THE BEADLE has been researching the history of his ancient office, and has come up with the following:
“Beadles’ duties varied from parish to parish and ranged from acting as a kind of parochial town crier to a position of power more akin to a village constable. In larger parishes they had overall charge of the night watchmen, setting their hours and ensuring that they turned up for duty. A typical list of tasks was:
To keep order in the parish; to prevent the lurking of beggars and vagabonds; to keep general order and to prevent youths and boys from disturbing the peace by noisy sports, playing, gaming and general mischief.
The beadle would also attend church as part of his duties, ensuring churchgoers were attentive to the sermon and reprimanding noisy children and adults who talked during the service. He was also a kind of latter-day traffic warden, ensuring horses and carriages did not cause problems when parked outside the church. In Sunbury, Middlesex, in 1858 the beadle was in charge of the fire engine!
Many beadles, but certainly not all, received an annual salary plus various fees. They would also receive an annual allowance for a uniform, which generally consisted of a cloak and hat. The parish would own the staff of office, which he carried on duty.
[From an article on 'Parish Officials' by Colin Waters in issue 58 of Your Family Tree magazine. Reproduced by permission.]