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History of Congregationalism and memorials of the churches in Norfolk and Suffolk online

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3 1833 00727 2344





^^moriak of i)^t %hxxc\m




Congregational Minister at Wrentkam.







^ ..

This book owes its origin to the generosity of Mr. D. H. Goddard,

^.late of Newcastle, now of Chester-le-Street, who, at the meeting of the

Congregational Union at Ipswich in 1872, offered a premium for the pro-

*. duction of a History of Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk. The

' execution of the work was, without solicitation on my part, confided to me.

Living at a distance from libraries, I have to a great extent been

dependent on my own collection of MSS., books, sermons, and tracts ; al-

, most all those which are quoted, except otherwise indicated, being in my

- own possession : but, whilst the work has been passing through the press, I

\ have made considerable additions of interesting and important matter from

'^the Record Office, and the British Museum.

I am indebted to S. W. Rix, Esq., of Beccles, for the use of his collections

t;^ illustrative of the history of Congregationalism in these two counties, and

^' for the encouragement he has, for many years, given me to attempt such a

■^ work as the present ; to the Rev. Geo. Gould, of Norwich, for the use of

MSS, which have been very helpful to me; and to the Rev. T. W. Davids,

of Upton, for contributions and counsels which have been of great value.

My best thanks are also due to the Rev. T. Hunter, for affording me
facilities for consulting books and MSS. in Dr. WiUiams' Library ; and to
those pastors of churches who have allowed me to copy, or make extracts
from, their several church books. I have taken these, rather than any exist-
ing descriptions of the churches, as the basis of this history.

The history of the Baptist Churches is more of a fragment than I desired ;
it is nearly complete to the close of last century, but sufficient information
with regard to many later formed churches has not been supplied.

The facts here carefully gathered together may hereafter furnish occasion
for a more general view of East Anglian Congregationalism, which the limits
of this volume prevent mc from adding.

With all its defects, and no one is more conscious of them than I am, I
hope this book may prove a monument lo the memory of deservedly honoured

iv Preface.

men long since gone to their rest and their reward ; a faithful record of
effort, toil, and suffering in a great and good cause ; a stimulus to the present
generation of Congregationalists, urging them to conduct worthy of their
forefathers ; a witness to the world that Congregationalism is not an im-
practicable theory, 'but a form of Christian life and effort, rich in blessing to
any neighbourhood which entertains it, because it is the embodiment of
Christian liberty in its largest possible corporate manifestation.

To God, whose truth I have endeavoured to maintain ; to Christ, the
image of whose church is here reflected ; and to the Holy Spirit, who alone
can quicken the truth, the church, and the hearts of men, I reverently
commend my book.

J. B.

Wre7itham, Deceitiber \st^ 1877.




— + —



Norfolk and Suffolk have long been' distinguished by the
zeal for Protestantism cherished and manifested in their towns
and villages.

" One of the first sparks of the glorious Reformation of the Church which
has enhghtened all Europe, as well as many other parts of the world, was
struck at the small village of Stradbrook in Suffolk ; for Dr. Grosthead>
afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, a divine of great courage, learning, and
piety, and who was contemporary with' Wycliffe, and assisted him in his
writings against the reigning superstitions and corruptions of the Romish
Church, was a native of that parish."^

One of the first victims of the Writ '' De hcBrctico comhurcndo'"\
was a Norfolk man.

* Gillingwater's " Bury," pp. 125, 6.

+ "The Archbishop, or Bishop of every diocese, had power to convict any for heresy ;
this is by the common law." But it was " by the Writ De hcrrctico combiirendo, granted
out of chancery upon a certificate of such conviction that heretics were burnt." — Jacob's
Laio Dictionary.

It was not till after the death of Wycliffe that "our history was stained with the record
of any violence offered to a man in his civil interests for the freedom of his judgment in
matters relating to faith and worship ; for there was no burning statute yet in being.
But the clergy, finding their power endangered, and the blind reverence paid to them much
lessened by the spreading of these new opinions, were concerned to represent them as
damnable as they could, and wheedled that weak prince Richard II. to give assent to


2 History of Congi'cgationalisrn.

Foxe in his " Acts and Monuments," says :

"As King Henrie the fourth . . . was the first of all English kings that
began the vnmercifull burning of Qirist's sanits for standing against the
pope ; so was William Sawtre, the true and faithfull martyr of Christ, the
first of all them in Wycklifte's time which I find to be burned in the
raigne of the foresaid king, which was in the yeere of our Lord, 1400."

This William Sawtre, " parish priest of the church of St.
Margaret in the towne of Linne" (Lynn) appeared before the
Bishop of Norwich on the last day of April, 1399, ^'^^ being
examined, said " he would not worship the cross on which
Christ suffered, but only Christ that suffered upon the cross ;"
and being further examined " concerning the Sacrament of the
altar, said and affirmed that after the words of consecration, by
the priest duly pronounced, it remained very bread, and the
same bread which was before the words spoken."

He was prevailed upon to abjure his opinions, on May 25th,
in the church3^ard of the chapel of St. James in Lynn ; and the
next day, in the church of the Hospital of St. John, ''he sware
and tooke his oth upon the holy Evangelists that he would
never after that time preach openly and publickely the foresaid
conclusions," &c. ; but he afterwards repented of his weakness

an ordinance bearing the title of an Act made in the Parliament at Westminster, Quiiito
Regis. One clause of it is as follows : —

'■'■Hem. Forasmuch as it is openly known that there be divers evil persons within the realm,
going from county to county, and town to town, in certain habits under dissimulation of nuich
holiness, and witiiout the license of the Ordinaries of the places, or other sufficient authority,
preaching daily, not only in churches and churchyards, but also in markets, fairs, and open places,
where a great congregation of people is, divers sermons containing heresies and notorious errors
to the great emblemishing of Christian faith and destruction of the laws, and of the estate of Holy
Church, to the great peril of the souls of the people and of all the realm of En^'laml ....
which preachers cited or summoned before the Ordinaries of the places there to answer to that
whereof they be impeached, they will not obey their summons and comm.iails, noi care not lur

their monitions, nor censures of the Holy Church, but expre-,-,ly dc-pi-c tli. in It is

ordained and assented in this present parliament that the Kum's • n i .1 1 n m i,le anJ directed

to the sheriffs, and other ministers of our sovereign lord tin 1 uificitnt persons

learned, and according to the certifications of the prelates iIki mi chancery finm

time to time, to arrest all such preachers, and also their faut'.i,, 11 i 1 . -nl abetters, and to
hold them in arrest, and strong prison, till they will justify to ihem aLLiii.iuiy to the law and
reason of holy Church. And the King willeth and commandeth that the chancellor make such
commissions at all times, that he by the Prelates or any of them shall be certified, and thereof
required as is aforesaid.

" But this not being a true Act, the Parliament at the next session resented the imposture, and
reciting the words as above, added— 'The which was never agreed nor granted by the Commons,
but whatsoever was moved therein was without their assent, and therefore prayen the Commons
that the said statute be disannulled ; for it is not in any wise their meaning, that either themselves,
or such as shall succeed them shall be further justified or bound by the Prelates than were their
ancestors in former times ; whereto it is answered III plaist an Roy, the King is pleased.'

"Thus was this superstitious law repealed, and the forgery of it exposed; yet the craft of the
ecclesiastics ordered matters so that the Act of Repeal was never published : nothwithstanding
which the Wycliffians increased m number, and their presbyters began to confer holy orders ;
which so provoked the stout Bishop of Norwich, whom the Pope had before made commander of a
crohado in his quarrel, that, soklier-like he swore, if he caught any of them preaching in his
diocese, he would burn or behead them." — Review 0/ the case ofjudah and EJ>hraim, Land.,

Introductory. 3

and was treated as a relapsed heretic, condemned by the arch-
bishop of Canterbury, degraded, and handed over to the secular
power, and then, by a special decree of the king, consigned to
the fire. "We command you as straitly as we may or can . . .
that you do cause the said William to be put into the fire, and
there in the same fire really to bee burned, to the great horror
of his offence, and the manifest example of other Christians,''
He accordingly sufi"ered in London.

In the year 1424, John Florence of Shelton, and Richard
Belward of Earsham, John Goddesell of Ditchingham, and
Sir Hugh Pie, chaplain of Ludney (Loddon), were more than
suspected of heresy, and had to purge themselves.

"After this, in the yeere of our Lord, 1428, King Henry the Sixth sent
dovvne most cruell letters of commission ... by vertue of which we
finde in old monuments that, within short space after, John Exeter, one of
the commissioners, attached six persons in the towne of Bungay . , .
and committed them to William Day and William Roe, constables of the
towne of Bungay . . . whose names, through the antiquitie of the
monument, were so defaced that wee could not attaine to the perfect
knowledge of them all : onely three names partly remained in the booke
to bee read, which were these : John Waddon of Tenterden, Kent ;
Bartlemew, monk of Earsham, Norfolk ; Corneleader, a married man,
William Scuts. These three were in the custody of the Duke of Norfolk,
at his castle of Fremingham " (Framlingham).

" Besides these we also finde in the said old monuments within the
diocesse of Norfolke and Suffolke, specially in the townes of Beckles,
Ersham, and Ludney (Loddon), a great number both of men and women
to have been vexed and cast into prison, and after their abjuration brought
to open shame in churches and markets, by the Bishop of the said diocesse?
called William, and his chancellor William Bernham, John Exeter being
the Register therein ; so that within the space of three or foure yeeres
that is, from the yeere 1428 unto the yeere 143 1, about the number of 120
men and women were examined, and sustained great vexation for the
profession of the Christian faith ; of whom some were only taken upon
suspition, for eating of meates prohibited vpon vigil daies, who, vpon their
purgation made, escaped more easily away and with lesse punishment,
whose names here follow subscribed."

Then follows " A catalogue of good men and women troubled
for suspition of heresie," amounting to the number of a hundred
and ten, " some of whom were cruelly handled, and some were
put to death and burned," and others were forced to abjure and

4 History of Co7igregatio7iallsm.

do penance* Most of these had received their instruction from
William White, a priest, who was a scholar and disciple of
Wyclifife, and who in September, 1428, was burnt at Norwich.

Such were the men and women who in after ages became
Puritans, and still later, Separatists.

After the lapse of a hundred years, in the reign of Henry VIII.,
we find Bilney "twice plucked from the pulpit" by monks and
friars at St. George's Chapel, Ipswich ; accused and examined
on thirty-four articles, and finally burnt at Norwich in the
Lollard's pit, Anno 153 1 : and Nicholas Bayfield, formerly a
monk of Bury St. Edmund's, burnt for holding heretical opinions
and disseminating the works of the German reformers.f

In 1546, one Kerby, and Roger Clarke of Mendlesham, were
apprehended at Ipswich, of whom the former was burnt at
Ipswich, the latter at Bury.

It was in this reign the English Reformation commenced, but
it started upon a wrong principle. Henry was anxious to cast
off the authority of the Pope and to set up his own. The Act
of Supremacy was passed 1531, and it gave him unlimited
power to alter or to remove, to retain or to exclude whatever in
the doctrine or service of the Church he pleased. That Act, as
it is the corner stone of the English Reformed Establishment,
must not be passed by in silence, especially as to it, and to the
principle involved in it, may be traced all the tyrannical pro-
ceedings connected with the church for many years after it was
recognised as law. The Act of Supremacy was the very " fo7is
et origo mall" — the source and the spring of most of the evils
which it is our lot to describe.

" The King our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this
realm, shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head in
earth of the Church of England, and shall have and enjoy, annexed to the
imperial crown of this realm, as well the style and title thereof, as all
honours, dignities, pre-eminencies, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities,
immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity of supreme head

• Of these ten resided at Earsham, nine at Beccles, ten were ecclesiastics, one a
servant, and one ' The heard of Shepemedow ; ' the rest hved at Harlestone, Halvergate,
Seething, Bedingham, CUppesby, Tunstall, Martham, Thurning, Costessey, Ditchingham,
Earsham, Wymondham, Rockland, Merton, Mundham, Colchester, Bury, Eye, Bungay,
&c. Foxe I., 886—7.

t Foxe II., 258-278.

Introdiictory. 5

of the same church belonging and appertaining ; and shall have power
from time to time to visit, repress, redress, reform, order, correct, restrain,
and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offences, contempts and
enormities, whatsoever they be, which, by any manner of spiritual authority
or jurisdiction, may lawfully be reformed, repressed, ordered, redressed,
corrected, restrained, or amended, most to the pleasure of Almighty God,
the increase of virtue in Christ's religion, and for the conservation of the
peace, unity, and tranquihty of this realm ; any usage, custom, foreign
laws, foreign authority, prescription, or any other thing to the contrary

It would have been strange if kings of Tudor and Stuart
blood had not been able to use such an instrument as this with
terrible effect ; and our history will shew that they did not for-
get to use it. Dr. Burn says of it : — •

" There was no branch of sovereignty with which the princes of this
realm, for above a century after the Reformation, were more delighted than
that of being the supreme head of the church, imagining (as it seemeth)
that all that power which the Pope claimed and exercised (so far as he
was able) was, by the statutes abrogating the papal authority, annexed to
the imperial crown of this realm. . . . And those princes of this
realm above mentioned seem to have considered themselves. plainly as
popes in their own dominions."

Henry's Reformation, as might have been expected, was a
very incongruous one. The church of which he was the head
was a strange medley of Romanism and Protestantism, in which
the former predominated, and it was moulded and fashioned
according to his own imperious will. " The light shined in the
midst of the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not."

On the death of Henry, Protestant opinions were still further
developed, and during the short reign of his son Edward VI.,
the doctrines of the reformers were set forth and encouraged ;
but when this reign came to an untimely close, a fierce storm of
persecution fell upon the professors of the evangelical faith— a
storm which Englishmen are never likely to forget.

1553. Mary owed her throne in no small degree to the piety
and loyalty of the Protestant people of Suffolk. They believed
her to be the rightful heir to the crown, and aided her effectually
in asserting her right, stipulating only as the price of their
services that they should be unmolested in the exercise of their

6 History of Cofigregationalisni.

religion.* But Mary kept no faith with heretics, and during
her reign many martyrs in these two counties sealed their testi-
mony with their blood; first among whom was Dr. Rowland
Taylor, who was burnt on Aldham Common, near Hadleigh.
In 1555) Robert Samuel, minister of East Bergholt, was burnt
at Ipswich ; and Nicholas Peke, of Earl Stonham, about the
same time. In the following year, Anne Potter and Joan
Trunchfield were burnt at Ipswich; and in 1558, Alexander
Gouch and Alice Driver were also burnt in the same town. In
1556 Thomas Spicer, John Denny, and Edmund Poole, were
burnt at Beccles ; in the following year Simon Miller, Elizabeth
Cooper, and Cicely Ormes, were burnt at Norwich ; and John
Noyes in the same year at Laxfield. The Norwich records
also inform us that in 1556 William Carman of Hingham was
burnt in Lollard's pit as an obstinate heretic, and having in his
possession a bible, a testament, and three psalters, in the English
tongue. Richard Crashfield of Wymondham was also burnt in
the same place, in the same year ; and shortly afterwards
Thomas Carman, William Seaman, and Thomas Hudson ; and
in 1558, on July loth, Richard Yeoman, a devout old minister,
was burnt, who was seventy years of age, and had been curate
to Dr. Taylor of Hadleigh.

Thus practically and impressively was the lesson taught that
men ought at any expense, even that of life itself, to obey God
rather than man ; and thus earnestly was the seed sown which
in after years was to bring forth much fruit to the glory of God.

* After the death of Edward VI., Lady Jane Grey was called to the throne. The
Princess Mary claimed it and wrote to the Council, who replied to her adversely. She
raised a party, and Northumberland was sent against her.

" Mary in the meanwhile withdrew herself into the quarters of Northfolke and Suffolke,
and there she keepeth herself close for a space within Fremingham Castle, to whom first of all
resorted the Suffolke men ; who being alwayes forward in promoting the proceedings of the
gospel, promised her their aid and help, so that she would not attempt the alteration of
the religion which her brother King Edward had before established by lawes and orders
publickly enacted, and received by the consent of the whole realm in that behalfe." She
eftsoones agreed with such promise made unto them that no innovation should be made of
religion as that no man would or could then have misdoubted her.

" Heing guarded by the power of the Gospellers, she did vanquish the Duke and'all that
came against her. In consideration whereof, it was (methinks) an heavie word that she
answered to the Suffolke men afterwards, which did make supplication unto her Grace to
performe her promise :

" ' For somuch (saith she) as you being but members desire to rule j'our head, you shall
one day well perceive that members must obey their head, and not looke to beare rule over
the same.'

"What she performed on her part, the thing itself and the whole story of this persecu-
tion doth testifie." — Foxc.

Introductory. 7

Many Protestants fled from this fierce persecution, and some
of them found an asylum at Frankfort, among whom was
John Bale, whose name stands first in " Brook's Lives." He
was born at Covehithe in Sufiblk, about two miles from Wren-
tham, November 2ist, 1495. He was first sent to the monastery
of the Carmelites in Norwich, but, being converted from tne
errors'of the Romish Church, he began openly and fervently to
preach the pure gospel of Christ in opposition to them, for
which he was imprisoned in Yorkshire and in London. On the
publication of the six articles of Henry VHL, he retired into
Germany, where he became intimate with Luther, and com-
menced his wonderful literary labours. On the accession of
Edward VI., he was invited home, and presented to the benefice
of Bishopstoke in Hampshire, where he continued his researches
and exposed the abominations of monastic life.

King Edward made him Bishop of Ossory in Ireland, when
he positively refused to be consecrated by the old popish form.
On the accession of Mary he was exposed to the fury of the
Papists, and his life was in danger. He fled, and after many
remarkable experiences retired to Frankfort ; there he found
other refugees from England, who, having been favoured by the
magistrates with the use of one of the churches, agreed upon a
form of worship differing from that of the English Church, and
more in harmony with that of the reformed churches amongst
whom they had found a refuge. In their letter to the exiles at
Strasburgh, signed by John Bale, William Whittingham, John Fox
(the martyrologist), and fourteen others,* they, say : —

" We have a church freely granted to preach God's word purely, to
minister the sacraments sincerely, and to execute discipline truly. And
as touching our book \vc will practise it so far as God's word doth assure
it, and the state of this country permit."

They wrote to other exiles, inviting them to share their
privileges ; and then upon the arrival of the high-church and
ritualistic Dr. Cox, who ever afterwards proved so bitter a foe to

* Two other of the Frankfort refugees were connected with Norwich. John Pedder
who, on his return, had become Canon of Norwich and Rector of Redgrave, and then, on
January ist, 1559 — 60, Dean of Worcester ; and Thomas Sampson, born at Playford, 1517,
who on his return from Frankfort, refused the Bishopric of Norwich, and afterwards
suffered for his Nonconformity. Both of these sat in the Convocation of 1562, and sided
with the Puritan party Xh^iXQ.- -Athena: Cantab.

8 History of Congi^egationalism.

the Puritans, " The Troubles of Frankeford " began. The in-
vited guest soon turned his hosts out of doors, and Bale retired
to Basil in Switzerland, where he remained till the death of

The exiles from England were of two sorts at least. There
were Ritualists and Puritans, led respectively by Cox and
Knox ; and it was at Frankfort, where these two champions met,
that the strife between members of the English Church com-
menced which has not yet ceased to rage. There the over-
bearing and persecuting spirit which has ever characterized the
priestly party shewed itself, and that party gained the ascen-
dency, which it has ever since endeavoured to maintain. The
story as it is given in the " History of the Troubles," forcibl}^
reminds us of the words of the Apostle : " Abraham had two .
sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman ; — one
born after the flesh, the other by promise. Here is an allegor}-.
As then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that
was born after the spirit, even so it is now." So it was at Frank-
fort ! so it was when the exiles returned to their native land !
and so it is still !

But it appears that there were not only High-churchmen
and Puritans at Frankfort. We are particularly interested in
a statement made by Heylin, who, when speaking of the
" Troubles," says : —

" A new discipline was devised by Ashley, a gentleman of good note
among the laity there, and his party ; whereby the superintendency of
pastors and elders was laid aside, and the supreme power in all ecclesiasti-
cal causes put into the hands of congregations ; which gave an original to
Independentism, and thereby further disturbance to the Church- and peace
of Christendom.'"-'

We are concerned only with the fact, the reflection on it does
not trouble us.

We thus find that the three great parties which exist and
struggle in our own days — Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and

* On his return to England, though Elizabeth had formerly respected and honoured

Online LibraryJohn BrowneHistory of Congregationalism and memorials of the churches in Norfolk and Suffolk → online text (page 1 of 65)