Diary extracts as a Somerset curate

The series of Diary extracts falls into five groups on separate pages, reflecting Woodforde's career: Oxford undergraduate; Somerset curate; College fellow; Norfolk rector; Tourist.

In each extract the first part is a faithful transcription of the original manuscript, as published in the Parson Woodforde Society's edition in seventeen volumes. The diarist's line-breaks in his manuscript are retained. The second part is a transcription in modern English, with revised punctuation and spelling and set as continuous prose.

In these glimpses into Woodforde's daily life we see him as a young man newly ordained and graduated from Oxford University. He returned to his West Country roots to serve the Somerset parishes of Ansford and Castle Cary as his father's curate 1764–71.

He lived with his younger brother John, known as Jack, in another family home. This was the Elizabethan or Jacobean Lower House, later known as Ansford House (seen below), of the same honey-coloured stone as his parsonage birthplace nearby. Its attractive thatched roof proved its undoing, and it burned down in April 1892 when a chimney caught fire: Parson Woodforde Society Journal vol. 40 no. 1 (Spring 2007).


The Lower House, Ansford c.1860: James Woodforde's home as a curate James Woodforde's home as a curate: the Lower House at Ansford c.1860, before its destruction by fire in 1892. The diarist was often very unhappy here, exposed to the drunkenness of his irresponsible younger brother John [from the sketch book of Alexander John Woodforde (1839–1909), a grandson of 'Nephew Bill': Parson Woodforde Society Collection]

Conducts first marriage service, 4 December 1764 Ansford Old Parsonage: Woodforde's Somerset birthplace and family home often visited by the Parson Woodforde SocietyAnsford Old Parsonage: the diarist's Somerset birthplace and family home often visited by the Parson Woodforde Society [photo Margaret Bird 2021]

Farmer John Jukes of Meer, aged about 80 was married
this Morning at Ansford Church to Mrs Simpson of
this Parish aged about 70. by me Js Woodforde –
Mem: This is the first Couple I ever married –
I recd for marrying the above Couple - 0 – 5 - 0

Farmer John Jukes of Meer [Mere, Wiltshire], aged about 80, was married this morning at Ansford Church to Mrs Simpson of this parish, aged about 70, by me James Woodforde. Memorandum: This is the first couple I ever married. I received for marrying the above couple £0 5s 0d.

Extempore prayers for a dying parishioner, 14 April 1767

I read Prayers this morning again at C. Cary Church -
I prayed for poor James Burge this morning, out of my own head,
hearing he was just gone of almost in a Consumption.
It occasioned a great tremulation in my voice at the time -
I went after Prayers and saw him, & he was but just alive -
He was a very good sort of young man & much respected -
It was the Evil which was stopped & then fell upon his Lungs -
Grant O Almighty God, that he may be eternally happy hereafter -
I dined, supped and spent the Evening at Parsonage -

I read Prayers this morning again at Castle Cary Church. I prayed for poor James Burge this morning, out of my own head, hearing he was just gone off almost in a consumption. It occasioned a great tremulation in my voice at the time.

I went after Prayers and saw him, and he was but just alive. He was a very good sort of young man and much respected. It was the Evil [King's Evil] which was stopped and then fell upon his lungs. Grant, O Almighty God, that he may be eternally happy hereafter.

I dined, supped and spent the evening at parsonage.

John Wilkes's release from prison, 18 April 1770 The prominent radical John Wilkes MP, FRS; his release from prison was greeted with joy at Castle CaryThe prominent radical John Wilkes MP, FRS (1725–97) ['John Glynn, John Wilkes and John Horne Tooke after Richard Houston' (detail): copyright National Portrait Gallery, London.] The original may be viewed here: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/advanced-search.php: search for NPG 1944.

I dined at old Mr Willm Burgess being the day of Mr Wilkes's en=
=largement, and spent the Afternoon and former Part of the
Evening there . . .
Cary Bells rung all Day upon the Occasion, two British
Flaggs also displayed, one at Cary Cross & another on Cary
Tower, a Hgshd of Cyder given to the Populace at the Cross.
Many Loyal Toasts & worthy Men drank upon the Occasion
and Mr Burgess House handsome illuminated in the evening
The Flagg on the Tower had on it Liberty & Property.

I dined at old Mr William Burgess['s], being the day of Mr Wilkes's enlargement [release], and spent the afternoon and former [first] part of the evening there . . . Castle Cary bells rung all day upon the occasion, two British flags also displayed, one at Cary Cross and another on Cary tower [Castle Cary church tower], a hogshead of cider given to the populace at the cross. Many loyal toasts and worthy men drank [drunk] upon the occasion and Mr Burgess['s] house handsomely illuminated in the evening. The flag on the tower had on it 'Liberty & Property'.

Woodforde contemplates marriage 25 September 1771

I went this morning to Shepton-Mallet in our Chaise, to
dine with Mr Wickham which I did with him, his wife
and one Mr Hughes who is Curate of Shepton-
I carried Miss Betsy White and little Jacky White with
me and brought them both back with us to Ansford –
I had hard work to prevail on Mrs White of Shepton to let
Miss White return with me, but she did at last –
She is a sweet tempered Girl indeed and I like her much,
and I think would make a good Wife, I do not know but
I shall make a bold stroke that way –

I went this morning to Shepton Mallet in our Chaise, to dine with Mr Wickham which I did with him, his wife and one Mr Hughes who is Curate of Shepton. I carried Miss Betsy White and little Jacky White with me and brought them both back with us to Ansford. I had hard work to prevail on Mrs White of Shepton to let Miss White return with me, but she did at last. She is a sweet-tempered girl indeed and I like her much, and I think would make a good wife. I do not know but I shall make a bold stroke that way.