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William Batty and his Bible

from The Barwicker No. 71
Sept 2003

The Historical Society has recently acquired a large bible, purchased in 1809 and belonging to William Batty of Barwick. It reached us from Mrs Threlfall, a relative of Mr Batty who lived in the Boyle, and passed through the hands of Marion Bullen, Bob Hewitt and Hugh Hawkins before being deposited in our recently built resource centre. It is in very good condition despite now having a detached front cover and a loose covering on the spine. Its dimensions are 16" x 10" x 2 3/4 " and it turns the scales at a not inconsiderable 11 lbs.

The lettering is easy to read and there are many full page prints illustrating biblical stories. Each page has a number of footnotes. There are no page numbers but the total number of pages must run into many hundreds. At the end of the book, there is included
'An Alphabetical Index or Concordance',
'A Brief Table of the Interpretation of Proper Names , chiefly in the Old Testament'
'A Chronological Index of the Years and Time of ADAM unto CHRIST from the Collections of Divers Authors'. - This concludes that in the year 1806, the age of the Universe was just 5810 years, six months and ten days.
Then follow several more 'indices, catalogues and collections'.
The edition was clearly written for serious bible scholars.

On the fly leaf before the title page there are the details of the birth and baptism of John Batty and his children by two wives, Mary and Elizabeth, and the deaths of those who died in infancy. The whole page is written (by William Batty himself without doubt) in a clear, practised hand and appears to have been penned at the same time, probably after 1814, the last date in the text.

William Batty was born October 12th. and baptised November 11th 1767 at Barwick. He was the son of John Batty, a shoemaker, and Alice (ne Rawlinson), both of Barwick. John was appointed parish clerk on July 19th 1777 and remained in this office for almost 20 years until his death.

William married Mary, daughter of James and Ann Bean, but not in Barwick. They had three children:

ANN, born April 22nd 1791,
JAMES born February 15th 1793.
ALICE born at Bramham on October 31st 1795.

The entries in the parish records for the baptisms of Ann and James at Barwick, describe William as a shoemaker of Bramham. There is no entry in the Barwick records for Alice.

William's father John Batty died and was buried on April 13th 1797. He is described as 'clerk'. William was appointed parish clerk to succeed his father on 25th June 1797. His wife Mary died on November 27th 1797 aged 26 and is buried in Barwick churchyard, where there is a memorial stone.

In 1799, William Batty married Elizabeth Carr of Leeds. The particulars of their nine children are recorded in William's bible

JANE, born 30 July 1800; SARAH, born November 19th. 1801, died February 1st 1802;
MARY, born December 18th 1802;
BENJAMIN, born December 19th 1803. died March 15th, 1804;
HANNAH, born December 27th 1804
JOHN, born August 17th 1806, died September 9th 1806.
WILLIAM born November 28th 1807
THOMAS, born August 30th 1811
JOHN born July 14th 1814, baptised July 15th 1814.

In addition to the date of birth of his nine children by his second wife, he tells us also the time of birth. Anne was born "Ten minutes before Ten o'clock at night", and Benjamin "Five minutes before 4 o'clock in the afternoon". All these children were baptised at Barwick a month or two after they were born. The baptism of John (II) the day after his birth perhaps indicates that he was not expected to live for long, like three of his siblings, but in fact he lived into adulthood. The giving of the same Christian name as that of an elder brother or sister who died in infancy was not uncommon. The parish baptism records in all cases describe William as a shoemaker of Barwick. The documents show that death was never far away from the family at this time.

Completing William's writings on the fly leaf is the following poem, written probably at the same time as the family details. The poem reads;

Whene'er you read this ancient volume,
You'll find God's word in every column;
Examine well each sacred page,
You'll find Instruction for every age;
When your Parents are laid in the Grave,
This is the best portion you can have;
If in this world you learn righteousness,
In the next you'll find true happiness;
Improve well your time unto the end,
And God will be your greatest friend.

Did William Batty write this poem himself? Despite the stilted language and bizarre rhymes (volume / column; righteousness / happiness), the poem reveals the author as a man of deep faith and a lover of God's word.

The parish clerk was an important officer, usually serving for a lengthy period, unlike other officials who were elected annually. The clerk took part in church services, recorded baptisms, marriages, burials and resolutions of the vestry and other meetings, and he dealt with correspondence. His duties sometimes overlapped those of other officials and duties were laid down parish by parish. The clerk sometimes acted as sexton. He was paid a salary by the parish and also collected fees for services. We know something of Willam Batty's financial circumstances from an entry in the log-book of the Rector, WH Bathurst, when he first came to Barwick in 1820.

"The stated salary of the parish clerk is only 6. I found that my predecessor had been in the habit of allowing him 3 a year. I therefore let him have a field rent-free, valued at about 2 a year, besides the use of the churchyard and I gave him 1 for his son to go to Aberford for the letters."

William Batty acted as a witness at many wedding services during the early decades of the 19th.century. In addition to his parish duties, he was appointed Clerk to Barwick Female Friendly Society in June 1821 (see 'The Barwicker' No.7) and he acted as Clerk to the Magistrates for 25 years. From time to time, the rector and the parish officials were required to submit to the diocese a 'terrier', which is a survey of property, land, tythes, rents, etc. belonging to the church. Such a document was completed at Barwick by Rev. WH Bathurst and other notables on 5 September 1825. Comparison of the handwriting with that in his bible indicates clearly that it was copied out by William Batty. It lists the 'dues' which could be collected by the rector, the sexton and the clerk, the last being recorded below.
Clerks Dues
s. d.
Registering a Child's Name 4
A Marriage by License (sic) 50
A Marriage by Banns 16
A Burial in the Quire 68
A Burial in the Church 34
A Burial in the Churchyard 6
A Psalm at a Funeral 6
A Publication in the Churchyard for Strangers 4
A Publication for business that belongs not the Parish Affairs 4
Clerk's Easter Dues 4

With his clerk's salary from three local institutions, the above dues and his income from shoemaking, William Batty must have been a relatively affluent member of the Barwick community.

He died on 27 February 1837 and his grave stone in Barwick churchyard commemorates him and his first wife Mary. The stone has been moved from its original position and now forms part of the footpath on the southern part of the church. Tread gently!

The story ends in tragedy as described in Rector Bathurst's Log-book:
"1837. William Batty the Parish-clerk dying 27 February, I appointed his son John Batty in his place."

"28 December 1840 Dismissed John Batty, the Clerk, for misconduct, he having been seen intoxicated at the public house - and appointed Richard Batty (of a different family - Ed.) in his place. John Batty afterwards forsook his wife and family and was not heard of for several years. His wife gradually lost her reason and at the end of the year 1848 was sent to Wakefield asylum."


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