The vicar and the clerk
The vicar was an educated man who had many functions. He held services and religious ceremonies and
took care of teaching the parishioners the Christian faith.
The vicar could read and write and was responsible for the poor and the schools, and from 1842 was also
ex-officio member of the parish councils, which were forerunners of the municipalities.
The vicar was the state representative in the local community. He kept the church records and the registration
of citizens and wrote numerous records of a wide variety for the authorities. In the early 19th century, it was
also the vicar who vaccinated children against smallpox.
The vicar lived off his living - that is, the farming at the vicarage - tithes (a corn or money tax) and donations.
This was the money that churchgoers gave the vicar on religious feasts. The vicarage was larger than the other
farms and was run by a manager, but many vicars were pioneers in agriculture.
The vicarage was built in the same style as the farms, but was larger and laid out differently, with many smaller
rooms. An important room was the vicar’s study. Several vicarages had a tutor for the children, a cook and
perhaps also a lady’s companion. Many vicarages had large landscaped gardens.
The land of the vicarage was gradually sold off, but it was not until 1920 that tithes and donations disappeared
completely as part of the vicar’s income.
The clerk was the vicar’s assistant. He was responsible for ringing the church bells, singing in the church and
helping the vicar with practical matters during the services.
The clerk also instructed the children in the catechism. In the 18th century, schools were established around
the country. The catechism and reading were compulsory subjects, whilst parents could decide whether or not
their children should learn writing and arithmetic. The clerk ran the school but had no formal qualifications and
parents could keep their children home if they needed them to work.
In 1814, a new law introduced compulsory schooling for children in rural areas from the age of 7 until their
confirmation. All children had the right to a school within 2 kilometres from their home and parents were fined
if children did not attend. They were taught religion, reading, writing and arithmetic - and, if possible, gymnastics
- and there were official tests. In school there were two classes that went to school every other day. In Western
Jutland, children went to school every day in the winter and could work on the farm during the summertime.
Clerks were poorly paid. They were provided with a house and a little land and were given firewood, corn, hay and
straw. Eventually the old clerks were replaced by teachers educated at a teacher’s college.
Writer: museum keeper MA Gudrun Gormsen