Protestant Dissent in the Archdeaconry of Nottingham Presentment Bills 1587-1699
This article looks in detail at presentment bills made by churchwardens and clergy to the Archdeaconry of Nottingham Correction court. It was written by Manuscripts and Special Collections staff and published in October 2021.
Table of contents
Separatism in the early seventeenth century: William Brewster of Scrooby and Thomas Helwys of Broxtowe
Dissent in Attenborough: the Ireton family, 1616-1639
Dissent in Barnby in the Willows and North Collingham: Flood and Shepherd families, 1609-1642
Miscellaneous instances of dissent, up to 1643
Centres of dissent, 1663-1699: Mansfield, Nottingham and Rempstone
Anabaptists and Quakers, 1663-1699
The Elizabethan religious settlement of the sixteenth century laid down that each parishioner owed allegiance to the Anglican church. They were to attend their own parish church every Sunday and holy day, on pain of being fined 12d for each absence; to receive holy communion at least three times per year, and especially at Easter; to ensure that their children attended catechism; for women, to be 'churched' after childbirth; and generally to partake in all the rituals prescribed by the Church of England, in a respectful manner.
The churchwardens' Presentment Bills in the Archive of the Archdeaconry of Nottingham, which survive from 1587 onwards with some gaps, give details of a large number of people who were presented for not attending church, not receiving holy communion, not being churched, not ensuring that their children were baptised, and so on. However, it is often unclear whether their offending behaviour was brought about by laziness, illness, or personal circumstances; or whether it was symptomatic of a more profound dislike for, and deliberate challenging of, the Established church.
Nevertheless, there are clues in the words sometimes used in the Presentment Bills which indicate that the offender was a Puritan, a Separatist, or a sympathiser with dissenting strands within Protestantism. These could include:
- the wearing of hats in church (this was considered to be irreverent by the church authorities, although this was disputed by Puritans who often deliberately wore their hats as a protest)
- refusal to kneel in church
- questioning attitudes, especially over the manner of receiving communion (whether standing or sitting)
- arguments with, or disparaging of, clergy over specifically religious questions
- attending other churches on Sundays, or hearing visiting preachers outside their own parish
- holding private religious meetings, or 'conventicles'
Illustration of a Friends meeting [Quakers], from Cassell's illustrated history of England Vol III. (18--]-1864), p.54. East Midlands Special Collection Not 1.W8 HOW/W
Bibliography: A large number of standard works on British religious history are readily available in libraries, but the two following books relate national events very clearly to the Presentment Bills and Act Books of the Archdeaconry of Nottingham:
- Ronald A. Marchant, The Puritans and the Church Courts in the Diocese of York, 1560-1642 (Longmans, Green and Co., 1960) Hallward Library General Stock BR763.Y6 .M2
- Ronald A. Marchant, The church under the law: justice, administration and discipline in the diocese of York, 1560-1640 (Cambridge, 1969) Hallward Library General Stock JN775 .M2
Separatism in the early seventeenth century: William Brewster of Scrooby and Thomas Helwys of Broxtowe
North Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire proved fertile ground for radical preachers in the last decade of the 16th century and the first decade of the 17th. William Brewster, the keeper of the post office in the village of Scrooby (c.1565-1644), was a Puritan, looking for greater simplicity and zeal in religious worship than was then offered by the Anglican Church.
A Presentment Bill was made against William Brewster by the churchwardens of Scrooby in April 1598 (AN/PB 292/7/46), accusing him of repeating sermons publicly in the church without authority. Various other parishioners - Mr Rowland Stringer and his wife and family, Richard Jackson and his wife and family, Anthonie Bentam, Edward Bentam, William Bradley and John Bett - were also presented for resorting to other churches in service and sermon time, and for not receiving communion at their parish church.
Image: Presentment Bill relating to William Brewster, Scrooby parish, 1598 from AN/PB 292/7/46
No further presentments indicating religious dissent in Scrooby are to be found in the Archdeaconry archive. Other evidence suggests that the incumbents of the parish were sympathetic to Puritan ideas, and may not have taken action. However, in general, people who would not conform to the Church of England began to feel themselves to be persecuted by the authorities, and by the early years of the 17th century some came to believe that they must separate and form a new church. Brewster’s house in Scrooby became the location for a Separatist church led by John Robinson, founded in around 1606, and closely connected to another congregation in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, led by John Smyth.
John Smyth, a Cambridge graduate, was a lecturer in the city of Lincoln until 1602, and then an itinerant preacher, and possibly a schoolmaster. A John Smyth M.A. was licensed as a schoolmaster at Sturton-le-Steeple, as reported by the churchwardens in April 1601 (AN/PB 294/1/23). The following year, the churchwardens of West Burton reported that they had had two sermons in their church by Mr John Smyth since the last visitation (AN/PB 294/1/64). And in July 1603 the vicar and churchwardens of North Clifton certified to the Archdeacon that their schoolmaster John Smyth was a Master of Arts and a 'painfull preacher' (that is, one who takes great pains) of God's word (AN/PB 294/1/119).
John Robinson was also a preacher; perhaps the Mr Robinson mentioned as an 'able and allowed preacher' who gave sermons at West Burton in the year up to April 1603 (AN/PB 294/1/95). On Whitsunday 1605, Robinson preached at Sturton-le-Steeple. 17 people from East Retford, Clarborough, Ordsall and Babworth parishes admitted to the Archdeaconry court that they had been there instead of their own churches, and were fined (Act Book, AN/A 14).
One of the most prominent supporters of Smyth's church was a gentleman from Broxtowe near Nottingham, Thomas Helwys. Broxtowe Hall is now demolished, its remains lying under the Broxtowe council estate in Nottingham, which was built in the 1930s. In its heyday, it was a manor and farm, and anciently was possibly the meeting-place for Saxon councils, giving its name to the wapentake of Broxtowe. It had its own chapel in the medieval period, but by the sixteenth century was considered part of the parish of Bilborough.
Edmund Helwis alias Elwis of Broxtowe died on 24th October 1590, and was buried in Bilborough church. His son Thomas Helwys, a lawyer, was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1593, but returned to Broxtowe and married Joan Ashmore at Bilborough on 3rd December 1595. At least two children were baptised there before 1604. Thomas had come to the attention of the church authorities as early as 1596, when he and Joan were presented by the churchwardens of Bilborough for suspicion of fornication (AN/PB 292/5/53). Again, at Easter 1598 they were reported for living together as man and wife without evidence of marriage (AN/PB 292/6/12). As their marriage entry appears in the Bilborough register, now held at Nottinghamshire Archives, this is curious. It is possible that they were being persecuted for their unconventional religious views. Thomas was a Puritan and became increasingly disenchanted with the rituals demanded by the Church of England. His house was frequented by Puritan clergymen, and he was in touch with John Smyth’s Separatist congregation at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire.
‘Mr Thomas Elvishe’ and his wife and servants were presented by the churchwardens of Bilborough to the Archdeaconry court on 15th May 1607 for not receiving holy communion that Easter (AN/PB 293/7/24). By Easter 1608, Helwys and his family were living in neighbouring Basford, and again were presented, along with two servants and two visitors, for not coming to church and not receiving communion since the previous September (AN/PB 294/2/100).
Image: Presentment Bill relating to Thomas Helwys, Basford parish, 1608 AN/PB 294/2/100
By this time, the authorities, under the new King James I, were cracking down on Puritan non-conformity. In 1607 the High Court of Ecclesiastical Commission for the province of York took proceedings against members of John Smyth’s church in Gainsborough and John Robinson's in Scrooby. Joan Helwys was arrested and imprisoned in York Castle. A group attempted to escape over the North Sea to Holland, but were captured at Scotia Creek near Boston, Lincolnshire, and imprisoned and tried in the Boston Guildhall. Freed from jail, the separatists, including Robinson, Smyth, Brewster and Helwys, successfully fled to Amsterdam via Immingham on the Lincolnshire coast, probably in the autumn of 1608.
In Amsterdam, Smyth founded a new church based on adult baptism of professed believers. He baptised himself, and then baptised Helwys and the other members of the congregation in 1609. Theological disagreements amongst the congregation led to a split, and in around 1612 Helwys and his followers returned to London. They founded the first Baptist church in Spitalfields, east London. He published A Short Declaration of the Misery of Iniquity in 1612, arguing for religious freedom, but was arrested and imprisoned soon afterwards. He was dead by April 1616, but his church survived.
John Robinson and his followers, including William Brewster, split from the Smyth/Helwys group in 1609 and moved to the nearby town of Leiden. This group lived peacefully in Leiden for over ten years, but feared that their children would grow up as Dutch and would lose their separatist identity. They decided to sail to the New World to form their own community, and communicated with merchants in England to arrange their passage. Brewster, his wife Mary, and two sons, Love Brewster and Wrestling Brewster, sailed from Plymouth on the ‘Mayflower’ on 16 September 1620, and arrived off the coast of Cape Cod in November. Brewster was the senior elder and religious leader of the group, and helped to found the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The story of the Pilgrim Fathers is told on the Mayflower 400 website, https://www.mayflower400uk.org/education/the-mayflower-story/
Books of interest including the following:
- Adrian Gray, Restless souls, pilgrim roots : the turbulent history of christianity in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire (Retford, 2020) East Midlands Collection, Oversize Not 1.M5 GRA
- Adrian Gray, From here we changed the world : amazing stories of pilgrims and rebels from North Nottinghamshire and West Lincolnshire (Retford, c.2016) East Midlands Collection, Not 1.M62 GRA
- Sue Allan, with Julie Dunstan, In search of Scrooby Manor (West Sussex, 2013) East Midlands Collection, Not 390.D14 ALL
- Walter A. Burgess, John Smith the Se-Baptist, Thomas Helwys and the first Baptist Church in England (London, 1911) Hallward Library General Stock BX6495.S5
- Joseph Hunter, Collections concerning the church or congregation of Protestant Separatists formed at Scrooby in north Nottinghamshire, in the time of King James I : the founders of New-Plymouth, the parent-colony of New-England (London, 1854) Manuscripts & Special Collections (KMC) East Midlands Collection, Not 390.M64 HUN
Dissent in Attenborough: the Ireton family
Henry Ireton (1611-1651) was a prominent Parliamentarian soldier in the Civil War, rising to become Cromwell’s lieutenant in Ireland. He was one of the men who signed King Charles I’s execution warrant in 1649. He was born at Attenborough in Nottinghamshire, the son of German and Jane Ireton. The family was Puritan, and well known to the Nottingham Archdeaconry court. During her widowhood, from 1630 to 1633, Jane was frequently presented for failing to repair the chancels of Attenborough parish church, and of the nearby chapel of Bramcote, with which she was charged owing to the family's ownership of the tithes.
Jane was also often in trouble for Puritan and irreverent behaviour, betraying a contempt for the established church in Attenborough. In 1616, a Presentment Bill reported that:
'Mr German Ireton keeps his hat on his head in the most part of divine service contrary to the 17th article; that there was a common fame that Mr Ireton, Thomas Keywood and Ellen his wife, Thomas Shawe and another man named George, in the absence of the vicar, received the holy communion last Easter from Mr Orme, vicar of Lockington, but that they did not receive it kneeling; that Mr Ireton's child was baptised by the another preacher, who did not use sign of the cross; and that Mrs Ireton had not been churched following the birth of her child' (AN/PB 295/6/93).
During the 1620s and 1630s, Presentment Bills from Attenborough reveal some confusion, and the formation of factions within the parish. A Presentment Bill dated 9 April 1620 (AN/PB 295/8/87) reported that on Care Sunday, the minister and the churchwardens being absent, a 'strange' minister [from another parish] ministered the communion to various people, some of whom were standing [in the fashion approved by the Common Prayer Book], and some sitting. It appeared that the gathering was illicit, as the parish clerk locked the church door, 'so as none should come [in] to them'. In 1631 and 1632, the vicar of Attenborough, Gervase Dodson (who had been inducted in 1625), attempted to take control by presenting a variety of abuses. In 1631, he presented the churchwardens for allowing the people to behave irreverently in the church (AN/PB 303/123). He reported that some continually slept during services; others read privately to themselves during prayers and sermons; some did not kneel at confession, or stand when the Creed was said; and some never joined in the singing to praise God, never said 'Amen', and never joined with him in the saying of the Lord’s prayer or the Creed. Among the parishioners singled out were Jane Ireton, widow, who 'caused' her children and servants to be absent from church every Sunday evening, and who had refused to pay the offerings or any other duties to the minister for three years; and her daughter Elynor Ireton, who, along with others, had not attended the church for evening catechism, service and sermon, on various Sundays.
The following year, Dodson made another presentment, dated 14 May 1632 (AN/PB 303/759). Again, he listed various offences such as absence from divine service, sleeping in the church, not saying ‘Amen’ or repeating the Lord’s Prayer with audible voice, going out of the church before the sermon was finished (William Leanard alias Bostock of Chilwell, ‘scoffingly reporting in the alehouse that he would stay no longer to hear the minister rayling’), causing bells to be rung in a confused and disorderly manner, people not going to catechism, and the churchwardens for not presenting such things. Again, members of the Ireton family were involved. Elynor Ireton and John Ireton were named as two of the culprits who usually did not attend the church at evening catechism, exposition, service and sermon in time of Lent and in other times, and who did not 'apply themselves' during divine service according to the 18th canon. The churchwardens of Attenborough made their own presentment the same day (AN/PB 303/760), in which they presented Mistress Jane Ireton, widow, for not receiving holy communion at Easter; for detaining the chancel door key for her own private use, permitting 'her children and servant and others' to enter the church when they please, and there 'commit disorder' in breaking the windows and throwing the hassocks up and down; and for not allowing the minister to have the key, 'whereby he is disgracefully locked out of the church'.
In 1636, Jane Ireton and her son Henry were presented by Gervase Dodson to the diocesan Visitation, for refusing to obey his order to come out of their pew to receive the sacrament at the communion rails. Henry Ireton attended the Chancellor on his own behalf and of his mother, and submitted. They were ordered to receive at the rails and certify (Marchant, The Puritans and the Church Courts 1560-1642, p.198). Henry Ireton was next, and last, heard of in November 1639, presented by the churchwardens of Bramcote for not paying five levies for four oxgangs of land, totalling 20 pence (AN/PB 303/679).
Dissent in Barnby in the Willows and North Collingham: Flood/Lloyd and Shepherd families
Problems in the parish of Barnby in the Willows, east of Newark, centred around 'Flawforth house'. Flawford Farm still exists today, north of Barnby, and right on the border with Lincolnshire. Three people from Flawforth were presented to the Nottinghamshire Quarter Sessions as 'Sectaries' in the first half of the seventeenth century (see Nottinghamshire County Records, p. 162): Ann Walker, widow, Elizabeth Walker, and her son Samuel Walker. Both Elizabeth and Samuel were also presented by the churchwardens of Barnby in the Willows, for various religious offences, from 1621 and 1625 onwards respectively. No Ann Walker can be traced in the Archdeaconry records, although a Thoughte Walker, widow, was presented in 1618 for not coming to church.
The inhabitants of Flawforth regularly claimed to the Archdeacon that the house was not in fact part of the parish of Barnby in the Willows, by which allegation they hoped to justify their non-attendance and non-payment of church duties. In 1609 and 1610, Mr Flud and his wife, and Mr Evan Looyd and his wife (the names Flood and Lloyd were used interchangeably for the same family) were presented to the court for not receiving holy communion and not attending church (AN/PB 295/1/21 and AN/PB 294/2/326). By 1614, the Lloyds had left Flawforth. The inhabitants of Barnby in the Willows sent a petition to the Archdeacon, giving their reasons for thinking that Flawforth was part of their parish, despite the refusal of the new tenant John Newton to come to their church, and the refusal of 'Mrs Floyd' to let them go on their annual perambulation [or 'beating of the bounds' of the parish] through her property (AN/PB 295/5/20). She was still recalcitrant in April 1618. The churchwardens of Barnby in the Willows presented that 'we cannot now have our perambulation, because Elizabeth Floid of North Collingham hinders us' (AN/PB 295/7/175).
North Collingham, a few miles north of Newark, was a good place for a Puritan family to move to. One of the gentry families there, the Shepherds, was strongly non-conformist. Their refusal to co-operate with the Anglican church authorities led to many presentments against them by the churchwardens, and a fierce clash in the mid-1620s. Parishioners from North Collingham were known to the civil authorities in Nottinghamshire, as well as to the church courts. According to Nottinghamshire County Records, the following people were reported to the Quarter Sessions as 'Sectaries':
- Charles Ridge, carpenter, who was sent for trial at the Assizes on 7th July 1619 for not accepting sacrament, not baptising a boy, and for having schismatic opinions. He was also presented to the Archdeaconry court in 1608 and 1618.
- Elizabeth Flood, widow; also known as Elizabeth Lloyd. She was presented to the Archdeaconry court many times from 1618 to 1642, for not coming to church or receiving holy communion in North Collingham.
- William Flood/Lloyd (son of Elizabeth), also presented to the Archdeaconry court from 1626-1642.
- John Flood/Lloyd (son of Elizabeth), also presented to the Archdeaconry court from 1631-1637.
- Anne Sheppard, also presented to the Archdeaconry court from 1624-1637.
- Benjamin Sheppard senior (apparently not known to the Archdeaconry court).
- Benjamin Sheppard junior, son of Samuel Sheppard, fined 10 shillings by the Quarter Sessions for riot in church in January 1624/25; and also presented to the Archdeaconry court in 1625 for railing against the vicar. He was regularly presented by the churchwardens, 1624-1635.
- Samuel Sheppard, gent., fined 10 shillings by the Quarter Sessions for riot in church in January 1624/25. One of his name was presented to the Archdeaconry court in 1601, 1602, and 1608 for not attending church, and other religious failing. From 1624 to 1638, he was constantly presented to the Archdeaconry court for non-attendance, and for various offences connected with the sequestration of the vicarage to Mr George Greene, using every opportunity to fail blatantly to cooperate with the church authorities.
As well as these ringleaders, various other members of their families were also presented by the churchwardens of North Collingham at various times:
- Mrs Ann Shepherd alias Flood (1631; hinting at a marriage between the two principal families)
- Samuel Shepherd the younger, schoolteacher (1628-1637)
- Susanna Shepherd (1631-1638)
- Deborah Flood/Lloyd, daughter of Elizabeth (1624-1631)
- Walter Flood/Lloyd, son of Elizabeth (1624-1642), and his wife Selina (1635)
In addition, there were a number of neighbours who also appeared in churchwarden Presentment Bills for non-conformity up to the 1630s, a selection of whom are listed below:
- Anthony Bradley (1624-1626), his wife Jane (1625-1626), and servant William Benton (1624-1626)
- John Fisher (1635-1641)
- Robert Frothingham (1634-1635), and his wife Katherine (1635)
- William Frothingham (1624-1626), and his wife Theodocia (1624-1634)
- Matthew Johnson (1635-1637)
- Henry Milnes and his wife Elizabeth (1624-1626)
- Lewis Milnes and his wife Jane (1610-1624)
- Mrs Patman, wife of William Patman (1624-1626)
- Henry Ridge (1626-1633)
- Thomas Ridge junior, son of Charles (1619-1624)
- Mathew Sudbury senior (1634-1638)
- Christopher Theaker (1626-1635) and his wife Anne (1631-1635)
- Robert and Anne Trolove (1624); and Thomas Trolove and his wife Alice (1635)
- Richard Waite (1625-1626) and his wife Margaret (1624-1625)
The earliest Presentment Bill indicating Protestant dissent in North Collingham is dated 30 April 1610, in which Thomas Pacy is reported to have maintained in public that whosoever comes into the church in the time of divine service and shall kneel down to pray that he may hear with edification, 'offereth the sacrifice of fooles and his prayer is abominable' (AN/PB 295/1/13).
Image: AN/PB 295/1/13
In April 1618, Charles Ridge and Jane Milnes were reported for refusing to hear the Book of Common Prayer, and not receiving holy communion at Easter (AN/PB 295/7/186). Charles Ridge's son Thomas appeared in a Presentment Bill in December 1619 (AN/PB 295/8/67) for professing himself a 'Brownist' [a follower of the Separatist Robert Browne (1550-1633)]; and three years later Lewis Milnes took the minister, Mr Longden, to task for speaking against Anabaptists and Brownists in his sermons (AN/PB 326/3/15). In April 1624, the churchwardens presented Anthony Bradley, William Frothingham, Henry Milnes, Ann Trolove and various others because they would not take communion unless they could have it sitting; and Thomas Abbot and William Benton for going to other parish churches (AN/PB 326/6/31).
At the same time, a Presentment Bill made by the sequestrator, George Greene (AN/PB 326/6/37), shed light on new difficulties within the parish. He had been appointed as a sequestrator by the Archdeacon of Nottingham, to fill the vacancy as minister of North Collingham until a new vicar could be inducted; but found another clergyman called James Piercy, a Puritan, also claiming to be sequestrator. The churchwardens made a Presentment Bill against Piercy, in June 1624 (AN/PB 326/6/46), alleging that Piercy was unlicensed and had not taken a number of services. For a number of months, both men attempted to be minister of the parish. This led to farcical scenes in the church, and attempts by the Puritan sections of the village to take advantage of the situation to disrupt church life. In October 1624, Greene made a Presentment Bill (AN/PB 326/7/9) complaining that while he was giving the holy communion, Piercy and his ally Samuel Shepherd listened under the chancel window, and as soon as Greene had finished, Piercy, Shepherd and another man rushed inside and snatched up the loaf of bread. They tried to take the bottle of wine from one of the churchwardens, but he gave it to Greene, whereupon Piercy and Shepherd attacked Greene, thrust him against the wall and the communion table, and took away the wine, threatening him with the bottle. They also took the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer out of the church, so that the parishioners could have no prayers on St Simon and Jude’s Day. Piercy had already been excommunicated by this stage, and the churchwardens complained in their own Presentment Bill that Samuel Shepherd had ‘reviled and threatened’ them in the holy ground of the chancel over the affair (AN/PB 326/7/10). In January 1624/25, Shepherd was fined 10 shillings by the Quarter Sessions for riot in church. Although such violent scenes were not reported again in North Collingham, Greene, now safely installed as vicar of the parish, remained an enemy of the Shepherds and the Lloyds and their friends, presenting them for their dissent year after year until the Archdeaconry court was suspended in 1643.
Archdeaconry court business was resumed in 1663, and a number of presentment bills from North Collingham indicate that Protestant dissent was still a part of village life. Thomas Ogle, the former rector of Rolleston, was presented in 1663 and 1664 for teaching school without a licence, and for keeping conventicles in his house (AN/PB 329/2/8). Others were often presented for various offences such as not attending church, not baptising their children, not paying their church duties, and remaining excommunicate without seeking absolution. The main offenders were as follows:
- Edward Langford (1663-1669)
- John Theaker (1663-1671)
- Richard Scrimshaw (1663-1664)
- Matthew Shepherdson, ploughwright or carpenter (1669-1691)
- Robert Shepherdson, ploughwright or carpenter (1675-1686)
- William Hart, mercer (1675-1685), his wife Mary and daughter Lydia
- Robert Carnell, yeoman (1683-1691)
- Matthew Harrison, labourer or wheelwright (1684-1686)
- Mrs Rosamund Ridge, widow (1684-1686)
- Robert Morris, labourer (1685-1686)
The ecclesiastical returns of 1669, which listed the numbers of dissenters in every parish, reveal a Baptist conventicle of around 60 members, meeting at the home of Mary Scrimshaw. Four Presbyterians also met at Matthew Shepherdson's house. The date of the official foundation of the Baptist church in Collingham is estimated to be 1670.
- F.M.W. Harrison, The story of the Collingham Baptist Church (1970) East Midlands Collection, Pamphlet Not 95.M70 COL
- E. G. Wake, The history of Collingham and its neighbourhood (1867) East Midlands Collection, Not 95.D14 WAK
Miscellaneous instances of dissent, up to 1643
Click on the link to access a table of examples of presentment bills in which Protestant dissent is specified. The examples are all taken from churchwarden presentment bills in which a presentee has been indexed using the classified term 'lay non-conformity'. The offenders may well also have been presented at other times for other offences such as 'not attending church', 'not receiving holy communion', or 'standing excommunicate'.
You can use the Manuscripts Online Catalogue's 'People Search' form and do your own searches for different Offences within the Presentment Bill. Scroll down to the 'Offence' field and click into the field to get a list to choose from.
Centres of dissent, 1663-1699: Mansfield, Nottingham and Rempstone
The victory of the Parliamentarians in the Civil War led to the abolition of bishops, archdeacons, and their courts, in 1646. In a period of much religious confusion in the 1640s and 1650s, Presbyterian and Independent sects flourished. In 1656 a voluntary classical presbytery was established in Nottingham, comprising ministers and church elders from Presbyterian congregations in and around the town. It sat until 1660, and met once a month to ordain ministers and to discuss matters of common concern. Its minute book is part of the collections held at the University of Nottingham (High Pavement Collection, Hi 2 M/1).
The Restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660 was accompanied a couple of years later by the reinstatement of the bishops, archdeacons, and the rest of the Anglican administrative and religious system which had been abolished 15 years earlier. The new authorities cracked down again on both Roman Catholicism and Protestant non-conformity. Various Acts of Parliament aimed to prevent non-conformists from worshipping together. Many Presbyterian and independent ministers found themselves unable, in conscience, to subscribe to the provisions of the 1662 Act of Uniformity. They were therefore ejected from their livings. For the next 27 years, many of them led non-conformist congregations in illegal gatherings. Under the Conventicle Acts of 1664 and 1670, people attending religious meetings outside the Church of England were liable to be imprisoned. The Five-Mile Act of 1666 forbade any nonconformist minister to come within five miles of any place in which he had formerly ministered. Nottingham ministers Mr Whitlock and Mr Reynolds moved to Mansfield, where the minister John Firth was sympathetic, as did many other ejected ministers.
The first Presentment Bills in the Archive of the Archdeaconry of Nottingham after the Restoration date from 1663, and for the rest of the decade, the focus of the Archdeaconry court was very strongly on getting the dissenters back into the Anglican church and away from the conventicles. One in three of all Presentment Bills reporting an offence in the deanery of Bingham in the 1660s included reports of people not attending church services.
It was not until the Act of Toleration in 1689 that non-conformist congregations such as Independents, Baptists and Quakers could legally open their own meeting places. The ejected ministers were then able to return to Nottingham. Castle Gate Independent chapel, and High Pavement church, in which the ejected Presbyterian minister John Whitlock preached, were founded around this time, as were a number of other chapels around the county such as the Old Meeting House in Mansfield.
Churchwardens and clergy making presentments from the 1663 onwards (when the Archdeaconry Correction court was re-established) only occasionally made specific reference to the denomination or sect of people who refused to conform to the Anglican church. Most of the time, offenders were presented for the acts of religious non-conformity which they exhibited by their membership of these outlawed groups, such as 'not attending church', 'not receiving holy communion', 'not paying church dues', or 'standing excommunicate', if they had already fallen foul of the authorities. Many refused to have their children baptised at the parish church. Presentments of religious offences to the Archdeaconry court largely ceased after Michaelmas 1686.
Mansfield and district
A prominent centre of Protestant dissent from the 1660s to 1680s, Mansfield was the refuge of ministers ejected from Nottingham and elsewhere in 1662. Nevertheless, the vicar of Mansfield, John Firth, was assiduous in presenting to the Archdeaconry court, year after year, the enormous number of people within the parish who had been excommunicated for their dissent. On 18 November 1667, he presented 75 individuals for standing excommunicate (AN/PB 304/9/23). Many of the same names appeared every year from 1663 until 1686 when presentments of religious offences to the Archdeaconry court ceased. In his answer to the ecclesiastical returns of 1669, Firth stated that there were around 20 regular Quaker worshippers, meeting usually at the house of Timothy Garland; and around 40 or 50 Presbyterians attending meetings on Sundays, at various houses including those of Mr John Whitlock (the minister ejected from St Mary's in Nottingham in 1662), and Mr Robert Porter. Many of the worshippers came from other parishes to attend meetings. The Old Meeting House on Stockwell Gate in Mansfield was erected and registered for the Presbyterians in 1702.
Mansfield presentment bill, 1675 (AN/PB 304/9/23)
The Old Meeting House, Mansfield, before 1870. Frontispiece to John Harrop White, The Story of the old Meeting House, Mansfield (1959) East Midlands Collection, Not 272.M74 OLD
Conventicles were also held at nearby Sutton-in-Ashfield. In October 1663, Richard Shepherd and Thomas Farnworth of Selston were presented for going to conventicles held by 'Old Mr Tuke' (AN/PB 304/2/35). This was Lemuel Tuke, the former curate of Sutton-in-Ashfield, and before that vicar of Greasley, who had been in constant trouble with the Archdeaconry authorities for Puritanical practices since the 1630s. Shepherd was presented to the Archdeaconry court by the churchwardens of Selston from 1663 to 1675; Farnworth from 1663 to 1671; and their neighbour Humphrey Clarke from 1663 to 1675.
Nottingham and district
As in Mansfield, a large number of people were presented to the Archdeaconry court in the 1660s and 1670s for various religious offences. William Watson was presented in the parish of St Mary in 1664 for holding private conventicles in his house (AN/LB 304/3/29); and in April 1668 five people were presented in the same parish for holding conventicles (AN/PB 304/10/27): Thomas Huthwaite, John Chamberlain, John Walker, Samuel Fillingham and Joseph James.
Samuel Fillingham, a tanner, had been listed as an elder of the Presbyterian Classis in Nottingham in 1656, according to the Classis minute book (Hi 2 M/1). Other elders in the Classis minute book who can be identified in the Archdeaconry presentments of the early 1660s as living in the parish of Nottingham St Mary were Daniel Culley, maltster, and Stephen Garner, apothecary.
One of the ministers named in the Nottingham Presbyterian Classis minute book of 1656 was Thomas Boyer, of Rempstone. He conformed after the Restoration, and was instituted as Rempstone's rector in 1662. However, Elias Boyer, perhaps a relative, was constantly presented to the Archdeaconry court from 1663 to 1671 for various manifestations of non-conformity. In May 1663 he was reported to hold private conventicles in his house attended by 'scores of sectaries and persons disaffected to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England' (AN/PB 316/31). His wife Ann was also presented to the court (1663-1676). Other parishioners who did not attend church, receive holy communion, baptise their children, and so on, throughout the 1660s and 1670s, included John Parsons and his wife, Thomas Woodruff and his wife, John Hickling, and many others. In the 1669 ecclesiascial returns, it appears that Boyer was the leader of a congregation of Baptists. See below for other Baptist and Anabaptist groups.
- Alexander Roy Henderson, History of Castle Gate Congregational Church, Nottingham, 1655-1905 (1905) East Midlands Collection Not 3.M72 CAS; and copies in the Castle Gate Collection, CU/V 7/3 and CU/Z3/V/48
- The story of High Pavement Chapel, Nottingham.  East Midlands Collection Pamphlet Not 3.M74 HIG
- Paul Dalgleish, 1702-2002. Three hundred years of service. The Old Meeting House, Mansfield (2002) East Midlands Collection, Not 272.M74 OLD
- John Harrop White. The Story of the Old Meeting House, Mansfield (1959) East Midlands Collection, Not 272.M74 OLD
- Stuart Jennings. 'The 1669 ecclesiastical returns for Nottinghamshire: a reassessment of the strength of non-conformity'. Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 99 (1995), 73-80
- C. Gordon Bolam, Three hundred years, 1662-1962 : the story of the churches forming the North Midland Presbyterian and Unitarian Association (1962) East Midlands Collection, Pamphlet Em. M73 BOL
Anabaptists and Quakers, 1663-1699
Churchwardens and clergy making presentments from the 1663 onwards (when the Archdeaconry Correction court was re-established) only occasionally made specific reference to the denomination or sect of people who refused to conform to the Anglican church. Most of the time, offenders were presented for the acts of religious non-conformity which they exhibited by their membership of these outlawed groups, such as 'not attending church', 'not receiving holy communion', 'not paying church dues', or 'standing excommunicate', if they had already fallen foul of the authorities. Many refused to have their children baptised at the parish church. Presentments of religious offences to the Archdeaconry court ceased after Michaelmas 1686.
However, Baptists (or Anabaptists) and Quakers were occasionally listed in Presentment Bills, especially at certain points in the 1670s and 1680s when perhaps more detailed questions were asked of the churchwardens at the Archdeacon's Visitations. The people in question were for the most part already known to the Archdeaconry court, having been presented for other religious offences many times before. The following is a list of parishes in which specific Anabaptist and Quaker groups can be identified:
- Eakring: John Marriot (presented for religious offences, 1663-1686). Described as an Anabaptist in 1684 (AN/PB 331/269)
- Girton: John Sturges (presented for religious offences, 1663-1676). Described as a 'dipper' in 1676 (AN/PB 330/13/16)
- Gotham: Ralph Pearson was described as an 'Anny babtist' [Anabaptist], in September 1670 (AN/PB 317/63), and was presented for not attending church etc. at various times between 1663 and 1671.
- Ruddington, 1684: William Dickinson, Hugh Chamberlain and his wife Hannah (AN/PB 318/892).
- Sturton-le-Steeple: Mary Heald, widow (presented 1684 and 1685), John Cadman (1684-1686), John Atkinson (1683-1685), and Richard Webster (1683-1686), were described as Anabaptists in 1684 (AN/PB 344/443)
- Thorney: Edward Howard, miller, and his wife Mary, described as Anabaptists in 1684 (AN/PB 331/334)
- Arnold: William Bridges and John Barnes, identified as Quakers, 1663 (AN/PB 304/1/41)
- Barnby in the Willows: a community of Quakers, the members of which were presented at various times for religious offences, but identified as Quakers only in 1676 (AN/PB 330/12/5). Frequent offenders were Elizabeth and Mary Roberts, George Lucas, Henry and Elizabeth Carlton, John Pidd, and John and Elizabeth Trueblood.
- Car Colston: one isolated instance, of John Draper in 1674 (AN/PB 317/401)
- Clarborough: various Quakers, described as such in 1684 and 1685 (AN/PB 344/414, and AN/PB 344/466), including Mary Sampson (presented 1666-1686), David Jackson (1679-1686), and William Aislaby (presented 1676-1686).
- Cossall: Daniel Marshall (presented for various offences, 1667-1679), identified as a Quaker in 1677 (AN/PB 305/689)
- East Bridgford: William Mayfield (presented 1670-1677), identified as a Quaker in 1675 (AN/PB 317/456)
- East Markham: John Lowther, mercer (presented 1681-1686), identified as a Quaker in 1684 (AN/PB 344/417)
- Girton: Thomas Ridge (presented 1663-1677) and William Wilson (1665-1677), identified as Quakers in 1676 (AN/PB 330/13/16)
- Hucknall Torkard: Richard Willimet (presented 1664-1676) and his family, identified as Quakers in 1668 (AN/PB 304/11/19) and 1675 (AN/PB 305/358)
- Kersall in the parish of Kneesall: John Machin, John Abbot and Jonathan Humphrey identified as Quakers, 1674 (AN/PB 330/9/19).
- Lowdham: William Bush (presented 1663-1678), identified as a Quaker in 1678 (AN/PB 305/661)
- Marnham: John and Jane Smith, and Joseph Walls/Whales, identified as Quakers, 1684 (AN/PB 331/284). John Smith had been presented for religious offences since 1678.
- Mattersey: Richard Lambert, one of the churchwardens in 1693, did not appear to make his presentment bill, and 'Quaker' was written under his name (AN/PB 345/276)
- Ordsall: John Goodlad and his wife (presented 1675-1688), Robert Palmer and his wife (1674-1686), and Mary Sherbourne (1684-1686), identified as Quakers in 1684 (AN/PB 344/347)
- Shelford: Robert and Ann Adcock identified as Quakers in 1664 (AN/PB 316/186). Robert was presented for various offences 1663-1677. There were also a number of other people in the parish presented for religious failings in the 1660s and 1670s, including members of the Jerman, Burden and Cooper families, but they were not specifically identified as Quakers.
- South Collingham: Mary Watson (presented 1663-1676), and Stephen Swinscoe and his wife Mary (presented 1675-1676), identified as Quakers in 1676 (AN/PB 330/12/32)
- Trowell: John Kirkby (presented 1663-1675) and John Martin (1663-1679), identified as 'Quaquers', 1670 (AN/PB 305/41).
- Walesby: George Camb/Cham (presented 1670-1686), and James Camb/Cham (1683-1686), identified as Quakers in 1684 (AN/PB 344/447)
- Wellow: Mary Hind, widow (presented 1684-1686), identified as a Quaker in 1684 (AN/PB 344/400 and AN/PB 344/450)
- West Bridgford, 1680: George and Samuel Garton identified as Quakers (AN/PB 318/456)
- Worksop: John Smith junior (presented 1663-1670), Ruth Hurst, widow (1668-1669), Mordecai White (1663-1671) and Robert Murfin (1663-1677), identified as Quakers, 1668 (AN/PB 342/11/52). Robert and Anne Murfin also identified as Quakers in 1674 (AN/PB 330/5/39).
Additionally, vague presentments of 'all those Quakers who stand excommunicate', without naming them individually, were made from the following parishes:
- Balderton, 1679 (AN/PB 330/18/4)
- Blyth, 1685 (AN/PB 344/512)
- Burton Joyce, 1663 (AN/PB 304/2/12)
- Eastwood, 1679 (AN/PB 305/690)
- Everton, 1685 (AN/PB 344/474 and AN/PB 344/525)
- Ruddington, 1676 (AN/PB 317/628)
- Skegby, 1676 (AN/PB 305/502)
- Whatton, 1678 (AN/PB 317/843)
According to the ecclesiastical returns of 1669, as transcribed by Percy J. Cropper, there were Quakers' meetings at Mansfield, Grassthorpe in the parish of Normanton-on-Trent, Broughton Sulney (Upper Broughton), Ruddington, Eastwood, Kneesall, Mansfield Woodhouse and Skegby. The speaker at Grassthorpe was William Smith of Besthorpe, who was presented at South Scarle from 1663 to 1665 for various offences, and jailed for not paying tithes.
Cropper also appends a 'List of the Oppressed and their Oppressors', giving names of known Quakers in Nottinghamshire from the 1660s to the 1680s, arranged by parish. Researchers will wish to search the Archdeaconry of Nottingham Presentment Bills database, bearing in mind variations in spelling, to determine how many of these people were also presented to the ecclesiastical court.
- Percy J. Cropper, The Sufferings of the Quakers in Nottinghamshire, 1649-1689 (1892) East Midlands Special Collection, Not 1.M75 CRO
- James Lomax, A history of Quakers in Nottingham, 1648-1948 (1948) East Midlands Collection, Pamphlet Not 3.M75 LOM
- Stuart Jennings. 'The 1669 ecclesiastical returns for Nottinghamshire: a reassessment of the strength of non-conformity'. Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 99 (1995), 73-80