Eric Sanderson was a Churchwarden at St Peter's Church in Monkseaton in the Diocese of Newcastle during the early 2000s. He has written a book titled 'Churchwardens - Reflections on 1600 years of management, ministry and maintenance'. 

You can buy the book at the Great British Bookshop for £9.99 - postage is free.

Eric writes:

"The ancient ecclesiastical office of Churchwarden is an intriguing one. Despite many ups and downs, this office, the highest of lay positions in the church, has stood the test of time.

"At school, history was my least favourite subject – all Kings and Queens and regnal numbers!

"What I really wanted to learn about was how people lived and their personal experiences. Having had the privilege to serve as a churchwarden, I was curious to find out about the life and times of those who performed the role in the past. What I found was that the challenges facing Churchwardens today pale into insignificance when compared to the wardens of yesteryear.

"My book explores the many dilemmas they experienced whilst interpreting complex laws and social problems of the day. It is not all facts and figures, but full of incident, often it is droll, but never dull.

"By the early 17th century, parish meetings were so well organised that they acquired responsibility for all manner of local government activity and became ‘pocket parliaments’. The churchwarden was the business manager of the parish and responsible for setting and gathering local taxes. At the height of their powers, in 1834, the vestries spent around of one-fifth of the budget of the national government itself. The role of Churchwarden was the first of the parochial institutions to be politically contested, which led to the formation of civic corporations.

"Whilst Churchwardens were often viewed as pillars of the community, with a strong sense of altruism, scratching the surface reveals that this was not always the case. Some were radical and others sailed close to the wind; others were petty criminals. William Abbott was a highwayman, part of the notorious Culworth Gang, who for 20 years terrorised Northamptonshire. He was Churchwarden at Sulgrave church and disappeared before he could be transported for life. Joseph Merceron, at St Matthew’s, Bethnal Green, held office until his death, even after serving an 18-month prison sentence in 1818 for embezzling the colossal sum (then) of £1000.

"And finally, a word of wisdom. Terriers and Inventories may seem boring and time-consuming however, well documented, they provide a detailed history of a church. They also score ‘brownie points’ with Archdeacons!"