An old way of writing double s

Annoyingly, the Ancestry transcribers of the 1851 census consistently mis-transcribed the name of the parish Little Cressingham (in Norfolk) as Little Crepingham. They aren’t totally to blame, though. It seems double s was at that time often written more like a p, or even like the old German ‘scharfes S’ / ‘Eszett’ (ß), which was a compound letter made up of an s followed by a z.

To show this, here is an extract from the 1851 census showing my 3 x great grandparents Adam Bird and Charlotte Bird (née Newton) with my 2 x great grandfather William and 4 of his siblings. As you can see, the birthplaces (Little Cressingham for Adam and Great Cressingham for Charlotte) do look like Crepingham, rather than Cressingham.

To compound the error, the poor transcribers, understandably, sometimes misread the abbreviations for Little [Lt] and Great [Gt] as St, so they sometimes render both parishes as St Crepingham, or St Crespingham.

Just to show this style of writing wasn’t unique to the 1851 census, here is an extract from the parish register for Little Cressingham in 1821. It shows the entry in the ‘abode’ column for Margaret Carter, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth, baptised on 25 November 1821.

I’ve also posted this item on my language blog Language Miscellany at https://languagemiscellany.com/2021/11/an-old-way-of-writing-double-s/. Language Miscellany is my blog about English, other languages and language in general.

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