BoAr:FNQ:C17Religion           Latest edit 2 Sep 2007.   

Interactive version ©2006 R.J.PENHEY

The Bourne Archive


Fenland Notes and Queries. This was originally, probably in the quarterly Part 10, July 1891. Edited by W.H. Bernard Saunders, F.R. Hist. Soc.

Articles 1 to 237 (April 1889 to October 1891) were re-published as Volume 1, in 1891, by Geo. C. Caster, Market Place, Peterborough.

This quarterly periodical which, from the second volume (part 12) became associated with the name of W.D. Sweeting, took the form of a forum in which people sent in questions about the history, ecology and so on of the Fens and the region’s environs and others replied with some sort of answer. Some ‘answers’ seem to have been spontaneous, so qualifying as ‘notes’. Editorial notes in the form [note] are those of FNQ; those in the form [note] are those of RJP.

My thanks to the trustees of the Willoughby Memorial Library for the loan of the copy from which the following was transcribed.

17th Century Religion

210 – George Fox in the Fenland.Towards the close of 1656, George Fox, the Quaker, writes in his journal:

“After having had several meetings in Lincolnshire, I had at last a meeting where two knights, one called Sir Richard Wrey, and the other Sir John Wrey, with their wives, were at the meeting. One of their wives was convinced, received the truth, and died in it. When the meeting was over we passed away; and it being evening, and dark, a company of wild serving men encompassed me about, with intent (as I apprehended) to do me mischief. But I spoke aloud to them, and asked, ‘What are ye, highwaymen?’ Whereupon some Friends and friendly people that were behind, came up to us, and knew some of them. So I reproved them to fear God; and the Lord’s power came over them, and stopped their mischievous design: blessed by his name for ever!

Then I turned into Huntingdonshire: and the Mayor of Huntingdon came to visit me, and was very loving; and his wife received the truth.

“Thence I passed into Cambridgeshire, and the Fen country, where I had many meetings, and the Lord’s truth spread. Robert Craven (who had been Sheriff of Lincoln), and Amos Stoddart, and Alexander Parker, were with me. We went to Crowland, a very rude place; for the town’s-people were collected at the inn we went to, and were half drunk, both priest and people. I reproved them for their drunkenness, and warned them of the day of the Lord, that was coming upon all the wicked; exhorting them to leave their drunkenness, and turn to the Lord in time. Whilst I was thus speaking to them, and showing the priest the fruits of his ministry, he and the clerk broke out in a rage, and got up the tongs and fire-shovel to us; so that had not the Lord’s power preserved us, we might have been murdered amongst them. Yet, for all their rudeness and violence, some received the truth, and have stood in it ever since.

“Thence we passed to Boston, where most of the chief of the town came to our inn, and the people seemed much satisfied. But there was a raging man in the yard, and Robert Craven was moved to speak to him, and told him he shamed Christianity, which with some few other words so stopped the man, that he went away quiet. Some were convinced there also.”

The name of the “loving” Mayor of Huntingdon here mentioned I have not been able to obtain. The drunken priest of Crowland would appear to have been Richard Lee, presented to the Rectory in 1654, and again in the following year, who remained till 1671.

Fox again visited this district in 1662. Writing in that year, he says:

“Travelling into Lincolnshire and Huntingdonshire, I came to Thomas Parnell’s, where the Mayor of Huntingdon came to see me and was very loving. Thence I came into the Fen country, where we had large and quiet meetings. While I was in that country, there came so great a flood that it was dangerous to go out, yet we did get out, and went to Lynn, where we had a blessed meeting. Next morning I went to visit some prisoners there, and then back to the inn, and took horse. As I was riding out of the yard, the officers came to search the inn for me. I knew nothing of it then, only I felt a great burthen come upon me as I rode out of the town, till without the gates. When some Friends that came after overtook me, they said that the officers had been searching for me in the inn as soon as I was gone out of the yard.”

Chas. E. Dawes.

[Friends with a capital F are Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends. Reading this very much brings to mind Wesley’s Journal, written in the next century. Paulinus probably had much the same sort of experience.]