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The History of Ilmington - Chapter 8


Law and Order

The village officers consisted of the constable, overseers of the poor and churchwardens.  Behind the churchwardens lay the full authority of the Bishop and the church.  The constable and overseers of the 17th and 18th centuries, before the police force and Poor Law Institutions came into being, had behind them the authority of the Justices of the Peace.  As the volumes of Warwick County Records for the years 1636-1698 make clear, the work of the Justices was not confined to the Quarter Sessions.  They made orders for the relief of poor, ensured that the national and county levies were paid, and in the latter part of the time seem to have been active in ensuring that the Catholic and Protestant dissenters from the established church were 'presented'.  It is stated that with few exceptions they were responsible for appointing the overseers.  Ilmington appears to have been one of these exceptions, where they were appointed by the churchwardens.  The Justices were also responsible for signing the accounts of the overseers, but here again only the later accounts bear their signatures.  The court leet was responsible for appointing the village constable, but during the period of the civil war, these courts were somewhat disorganised, and here again the Justices exerted their authority.  The background that these volumes fill in is especially valuable for such a village as this for which nothing but the account books for a limited period exist, and the records of the court leet are particularly obscure.  Among the Commissioners of the Peace (or the Justices) for the county, the only Ilmington names included are Sir Henry Capell, who was also a Privy Councillor, Robert Brent for a short time, and William Howe of Foxcote.

The court leet

This was a court held periodically in a lordship or manor, before the lord or his steward, having jurisdiction over petty offences and the civil affairs of the district.  According to H.S. Bennett in Life on the English Manor, the court leet and view of frank pledge were originally two quite separate things.  In the course of time, the two became associated one with another and the court, at one and the same sitting, held both the view and leet. 

Records said to be of the court leet and court baron for Ilmington, combined with other villages and hamlets of the district, for the years 1683-1691 exist among the Shirley papers at Warwick Record Office (1).  The other villages concerned were Foxcote, Quinton, Millcoat, Luddington and Radbrook.  Other records of the court leet, only one example of which has been examined, are in the P.R.O. among the Duchy of Lancaster Court Rolls (2).  The court, the records of which are in the Shirely papers, met under the auspices of Lord Ferrars, who was not lord of the manor of Ilmington, but it does appear to have met in Ilmington.  It appointed the village constable and tythingmen and received the money for the licences of those who sold bread and ale.  Though the heading of these documents includes the words 'Court Baron', at no time do they set out rules for the use of the land, as do some of the 18th century records of the court baron.

A few of the other matters arising are as follows:-

1683 - Nathaniel Rose and William Southerne fined 1/6d each for not doing the Highways duty for last year, unless               done by November.

1684 - Nathaniel Rose was fined again.

1686 - The inhabitants of Ilmington 'that did not appear this day to do their suit and service' were presented and                 fined 6d each.

1686 - Richard Rose, son of William Rose, for forstalling the common hayward by taking and driving away from him             the cattle that were going to the pound fined 3/4d.

1687 - William Rose and his wife were fined 5/- for taking a colt out of the pound and not making satisfaction for                 the damage done by the said colt.

1689 - Again offenders were fined for removing cows and calves from the pound.  Richard Sansum had not scoured             his ditch at the lower end of his close to the damage of the Highway in Meadow Street, and William Rose                   Junior ducks had abused the common stream of water running through Ilmington.

The court met with a jury of thirteen; no appointment of a hayward has been seen in the records, but according to H.S. Bennett the hayward at times did the duties of the village constable.  The tythingmen were the men responsible for ten families of the Hundred to which the community belonged and attended the Hundred Court on their behalf.  This is now the Kington hundred, but at an earlier date was the Barcheston hundred.


The village constable

This office appears to have been one of some importance.  The Constables' Accounts 1651-1737 held at Warwick Record Office (3) include a list of constables from 1651-1678, and here occur names familiar in the 17th and 18th century Ilmington records, Rose 5 times, Coldicott 3 times, Eden, Southerne and Smith twice, Hurlestone, Archer, Petty and Rowney once.  Rowney was constable in 1658 and is commemorated in a farm house with his name, Petty in a piece of land still holding his name.

It is through the constable's accounts that the relation of the village to the outside world is seen.  He was responsible for collecting the levies, the equivalent of modern rates and taxes.  They were raised as required and varied from year to year, being used to pay the village contribution to national subsidies, for the repair of bridges, for the equipment of men required to join the militia at Warwick, for the transport of the king's carriages, and for diverse expenses incurred in the general maintenance of order in the village.  The levies were made on the holders of the yardlands, including those of Foxcote and Compton Scorpion.  Whether the constable was sufficiently literate to write his own accounts is not clear.  In one case it is quite clear that he was not, as he pays 4s. at Will Allin's to have them written.  The accounts were presented each year to a meeting of certain landholders who signed them, and it is interesting to note that very few of these were unable to sign their names and therefore had to make their mark.

The following extracts, some but not all of which are verbatim, will illustrate his many duties:-

Oct. 19, 1654

A levy made to raise the sum of £24.15.14

Arrears to ye olde Constable 18s.

In all the sum of £25.13.04

The levie is 4s and 8d the yardland which sum come to £26.14.01

The overplus is £01.01.00


March 1655   



July 1655   


The accounts do not state what this levy is for, but contributions in 1651 had to be made to some £400,000 subsidy, and in 1657 to '£35,000 granted by Parliament to the Lord Protector for three years'.  This levy was at 2s. a yardland, amounting to £11.9.0, and was taken to the High Constable at Warwick.  Other levies concerned with national affairs are as follows:-


1651 - A levy made for our proportion of draft horses employed about the train of artillery

           being at 6d the yardland. - £2.14.6

                  Quarteridge money - £0.2.3

1659 - Expended at Warwick when we were called in concerning the militia - £1.15.0

1660 - Expended at Warwick when we mustered - £2.10.6

           ...2 pikes 16s., on a musquett - 14s.

           ...4 belts £1.0.0.  2 sets bandeleors - 5s.

           A levy made for charge of the trayne of soldiers when they were called in to Warwick concerning the rising               at London 1s.4d. the yardland - £7.12.9

1699   ...forst to carry his Majesties Carriages from Shipston to Alcester.

           2 horses and 2 waggons. - £2.0.0

In 1654 a payment of 10s. was required for Wixford bridge.  In 1659 payment to Stratford bridge 10s. and Halford bridge 5s.  Payments were also made to the house of correction and to the gaol, presumably when Ilmington inhabitants were in residence there.

Within the parish, the following payments reflect some of its ordinary life, and some of its excitements:-

1652 - Paid to John Bayliss for the statutes... Court Leet held at Ilmington - 6s.8d.

           Write the Window tax assessment 1s.

           Spent at Alline's of a sick soldier of Colonel Weste's 3s.2d.

           To a marriner's wife 1s.

1653 - Paid to 3 maimed soldiers from Ireland 6d.

           Paid to 4 poor Irish yt had passess 2s.

           Further payments occur for 9 poor Irish, 4 poor Irish, and in 1654 to 12 Irish which had passage 1s.

1654 - poore people 2s.

1656 - ...on a cripple and a horse to carry him away 1s.

1716/17 - Conveying vagrants £1.6.11.

1726 - To a man who had been a slave in Turkeyland 1s.

           A woeman and 3 small children 6d.

1716 - 'Charges about the soldiery that killed William Moseley Aug. 31' include ...cord to bind them, waggons to                   carry them, men to guard them, spent at the Red Lyon 1s.

           Coronor his fee 13s.4d.  The total cost was £5.17.

1701 - Hue and cry after a Highwayman that had robbed 1s.

           Paid the Robbery money £6. (A hue and cry was not unusual, but Highwaymen do not appear often in the                 Ilmington accounts.)

Minor misdemeanours are reflected in:-

Summons the ale folk to renew their licence 1s.

Paid for a warrant for them that sold brandy 1s.

Spent ademanding the ale folks lisens 6d.


Routine payments seem to be:-

To the salt petre man 1s. To the Chimney man 2s.6d.

Mending the stocks. Mending the Pound Wall.

Spent at Will Allin's when I gave up my accounts 2s.2d.

Spent at Will Allin's when we made the levy at 5d. the yardland 2s.

and fortunately not routine:-

1723 - Paid to Crownere for sitting on Samuel Smith 3s.4d.

The stocks were situated on Stocks Bank at the north end of the village, and early in the 20th century their remains were found by a Stratford gentleman in the back garden of one of the cottages.  He bought them for a small sum, took them to his own house in Stratford and later gave them to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  They are now shown, but not labelled as to their origin, in the museum attached to Mary Arden's house at Wilmcote.  This information was given by the gentleman who bought the stocks and has been verified with the custodian of the museum.


The overseers of the poor

The only accounts so far found are for 1709-1719 and 1762-1780 (4).  It may be noticed that these accounts are just after the period of the printed Warwick County Records.

At this period they appear to have been appointed by the meeting of the rector, churchwardens and a number of the land holders.  This meeting usually signed the accounts for the previous year, and appointed the two overseers for the ensuing year.  They raised the necessary levies on the holders of yardlands, and did their duties alternately, each presenting their own accounts.  In the early period 1709-1719, summaries only are given, but in the latter period full details of expenditure are found.  In the latter period the accounts were eventually signed by magistrates, but there is no evidence for this in the earlier ones.  There is some evidence that they were out of pocket at times, and in November 1770 'a vestry allowed a new rate of 2d. in the £ and support for overseers in all legal remedies for recovery of unpaid levies'.  During the latter part of the time a levy was made on property as distinct from yardlands held.  It must have been an onerous duty, and 'men of substance' were those appointed.  It should be remembered that little or no stigma attached to the term pauper till the early 19th century, and the poor of the parish were well cared for according to the standards of that time.  From even the scanty material available, it is tempting to try to assess the poverty of the village, but in the absence of any exact population figures, it is probably unwise.  However, the following facts emerge:-

In the Hearth Tax for 1674, 90 households are listed and of these 30 were occupied by paupers.

In the ten years 1709-1719, the amount of the yearly levy did not exceed £100 and was as low as £56 in 1709.

During the years from 1770-1780, the lowest total was £207 in 1770 and the highest £392 in 1774, after which it fell to £263 in 1779.

The average number on relief varied from year to year between 20 and 40, but rose to 51 during part of 1773.

The payments varied from 6d. to 5/- to a woman with a number of children. 

For some time a family of three children received 4/- a week, this being reduced to 3/- when one of them went to work.


The overseers rented cottages from the church and from more prosperous members of the community; sometimes they paid rent for those in difficulties, allowing them to remain in their own cottages, though if they died their goods might be sold to recoup the overseers in part.  At times they provided furniture, for example 'bed and furniture £1.6.0'. In another entry a bed cost 7/6 and a blanket 2/-.  At times they contributed to the repair of a house, i.e. boards, poles and straw for repairing the Whitehouse yard house 1/-.  They bought material for craftsmen, i.e. leather for James Archer £1.1.0, and a spinning wheel for William Smith 7/-; and occasionally they boarded a family, i.e. to William Tuffley for 3 weeks houseroom for H. Gardiner 4/6.  They also provided coal.

When the children were old enough they were found work, but there are very few clear accounts of apprenticeship.  One which perhaps comes near it is:- Thos. Newland took to David Handy at 9d. a week for 3 years.  And among receipts is found:- From Samuel Smith for James Handy's work 16/-.  In 1776 a girl was fitted out to 'go to London' and 'my expenses sending 2 gearls to their service 3/-'.

From the accounts, it looks as though the James Archer for whom leather was bought in 1771 was a widower in receipt of an allowance for his children.  But in 1772 he died, and there is the sad entry 'coffin 9/-, laying out and affidavit 1/6'.  This was in January.  The children seem to have been moved in August and the following is a list of equipment for them:-


Pair of shawls - 8s

4 aprons, 2 hats, 4 pr. hose, 2 pr. shoes - 17.2

5½ ells of cloth at 1/5 - 7.9½

9½ yds of Tammy at 1s - 9.6

Lining for gowns - 1.10½

5 yds of Linsey at 1/2 - 5.10

3 yds of baize at 1/3 - 3.9      

2 hankerchieves, 2 prs buckles & binding - 3.3

1½ yds Irish cloth for caps - 2.4

Making of the apparel - 7.1


Other clothing costs are found:-

Hat and pattens - 2.6

Stuff for waist coat and breeches - 6.11½        

4 ells of hurdon to make 2 frocks (smocks?) - 4.3

The Taylor for making 4 garments - 4.7

The overseers provided for the sick and re-equipped them as necessary:- 


Bought of Horseman of Camden 13 ells of cloth for shirts for Richard Batchelor's family having the itch - 13/4.

They paid the midwife 2/6, and at times payments are found for nursing through long illnesses.  Smallpox was recurrent, and the family was always removed and isolated, being taken either to Longdon or to the Spawhouse which was rented for the purpose.  Outbreaks of smallpox during the latter part of the 18th century were noted in 1762, 1766, 1774, 1776, 1778.  In the last year the patients were taken to Longdon. An example of some of the expenses were:-


Rent of the Spaw House 13/6

Nurse at 10/- a week.

Bread Mutton Cheese Wine Milk Malt and other necessaries.

Soap 6½d., and later, Clothes £3.16.9½ and 1½ bushels of lime to cleanse the spawhouse.

The nurse was often fetched from Stretton, and sometimes there was mention of a man in attendance.  It is stated by Joseph Ashby that tramps were often responsible for bringing smallpox to a village.

They had regular doctor's bills to meet, examples of which are:-

1776 - Mr Horniblows bill - £10.14.0½

           Dr Hollick for attending A. Coldicoats son - £5.5.0

1763 - Dr Taplin for cure of Anthony Harrods boy £1.13.0

           and such smaller payments as 'blooding Southerne 6d.'

Funeral expenses were paid, though some of the statements are a little enigmatic:- 

Ingredients for Widow Wells 2/-.

Raisin wine 1/-.  Saffron 3d.  Flannel 2½d.  Coffin 9/-.

Clerk 1/-.  Sexton 2/5.  A shroud 6/6.

Often a 'jersey' is mentioned and in another case 'Susannah Haynes for lighting Jno. Sandford's wife 2/6'.

Another duty is shown in the entry:-  One journey to Stratford and expenses to take John Baskett to give security to marry 7/6.  It is not unusual to find some overlap in the duties of constable, overseer and churchwarden, and a tantalising entry in the churchwarden's accounts for 1742 names Nathaniel Coldicoate as a 'tenant of Church land, master of the workhouse and overseer of the poor'.  Unfortunately the overseers' accounts for this period have not been found.

They must have been very busy men, and their work was voluntary in that it was unpaid, and indeed at times their accounts show that disbursements exceeded receipts, and they were only paid later.  The accounts reveal what must have been considerable hardship in the village, but the sick and poor were not neglected.  When possible they remained in their own homes, and were unlikely to pass unnoticed in a community of the few hundred of those days.  Moreover the overseers were themselves men of the village, and therefore known to those in need.

Complete lists of constables, overseers, and churchwardens for the dates of the existing accounts may be found in the account books, but their transcription to this account appears to add little.  They have been used as one source for the family duration chart added to an earlier chapter.

The work of the overseers did not of course end until the enactment of the Poor Laws in 1840 and the formation of the Shipston Union, but their account books for the last 60 years appear to have been lost.  Some of the early account books of the Shipston Union have been examined, but the results did not appear to warrant the reading of twenty volumes of these, and was abandoned.


The churchwardens

The rector or curate and churchwardens, with such inhabitants as cared to attend, met as 'The Vestry' on the Monday after Easter Sunday.  Meetings were occasionally called at other times if necessary.  From the earlier records, there appear to have been two meetings on this day, one of which dealt with churchwardens' accounts and appointed the wardens for the ensuing year and, surprisingly, the overseers of the highways.  The accounts of this meeting were usually signed by the rector or curate, the churchwardens and a number of inhabitants.  Another meeting on the same day appointed the overseers of the poor, and at this meeting the overseers' accounts were presented and signed, but not necessarily by the same people who signed at the other meeting.

The function of the churchwardens was to look after the church property, i.e. the fabric of the nave and tower of the church, its land and houses.  In the earlier records they paid for the killing of adders, urchins and 'ethers'?  They overlapped with the constable in making payments to 'travellers' through the village.

The Church, as distinct from the rector, owned a certain amount of land, and it was the rent from this land, a small number of houses let to the overseers of the poor and levies raised as required, which formed the income to be expended on such items as are shown in the following extracts (5):-

1680 - Washing and mending the surplis - 3.0

           Wine for sacrament Whit Sunday - 4.8

           Dinners and other expenses at the visitation - 11.3

           For killing 6 urchins - 2.0

           Ringers at 5 November - 1.0

1681 - Gave to a man of Aldersgate in Hampshire - 6

1714, Aug 15 - At a vestry called in relation to the Church it was then ordered and agreed that the present Churchwardens have hereby granted them a levy for repairing the Church and tower after the rate and proportion of 6d. in the yardland by us.

A. Swanne Rector, William Boulton, William Harbridge, Churchwardens. Giles Palmer, William Smith, Samuel Smith, J. Bradley, William Coldicott, Richard Sansom, marks of J. Blackford and Nicholas Wells.

1729 - At a vestry meeting of this year it was recorded that 'streams more than usual are running through the church yard' and the Rector agreed to have channels dug through his orchard, which was then where the 'new' churchyard is now, to take off the water.

(In Agricultural Records AD 220-1968 by J.M. Stratton, 1729 is listed as a year marked by an unusual number of thunderstorms and great winds.)

At a vestry of 1784, complaints were made of behaviour in the churchyard and the curate undertook not to pasture his horse there, and the schoolmaster undertook 'not to allow the children to play there till such time as a more proper place than the church could be found for their instruction'.  This, and the reputed granting of a licence in 1698 for the building of a room over the church porch, are the only evidence of education at this period.  No references to the schoolmaster's salary have been found in the churchwardens' accounts of that date.  A search at Worcester Diocesan Record Office, where licences for schoolmasters of this period are kept, failed to reveal any for Ilmington, though they were found for Blockley, Brailes, Hampton Lucy and Shipston.

In the later 18th century, some other recurrent charges are found:-


Newland for ringing the bell - £2. 2.0

Ringers on Nov 5 - 5.0

Washing the Linen - 11.6

Sexton - £2.2.0

In the years just before Enclosure in 1781, a considerable amount of repair was done to the church houses, and some costs may be of interest:-

2 loads of straw - £2.12.0

Anthony Harwoods 12½ days thetching - 12.6

Wife for drawing of straws - 5.3

Brick, stone and lime to church house - 2.9

Special meetings of the vestry were occasionally called to agree a contract for letting some of the church land.

1709 - W. Hazlewood to hold 7 Ridges formerly possessed by him with the Close commonly called Crow Yard in consideration of a yearly sum of £2 on condition he keeps the mounds and fences in tenantable and sufficient repair for which he is to be allowed the lops of the trees growing upon the premises from the 25th March last past to the full end and term of four years.

1729 - William Wells holds certain Church lands for £10 and when he leaves is to leave 10 loads of dung.

After the Enclosure in 1781 the churchwardens became very busy indeed with the building of barns, and fencing and ditching the 32 acres of land granted at Berryfields in lieu of the strips they had held in the common fields.  Some account of this activity is given in chapter 9.


Justices and quarter sessions

More important or persistent offences were dealt with by the Justices and the following examples from Ilmington have been extracted from the Warwick County Records 1636-1691.


The inhabitants of Ilmington were fined for not repairing the Stratford Highway in 1633, 1637 and 1641.

Two 'free masons', Richard and John Salmon, were summoned to a meeting in 1641 to consider the cost of repairs to 'Bitford' bridge.  This was estimated at £180, but what action was taken is not very clear.

Within the parish there were several threatened fines or indictments for not scouring water courses, for stopping up the king's highway near Cross Leys, and for not lopping the trees of a garden hedge adjoining a highway, 'whereby men cannot pass with carts laden'.  The latter man was Richard Greene, husbandman, and the next entry was Richard Greene, laborer, indicted 'for not working to the directions of the overseers for the amendment of the ways there'.

In 1642, John Tysoe, Nicholas Loe and William Haslewood were indicted for selling ale without a license, but in 1669 John Tysoe was suppressed from selling ale for three years for keeping a disorderly house.  In 1651 the suppression of William Fleetwood's ale house was more detailed.  He was said to lead a 'lewd debauched and scandalous life and to keep a rude disordered house'.

There were three cases about provision of houses.  One concerned a request from William Archer in 1636 to build a cottage on the waste.  This was agreed if the lord of the manor gave permission.  However, at the next session, the inhabitants objected that William Archer was not 'a poor' but a man of ability to rent a cottage without one being built on the waste.  This dispute was referred to Sir Edward Underhill, and there is no further information.  In 1654 William Samon was to have a house... he and his wife and goods lie in the street... an offence against God that any poor man should be so hardly dealt with as not to be suffered to have lodging within doors in this winter season... and it must provoke the man to become a vagabond.  In 1663 Katherine Caldecott, a widow, was out in the street with her children and was to be accommodated in the cottage built on the waste as a barn by Issac Peate's father, if Issac Peate agreed.  This time the lord of the manor refused, so the overseers were ordered to find somewhere on which the inhabitants agreed, and by now the date was 1664.

There were several cases where it was difficult to obtain payment from reputed fathers for the care of their children.  In 1647 Samuel Smith was ordered to pay to Thomas Rose, father of Alice Ireland, widow, 2/- a week for the maintenance of his bastard.  However, George Smith, the village constable, refused to serve the summons on Samuel Smith, so the matter was referred to the High Constable, the thirdboroughs and the tythingmen.  By 1649 Thomas Rose had still received no payment, so it was decided that the child, Mary Ireland, should become a poor of the parish.  Evidently the parish collectively was able to exert more pressure on Samuel Smith and he agreed to pay, whereupon Alice Ireland was allowed to come out of the house of correction.

A rather different case in 1678 concerned George Southerne. He was to be paid only 18d. a week for the maintenance of himself and his family, instead of the 3s. he had been receiving.  Moreover, this money was to be paid to his wife by the overseers.  They were also directed to provide him with work at 6d. a day, but 3d. of this was to be paid direct to his wife and 3d to himself.  If he refused to work, he was to be sent to the house of correction.

There were a few cases of assault, one of the robbery of an orchard for which the fine was to be 10s. paid to the owner of the orchard, and one of house breaking, the house being in possession of Abraham Swan in 1670.

Several cases of disputed settlement occurred, but the following one was a little different.  In 1640, Joyner of Tanworth had been 'pressed as a soldier for Ilmington'.  He was married with two children, and his wife was about to have a third.  He was said to be unable to work, and the decision was that Ilmington should pay Tanworth for the maintenance of the family.  The case dragged on through three more sessions, it being stated that he was fit to work, then that he was unable to do so, and finally the allowance was stopped.

In 1679, there was an order to administer the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy to William Brent of Ilmington and Richard Canning of Foxcote.  Both were Catholics; whether Canning took the oath is not stated, but Brent was bound in £100 to appear at the next sessions, and was presented at Easter.  The result was not reported.

In 1683, William Smith, constable, was presented for not making true presentments, and five Ilmington people were presented for not attending church.  These were William Brent, Christopher Lowe, William Fleetwood, Richard Paine and John Rowney.  This continued with little variance until Epiphany in 1687.  In 1696 Thomas Proctor, yeoman was fined for including in his payment to Christopher Dyson at Stratford Market a false guinea piece.

In 1685, William Howe of Foxcote was sworn High Constable of the Kington Hundred in place of Arthur Rowney who was sick.  In 1668 Nathaniel Rose was pleading to be excused jury service on the score 'that though he was entered in the freehold book for the county, he hath but eight pounds per annum in this county, whereas by the late statute he ought to have twenty pounds'.  This matter was referred to any two of the Justices for the Hundred of Kington.

Two examples of the need for the Justices' authority to obtain payment of the levies for the poor were found.  In 1662 Richard Brent refused to pay his levy, but was ordered by the Court of Quarter Sessions either to pay or to show good cause why he should not do so.  In 1701 a more complicated case arose from the sale to Issac Snow and Nicholas Slatter of the estate of Edward French.  The dispute concerned the proportion of the total levy each was to pay, and it was only after three sessions and a special report that the case was settled, Issac Snow being ordered to pay two-thirds and Nicholas Slatter one-third.  Even then, the inhabitants of Ilmington, who had presented the case, were required to pay Issac Snow 50s. costs for his attendance.

  1. Warwick Record Office CR 229 Box 13/3

  2. P.R.O. Pl. 30/81/1114 MZ.

  3. Warwick Record Office CR 684.

  4. Warwick Record Office DR 20.

  5. Warwick Record Office DR 20.

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