Office c. John Barle

Some amusingly passive-aggressive behaviour on the part of a parishioner in the payment of his tithes in an unspecified Essex parish. John Barle came before the Consistory likely after his parish vicar reported him for not paying his tithes as required. On examination, Barle claimed that he rendered his tithes as he was supposed to, but admitted that he did so in as inconvenient a manner as he could (leaving pitchers of milk to sour in the church porch for instance, or giving the vicar cheeses with mice teethmarks on them). Evidently John Barle and some of the other parishioners were unhappy with the vicar for other reasons; as Barle indicates at the end of his examination, he and others had complained at an ecclesiastical visitation at Walden about the vicar, and when they had no response they had the vicar indicted for (unspecified) felony. This little war over tithes was evidently part of a more serious parish dispute.

Response of John Barle, 2 Mar. 1492

2 March

Responses personally made by John Barle, to the interrogatories ministered.

John Barle, sworn etc. on the interrogatories etc. To the first interrogatory, he admits its contents. To the second interrogatory, he admits is contents. To [the third interrogatory, he says] that seven years ago, this witness had pastured within the parish twenty-four milch cows, and for the milk tithes this witness paid for each cow 4d to the vicar around the feast of St. Michael [aka Michaelmas; 29 Sept.] for the previous year. And because the vicar complained and was not happy with the payment of money, saying that his money was worthless, this witness said that henceforth he would not pay money but following the ancient custom he would give the milk of the said cows every tenth day, and he said to him that he should provide the pitchers to receive the milk. And from the said Michaelmas to Lent [March], this witness had the milk brought to the church in pitchers every tenth day and left it there in the porch. And [because] the vicar did not want to receive the milk but would sometimes let it sit there, sometimes for two days and sometimes for longer and sometimes for a shorter time, this witness ordered his men to throw out the milk and bring the pitchers back again, and thus it was that most of the time the milk was thus thrown onto the ground or left for the dogs or stolen at night, up until Lent. And then this witness went to confession with the vicar and he settled with him that he would pay 4d for the tithe of the milk of each of the cows, as before. To the fourth interrogatory, he says as he said above in the third, and says that sometimes he paid money as above and sometimes cheese in the name of the milk tithes, and the vicar was rumoured to be discontented with the cheese because sometimes it was […] and gnawed by mice. To the fifth interrogatory, he says that a little before last Michaelmas, this witness had five pigeons for tithes, which this witness sent to be delivered by his servant to the vicar, and afterwards he was told by his servant that the vicar could not find them, and this witness ordered his servant to hang them from the vicar’s door so that when he came home he would find them easily, and he did not do this out of malice. To the sixth interrogatory, he says that a little before Michaelmas, this witness joined two sheep for tithes with […] and put them in the cemetery, where they grazed for eight or nine days, and the vicar sold them, tied together that way, for 22 [d.?]. And to its other contents he responds negatively. To the seventh interrogatory, he says that this witness and the other parishioners often for seven years complained both to master Kerver and to others, and to the lord on the visitation at Walden, and because the vicar remained uncorrected, this witness, Jo. Mott, and John Kent complained to the justices at Chelmsford after last Michaelmas, and they had the vicar indicted for felony, and this witness consented to and agreed with this indictment.

2 March in the Consistory place, examined, and promised to produce in high and low, by advice of the lord Official, there being present Master Ambrose and Blodwell and Trap.

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