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Sufferings of the Early Quaker Community in Stamford

Chris Hunt 2023

Hidden amongst Quarter Sessions Records are cases against the non-conformist religious communities between 1662 and 1689. With the restoration of Charles II, Parliament introduced a number of Bills which when enacted allowed the courts to challenged the rights of religious dissenters.

The established Church saw the Quakers as a challenge, not just a threat to their religious primacy, but also due to their refusal to pay tithes and ecclesiastical taxes. Starting with the Quaker Act in 1662 and the Conventicle Act in 1664, there began a period of official persecution in England and Wales. The persecution of Dissenters was relaxed after the Declaration of Indulgence in 1687 and 1688, and finally stopped under the Act of Toleration in 1689.

Unfortunately, the Stamford Quarter Sessions records from the 17th century which have survived suffer from water damage that make them in most cases unreadable. However, Joseph Besse, published in 1753 a detailed nationwide account, entitled, ‘A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers’. This work has been re-published in recent years, understand the title of the ‘Sufferings of Early Quakers’. Within it are recorded two entries for Stamford.

ANNO 1682

In November was a Meeting at a Place called St. Martin’s belonging to the Town of Stamford; to which came an Informer named Hawkins, of Market Deeping, and another Person whom he had hired to assist him. These brought with them some Parish Officers, and without producing any Warrant carried those that were met before a Justice, and made Oath, that William Collington, of Stamford, preaching in that Meeting, when indeed he had not, but the Meeting was held throughout in Silence: However the Justice certified the Mayor of Stamford according to the Information sworn before him, whereupon the Goods of the said William Collington were seized to the value of £20.

ANNO 1683

Jane Redsmith, a poor Widow, for a Meeting at her House in Stamford, had all her Goods in Stamford, had all her Goods taken from her to the Value of £10 0s 0d. Taken also from William Collington and Elizabeth Moll, for being at the same Meeting, Goods worth 15s 0d.

Are there any other Court Cases? Clearly until the damaged rolls are restored these two entries remain our only court records to the Quakers in Stamford in the 1680s.

Chris Hunt (February 2023)

A print version can be downloaded HERE

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