Visitation of the ‘peculiar’ parishes under the separate jurisdictions of the Dean and Sub Dean of Sarum and the Precentor of the cathedral for the correction of both clergy and laity became a useful means of maintaining the religious settlement of the late 16th century. Practice was standardised by Canons issued in 1603, and it remained an important element in church life for the rest of the century. Churchwardens, or other parishioners, were required to produce a written presentment of things wrong. They were guided by articles of enquiry issued in advance. Matters requiring attention would then be dealt with through the church courts. Uninformative parts of the presentments, such as negative responses, have been omitted in this edition. The presentments cover a wide range of business, and because of this, are an important source for both local and family historians. Disrepair of churches (their fabric, furniture and fittings, as well as the state of the churchyard), the improper conduct of services, including the provision of the prescribed books, and behaviour of incumbents, was balanced with the correction of moral offences of the parishioners; those guilty of moral offences like adultery, drunkenness, swearing and ribaldry; religious transgression including abstaining from communion, not having children baptised, or Sabbath breaking. As the licensing of schoolmasters, surgeons and midwives was a church matter, those believed to be practising illegally might be presented. The perambulation of parish boundaries was necessary in order to ensure the collection of tithes and rates. The buildings and land of the glebe might also be considered to prevent their decay or dispersal to the detriment of the benefice and future incumbents. The upkeep of the churchyard walls (or rails) was a further matter for attention. The presentments published here have been selected to cover the jurisdictions of the Dean of Sarum, over about 40 parishes and chapelries in Wiltshire, the Sub Dean of Sarum who controlled the city parishes of Salisbury, and the Precentor of Salisbury cathedral, over Westbury, Bratton and Dilton. Instructions and actions, which give an indication of the process of visitation, appear in italics. Baydon, Horningsham, Berwick Bassett, Knook, Bishopstone (North Wilts), Little Bedwyn, Blackland (Calne), Mere, Bratton, Netheravon, Broad Blunsden, Ogbourne St Andrew, Burbage, Ogbourne St George, Calne, Ramsbury, Cherhill, Salisbury St Edmund, Chute, Salisbury St Thomas, Coombe Bissett, Sevenhampton, Dilton, Shalbourne, Great Bedwyn, South Marston, Heytesbury, Swallowcliffe, Heytesbury Hospital, West Harnham (Salisbury), Highworth, Westbury and Hill Deverell
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