Long before the Restoration, in December 1596, as the effects of a third consecutive bad harvest began to bite, a self-constituted group of ‘chief inhabitants’ met in Swallowfield. Swallowfield was neither a village nor (strictly speaking) a parish, and although it was located in Berkshire, part of it belonged jurisdictionally to Wiltshire. Concerned at the ‘disorderly’ conduct of the poor, whether expressed in ‘backbiting’ or hedge-breaking, drunkenness or promiscuity, the ‘chief inhabitants’ drew up what was in effect a village constitution. Noting that the Wiltshire JPs ‘are far off’, they set down a series of articles for the government of the community, ‘to the end we may the better and more quietly live together in good love and amity to the praise of God and for the better serving of her majesty’. The articles dealt with a range of matters, including the relief of the ‘honest’ poor and the proper observance of the sabbath. Despite the rhetoric of harmony and unity, the articles called for stern action against ‘disorderly’ elements within the community: habitual drunkards were to be set in the stocks and ‘inmates’ who could not support themselves were, if possible, to be prevented from marrying. 1