Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Quakers in Jersey - Part 2

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 three on Wednesday

Quakers in Jersey - Part 3
by T.G. Hutt

More Quakers in Jersey
There were more followers of Quakers in the island other than Le Marinel and de Ste Croix.

Helier Dumaresq was one, and he was a gentleman of some standing at that time. He was constable of St. Clement until 1651, then sworn in as a Jurat in 1657. As the swearing of oaths was against Quaker principles, it is unlikely that he became a Quaker until James Attridge appeared in the island in 1660.

He was a practising Quaker when he died in 1670, but poignantly against his wishes not buried as such.

Quakers believe that there is no such area as consecrated ground: churches or steeplehouses, as George Fox called them, were no more holy than the open fields; God was within a person, not in buildings. Quaker Meeting Houses were created as convenient places to congregate affording shelter from the weather especially when numbers grew too large to gather in private homes.

Dumaresq had requested to be buried in a place he had chosen, but his wishes were quashed by the Rector of St. Clement, Josue Pallot, who made the following entry in the church records:-

"Helier Dumaresq, son of Clement and Elizabeth Dumaresq widow of Jaques Pipon, and having been chosen to be a Jurat in the time of Cromwell under Michel L'Empriere, Bailiff on the return of the King. After having been a constant listener to the preaching of the past, changed to the belief of the Quakers. Having been present an hour before he died he expressed to me his wishes and said that he had chosen the place of his burial and that he should be buried there. He was nevertheless buried in St. Clement's cemetery on the 26th November 1670."

This deliberate obstruction of his wishes could legitimately be due to the religious sympathies of his widow Jeanne Dumaresq.

It is obvious that Helier had been a faithful church attender and believer for many years prior to his convincement. He married Jeanne Jambard daughter of Helier Jambard on 2nd March (Mardi Gras) 1651. She was then aged eighteen.

She had been admitted to Holy communion at St. Clement's church the previous year, aged seventeen, on St. Michael's day, which seems proof of her religious persuasion. A daughter was born to the couple in 1653 and baptised Elizabeth; another daughter was baptised Jeanne in 1659. Subsequently two sons were born, Helier and Clement, but apparently neither was baptised.

As with some other non-conformist religious groups, Quakers did not believe in infant baptism or, for that matter, any religious rituals or creeds.

So it is conceivable that Jeanne Dumaresq and the Rector of St. Clement's parish church, who had been restored to his living after several years forced absence during Cromwell's rule, would have wanted Helier to be buried in consecrated ground rather than a place of his own choosing. Quakers did not have their own burial ground in Jersey until 1830.

If, as it has been indicated, Quakers were meeting in Jersey before James Attridge appeared, then the inference is that they were influenced and learned about Quakerism in the years before 1660, probably in England.

Just after the beginning of the Civil war, when the siege of Elizabeth castle in Jersey ended in 1643, those men, Puritan in attitude and belief who opposed the Royalist faction. fled the island in disgrace. Some went to Guernsey, some to France, but the majority went to England. They were called fugitives and among those names listed in the Journal of Jean Chevalier were those of Henri Dumaresq, Thomas de Ste Croix, and five end with the surname Lemprière.

Henri Dumaresq was a cousin to Helier. He worked for many years as a teller in the Mint at the Tower in London during the time that Quakers were holding large meetings at Moorfields and also at the "Sign of the Bull and Mouth" in Aldersgate Street, amongst other venues in the city.

Elizabeth Dumaresq, Helier's sister, married a Joshua Lemprière. The name Lemprière is significant because early in the nineteenth century a Philip Lemprière was imprisoned for refusing to take the oath when called to be a witness at the Royal Court, also around the same time in the 1830's the name of de Ste Croix appears in the register of burials which took place in the Quaker burial ground in Patriotic Street. As Quakerism was a way of life and in the early days especially, beliefs were handed down through the family, it is not illogical to assume that Quakers were still meeting, following their practice of quiet worship "waiting on the Lord" during the latter half of the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth, but not much is known about them except those mentioned in the Royal Court records. Then in 1730 a Frenchman, Claude Gay, came on the scene.

Developments from 1730

Claude Gay was born in Lyons and brought up as a Catholic. When he was about twenty-two years of age, after learning a trade as a tailor, he came to Jersey and become a convert to the Church of England. In 1731 he married a Guernsey woman Anne Marie du Clion, and had two children, a girl, Marie Ann and a boy, Claude. After ten years working as a tailor he came across Barclay's Apology written in French, and was "convinced".

At the time there were meetings of Quakers being held in the homes of Jean François de Vaumorel and Jean Le Caplain, both Jerseymen, but these meetings were being harassed and attempts were being made by the Jersey authorities to suppress them. Claude Gay wrote to the "Meeting For Sufferings" in London for advice and help.

From very early days when many Quakers were being sent to prison, sometimes with sentences lasting for years, Friends who were still free came together to collect money, care for the families of prisoners and to exchange news of those in trouble. These gatherings were called 'Meetings For Sufferings' a name which is still used today when groups of Members discuss and take action upon matters affecting the Society.

The other collective and named business meetings were split by the month, quarter, and year. This was a very simple but well organised method of practical gatherings, other than the silent worshipful meetings held every week.

The request by Claude Gay was heard. A licence to form a Quaker Meeting was produced and sent to Jersey via Lawrence Asselin, a former Carmelite monk turned Quaker. He arrived in Jersey on the 23rd June 1741.

By this time any new Quaker Meeting had to be approved by Friends outside the Meeting. This was a safeguard for the principles of the Society.

Today, new members are introduced to a Monthly Meeting before being accepted as a Friend. Those who wish to attend Meetings but not to commit themselves to membership are called Attenders. Again, this is to ensure that Quakers understand their obligations to the Society, because it is a way of life, rather than following a religious creed.

This licence did not help Claude Gay, however, because in the same year the Royal Court ordered his extradition, not just for being a Quaker, but as a Frenchman and an alien.

However, instead of banishment he was sent to prison for a year. After his release he went to England where the Alton Meeting in Hampshire helped him and his family by giving him jobs teaching French, and his son was made an apprentice with a local Friend.

Unfortunately Claude Gay senior insisted on travelling back to Jersey from time to time, risking imprisonment, and, one suspects, causing a financial strain on those supporting him, as by 1745 Meetings For Sufferings found they could no longer help him.

He continued to travel, through Europe, often on foot, spreading the message and handing out pamphlets most of which he had written himself, in the manner of the "Valiant Sixty "Publishers of Truth" of previous years. On his last visit to the island, in 1755, he wrote:-

" ... arriving in Jersey I found two fatherless sisters, daughters of Jean and Margaret Le Caplain, who, with their mother, sit together in silence every first day from eleven a.m. to one, with their door open to anyone that will sit with them. I sat with them whilst I was in the island with a good deal of satisfaction, and I saw no other particular thing I had to do except dispersing some of the papers I had brought with me."

This pathetic passage implies that the Quaker Meetings had almost died out in Jersey by 1755.

However, Claude Gay being very vigorous and by all accounts a forthright man, on a visit to Guernsey in 1776 to investigate some land transactions regarding his wife's property, made such an impression on fifteen year old Nicholas Naftel that he instigated a Quaker Meeting in that island which prospers to this day.

Claude Gay died in Barking, Essex, where he had been living for quite a while, aged eighty, in 1786.

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