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churchwardens

churchwardens are representatives of the parish meeting or the vestry, generally assisted by sidesmen. From the 12th to the middle of the 16th cents. churchwardens were primarily responsible for providing and maintaining all that was necessary for public worship in their parish church or chapel. A subsidiary duty was that of presentment to the ecclesiastical courts of moral misdemeanours of the laity and clergy of the parish. From the mid-16th to the 19th cents. churchwardens were also civil officials with duties as various as providing arms for soldiers, poor relief, and vermin control. Until 1571 churchwardens were elected by the whole parish, and after that time it was usual for the parish to elect one warden and the minister the other. Their accounts, which were presented annually to the parish meeting, are a major source of information about parish life.

Lynda Rollason

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