A parish document declaring that the infant Ann Wild has been buried only in sheep wool, the document is dated 1743 with wood-engraving of a skull at head and a skeleton in a coffin in margin, printed text with manuscript insertions, hole not affecting text, margins torn with loss, folds, browned and stained. The document has been mounted and framed in a mid Victorian gesso, ebonised and gilt edged frame (some minor loses)
The documents reads as follows
"Maragret Wild of the parish of Letcombe Regis in the county of Berkshire maketh oath, that Ann Wild Infant of the parish of Letcombe Regis in the same county lately deceased, was not put in, wrapt or wound up, or buried in any shirt, shift, sheet or shroud, made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or other than what is made of sheeps wool only, nor in any coffin lined or faced with any cloth, stuff, or any other thing what soever made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold, silver, or any other material, contrary to the late act of parliament for burrying in woollen, but sheeps wool only. Dated the 24th day of July in the 16th year of the reign of our sovereign lord George the second by the grace of god of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, king defender of the faith, and in the year of our lord god, 1743
Sealed and subscribed be us who where present and witnesses to the swearing of the the above said affidavit Smith"
For centuries the woollen trade had been important to the wealth and prosperity of England, but with the introduction of new materials and foreign imports, some people thought that the industry was under threat.
Many of these sat in Parliament as members whose constituencies were in the woollen cloth and yarn producing areas, or as landowners whose incomes came from rents paid by tenants whose living relied on wool and sheep.
They combined together to pass an Act to try and maintain the demand for domestically produced wool. The first Act was passed in 1666, and the second, and rather more famous, in 1678 repealing the first. Its aims were "for the lessening the importation of linen from beyond the seas, and the encouragement of the woollen and paper manufacturer of the kingdom."
The Act required that when a corpse was buried it should only be dressed in a shroud or garments made of wool.
"No corpse of any person (except those who shall die of the plague) shall be buried in any shift, sheet, or shroud, or anything whatsoever made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold, or silver, or in any stuff, or thing, other than what is made of sheep's wool only."
Failure to comply resulted in a £5 forfeiture. One-half of this went to the informer, the other half to poor of the parish where the body was buried. Within 8 days of the burial, an affidavit had to be provided attesting that the burial complied with the Act. The affidavit had to be sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace or Mayor by two creditable persons. If the parish did not have a JP or Mayor, the parson, vicar or curate could administer the oath.
In practice, the affidavit would often be sworn at the same time as the burial and certified by the officiating priest.
These affidavits took various form. Some appear in the parish registers, others as a separate register, or some on a specially printed form. Affidavits do survive in this form in the archives, but many were thrown loose in the bottom of the parish chest and subsequently destroyed.
This Act was obviously unpopular with many people as they wanted to buried in their finery as opposed to a cheaper garment or shroud in an off-white colour and of very thin material. Many were prepared to pay the £5, and a member of a family would become an informer so that in effect only half of the fine would be paid. This disgust at being buried in wool can be found ridiculed in literature. The Act was repealed in 1814, although long before then it had been largely ignored.
frame size 37cm in height, 33.5cm in width, 2.5cm in depth