Payments for Vermin

The book of Longhope Churchwardens’ and Overseers’ Accounts (at Gloucestershire Archives) covers much of the 18th century, but with some years missing. The type of information included varies over the years, latterly being mainly concerned with payments for work done or payments to those in need (both parishioners and strangers).

In 1725 the payments were largely to individuals who had killed birds and animals classed as vermin, as this section, just part of the list for the year, indicates (with “young Will Pitman” seeming to be one of the main vermin collectors):


Bullfinch with blossom

It is interesting to see which creatures were classed as vermin. Most names here are recognisable to us, but two are not in general use today: fitcher was a polecat, and hoop was a west-country word for bullfinch, perhaps the most surprising of creatures to have a bounty on its head. Apparently bullfinches have a liking for buds from trees and shrubs, and have therefore been considered as pests in orchards. It is said that in the mid 16th century Henry VIII condemned them for their ‘criminal attacks’ on fruit trees, following which an Act of Parliament declared that one penny would be paid for every bird killed. Indeed, one penny seems to have been the payment at Longhope in 1725.


From Longhope churchwardens’ and overseers’ accounts, P206 CW 2/1