Sufferings at Wellingborough

File:Fox-George-LOC.jpgIn 1654, William Dewsbury went into the parish church at Wellingborough during Sunday morning worship, and when the priest had finished, he stood and addressed the congregation, then challenged the priest to prove his accusation that Dewsbury had deceived the people. He was charged with Blasphemy, and remanded to prison pending trial at the next Assizes, in March. Joseph Storr, who was residing with Dewsbury, was also arrested, and Francis Ellington, who came to see the trial, was charged with a misdemeanour because he had given one of the accused a letter. The three were remanded. Henry Williamson, who spoke to the congregation during worship at Wellingborough, was beaten, arrested, and sent to trial with the others.

Dewsbury had written a letter to Oliver Cromwell, telling him what God thought of him, and this was evidence against him. The judge knew Quakers, and so commanded that their hats be put on them, so that he could tell them to take their hats off. Of course, they refused.

Later that month, they were examined again before the judges, and accused of breaching the peace. “You are transgressors of the law, in that you are not subject to Governmnt and Authority in not putting off your hats.” If they had provided sureties to appear at the next assizes, they would have been freed, but they were imprisoned, because they refused, saying they had done nothing wrong so should not need to provide sureties.

File:JamesNayler-1.jpgJohn Whitehead then preached in Wellingborough church, after the priest had finished, and was arrested on a charge of Vagrancy; but he could show he was a substantial man, so the justices had to find some other pretext for his arrest. They tendered the Oath of Abjuration, and the Quakers refused to swear: “Let your yes be yes and your no, no”. The judges required sureties for their good behaviour, and when the Quakers refused they were imprisoned.

Thomas Cockett wrote to Justice Brown:

I went to William Street House, where was a Friend prisoner, and desired to speak with him, he told me he had an Order from thee that none may speak with him. Is this to do as thou wouldst be done unto? Thou hast a light of Christ in thy Conscience, which bears witness with the Law of God, and tells thee, thou shouldst do as thou wouldst be done unto. In persecuting one of Christ’s little Ones, thou hast done it unto him, and Woe is thy Portion.

While the priest at Irthlingborough was preaching, John Hutchin and Michael Patteson stood up, silent. The priest had them sent to prison on the ground that they had disturbed him in his office.

They were still in prison in 1655, when they were discharged by an order from Oliver Cromwell.

Source: A collection of the sufferings of the people called Quakers, for the testimony of a good conscience from the time of their being first distinguished by that name in the year 1650 to the time of the act commonly called the Act of toleration granted to Protestant dissenters in the first year of the reign of King William the Third and Queen Mary in the year 1689. It is available from these suppliers.

7 thoughts on “Sufferings at Wellingborough

    • Welcome, Elizabeth. Thank you for commenting.

      The mid 17th century was a violent time in Britain. Oddly enough, I recounted some of this to Quakers, and when I mentioned the business about hats, we all laughed. Then, the judges saw it as a symbol of the respect due to ones social betters, and the Quakers saw it as a symbol of equality- which does not preclude respect.


      • I definitely learned something, a lot more than you probably intended. As a blogger I struggle with readership, but I realized that I have also followed several bloggers but rarely take out the time to read them. How selfish I was, and I was only hurting myself. The posts I’ve read in the last day are by far quite amazing and I feel like I really need to do a better job. So I will. I really enjoyed your post and I will continue to check up on your blog. Also, if you are interested I have a contest going on mine if you want to read the interview with author of Getting Rooted in New Zealand, if you want to check it out. Thanks again.


        • Elizabeth, I am not sure how you could learn more than I intended. If you knew nothing of 17th century England and early Quakers, you would learn more than if you were aware of our “Sufferings”, and you might have learned something about how I write or what I find interesting, and like a rational person I intend the natural consequences of my actions. If you consider you have learned something about how to write, I am delighted.

          “Following” is often just a knock on the door, saying “Come, see my blog”- see my post for today/tomorrow, published I understand at 10pm today in California, 6am BST. Comments are the interesting thing. Your previous comment could go on any blog post, and mean anything- perhaps your latest could, too. Whichever, I wish you well blogging, and hope you get all you want from it. And if you comment here, I will comment back.


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