Place, practice and identity in eighteenth-century rural England
Alistair Mutch examines administrative practices in eighteenth century rural parishes, using the evidence of churchwardens’ records from the Deanery of Bingham, Nottinghamshire, complemented by details of parish life from contemporary diaries. Churchwardens were part of the ‘middling sort’, elite parish office holders whose freedom in devising their own administrative practices meant patterns of accountability often varied considerably between parishes. These practices depended much on the personal character of the office holder, whose degree of local autonomy reproduced a very ‘Anglican form of authority’. Churchwardens’ stewardship of money and conduct of accounts meetings had a personal, sociable dimension which contrasted with the rigorous, disciplined ‘forms of accountability’ associated with kirk sessions in Scotland during the same period, and these distinctive patterns of administrative order deserve greater attention, because of their potential to offer new perspectives on emerging notions of national identity and difference.