Anglican contempt for Essex Quakers: Canewdon, c. 1667

The deaths in quick succession of four active Quakers in the Essex village of Canewdon around the year 1667 were celebrated with some uncharitable verse in the parish register.

The doggerel is mildly amusing in its venom, but also of interest as coming at a point where the Stuart regime was contemplating a tacit accommodation with the radical sect, which was itself in the process adopting the structure that would come to characterise the Religious Society of Friends. The verse has been published in at least three versions, first by the assiduous local historian, Philip Benton, in his History of Rochford Hundred in 1867, two centuries after it was written. Further versions were contributed to the county miscellany magazine, the Essex Review, by E.M. Hardy in 1913, and by E.J. Erith in 1948.[1]   There were apparent transcription errors in all three. The version given here is a conflation, with spelling partially modernised to eliminate some distracting contemporary usages. In the Appendix, I discuss the original text. Here it may simply be noted that "mess" meant foursome and not confusion, and it is evident that the versifier intended "speaker" to rhyme with "Quaker":

"Jonson the quaker on the tenth of October

Spoiled for a speaker was fain to give over;

The Spirit moved him with a new found greeting

To meet with death, at a Silent meeting,

Where 'tis feared, for speaking too much before

He must Sit Silent there for evermore.

He lived without the Church, without the Church he died,

And of Church Rites is justly now denied;

And without Sigh or Tear, or Prayer said,

Beast-like in Earth John Jonson now is laid.

Fast after him goes Inman James, another

Of the quaking crew; a Speaking Brother,

Whose Wife went before, that Holy Sister,

All in such haste, as if the Devil missed her.

Next with like speed, for there could be no less

Post haste goes Tom Fritton to make up the mess.

If Sly death, thus, robs thee of thy quakers,

Poor Devil, what wilt thou doe for Speikers,

Thy Chappel sure will down, thy Trade decay,

O that God's Church may live to see that Day."

Context  From the eighteenth century, at least Quakers in Britain and America have been regarded as respectable people, committed to plain-dealing, philanthropy and non-violence. However, a very different picture emerged during the turbulent years of the eighteen-fifties, as the movement's founder George Fox began to preach the message that people could achieve salvation by finding their own inner light from Jesus Christ.[2] Perhaps it was not surprising that the wildfire growth of his following included many who preferred confrontation to contemplation. Their impact may be traced in the diaries of Ralph Josselin, the vicar of Earls Colne, a small Essex town not far from the Coggeshall and Colchester, hotspots of religious radicalism. Josselin himself was attracted by Puritan ideas, but he preferred to entertain them on a secure income. By July 1655, he was calling Fox's followers by their nickname "Quakers", and in no objective sense: "those Quakers whose work is to revile the ministry". He was troubled by their claim to inspiration: "an infallible spirit once granted to them what lies may they not utter[?]" The core challenge to his position was that "those ... that give heed to the light of their own spirits ... will not put themselves under the direction of word and spirit", following their own "imaginary [C]hrist".[3] Accustomed to respect, Josselin found it "strange for persons to bee silent, not speake when saluted or spoken to", and unpleasant to hear himself described as a "deluder" or a "false prophet".[4] In July 1655, a dynamic young preacher called James Parnel disrupted the church service at Coggeshall. He was imprisoned in Colchester Castle, where harsh treatment led to his death the following April. In a final act of vindictiveness, the authorities pronounced that he had starved himself to death and hence did not merit Christian burial. Josselin felt no sympathy: "I tremble at his folly, the lord recover poore worms out of the snare".[5]

Thus in the mid-sixteen-fifties, Quakerism represented a blatant challenge to established order in both Church and State. A crackdown soon followed. In July 1656, the Essex magistrates issued a very long and extremely thunderous denunciation of the "idle, seditious and evill disposed persons" who were "propagateing and spreading certain desperate and damnable opinions and Delusions derogatory to the honor of God and destructive to mens soules, subverting the principles of christianity and seduceing and withdrawing many persons from their due Obedience to the good Government of this Nac[i]on". Their activities caused "the terror off good and peaceable people and the disturbance of the publique peace". Particular objection was taken to the disruption of church services, in which the malcontents "reproach, traduce and highly abuse with many invective railings and other opprobrious speeches the Ministers and dispencers of Gods word". Parish constables were strictly enjoined to round up wandering Quaker agitators and to apprehend "all persons that shall voluntarily and malitiously make any disturbance of any Minister or people in the publique exercise of the service of God either in their parrish Churches as elsewhere, as alsoe of all such as shall revile and evill entreat any the said Ministers either in their own parrish as elsewhere at any other time".[6] Repression had its effect. In July 1655, Josselin had briefly feared trouble in Earls Colne when the Quakers "set up a paper on the church door", but he escaped outright confrontation. Elsewhere, the tide seemed to be turning. In 1655, he had he described the nearby village of Gaines Colne as a "nest" of Quakers, but two years later he was relieved to learn that the Friends' Meeting in Earls Colne had relocated there. However, the dissidents remained a potential threat. There was a tense episode two years later when "a Quaker wench came boisterously into the church up almost to the deske". Fortunately for the incumbent, orthodox parishioners "expected some disturbance" and their disapproval intimidated the interloper: "shee staid the end and then went out quietly, blessed bee god".[7]

To some extent, the Quakers had gone underground. George Fox worked both to organise his followers, especially through mass meetings, and to direct them towards silent prayer and passive resistance. These were strategies that were necessary to distinguish the Religious Society of Friends from violent extremists such as the Fifth Monarchism who attempted a madcap uprising in 1661, triggering a new round of repressive measures against Dissenters.[8] Increased emphasis upon organisational structure also increased Fox's own control over the movement. The shift away from confrontation may have strengthened the movement. Returning to Earls Colne from a brief excursion to London in May 1659, Josselyn was surprised to learn that there had been "a great meeting of Quakers in the towne. I knew nothing of it". Two years later, he noted gloomily that "the Quakers after a stop and silence, seeme to be swarming and increased".[9] However, in the early years after the Restoration, they do not seem to have impinged much upon him, and were barely mentioned in his diary. The sense of threat to the wider community remained, producing and probably being reinforced by a renewed phase of repression after 1664, which lasted for three years.[10] There can be little doubt that the contempt and hostility of the Canewdon doggerel was essentially directed against the disruptive activities of a decade earlier, a time when – in the phrase of the historian Adrian Davies – Quakers had been seen as a "terrible menace".[11]

Canewdon In 1861, the Essex historian D.W. Coller called Canewdon "a pretty village on the high grounds which rise above the southern side of the vale of the Crouch". Coller was inclined to polite and faintly poetic exaggeration: few would have described the saucer-like lands alongside the Crouch estuary as a valley of any kind. A quarter of a century earlier, Thomas Wright had more neutrally commented that Canewdon was "very pleasantly situated on high ground".[12] The problem in its location was that, in reality, it was on the edge of marshland notoriously infested with "ague", a malarial infection grimly noted as a hazard of the coastal districts of Essex by the geographer John Norden in 1594 and treated as a joke by Daniel Defoe in 1722. In 1768, the doyen of Essex historians, Philip Morant, had insisted that improved farming methods meant that the lands of Rochford Hundred, the peninsula and marshland islands between the Crouch and the Thames, were "less unhealthy than they formerly were; bating [except for] the unavoidable streams and damps that arise in the parts near the water". Unfortunately, poorer people relied upon such sources for drinking water: as late as 1800, the death rate of children under five was three times higher in Canewdon than in healthier inland communities.[13] An extensive parish that covered eight square miles, Canewdon was a plum "living" (ecclesiastical appointment): when the tithes were commuted to a rent charge in 1840, the income was £580, and the vicar could also farm – or rent out – sixty acres of glebe, a sizeable holding.[14] However, its unhealthy location meant that its vicars were generally non-resident and employed a succession of curates to perform their duties. Poorly paid and generally transient, curates probably found it challenging to exercise authority or even much influence over their charges. In the seventeenth century, most were young graduates acquiring spiritual work experience before climbing the career ladder to preferment, although there were some older men, casualties of the various ecclesiastical purges that had culminated with the Act of Uniformity of 1662. At Canewdon, where life was hard and death a frequent and random visitor, people were no doubt open to an inspirational religious message assuring them that they could find their own salvation.[15]

Ironically, if it had not been for the gleeful prediction of their impending downfall in the doggerel of c. 1667, it would probably be difficult to trace the Canewdon Quakers in county sources (although more might be found in the Society of Friends' own archives). Rochford Hundred was certainly something of an outlier in the Essex Quaker story. A detailed attempt to identify adherents of the Society of Friends by Adrian Davies suggests that there may have been around two thousand of them across the county by the late sixteen-sixties.[16] However, about half of these were concentrated in the textile districts of north-central Essex: when George Fox came to Essex, he addressed rallies at Coggeshall and Colchester, and used Felsted for a major organisational meeting. A further quarter of Essex Quakers were clustered in the north-west of the county, where Saffron Walden would remain an important centre.[17] At the opposite corner of Essex, Canewdon was four miles from the small market town of Rochford, where Thomas Browne was prosecuted several times between 1661 and 1667 for failing to attend church and for hosting a conventicle in his house. Two of the Canewdon Quakers were reported for non-attendance at church in the 1667 indictment, which seems to indicate that they were members of Browne's group, which perhaps constituted the "Chappel" referred to in the doggerel. Browne was also pursued for non-payment of tithes, apparently on several occasions.[18]  However, there was an alternative local centre of activity in the small river port of Burnham, on the opposite bank of the River Crouch and a short distance downstream. In 1656, a husbandman called Stephen Hubbersly was heavily fined for entering the parish church during a service and shouting down the incumbent. Two years later, a carpenter called John Davidge heckled another clergyman, apparently as he began to preach from the pulpit, shouting "Thou art a lyar, thou art a blasphemer, thou hireling come downe". Davidge served further sentences in Colchester Castle in 1660 and 1661, after being arrested at Quaker gatherings in Steeple and Great Baddow.[19] Certainly the return of Charles II seems to have been followed by a general round-up, for in October 1661 one of the Burnham parish constables sought the payment of 36 shillings in expenses "in Carrieng of Quakers to Colchester Castle", the prison where Parnel had perished. The amount may suggest that at least a cartload of dissidents had been despatched to the far end of the county.[20] Faced with hostile local officials, Burnham Quakers took refuge in Meetings in the nearby villages of Creeksea and Southminster. In March 1670, the frustrated parish constables listed twenty dissidents but admitted failure in catching them in the act of defying religious orthodoxy. "Thes hould forth not in ouer parrish all thow they leve here but most at Crixey and at Southminster we cannot tacke them meting here but they cum not to church this twelve month". The same names were repeated in February 1672 with the despairing comment: "Most of these have binn excominycated a long time."[21] Creeksea is almost opposite Canewdon, and the two parishes were linked by a ferry: if Browne's Rochford conventicle was successfully suppressed by repeated prosecution, the Quakers of Canewdon had a reasonably convenient alternative.[22] Slightly further away was the Friends' Meeting at Steeple, where the Pollard brothers were the mainstay of the group: in the late sixteen-fifties, John Pollard had suffered "exorbitant Seizures for Tithes" that cost him the staggering sum of £322. Nonetheless, the brothers refused payment again in 1662.[23] If Friends were prepared to trudge on the First Day – as many obviously did – there were Meetings that they could attend.

Dating the verse In the autumn of 1667, the Canewdon Quaker community lost two of its members in quick succession. I have no other information about John Jonson, who died on 18 October, but the doggerel makes clear that he was a key member of the group. He was followed on 6 November by James Inman, whose wife had apparently predeceased him, although there is apparently no record of her death. Almost two years earlier, in January 1666, James Inman and his wife Rose, both described as labourers of Canewdon, had been reported to the local courts for failing to attend church, while in 1667 it was Inman alone whose absence was reported.[24] Given the health risks of living alongside the Essex marshes, it hardly seems necessary to seek some special explanation or local epidemic to explain these three deaths in quick succession, although we should not discount the possibility that the Meeting itself – presumably held in restricted quarters – helped spread some unidentified infection.[25]

With Thomas Fritton, we have more information but encounter a complication: he was apparently still alive in 1670, three years after the assumed date of the doggerel. His surname was usually spelt "Fretton": I have used the version given in the verse, but asterisked the variant forms.[26] In 1661, several Quakers, including William Fritton*, were imprisoned in Colchester Castle after being arrested at a Meeting in the house of Thomas Fritton*, "in or near Great Baddow". That same year, Thomas Fritton* "was again imprisoned at Colchester for not paying Tithes". Three years later, both Frittons were penalised for non-payment of tithes. William, who owed £1, nineteen shillings, suffered the confiscation of a cow worth £5; Thomas, against whom £4 was claimed, lost six cows worth £36 – a punitive nine times the amount of the tithe. In 1667, the two were presented for not attending church, the position of the indictment suggesting that they were members of Thomas Browne's conventicle at Rochford. For the first time, their parishes were identified: Thomas belonging to Great Stambridge, William to Little Stambridge, two parishes which immediately adjoined Canewdon. It seems likely that they were brothers, with Thomas in particular engaged in dairy farming on a fairly substantial scale. In 1669, Thomas Fritton was again prosecuted for non-payment of tithes, in a vengeful episode to which I return below. The last reference to him that I have traced was in July 1670, when he was again presented for refusing to attend church.[27]

This it would seem that Tom Fritton was still alive three years after the deaths of the Inmans and Johnson, which would mean that the Canewdon doggerel could not have been written immediately after their interments in 1667. Yet the delighted emphasis upon the deaths of Jonson and the Inmans would seem to point to an immediate response to their removal from the local scene. Could the lines have been composed in two segments? It is just possible that we have here a father-and-son relationship, with the elder Fritton indeed dying in 1667 but his son and namesake inheriting his anti-Anglican principles.  Unfortunately, in the absence of any supporting information – such as a Will – the two-Tom-Frittons theory strains credulity, and it is impossible to say precisely when the doggerel was produced.

Identifying the author The uncertainty regarding the dating of the verse is compounded by the absence of clues regarding its authorship. The combination of literacy and Church principles points to a clergyman, but the turnover in curates adds to the difficulty of identifying the perpetrator. A cleric called John Smith had been appointed curate at Canewdon in 1664. For obvious reasons, this is not an easy name to pin down, but he may have been the John Smith who had been born in 1635 at South Shoebury, another Rochford Hundred community. He had graduated from St John's College, Cambridge in 1656, and was believed to have become a clergyman. If he is the "Mr Smith" whom Josselin described in 1664 as being in serious trouble with the Bishop of London, he was perhaps unlikely to have penned triumphalist verse so contemptuous of the Church's enemies.[28] A more likely culprit might be Samuel Phillibrowne, who was the curate in 1671, but he had only recently been ordained and must have been a recent arrival in the village.[29]  In fact, E.M. Hardy noted that the "intolerant" doggerel was not in the same handwriting as contemporary entries in the register. This presumably rules out any of the resident curates as the author.[30]

Were it not for the uncertainty of dating, the most likely candidate for the authorship would be the vicar in 1667, Jonathan Devereux. Born in 1629, he had graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge in 1656, and had probably spent half a dozen untraced years as a clerical dogsbody. His fortunes changed with the Act of Uniformity in 1662, which caused the ejection of over seventy Puritan clergy from their parishes in Essex alone. Devereux managed to secure not one but two of the vacancies, becoming rector of Cranham as well as vicar of Canewdon. Most rectors of Cranham were absentees. Devereux may have been an exception, since he was buried there after his death in 1669, but we may be reasonably certain that he did not live in unhealthy Canewdon.[31] Canewdon is about twenty miles from Cranham, and Devereux may well have visited his marshland parish, most notably to collect his tithes. As explained in an endnote, he could have had particular incentives to ensure their collection – not least among them, the need to take legal action to seize produce from Quakers, who resolutely resisted payment.[32] While tithes could be collected at any time throughout the summer months – for instance, on hay crops – the main settlements obviously followed the harvest.[33] If a poor summer as followed by a mild autumn, harvesting might be delayed: for instance, at Pitsea, twelve miles from Canewdon, in 1688, barley, oats and peas did not ripen "till ye beginning of November", while broad beans "were abroad till the close of the month".[34]  Furthermore, by the second half of the seventeenth century, there is evidence that, in some Essex parishes, tithe payments were compounded into a form of rent.[35] In such cases, it made sense to allow farmers time to take their produce to market and obtain the necessary cash. The historian Eric J. Evans cites two eighteen-century examples where incumbents collected their tithes as late as December. In many parishes, local tradition required the parson to show his appreciation by providing a feast.[36] A scholarly survey of English harvest fluctuations categorised that of 1667 as "abundant" but, if so, this was not without its problems. On 24 November, Josselin noted a fall in the price of corn, causing "a sad hard time, in the midst of plenty, mon[e]y scarce".[37] If Canewdon farmers had struck deals to pay tithes in cash at a fixed rate per acre, the menacing presence of their rector might be required to secure compliance. The evidence offered here may be termed suggestive and supportive: it would explain why Jonathan Devereux might have visited Canewdon in late November or early December 1667, but cannot prove that he did. Devereux would certainly be a plausible candidate for the authorship of the anti-Quaker lines if they were penned towards the end of 1667, but his death two years later rules him out as their creator if there was only one Tom Fritton, not two, whose death occurred after July 1670.

To compound the mystery, there was a vacancy in the incumbency at what may have been the key period: Devereux was dead by October 1669, when a successor was appointed to his other living at Cranham, but Canewdon was not filled until the induction of the next vicar, Edward Webster, sometime in 1670. The interregnum suggests that the rector of Great Stambridge, Robert Sterrell, might have written the lines, and that a clash with Fritton over tithes explains their jubilant venom. In a small parish, a clash between clergyman and farmer was likely to be bitter. At the 1801 census, Great Stambridge counted 277 people, and the population would have been smaller in the seventeenth century: in 1641, the Protestation, a declaration of support for the Long Parliament, bore 26 signatures (some of them crosses), a rough indication of the number of residents who constituted the effective community. According to Quaker tradition, Thomas Fritton was prosecuted by "Sturrel, priest of Much Stambridge, on the Statute of treble Damages", a punitive measure designed to ensure that defaulters lost far more through the judicial process than the mere cost of the unpaid tithes. Fritton was alleged to owe £16, but the court seized sixteen cows and a bull worth £56. It is likely that local opinion was shocked by this blatant attempt to destroy a neighbour's livelihood, and few wished to profit from his persecution. When the beasts were put up for auction, they fetched only £40, and the bailiff "threatned to come again for more". Thomas Fritton had served two terms of imprisonment, and this seizure was the second attempt to destroy him in five years. The stress may well have contributed to his death soon afterwards.

Robert Sterrell had graduated from Oxford with a degree in civil law, an unusual training for a clergyman, and he evidently exploited his legal knowledge against his recalcitrant parishioner. He also knew the value of money. By great good fortune, a document survives in the Essex Record Office showing that, at about the time of his campaign against Fritton, he advanced a mortgage to a local widow – and it was no act of charity. Elizabeth Britteridge had inherited from her husband a property in Rochford called the "Red Lyon" – probably a public house. In March 1668, she needed cash, and accepted a twelve-month loan from Sterrell for £60, agreeing to repay £63, twelve shillings in March 1669. An interest rate of seven percent was probably not considered exorbitant at the time, but the transaction does suggest Sterrell probably did not preach sermons that denounced usury. The mortgage document reveals something else of importance: the debt was to be repaid "at or in ye Parsonage house of Great Stambridge".  Sterrell seems to have been unusual among local clergy in actually living in his parish. Indeed, he buried three wives at Great Stambridge, the last of them in 1673. The following year, Mary Sterrell, "spinster", was the victim of a theft there, and it seems likely that she was an unmarried  sister who perhaps came to keep house for him. If so, the arrangement may not have worked, for when she made her Will in 1678, Mary Sterrell, "singlewoman", was living seven miles away in Rayleigh. If Robert Sterrell was actually resident in the next parish, he may well have been commissioned to look after church affairs in Canewdon while the parish was awaiting its new vicar. He might well have checked the parish register, to make sure the curates were entering the births, marriages and deaths. Rejoicing at his terminal victory over Thomas Fritton, he spotted the entries for Jonson and Inman and was moved to an "uncharitable and intolerant" celebration of the hoped-for downfall of Quakerism.[38]

A third candidate for the authorship is Edward Webster, who became vicar of Canewdon in 1670. Born about 1636, Webster was the son of a clergyman Jegon Webster, who owed his unusual forename to some connection with John Jegon, Bishop of Norwich from 1603 to 1618.[39] After some years serving as curate at the Essex village of Little Sampford, Edward Webster's father became the rector there in 1640, only to be ejected as a Royalist three years later. In 1650, the new incumbent was paying "Fifths" to Webster's widow, and the household probably lived on this relatively small compensatory pension. When Edward Webster went to Cambridge in 1651, at the age of sixteen, he entered St John's as a sizar, a poor student who undertook menial tasks in exchange for reduced fees. He proved to be a good student, for within a year of his graduation in 1654, he was elected to a Fellowship at St John's. Of course, his successful academic record does not prove that he could or did write mocking doggerel, but his academic training would have equipped him to write Latin verse, which might be regarded as an approximate training. It is likely that Edward Webster took religion more seriously than some of his more secular-minded contemporaries, for he also obtained a degree in divinity, a qualification that was certainly not essential for a career in the Church. He was ordained in 1660 but no clerical appointment is recorded before he obtained Canewdon ten years later. He probably worked as a curate, and it seems likely that he was still based at Little Sampford, where his own son was born in 1662. The parish is located between Saffron Walden and Thaxted, both towns Quaker strongholds in that period. This we can imagine Edward Webster throughout the sixteen-sixties struggling with money and resentful of religious radicals. His appointment to Canewdon in 1670 would have been a welcome career move, which he might well have celebrated with a derogatory obituary notice rejoicing at the providential elimination of local trouble-makers. The obvious counter-argument here is that the author seems to have known (and intensely disliked) Jonson, Inman and Fritton, but there is no evidence that Webster knew the area before his appointment.[40]

Of course, it can be argued that neither the authorship of the anti-Quaker verse nor – to within half a dozen years – its exact date is of much importance. What matters is the "intolerant" doggerel reflected Anglican contempt for radical religious dissent in Restoration England.[41] At most, speculation about the writer's identity may help bring to life clergymen of a past era. 

Sequel  By ironic coincidence, the Canewdon doggerel was penned at just the moment when Charles II's ministers decided to relax the repression of the Quakers. For months, the House of Commons had been gunning for the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Clarendon, who was blamed for the humiliating naval disasters in the recently concluded war against the Dutch. At the end of November, Clarendon had fled to exile in France. As his name had been attached to the legislation against Nonconformists – the Clarendon Code – it seemed a good moment for a conciliatory move. Since the first signature on the circular issued to magistrates on 13 December was that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, it can hardly be said that the regime had become converted to religious tolerance. Indeed, one of Gilbert Sheldon's many detractors claimed that he spoke of religion "as of an engine of government and a matter of policy". Indeed, the revised instructions explained official thinking. The King had decided to reduce the prison population "in such manner as bold offenders may receive noe encouragement" while royal mercy might be extended "to unwary and seduced persons" in the hope of reclaiming them from their errors. The initiative was particularly aimed at "that sort of People called Quakers", to distinguish between those who "may be fit objects of the Majesties mercy" and those "who are Ringleaders of Faccion in contempt of the laws".[42] The assumption behind the new policy – the most Quakers were deluded people misled by malevolent agitators – almost certainly failed to comprehend the inner strength of the movement, nor did it guarantee immunity from future persecution as the pendulum of government policy swung back towards intolerance.  However, for the time being, it seemed to suggest that "God's Church" would have to wait for the inevitable triumph predicted by the Canewdon versifier. A week later, Samuel Pepys noted that "the Nonconformists are mighty high [confident, even cocky] and their meetings frequented and connived at; and they do expect to have their day now soon". A powerful Court figure, the Duke of Buckingham, was "a declared friend" to all the Dissenters "and even to the Quakers, who had very good words the other day from the King himself".[43]

Although Quakers continued to be pursued for unpaid tithes – as was the fate of Thomas Fritton – the years from 1668 to 1674 saw some retreat from the severe persecutions of earlier years. George Fox used the interval of relative calm to give his movement a four-level structure. At the base, Quakers would gather every "First Day" (Sunday) close to their homes, some of them in very small groups. Next came a tier of Monthly Meetings at more populated centres. In September 1667, he organised Essex into six of them: Coggeshall, Felsted, Ham (East and West), Thaxted, Waltham Abbey and Witham. (Within a decade, an additional Monthly Meeting was formed in Colchester. In 1691, Waltham Abbey joined with Enfield in Middlesex, and Barking replaced Ham.) Above these was a Quarterly Meeting for the whole county, and the pyramid was capped with an annual conference which first assembled in 1669. In a sense, the Religious Society of Friends had created the first modern national organisation. It had the great advantage of referring steadily upwards all controversial questions – ownership and administration of property, behaviour of members, so that issues that could not be resolved locally might be decided in the Monthly Meeting or remitted still higher. The natural tendency of such a structure was that the influence of solid, sensible and, of course, prosperous Quakers increased the higher the problems were carried. At the intermediate levels, "preparative meetings" discussed agenda items for submission to the next tier, and chose representatives to explain their concerns: in effect, the structure required management committees for its successful functioning.

The Yearly Meeting was particularly productive of "Exhortations", and the whole movement could easily be mobilised behind defined priorities. Friends needed places to bury their dead. Witham Quakers leased a plot for a burial ground in 1667. Copford followed a year later. By 1672, Barking and Waltham Abbey had established burial grounds.[44] Permanent Meeting Houses were also desirable wherever numbers justified them. Barking and Wanstead (where William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was an early member) had erected their own premises by 1673. Ralph Josselin affected not be troubled when an Earls Colne man, John Garrad, took the lead in erecting a Meeting House. Having seen a previous congregation wither away, "I am not over sollicitous of the effect ... expecting god will appear for his truth". Six weeks after the completion of the premises, Garrad's wife died, apparently unexpectedly. "I doe not determine why .... but do not question the downfall of that sect under the feet of Christ and his servants". The Meeting House built at Stebbing that same year remains in use, although now as a community hall.[45]

With towns and large villages becoming the centres of Quaker activity, what was happening among the smaller groups out in the villages and marshes? They were not necessarily in decline, but they certainly seem to have become less visible. Davies estimates that there was a three-to-two urban to rural ratio among Essex Quakers, at least until the mid-sixteen nineties, when the balance began to slip towards two-to-one. The message was still winning fresh converts, but by the nature of its organisation, new activity focused on the towns: in 1697, Essex Friends raised money for bricks-and-mortar in Billericay and, four years later, a major fund-raising campaign secured the completion of a handsome Meeting House in Chelmsford, where a group had been in existence since 1677.[46] Nonetheless, the movement also shed people. Some lost their membership for failing to attend Meetings or to heed remonstrances about their conduct. The passage of time also took its toll: as the zealots of the sixteen-fifties and –sixties passed from the scene, their children did not always adhere to the cause. The Wanstead Meeting was in trouble by 1692. Three years later, the small Meeting in a rural part of Romford was officially categorised as "retired", meaning that it was maintained solely for the aged and infirm. Membership was also forfeited by marrying out of the Society, which naturally meant that prospects of survival were bleak in areas where Quakers were thin on the ground. Yet by the sixteen-eighties, there was an erosion of strength even in Witham, a town where as many as ten percent of the population may have been Friends. Some defections to the Church of England may have been prompted by quarrels within the Meeting, while others were the product of a slow process of attrition: a child whose birth was entered in the Quaker register in 1662 presented himself for baptism at Witham parish church in 1717.[47]

Against this mixed backdrop of advance and retreat, there seems little doubt that the cause was in retreat in Rochford Hundred after 1670. The collective memory of persecution remembered only Thomas Marsh of Leigh, in 1678 stripped of £100-worth of property for eight years of unpaid tithes, and imprisoned for a further two. When Marsh had purchased property at Leigh in 1667, he was described as a London merchant. As an incomer he probably had little in common with the Inmans and the Frittons.[48] Two centuries later, Philip Benton, an assiduous antiquarian, chronicled no other traces of Quakers or Quakerism in the district. By contrast, Friends maintained their footholds north of the Crouch in the very similar landscape of the Dengie peninsula. In 1706, Quaker Meeting Houses were licensed at both Southminster and Steeple, and parish registers indicate that the Quaker burial ground at Steeple was used until the seventeen-seventies. Davies regards Burnham as an active Quaker centre in the eighteenth century.[49] Perhaps the Meetings here benefited from slightly closer contact with the Quaker strongholds of Maldon and Witham, but the geographical factor could only have been marginal. It is more likely that communities survived in Dengie Hundred through the accident of possessing strong personalities and committed families. The rapid deaths of four Canewdon and Stambridge Quakers around 1670 may not have presaged the triumph of the Church of England, as the Canewdon versifier enthusiastically hoped, but it may well have marked the extinction of their movement in that locality.[50]

Appendix  I return to the doggerel to offer a reconstruction of its original form, based on the version transcribed by E.J. Erith in 1948.[51] It is striking the English language has changed remarkably little in three and a half centuries. One difference is that 'speaker' (lines 1-2, 17-18) obviously rhymed with 'Quaker' (as 'breaker' still does today). Some terms are now archaic. 'Fain' (line 2), has been replaced by synonyms such as 'compelled' / 'forced' /  'obliged', and it may be that the language is the poorer for its loss. 'Down[e]' (line 17) is rarely used as a verb, surviving principally in set phrases, such as 'down tools' or 'down a pint'. (It is used here intransitively.) 'Thou' (nominative) and 'thy' (possessive) were still the standard second-person singular pronouns, along with 'thee' (accusative), which is not used here. Gradually the plural forms, 'you' and 'your', came to be used out of politeness in addressing a single individual (as in the 'royal we' or the formal use of 'vous' in place of 'tu' in French). Quakers objected to this deference and maintained the old forms into the nineteenth century.[52] The traditional phrase 'decay of trade' (cf. line 17) was still used occasionally in the early twentieth century. One term which may mislead is 'mess[e]' (line 14). Originally it referred to a continuing group of four people engaged in the consumption (and sometimes the preparation) of food, and was related to the French 'mets' meaning 'dish', 'course' or 'serving'). Over time, the word gradually came to refer more generally to an Army or Navy canteen (e.g. 'officers' mess', 'mess-deck'). However, the original meaning, of a foursome for catering, conveyed the notion of ad hoc informality which, by the early nineteenth century, became associated with 'muddle' / 'confusion' – and this is the predominant sense in which we use the word today. The Canewdon versifier was simply conveying the idea that the death of Thomas Fritton, completed the set, and that the four Quakers would be yoked together for all eternity. In modern British English, 'sure' (line 19) would be converted into the more definitely adverbial 'surely', but colloquial usage in the United States would have no problems with the shorter word, a reminder of the vigorous seventeenth-century roots of American English. Few problems are caused by the minor variations in spelling (such as the redundant letter –e in 'less', 'poor', 'sigh' and 'tear'), while 'tis' – of course – is a pleasantly Shakespearean form of "it is". It is interesting to note that 'crew' ('crue') was used then, as it is used now, to indicate – in the non-nautical context – contemptuous disapproval of a collection of unsavoury individuals. Across the generations the Canewdon versifier still communicates to us the jubilant venom of a vengeful Anglican. Erith's transcription rendered 'the' as th'', and '-ied' spellings as 'i'd'. I have ignored these as shorthand conventions, simplified the reported punctuation and passed over some readings that seem to represent minor errors.[53]

 "Jonson the quaker on the tenth of October

Spoiled for a Speaker was fain to give over

The Spirit moved him with a new found greeting

To meete with death, at a Silent meeting

Where tis feired, for speaking too much before

He must sit silent there for evermore.

He lived without the Church without the Church he died,

And of Church Rites, is justly now denied;

And without Sighe or Teare or Prayer said,

Beast-like in Earth John Jonson now is laid.

Fast after him goes Inman James, another

Of the quaking crue; a Speaking Brother,

Whose Wife went before; That Holy Syster

All in such haste; as if the Devil mist her.

Next with like speed, for there could be no lesse

Post haste goes Thom Fritton to make up the messe.

If Sly death, then, robes thee of thy quakers,

Poore Devil; what wilt thou doe for Speikers,

Thy Chappel sure will downe; thy Trade decay,

O that God's Church may live to see that Day."


[1] It was first published by the local historian, Philip Benton, in 1867, two centuries after it was written. Further versions were contributed to the county miscellany magazine, the Essex Review, by E.M. Hardy in 1913, and by E.J. Erith in 1948: P. Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred…, i, (Rochford, Essex, 1867), 117; Essex Review, xxii (1913), 86; lvii (1948), 81. Ethel Maude Hardy was the wife of the vicar, the Reverend Charles Hardy. E.J. Erith was an archivist at the Essex Record Office who produced the impressive compilation, Essex Parish Records 1240-1894 (Chelmsford, 1950). The Canewdon parish registers are held by the Essex Record Office.

[2] H.L. Ingle, "Fox, George (1624–1691)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The major source for early Quakerism in Essex remains J. Besse, A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers... (London, 1753), 190-208. Information from Besse was repackaged in C. Fell Smith, Steven Crisp and his correspondents, 1657-1692 (London, 1892), 67-75 and in her James Parnell... (2nd ed., London, 1907), 91-107. A.  Ludgater, "Sufferings of Essex Quakers in the Commonwealth Period", Essex Review, xliv (1935), 219-21 lists those arrested but with little supporting information. More useful, because based on his work as an archivist at the Essex Record Office, are F. Hull, "Early Friends in Central and Northern Essex" and "More Essex Friends of Restoration Period",  Essex Review, lvi (1946), 64-72; lvii (1947), 60-71. A. Davies, The Quakers in English Society, 1655-1725 (Oxford, 2000) [cited as Davies], is based on a detailed study of the movement in Essex, e.g. ch. 11 which examines their social origins. 

[3] A. Macfarlane, ed., The Diary of Ralph Josselin... (Oxford, 1991 ed., cf. 1st ed. 1976), 349. 350, 367, 388.

[4] Macfarlane, ed., The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 366, 379, 380.

[5] Macfarlane, ed., The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 349, 366-7; A. Davies, "Parnel [Parnell], James (bap. 1636, d. 1656)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Josselin also claimed that Parnel's followers gathered at Colchester to witness his resurrection.

[6] D.H. Allen [ed.], Essex Quarter Sessions Order Book 1652-1661 (Chelmsford, 1974), 88. This crackdown began three months before another of Fox's converts, James Nayler, staged his Palm Sunday-style entry into Bristol, triggering a brutal punishment for blasphemy.

[7] Macfarlane, ed., The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 348, 403, 450.

[8] Fox wrote of this period: "Friends had great travails and sore labours, the rude people having been so heightened with the Monarchy Men’s rising before." J.L. Nickalls, ed. The Journal of George Fox (Cambridge, 1952), 421.

[9] Macfarlane, ed., The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 446, 481. Josselin wrote of the "swarming" of the Quakers on 39 June 1661. Returning to London from a visit to Huntingdon in August, Samuel Pepys noted that everywhere he travelled, "the Quakers do still continue, and rather grow than lessen". R.Latham and W. Matthews, eds, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ii (London, 1970, 148-9.

[10] J. A. Sharpe, Crime in Seventeenth-Century England ... (Cambridge, 1983), 198. In 1662, eight Quakers had been imprisoned in the House of Correction at Chelmsford for unlawful assembly and refusal to take the oath of allegiance to Charles II. Information from Essex Archives Online (, cited as EAO.

[11] Davies, ch. 13.

[12] D.W. Coller, The People's History of Essex … (Chelmsford, 1861), 501; T. Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex … (2 vols, London, 1835), ii, 622. Modern pronunciation tends to emphasise the second syllable, probably in relation to a tradition that the name derives from King Canute, victor in the 1016 battle of "Assandun", which is assumed to have taken place in the adjoining parish of Ashingdon. Coller even asserted that earthworks near the village were Canute's camp. The 1801 census recorded 569 people, which perhaps suggests a parish population of 300-400 in the mid-seventeenth century.

[13] P. Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex... (2 vols, London, 1768), i, 268; M. Dobson, "'Marsh fever': the Geography of Malaria in England", Journal of Historical Geography, vi (1980), 357-89. In 1867, Benton reported that some of the houses in the village of Canewdon were "unfit for human habitation": as a working farmer, his standards were probably not very high. Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred, I, 128.  The boring of artesian wells improved the quality of drinking water during the 19th century. A report of c.1899 found that Canewdon had "an abundant supply of pure water from a deep public well". However, in the thinly populated adjoining village of Ashingdon, most homes still relied upon rain water and the supply was "deficient in quality and quality", and this almost certainly reflected the general situation in the district two centuries earlier.  J.C. Thresh, Report on the Water Supply of the County of Essex (Chelmsford, [1899]), 78. South-east Essex is the driest area of England.

[14] Kelly's Directory of Essex (1886), 56. The exact sum of the commutation was £579, 15 shillings and 3 pence (£579.76), making its vicar one of the better paid Essex clergy. The area of the parish was 5,234 acres, which included part of nearby Wallasea Island.

[15] Curiously, the village became associated with witchcraft. Since there is no indication of witch trials during the 17th-century persecutions, it may be that this tradition developed later: it was still remembered in the mid-20th century. E. Maple, "The Witches of Canewdon", Folklore, lxxi (1960), 241-50, summary in Essex Countryside, November 1961, 44.

[16] Davies, ch. 12. Recorded membership peaked at 2,379 in 1684. There were six hundred recruits between 1665 and 1674.

[17] Davies, ch. 12.  The often-quoted claim by Fox that he addressed two thousand people at Coggeshall in 1655 should be treated with scepticism. Even today, crowd statistics are often exaggerated, and Fox would have had in mind the parables of the Feeding of the Five / Ten Thousand. But there is no doubt that Coggeshall and Colchester were major centres. Nickalls, ed. The Journal of George Fox, 213-14, 421, 512. For Felsted Quakers, see Essex Review, lvi, 70-1.

[18] Davies, ch. 1; EAO.  In 1913, E.M. Hardy stated that Canewdon Quakers had their own burial ground, just west of the churchyard, which would suggest that they were relatively numerous and well organised. The location would explain how some of their interments were noted in the parish register. However, the folklorist Eric Maple reported that bones had been discovered at the spot which were "thought at the time to be the remains of seventeenth-century Quakers, buried in unconsecrated ground", a formulation that suggests guesswork rather than tradition. There is no indication of a separate burial plot in the tithe award and detailed parish map of 1840. Since the location was associated with manifestations of the ghost of a particularly frightening witch, it may be that the ground adjoining the churchyard was originally used for the burial of suicides and others who failed to qualify for Christian burial. Essex Review, xxii (1913), 86n.; P. Mardon, The Place-Names of Canewdon (e-book, 2014), via; Maple, "The Witches of Canewdon", 243n.

[19] Information from keyword searches in EAO and from Besse, 192, 199. Hubersly was imprisoned for five weeks; Davidge for four, but without visitors. Now known as Burnham-on-Crouch, the small town is a yachting centre. In 1801, the population of the parish of 4,517 acres (seven square miles) was 1,054. Burnham in the mid-seventeenth-century would have been a very small community. Even so, Quakers did not have a monopoly of Dissent: in 1673, the town had one of the few registered Baptist chapels in Essex. (Victoria County History of Essex, ii, 70). However, 16 of the 25 people reported in February 1672 for failing to attend church seem to be identical with the Quakers listed in March 1670.

[20] Allen [ed.], Essex Quarter Sessions Order Book 1652-1661, 203.

[21] EAO. The calendared entry refers to "Brixey" and tentatively suggests that Brightlingsea was intended. I have emended this to "Crixey", a common spelling for Creeksea. The quaint spelling may be rendered as "These hold forth not in our parish although they live here but most at Crixey and Southminster. We cannot take them meeting here but they come not to church this twelve month". "Most of these have been excommunicated a long time." Excommunication (refusal of access to the ceremonies  of the Church) was a singularly pointless sanction against those who refused to attend.

[22] Creeksea Ferry is mentioned in EAO in 1630 and 1689. In 1629, there was a complaint that the ferryman was charging fourpence a journey, when the fare should be "but a penny a man and a penny a horse or other beast". (But I have not established whether the ferry operated on Sundays.)

[23] Besse, 198; Davies, ch. 1.

[24] James Inman may have been related to Christopher Inman, a Quaker of Thorrington, Essex, who died in 1695: Davies, 87.

[25] Notes in the Great Stambridge registers record that 1658 was a "sickly-dying" year, 1666 "a sad year of Mortalitie to Old People here" and 1676 "so fatall to Elder people here". EAO.

[26] There was a 16th-century house, Frettons, at Danbury: Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, Essex, iv (1923), 31. (It survives, but encased in 18th-century brickwork.)

[27] Besse, 198, 201-3; EAO.

[28] EAO. Macfarlane tentatively identified a John Smith, curate at Castle Hedingham in 1662, who was in trouble in 1664 for failing to conform. He had been appointed to Castle Hedingham in 1661 but dispossessed the following year for failing to conform under the Act of Uniformity. Josselin may have been helping him to make his peace with the  Bishop of London, who had threatened to make an example of "Mr Smith": perhaps exile to Canewdon was his punishment: Macfarlane, ed., The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 512. Information about Cambridge students comes from Oxford  students are identified via  

[29] Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred, i, 114-15. Samuel Phillibrowne had graduated from Cambridge in 1669, was ordained deacon in September 1669 and priest twelve months later. He was 22 when he came to Canewdon. In 1671, he organised a collection of 12 shillings towards the redemption of Christian captives held by Algerian pirates. That year he was appointed to the valuable living of Prittlewell, where he died in 1678, aged about 30.

[30] Essex Review, xxii (1913), 86-7. Hardy tentatively identified the curate as Nehemiah Rogers, but this appears to be an error.

[31] H. Smith, The Ecclesiastical History of Essex … (Colchester, n.d.), 359; Victoria County History of Essex, vii, 103-9. J. Peile, ed., Biographical Register of Christ's College, 1505-1905... (Cambridge, 1910), 511 assumed that Devereux had died at Cranham.  

[32] Parishioners were obliged to hand over ten percent of their produce in tithes, although local customs sometimes limited payments, and farmers notoriously evaded a much-resented burden. Anglican parish clergy had three job titles: rector, vicar and curate, which meant ruler, deputy and caretaker. Curates were an underclass but, in practice, rectors and vicars had enjoyed equal status.  However, their entitlement to tithes differed. Where a parish had a vicar, it usually meant that the church had been granted to a religious house in the Middle Ages.  In the case of Canewdon, this was Prittlewell Priory at the time of its foundation in the twelfth century. A vicarage (a term referring to the institution, not the building) had been "instituted" (i.e. established) in 1231. Tithes were then divided between the monastery and the incumbent. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the rectorial tithes along with other monastic property, were transferred to new ownership – sometimes Cambridge and Oxford colleges, but often to local landowners or even to complete strangers, who were termed "impropriators". The impropriators collected the "great tithes", levied upon corn, hay and timber, leaving the vicars to depend upon the "small tithes" from such resources such as livestock, vegetables and wool.  The small tithes were "usually ... a greater nuisance to collect", and worth less. The first point would explain why even an absentee vicar might find it useful to visit the parish, to ensure that he was not being cheated. The second point was vividly illustrated when Canewdon's tithes were commuted to cash payments in 1840: the lay impropriator was awarded an annual income of £1,001, while the vicar received £580. It was understandable that a parson might resent a system by which two-thirds of the parochial tithe revenues went into the pocket of someone who had inherited the rights of a long-defunct medieval priory. When the lay impropriator Thomas Ellis died in 1636, the vicar, an Oxford graduate called Elizeus Burges, celebrated the event in verse – no doubt incidentally creating a precedent for the inclusion of more uncharitable doggerel in the parish register:

Lord how he swells, as if he had at least

 A common-wealth reposed in his breast,

Prodigious stomach! Ah! Cruel deale

He could devoure whole Churches at a meale.

'Tis very strange that Nature should deliver

So good a stomach to so bad a liver.

('Commonwealth' was the contemporary term for political society, i.e. the people and their form of government together. 'Reposed' was evidently intended to be pronounced as three syllables: re-pos-ed. It is hard to feel sympathy with Burges. He was evicted by Parliament in 1644 on the grounds that he was a non-resident pluralist and, of course, a Royalist.) At Canewdon in the 19th century, there was a local arrangement which, unusually, gave the vicar the great tithes of part of the parish, but this did little to equalise the shares. Since there is no evidence of a tithe barn at Canewdon, it may be that the tenant of the vicar's glebe – at 60 acres, big enough for a respectable farm – was responsible for collecting the tithes. Once again, it was in the interests of a non-resident incumbent to visit during tithing time. Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, i, 371; E.J. Evans, The Contentious Tithe... (London, 1976), 6-7; Kelly's Directory of Essex (1886), 56; Essex Review, xxii (1913), 86; W. White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Essex… (Sheffield, 1848), 388.

[33] From 1636 to 1663, tithe accounts were kept for the north-west Essex parish of Widdington, showing receipts on an almost daily basis for small tithes on fruit, honey, hops, wood, and produce from a dovehouse and a mill: Erith, (comp.), Essex Parish Records 1240-1894, 230. Detailed notes on the collection of small tithes compiled in 1682 by the rector of Ashingdon, the parish adjoining Canewdon to the west, indicate the complexity of local customs. The incumbent could claim one in ten of all calves, foals, geese, lambs and pigs born in the parish. But what happened if a farmer had fewer than ten in any category? If there were more than six, one was payable as tithe, but the rector had to pay back a halfpenny "for each  that wants of ten" for geese and pigs, a penny for lambs and as much as half a crown for each foal short of ten. In other categories, "for wool either by the 10 lbs. or the tenth fleece; hay by the tenth haycock; and com by the tenth shock, or the tenth sheaf, as the parson chuseth." Ducks, pigeons and turkeys were treated like geese, "and for cows the tenth days' milk." Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred, i,  13. Between 1799 and 1802, there was a campaign of resistance in the parish of Upminster against the grasping tactics of the rector, with incidents recorded between July and September.  Milk from cow that had newly calved was unfit for human consumption. On one occasion, one tenth of it was thrown into the rector's tithe share, the farmer insisting that he was abiding by the letter of the requirement: The Story of Upminster, viii (1959), 21-3.

[34] L. Thompson, The Story of the Land that Fanns… (Chelmsford, 1957), 119.

[35] In EAO, records survive for the compounding of tithes from Aveley, Fairstead, Loughton, Theydon Garnon and Woodford – a wide range of parishes. Erith (comp.), Essex Parish Records 1240-1894, 80, 177, 211 adds the examples of Great Chishill, Rayne and Toppesfield. The general compounding of tithes into cash payments in early Victorian times probably meant that similar records elsewhere were discarded.

[36] Evans, The Contentious Tithe, 32-3. The ordeal of the parish tithe feast was amusingly described by the poet William Cowper in 1786 to cheer his friend William Unwin, rector of the Essex parish of Stock. One farmer is quoted: "...a rarer man than you / in pulpit none shall hear; / But yet, me thinks to tell you true, / You sell it plaguy dear." F.W. Austen, Rectors of Two Essex Parishes and Their Times... (Colchester, 1943), 359-60.

[37] W. G. Hoskins, "Harvest Fluctuations and English Economic History, 1620–1759",  Agricultural History Review, xvi (1968), 15-31, esp. 29; Macfarlane, ed., The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 538. Soon after, Samuel Pepys reported a discussion with several influential persons: "they did talk much of the present cheapness of Corne, even to a miracle; so as their farmers can pay no rent, but do fling up their lands". On 31 January, he referred to "the general want of money in the country ... land sold for nothing". R. Latham and W. Matthews, eds, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ix (London, 1976), 1, 45 (1, 31 January 1668).

[38] B. Marsh and F.A. Crisp, eds, Alumni Carthusiani ... (London, 1913), 7; EAO. Sterrell had been a pupil at the Charterhouse in London, which owned the advowson of Great Stambridge. "Great" place-names were popularly rendered as "Much" until the eighteenth century. I quote the disapproval of the verse in Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred, i, 117.

[39] Jegon Webster came from Leicestershire, where John Jegon had been a clergyman from 1588 to 1595. The future Bishop was Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where Webster became a student in 1614.

[40] Smith, The Ecclesiastical History of Essex, 289; EAO. Webster's wife was a relation (perhaps a daughter) of James Fleetwood, who in 1675 became Bishop of Worcester. This gave him the right to appoint the rector of Newington in Surrey (which, of course, was nowhere near Worcester). In 1681, he bestowed the job upon Webster, who gave up Canewdon – and also, at that time, became rector of Little Sampford. Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred, i, 120.

[41] Essex Review, xxii (1913), 87. E.M. Hardy, the vicar's wife, disapproved of the verse. Mention may be made here of verse in the parish register at Ashingdon, two miles west of Canewdon, which almost certainly dates from the early years of the Restoration. Between 1641 and 1643, the Long Parliament demanded that all adult males sign three successive statements which cumulatively implied that sovereignty rested with the people and was not derived from royal authority. These were the Protestation of 1641, the Vow of 1643, which repudiated disloyal conspiracies, and which was quickly overtaken by the Solemn League and Covenant, an alliance with the Scots at the price of adopting the Presbyterian form of worship. These records were often condemned by the orthodox clergy who re-established control after 1662, e.g. at Dengie in Essex with the succinct comment: "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft", or even more dismissively at Prittlewell, where the signatories were dismissed as "All Roundhead Villains". At Ashingdon, the condemnation was more ponderous:

What more? Vow, Covenant and Protestation,

All to maintaine ye Church and English Nation.

A Threefold coard sure is not easilie broaken

For soe ye wyse-man hath divinelie spoaken.

But all in vaine: men’s hearts with guile are fraught,

Great ones break through, small fishes they are caught;

Three Nations thus are twisted all in one;

Three Nations thus are three times thrice undone.

The lines were probably written by John Forward, rector from 1662. The solemn nature of the verse makes it unlikely that it was by the same author as the Canewdon doggerel, the more so given the use of "spoaken" here and "speikers" at Canewdon. The allusion in line 4 is to Ecclesiastes, 4:12, "a threestrand cord is not quickly broken".  Smith, The Ecclesiastical History of Essex, 96-7, version in Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred, i, 10.

[42] J. Spurr, "Sheldon, Gilbert (1598–1677)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography;  EAO.

[43] R. Latham and W. Matthews, eds, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, viii (London, 1974), 584-5 (21 December 1667).

[44] J. Gyford, Public Spirit: Dissent in Witham... (Witham, 1999), 146; Victoria County History of Essex, x, 152; v, 175, 231.

[45] Victoria County History of Essex, v, 231; vi, 334-5; Macfarlane, ed., The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 581.

[46] Davies, ch. 12; H. Grieve, The Sleepers and the Shadows: Chelmsford ... 1608-1888 (Chelmsford, 1994), 85-7. A Meeting House was also built c. 1700 in Epping, not previously a noted Quaker centre: Victoria County History of Essex, v, 136.

[47] Victoria County History of Essex, vi, 334-5; vii, 87-8; Gyford, Public Spirit: Dissent in Witham, 147-52, 137. The diary of an unidentified Quaker in EAO shows that Wanstead Quakers decided to suspend meetings during the winter of 1713 because of the state of the roads. This was not the spirit of half a century earlier.

[48] Besse, 205; EAO. But a document of 1675 described Thomas Marsh as a husbandman.

[49] EAO, Davies, ch. 12. There is perhaps some slight irony about a Quaker Meeting at Steeple, since "steeple-house" was the derogatory term used by Quakers to describe an Anglican parish church. A calendared list in EAO reports the licensing of a Quaker Meeting House at Hockley, four miles west of Canewdon, in 1709. I assume this is a mistranscription of Bocking, where a Meeting House had been established five years earlier.

[50] The ebbing of Quakerism did not mean that the Rochford area succumbed to undisputed Anglican supremacy. An Independent congregation was in existence in the town by 1730, and almost certainly earlier, and in 1740 acquired a building that is still in use. In 1829, it claimed 500 members plus a satellite group of 25 at Great Stambridge. In 1833, Canewdon acquired a Wesleyan chapel, described fifteen years later as "a small building". This seems to have been subsequently taken over by the Congregationalists by 1868, and was described in 1908 as "holding 150 persons". Parish population figures for 1841 were: Rochford, 1722; Canewdon, 723; Great Stambridge, 431. Nonconformist numbers probably excluded children.  Friction continued with the Church of England, which controlled the village primary school. In 1872, the Essex Congregational Union, reported (with some annoyance) that "at Canewdon they had no Sunday school because the children who went to the church school during the day were obliged to go to church on the Sunday". A breakaway group from Methodism in Rochford became a distinct sect, the Peculiar People, noted for their refusal to accept medical aid: in some respects, they resembled the early Quakers. Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred, i, 127-8; White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Essex; EAO; Kelly's Directory of Essex, 1908, 85; Chelmsford Chronicle, 1 May 1868; 3 May 1872.

[51] Essex Review, lvii, 81. There are some obvious errors, probably typographical, e.g. the heading refers to "Canewden".

[52] Nineteenth-century American Quakers were said to have used 'thee' in place of 'thou': A.Hench, "Nominative 'Thou' and 'Thee' in Quaker English", American Speech, iv (1929), 361-3.

[53] These include the 1948 rendering of 'faint' for 'fain' (line 2), 'Sigth' for 'Sighe' (line 9), 'she' for 'Sly' (line 17, preferring here the version given by E.M. Hardy). 'Rrites' for 'rites' (line 8) and 'Systex' for 'Sister' (line 13) are obvious typographical errors.