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18th Century Penance


This document is kept at Cornwall Record Office and relates to everyday life in St Minver.  Although they are now long gone, I have removed their names as they performed their penance in public at the time.  It is included as an example of a simple document kept in the archives which portrays an extraordinary public punishment which took place in village life in the late 1700s.


To ** and ** his wife of the Parish of St Minver within the Archdeaconry of Cornwall

Whereas you have been prosecuted in the Archdeaconry Court of Cornwall

for the Crime of Bastardy

And Whereas you have submitted yourselves to the Censure of the said Court

having confessed the said Crime, you are therefore Enjoyned by the Authority of

the Worshipfull John Sleech Clerk Master of Arts, Archdeacon of

the Archdeaconry of Cornwall to Perform the Pennance following (that it to say)

That you shall on the next Sunday after the Receipt thereof in the fore noon

Immediately after the Reading of the Second Lesson enter into the South Door of

the said Church of St Minver

Barefooted and Bare Legged your Head uncovered and a White Sheet Hanging down

over your Shoulders,  and a White Rod in your Hands And shall pass through the

Middle Alley of the said Church so far forth as the Ministers Desk before which

You are to stand until the end of the Nicene Creed and at the End thereof you are

With an Audible Voice to say and repeat the words following (To wit)

         We ** and ** do humbly confess and

         Acknowledge that we have highly Offended Almighty God by

          Committing the foul sin of Fornication

and being thereby so Great a Scandal to the Church and Christian

Religion for which we do hereby declare our hearty Sorrow and Penitance and

Herein the presence of Almighty God and before this Congregation

Promise by Gods Assistance Amendment of Life for the future

Beseeching God to Pardon us and desireing you to pray for us

And thereupon you are with an Audible Voice to say and repeat the Lordís

Prayer upon your Knees and of your Performance hereof you are to bring to

the said Court an Authentick Certificate under the Hands of the Minister and

Churchwardens and two of the Principall in habitants of the said

Parish upon or before the Nineteenth day of June

next Ensuing Dated the Twenty third day of May in the year

of our Lord 1770

Agreeable to the Act of Court

As witnesseth

Geor. Brown



13th June 1770

**ís and wife

Pennance of St Minver

then returned with

a ceríate of it being





This is to certify that the within named ** and **  have done Pennance according to the Intent and Meaning of the within Process on the 24 day of May 1770

As witness our hands

J Thorne Min.r of St Minver

Samuell Hayns Church Wardens

John Thomas    Church Wardens           

Saml Symons

John Collings

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page created December 2010