When entering an ancient church we become aware that others have stood there before us. Some of those who walked before us left a permanent reminder of their presence. Others have simply faded into the mists of time. From the 16th century, however, very little went unrecorded. In 1538 a law was passed ordering the clergy to record baptisms, marriages and burials. Many churches, however, did not begin keeping records until a further notice was sent out in 1558. At Bury, it appears that the Vicar was keen to comply with the reminder. The earliest entry in the Bury registers is the baptism of Joan Lutterde on 26th May 1558. The Vicar at Coldwaltham, though, was a little slower to obey the rules. The earliest record there is the marriage of William Harryson and Syble Stone on 24th January 1562.
The earliest entries simply record the basic details of baptisms, marriages and burials. As time marches on further detail is included. Perhaps most fascinating, though, are some of the snippets recorded in the margins. In particular the vicars of Bury during the 19th century liked to include the cause of death alongside the burial entry. Many of the deaths were caused by ‘consumption’ – a sad reflection of the poor living conditions of the age – but others paint more dramatic pictures. For example, we learn from the registers that Daniel Ryan from Amberley, buried on 28th January 1862 aged 43, drowned off Bury Wharf. In another entry we discover that George Puttick of Bury, who was laid to rest just a few days before Christmas 1889, was ‘accidentally shot on the Downs’!
Owing to the delicate condition of the historic church registers, they have been deposited with West Sussex Record Office for safe keeping. If you would like to view them the staff at the Record Office will be pleased to help you.