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Incidents from Tilebury's History

Dr Harriet Longstepp

1 April

The Village Stocks.

As I walk around the Village it is really lovely to hear from so many people I meet how much you enjoy reading these little stories of interesting events in our past. Most people understand that history cannot be an exact science and that sometimes it is necessary to smooth over some of the gaps with the best interpretation and inference available to us so the known facts hang together.

Also I think you will agree that it doesn't harm anyone if that makes the story all the more interesting.

Village Stocks

This week I wanted to draw people's attention to the Village stocks. Many walk past them every day in the marketplace and only ever give thought to them when midsummer fayre is on and some unfortunate public figure volunteers to be locked up and have sponges thrown at them. I am told that this ritual has not happened since the year when a lighter element chose to throw candyfloss at alderman Cornelius.

Nonetheless, many famous wrists and heads have been confined in those stocks. I spent a merry afternoon looking down the old court records (Tilebury Court Rooms were actually not situated in the tea room currently bearing that name. They were on the site of the William Jenns school before being demolished in 1976) to see who had been sentenced to spend market day in the stocks and why. One series of examples really caught my attention - especially in light of our current Vicar's name.

In 1852 Elijah Everrett was sentenced to have his hair shaved and to be confined to the stocks for daring to suggest that a woman (his mother) should be permitted to deliver a sermon in the church while the parson was unable to oblige due to nervous shock. Elijah is reputed to have said "She gives a right good lecture when you're naughty. I think someone other than me should hear it."

A week later his mother Margaret Everrett was duly confined to the stocks. Apparently she and her friends broke into the church at midnight and she delivered her sermon (which was more contentious than moral). Then they had an orgy which included drinking all the communion wine from the ecclesiastical silverware. Margaret was sentenced to three hours on market day for the sermon. The orgy attracted no earthly punishment although fine words were said about the wages she would receive in the afterlife for such behaviour.

Her son Elijah was back in the stocks the next week. His crime this time was saying that his mother's activities in the church had proven she was more a man than the parson had ever been. The parson did not give evidence as he had left suddenly to take up a post in Winchester. Apparently he never gave another sermon in the church.

I asked the Rev Everett about these individuals but she didn't know if they were her anscestors. She didn't seem to think it was such a good thing to be dredging up.

I should say that the first records of the stocks date from the sixteenth century and they were almost certainly in use before then. Consequently it is amazing that they are still in such good condition today.

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