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Collective Lay Support for Late Reformation Preaching in the South Pennines


This article examines how lay people brought preaching of the Word to their locality in early seventeenth-century Yorkshire and Lancashire by acting collectively to build chapels, raise funds for ministers’ wages and provide fees and hospitality. A wide cross-section of society was willingly involved in this support, suggesting that enthusiasm for sermon-centred worship was not just the preserve of a godly few. It is proposed that this collective behaviour and its rhetorical representation could foster an inclusive sense of local identity. The importance of the personal style and skills of individual preachers in engendering support is also considered.

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This paper is based on research conducted as part of my PhD thesis ‘Post-Reformation preaching in the Pennines: space, identity and affectivity’, Huddersfield 2015. I am grateful to Dr Pat Cullum, Dr Sarah Bastow and Professor Alec Ryrie for their support and encouragement in this work.

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1 Diocese of Chester, consistory court papers, Chester archives, EDC 5/1618/48. Saddleworth was a chapel-of-ease in the large parish of Rochdale in Lancashire. In the evidence, the preacher remained anonymous, although he was noted as unlicensed and unconforming.

2 WYA, Calderdale, WYC/1525/10/1/8/2/1. These lines are from a set of three verse laments written by one or more of Broadley's parishioners shortly after his death in 1625. They are preserved as a slightly later transcript. Sowerby was a chapel-of-ease in the parish of Halifax.

3 Watson, John, The history and antiquities of the parish of Halifax, London 1775, 461.

4 Collinson, Patrick, ‘Shepherds, sheepdogs and hirelings: the pastoral ministry in post-Reformation England’, in Sheils, W. J. and Wood, D. (eds), The ministry: clerical and lay (Studies in Church History xxvi, 1989), 185220; Merritt, Julia, ‘The pastoral tightrope: a Puritan pedagogue in Jacobean London’, in Cogswell, T., Cust, R. and Lake, P. (eds), Politics, religion and popularity in early Stuart Britain: essays in honour of Conrad Russell, Cambridge 2002, 143–61; Hunt, Arnold, The art of hearing: English preachers and their audiences, 1590–1640, Cambridge 2010, ch. v; Hughes, Ann, ‘A moderate Puritan preacher negotiates religious change’, this Journal lxv (2014), 763–79.

5 For examples of wide engagement with reformed religion see Spufford, Margaret, Small books and pleasant histories, popular fiction and its readership in seventeenth-century England, Cambridge 1981, ch. viii, and Ryrie, Alec, Being Protestant in Reformation Britain, Oxford 2013.

6 This investment concurs with that identified by Merritt, Julia in her ‘Puritans, Laudians, and the phenomenon of church-building in Jacobean London’, HJ xli (1998), 935–60.

7 Annual accounts presented by the churchwardens to the Sheffield Church Burgesses Trust, SCA, CB 161; Halifax churchwardens’ accounts, WYA, Wakefield, WDP53/5/1/1; transcript of Wakefield churchwardens’ accounts, Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society, ULBLSC, ms 815.

8 The ‘South Pennines’ includes the historical deaneries of Manchester, Blackburn, Doncaster, Pontefract and part of New Ainsty. For more on chapels-of-ease see Swanson, Robert N., ‘Fissures in the bedrock: parishes, chapels, parishioners and chaplains in pre-Reformation England’, in Lewycky, N. and Morton, A. (eds), Getting along? Religious identities and confessional relations in early modern England, Farnham 2012, and William, and Sheils, Sarah, ‘Textiles and reform: Halifax and its hinterland’, in Collinson, P. and Craig, J. (eds), The Reformation in English towns, 1500–1640, Basingstoke 1998.

9 See Jordan, Wilbur K., The charities of rural England, 1480–1660: the aspirations and the achievements of the rural society, London 1961.

10 WYA, Bradford, SpSt 11/4/2/2. Horsforth was in Guiseley parish. The lower part of the second collection list is damaged.

11 Will of Booth, Humphrey, printed in Barber, J. J., A history of the church of the Sacred Trinity, Salford, Salford 1966, 98101.

12 Eighteenth-century copies of the collection lists, Booth Collection, CL, 2/2/3/45/1; 2/3/5/1; 2/9/1.

13 See Ingram, Martin, Church courts, sex and marriage in England, 1570–1640, Cambridge 1987, 109–16.

14 WYA, Bradford, SpSt 11/4/2/3.

16 Sowerby chapel 1620 old and new pew plans, BIA, Y.M. EP.7.1 a, b.

17 Cause paper, BIA, CP.H.1742. For more on assessments as assent see Marsh, Christopher, Popular religion in sixteenth-century England: holding their peace, Basingstoke 1998, 68.

18 BIA, V. 1619, fo.110. Fragmentation came during the 1640s when a gathered church was established: A copy of a letter written out of Yorkshire concerning an Independent Church in that Country’, in Edwards, Thomas, The third part of Gangraena, London 1646 (Wing 237), 6970.

19 WYA, Calderdale, WYC/1525/10/1/8/2/1.

20 ‘a copy of an ancient book relating the repair of Ecclesall Chapel’, ULBLSC, ms Wilson 295, vol. 148.

21 Ibid. (my italics).

22 See Cressy, David, Bonfires and bells: national memory and the Protestant calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England, London 1989, 70.

23 Ecclesfield churchwardens’ accounts, 1619, SCA, PR54/13/1; Rochdale churchwardens’ accounts, 1645, CL, Raines Lancashire mss, C.6, 1, fos. 63–7; Whitkirk churchwardens’ accounts, 1654, WYA, Leeds, RDP106/52. See further Todd, Margo, The culture of Protestantism in early modern Scotland, London 2000, 29.

24 Rastrick parish documents, WYA, Wakefield, WDP 52/115; Hunter, Joseph, Hallamshire: a history and topography of the parish of Sheffield in the county of York, London 1819, 240–1.

25 Hunter, Hallamshire, 241 (my italics).

26 WYA, Wakefield, WDP 52/115; Hunter, Hallamshire, 241. The Headingley event was recorded by Richard Shanne in his commonplace book: BL, ms Add 38,599, fo. 51r; the Ringley event was noted by Peter Seddon in his letters to Walworth, Nathan: The correspondence of Nathan Walworth and Peter Seddon of Outwood, ed. Fletcher, J. S. (Chetham Society o.s. cix, 1880), 12.

27 Aldridge, Nick, ‘Loyalty and identity in Chester parishes, 1540–1640’, in Wright, Susan J. (ed.), Parish, church and people: local studies in lay religion, 1350–1750, London 1988, 97, 103; Hindle, Steve, ‘A sense of place? Becoming and belonging in the rural parish, 1550–1650’, in Withington, Phil and Shepard, Alexander (eds), Communities in early modern England: networks, place, rhetoric, Manchester 2000.

28 The life and death of my dearly beloved wife Phebe Priestley, collected by her surviving husband’ (written by Priestley, Jonathan), printed in Pearson, Mark, Northowram: its history and antiquities, Halifax 1898, 263–4.

29 Some memoirs concerning the family of the Priestleys’, ed. Jackson, Charles, in Yorkshire diaries and autobiographies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, ed. Jackson, Charles (Surtees Society lxxvii, 1883), 17.

30 Oliver Heywood's Life of John Angier of Denton, together with Angier's diary, and extracts from his An helpe to better hearts; also Samuel Angier's diary, ed. Axon, Ernest (Chetham Society n.s. lxcii, 1937), 55.

31 The life of Adam Martindale, written by himself and now first printed from the original manuscript in the British Museum, ed. Parkinson, Richard (Chetham Society o.s. iv, 1844), 5960.

32 A dyurnall or catalogue of all my accions and expences from the 1 January 1646–7 Adam Eyre’, ed. Morehouse, H. J., in Yorkshire diaries and autobiographies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, ed. Jackson, Charles (Surtees Society lxv, 1877), 41.

33 Padiham churchwardens’ accounts, 1627, LA, PR2863/2/1; Autobiography of Adam Martindale, 59.

34 The autobiography of Henry Newcome, i, ed. Parkinson, Richard (Chetham Society o.s. xxvi, 1851), 88.

35 Original Bradfield churchwardens’ accounts, ULBLSC, ms Wilson 295, 2 and 232; transcript, SCA, RC.167.14; Barnsley churchwardens’ accounts, WYA, Wakefield, WDP 121, add box 8; Bingley churchwardens’ accounts, WYA, Bradford, BDP 7/7/9/1/1; BIA, CP.H. 2046.

36 WYA, Wakefield, WDP 121, add. box 8; Ronald Marchant, The Puritans and the church courts in the diocese of York, London 1960, 263; Wragby churchwardens’ accounts, WYA, Wakefield, WDP 99/1/1/1, and WDP 99/70; Wath-upon-Dearne churchwardens’ accounts, BIA, CP.H. 2052; SCA, RC.167.14 and PR54/13/1; cause paper for ex-officio action against Sheffield churchwardens, BIA, CP.H. 2087. Mr Hill was possibly Edward Hill, the vicar of Huddersfield.

37 John Fielding, ‘Conformists, Puritans and the church courts: the diocese of Peterborough, 1603–1642’, unpubl. PhD diss. Birmingham 1989, 151; SCA, PR54/13/1; RC.167.14.

38 LA, PR2863/2/1; Richardson, R. C., Puritanism in North-West England, a regional study of the diocese of Chester to 1642, Manchester 1972, 99; BIA, CP.H. 2052; SCA, RC.176.14.

39 WYA, Wakefield, WDP 99/1/1/1; WDP 99/70, 1621, 1626, 1627

40 Littleborough churchwardens’ accounts, 1620, CL, C.6 Raines Lancashire mss vol. 15, fo. 370.

41 Autobiography of Adam Martindale, 57.

42 The sermon notes for the Halifax Exercise 1609–25 can be found in BL, ms Add. 4933 a, b (notes taken by Elkanah Wales); for 1641–2 Otley parish church archives and WYA, Bradford, WYB 263; and for the 1650s WYA, Calderdale, SH:3/S/3–7 (notes taken by John Lister of Over Brea). Priestley's quotation is from ‘The life and death of my dearly beloved wife Phebe Priestley’, 264.

43 SCA, RC.167.14.

44 The Rev. Oliver Heywood B.A., 1630-1702: his autobiography, diaries anecdote and event book, i, ed. J. Horsfall Turner, Brighouse 1882, 47.

45 SCA, RC.167.14.

46 The Rev. Oliver Heywood, 47. See further Wabuda, Susan, ‘Shunamites and nurses of the English Reformation: the activities of Mary Glover, niece of Hugh Latimer’, in Sheils, William J. and Wood, Diane (eds) Women in the Church (Studies in Church History xxvii, 1990), 335–44.

47 SCA, RC.167.14, 1629. Adam Eyre noted spending 4d. on a meal with the visiting preachers Matthew Booth and Roger Attay at an establishment known as ‘Jessops’ in Penistone: ‘A dyurnall’, 47, 65.

48 SCA, RC.167.14; An exact and perfect survey and view of the manor of Sheffield with other lands, by John Harrison, 1637, ed. J. G. Ronksley, Sheffield 1908.

49 SCA, RC.167.14, 1629; WYA, Bradford, BDP7/7/9/1/1; Chorley churchwardens’ accounts (1628), LA, DDHK 10/3/1; Booker, J., A history of the ancient chapels of Didsbury and Chorlton in Manchester parish (Chetham Society xlii, 1857), 86 (1645).

50 BIA, V.1623, fo. 118; V.1636, fo. 157; Lister, J., ‘West Riding Session Records, II. Orders 1611–1642, Indictments 1637–1642’, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series liii (1915), 40–1.

51 BIA, V.1623, fo. 118; Aveling, H., The Catholic recusants of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1558–1790, Leeds 1963, 293. Expenses for annual reporting of recusants to the archdeacon were recorded in the churchwardens’ accounts: SCA, RC.167.14. The loft and pulpit improvements took place in 1629.

52 Collinson, Patrick, ‘Lectures by combination: structures and characteristics of church life in seventeenth-century England’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research xlviii (1975), 182213.

53 SCA, RC.167.14, 1629; WYA, Calderdale, WYC/1525/10/1/8/2/1.

54 The journal of Nicholas Assheton of Downham in the county of Lancaster, ed. Raines, F. R. (Chetham Society o.s. xiv, 1848), 28, 68, 99.

55 The clergy did have common ground in a lack of ceremonial conformity. Even the eminent John Favour was presented for not wearing a surplice in 1619: BIA, CB 1619, fo. 103v.

56 Sermons of Hugh Ramsden, written between 1625 and 1628, WYA, Wakefield, WYW 1352/3/3/1/2/11. The quotation is from his sermon on Colossians i. 28, 29.

57 For an example of the expectation that preaching licences were not required see Marchant, The Puritans and the church courts, 231.

58 For a discussion on the difference between hearing a sermon preached and its textual remains see Hunt, Arnold, ‘Recovering speech acts’, in Hadfield, Andrew, Dimmock, Matthew and Shinn, Abigail (eds), The Ashgate research companion to popular culture in early modern England, Farnham 2014, 1330.

59 BL, ms Add. 4933a, fo. 3r.

60 Como, David, Blown by the spirit: Puritanism and the emergence of an antinomian underground in pre-Civil-War England, Stanford 2004, 312

61 Scammonden chapel was built in 1615: Yorkshire deeds, v, ed. Charles Travis Clay, digital repr. Cambridge 2013, 28.

62 Cause paper, BIA, CP.H. 1300.

63 Ripponden chapelry was adjacent to Scammonden chapelry.

64 BL, ms Add. 4933a, fos 66r (Sharrock), 77v (Favour), 81r (Booth), 100r (Nutter).

65 David Como has also pointed out that Brearley had support from several beneficed clergy: Blown by the spirit, 272–3.

66 WYA, Calderdale, WYC/1525/10/1/8/2/1.

67 Marchant, The Puritans and the church courts, 234; Kendall, H. P., ‘Ball Green’, Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society vii (1910), 204.

68 Marchant, The Puritans and the church courts, 233; Como, Blown by the spirit, 27. This was Thomas Drake. Broadley was close to the Drake family and appointed a cousin of the clerical Drakes as a trustee in his will: Kendall, ‘Ball Green’, 206.

69 WYA, Calderdale, WYC/1525/10/1/8/2/1.

70 Clarke, Samuel, The lives of two and twenty English divines, London 1660, 14.

71 See Parker, Kenneth and Carlson, Eric, ‘Practical divinity’: the works and life of Revd Richard Greenham, Aldershot 1998, 7. This advice was eventually published as ‘An hundred grave counsels or divine aphorismes’ in one of Greenham's posthumous works, The workes of the reverend and faithfull servant of Jesus Christ, M. Richard Greenham, minister and preacher of the Word, collected into one volume, London 1601, 497.

72 Greenham, ‘An hundred grave counsels’, no. 41.

73 WYA, Calderdale, WYC/1525/10/1/8/2/1.

75 Watson, John, The history and antiquities of the parish of Halifax, London 1775, 461.

This paper is based on research conducted as part of my PhD thesis ‘Post-Reformation preaching in the Pennines: space, identity and affectivity’, Huddersfield 2015. I am grateful to Dr Pat Cullum, Dr Sarah Bastow and Professor Alec Ryrie for their support and encouragement in this work.

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