Saturday, 4 March 2017

Horsted Keynes Rector Giles Moore illuminates village life in 17th Century Sussex

One of the privileges of being Rector of Horsted Keynes has been involvement with St Giles rich history in partnership with Ann Govas, David & Sally Lamb, Hylda Rawlings, Caroline Rich (St Giles Archivist)  and the late Bob Sellens. Highlights over my 8 years have been Ann Govas’s publications, the Macmillan evening (2012), Archbishop Robert Leighton commemoration (2015) and publication of my own History of St Giles Church, Horsted Keynes (2015).

On 1st December 2016 we packed the Giles Moore Room in the Martindale to engage there appropriately with our 44th Rector Giles Moore who served here 1655-1679. It was tremendous to have with us 98 year old Hylda Rawlings, founder and now President of Danehill Parish Historical Society. Hylda spoke both about Giles Moore and her close friend Ruth Bird (1899-1987) who edited his Journal for publication by Sussex Record Society in 1971. Previously part of Moore’s Day Book featured in Rector Frank Eardley’s parish history of 1939. It was Rector Mark Hill-Tout (1984-1989) who persuaded Ruth to make ‘a complete, correct and scholarly transcription of the Day Book’. To Ruth Bird’s sorrow and that of many other people a large chunk of the Day Book dealing with Moore’s visits to local farms was omitted in the published Journal. Though valuable as part of Horsted Keynes history it was deemed of less interest to general readers. Perhaps that omission will be remedied some time soon.

Of the Day Book former villager and Land of Hope and Glory author Arthur Benson writes: ‘There can be few volumes in England which give so minute an account of the life of a country parson in the seventeenth century…an interesting commentary on the conditions of social life then prevailing. The Rev. Giles (or Aegidius) was obviously a convinced Royalist, though, like the Vicar of Bray, he subordinated his principles to his livelihood. He was certainly a man of peace as we see him in his day-book, a considerable student, and interested in agricultural operations’.

Moore first preached in St Giles on 1st February 1655 a few years after the execution of King Charles 1 (1649) and lived through the Restoration of King Charles II (1660). His Royalist tendencies come out in Latin quotes in his Journal which he thought Cromwell’s men wouldn’t be able to read! He was married to Susan, formerly a widow. They had no children but took into their home Giles’ infant niece Martha nicknamed ‘Matt’ who often rode pillion behind him on his horse. It took three or four days to ride to London. Goods ordered there were delivered by Pony Pack to ‘The Red Lion’, Danehill now called ‘The White House’ on the east side of the A275 in the centre of Danehill Village.  Hylda, who lives just down the road, pictured Rector Giles with Matt sitting behind him, riding down the steep hill to Danehill from Horsted Keynes to collect goods delivered from London at ‘The Red Lion’.

In my History of St Giles I provide this selection from the Day Book: ‘On 10th March 1658 Moore writes ‘dyed my servant John Dawes whom I buryed… next to the Ewe tree’. The funeral cost £2. Several yew trees remain in the churchyard today. On 7th February 1660, he records just less than £2 for his arrest of William Field and ‘carrying him to the Jayle’. On 3rd November 1660, following the Restoration of the Church of England he ‘bought at London a Common Prayer Booke’. On 14th May 1663, he paid about £2 at the Tiger in Lindfield ‘for a dinner for 12 persons’.  On 21st April 1669, he bought ‘a Levitical sillke girdle’ and later pays 3s (15p) ‘for making a cassack’. On 24th July 1667, he bought a bible commentary, accounts of the burning of London and coronation of Pope Clement costing just over £1. ‘Winter 1674 was the Hedge adjoining to the Churchyard newly cut’ for 7s 6d or 37p. On 25th July 1679, he pays 6d (2p) ‘To Ned Waters for shaving my head’.

Moore’s Journal ends ‘would that I had kept a strict account of my daily shortcomings even as I kept an account of my expenses’. The parish register records, ‘Mr Giles Moore, minister of this parish, was buryed the 3d of October, 1679’. May he rest in the peace of Christ - with all my predecessors!