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‘At the hour of 8 and 22 minutes at night…’

The use of a large family Bible to record the dates of births and deaths may not be especially unusual, but this Great Bible of 1553 goes one step further. The owner John Burgis has recorded not only the date but the precise time of birth of his six children, a much less common practice and one which perhaps offers some clues to the character of the man himself, who must have been at home for the births, as well as being the owner of some kind of timepiece.

The dates are recorded on a hand-drawn chart, beginning with John Burgis and his wife Ursala who were ‘… married the 30th day of November in the yeare of our Lord God 1633’. It continues with the dates, and remarkably detailed times, of the births and deaths of their children: John Burgis ‘was borne the 30th of December [1634], being Tuesday at the hour of 9 and a half in the morning’. His death is recorded on October 7 1641. Peter Burgis ‘was borne the 8th of September [1637], being Fryday, at the hour of 1 and a half in the morning’. Joyce Burgis ‘was borne the 30th of November [1638], being Fryday, half a quarter before 7 of the clock at night’. She died October 21 1641. John Burgis ‘the second was borne the 6th of December [1643, although this may be intended to read 1642], Wed, about 9 minutes before the hour of 11 at night’. He died on January 7 1643. John Burgis ‘the third of that name was borne the 28th of July [1645] being Monday at the hour of 8 and 45 minutes in the morning’. James Burgis ‘was borne the 12 day of October [1647] being Tuesday at the hour of 8 and 22 minutes at night’. James died August 25 1649. The chart is completed by the dates of the deaths of John and Ursala, in a different hand, which read ‘John Burgis senior departed this life aged 48, Sept 16 1658, and Ursla Burgis his wife departed this life aged 64, August 24 1671’ [Fryday].

Although nothing further is known of the Burgis family, this peculiarly detailed memento of these eight lives and six sad deaths is more than a little touching.