1723 oath rolls for Poole borough

The returns for Poole (ref. DC/PL/B/10/1/9-14) comprise five sheets of parchment, each one headed with the texts of the oaths in English followed by Latin preambles announcing the date and place of subscription (usually the Guildhall, Poole). The subscriptions start on 9th Sept 1723. The latest is possibly 24th December, though some of the preambles are very faded. The total number of signatures and marks on the roll is approx 354 of which 111 were identifiable as women (so just under a third). Besides one note identifying an individual as notary public there are no other descriptions by names. In a number of places, women’s subscriptions seemed to be bunched together so that on some lists they represent the majority signing.

1723 oath rolls for Wareham

I’ve now had a chance to look at the 1723 oath roll for Wareham borough (Dorset Record Office, D RWR X25). The roll, consisting of six sheets of parchment, begins with the text of the three oaths to George I. It’s then followed by the Latin preamble recording the date and location of the special sessions of the peace at which the individuals listed on the roll subscribed. Most of the sessions were held at the Antelope Inn, Wareham and they range in date from 7th October 1723 to Christmas Day of that same year. There are a combination of signatures and marks, and the names of both men and women visible. A very quick tally suggests approx 399 signatories with c.102 of those women. Four of the six signatories at the last session appear to be members of the same family (surname Clarke). I will be looking at the return for Poole next week. Thanks to Jo Hearton at Dorset Record Office for scanned images of this roll.

Why did women swear in 1723?

One of the significant features of the 1723 oath rolls is the high number of women subscribers found on many returns (see the finding list for details). This letter from the earl of Aylesford to the earl of Dartmouth gives some indication as to why:

‘I hear from H. Weston to day, that the Lawyers at London, are of opinion, that all Persons are obliged to take the oaths, as well those who have an Interest in Land, as those who have not, apprehending that those who refuse or neglect, will lie under an incapacity to take an Estate hereafter tho’ at present they dont dream of any such good fortune. I think the Act may as well extend to this Case, as to some others that it is construed to extend to. – My wife will go to Warwick & swear, for fear of the worst.’

Dated Nov 28th 1723

Copyright Staffordshire Record Office,

Ref. D (W) 1778/I/ii/580 A/1.