Extract from The History of the Church of All Saints Northampton.
BY THE REV. R. M. SERJEANTSON, M.A. 1901
From a very early period of church history the three days preceding Ascension day were set apart as a fitting time for beseeching God's blessing upon the growing crops.
Processions chanting litanies, which "perambulated" the boundaries of the parish were the chief features of the ceremonial. Two principal objects were kept in view prayer to God for the
growing produce of the earth and the due preservation of the parish boundaries. Unfortunately, in later times the religious element to a great extent dropped out, and the ceremony
degenerated into a mere "beating of the bounds "' There are several references to this custom in the Vestry books of All Saints. In the middle of the eighteenth
century the parishioners appear to have considered that the churchwardens were too lavish in their expenditure on Perambulation day, for on February 20th, 1745-6, they adopted
the following resolution :
Agreed that no churchwardens ever for the future expend at the Preambling Dinner more than Five Pounds, if so to be their own charge.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century we get an * It is interesting to note that in many parts of the country at the present day the attempts to revive the religious ceremony have proved
highly successful. An exceedingly interesting account of the order of procedure at a Perambulation. It is entered in the Vestry book, and gives us a very precise account of the parish boundaries.
Order of Perambulation on Holy Thursday, May 28th, 1829, Messrs. P. Phipps and Thos. Sharp, Churchwardens.
From the Church to Flying Horse Inn yard to upper stable ; to the yard of Mr. M. Smith's House, end of the Kitchen wall ; to the end of Messrs. Miller and Marshall's house in Abington Street ; to the wall
dividing the Town hall and Saracen's head Inn, Abington Street ; to Dychurch Lane, in at the stable door of Messrs. Greville's, down the yard to the end of the back wall of the Saracen's head stable ;
to the Black Boy back gate, down the yard to about the centre of stable wall ; to the upper end wall of the house of Mr- Thos. Garratt St. Gyles' Square ; across the Square, thro* the house of
Mr. W. Gates, out at Back door close to which is the Cross in Goal lane. Down Cow lane into Cow Meadow, keeping to the left cross by the side of Mr. Taylor's, old Freeman's and old Osborn's walls
into the New Walk,straight down to Vigo ; cross over the cistern ; from thence down the Meadow, close by the Brook ; over the lease* to Bridge Wall ; into the Meadow keeping close to the River ;
over the Wooden Bridge into Calves holme; across to the low shot house; take boat, proceed along River, thro' the southernmost arch of South Bridge ; along the Brook by the Osier Bed
to Cotton Mill, taking in Foot Meadow ; from the Bush opposite the 11 foot washing place, south of Mr. Allen's garden, to the Cotton Mill yard ; thro' the back premises to Northern Bank of River at Mill Head,
taking nearly the whole of Miss Adkins and Perry's Garden ; across the hedge to corner of the New Tenement in the occupation of William Lawson, shoemaker, taking in his house and all the tenements
on the North and N. East of his to Mill Lane; to nearly the south east end of the Wall of close in occupation of Mr. Willson, Horsedealer ; to the uppermost corner of Narrow toe lane on the right hand side.
Along to Free School Lane to corner of House in occupation of Mr. Yeates, attorney at Law in Mare Fair. Westward along Mare Fair to corner of Quart Pot Lane ; along the same to the end of stone wall of
Castle hill Meeting Burying ground ; thro' the burying ground to the end of stone wall in Chalk Lane, taking in the school and part of yard. Proceeding from Chalk Lane west of Castle Hill, along the narrow lane
leading to the cold bath, to the corner of Lane in Bath Street, taking in the whole of South Side of Bath Street ; from the corner of Narrow Lane to corner of house in the occupation of Mr. Wright, wheelwright,
standing in the Mayorhold and Horse Market ; along Silver street taking in the west side ; round the Fountain corner along Bradshaw street, taking in the south side to the wall dividing the house of Mr. Jones,
Gentleman, and the Plumbers Arms Public house in Sheep street ; down Sheep street, up Mr. Ponts the coachmakers yard to the wood shed on east side of yard ; to Mr. Jeyes's The Town clerks office,
or the wall dividing his office and Mr. Butchers stable in Newland; across to the wall dividing Mr. Terry's close and Miss Sandford's house ; down Newland to the Peacock yard, to the dunghill and uppermost stable.
The crowded state of the churchyard of All Saints is alluded to as early as 1633, in a curious work by aNorthampton Physician, entitled The Diet of the Diseased. Speaking of the injury done to the health of the
living by the too frequent interments in town churches and cemeteries, where " often-times new graves are digged for new guests, before the old inhabitants be quite metamorphosed into their mother mold," the
learned doctor goes on to say " Sure I am this great church of All Saints in this towne, was already this last Sommer so fraught ful of dead corps, that it was a hard matter to finde a place to digge a new grave ; and
yet since that time how many have beene buried, there are a many witnesses. And so good Church-men would many be after their death, who in their life time cared but little for comming at the Church assemblies ;
that if they be of any ranke or means, they must needs lye inthe chancell at the least : and then after a superstitious conceit, many it may be, thinke they shall be the welcomer to heaven. But they will finde, I warrant
them, that they reckoned without their host/' It was probably in order to check this evil that on January 4th, 1643-4 tne Vestry passed the following resolution :
It is ordered that such inhabitants as shall hereafter depart this present life in this parish and their friends shall desire their corps to be buried, they shall pay such rates as hereafter foloweth, for those that shalbe
buried in the church or chauncel double the rate that was paide before, and for those that shalbe buried in the churchyard twentie pence and for straungers that shalbe buried in the church or chauncell, double the
rate they paid before and [those] that shalbe buried in the churchyard iijs. iiijd. a corps and the old accustomed fees for the knoling of the bell to the sexton and clerk not to be altered. And for such as shall not be
willing to pay their rate, their corps shalbe buried in St. Katharin's churchyard, where shalbe noe suche charge then for opening the ground and knoling the bell.
It is ordered that all persons that shalbe buried in this parish or St. Katharin's shall pay sixe pence to the curate and straungers xii. which several rates shalbe sent beforehand to the clerk to be given to the curate
or els if the curate be absent to doe his office at anie buriall it shalbe no default in him.
Four years later, April 3rd, 1648, it was ordered That the old grave stones and the new latelie sett up in the churchyard being to annoyance, shalbe fourthwith taken downe, and the upper flatt
stones of them to be laide over the graves. In 1650 the Vestry came to the foliowing extraordinary resolution :
April i5th, 1650. It is agreed that Edward Cocker shall have a piece of ground in the churchyard . . . tenn yards in length and in bredth within a foot of the chauncel to build upon to ad to his shop for xci. years
upon the rent of iijs- iiij In March, 1657, it was ordered that If any poore prisoner dye in the Gaole, that he shall be buried in the churchyard of All S*s, payinge to the sexton for tolling the litle bell and
makeinge the grave twelve pence. On March 15th, 1757, in order to increase the burying accommodation of the parish, the Vestry ordered That the ground commonly call'd St. Mary's churchyard be taken
by the Parishioners of the Revd. Mr. Frost, Vicar, for a Burying ground.
In 1786 a determined attempt was made to carry into effect the resolution of the Vestry passed in 1648, but which had long since fallen into abeyance. A Vestry
meeting was accordingly held on May 22nd and it was Ordered that the proprietors of the Tombstones in the Front churchyard
be applied to by the churchwarden, to desire leave to take them down at the parish expence.
The above order was complied with ; some consented and some did not. On September i3th, 1787, it was ordered by the Vestry That the churchwarden do take down and lay flat all the tomb and
gravestones in the front churchyard and level the ground, and that in future no new ones be erected. Ed. Cox. Ch. Warden.
The above order was complied with, and all gravestones which stood upright and all tombstones, where the owners had consented, were taken down, and the large flat stones on the top of the tombstones
were laid upon the grave, even with the surface of the ground, and the proper inscriptions cut on each stone. As, however,some few of the parishioners had not consented to the
above order, it was agreed that their gravestones or tombs were to remain untouched, but that when any of these were taken down by the relatives to bury their dead,
they should not be erected again, but laid flat with the ground. Upon the death of Mrs. Mary Hill, her executors took down one of these tombs which had remained
untouched, and buried her thereunder, on the 8th of March, 1795. The Vestry met on March i6th, 1795, and then ordered That a tombstone of the late Mrs. Mary Hill's which has lately been
taken down, shall not be rebuilt, but that the stone be laid flat with the ground, and that in future any other that is taken down shall not be
rebuilt, but also laid flat. John Hall, Ch. Warden. In conformity with the above order, the vicar sent a notice to the executors, forbidding the rebuilding of the tomb. The grave was filled in with earth,
and in this state remained for five or six weeks, when the churchwarden ordered the large, flat stone to be laid on the surface, like the other graves. On May 15th, the executors
set masons to work to take up the stone and rebuild the tomb, but the churchwarden prohibited them. On May 1 6th, the executors ordered the mason (Mellowes)
to proceed with the work and he, having from them a writing to indemnify him, finished it the same day. The next day (Sunday) the churchwarden (Mr. Birdsall)
called a Vestry to meet on or before 12 o'clock on Monday. What occurred at this meeting is not recorded, but eventually it was decided to apply to the bishop's
court for a faculty to level all the gravestones in the front churchyard. The petitioners for this faculty recite that Several tombstones are broken down, moultering into dust and disgustful
in the extreme, in the midst of the town where four streets meet. . If these stones were taken down and the ground levelled, there would be no stones breast high for the butcher lads to whet
their cleavers against no skulking places for loiterers in the ch. yd. in service time on Sundays to lurk behind. In short, cleanliness, decency, and good order in the
Center of this town where so many improvements have lately been made, require that these obstructions should be removed. We therefore Pray
that the Petition for the Faculty which we have sued for may be granted. In 1817, as the difficulty of finding burial accommodation for the parishioners still continued, it was recommended
to the vicar "to remove and take away the Trees in the churchyard, in order to make more room for sepulture of the dead."
Forty years later it was deemed necessary in the interest of the public health to prohibit any further interments in the churchyard of All Saints (except in certain
specified cases) and an order to that effect was granted by the Queen in council in 1857.
In 1871, the Northampton Improvement Commissioners, with a view to the widening of the lower end of the Drapery, obtained an Act of Parliament authorizing them to cut off and
secularize a portion of the west end
of the churchyard of All Saints, and the work was carried out in the autumn of the same year.