In the spring of 1597, Dee records, on May 4, the last of the Rogation days of the year, a very interesting topographical event, viz., the perambulation of the bounds of old Manchester by himself, the curate, and the clerk.
Away in the south-eastern corner of England, in the little village of Bourne, near Canterbury, about this very time, Richard Hooker, the saintly scholar, was performing a similar perambulation, of which Izaak Walton has left us the immortal picture. A homily was prepared for the service, a psalm sung, and the malediction pronounced, "Cursed be he that removes his neighbour's landmark." Izaak Walton tells us that Hooker, to look at, was an
"Obscure harmless man in poor clothes, his loins girt ina coarse gown or canonical coat; of a mean stature and stooping, yet more lowly in the thoughts of his soul; his body worn out, not with age, but study and holy mortification. Yet he would by no means omit the customary procession; persuading all, both rich and poor: if they desired the preservation of loe and their parish rights and liberties, to accompany him in his perambulation; and most did so. In which perambulation, he would express more pleasant discourse than at other times, and would then always drop some loving and facetious observations, to be remembered against the next year, especially by the boys and young people; still inclining them, and all his present parishioners, to meekness and mutual kindnesses and love, because love thinks no evil, but covers a multitude of sins."
The Warden of Manchester has not left us such an impression of the ancient antiquarian custom performed as a holy rite of devotion, but as an exact topographer and mathematician he has givena highly valuable record: -
1597. "May 4. I with Sir Robert Barber, curate, and Robert Tilsley, clerk of Manchester parish church, with diverse of the town of diverse ages, went in Perambulation to the bownds of Manchester parish: began at the Leeless Birche against Prestwicke parish, and so had vew of thre corner stake, and then down tyll Mr. Standysh new enclosure on Thelmore, wher we stayed, and vewed the stake yet standing in the back of the dich; [it] being from the corner eleven measures of Mr. Standley's stik, then in his hand, and 2 fote more; which stik I did measure afterward, and it did conteyn in length: feet 5, ynch 3. The total mesure: fete 69, ynches 9. At which place Teblow, servant to Mr. Ashton of Chaderton, did meet us. The survey geometricall of the very circuits of Manchester parish wer ended in this, being the sixth day of my work folks doings."
In the Chetham Library is a holograph letter from Dee to the rector of Prestwich, William Langley, dated two days before this perambulation, informing him of the project for making a chart of the parish bounds, and inviting him,
"As one side of our parish in Thielmore doth border upon some parts of your parish of Prestwiche, to request some one or two of the auncient of your parish to be allso beholders of our bounds, notifying toward your parish in that place. My neighbours do intend to come on Wensday next, in the morning about 9 or 10 of the clok, to that part that is by Goodman Smehearst's house, and so toward the birche tree that is called the Leeless Byrche, and thereabouts, for a little space; to beggyn the vew of the bownds and meres of Manchester parish: by the order of an enjoyned work by the higher powres, for avoyding of undue encroaching of any neighbourly parish one on the other. You understand me sufficiently well, I dowt not. Pardon my boldness so bluntly to borde you with so homely a sute.
"Your wurships sincere
"Wellwisher in Christe,
"John Dee, Warden."
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