Berkshire Collection

Performance Traditions


Many towns and cities in other parts of England, especially those with strong craft-guild structures, undertook mimetic civic processions on Corpus Christi Day and other holidays as well as plays from the late fourteenth to the early sixteenth centuries. However, although travelling players visited all four boroughs, there is no record of processions and plays in Berkshire sponsored by the larger towns. Abingdon and Reading, dominated by their abbeys until the 1530s, were not fully incorporated until the 1550s when the prohibitions against religious plays were already in place. Windsor, although granted a charter by Edward I in 1277, remained a small town dominated by Windsor Castle, and Wallingford declined in importance and population from the mid-fifteenth century and no early records survive. The centres of all mimetic activity in the county, both religious and folk, were the parishes both in Reading and in the villages that were frequently co-terminous with the rural parishes.

Two records in this collection provide contemporary historical witness to the tradition so casually invoked by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales where Absolon, the lecherous parish clerk in ‘The Miller’s Tale,’ plays ‘Herodes upon a scaffold hye’ and the Miller himself is characterized as having a ‘Pilates voys.’ The first record, dated 1361, is found in a compotus roll of Exeter College, Oxford, which held the advowson of the parish of West Wittenham (now Long Wittenham southeast of Abingdon), and the second, dated 1389, is found in the register of John Waltham, bishop of Salisbury (1388–95). The register records the trial for Lollardy of William Rammesbury of the parish of Sonning (a village northeast of Reading). William confessed to impersonating a priest and ‘celebrating’ mass in many churches in the area, mocking the sacrament.

The reference to West Wittenham in the Exeter College records is tantalizingly vague: ‘Item reddit compotum de viij d. solutum pro expensis parachianorum de West Wyttenham in die decollacionis Sancti Iohannis Baptisti quando ludus erat’ ('Item he renders account of 8d paid for the expenses of the parishioners of West Wittenham on the (feast) day of the beheading of St John the Baptist when there was a play.') It seems to be a possible reference to the performance of a play that the parishioners helped finance with other parishes on the later pattern found nearby in Thame in Oxfordshire. In the mid-1460s Thame received 23d from the parish of Wendlebury, over eleven miles away near Bicester, for ‘play money.’ Sixteenth-century evidence records many plays performed with pooled parish resources, including an extravagant St George play performed in Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, in 1511 that had contributions from twenty-seven neighbouring parishes. It is possible that this reference reflects a similar practice in north Berkshire. The record might also simply record the expenses incurred by the parishioners attending the play, although it seems likely that the college would have been more prepared to pay for a play which their parish helped to mount than for mere expenses in food and drink.

In the Sonning record, the bishop of Salisbury, in one of his penances required of Rammesbury, orders him to abstain ‘…ab omnimoda arte mimorum gestis & cantalonis…’ (‘from every kind of entertainers' art and from songs’) for the rest of his life unless he performs them in a church ‘…ad honorem dei vel alicuius sancti…’ (‘…to the honour of God or of a particular saint…’). The bishop is clearly giving this penance for the performative act of mocking the sacrament, but he draws the connection with performances in honour of God and the saints that we know from both records and texts were performed in churches in the fifteenth century.

When Chaucer wrote ‘The Miller’s Tale’ in the 1390s, he used the references to the stock dramatic characters of Herod and Pilate as carefully as he used his references to joint stools and shot windows. Parish plays must have been part of his world. Such plays were clearly part of English cultural life one hundred years later, as REED evidence and the surviving texts attest, but until these references from north Berkshire (not far from the setting of the ‘Tale’ in Oxford) were found, there was little except Chaucer’s references to attest to a vibrant dramatic tradition in English parishes before the mid- to late fifteenth century.

Evidence from the fragmentary account rolls of the Reading Gild Merchant from the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries gives us less detailed glimpses of exchanges of players between villages and the larger town of Reading. Many of these rolls were lost (according to one account) in the bombing of Reading in the Second World War, but, perhaps more mundanely, destroyed by neglect and damp and only preserved for us through the transcriptions made in the late nineteenth century by the Historical Manuscripts Commission. Whether these references are to actors or musicians or other entertainers such as Robin Hood troupes we cannot know but they give us a sense of a lively exchange among the small agrarian centres and the market town. Players are paid from Henley in Oxfordshire in 1382 and 1388, from the nearby small village of Aldermaston in the same years, from Wokingham in 1386, 1423, and 1427, from Sonning and Sindlesham near Wokingham in 1421, from Yately in Hampshire in 1419, and an unspecified location in 1433.

The parish of St Laurence had a rich parish tradition of playmaking by the late fifteenth century. Although there is no reference to any such activities in the first churchwardens’ documents from the mid-fifteenth century, one reference from the Cofferers’ Accounts of the Gild Merchant for 1433–4 records a payment of 18d to players ‘in ecclesia sancti Laurencij.’ The first year of the detailed and extensive accounts in the second churchwardens’ account book that begins in 1498 record a play on the adoration of the Magi on May Day. There is extensive detail about a Creation play performed on Corpus Christi Day in 1506 for which they built a booth stage and made a white leather costume for Adam, and two recorded performances of Cain and Abel in 1511 and 1515. But the most documented dramatic activity in the parish was the Easter play that was part of the life of the parish from possibly as early as 1498 until 1537.

This Easter play was the culmination of the complex combination of liturgy and drama celebrated by the parish since at least 1498 when the detailed churchwardens’ accounts begin. Much has been written about the relationship of liturgy and drama in western Europe, especially since the interpolation into the Easter mass in the tenth century of the Quem Quaeritis trope – an enactment of the visit of the three Marys to the empty tomb of Christ and their dialogue with the angel. In his 1965 book, Christian Rite and Christian Drama, O.B. Hardison studied the work of the early Christian liturgist Amalarius of Metz (c 775–c 850). Amalarius describes the Carolingian mass of his day in detail as a series of performative acts commemorating moments in the life of Christ – particularly the events of Holy Week – in what has come recently to be called ‘rememorative allegory’ – or representations of events in the gospel stories. The earliest text of a Quem Quaeritis trope in England is in the Regularis Concordia (c 970) in Canterbury Cathedral. The trope became part of the Sarum Rite – the rite of the province of Canterbury – for Easter Day at the end of a rich liturgical week.

In ‘Latin Liturgical Drama,’ Peter Meredith outlines the ceremony of Holy Week. He starts his description with the ceremonies for Palm Sunday that began with the blessing of the flowers and the palm branches that would be used in the procession. The main procession, representing the people of Jerusalem, normally with their flowers and palms, proceeded around the outside of the church and made four stops. At the first it met with a secondary procession of people carrying a reliquary containing the consecrated host representing Christ. At the second stop at the door of the church, choirboys representing the ‘children of the Hebrews’ were placed in a high place, often on a scaffold over the porch, singing ‘Gloria laus et honor’ – the traditional Palm Sunday hymn. At the third stop, inside the church, a versicle based on Caiphas’ words from John 8.14, ‘It is expedient that one man should die for the people,’ was sung, sometimes by someone dressed as a prophet. In St Laurence’s, Reading, there are four specific payments made to a man called ‘Loreman’ for playing the prophet ‘on palme sonday’ between 1540–1 and 1546–7. The fourth stop was at the cross inside the church and concludes with the words of Matthew 21.9, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.’ As Meredith remarks, ‘The antiphons, responses and versicles used in the Palm Sunday service are almost all quotations or adaptations from the Gospels and form a narrative sequence,’ which ‘imaginatively link the Palm Sunday procession with the Old Testament wandering of the chosen people and the events of Christ’s life.’ He concludes his discussion on the Palm Sunday ceremonies remarking on their ‘imaginative and emotional content’ and potential ‘for individual, internalised drama.’

At the daily mass during Holy Week, the four versions of the Passion story in the four gospels were sung – from Matthew on Palm Sunday itself, from Mark on Tuesday, from Luke on Wednesday, and from John on Good Friday. These parts were traditionally taken by three separate voices – the treble sang the words of the Jews and the disciples, the ‘mean’ the words of the Evangelist, and the bass the words of Christ. There is no reason to believe that St Laurence’s parish did not follow the Sarum Rite in their services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. The expenses that are listed every year for candles, incense, watching the sepulchre, and coals for a fire to relight the candles all were needed for the regular liturgical celebrations. Since the heart of the mass itself is the re-enactment of the Last Supper (that historically took place on the Thursday of Holy Week), the focus of the Maundy Thursday liturgy was preparation for the days to follow. Three hosts were consecrated – one for the mass that day and two for Good Friday (one for the Good Friday mass and one to be ‘buried’ with the cross at the end of the Good Friday liturgy). Thursday began with the readmittance of the penitents and ended with the ‘rememorative’ act of washing the disciples’ feet by Christ. Over the course of the day, candles were extinguished service by service until the church was in total darkness.

On Good Friday the centre of attention throughout the day was the cross which served as an image of Christ and his suffering. During the mass, the Passion according to John was read and the ‘rememorative’ acts began with a representation of the parting of Christ’s garments by the crucifiers. The priests then, holding the cross, spoke the words of reproach from the cross ‘punctuated by the repetition of the cry for mercy from the choir.’ Then came the adoration of the cross by the priests and then the people. Finally the cross and the host consecrated the day before were buried in the ‘sepulchre.’ In St Laurence’s Church the sepulchre was made of wood and ‘on the north side of the choir beneath the middle arch of the arcade.’ At the end of the day, the only light remaining in the church was one wax candle burning before the sepulchre. Holy Saturday was a day of waiting and anticipation, watching the sepulchre, igniting and blessing the new fire, the lighting of the Paschal candle from the new flame, and finally the blessing of the font.

We know that the parish of St Laurence mounted an Easter play on Easter Monday performed on a trestle stage in the church that may have used the permanent wooden Easter sepulchre as part of the staging. This tradition is found elsewhere in England. From unlocalised surviving texts and other details supplied in non-parish sources, it seems clear that the subject of the plays done after the Easter liturgy had been celebrated contained some or all of the Resurrection appearance episodes – the appearance to Mary Magdalen, the Peregrini or Road to Emmaus, the appearance to the disciples in the upper room, and finally the episode of Doubting Thomas. There is no reason to think that the subjects of the St Laurence’s plays in Easter week were any different. In 1507 one William is paid ‘for carying and recarying of bordes to the church for the pageaunt of the passion on ester monday.’ A similar entry appears the next year ‘ffor the pageant on Estyr monday.’ In 1510 someone is paid for carrying boards on Easter Monday with no specification of a play. Over twenty years later, in 1534 as the Henrician reforms began to take effect, a man called Labourne was paid half a mark ‘for reformyng the resurreccion play’ and two years later 9s 10d for making another copy and binding it. Labourne does not appear anywhere else in the Reading records. The last mention of the Easter plays is in 1538 when the parish made a profit of 23s 2d ‘at the ffirst play in easter weke’ and 6s 2d at the ‘Second play.’ No reference to biblical drama in Reading appears after this year.

What is less certain in the Reading Easter celebration is the extent to which the liturgical ceremonies from Good Friday to Easter morning were mimetic. Any attempt to deal with the phenomenon of the Easter play must acknowledge the difficulty presented by external evidence. It is often unclear whether a reference is to ritual or drama. The much later Protestant tract, The Beehive of the Romish Church, first published in 1580, in describing the Good Friday customs of the late medieval church, underscores the fuzzy division between liturgical ceremony and mimesis that haunts any attempt to interpret the external evidence for Easter drama in English churches:

'Yea, doe we not see likewise, that vpon good Friday they haue a crucifixe, either of Wood or of Stone, which they lay downe softly vpon the ground, that euery body may come creeping to it, vpon hands and knees, and so kisse the feete of it, as men are accustomed to doe to the Pope of Rome? And then they put him in graue, till Easter: at which time they take him vp againe and sing, Resurrexit, non est hic, Alleluia: He is risen, hee is not heare: God be thanked. Yea and in someplaces they make the graue in a high place in the church where men must goe vp many steppes, which are decked with blackcloth from aboue to beneath & vpon euery step standeth a siluer candlesticke with a waxe candle burning in it, and there doe walke souldiers in harnesse, as bright as Saint George, which keep the graue, till the Priests come and take him vp: & then commeth sodenly a flash of fire, wherewith they are all afraid and fal downe: and then vpstarts the man, and they begin to sing Alleluia, on all hands, and then the clocke striketh eleuen.'

In this description, the deposition ceremony, the ‘creeping to the cross,’ and the burying of the cross are all part of the liturgy for Good Friday but the Easter morning events are a curious blend of the liturgical and the mimetic with costumed soldiers and a dramatic flash of fire to signify the Resurrection. However, the evidence of external references and of the surviving texts indicates that this blending of the liturgical and the mimetic may have been characteristic of English Easter drama recorded in parishes and other religious communities before the Reformation, and there are hints in the St Laurence’s churchwardens’ accounts that such blending may have been part of the parish tradition.

From the regular expenses incurred over the Easter season recorded in the churchwardens’ accounts we can deduce that the events that took place in St Laurence’s between Good Friday and Easter morning parallel those taking place in many English parishes following the Sarum Rite. There is no evidence that the period of suspension between Good Friday and Easter morning contained anything beyond liturgical custom. But what happened on Easter morning? One unusual item occurs regularly among the expenses for Easter – rosin. It is possible that the work of Philip Butterworth suggests that something close to what is described in The Beehive of the Romish Church may have happened in St Laurence’s. In 1506 the wardens record a payment of 2 1/2d to Sybil Darling, the widow of a prominent parishioner who died that year, for a combination of nails for the sepulchre with ‘rosyn to the resurreccyon pley.’ Butterworth states that ‘one of the simplest methods of producing an effect of lightning is to cast a powder such as rosin into or over a flame to produce a flash of fire.’ When we combine the reference to rosin with the other equipment for creating fire to relight the candles, there is a possibility that the moment of Resurrection was marked at St Laurence’s with a flash of light.

We cannot know if the Easter celebration was further embellished in St Laurence’s. However, there are two further pieces of possible evidence for the Easter plays – costumes and props being built in 1523. In that same year a ‘Cotte for Mary Magdeleyn of Cloth of gold’ appears in an inventory associated with ‘all thapparelles for good ffryday.’ It is impossible to know whether these items refer to the liturgical ceremonies or to the actual play performed later in the week. What is clear is that in St Laurence’s the Easter season was marked by a combination of prophecy, recitation of the Passion story, liturgy with some mimesis, and dramatizations of the Resurrection appearances. The expenses that are probably for liturgical use only in the St Laurence’s churchwardens’ accounts are not included in the records. However, the entire celebration of the Easter season for a parishioner of St Laurence’s in the early sixteenth century presented a seamless series of liturgical and dramatic events that was rich and resonant with the meaning of season.

There is possible evidence for two other mimetic Easter events in the county. The accounts of St George’s Windsor for 1451–2 record a payment for a costume for a player ‘in festo pasche’ along with other play expenses that may or may not be for an Easter play. The accounts for that year include payments for a play at the time of the founder’s feast and it is unclear if any of the playmaking items beyond the single costume are related to the Easter event. The churchwardens of St Giles’, Reading, paid to have scaffolds made before the rood loft in 1518, and in 1520 paid a penny halfpenny ‘for nayles [cord] cord & sope for the resurrexcion.’

Finally there are five unspecified references to ‘plays’ in the county. The earliest comes from the antiquarian Thomas Hearne’s Liber Niger Scaccarii E Codice dated 1447 that includes ‘playes’ in the activities of the guild of the Holy Cross in Abingdon. The second comes from a court document from the village of Cookham from 1506 and records a fine levied on the warrener, a royal official ‘responsible for protecting the King’s rights on the commons against poachers and overgrazers’ for not performing a play on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (15 August) 'antiqua consuetudo' (‘according to ancient custom’). Joanna Mattingly suggests that the play had been planned as a special fund-raiser ‘to help pay for the repair and completion of Cookham church tower’ and its cancellation is part of struggle between those with strong Lollard sympathies in the area and those with more orthodox theology. On the other hand, the phrase ‘antiqua consudendo’ suggests an annual play possibly dramatizing events in the life of the Virgin, particularly her Assumption (15 August), held in conjunction with the local fair day on 16 August. The three remaining references to unspecified plays appear in the St Laurence’s records. The first is simply to 17s gathered at ‘a Stage play’ in 1498–9, and in 1506–7 the parish received the handsome sum of 23s 8d for a play performed ‘in the forbery’ – the forecourt of the abbey where they frequently performed, perhaps for a combined audience of townspeople and monastics. The last record of playmaking in the parish is also for a performance in the abbey. This one may throw light on the relationship of the parish with the commissioners of the court of Augmentation charged with the transition of power in Reading and its parishes after the dissolution of Reading Abbey. By 1542 the abbey was in the hands of the Crown and royal officials were living in the abbots’ house. That year the town received its first royal charter and the St Laurence’s churchwardens recorded ‘payd for horsse hyer for sir Richard dean & for his labor to play the play in thabbay v s. It is possible that the performance (that must have been for the royal officials) was part of celebrations to mark this important landmark in the life of the town.


Travelling Players

Early evidence indicates that Reading was a stopping place for all kinds of late medieval entertainers. However, an indenture dated October 1429 between the then master of the Gild Merchant, Simon Porter, and the guild set up an arrangement whereby the master was to receive five marks annually to cover out of pocket expenses for entertaining the king’s justices and paying ‘lusoribus seu luctoribus’ of other gentlemen. After this agreement very few payments are recorded until the late sixteenth century. One of the payments was to the minstrels of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, who were paid 20d in 1430–1.

Although fifteenth-century evidence is all from Reading, considerable later evidence comes from both Reading and Abingdon. Both were on main roads between London and the west. The main road from London to the west forked first near what is now Hownslow following the route of what is now the A4. It forked again just beyond Bray (possibly at Twyford) with one branch curving north, going cross-country to cross the looping river farther north at Abingdon on the bridge built by the guild of the Holy Trinity and the second branch following the river to cross it at Reading. The roads converged again at Bristol. Travelling through either town would lead troupes to the southwest but the route through Abingdon also connected to the road north through Gloucester to the West Midlands and the Marches of Wales. Although neither town seems to have been a destination in its own right, their locations made both favourite stopping places for travelling players. Unfortunately the town accounts do not survive from the same years (the run of accounts from Abingdon is 1558–83 while those from Reading are 1587–1632), so it is impossible to tell whether any travellers went from one town to another, although there was a medieval road that ran directly from Reading to Oxford that would have passed through Abingdon or very near to it.

Eleven of the troupes recorded in the Abingdon Chamberlains’ Accounts are anonymous as is one more whose visit is recorded in the Borough Minute Book for 17 August 1624. There had either been a riot at the performance or the troupe had been careless as they set up the guildhall for the performance. The entry records great expenses incurred ‘in Repairing and amending the glasse windowes benches and pavementes of the guildhall by reason of playes there suffred to be plaied.’ The minute forbids mayors to allow any further playing in the guildhall unless eight of the principal burgesses gave their consent. Two of the named troupes visiting Abingdon were not widely travelled. One was ‘master smythes players of coventree’ who received 3s in 1569–70. That same year Smith’s company was also paid by the Coventry chamberlains. He has been identified as Francis Smyth, a local Warwickshire landlord. The second local company was paid the previous year. These were to players of ‘master wayneman’ – Richard Wenman who had married Isabel, the second daughter and co-heir of Lord Williams of Thame. Isabel had inherited Thame Park, the Williams house created after the dissolution of Thame Abbey.

The queen’s players made six stops at Abingdon (three after the creation of the famous queen’s men in 1583), Leicester’s company made two visits, as did the companies of Edmund Blount, Lord Mountjoy (possibly on their way home to the west country), and the earl of Worcester. Single visits were made by the players of Lord Compton, Lord Berkeley, and the earls of Bath, Sussex, Shrewsbury, Derby, and Oxford. The queen’s men stopped at Reading three times before 1603, as did the players of Queen Anne of Denmark. The players of King James I came four times. Lady Elizabeth’s players played in Reading twice in 1619–20 but when the later company presented its licence on 13 August 1632 they were sent away without playing. The players of King Charles I presented their licence six times between 1626 and 1633 but four times were sent away. Three groups of anonymous players were paid 1632–3. Single visits were made by the players of the earls of Leicester and Essex in the 1580s and Prince Charles in 1618–19. In 1578 the town hall of Reading, where the performances for the mayor and council would have been performed, moved from the old Greyfriars hall where it had met since Dissolution to the chamber over the schoolhouse in one of the few buildings of Reading Abbey that remained standing – the refectory of the guest house of the abbey. That building was dismantled between 1785 and 1786 and the site became and remains today the site of the Reading town hall.

We have little evidence from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for Wallingford since the town had long since stopped being an important ford on the road west. However, the queen’s men visited twice in the 1590s and Anne of Denmark’s players in 1613–14. In 1619–20 the same company, now the players of the ‘late Queen’ were in town as were the king’s men and the prince’s players. Windsor’s sparse town accounts only record payments to the players of Henry VIII in 1538 and Charles I in 1635–7.

The increasing Puritanism of the Reading authorities first appears as the players begin to be paid to go away in the late 1620s. The town council seems to have become increasingly concerned about the appearance of travelling companies and five notations in the Corporation Diaries from 1629 to 1631 indicate that the presented licences were being carefully inspected. These five notations provide the names of sixteen players. Because the Corporation Diaries were published in 1895 the information in the notations was known to Murray and Bentley and has been part of the history of the Caroline stage for many years. The Reading Corporation Diaries are the only witness for three players – David Ferris, Robert Hint of the Red Bull company, and Thomas Holman of an unnamed company that presented its licence 12 November 1630. The others are well known, including William Perry, Ellis Guest, and Richard Bradshaw, all company leaders. In May 1633 six players who claimed to be members of Bradshaw’s company were examined by the mayor and council of Banbury over the possibility that the licence the company presented was fraudulent. The full records of the Banbury affair and its subsequent consideration by the privy council are found in The National Archives at Kew and will appear in REED’s Oxfordshire collection.

Boy Bishops

Although several English cathedrals – York, Exeter, Hereford, Lincoln, London, and Salisbury, as well as Winchester College – elected boy bishops for the feast of the Holy Innocents (28 December) during the octave of Christmas, almost all other references to the election of boy bishops are for the feast of St Nicholas (6 December) during the penitential season of Advent. This is true of the one record of a boy bishop in the Berkshire records. In 1345–6 Brother John Chippenham of the Reading Grammar School records expenses of 5s for a mitre for the bishop and 7s 1/2d for candles. A century later in 1444 the founding statutes of Eton College state ‘…in festo sancti Nicholai … et nullatenus in festo sanctorum Innocentium diuina officia preter misse secreta exequi et dici permittimus per Episcopum puerorum scholarium ad hoc de eisdem annis singulis eligendum…’ ('…on the feast of St Nicholas … and by no means on the feast of the Holy Innocents, we allow divine service, except for the secret prayers of the mass to be performed and said by a boy bishop of the scholars to be chosen from among them for this purpose…'). These statutes echo those of Eton’s sister institution, King’s College, Cambridge, from 1442–3, which also state that the boy bishop will be chosen on St Nicholas' Day ‘et nullatenus in festo Innocencium.’ All references to boy bishops in the Oxford records also connect them to St Nicholas. These events are clearly controlled inversion of order ceremonies when a boy or a young man became bishop for a day, able to carry out all priestly and episcopal functions except the consecration of the host. Taking the ceremony out of the prolonged Christmas festival ensured that the students enjoyed ‘licensed liberty’ rather than ‘unlicensed liberty.’ Although St Paul’s, London, did follow the cathedral custom of having the boy bishops preside on the feast of the Holy Innocents, the many London parishes who had boy bishops elected them on 6 December. Evidence from these parish records indicates that the boys with their bishop went round the parish asking for money in a winter version of the ubiquitous summer ‘gatherings’ so popular in the country parishes. Both the inversion of order ceremony and the gathering were condemned in the royal proclamation from Henry VIII’s council of 1541:

'As vpon saynct Nicholas … the holy Innocentes And such lyke chyldern be strangely dect and appareled to counturfett prystes/ bisshops/ And women/ And so be [with] led with songes and Daunces from howse to howse blessyng the people and getheryng of money. And boys do synge Masse and preche in the pulpytt with suche other vnfyttyng and inconuenient vsages/ rather to the derysyon then to Any trewe glorye of god or honoure of hys saynctes/….'

Parish Customs

The over-riding imperative in the life of all English parish churches in our period was the need to keep the fabric of the building and the churchyard in repair. Many of these churches were several hundred years old by the sixteenth century and needed constant upkeep. The clergy were responsible for the building east of the rood screen (that is the chancel and its adjacent spaces that served the needs of the clergy) but the parishioners, under the leadership of the churchwardens, were responsible for the nave of the church, any side chapels, the tower, the porch, the churchyard, and any gate leading in to the grounds. There were usually two wardens chosen by the parish but sometimes this number was as many as four, as in Wantage, where the parish in this period was larger than the town and encompassed three smaller neighbouring communities. The traditional means of raising money was through community festive events held in the period from Easter to 24 June (midsummer) when the crops were in the ground but were not yet ready to be harvested. The community festivals ranged from ‘gatherings’ or collections of money in the context of quasi-mimetic or mimetic customs such as hocking or Robin Hood games to the ubiquitous ‘church ale’ where the parishioners brewed ale and came together for feasting and celebration. There is evidence of fund-raising activities in Berkshire from twenty-five parishes ranging from the urban parishes of Abingdon, Reading, and Windsor to remote parishes in the Vale of the White Horse such as Childrey and Stanford in the Vale. Most of the evidence comes from churchwardens’ accounts but information about the activities of three parishes – Didcot, Shrivenham, and Sonning – comes from court cases and one, Denchworth, from a will. Evidence of Robin Hood activity in Bisham and Maidenhead comes from the churchwardens’ accounts of the neighbouring parish of Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire across the Thames. The evidence from the churchwardens’ accounts of four of the parishes – Brightwalton, St Nicholas’ Newbury, Warfield, and Winkfield – do not give any details of any kind of mimetic or musical activity in the records beyond records of receipts and are not included in this collection. The court case from Shrivenham also does not give any details of the activity and is also not included.


The first regular parish custom was gatherings at Hocktide – the Monday and Tuesday of the second week after Easter. Earlier scholarship saw this custom as a time for ‘unbridled sport and merriment,’ but in 1936 A.R. Wright realized that it had a deeper purpose and defined it as a festival where the purpose was to trip people up and bind them ‘in order to enforce payment of dues.’ A young student at Magdalen College, Oxford, described what had happened to him one Hocktide. He had been walking on the High Street when he was suddenly surrounded by a group of young women so that he ‘cowde nother go forward nother backwarde for them.’ They demanded money from him for his release which ‘wether I wold or no I was fayne to giue them sumwhat.’ All three Reading parishes record regular hock gatherings from the time of the first churchwardens’ evidence (St Giles’, 1518; St Laurence’s, 1498; St Mary’s, 1547). The last record of the profits from the custom for St Giles’ is dated 1559, for St Laurence’s 1557–8, and for St Mary’s 1566. The custom in Reading parishes, especially for St Giles’ and St Laurence’s (as it was in many other locations), was to have two hocking teams – one composed of women to capture men and one of men to capture women. The amounts recorded as income to the parish from the women’s event are invariably higher than those recorded from the men, but the men, as with the student in the Oxford example, would have more money to give away than the women. There are two other references to hocking custom recorded in the Berkshire records. The first comes from the parish of St John the Baptist in Windsor. The wardens record a Hock Monday gathering from 1563 (when the records begin) until 1583. Windsor, with its many royal officials, would have been a profitable community for the parish to tap. The second reference is in the Wallingford town record for 1538–9 where the borough officials are relieved that they will no longer have to pay for the expensive costumes that were part of the town’s Hocktide dance.

Church Ales

The common general name for the summer festivals was ‘church ale.’ The essential activity of an ale was the brewing and drinking of ale within the parish setting but most ales included food as well, with various activities designed to bring in money for the parish such as Robin Hood events, king games, minstrelsy, and dancing. These festivals were sometimes ‘proclaimed’ over a wide area. In 1599 the Wallingford midsummer fair was ‘proclaimed’ as far afield as Newbury as well as at Henley in Oxfordshire and Reading. The most detailed records for a single such event from Berkshire come from the accounts of St Mary’s, Reading, from the Marian years 1555 and 1556 with entries for food and drink, costumes, musicians, dancers, and a hobby horse all jumbled together to, themselves, give the sense of the bustle and confusion of the event. All three Reading parishes record expenses for the badges or ‘liveries’ to indicate that the wearer had paid the price of admission. Entries concerning liveries are almost constant in the St Laurence’s records from 1501 to 1514 for their major fund-raiser of the year. In this period the price for the badges was twenty-five liveries for a penny. The largest number of liveries made in any one year was 500 in 1512–13. The price of liveries had doubled by mid-century when St Mary’s records the payment for the painting of 250 liveries in 1556. These were large and significant events in the life of the town.

St Laurence’s was by far the largest parish in the county. It was principally an urban parish with an estimated 1,000 communicants in 1548. This is to be compared with the other two Reading parishes, St Giles’ and St Mary’s, whose communicants were estimated to be 500 at the same time. Both these parishes included communicants from rural communities. St Laurence’s was also the parish of the leading lay members of the town and had close ties with the rich and powerful abbey. It is not surprising that they were able to have such a rich parish life. It is, however, difficult, without the corrective of evidence from neighbouring counties, to build a coherent pattern from these accounts. In the discussion that follows, therefore, the records of Reading St Laurence’s are not seen in isolation but within the context of the larger pattern that has been established by the collaborative work of REED editors and then related to the activities of other parishes in the county.

The date of individual parish festivals is often not easy to fix exactly. The records of Wantage, for example, begin in 1565 and speak only of their ‘Revelle daye’ or ‘Ale’ until 1573 when the occasion is specified as ‘whitsontyde.’ Within the context of the over-arching activity of the ‘church ale’ with its emphasis on neighbourly conviviality, several activities were encouraged to fill the coffers of the parish. Lords and ladies of the summer festival were frequently chosen to preside over the festivals. The custom was so common that Shakespeare, many years after such festivals had disappeared from much of the country, was able to make Perdita in The Winter’s Tale the queen of the festival. As with the boy bishops this was again done in the context of ‘licensed liberty.’ Although the redoubtable Puritan pamphleteer, Phillip Stubbes, in his Anatomie of Abuses, 1583, tells us that ‘the lord of misrule’ was chosen by ‘all the wilde-heds of the Parish, conuenting togither,’ what evidence we have indicates that in many parishes the lord was chosen by the parish under the watchful eye of the churchwardens. Festivals where mock kings were the central feature were often called – as they were at St Giles’ and St Laurence’s, Reading – ‘king games,’ although it is dangerous to assume that such specific terminology precluded other activities such as Robin Hood games. David Wiles, in The Early Plays of Robin Hood, argued that Robin Hood and the mock king or summer lord were the same figure. However, he based much of his argument on an inaccurate antiquarian transcription from the Amersham, Buckinghamshire, churchwardens’ accounts. There is no unequivocal evidence to support Wiles’ suggestion. One of the functions of the Robin Hood figures that appear in St Laurence’s accounts seems to have been similar to the function suggested by John Marshall for the Robin Hoods found in the west country, where they engaged in ‘gatherings’ that took the form of mock robbery, accosting their neighbours and demanding money. References to ‘Robin Hood’ in the St Laurence records are ambiguous. The early accounts twice refer to their activities as a ‘play.’ In the account for 1501–2 the Robin Hood entry reads for the ‘may play of callyd Robyn hod’ and the account for 1507–8 records that 17s 9d were received from ‘the gaderyng of Robyn hod play.’ There are some scripted plays of Robin Hood from the sixteenth century but the word ‘play’ in the context of these festive records could mean minstrelsy, gambling, or archery as well as a performance of anything like the plays that have come down to us. From further evidence in 1529–30, when the parish was building costumes for their morris dancers, it appears that the Robin Hood figures were also part of the morris team. That year they paid 17 1/2d ‘for ffyve elles of Canves for a cote for made Maryon.’ It is possible that the St Laurence’s Robin had the companions that are common in the morris troupes, but we cannot know. Although Martin Marprelate seems to be making a division between the activities of the summer lord and Robin Hood when he characterizes his lax priest as running after ‘either the sommer Lord with his Maie game, or Robin Hood with his Morrice daunce,’ it is clear that, though separate, the summer lords and Robin Hood frequently interacted in the festivals in the Thames Valley, as seems to have been the case in St Laurence’s. Another kind of interaction often took the form of the Robin Hood troupes travelling from one parish to another gathering money for their home parish. An entry for 1504–5 from St Laurence’s recorded that wine had been bought for the ‘Robyn hod of hendley & his company’ and the next year another record specified that the St Laurence’s Robin Hood team were given dinner by the parish after they returned from the neighbouring village of Finchampstead, where they had been gathering.

References to Robin Hood plays or gatherings as a separate feature from the morris dancers disappear from the St Laurence records after 1510–11. The only other reference to Robin Hood in Berkshire comes from a late antiquarian entry from St Helen’s, Abingdon, for 1566–7 that refers to setting up ‘Robin Hoodes bower.’ References to bowers in churchwardens’ accounts are ambivalent. Evidence such as that from St Laurence’s, Reading, in 1507–8 when a ‘bough’ is provided for the king play, or the ‘bushshinge of ye elme’ in Thatcham in 1574–5, the ‘ bowerrye’ in Wantage in 1591–2, or another ‘ bowrie’ frugally sold to one Thomas Earley in 1609–10 in Stanford in the Vale may suggest that bowers were particularly attached to the king games. However, Phillip Stubbes makes it clear that the bowers set up in the churchyard were there for the feasting. Other evidence from other counties in the REED series indicates that bowers were generally used as places set apart for some specific purpose. Some were clearly used for the king games but others may have simply been used as locations for other festival activities such as feasting.

The St Laurence accounts record two poles – one specified as a ‘maypoole’ in 1530–1 and one referred to as a ‘sommar pole’ in 1556–7. Evidence for poles – sometimes called maypoles and sometimes summer poles in Berkshire – appear most frequently in the receipts of the parishes because the churchwardens sold the poles for their value as wood after the festival. The going rate for a pole in the Vale of the White Horse in the early seventeenth century was around 3s. Both Stanford in the Vale and Wantage record sales during this period. A generation earlier Kintbury sold a pole of 1s 6d. Tiny Ashampstead paid 2s for a pole in 1612–13. The only other evidence of a pole in the county comes from Sonning where in 1576 in a presentment the churchwardens reported that they had ‘tyme owt of mynde … sett a somer pole within the church yerde and ther to make pastyme for the commoditie of the churche.’

Parish fund-raisers lingered in the country parishes late into the reign of Elizabeth at Kintbury (1587), at Childrey (1594), and at Winkfield (1595), into the reign of James at Thatcham (1606) and Ashampstead (1617), and into the reign of Charles I at Warfield near Windsor (1631), Wantage (1635), and Stanford in the Vale of the White Horse (1642). Newbury’s parish records survive from 1601 and from the first entries their ale was held in the guildhall to avoid the use of church property. That festival ended in 1631. The church of St John the Baptist in Windsor held its last fund-raiser in 1582. The picture in Reading, however, with the presence of royal officials in the town from the dissolution of the abbey on, is quite different. The records of St Mary’s, the more rural of the Reading parishes, begin in 1556 with Marian exuberance and the summer festival continued until 1567. The king games of St Giles’ end with the accession of Elizabeth, having been suspended during Edward’s reign. Although some play entries continue in the records of St Laurence’s after 1532–3 there is a gap of eight years until there is another festive fund-raiser in 1540–1. There were four more in the declining years of Henry’s reign, none under Edward, and two small Marian revivals. The last related entry is the sale of the summer pole for a shilling in 1557–8. The festive life of what had been one of the most active parishes in the country ended early to the disappointment of some of the parishioners.

As we have seen these festive gatherings provided an income for the repair and renewal of the buildings and grounds. During the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth the church authorities – in Berkshire the bishop of Salisbury and his archdeacons in particular – came to disapprove of raising any money for the church by such apparently secular activities and, when they were discovered through the occasional visitation of a parish by the archdeacons and sometimes by the bishop, they were forbidden. But the churchwardens were still responsible for their ancient buildings and new ways of raising money had to be found. In 1572 the churchwardens of St Laurence’s, Reading, wrote the following memorandum into their account book:

'In Consideracion That the Colleccions or gatheringes heretofore Accostomably vsed for and towardes the mayntenaunce of the Church as well on the feast of All saintes, The feast of the Byrthe of our Lord god As on Hocke Monday Hocke Tewesdaye, Maye daye and at the feast of Penticost commonly called Whytsontyde togyth<..> With the Chauntery Landes ar Lefte of and cleane taken from the Churche to the great Impoverishement therof, the which heretofore dyd muche healpe the same, It is therefore of Necessytye By and with the Assent Concent and aggreament of the parisheners then and there beinge presente, for and towardes the mayntenaunce of the Contynuall chardges of the Churche by these presentes foreuermore Ordayned concluded vpon and fully Aggreed as hereafter followith'

What followed was a detailed scheme for pew rental that specified that whoever sat ‘in any of the seates beneathe the pulpett, and above the southe syde, Churche doore, or in any of the Seates in the Mydle Raynge of seates above the saide Churche doore Shall yerely paye iiij d. A pece for the Churche profytt & towardes the contynuall chardges therof’ at Christmas and Whitsun in even portions. Equally those sitting ‘in any of the seates on the southe syde Beinge above the pulpett, Shall yerely paye vj d. A pece’ at the same times ‘even porcions.’

Parish festive events had mostly disappeared by the late 1580s. However, two parishes – the small Stanford in the Vale in the Vale of the White Horse and the nearby larger parish of Wantage – both continued to have occasional parish events which raised money despite the restrictions placed on them by the visiting religious authorities well into the seventeenth century.

Stanford had regular money-making events from the first surviving churchwardens’ account in 1554–5 until 1586–7. There was a visitation of the parish in 1586–7 (a ‘follow-up’ from the year before) after which there is a gap of twelve years before there is again a ‘Maye ale’ in 1599–1600. That year they were summoned to a visitation at Abingdon and there was no event in the next year 1600–1 although £2 5s from the 1599–1600 event appears in the accounts. The fund-raising events begin again in 1601–2 under the euphemism of ‘neighboures meetinge at Whitsuntyde’ and occur regularly until 1613–14 when they were summoned to a visitation at Abingdon and another in Newbury. A gap of five years follows. In 1618–19 the neighbours' meetings are again recorded and continue until 1624–5. The events in these years become increasingly profitable with the highest income being £11 15s 3d in 1620–1. In 1624–5 there were two visitations at Easter and Michaelmas. The next ‘neighbors meeting’ was in 1633–4 when £11 10s was raised and there were again visitations at Easter and Michaelmas. The last event, now called ‘the youngmens gaine att Whitsontide,’ in 1641–2, earned £7 7s.

Revenue in the years they seem to have been forbidden to hold fund-raising events came from smoke farthings, rent from the neighbouring village of Goosey, occasional rent for the church house, burials, special collections at Easter Communion sometimes specified as for bread and wine, and the sale of produce – both vegetables and meat – donated by parishioners. Sometimes money was donated for specific items of the fabric that needed repair or for the bells. But this was not enough to keep the fabric of the church in repair. Major collections were solicited from the parishioners. The first was in 1611–12 while they were still having church ales but the four other levies occur in the periods when there were no summer events to add to the income – in 1617–18, 1627–8, 1630–1, and again in 1631–2. That year a major renovation was undertaken. Ninety-seven members of the parish donated £199 14s 8d. The donations of three parishioners – Sir Robert Knollys, one of his kinsmen, Francis Knollys, and a widow recently moved to the parish – amounted to £61 0s 16d, close to thirty percent of the total. Unfortunately, the total expenses for the building project were £220 6s 7d. The fund-raising events alone could not meet the costs of such major rebuilding but they added sufficient income to allow the parish to maintain their normal expenses.

The parish of Wantage (also in the Vale of the White Horse) consisted of the town itself on the south end of the parish and two other villages, Charlton (half a mile east of Wantage) and Grove (one mile and a half north of Wantage). The straggling settlement of West Lockinge hugged the boundary of Wantage. The church of Sts Peter and Paul is in the centre of the town itself and was largely built in the fifteenth century although it incorporates thirteenth-century pillars. Its advowson was complex. By the twelfth century it was in the hands of the bishop of Salisbury but it was later annexed to the priory of Ogbourne in Wiltshire. The bishop of Salisbury made some unsuccessful attempts to exercise patronage over the parish in the fourteenth century but the priory continued to hold the advowson until Henry V dissolved the alien priories in the fifteenth century. The spiritualities of the priory were then given to the duke of Bedford who, in his turn, gave them to the dean and canons of Windsor in 1422. Although the bishop of Salisbury continued to be concerned with this designation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the parish remained under the jurisdiction of the dean and canons.

From the time the first churchwardens’ book begins in 1565 until 1582, there is a regular income from a church ale at Whitsun. In 1582 there are several payments to a ‘parrator’ or ‘apparitor,’ a summoning officer in the ecclesiastical courts. The dean of Windsor had begun to crack down on raising money through parish entertainments. There are no more ales for eight years and the parish tried to finance itself through what they called a ‘taxation.’ During these years, expenses for the parrator or an actual visitation appear in the accounts. The taxation was not proving adequate. In 1590–1 a mere 12s was raised and the parish had an ale that brought in £5 4s 3d. The next year the taxation brought in £1 16s 11d while the ale that included a summer pole and a bowery earned £4 15s 2d. But the parrator was there that year. In 1592–3 there was no ale. For the next four years the parish struggled to have both an ale and a taxation but the dean put an end to ales until 1603–4 when the parish once again supplemented the taxation with an ale. They were able to do that again in 1604–5 but between them they raised only £6 12s 1d. Forced to be more systematic about the taxation, the next year the form for recording the taxation changed with the villages of Grove, Charlton, and West Lockinge all being separately taxed. This situation, with frequent mention of the parrator, continued until 1609–10 when a large expense of £6 12s 6d to a bell-founder in Reading put the parish deeply in debt. In 1610–11 they held a very successful ale that raised £11 10s which, with a taxation, allowed them to recoup their losses from the year before and carry forward £3 16s 5d. However, that year there are expenses for a visit from the dean of Salisbury’s deputy. There were no ales for the next five years with visits from both the bishop and dean of Salisbury in 1613–14. By the end of 1614–15, although there had been no major expenses, with just the taxation as a major item of income, the carry forward was only 17s 8d. In 1615–16 the parish again made a healthy sum of £11 18s ‘at whitsontyde.’ With the taxation the income amounted to £23 1s 1d but there were so many small expenses for much needed repair to the inside of the church that the total expenses came to £20 16s 9d. The repairs could not have been done without the ale.

Four years went by without any ales, with the carry forwards ranging from a shortfall of 6s 4d in 1616–17 to £1 5s 1d in 1619–20. But painting needed to be done in the church and in 1620–1, perhaps hoping that King James’ Book of Sports, issued 24 May 1618, would allow them to have their festival if they called it ‘Whitsun Sports,’ they put on an event that brought in £11 14s 10d. The total income was £24 5s 3d while the expenses, including £7 1s 3d for the painting, came to £24 4s – just breaking even. But the dean of Windsor was not impressed with the use of the term ‘Whitsun Sports’ and for next two years there were no ales. However, all parties must have agreed to raise the taxation because in 1622–3 the tower of the church had to be repaired. £42 15s 2d was raised and £40 14s 8d was spent – including over £20 on the tower. The higher taxes were reduced in 1623–4 but £5 was raised by a ‘Whitsun Sport’ event that kept them out of debt for that year.

Except for a small sum raised from a maypole in 1625–6, there were no spring events until 1631–2 when major repairs were needed on the bells and the fabric of the church. £18 9s 8d was raised by the Whitsun sports making an annual income of £50 2s 2d that resulted in a healthy carry forward of £11 8s 6d. The churchwardens declared that £10 of the profit ‘should remaine as stocke to the Church perpetuallie.’ Unfortunately, that money had to be spent in the next year (1632–3) to glaze the windows. That year the parrator from the dean of Windsor appeared again. The next year the archbishop visited. The final evidence for any spring money raising is in 1634–5 when £9 was raised from a ‘Toll of ye Markett & … Whitson sport.’

All three parishes – St Laurence’s, Reading, Stanford in the Vale, and Wantage – had supplemented their incomes for many years by raising money through activities that involved music, dance, play-acting, and general conviviality. When the officials of the Elizabethan church decided that these pastimes should cease, the three parishes sought different ways to collect the money from their people needed to maintain their sanctuaries.

Other Gatherings

Many ‘gatherings’ are recorded in the records of the Reading parishes in addition to the hock gatherings. We have no clear idea what was involved in an anonymous ‘gathering’ except that it raised money for the parish. We cannot be sure that all of them involved anything like the mimetic activity in the Hocktide gatherings. They may have resembled modern-day ‘tag-days’ with or without something to pin on your clothing to indicate that you had supported the cause. St Laurence’s had gatherings on Whitsun that in 1513–14 involved the sale of beer and a ‘ Tree,’ on May Day that were often called Fair Day in the early records since one of the annual abbot’s fairs was held that day, and once in 1512–13 on ‘dedicacion day’ that involved a giant and morris dancers. The dedication day of the parish may have been the feast of St Laurence (11 August) or, as suggested by Charles Kerry, the feast of St Matthew, the saint to whom the original Anglo-Saxon foundation was dedicated. St Mary’s records ‘gatherings’ on Whitsun and Fair Day (1 May) in 1555, May Day, All Hallows, and Christmas in 1556, and May Day, Whitsun, and All Hallows in 1557. The winter gatherings would presumably not have had the same outdoor activities associated with them as the summer ones but it is often difficult to be sure from the record entries which items belong to which celebration. In 1526 St Giles’ records undated receipts from a gathering by the ‘men of Whitely,’ the hamlet and manor attached to the parish outside the boundaries of the town. Some of these gatherings seem to have happened at the same time as the major parish fund-raiser each year, such as the church ale.


There is evidence for morris dancing in twelve Berkshire parishes – the three Reading parishes, Abingdon, Bray, Denchworth, Didcot, Thatcham, Wantage, and Windsor, as well as Maidenhead and Bisham which rented morris gear from the parish of Great Marlow across the river in Buckinghamshire. Most of the evidence comes from purchases of bells to be worn around the knees of dancers. Bells are the only evidence from Abingdon and Wantage but other parishes provide sufficient costume evidence to allow us to deduce the size of the troupes and, to some extent, their nature. The morris teams from Bray, Maidenhead, and Bisham had five dancers. The description of the costumes Maidenhead and Bray rented from Great Marlow included a coat for a fool. Inventories taken intermittently for the Bray team between 1602 and 1623 specify a costume for Marion and a fool. The one apparent piece of morris evidence from Reading St Giles’ records expenses ‘for makyng of the ffreris Cote’ (1554). Thatcham provided a costume for the ‘vice’ in 1568–9. That parish and both Reading St Mary’s and Reading St Laurence’s painted their morris coats. The evidence from Denchworth comes from the will of Alice Hyde in 1583 where ‘one ould morris pyke and the paynted Clothes’ are listed among her possessions. From all this evidence it seems that the morris dancers in Berkshire were traditionally associated with the Robin Hood figures.

The eventual disposal of the morris costumes from Reading St Laurence’s was part of the struggles in that parish in the decades after the Dissolution. In 1551–2 the then churchwardens record that the gear was in the possession of John Saunders. Saunders had been churchwarden with John Buckland in 1545–6. Saunders seems to have been one of the few prominent parishioners of St Laurence’s who adhered to the old ways. In the spring of 1553 he

'committed the folly of engaging in rumours that King Edward VI was dead. Speculation and whispered gossip of this kind, embroidered and circulated, could be extremely dangerous, having an in-built tendency to whip up among the populace at large "excitement, disaffection and fear which, once unleashed, would be hard to restrain" and could eventually undermine precious public order.

On 27 May 1553, "for reports concerning the King's death", Sawnders was examined and convicted at Greenwich by the Privy Council. He was sent back to Reading where he was "to be set on the Pillorie the next market day, with a paper on his hed conteyning in great lettres these wordes": "For Lewde and Sediscious Woordes touching the Kinges Majestie and the State." After standing there the "hole market tyme", his ears were cut off, before he was returned "to prison to await the royal pleasure."'

It is possible that he remained a supporter of the parish festivals banned under the Protectorate and took the morris gear hoping it would be used again. The last mention that the morris gear was still in his possession is 1555–6 and in the next two years St Laurence’s briefly renewed its festive activities, possibly using the morris gear that he had so carefully preserved. Another possible indication that dancing had become tangled in the religious disputes of the period comes from a mention of morris dancers from Didcot. In a court case from 1580, one Edward Champ of the parish was accused of withholding ‘towelles from the churche.’ Champ indignantly testified that the towels indeed ‘be lost but not throughe his negligence & saith ffurther they weare fett owte of his howse by the morrice Dancers in his absence.’

Forty years later, in 1620, when the religious divisions had grown deeper and much more bitter, John Marten, vicar of New Windsor, wrote to ‘my loving friend Mr Jones, one of the proctours in the officialls Court for barkshyre’ about his suit against Thomas Hall, the churchwarden. Hall seems to have been the ring leader of a group in the parish opposed to the ‘godliness’ of Marten. Marten’s seventh article against Hall claimed ‘That the said Thomas Hall vpon the feast day | of the Ascention last past, when one of the morrice dauncers had leaped & daunced in the face of the minister standing in his owne doore; did before a great number of people revile & abuse the minister with these reprothfull speaches scilicet that the morrice dauncers should dance before his doore, & before his face in spite of him & in spite of his teeth, & that they would ridd the towne of him….’ What had been a pastime that unified a parish as part of its fund-raising activities had become something to be used as a divisive gesture.

Mixed dancing played a significant role in the social life of Berkshire in the early modern period and the bulk of the evidence records this aspect of the pastime. However, two incidents involving dancing illustrate how such a natural human action could have political resonance. In 1538–9 when the once proud town of Wallingford and its manor were being forced to become part of the manor of Ewelme in Oxfordshire, the burgess court made a decision that seems to indicate that they had an ancient custom of civic processional dancing. The court decided ‘ffor asmoche as the honour of wallyngford ys nowe callyd the honour of Ewelme’ to discontinue the annual Hocktide dance because they could no longer pay the ‘sumptyous Costes in The borrowyng of certeyn Rayment for the daunceres’ as long as it would not diminish the ‘priuelege/ of ther seide Towne.’ Their concern that the discontinuance of the dance might affect the privileges of the town suggests that it was a custom that had carried jurisdictional significance in the past. A century later, in 1637, the presence of a dancing teacher, Lionel Jackson, in Reading sufficiently concerned the increasingly Puritanical city council that they demanded to know why he and his wife were still in town. Jackson had little to say in his own defence but replied ‘that he did teache divers gentlemen's Children in the Cuntrye, and promise <.> within fortnight to be gone.’ The town council that, as we have seen, voted again and again to pay the travelling players not to play would not countenance someone who might corrupt the youth of the town to live there.

Three parishes – Aston Tirrold in 1560, Loncot in 1564, and Blewbury in 1576 – replied to visitation articles that they had had dancing in the churchyard. We cannot know if these entries refer to morris dancing or some other form of dance. Prosecution in the archdeacon’s court for dancing in service time is first recorded in 1593 when the churchwarden of Streatley stoutly denied he was dancing with the rest of the parish in service time on Sunday, 2 October, but ‘onely went to them & bad them leave of.’ In 1609 William Stephens of Steventon denied that he danced at the time of evening prayer while attending the marriage dinner of one of his father’s servants.

The fullest account of social or country dancing comes from Coxwell Magna in 1599. Robert Ricattes of Coxwell Magna was answering a charge in the archdeacon’s court of impregnating Jane Druet. Ricattes admitted to the charge but then laid a counter accusation against four young people – Edward Perkins the younger, John Coates, and Thomas and Katherine Jackson (the children of Richard Jackson) – whom, he claimed, had been dancing in service time in the house of Thomas Ogborne. By the time all the depositions had been made before the archdeacon three other young people, all identified as servants, had been accused of being part of the party.

Music and Musicians

Dancing could not have taken place without musical accompaniment and the records provide rich evidence of music as part of the life of the abbeys, the ceremonial life of the towns, and the celebrations of the parishes. Several professional musicians are named in the records with several country practitioners being paid by more than one parish to play at their annual fund-raiser.

In 1301–2 the Gild Merchant of Reading paid 6d to a minstrel at the abbey. The Berkshire abbots seem to have enjoyed music, frequently keeping their own musicians. Robert, the harper of Nicholas de Culham, abbot of Abingdon, was paid by Edward I in 1306. Musicians (‘luctoribus’) were included as well as players in the agreement about the payment of entertainers between the master of the Gild Merchant in Reading and the guild in 1429 (see above). Hearne comments sarcastically on his entry concerning the activities of the Abingdon guild of the Holy Cross, ‘Observe that in those dayes they payd theyre Minstrells better then theyre preistes.’

Trumpets and drums as part of military displays or royal occasions first appear in connection with a muster in Reading in 1456–7. Edward VI was accompanied by trumpeters when he visited the town in 1551 and stayed in ‘the kynges place’ in the dissolved abbey. Abingdon paid trumpeters in 1573–4 and the mayor of Windsor paid 2s 6d to have trumpeters play at his feast in the town hall in 1637.

There is fragmentary evidence from the fifteenth century and again from the seventeenth century that the Reading Gild Merchant and its successor, the town council, hired official musicians or ‘waits.’ The rolls of 1413 and 1419–20 record payments for liveries for the ‘Mynstrallis’ and ' mynstrallis,' of 1420–1 for the ‘ communi ffistulatori & famulis’ ('the common piper and his servants'), and of 1421–2 for the ‘Communis fistulatoris & seruiencium suorum’ ('the piper of the commonalty and his servants'). In 1622–3 and 1624–5 a dispute about who were the official town musicians has preserved for us the names of several professional musicians in Reading who served or wished to serve the town with their ‘boys’ – James Shiler (or Shylard), Philip Shiler, Philip Godderd, James Belgrove, James Gerrard, William Costyn, and Richard Burrer. James Shiler was a wind player whose instruments were valued at 15s in the inventory attached to his will, probated in 1630. There is evidence of two other musicians from wills – Walter Davis who died in 1609 was a string player and owned a ‘sett of pavyn bookes’ and William Jackson, whose widow Blanche left his fiddles and viols to their children in 1628. The musicians of Reading were sufficiently proficient for Queen Anne of Denmark to pay them 42s on 26 July 1615 when she stayed in Reading during her progress to Bath that year.

Musicians are also named in ecclesiastical court documents. The counter suit brought against the young people of Coxwell Magna in 1599 by the accused fornicator Robert Ricattes names James Coterill of Coleshill as the musician who accompanied the dancing. An affray in Newbury churchyard in 1600 was sparked by a drunken procession. The revellers hoped to have a local musician, Phillip Holmes, and his company lead them home through the churchyard. They made this demand at Holmes’ door, but the ‘companie not beinge within,’ Holmes agreed to lead them himself. Some time between 1613 and 1615, Richard Hall, a musician of the parish of St Helen in Abingdon, was examined at a visitation. He was accused of non-attendance at service. Hall replied that ‘beeing a Musition & divers tymes from home by reason thereof, hee hath not then come to his parishe Church to heare divine service but goeth to the parishe church there, where hee is, when hee is soe from home, to heare divine service, and alsuch tyme as hee is at home hee hath frequented his parishe church Duelie to heare divine service.’ Twenty years later, soon after the reissuing of the Declaration of Sports by Charles I in 1633, Thomas Hellyar, gardener and minstrel of the small village of Aldermaston, testified before Sir Francis Windebank, recently appointed secretary of state, in a case accusing Edward Parsons of Aldermaston of defaming John Bowle, bishop of Rochester. Hellyar testified that Parsons had started the conversation apparently by a reference to the reissuing of the Book of Sports saying to Hellyar ‘That now his Roguish Profession might goe forward againe.’ In the course of the reported exchange, Hellyar told Parsons that Bowles had been responsible for the re-issuing ‘and then Parsons replyed, Hang him he is a sott.’

Several parishes name the musicians hired for their summer festivals. St Laurence’s, Reading, paid Thomas Taberer in 1503–4 and Moresson the harper in 1507–8. St Mary’s, Reading, paid ‘willson the minstrell’ in 1556. Phillip Holmes of Newbury was still performing in 1617 when he was paid for playing at the neighboring village of Ashampstead. John Rowland was the minstrel of choice in the Vale of the White Horse, playing at the Wantage festivals of 1591 (where he is identified as a taborer), 1595, and 1596, and at Stanford in the Vale in 1605.

There are two ecclesiastical court cases where minstrels are not named. At Aldworth in 1581 the wardens denied that there was any piping or dancing at service time ‘but sayethe vpon a tyme when the parson was preaching there weare some strangers that had mistrelles there and made mearye but left playing when they weare commaunded.’ Finally in 1588, Simon Hawkins, a victualer in Tilehurst, admitted to having ‘minstrells playing’ but not in service time.

Household Entertainments

The text of only one household entertainment survives from Berkshire – the 1592 entertainment of Queen Elizabeth by her old friend Elizabeth Cooke, Lady Russell, at Bisham. This charming piece seems to have been written by Lady Russell herself as a vehicle to present her daughters, Elizabeth (a god-daughter of the queen) and Anne, as potential ladies-in-waiting. The ploy was effective since both girls entered the queen’s service soon after the visit.

We have no other texts of household entertainments from Berkshire. However, much can be learned from the consort of viols and the masque depicted in Sir Henry Unton’s memorial portrait in the National Portrait Gallery in London. This ‘highly unusual narrative portrait … was commissioned as a posthumous commemoration of his life by his widow, Dorothy née Wroughton.’ These depictions of performance are set inside the Wadley manor house as an integral part of Sir Henry’s home life surrounded by a history of that life from his birth to his solemn funeral procession to the Faringdon Church, which was the last stage of the melancholy return of his body from France.

The website of the National Portrait Gallery provides a detailed new physical analysis of the painting and has discovered, through X-radiation, changes over-painted in some of the scenes. The portrait is painted on three horizontal boards and the authors of the web site suggest that ‘the painting may originally have formed part of another structure.’ They go on to say, ‘It is possible that it was placed within a temporary memorial in Faringdon Church whilst Unton’s stone tomb was being constructed, and was then removed and extended for display in a different location, perhaps Dorothy Wroughton's home at Wadley when the tomb was completed in 1606. The tomb was destroyed during the Civil War.’ Lady Unton must then have framed the portrait adding the narrow third board and kept it for herself since in her will, dated 18 July 1634, she bequeathed it to her niece, Lady Dering.

The two scenes of particular interest for students of music and drama are, first, the scene in a small upper room of the house where four men, including Unton himself, are playing a consort of viols and, second, the more famous portrayal of a masque of Mercury and Diana. In the first scene, the figure of a well‑dressed boy stands in the midst of the viol players. Besides Unton himself, two of the other players are gentlemen since they are wearing their hats indoors. The group seems to depict members and friends of the household gathered to play and sing consort songs for pleasure. Roy Strong notes that the ‘consort song, for treble voice accompanied by a quartet of viols, was a class of solo popular in England before the triumph of the madrigal in the nineties.’ Unton’s interest in music was deeply personal and he was recognized as an accomplished musician himself. It is likely that the pair of virginals in the hall at the Faringdon house were for his own use. His musical talent is referred to by John Case in his Latin dedication of his Apologia Musices (1588) in which Unton is praised for his musical skill. Another musical connection with Unton is in the name of one of John Dowland's consort songs, ‘Sir Henry Unton's Funeral,’ in his Lachrymae published in 1604. The depiction of his private playing, however small, in the memorial portrait, indicates the importance of music‑making at Wadley.

The more famous part of the portrait is the depiction of a masque. In 1776 Strutt identified this scene as the marriage of Henry to Dorothy Wroughton in 1580. Strong dismisses this identification because the figure of Dorothy Wroughton and the two ladies to her right are wearing black. He states unequivocally, ‘no Elizabethan bride would dress in black on her wedding day,’ and goes on to suggest that the ‘masque, like the other scenes, is one of a series meant to reflect the rhythm of life within the Unton household.' Although Martin Wiggins suggests that an Elizabethan bride might have worn black on her wedding day because it was her best dress, ‘since black garments requiring multiple dying were the most expensive,’ he agrees with Strong that the scene with its theme of Mercury and Diana may indeed be fictitious and, like the musical scene, simply represent the cultural aspects of life at Wadley. It is depicted as a grand occasion with twelve people seated at the dinner table attended by five servants in the background. The foreground is taken up by the procession preceding the playing of the masque around a group of six musicians. Wiggins identifies this as a ‘broken consort’ consisting of ‘six instruments: flute, lute, cittern, bandora and violin.’ Thomas Morley’s First Book of Consort Lessons, published in 1599, was designed ‘for just such a consort.’

In this scene they have been joined by a taborer on the upper level to the right. The taborer, the presenter kneeling in front of Lady Unton, the boy figure representing Mercury, the woman representing Diana, and the six attendant maidens are all dressed in green. The seven women masquers are dressed in identical gowns with red and yellow flowers on the skirts. Mercury's doublet seems also to be made of the same fabric. Each of these figures is wearing a full‑faced red mask. The procession of masquers is interspersed by ten children bearing torches walking in pairs, dressed in black and white body suits with woven green garlands across their chests and red and green streamers in their hair. Although Wiggins suggests that these figures are naked, Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino present evidence in their edition of Middleton that characters ‘could not be represented naked in English plays and masques’ but that fabric for tight fitting body suits had been created for the purpose of creating the illusion. The procession has just entered the hall. The presenter is kneeling to Lady Unton and seems to be handing her something, perhaps the text of the masque, while the first pair of children have broken ranks and are standing admiring the dinner guests.

The Unton masque provides a unique record of a family entertainment in an Elizabethan household. The prominent place this scene holds in the memorial portrait as a whole suggests that such entertainments were a frequent and prominent part of the Unton’s private life at Wadley. The Untons were important members of the Protestant gentry: this is no fugitive recusant activity but the active participation in music and drama of people in the mainstream of Elizabethan society at the end of the sixteenth century.

Other Entertainment

A hint that the processions of the guild of the Holy Cross in Abingdon may not always have been seemly is found in the register of Robert Neville, bishop of Salisbury in 1437, where he grants permission for the guild to carry out their processions ‘ dum tamen processio huius modi fiat sancte & deuote nec sint ibi homines laruati aut effigies dyabolica comitantes…’ ('provided that a procession of this sort nevertheless be done in holy and devout manner and that there be no masked people of diabolic effigies accompanying…'). Also from Abingdon is a much later entry for the payment of itinerant tumblers in 1575. The Reading Gild Merchant paid wrestlers in 1426, 1428, and 1430. Almost 200 years later, in 1619–20, there is an incidental payment by the chamberlains to the countess of Rutland’s jester and in 1631–2 they pay 4s ‘ to. one that Came to showe somme sightes,’ accompanied by a boy with a drum. Finally, bullbaiting and bearbaiting seem to have been a feature of life in Reading in the late sixteenth century. The Tanners record in their ordinance book a town ordinance that there should be no baiting of bulls or bears on a Sunday in 1570, and in 1587–8, the year the Reading Chamberlains’ accounts begin, Richard Buddes was paid 2s 6d for a bullring in the market place outside St Laurence’s west door.

  • Footnotes
    • VCH: Berkshire, vol 4, pp 438–9, and vol 3, pp 354–5; Johnston, ‘Community Drama in Crisis,’ pp 251–3.
    • VCH: Berkshire, vol 3, pp 58–9, 535.
    • ‘The Miller’s Tale,’ and ‘The Miller’s Prologue,’ The Riverside Chaucer, Larry D. Benson (ed), 3rd ed (Oxford, 1987), 71, l. 3384, and 67, l. 324.
    • OED, sv ‘advowson’: 'The right to present a member of the clergy to a particular benefice or living. Also occasionally more generally: guardianship, protection, or patronage of a church or religious house.'
    • Johnston, ‘Unusual Record,’ p 32; Timmins, ‘Register of John Waltham,’ pp 169–70.
    • Oxfordshire Archives: MS DD Par Thame c.5, Thame Churchwardens’ Accounts 1443–1524, f 36.
    • Anne Brannen, ‘Parish Play Accounts in Context: Interpreting the Bassingbourn St George Play,’ Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 35 (1996), 55–6.
    • Alexandra F. Johnston, ‘Chaucer's Records of Early English Drama,’ REED Newsletter 13.2 (1988), 13–20.
    • Slade, Reading Gild Accounts, pt 1, pp xi–xii, xviii–xxii.
    • This MS contains accounts that are both summary and fragmentary.
    • For a full analysis of the St Laurence’s parish plays within the context of other parish plays in other parts of the country, see Johnston, ‘Easter Play,’ pp 3–23, ‘Parish Playmaking,’ pp 325–41, and ‘Medieval English Theatre,’ pp 1–25.
    • O.B. Hardison, Christian Rite and Christian Drama: Essays in the Origin and Early History of Modern Drama (Baltimore, MD, 1965), 39–44.
    • James Gibson (ed), Kent: Diocese of Canterbury, REED (Toronto, 2002), contains the Latin and Anglo-Saxon text of the Regularis Concordia, vol 1, 23–7, and an appendix of the music, vol 3, 976–81.
    • Peter Meredith, ‘Latin Liturgical Drama,’ The Medieval European Stage, 500–1550, William Tydeman (ed) (Cambridge, 2001), 60–1.
    • Dils, St Laurence Reading Churchwardens’ Accounts, pt 2, pp 28, 34, 56, 71.
    • Peter Meredith, ‘Latin Liturgical Drama,’ The Medieval European Stage, 500–1550, William Tydeman (ed) (Cambridge, 2001), 61.
    • Their interactive chanting of the gospel had similarities to sung dialogue. At St Laurence’s wine and later both wine and bread were provided for the singers who sang St Matthew’s Passion on Palm Sunday from 1504–5 to 1546–7. Dils, St Laurence Reading Churchwardens’ Accounts, pt 1, pp 49, 55, 188, 200, and pt 2, pp 28, 34, 56, 71.
    • Peter Meredith, ‘Latin Liturgical Drama,’ The Medieval European Stage, 500–1550, William Tydeman (ed) (Cambridge, 2001), 69.
    • Kerry, Municipal Church of St Lawrence, pp 41–2.
    • Peter Meredith, ‘Latin Liturgical Drama,’ The Medieval European Stage, 500–1550, William Tydeman (ed) (Cambridge, 2001), 69.
    • Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 1992), 31–2.
    • Johnston, ‘Easter Play,’ p 5.
    • For two possible identifications of Labourne, see the endnote to St Laurence’s 1533–4.
    • [Phillip van Marnix,] The Beehive of the Romish Church, George Gilpin (trans) (London, 1636; STC: 17448.5), sigs Cc6–Cc6v.
    • Philip Butterworth, Theatre of Fire: Special Effects in Early English and Scottish Theatre (London, 1998), 37.
    • BRO: D/P 97/5/2, p 67.
    • BRO: D/P 96/5/1, p [20].
    • Hearne, Liber Niger Scaccarii, pp 558–9.
    • Mattingly, ‘Lollards stop play?,’ p 100.
    • Mattingly, ‘Lollards stop play?,’ p 102.
    • Martin, ‘People of Reading,’ pp 118, 143.
    • Martin, ‘People of Reading,’ p 128.
    • Sir Richard Dean, or Ademe, was curate of St Laurence’s (Clergy of Church of England Database, 'Ademe, Richard (1550–1550)').
    • See REED, Patrons and Performances for the major roads.
    • Brian Paul Hindle, ‘The Road Network of Medieval England and Wales,’ Journal of Historical Geography, 2.3 (1976), 210.
    • Elza C. Tiner, ‘Patrons and Travelling Companies in Coventry,’ REED Newsletter 21.1 (1996), 30; REED, Patrons and Performances.
    • G. E. C[okayne], Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, vol 8, U to Z, 91, note c, and 140, note g.
    • Coates, History and Antiquities of Reading, p 312.
    • VCH: Berkshire, p 535.
    • See Chamberlains' Accounts, 1635–7.
    • Guilding, Reading Records, vol 2, p 493, and vol 3, pp 37, 76, 79.
    • Murray, English Dramatic Companies, vol 1, pp 260, 272, and vol 2, pp 13, 103–5, 108–10; Bentley, Jacobean and Caroline Stage, vol 1, pp 273, 282, 298, and vol 2, pp 350, 453, 475, 604.
    • Guilding, Reading Records, vol 2, p 493, and vol 3, p 37.
    • For a full discussion, see Murray, English Dramatic Companies, vol 2, pp 106–9 and 163–7.
    • See the relevant REED collections: Alexandra F. Johnston and Margaret Rogerson (eds), York, vol 1, REED (Toronto and Buffalo, 1979), 1; John M. Wasson (ed), Devon, REED (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 1986), xxxi, lv, lxii, lxvii, 70, 129, 287; David Klausner (ed), Herefordshire/Worcestershire, REED (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 1990), 14, 25, 30, 37, 98, 100–13, 119, 277–8, 536, 539; James Stokes (ed), Lincolnshire, REED (Toronto and Buffalo, 2009), vol 1, 104, 155, 176, 231–5, and vol 2, 407, 421, 426, 429, 432–3, 435–6, 530, 572, 747, 762, 769, 779–80; and Mary Erler (ed), Ecclesiastical London, REED (Toronto and Buffalo, 2008), xi, xviii, xxiv–xxvii, xliv–xlv, lvii, cvii, cxvi, 14–20, 23–4, 27, 29–37, 41–2, 47, 50, 52–4, 56, 60, 64, 88, 91, 93, 95, 99, 103, 106, 108–9, 112–25, 132–3, 135–6, 234–49, 351–2, 354, 379–80; as well as Max Harris, Sacred Folly: A New History of the Feast of Fools (Ithaca and London, 2011), 173–4; Peter Greenfield and Jane Cowling (eds), ‘Winchester College,’ REED Prepublication Collections Online: Hampshire.
    • Alexandra F. Johnston (ed), ‘Eton College,’ REED Prepublication Collections Online: Buckinghamshire.
    • Alan H. Nelson (ed), Cambridge, vol 1, REED (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 1989), 29.
    • John R. Elliott Jr. et al (eds), Oxford, vol 2, REED (Toronto and Buffalo, 2004), 612.
    • For a revised assessment of the events of the feast of Holy Innocents, see Max Harris, Sacred Folly: A New History of the Feast of Fools (Ithaca and London, 2011), 172–8.
    • Mary Erler (ed), Ecclesiastical London, REED (Toronto and Buffalo, 2008).
    • David Klausner (ed), Herefordshire/Worcestershire, REED (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 1990), 539.
    • For a full analysis of Berkshire parish customs within the context of other parish customs in other parts of the country, see Johnston, ‘Summer Festivals,’ pp 37–56, ‘What Revels are in Hand?,’ pp 95–106, ‘Robin Hood of the Records,’ pp 27–44, and ‘Medieval English Theatre,’ pp 1–25.
    • Alexandra F. Johnston, ‘The Churchwardens Accounts of Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire,’ REED Newsletter 12.1 (1987), 9–12.
    • A.R. Wright, British Calendar Customs, England, vol 1, Movable Feasts, T.E. Lones (ed), Publications of the Folk-Lore Society 97 (London, 1936), cited in Sally-Beth MacLean, ‘Hocktide: A Reassessment of a Popular Pre-Reformation Festival,’ Festive Drama: Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Theatre, Lancaster, 13–19 July, 1989, Meg Twycross (ed) (Cambridge, 1996), 233.
    • John R. Elliott Jr. et al (eds), Oxford, vol 1, REED (Toronto and Buffalo, 2004), 55.
    • May Day, Pentecost (Whitsun), or the feast of St John the Baptist (midsummer) were the most common days chosen.
    • Martin, ‘Leadership and Priorities,’ p 116.
    • The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition, Gary Taylor et al (eds) (Oxford, 2016), 4.4.1–5.
    • Phillip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses (London, 1583; STC: 23379), sig M2.
    • David Wiles, The Early Plays of Robin Hood (Cambridge, 1981), 7.
    • Johnston, ‘Robin Hood of the Records,’ p 29.
    • John Marshall, ‘Gathering in the Name of the Outlaw: REED and Robin Hood,’ REED in Review, Audrey Douglas and Sally-Beth MacLean (eds), Studies in Early English Drama 8 (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 2006), 76–82.
    • For a detailed study of the morris dance see John Forrest, The History of Morris Dancing, 1458–1750, Studies in Early English Drama 5 (Toronto and Buffalo, 1999).
    • Martin Marprelate, Hay any worke for Cooper (Coventry, 1589; STC: 17456), sigs 3–4.
    • There is evidence that a ‘house’ was provided for Robin Hood in 1543–4 in Stratton, Cornwall (Rosalind Conklin Hays et al (eds), Dorset/Cornwall, REED (Toronto and Buffalo, 1999), 522), and in 1574–5 in Woodbury, Devon (John M. Wasson (ed), Devon, REED (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 1986), 285).
    • Phillip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses (London, 1583; STC: 23379), sig M2v.
    • See St Laurence's Churchwardens' Accounts, 1572–3.
    • In the discussion that follows there is a marked increase in the amounts of money raised and spent as the seventeenth century progressed. This does not reflect any real change in the proportion of the income of the parishes spent on their upkeep of their buildings but a major devaluation of all European currencies in this period as a result of various international trading arrangements and the Thirty Years War. John Theiboult, ‘The Material Conditions of War,’ The Ashgate Research Companion to the Thirty Years’ War, Olaf Asbach and Peter Schröder (eds) (Abingdon, March 2014), 245–56.
    • The following analysis is based on the Stanford Churchwardens’ Accounts, BRO: D/P 118 5/1; 1552–1725.
    • VCH: Berkshire, vol 4, pp 307, 319, 326, 329.
    • The following analysis is based on the Wantage Churchwardens' Accounts, BRO: D/P 143 5/1; 1565–1665.
    • Audrey Douglas and Peter Greenfield (eds), Cumberland/Westmorland/Gloucestershire, REED (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 1986), 366–8.
    • Gazeteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516.
    • Kerry, Municipal Church of St Lawrence, p 5.
    • Martin, ‘Leadership and Priorities,’ p 116.
    • For a full analysis of Berkshire parish customs within the context of other parish customs in other parts of the country see Johnston, ‘Summer Festivals,’ pp 37–56, ‘What Revels are in Hand?,’ pp 95–106, ‘The Robin Hood of the Records,’ pp 27–44, ‘Medieval English Theatre,’ pp 1–25, and ‘The Churchwardens Accounts of Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire,’ REED Newsletter 12.1 (1987), 9–12.
    • Aylesbury; Buckinghamshire Record Office: PR/140/5/1, f 31 (1614–15).
    • Martin, ‘The People of Reading,’ pp 240–1.
    • TNA: E101/369/6; Constance Bullock-Davies, Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels 1272–1327 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Dover, NH, 1986), 168.
    • Hearne, Liber Niger Scaccarii, p 559.
    • Johnston, ‘The Lady of the Farme,’ p 71.
    • National Portrait Gallery, 'The Portrait of Sir Henry Unton (c. 1558–1596).'
    • Unton died in 1596 during his second time as ambassador to France. The story of his life as it is depicted in the portrait is told in Roy C. Strong, ‘Sir Henry Unton and his Portrait: A Elizabethan Memorial Picture and its History,’ Archeologia 99 (1965). See also the ODNB.
    • National Portrait Gallery, 'The Portrait of Sir Henry Unton (c. 1558–1596).'
    • Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (np, 1977), 102.
    • Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (np, 1977), 102.
    • See Inventory of Sir Henry Unton, 1596.
    • Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (np, 1977), 102–3.
    • Joseph Strutt, A Compleat View of the Manners, Customs, Arms, Habits, &c. of the Inhabitants of England, from the Arrival of the Saxons, till the Reign of Henry the Eighth. With a Short Account of the Britons during the Government of the Romans, vol 3 (London, 1776), 143, 191; plate xi.
    • Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (np, 1977), 105.
    • Martin Wiggins, British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue, vol 2, 1567–1589 (Oxford, 2012), no 686, 252.
    • Martin Wiggins, British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue, vol 2, 1567–1589 (Oxford, 2012), no 686, 252.
    • Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (np, 1977), 106.
    • Martin Wiggins, British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue, vol 2, 1567–1589, (Oxford, 2012), no 686, 253.; Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino (eds), Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works (Oxford, 2007), 1032.