end!


Mary G said...

this is so cool ... you could do novels based on the info you're uncovering in those dusty archives!

Sounds like you're enjoying the work ... and that is wonderful ...

Melanie B said...

Fascinating. It does sound like quite the plot for a novel.

PixieMum said...

Haven't found anything as interesting as this at my local studies library.

I've been indexing photographs of streets in the borough. Think some have been given from the local Planning department, others came from one of the local history societies. It looks as if a local photographic club took pictures of roads and events in 1952, these are fascinating.

Like sunshine in the home said...

So interesting! Poor clergyman.

I sympathise with him. When our Pastor was Vicar of our local Anglican church the vicarage he was given, whilst a beautiful old house, was HUGE, very cold and needed a lot of maintenance. They don't get the highest of wages, it was a bit of a burden really.