Monday, 6 July 2015

Quakers in Jersey - Part 1

Something a bit different today. I came across this history buried on the Hampshire Quaker website (, and am reprinting it here because it is of historical interest and I would like to share it more widely.

Part two on Tuesday

Quakers in Jersey - Part 1
by T.G. Hutt

Research has shown that Quakers have been meeting in Jersey almost since the movement began in the middle of the 17th Century.

The family names of those who were known to be Jersey Quakers are Dumaresq, Le Marinel, and De Ste Croix, but there must have been others whose names have not been recorded.

At that time England was experiencing a long period of political and religious upheaval which affected all classes of persons, which also spilled over into the Channel Islands. Jersey was certainly not an isolated backwater, and it was very involved with English politics, as well as its own. Certainly religion was seemingly as popular then as football is today, according to the history of the period.

Religious movements develop within a favourable environment and this was certainly the case with Quakers, especially in the middle of the sixteen hundreds when George Fox, a weaver's son from Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire, began his mission. By 1649, due to the influence of the Army, plus the congregational system of the English Independents, there was a certain relaxation of religious restrictions, apart from those still strictly imposed upon Episcopalian or Roman Catholic faiths. This temporary lessening of control gave an atmosphere of religious freedom into which the zealous jumped with apparent abandon.

Encouraged by the return of religious refugees from Holland, many with discordant voices, new sects sprang up almost every day. The Particular of Calvinistic Baptist societies had been flourishing since 1612 and now there developed a wide variety of sects, not just Baptists, but Anabaptists, Levellers, Independents, Seekers, Familiarists who called themselves The Mystical Family of Love, Ranters, Muggletonians, Sabbatarians (who were for keeping the old Jewish Sabbath) and the anti-Sabbatarians (who said every day is a Sabbath to a Christian). There were also the Millenaries and the Fifth Monarchy Men, plus many others. All these emergent groups created a turmoil of religious passion.

Into this mixture of confusion stepped George Fox. The attributes he brought to Quakerism, strength of character, steadiness of will, plus eloquence, fervour, and charisma with more than a touch of mysticism were some of the reasons why the Society grew and flourished when other religious groups fell by the wayside. It has been recorded that they earned their name Quakers when, at the end of a term of imprisonment in Derby, George Fox told Justice Gervase Bennett to "tremble in the name of the Lord". Indeed some adherents did shake and tremble in those early days due to the emotional stress of their spiritual awakening, and the once derisory name has stuck.

Although he has been credited with the foundation of the Society there were many other worthy followers and supporters: men and women who, at the time of its inception spread their views and ideals throughout the British Isles, into Ireland, the Continent, even to Turkey, and also to the new colonies of America.

Quakers refused to acknowledge any clergy or appointed leaders, as they considered that on one person was more important than another. All were entitled to speak when moved by the Spirit during their meetings, which were predominately silent while awaiting God's message. They did however recognise some of those gifted to minister: The "Valiant Sixty" the name given to the men and women who, in the early days of Quakerism travelled all over the country holding meetings in the homes of their supporters and in the open air.

They and their adherents, estimated at over 35,000 by 1660 were frequently arrested, thrown into prison, humiliated and beaten as their numbers increased and the judiciary became more fearful and intolerant of their influence. Disturbing church services and the alleged blasphemies 'that God was within everyone' were the most usual grounds for complaint against Quakers. Also, their refusal to swear on oath was another contentious attitude though this was shared by many other religious groups. Oath taking was a common procedure required by law in the seventeenth century, from the expected oath of allegiance to the King, to the 1665 proclamation which required "the abjuring of Papal authority and the doctrine of transubstantiation". Quakers were often suspected of being Jesuits in disguise and an oath such as this could give proof otherwise.

The 1660s in Southampton and Jersey

In the early summer of 1660, one of the Valiant Sixty, or the "Publishers of Truth", Ambrose Rigge was in Southampton. He had heard some uncomplimentary tales about a fellow Quaker, and Irishman called James Attridge, a man who turned up in Jersey some months later.

Attridge had been ministering and holding meetings in the Southampton area and the Isle of Wight. He had done something untoward against Quaker principles, as Rigge stated somewhat plaintively in a letter to Margaret Fell, widow of Judge Fell and soon to be married to George Fox. She was owner of Swarthmore Hall in Cumbria, the accepted headquarters of the Quaker movement. He writes:-

"I have passed through Surrey and a pretty good part of Hampshire ... things in these parts are pretty well as may be expected at this time, only here is one James Attridge that hath sent a bad smell through the country which hath hurt some friends. But the last seventh day (Quakers refused to use the pagan names of days of the week, or months of the year) I came into Southampton where I now am, it chanced that within a little after I come in, he came not knowing of me, so coming to examining him I found him very wicked and he hath got a horse among some weak Friends of the country, which I have stopped and do intend to send back to the owner, but James is not willing to go out of this country as yet, but most Friends sees him and doth testify against him. He hath been a pretty time in the Isle of Wight where I hear he hath done some hurt, but I intend if God permit to pass into the island (I.O.W.) this day or tomorrow ..."

Another of the well known Ministers of the time also wrote to Margaret Fell on the 3rd of September 1660 from Bristol telling her of his fears about meeting James Attridge on his planned visit to Devon and Cornwall "as for that man from Ireland, its (sic) that James Attridge of whom Ambrose Rigge made mention from Southampton and I judge he is not westward at present ..."

By this time Attridge was probably already in Jersey. After creating some trouble, in England, horse dealing or something more serious, he perhaps might have felt it expedient to disappear for a while.

That he had met a Jersey Quaker, or had been told there were already Friends in the island, can be inferred from an entry in the records of the Royal Court of 28th December 1661, a year later:

"James Attridge who had recently come from England to this island to visit some people who are normally called Quakers and having today been presented in the Royal Court in the presence of the Lt. Governor and other officers of the court. On the information received and knowing intrigues and the way he had been speaking in the island leading to a demonstration and disturbance of the public peace in contravention of the laws and the established government, he was ordered ‘reve que dessu que lect’. Attridge will leave the island by the first passage to present itself to transport him to England and this depends on his being assigned to a certain man at the harbour without allowing him any communication with those to whom he had been familiar with since arrival".

Needless to say, James ignored this warning and banishment. It was stated again in the Royal Court records that he was still in the island on the 3rd of May 1662.

Quoted in full:-

"COUR DE SAMEDI In conformity with a certain "Acte" dated 28t December, 1661 made in the presence the Lt Governor, stating that James Attridge for his intrigues (plots) leading to a disturbance of the public peace leaves the country (Island) by the first means of conveyance to present itself, in contempt of which he would have rashly continued his activities in this country with hose whom he was forbidden to have contact. For these reasons and also to put into operation the judgement, it is ordered that the said Attridge shall be conducted to the Castle to ensure that he truly embarks on the first passage to England which presents itself, and this is dependant on his being directed to the boats and they are not to leave at an early hour without prior notice, to ensure that he can be brought there to avoid a contravention by a failure to respond. The "Vicompte" is charged to see to the execution thereof."

Obviously this latest order was successful.

The next time the name Attridge is recorded is in the year 1664, in England. He was arrested with nineteen other Quakers at Horsleydown (Southwark) Meeting and committed to the White Lion Prison The last reference to him is written in the Cork Monthly Meeting Register of Deaths which records that he was "convinced" (meaning formally accepted into the Quaker Community) in Bandon, near his birthplace of Castlehaven, County cork, around the year 1665 and that he died in Cork on the 13th July 1688. He must have been a persistent character and presumably a reformed one and willing to accept punishment for his beliefs. His fellow Quakers must have considered him worthy of being awarded full membership.

The reference to Quakers already in the island is likely to be those named men who also appeared in the Royal Court and were admonished on the 2nd February 1661/2: (translation)

"Thomas Le Marinel and Michel de Ste Croix having been rash enough to be involved several times in meetings of Quakers in contempt of orders made for good government and maintenance of the public peace in the island, and without regard to the prevention of offences which have been repeated many times and in particular recently this on pain of being sentenced to leave the island or to imprisonment of the persons ... equally the said de Ste Croix having always shown his obstinacy, ignored the orders of the magistrates in respect of the said assemblies ..." This was really serious. The Royal court entry continues with the threat from the Solicitor General that both men would be sent to the castle as prisoners if they continued the meetings.

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