Friday, 31 October 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~47~ Affidavit for burial in wool

This week's Treasure has been chosen by David Everett, one of our long-serving regular customers and a member of the Friends of Worcestershire Archives. David came across the following item nestled amongst the records of Stone parish whilst undertaking research in the Original Archive Area at The Hive. The particularly ghoulish illustrations that accompany these documents make them quite fitting for our Halloween post: 

The documents we are featuring this week are a series of affidavits from the parish of Stone that date from the 1680s. 

For centuries England relied on the woollen trade as a prosperous source of revenue and was key to the wealth of the country. The introduction of new materials and an increase in foreign imports was viewed by many as a threat to this vital industry. In an attempt to create a new market for woollen cloth, and to maintain the demand for domestically produced wool, the Burial in Woollen Acts were passed as Acts of Parliament (18 & 19 Cha. II c.4 (1666), 30 Cha. II c.3 (1678) and 32 Cha. II c.1 (1680)).

The Acts required that when a corpse was buried it should be dressed only in a shroud or garments made of wool...

And it is hereby enacted by the Authority aforesaid That from and after the First day of August One thousand six hundred and seaventy eight noe Corps of any person or persons shall be buryed in any Shirt Shift Sheete or Shroud or any thing whatsoever made or mingled with Flax Hempe Silke Haire Gold or Silver or in any Stuffe or thing other then what is made of Sheeps Wooll onely or be putt into any Coffin lined or faced with any sort of Cloath or Stuffe or any other thing whatsoever that is made of any Materiall but Sheeps Wooll onely upon paine of the Forfeiture of Five pounds of lawfull Money of England to be recovered and divided as is hereafter in this Act expressed and directed.[1]

An illustration from an affidavit, which looks like a design for a gruesome, human-shaped sweet. 

Failure to comply with the Act was punishable by a £5 penalty. As a point of reference, according to the National Archives' currency converter tool, £5 in 1680 would have been equivalent to £417.70 in 2005's money, which is no small sum by any account! 

In order to prove that a body was buried in wool, it was a requirement of the Act that an affidavit be sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace of the Mayor by a credible person within 8 days of the burial. If the parish did not have a JP or Mayor then the vicar or curate could administer the oath. David chose this particular item as his Treasure as, apart from the eye-catching illustrations, this was the first time he had encountered an affidavit that was signed by the vicar himself.

The affidavits took various forms depending upon the individual parish. Some parishes began new burial registers to record them in; some had separate volumes for them and others, as is the example at Stone parish, had individual printed forms produced. We are lucky to still have surviving examples of these forms as quite often they were thrown loose into the bottom of the parish chests and later destroyed. 

The Burials in Woollen Act was eventually repealed in 1814, although it was generally ignored from 1770 onwards. 

Records of burials in woollen, where they survive, are another great resource for family historians to consult when piecing together the lives of their ancestors and can be a good indicator of economic status - particularly where those not wishing to be buried in wool were willing to pay the £5 fine in order to be buried in finer materials such as lace. The documents featured here can be viewed in our Original Archive Area at The Hive (reference b 850 Stone BA5660/7). 

Further reading

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Averting Evil: Evidence from Worcestershire Buildings

As we celebrate Halloween and gorge ourselves on chocolate and sweets, the idea of all-pervading evil seems a long way away. But in the past this wasn't the case. In the medieval and post-medieval periods, there was a real belief in evil, witches and demons. It was felt that they could attack you, your household, buildings or their contents and protective practices were developed to prevent harm from the evil. In historic buildings you can often find marks that were intended to protect the occupiers or contents of the building.

 Gorgoneion – Head of Medusa used to ward off evil

Shona Robson-Glyde, our Historic Buildings Archaeologist, has put together a fantastic Powerpoint, which looks in detail at examples of apotropaic marks that were used to ward off evil throughout the centuries and provides real examples of these found across historic buildings in Worcestershire. You can access the full slideshow here

Daisy wheel found at Court Farm, Himbleton

Do you know of any apotropaic marks in Worcestershire? If so, please send photographs and details of their locations to or leave us a comment here on the blog. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

World War One War Memorials School Packs

As part of the Worcester World War One Hundred project we are producing resources for schools to help them with a local focus to looking at the World war One.


 The first is based around war memorials and tracing soldiers, which many schools are undertaking. In the pack are lesson plans and ideas. The majority of this relates to Key Stage 2, but the principles of investigating the lives of soldiers can be used in secondary schools too as part of projects.

The next being produced is about Worcestershire during the war, looking at the experience on the home front. This is still being worked on but we can send you a copy as soon as it is available if you let us know.

We are in the process of e-mailing the completed pack to schools, but if your school hasn't received one please email us on or ring 01905 766352 and we'll happily send you a copy.

For more details about the Worcestershire World War One Hundred project please visit our website

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Pershore Hoards and Votive Deposition in the Iron Age

Twenty years ago almost 1,000 Iron Age coins were discovered at Pershore by metal detectorists, which turned out to be one of most important archaeological finds in recent years. Archaeologists were informed quickly and this led to an excavation revealing an Iron Age/Roman settlement which professionals had been unaware of until then. The coins, both gold and silver, were declared Treasure Trove and were subsequently bought by the British Museum.

The reverse view of the Pershore type gold stater, named as such for the first  time as a result of the discovery in Pershore. 
Image supplied courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum 

Derek Hurst, one of our Senior Project Managers, has written up the report of the excavation along with Ian Leins (British Museum) in the 2013 edition of the Proceeding of the Prehistoric Society. They look at the fieldwork which was carried out at the time as well as the analysis from the post excavation work, and the subsequent discussions.  This journal is available to see on level 2 in The Hive, just to the left of the Explore the Past desk, along with many other archaeological journals. It is also available from the Society.

The Pershore hoard is the subject of the next meeting of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society on Mon 3rd November at 7:30pm when Derek will share details about the find and the latest interpretations. More details about the talk can be found at

Monday, 27 October 2014

Upcoming WWI in the Archives workshop at The Hive

On Monday 10th November we are running a workshop about World War I in the Archives here at The Hive. Although there have always been people using us to research WWI soldiers and local places during the war, there has been a large increase recently due to the centenary, prompting many individuals and groups to investigate ancestors of their local communities.

During this workshop we'll look at how you can use the resources here to research more about soldiers' lives, find out whether your ancestor or as part of a study on a war memorial. We will also go through how to search our archives for information about the war, the period and links to local communities.

The workshop runs from 10am to 12:30pm and will be at The Hive. Places cost £8 and will need to be booked in advance. You can book now by emailing or by phoning 01905 766352. 

Please note this is a repeat of the workshop we ran in June this year.