Parish registers of births, marriages and deaths only became a legal requirement in 1837, but Bishop’s Registers which listed baptisms and burials, started in 1209. Annually copies of parish register entries should have been sent to the Bishop, where they were collated and became registers in their own right. Bishop’s Registers are therefore a duplicate of each parishs’ registers.
The Wiltshire Family History Society, which publishes extracts from the Bishop’s Transcripts and Parish Registers, has covered Fovant baptisms and burials from 1541 to 1837. From our copy of this publication we note that in the decade 1540–50 alone, several baptisms are listed for children of the Barter, Feltham, Nightingale and Martyn families, and burials for the same period reflect the same family names. Our earliest recorded headstone is for Grace Jay, wife of Thomas, born 1688, died 1770. The inscriptions on many of these early headstones are indecipherable, but some can be discerned by use of a brass-rubbing technique.
Similarly, many parishes kept marriage registers well before the legal requirement to do so. Fovant marriage registers also date from 1541. During this very early period, familiar surnames such as Barter, Strong, Feltham, Hayward, Nightingale and Martyn often feature. By the 19th century, however, many of these names have disappeared, to be replaced by more currently familiar surnames like Wyatt, Goodfellow, Hardiman, Lever, Jarvis, Simper, Coombs or Jay.
The Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre at Chippenham holds all but the current registers and we have been able to get copies of parts of some of the early registers – as follows:
- The Banns of marriage called at Fovant Church 1824–73
- Fovant marriages 1541–1632, 1800–36, 1837–1903
- Fovant baptisms 1800–59
Almost certainly other Parish records exist of which we are at the moment unaware. As we discover any that are new to us we will add them to this page.