Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton History and Heritage

The Year 1644 - a Hard Year For Braithwell


Notes written by Allen Smith of Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton: History and Heritage Group

For the Township of Braithwell, the year 1644 must have been one to remember, not for a famous event, but, unfortunately, for the unusual number of deaths which occurred over the twelve month period. Below is a list of the names of those who were buried during the year in question.           

1644

Jan.23rd

Thomas Gleadhill

 

Dorothie f. Richard Amry

Feb. 1st

Ann Cooke vid

Feb. 5th

Thomas More

Feb.28th.

Marie ux Nicholai Roades

 

Richerd f. supradicti Nicholi Roades

Mar.5th

Ann Feram

 

Ann f. Edwardi Burgan

Mar.11th

Jane Hewitt vid de Micklebring

Mar. 19th

William Mirfin de Micklebring

Mar. 20th

Thomas Ashton

Mar.23rd

Mary f. Antonii Lawton

April 7th.

Troth Lee

April 13th.

William Pagden

April 14th.

Margarett Rigway vid

April 29th.

Elizabeth Gleadall vid

May 1st.

Ann ux Caroli Chappell

May 10th.

Ellen ux Richardi Fretwell

May 12th

Vincent Awckland

May 23rd

Ann Mirfin vid

June 8th

Richard Wilbore gen.

June 16th

William Carr

July 5th

Ruth f. Thomae Roberts

July 9th

Ruth f. Richardi Fretwell

July 10th

Katheran Adwick vid

July 12th

William Norborne

July 20th

Joseph f. Thomae Roberts

 

Joane f. Richardi Amry

July 23rd

Alice ux Thomae Bosvile

Aug 8th

Dorothie f. Robert Scott

Aug 13th

Roger f. Thomae Wass

Sept 2nd

Richerd More de Micklebring

Sept 3rd

Ester f. Johannis More

Sept 7th

Mathew f. Johannis Hewood

Sept 24th

William f. Richardi Scales de Micklebring

Oct 2nd

Jane f. Ricardi Nicolsone

Oct 6th

Margery ux Stephani Waterhouse

Oct 16th

Dorothy Nicolsone vid

Oct 19th

Elizabeth ux. Johannis Hewood

 

Abortivus supradicti Johannis Hewood

Oct 31st

Joane f. Johannis Ashton

 

(ux. - uxor.  f.-filius or filia        gen. - generosus.   vid. - vidua.)

Whatever the cause, it seems at first glance that in many cases, more than one person in the same family died during the year - in one case they were buried on the same day!

As can be seen from the details above, in 1644 there were 41 Parishioners buried in the churchyard. This would appear to be in the region of one seventh of the population. The deaths appear to have occurred evenly over the year, with a 'bulge' in March, April and May, followed by another large number of deaths in July and October. I can find no written evidence to substantiate a cause for this abnormally high incidence. In the absence of factual evidence, I am left to speculate the reason, or reasons, for this unusual state of affairs.

1. Disease

A localised outbreak of some disease could easily have been the cause. Pneumonia, influenza, scarlet fever, or 'the plague' could all have been responsible, but would this have lasted over the full year, or would the concentration of deaths have been over a shorter period of time? More than one death in the same family during the period under consideration would tend to strengthen the theory that a disease was the main cause.

2.Crop Failure

Crop failure must also be considered, with the resultant shortage of food in the village. It must be remembered that at this time a great deal of the Parish was unenclosed. In consequence all the Township's crop of wheat or barley would have been grown in the same large field. Being unenclosed, these fields would not have the protection of trees and hedgerows, and a sudden violent storm just before harvest could lay bare the whole expanse. Similarly, a very wet autumn could delay, or even make impossible the gathering in of the harvest.

In 1744, one hundred years after the Braithwell 'disaster', Hunter in his volume The Deanery of Doncaster reported such an event and the cost of the storm to the local communities.

"In July 1744 there was a great storm of hail, and rain with thunder and lightning. The standing corn, then nearly ready for the sickle was beaten down all over this part of the country in the space of one hour."

The losses were detailed as follows:

Harthill  419. 5s. 0d
Church Anstan  110. 7s. 0d
Chapel Anstan 98. 10s. 0d.
Dinnington 44. 11s. 0d.
Firbeck 77.   2s. 0d.
Austerfield.  423. 9s. 4d.
Maltby  175. 3s. 0d.
Thorpe Salvin  92. 16s. 4d.
Bawtry 7. 10s. 0d.

                          

For that period, the costs mentioned must have been hard to bear, and hardship must have been experienced in those communities.

3. Civil War

A third factor to bear in mind is the fact that this was at the time of the Civil War. In the year 1644, Tickhill Castle, a Royalist stronghold, was preparing for a lengthy siege.

Tom Beastall describes in his book on Tickhill how a troop of 200 Dragoons with their Captain and thirty horsemen were sent from Doncaster, and because of this show of force, the Castle capitulated and no lives were lost. But, the soldiers were billeted in the village until the winter of 1645.

 It seems that the soldiers took the law into their own hands whilst in the area, and many complaints were made against the 'officers and soldiers of the Scottish Army'.

The complaints from the villagers of Tickhill and the neighbourhood were many and in the end, a series of meetings were held at Tuxford, Bawtry and Laughton to look into these claims. The main complaints against the soldiers were for demanding payment in excess of what was due, physical and verbal abuse, robbery and rape. On the strength of the findings of these meetings, the troops were withdrawn to Pontefract, which caused even more resentment amongst the soldiers and led to more reprisals. Although not mentioned, perhaps villagers in Braithwell could have suffered along with others!

The Parliamentary Survey carried out in 1652 makes no mention of this period, even though only eight years had elapsed, and so all historians can do is speculate that perhaps a combination of all three ( disease, crop failure and the Civil War) could have led to the exceptional rise in the death rate in the Township.