The People of Tring

Tring Parish Registers 1566-1714

by Sue Gordon.

Local History Titles Site Search





1 - The Registers

2 - Population

3 - Family Life

4 - Occupations

5 - Place of Abode

6 - Death in Tring

7 - Weather

8 - Epidemics

9 - Other Causes of Death

10 - Burials in Tring Churchyard and Church





Tring is fortunate in that its parish registers have survived almost intact since the mid 16th century. Despite the upheavals of the mid-17th century, up to the beginning of the 18th century the quality of recording was generally good, although information such as occupation is often lacking and ages are almost non-existent. Nevertheless the registers are a rich source of social and family history and reveal much about the lives and deaths of the people of Tring.

This article is based on a talk given to Tring u3a in May 2021.




Hertfordshire Archives and Libraries (HALS)
Find My Past: Hertfordshire parish register images (copyright Hertfordshire Archives and Libraries)



1 - The Registers.

A page from Tring Parish Registers, 1566 (HALS).

Prior to 1538 many English parishes kept an informal record of important events concerning their parishioners.  Henry VIII’s break from Rome brought profound changes to the church in England and in 1538 Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister, ordered the parish clergy to keep a formal record of christenings, marriages and burials.

The registers for the parish church of Tring, St Peter & St Paul, are now kept by the Hertfordshire County Archive [HALS] in Hertford.  They start in 1566 and, for the years up to 1714, consist of four volumes.  The first book, now called Book 1, runs from 1566 to 1634.  Book 3 runs from 1634 to 1695 and the fourth book runs from 1695 to 1714.  Book 2 contains a copy of the entries in Book 1 and Book 3 up to 1673 plus some earlier records not in the first book.

In the mid 16th century all that was required to be recorded were names and dates.  It is likely that the initial record was made on a separate sheet or even scraps of paper which were periodically copied into the register book.

At the start of Tring’s first book, marriages and burials were recorded in separate sections.  Later, christenings were added and the arrangement changed so that all three types of record were recorded together for each year.  The writing and layout are neat and in a single hand in 1566, but in later years different hands become evident and the entries become cramped and messy.

Between 1577 and 1587 there is a gap in the records.  No explanation is given for this omission, but resumption in recording corresponds with a change of curate.  Thomas Norfolk’s name appears at the top of a page of burials for 1573 and the entries continue until the beginning of 1575 when they stop abruptly.  Marriages continue into 1576 and baptisms do not start until 1598.  According to the Clergy of the Church of England Database, Norfolk remained curate in Tring until 1585. Recording begins again in 1587 when Timothy Fisher, curate, signed the register.  It is possible that Norfolk was less rigorous about recording baptisms, marriages and burials or, more likely, he recorded them in a separate document which is now lost.

In 1597, in the reign of Elizabeth I, it was ordered that the pages of the parish registers should be made of more durable parchment, rather than paper, and a copy sent to the Bishop annually for added security.  At the time, Tring was in the Archdeaconry of Huntingdonshire in the Diocese of Lincoln so copies were sent there.  These copies are now called the Bishop’s Transcripts and for Tring they survive from 1604 onwards.  In addition, the earlier, paper, registers had to be copied into the new parchment books.

In accordance with this edict a parchment copy was made of the Tring register entries up to 1598.  However, parchment is expensive and subsequent Tring registers reverted to the use of paper.

Tring Parish Registers vol. 2: Peter Rylande’s inscription (HALS).

We know who made the parchment copy because his name is on the fly-leaf of the book: Peter Rylande of St Albans.  As a professional scribe or scrivener Rylande would have been paid for his work.  He may be the Peter Rilande of St Albans who married there in 1583 and had several children.  He died and was buried in St Albans in 1621.  He may also have been the Peter “Rylands” who appears in many documents associated with the St Albans Archdeacon’s court between 1593 and 1612 (St Albans parish registers and HALS online catalogue reference ASA7).

Rylande’s copy is not exactly the same as the original, for example, it starts with baptisms from 1566 to 1597 (with the exception of the missing years 1577 to 1586) which are missing from the original book and includes burials from 1588 to 1597, also missing from the original book.  Which means there was at least one other book, now lost.  In addition, the records in the parchment copy are organised differently from the original book, with christenings, marriages and burials in separate sections instead of being together for each year.  The spelling of some names also differ from the original.  Before the early 19th century most ordinary people could not read or write and so the writer would spell the name as it sounded.

As time went by the authorities made changes to what was required to be recorded in the parish registers.  The English Civil war in particular brought upheaval to the lives of ordinary folk.  When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in 1653 they threw out the old modes of worship and anything that could be interpreted as excessive, extravagant or leaning towards Catholicism.  Sundays were to be strictly reserved for worship and the traditional Christian calendar of holy days and saint’s days was banned, including festivals like Christmas and Easter.

On 24th August 1653 an act was passed in Parliament transferring the responsibility for recording from the Church to the civil authorities.  In some parishes ministers destroyed or hid their registers rather than surrender them to the new authorities.  Thankfully this did not happen in Tring and the register continued in use.

The aptly named Benjamin Parish (or Parrish) was made responsible for recording all births, marriages and burials in the Tring register.  Benjamin would have been familiar with the registers as he was the son of William Parish who had been parish clerk in the 1630s.  Three months later John Bates, also a local man, was appointed “Legester” or registrar and took over this responsibility.  Thereafter only dates of birth, as opposed to baptism, were recorded with the occasional exception, including two of John Dagnall of the Grove’s children.  These baptismal entries were most likely added later, probably after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, which would suggest that the Dagnalls, and perhaps a few other Tring families, baptised their children privately, and possibly in secret, during the Interregnum.

The recording of marriages also changed after the act came into force.  Actual marriages, with some exceptions, were no longer recorded in the parish register and no longer took place in church.  However, the publication of the intention to marry, was recorded in the register.  The marriage ceremony itself became a civil affair carried out by a magistrate.  Two such marriages are recorded in the Tring register: John Leash of Long Marston married Susanna Brigginshaw, a widow of Tring, in January 1654 and Walter Church, a gentleman, married Anne Price in March the same year.  That these two marriages were recorded in the register is unusual and it may be that both couples had connections with influential people especially as they were married by Sir William Rowe, a Justice of the Peace and an associate of Oliver Cromwell.  Rowe’s brother Thomas, a Doctor of Divinity was buried in Tring fifteen years earlier in 1639 and his burial entry includes an intriguing note that says he was buried at night.  There is nothing sinister about this: as a member of the nobility, Thomas Rowe was entitled to a traditional College of Arms funeral which would have been an expensive and onerous imposition on his family.  In his will Thomas says that he is to be buried according to the wishes of his executors and it seems they were keen to avoid an extravagant funeral either for financial reasons or because of the association of elaborate ceremony with Catholicism.  Burial at night was a way of avoiding a College of Arms ceremony as the College stipulated that funerals should be carried out during daylight hours (Brady, p78).

The monarchy was restored in May 1660 and baptisms in Tring resumed immediately.  For the rest of that year only one or two children’s births were recorded without baptism.

After the Restoration Tring’s registers did not revert to orderly recording.  Instead baptisms were sometimes grouped by family rather than in strict date order and odd entries appear in odd places.  Recording was messy and erratic with different hands evident.  Part of this chaos was the result of attempts to fill in the gaps in the register caused by the events surrounding the Civil War, but also Tring had five changes of Rector from 1660 to 1684 which may account for the different handwriting (see note 1).

During the reign of Charles II a series of acts were brought in affecting burials.  The Burying in Woollen acts between 1666 and 1680 were designed to stimulate the English woollen industry.  A friend or relative of the deceased person was required to swear an oath in front of a Justice of the Peace to confirm that the person had been buried in a woollen shroud as opposed to a shroud made from foreign textiles or other material, usually linen, which was much cheaper than wool.  Exceptions were made for plague victims and the very poor.

It is worth noting that at the time the poor may not have been buried in a coffin but simply wrapped in a shroud and buried in the earth.  The majority of people would not have had a headstone (Mytum, p 97).

At the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th the entries in Tring’s parish registers become more detailed: for example, occupations start to be recorded frequently rather than occasionally.

Over the whole period from 1566 to 1714 approximately 3740 baptisms and births, 3218 burials and 663 marriages were recorded in Tring Parish Registers.  As noted above, recording was not always consistent, nor are the pages of the registers always easy to read, hence these figures are approximate.


2 - Population.

The population of Tring and its surrounding hamlets in the 1560s was probably around 600 men, women and children (see note 2).  One hundred and fifty years later the population had more than doubled.  This increase is in line with population growth for Hertfordshire as a whole during this period (Munby, pp.12-15). Between these dates the population in Tring fell in the 1640s before recovering in the 1680s.

However, a comparison of the number of marriages and baptisms recorded in Tring’s parish registers in the mid 16th century and those at the beginning of the 18th century shows little difference in numbers, in fact the later records seem to show a fall in marriages and baptisms (Table 1).

Chart 1.

In the first ten years of the register, 1566 to 1575, there was an average of about seven marriages and just over thirty-one baptisms per year.  Some of these marriages represent people from outside the parish who would have returned to their own parishes to have any subsequent children baptised, and some of the baptisms were for the children of couples who had married outside the parish, perhaps in the bride’s home parish.

By the beginning of the 18th century the numbers of both marriages and baptisms recorded in the Tring parish registers had fallen and from 1705 to 1714 an average of about five marriages and about twenty-five baptisms were recorded per year.

On the other hand, burials in Tring rose considerably from the beginning of the period compared to the end.  In the years 1566-1575 there were an average of just over 18 burials per year.  In 1705-1714 this number had doubled to an average of just over 36 burials per year (Table 2).

Chart 2.

According to these figures, with fewer baptisms and more burials, the population of Tring should have shrunk not grown over the 148 years in question.

Why the apparent discrepancy?  Part of the answer may be that by the beginning of the 18th century a growing number of non-conformists, like the Quakers and the Baptists, did not marry in the parish church nor have their children baptised there.  This means that the actual number of marriages and children born in Tring at the beginning of the 18th century was greater than the parish registers suggest.  The Hardwick Marriage Act, which made it illegal to marry anywhere but in a Church of England parish church, was not enacted until 1754.  In England as a whole couples were also marrying later which meant they had fewer children (Tiller, p.124).  Migration in and out of the parish also played a part.  Of the family names present in the early parish records, about half were still in Tring a hundred years later.  New names came and went frequently, many couples who married in Tring went elsewhere to live and raise a family.  Others settled in Tring from nearby towns and villages.


3 - Family Life.

Although the information recorded in Tring’s 16th and 17th century parish registers is generally limited to names, dates and sometimes place of abode, it is possible to use the registers to look a little deeper into the lives of Tring’s population.  By charting the events in the life of a family, ages of individuals can sometimes be calculated even though this information is not generally given in the registers.  For example, a person’s approximate age at marriage can be calculated by deducting the year they were baptised from the year in which they married.

Where it is possible to calculate age at marriage, a typical Tring couple in this period might marry between the ages of 21 and 27.  Grooms were generally two or three years older than brides and teenage marriages were the exception.  The age of the mother at the birth of her first child would be around 22-25.  More married women were buried than either single women or widows and so second marriages for men were common.  It is probable that a significant number of wives died in or soon after childbirth.

The number of children born to Tring couples varied of course, but a sample of couples from the beginning, middle and the end of the period indicates that of those couples that had children baptised in the parish, the majority had between two and four children.  On average family size was slightly smaller in the later part of the 16th century than at the beginning of the 18th.  Couples marrying between 1587 and 1605 had the largest families (Table 3).  For example, Silvester Cutler and his wife had thirteen children between 1597 and 1620, most of whom survived to adulthood and at least five of whom married and had families of their own.  In contrast, Silvester’s grandson William had six children between 1685 and 1692, all of whom died in infancy.  In Tring over a third of all burials were of children or infants in most years.  In some years it was much higher, over fifty percent.  An exceptional year was 1568 when nearly three quarters of all burials were of children or infants.


Chart 3.

As in any population some Tring couples were more successful in raising children than others.  At the end of the 16th century at least four heads of family with the name Foster were having children in Tring.  They may have been unrelated but were probably brothers or cousins.  During the period 1566 to 1714 there were more baptisms of children with the name Foster in Tring than any other family name (Table 4).  Many of these survived and by the 1690s at least five families with the surname Foster remained in Tring parish.  Other family names died out or people moved away, for example, Etheropp (or Aetherop) and Lawrence.  Yet others, for example, Barnes and Cosier, make an appearance for the first time in the late 1600s and early 1700s.  As Tring’s population expanded so did migration in and out of the parish.

Chart 4.


4 - Occupations.

Carpenter’s tools.

At the beginning of Tring’s parish registers occupation is rarely mentioned, but by the early 1700s this information becomes more frequent.

As in the rest of the South of England, most people in Tring would have been employed in agriculture or food production in some way and it is the labourers, husbandmen and yeoman farmers that are most often mentioned in the parish registers.  Next come people employed in construction – working with wood, iron or brick.  Of these, carpenters are the trade most often recorded.  Tring was not a great wool producing town at this time so weavers and fullers are only mentioned three times.  There were however a number of tailors in the town together with a few glovers and shoemakers.  A hemp dresser, Thomas White, married Hannah Adkins in Tring in 1710 but he came from Culworth in Northamptonshire and, as no children are recorded in Tring from this marriage, it is likely he and his new wife returned to his home town shortly after they were wed.

These trades people would have produced goods mostly for local consumption.  Other occupations mentioned include a fair number of servants – these are usually referred to as servant to Mr so and so and were probably indoor servants rather than agricultural workers.  As for the rest, a barber and a doctor of physick and, in the early 1700s, an Officer of Excise lived in the town – this last reflects an increase in the number of laws and regulations relating to the application and collection of Customs duties.

The gentry were almost always noted in the registers as either esquire, gentleman or with the abbreviated title “Mr”.  Occasionally, there is a reference to a gentlewoman marrying with the title “Mrs”.  This is short for “Mistress” and means she was a woman of social standing and not necessarily a widow (Erickson).

The names of Tring’s ministers appear in the registers occasionally: William Saunders in 1569-70, Thomas Norfolk in 1573, Timothy Fisher in 1587, John Parker in 1616, John Goodman in 1648, Abraham Watson in 1673, Mr [William] Duke in 1682 and Mr [Robert] Creed in 1691.


5 - Place of Abode

Cottage at Wilstone.

Not everyone whose name is recorded in Tring parish registers lived in the town and throughout the period place of abode is recorded where this is not Tring.  Most often Tring’s hamlets are named, Wilstone being the most frequently mentioned.  Places no longer regarded as hamlets like Nauldwick (also called Aldwick), Betlow and Tiscott (Gordon) are also recorded, demonstrating that they were still inhabited in the 17th century.  Places within a few miles of Tring like Aylesbury and Berkhamsted are also named and, occasionally, people came from further afield to be married or buried in Tring parish (place of abode is rarely mentioned in the baptism entries).  For example, the wife of Thomas Humphrie of Bovingdon was buried in Tring in 1625 and Lydia Lake married Londoner Thomas Granger at Long Marston in 1694.  At the time, Long Marston was part of the parish of Tring.  Tring counted a few Londoners among its population, for example Henry Reeve Citizen of London, was buried in Tring in 1709 and Richard, son of Mr Warrin, another citizen of London, on 21st May 1640.

Travellers are mentioned several times and were probably travelling salespeople rather than Romany travellers.  Surprisingly only one vagrant is mentioned although several “strangers” are referred to.  For example, William Jenawaye a ‘stranger’ was buried in September 1630, having died at William Bennet’s house “of a surffett”, which sounds as though the poor, unfortunate man overindulged – perhaps after a period of starvation.

Also at Bennet’s, this time in 1637, another stranger, Robart Robarts, is recorded as having died.  He was buried at Studam in Bedfordshire rather than in Tring.  There is a note in the margin of this record which says “paid” but it is not clear who was paid and for what.  Perhaps William Bennet received payment for his trouble or a carrier was paid to transport Roberts’ body to his home parish.

William Bennet seems to have provided accommodation for strangers, probably on payment by the parish.  He, or at least his wife, also took in “nurse children” as did some other families in Tring.  Two of these infants died at Bennet’s in 1607 and 1611.

In the 16th and 17th century the term “nurse child” or “sucking child” was used for infants given to a wet nurse to breast feed and look after.  Many such children were sent from London to the Home Counties by wealthy parents or by parents who had relatives, or other people known to them, who lived in healthier places.

A study, The English Wet-nurse and her infant care 1538-1800 by Valerie Fildes reveals that in Hertfordshire most nurse children were sent to towns and villages closer to the capital than Tring.  Nevertheless, the parish registers reveal that between 1570 and 1574 eight nurse children from London died and were buried in Tring.

Between 1599 and 1656 the burials of a further thirteen nurse children are recorded but their place of origin was not noted by the clerk so it is not known if they came from London or not.  It is unlikely that they were local or their burials would have been recorded as son, daughter or child of so and so rather than just as “a nurse child”.  The sending of nurse children to Tring does not appear to coincide with outbreaks of plague or other sickness in London although only those children that died appear in the registers and there were probably many more that came to Tring throughout the 16th and 17th centuries and survived.

John Hampden statue, Aylesbury (Ian Petticrew).

1642 was the beginning of the Civil War in England, an event that has left its mark on Tring parish register.  In July 1643 two unnamed soldiers were buried in Tring churchyard, one from Gubblecote on the 19th and one from Long Marston on the 26th.  Were these, perhaps, casualties of the battle at Chalgrove in Oxfordshire, which took place on the 18th of July and at which the Parliamentarian hero, John Hampden, was mortally wounded?  Chalgrove is about 25 miles from Tring, along the Lower Icknield Way – a distance that could be covered in a day on horseback.  A third soldier, a young man who was the son of John Wimand of St Albans, was buried in Tring in the following February.  Whether or not these men died of injuries or from disease is not known.


6 - Death in Tring

We tend to think of people in the past having much shorter lives than today.  Indeed, in the 17th century, life expectancy at birth for the majority of people has been calculated by historians at around thirty-five years, largely due to the high infant mortality rate.  But there were exceptions: Roger Coaly senior, died at the age of 106 years and was buried in Tring on December 21st, 1623.  This was such an exceptional event that his age was recorded in the register.

In the years 1566-1714 there were an average of just under twenty-four burials per year recorded in Tring’s parish registers (excluding the years 1577-1587 when no burials were recorded).  Between these years the number varies from lows of around three to highs of over forty.  What caused these excess deaths in the years when a greater number of deaths than usual were recorded?  Two possibilities are famine, caused by adverse weather, and infectious disease.


7 - Weather

A stormy sky over Bulbourne (Sue Gordon).

In general the weather in the northern hemisphere was cooler from 1400 to the early 1700s than it had been previously.  In particular there was a change in the climate between 1560 and 1630 caused by volcanic activity in the Americas (Jones, Hewlett & Mackay).  Ash in the upper atmosphere spread across the northern hemisphere and reduced the warming effect of the sun over a vast area.  The result was climate change in England and across Europe.  In the south of England the years 1566 to 1575 were notable for dry summers and cold winters and in 1571 there were storms and flooding, all of which would have adversely affected harvests and could have led to malnourishment and subsequent susceptibility to illness and death in the population.  In Tring there was a rise in burials in 1570 which may reflect this.

Between 1587 and 1608 the weather became more extreme once again.  During this period there were cold winters, drought every two or three years and storms, including the storm which helped the English defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588.  A series of very poor harvests culminated in Europe-wide famine in the 1590s (Coleman, p.27).  In 1593 Tring burials reached a peak and, as in 1570, the cause may have been disease exacerbated by poor diet.

Cold winters and droughts continued into the 1600s.  The Thames and other rivers froze over from time to time, for example in 1608 when the winter was so cold that a Frost Fair was held in London.  Deaths in Tring again peaked in 1613.

In 1636 London and the south of England suffered severe drought in the spring and summer (Pribyl, p.6) and again the number of burials in Tring rose in that year.


8 - Epidemics

Epidemics were a fact of life until the adoption of vaccination at the end of the 18th century.  Outbreaks of plague occurred in London and other parts of the country many times from the mid 14th century onwards.  A serious outbreak occurred in London in 1563 but we do not know if Tring was affected at this time as Tring’s parish records do not start until 1566.

Another outbreak occurred in London in 1578 (Creighton, p.345) and in October of that year there is a note in Berkhamsted registers that says “Pestis incipit” (Plague begins) with a corresponding rise in burials recorded for that year and several years following.  Unfortunately, this coincides with the gap in Tring registers mentioned above so we do not know if Tring suffered similarly to Berkhamsted.

In 1593 burials in Tring rose sharply with most deaths in October and December.  Multiple deaths occurred within some families, for example, Thomas Malster died in December along with four members of his family and another, possibly an infant son, died in January, which suggests an infectious disease as the cause of death.  The rise in Tring burials can possibly be linked to an outbreak of plague in London, which ran from December 1592 and into 1594 and which spread to Hertfordshire (Creighton, pp.356-357).

Fortunately for the inhabitants of Tring, outbreaks of disease in nearby areas do not appear to have affected the town very often.

In 1603/4 plague came to Aylesbury and Wing and in 1617 to High Wycombe (Brooks).  Although all these places are less than 20 miles away there were no rises in deaths in Tring for these years.

Even closer is the village of Horton which suffered from outbreaks of plague in 1626 when 34 people died and in 1637, when another 14 died.  It is now known that lice and fleas transmit plague from person to person, often via clothing and bed linen, and Horton’s high rate of deaths from plague was probably due to the rags imported from London for use in Horton’s paper making industry (Page, pp.281-286)

The next big outbreak of plague occurred in 1665 to 1666.  London again seems to have been the epicentre and during the second half of 1665 the disease spread rapidly to the home counties and a number of plague deaths are recorded in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, especially in the autumn of 1665.

In July 1665 plague was recorded in High Wycombe, Aylesbury and Wendover and many other places in Buckinghamshire. Hertfordshire parishes that recorded plague deaths in this year were:

Watford - around fourteen died of plague, mostly in August and September.

Aldenham - plague is noted for two deaths in August, one in September and one in October.

Hitchin – plague is not mentioned but a large number of burials occurred in August and September.

Hemel Hempsted, St Mary – a few extra deaths in October but no mention of plague.

Stevenage - no mention of plague, but an increase in burials in September and October: several from the same two families, which would indicate an infectious disease as being the cause of death.

Most of the places mentioned above are on major routes out of London and would have accommodated travellers overnight, giving them the dubious opportunity to be bitten by plague carrying lice or fleas from bedding.

In towns and cities plague affects the poor disproportionately - probably because they lived in cramped conditions in close proximity to one another and because lack of personal hygiene and clean clothes made them vulnerable to the parasites that carried disease.

The burial records in Tring show no rise in 1665 or 1666 and this would suggest that, when it came to outbreaks of the plague, Tring got off lightly, perhaps because it was not a major overnight stopping off point out of London and because its inhabitants were relatively well off.

Plague was not the only disease that regularly threatened the population of southern England.  Smallpox outbreaks were widespread from the mid 17th century onwards.  London suffered several severe smallpox epidemics during this period but Tring records only three smallpox deaths.  These were in 1688 when Henry Kemstor died in May and husband and wife Samuel and Rebecca Holmes died in June and July.  However, burials in Tring peak in this year so there may have been more that were not noted by the clerk.

Although famed for its beneficial “air” (MacDonald) it is likely that from time to time Tring would have suffered minor outbreaks of a variety of infectious diseases.  For example: in 1705 recorded burials again rose and in particular for children. These occurred throughout the year but most during the winter months and was possibly an outbreak of measles, which was known to strike children during the colder parts of the year (Dyer, p.40).


9 - Other Causes of Death.

Tring Mansion before the late 19th century.

Cause of death was not generally recorded in 16th and 17th century Tring parish registers, but there were a few exceptions including six suicides and two accidents.

Elizabeth Rainer “which did drown her sellfe at Long Marston” was buried in June 1633.  Joseph Morris was buried in July 1683 “the wich had laid hands on him selfe at Henry Holmsis”.  In August 1686, William the son of Thomas Cock of Hastoe was buried “which hanged him selfe”.  In January 1699-1700 Thomas Clark “felo de se” (committed suicide) was buried, as was John Seabrook, buried on 22nd July 1708.  Sarah wife of Charles Barnett alias Fuller was buried on 23rd December, 1710 also “felo de se “.

In July 1571, Adrian Atkinson, the son of William Bishop's wife, was killed by “a fall of stones upon him in a pit” and in October 1683 William Rockall, a carpenter, fell to his death whilst building Sir Henry Guy’s mansion house in Tring.

Recording of stillbirths is patchy.  Nine occurred between 1622 and 1629, one in 1640, one in 1644, two in 1656 and eight between 1681 and 1692.  The largest number in one year was in 1691 when three were recorded.


10 - Burials in Tring Church yard and Church

Tring Parish Church (Sue Gordon).

The nature of burials was sometimes recorded in the Tring registers.  Here are some examples.

On the 10th February 1642-3 Robert Gennells and his wife “ware berred both together in one grave”.  This is the only incidence of two people being buried in a single grave noted in the Tring registers in this period.

Seventeen burials are recorded as being in Tring church, as opposed to the church yard, most between 1681 and 1692.  Burial within the church building was expensive and required a license from the Bishop so only the wealthiest parishioners would be buried there, as close to the alter as their status would allow.  The Lake family of Wilstone had property in and around Tring, including a manor house in Buckland, and on the 12th June, 1666 Mr Thomas Lake of Buckland was buried in Tring church.  Mrs Jane Tyringham, wife of Francis Tyringham of Lower Winchenden, Buckinghamshire was buried “in the middle space” in Tring church in 1689.  A few years later her father, John Backwell, gentleman, was buried “in the midle space under the stone against the pullpit”, as was his wife Ann.  Backwell and his family came from Bierton in Buckinghamshire and London but must have had connections with Tring although no mention is made of Tring in his will.

When a person was buried in the church as opposed to the churchyard it was usual for the family to make a donation towards the poor of the parish.  For example when John Barkwell was buried, 40 shillings was given to the churchwardens for the benefit of the poor.

Tring has a strong tradition of non-conformity and from the mid 17th century both Quakers and Baptists kept their own records and had their own burial grounds.

However, from time to time Quaker and Baptist burials were recorded in the Tring parish register even though the burial took place elsewhere.

For example, Tring parish register records that in 1664 Mathew, the son of John Whitchurch of Dunsley, was buried “in Richard Martin’s garden” at Dancers End in Buckland parish, just over the Buckinghamshire border.  Martin was most probably a maltster from Hertford who had property in Buckland and Drayton Beauchamp.  Although the recorder does not say that this is a Quaker burial, it probably was as the Quakers were known to have a burial place at Dancers End at this time.

Former Quaker burial ground at the corner of Akeman Street
and Hastoe Lane (Sue Gordon).

Some years later the Quakers established a burial ground in Akeman Street on the corner with Hastoe Lane and in March 1682 the Tring parish register records that John Stratton, a maltster from Aylesbury, who probably had family connections in Tring, was buried there.

New Mill Baptist burial ground (Ian Petticrew).

The Baptist’s earliest burial place in Tring was at New Mill and from 1711 some burials that took place there were recorded in the parish registers.





1. It is not clear if the entries in the register were written by the minister, the parish clerk or someone else.  An exception is an entry in 1652 made by William Arnett of West Leith when he wrote: “the 24 of October my sonn John was borne a[nd] bapt[ised] sixe a clock in the morning.”  Between the lines is written, in a different hand, “this was the sonne of William Arnett of West Leeth.”  Other entries on the page appear to be in William Arnett’s hand so he was probably the parish clerk at this time.
2. An approximate estimate of a population of around 636 persons for Tring and the surrounding hamlets in the mid 16th century was arrived at by multiplying the number of families (172) returned in Diocese of Lincoln Survey (Hertfordshire Population Statistics p. 26 column 1) for Tring in 1563 by a mean household size of 3.7.  That is, husband, wife and 1.7 children (the average number of children baptised per family in Tring between 1566 and 1576 was 2.44, less 30% - the approximate death rate for children and infants at this time – gives an average of 1.7 children per family. )

For Tring in the early 18th century, an approximate population estimate of about 1987 persons for Tring was arrived at by multiplying the number of Anglican families (400) plus the number of dissenters (estimated at 100 individuals, which probably represents around 30 families) reported in Hertfordshire Population Statistics for Tring in the early 18th century (p. 26 column 5) by a mean household size of 4.62.  That is, husband, wife and 2.62 children (the average number of children baptised per family in Tring between 1704 and 1714 was 3.74, less 30% - the approximate death rate for children and infants at this time – gives an average of 2.62 children per family.)



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Fildes, Valerie, The English Wet-nurse and her infant care 1538-1800 (1988)
Gordon, Sue, Tring’s Lost Settlements (2020)
Jones, Evan T., Hewlett, Rose, Mackay, Anson W. Weird weather in Bristol during the Grindelwald Fluctuation (1560–1630) (2021) 

Lambert, Tim, A History of Life Expectancy in the UK (2021)
MacDonald, Arthur, That Tring Air (1992)
Munby, L., Hertfordshire Population Statistics 1563-1801 (2019)
Mytum, H., Popular attitudes to memory, the body, and social identity : the rise of external commemoration in Britain, Ireland, and New England (2006) in Post-Medieval Archaeology. pp. 96-110
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Richards, Shirley, The History of Tring, Appendix B (1974)

Southampton University Local Population Studies Society: Parish Registers Project
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