In 1605, John Hotkins, a 22-year-old collier, born and living in the parish of Clutton in Somerset, England deposed that he was ‘a workman at the Colepitts at Pensford distant from Clutton about some two miles and had his Lodging at the howse of John Raymonde in Pensford’. It was ... (Show more)
In 1605, John Hotkins, a 22-year-old collier, born and living in the parish of Clutton in Somerset, England deposed that he was ‘a workman at the Colepitts at Pensford distant from Clutton about some two miles and had his Lodging at the howse of John Raymonde in Pensford’. It was here that he witnessed Joanna Allin call Joanna Raymond (John’s wife) a whore.
In 1558, Philipp Franklyn of Lamerton in Devon also deposed that he had lived in the parish since birth, but worked in the adjacent parish of Tavistock, approximately 11 kilometres away. He too heard the word ‘whore’ uttered while he was ‘hedgyng at Shelly mylle within the parishe of Tavistok upon a certen work day’.
In 1557, Juliana Burges, a married woman of Tavistock in Devon, travelled to the parish of Whitchurch where she had previously worked as a servant to William Gooding. The purpose of Juliana’s trip was to ‘vysyt a Seke [sick] childe’ of William’s next-door neighbour.
What did ‘community’ mean to these men and women? Populations are frequently divided along parochial lines, and it is assumed that early modern social and economic life largely played out within the arbitrary boundaries of the administrative parish. Parish records create artificial boundaries of social and economic life and consequently, community becomes synonymous with the parish. Classic works such as Margaret Spufford’s Contrasting Communities and Keith Wrightson and David Levine’s Poverty and Piety in an English Village focus on reconstructing parish life in detail. While they attempt to trace familial connections across parishes through the reconstruction of kin networks, they nonetheless characterise the early modern village as self-contained. This stereotype persists in more recent scholarship.
We know early modern society was highly mobile. Quantitative studies by Peter Laslett, Peter Clark and others have focused on migration in early modern England and have charted high turnover in parish populations. However, mobility is equated with migration (change of residence) and short-term journeys or regular movement between places have been somewhat neglected. Using incidental evidence from church court depositions, this paper interrogates patterns of everyday travel and mobility to locate people’s sense of ‘community’ through the reconstruction of social and economic networks irrespective of parish boundaries. Concerned with recovering individual experiences of community, this paper moves beyond a parish/manor-centred approach and captures all types of mobility. This paper explores who made journeys and why, and where and how far they travelled. It considers the impact of gender, age and occupation in determining the types of communities individuals belonged to and the distance they travelled to participate in communities. By analysing these experiences of mobility, I seek to present a more precise and accurate picture of the geography of early modern English communities. (Show less)