following has been transcribed from a document in the archives which we
think was written around 1948 by “J.B.N.” whom we believe to be James
Novem. ye 8th
“Collected by the churchwardens of Wonersh Parish for and toward the
redemption of English captives taken by Turkish Pyrates.”
The above is an extract
from the Parish Register under that date. Remarkable words to come across
in the dry and dusty tomes of the church ledgers.
“For the redemption of
English captives taken by Turkish Pyrates.” The word “Pyrates” conjures up
visions of sailors with highly coloured handkerchiefs around their heads, of
earrings in their ears, the Jolly Roger at the mast head, and blood on the
poop. But “Turkish Pyrates” – horror upon horrors – it suggests dungeons,
harems, lean faces with hooked noses, a pitiless sun, and all the
refinements of cruelty – at least that is what it obviously stood for to the
good men of Wonersh in the year 1671.
Great Tangley, in the
person of Lady Duncombe, heads the list with one pound. Doubtless Sir
Francis would have done so too had he not died almost exactly one year
previously. It was also represented by Miss Margaret Carryll, a relative of
Lady Duncombe, who gave five shillings. The vicar the Rev. Thomas Quincie,
comes third on the list with the same amount – a very substantial sum for a
parson in those days. Then followed ten shillings from Henry Chennell,
gent. Below them are a hundred and nine names with sums varying from half a
crown to one penny.
One strange thing stands
out from a study of the names of that list. Twenty one people were women
but only one man and his wife gave their collection jointly. His name was
Richard Chennel, but we know of a certainty that he was the miller and lived
at the Mill House, where Chennels had succeeded Tickners in the year 1576.
All the others, like Bathsheeba Ested, were either widows or spinsters. All
hail therefore to Richard Chennel of the Mill, who was first to raise his
wife to the dignity of modern equality.
One thing I am unable to
understand and that is how the congregation got packed into Wonersh Church.
It is to be remembered – that in spite of infantile mortality – families
frequently reached double figures and that their wives - who would certainly
be there on that occasion – had also to be accommodated. The seating
capacity of the present nave is, I think, about 150, so that the total
number of human beings then in the church must have been very considerable.
It is the nearest approach
to the early church that Wonersh got. Remember that a man’s wages amounted
to a copper or two a day and a long day at that. Richard Doleing of The
Street, Wonersh, gave twice the rent of his house for a year. It was only
six-pence, but it was two years rent to Richard*.
Little did Thomas Tickner,
the weaver, who lived in Wonersh Street** who was 62 years old and who could
not even sign his name*** think, as he clutched his six-pence tightly in
the pocket of his smock, that 277 years afterwards, people would read of him
being in the congregation; little did he think that that same six-pence,
which something within him urged was his duty as a Christian and as an
Englishman to give, would be written about two and three quarters centuries
And the Rev. Thomas
Quincie – was he pleased with the collection when he handed over £6.7.10 to
Archdeacon John Holland of Guildford**** on the 8th December . As
his horse jogged along Chinthurst Lane towards Shalford did he pat the
ransom money in his wide pockets and realise that he was setting out on the
strangest journey that a vicar of Wonersh had ever undertaken? Did he
realise that the other end of his journey led through tall Arab doors into a
room with little furniture but many carpets where the Bey of Tunis sat
smoking a Hookah?
Did Mrs. Chennel from the
Mill House, as she was accompanied by her husband and her five grown up
children, Richard, Robert and John, Elizabeth and Mary, talk of the horrors
of a Turkish prison as her family made their way toward the church, down
what was known as “West Lane”, and past the house occupied by Mr. Hurren
nearly three centuries later?
“Captives of Turkish
Pyrates” – the words were whispered among the women, and Thomas Tickner
thought about them as he sat at his loom. The children grew roundeyed and
frightened when they heard their parents talking in hushed voices, and for
many months afterwards a Wonersh child would lie awake at night conjuring up
the horrors conveyed by the words “Turkish Pyrates”.
And the captives
themselves? Investigation tells us that they were taken either into Algiers
or Tunis. English sailors thrust into some fetid dungeon till death or
their ransom money released them. Where was their ransom money to
come from? What rich friends had they in the slums of Wapping or
Portsmouth? Little did they know that Thomas Tickner of The Street,
Wonersh, Surrey sat holding six-pence in his weaver’s fist and that he had
been toiling hour by hour to earn the money that would set them free.
Two things have come down
to us from that dim, forgotten past. First, the record of the whole thing,
locked away for centuries in the register of the parish, and second, the
spirit of Thomas Tickner, weaver and gentleman, who, because he was a
Christian and an Englishman, counted not the cost but gave of his mite that
his brothers might be free men.
* Richard Doleing’s rent
is known from the rent roll of Great Tangley, which is in my possession.
** Thomas Tickner was
really a weaver, and really lived in Wonersh Street.
*** At a meeting of the
Parishers to elect a church warden, he is noted as being present and made
his mark in the register.
**** The receipt to
Archdeacon John Holland is noted in the register.
above article appeared in Wonersh History Society Bulletin Number 40.