The guest speaker at the June meeting was Pip Wright, retired primary school teacher, who has published several books and given many talks on local history from subjects ranging from ‘the Dissolution of the Monasteries’ to ‘Exploring Suffolk by Bus Pass’.
The next meeting of Diss U3A will be on Thursday 3rd July, commencing at 10.30, at Diss United Reform Church. The guest speaker, Doreen Reed will talk on the subject “Facts, Fibs and a Pinch of Salt”
For further information on Diss U3A please visit the website.
Pip Wright is an enthusiastic collector of stories from old newspapers and local records. The talk enjoyed by Diss U3A this month was based on many Suffolk Parish Registers of births, marriages and deaths. By delving into the parish chests and extracting snippets that perhaps shouldn’t have been recorded, he was able to entertain us with a fascinating glimpse into the seedier side of local life. For instance, in Hintlesham, the rector complained that people were negligent about bringing up their children ‘in the faith’ and in Thorpe Morieux the vicar wrote that it was a ‘fruitful year for bastards’.
Parish records show crosses replacing signatures when the person signing was illiterate. Yet Bury Cathedral records identify the feisty Charity Morell who signed her name with her right foot, ‘having no arms or legs’ (1832).
The burial registers in Beccles sometimes showed the cause of death, such as …’drowned in the river’ and ‘childbirth’ – but the child was not her husband’s’. In Thurston a woman died ‘sliding down the banisters’ at the railway station.
Belstead parish reveals that many collections were made for fire, floods or famine while in Euston the parson wrote a poem about church v state. Other entries included a recipe for apple pie and how to cure a dog bite. The vicar of Coney Weston (1764) made it clear that he hated his parishioners, describing them as ‘barbaric and inhumane’. In Hawstead parish (1759) there is a record of two ‘joined’ children, ‘joined from the neck down’. Sadly the children were referred to as ‘monsters’, a not uncommon reaction to Siamese twins as we know them today.
One particularly gruesome incident found in the Bury St Edmunds records, is the story of the barrister Arundel Coke who gave a hook to labourer John Woodburn so he could kill his brother-in-law in St Mary’s Churchyard. Coke joined in the attack, hacking off the victim’s nose and ear. Alas, he wasn’t quite dead. A famous trial followed after which Coke was hanged and later dissected in Shire Hall in full view of the public.
Great Whelnetham seems to have been a venue for wife swopping and fornication, whereas in Ubbeston, Sarah Edwards did penance in the porch, wearing a white sheet and holding a wand. Her crime…adultery and fornication.
To find out more about Pip Wright’s talks and books go to www.pipwright.com