The Tudor period
The Tudor period was not one of church building; rather, the lead and stone was taken from abbey churches for the gentlemen's seats or yeomen's farms; as the antimonastic feeling developed, and the ideal of life moved from that of the cloister to that of a religious family life, ruined abbeys and monasteries began to appear everywhere; soon there would be no nobles, abbots and priors; the squire, lawyer, merchant and yeoman were the "new men", who threw off the old feudal ideals, became Protestants, exalted marriage and the religious home, and dedicated work and farming to God.
There were many household improvements in family dwellings, and chimneys were built instead of the old reredos, in much more ordinary homes than before; pewter was used instead of wood for plates, but there were still no forks and no china.
In Harwell, the church, having been completed already by 1310, when a new chancel replaced the older one, was not altered; but bells were added, or old ones replaced, and these are still proudly used by Harwell's bellringers.
The ring of six, the oldest in existence, was rehung and increased to eight in 1932.
The oldest bells are inscribed as follows:
Third Humfrie Loder gave this bell, 1611, WY Fourth Praise ye the Lorde, 1590, JC Fifth This bell was made 1611, WY Sixth This bell was made 1612, WY Seventh This bell was made in the Yeare of our Lorde, 1597, JC Tenor This bell was made 1612, WY
The initials refer to William Yare of Reading and his father-in-law, Joseph Carter.
The new religion which came into effect after the Reformation not only allowed but encouraged the clergy to marry and have their families. A new house for the incumbent was built in Tudor times, on the site of the present (1984) Rectory, so presumably the authorities must have intended their clergyman to live in comparative comfort with his family, though not all the parishioners would have been very happy about the new situation. Anthony Fletcher gives a very good idea of conditions in the church at this time, in chapter seven of his book Elizabethan Village:
"The prayer book that we still use now was then very new to people... Henry VIII (1509 -1547) ordered that a Bible in English should be put in every church for anyone to read for himself After a few years people with little education began to have such strange ideas from reading the Bible themselves that the King ordered that only gentlemen might read it, to their families at home.
In Edward VI's reign (1547 - 1553) the churches were stripped of all the crucifixes, statues and rich altar cloths.
Then came Queen Mary (1553 -1558) who restored the old ways, and many people were glad ... Joan Alison, who died in January 1558, left: to the high altar of Harwell 4d. to the rood light and the bells 2 bushels of barley.
On 28 November of the same year Queen Elizabeth rode into London. Mary had died eleven days before. Again a new government sent out its orders to the villages. Once again the Pope was banished and England became Protestant. Images of saints were to be destroyed, churches were to be bare again. In Berkshire as in other counties the changes were carried out slowly and reluctantly."
Through all the changes ordained by the great, many ordinary Harwell people kept a simple faith; yeoman families could sit near the front of the church, but most of the husbandmen and labourers had to stand for the service; there was a fine of 1s. for anyone in a household not attending church on Sunday; Margaret and John Jennens had ten or eleven children to shepherd into place; there is a memorial to them in the church dated 1599. John Jennens was a yeoman:
"He made a steady profit from selling his corn at the local markets and was able to build himself a comfortable house in Jenning's Lane. His inventory showed that when he died in 1599 his goods were worth £273. There were some eight or ten yeoman families in Harwell at this time. Most of them were not as rich as John Jennens, but they occupied new and large houses of five or more rooms. ... There were the Popes, the Wises and Keats. ... When Thomas Pope died (in Harwell) in 1539 he owed £6 to the Bishop of Winchester in rent, and he had not paid his farm servants up to date... but by about 1590 his grandchildren were among the richest farmers in the village, and able to call themselves yeomen."
However, not everyone in Harwell was a yeoman:
"Most of the cruck cottages with their yards and outhouses... were occupied by husbandmen like John Woodley, men renting only twenty or thirty acres of land."
These men had houses of only two rooms, one for living and one for sleeping, with stools where yeomen had chairs, and wooden platters instead of pewter. Yet this house was comfortable compared with the labourer's small dark cottage where his family had to cook, eat, live and sleep in the same room.
At this time, the richest yeomen in Harwell were the Loders. In only four generations they rose in social status from husbandmen to gentlemen. This is their pedigree, included not for snobbish reasons, but to show which of them was the author of the well-known Farm Accounts.
Richard Loder paid rent for Prince's Manor farm in 1525, but under Queen Mary he was able to buy the property; his son John grew up on a large and flourishing farm of about 300 acres of arable land, with an enclosure of sixty-five acres for sheep on the Downs, at a place called Awfield, now probably Aldfield; he also held extensive orchards and paddocks, and large barns and outhouses were part of the farm.
The Robert Loder (Robert III) whose farm account book we have, inherited all this too, and gave us the first book produced in Harwell not written by clergymen or lawyers; he kept it from 1610 - 1620; although it is an account of expenses, Robert Loder meant to account for more than money; he had to keep his figure accounts, but if these were not always quite accurate, it was because of his interest in accounting for the farm. His methods must have improved the land and kept it in good heart in spite of setbacks, and he learnt all the time by his mistakes. At the opening of his book he writes:
"A Book (for my) Remembrance: what seed and barly I yearly sowe and (how mu)uch I wennow and sell in the same yeare. Item what h(ay) I ha(v)e yearely growing: Item what I make per annum of the Leases which I let in the Hame; and what of those in the South March (Marsh); Item how my quite rentes are yearely pay'd me; Item of the valew in some yeares of my aples and cherries). Item of the quantitie of wolle which I have yearely growing; and how many shep I sheare for it..."
By the end of the ten-year period he had done what he set out to do; and he learnt that it was better profit in all ways to grow wheat than barley. Barley was made into malt for beer, which was drunk a great deal, as the drinking water was not to everybody's taste, and there was no tea or coffee; wheat of course was milled for flour, which was essential for bread. Besides wheat and barley, he grew pulses and vetches; in his orchards were cherries, pears, apples and damsons. His horses were of vital importance to the farm; they needed food, care and harness, but they were used for all traction and for riding, and produced valuable dung for the fields.
His pigeon-house was another source of income, and he needed all his profits, for though he began his farming life as a bachelor, he soon married. His household furnishings included a safe, courtcoubert, chair for his chamber; also pieplates, a dripping pan, a bolt of sackcloth and a "musterd mill"; groceries needed were candles, oatmeal, salt, fruit (raisins, currants and prunes), spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace), starch for Whitsuntide, rice and sugar; his confidence led him to remark "I think it were a good course to buy salt and sope and fruit (yf we could) at London."
The English weather was a topic in 1613, as today: "This was the wettest yeare that had bine knowne in many yeares before, for in this was the great landflode." Wet weather caused ravages among the sheep, which suffered rot.
Predators made off with some of the profits: mice attacked the stored grain, "wants" (moles) made "wanting" the fields costly, and there was a suspicion of misplaced funds at home: over £5 was lost.
"What should be the cause hereof I know not, but it was in that yeare when R. Pearce and Alce were my servants, and then in great love (as it appeared too well). whether he gave it to my horses... or how it went away) God onely knoweth.
Memorandum et Cavendum est hoc.
It may be, possibly, that I mistoke the setting down of X qtrs (or some) at one time or other; which I doe not think, because I never did, to my knowledge."
Charity was an obligation: "1612. Payments to the pore of our towne" at Easter and at Christmas, and these payments recur throughout the ten years of the accounts. A more sinister tax had been taken in 1611: "What I paid towardes the House of Correction." However, there were ways of dodging unpleasant duties: "I give the Baylye yearely a bushell of mault (to keep me from Sessions)".
His successes and failures he set down to Almighty God, sometimes with a certain wryness:
"the Lord blesseth as it pleaseth Him, His mercies be magnif_ied for these and all other His blessings, for they are more than we doe deserve. Amen."
Anthony Fletcher, in his book Elizabethan Village, shows that we can learn much about life in Harwell from Robert Loder's accounts.