QUAKERS IN TODMORDEN
with names of members and details of where
records are held.
the help of Alan Longbottom)
the Toleration Act in 1689, being a member of any non-conformist
religious group was a dangerous thing. Quakers were no exception
to this, and despite the problems, the Society of Friends began
to flourish in the Todmorden area. The Society was well structured
and run efficiently along the lines of an exclusive club. Friends
met together once a month at a local meeting place. These were known
as Preparative Meetings, and
gave the Friends the opportunity to discuss local matters of importance
to them. This could be a discussion on their poor folk and how best
to provide relief, to hear and determine complaints arising amongst
themselves, to enquire into the morality, conformity and religious
sentiments of their members, to agree to marriages, to discuss education
of their young and to agree about their principles and practices.
monthly meetings were also held on an area level, where an area
may cover six to eight local areas, and to which each local area
would send representatives. These were known as Monthly Meetings.
Quarterly Meetings were held normally on a county basis - York for
Yorkshire and Liverpool for Lancashire for example, and then an
Annual Assembly in London with four to eight representatives from
each quarterly meeting.
Todmorden area included amongst its inhabitants a great number of
Quakers, and in the mid 1600's a Preparative Meeting was set up
at Mankinholes under the name of Brighouse and Mankinholes, with
Monthly Meetings at Pontefract in Yorkshire. In 1669, Mankinholes
became independent of Brighouse at local level, and the Monthly
Meetings moved to Brighouse. Preparative Meetings were held at the
Sutcliffe family farm at Mankinholes. Members included Thomas and
Richard Sutcliffe, John Whaley, Richard Holden, John Fielden, Joshua
Smith and Henry Dyson.
were also meeting places at Todmorden Edge in Todmorden, Shore
in Stansfield and at Bottomley in Walsden, where members included
Henry Kailey (Todmorden Edge) Lydia and Richard Stansfield
(Shore) and the Fielden family from Bottomley.
Established Church of England had great powers to hunt out and punish
those whose thoughts, deeds or religious loyalties were elsewhere.
In Todmorden, the curate throughout the period from when the Friends
began to meet until shortly before the Toleration Act was Henry
Crabtree. He despised the Quakers and made it a priority to rid
his catchment area of all dissenters. The Friends were persecuted,
had their homes raided, were fined, and imprisoned.
Lydia Crossley, the wife of Richard Stansfield of Shore, was imprisoned
at York Castle for refusing to pay a fine towards the stipend of
the minister at Cross Stone Church. Although well able to afford
the fine, she acted according to her conscience and refused. She
died whilst in the prison.
Crabtree sent his henchmen to Henry Kailey's farm at Todmorden
Edge and to Joshua Fielden's farm at Bottomley. On each occasion,
the names of the Friends attending meetings at these places
were taken and they were summonsed to appear before the Magistrates.
were all fined, and those refusing to pay were issued with
distraint orders. The bailiffs were sent in to take goods
and furniture to the value of the fines. Joshua Fielden of
Bottomley had bedding and a brass mortar seized in 1684 in
lieu of a 5 shilling fine, and a year later pewter and a bible
valued at 17 shillings.
Toleration Act was passed in 1689, allowing freedom of Worship for
any Protestant Christian, providing the place of worship had a certificate
and the members signed an oath of loyalty. The Society of Friends
refused to take an oath, and instead members were allowed to make
a Declaration of Fidelity. In January 1695, the members at Mankinholes
applied for permission to use a house at Shoebroad for public worship.
Daniel Sutcliffe of Strait Hey in Langfield, Thomas Sutcliffe, James
Bancroft, John Greenwood, John Fielden and Joshua Fielden signed
Todmorden Friends purchased a piece of land at Shoebroad to
use as a burial ground. Burial records at this ground commence
in 1690. There is a further Quaker burial ground at Todmorden
Edge. Both grounds are maintained to this day. The photo shows
the entrance to the ground at Shoebroad.
was granted for a place of worship, and in 1696, the first purpose-built
Meeting House was built at Tenter Croft in Shoebroad, Langfield.
It was enlarged in 1785 and was in use until about 1811. The name
was changed to Todmorden in 1792 and in 1807 the Monthly Meetings
moved to Marsden. (Nelson in Lancashire). The Friends purchased
land at Bank Top near Honeyhole in 1808 as a site for a new Meeting
House, which opened in 1811. The Meeting House continued in use
until 1964 at which time it closed and the Meeting House sold. The
Meeting did re-open for a further five years between 1983 and 1985
with Monthly Meetings returning to Brighouse.
Quakers regard both sexes as equal, and women are to be found in
every branch of the organisation, including preachers and representatives
at meetings. They
do not practice water baptism as a condition of membership, but
rather they accept new members by "Convincement of the Spiritual
Truths", witnessed by existing members, or by birth if both
parents are Friends.
of the Society wishing to marry would announce their intentions
at Meetings on three occasions and a thorough investigation would
take place into their conduct by other members of the Society before
permission was given. Members
could be 'disowned' or served with a 'Certificate of Denial' in
which the local Meeting was given liberty to spread the information
of such denial of membership as it saw fit. Members
could be 'disowned' for marrying outside the Society and for financial
indiscretion and bad moral conduct.
such disowning was of Joshua Fielden, eldest surviving son of Joshua
Fielden and Mary Sutcliffe of Bottomley. Joshua junior met and fell
in love with Elizabeth Crossley of Walsden. She refused to conform
to the Quaker faith and the pair were married by licence at St.
Chad's Parish Church on 22nd August 1723. Recorded in the Quaker
Meeting minutes is: "Joshua Fielden, son of Joshua Fielden
of Bottomley deceased, is married by a priest to a Woman of another
Society". (Quaker Minute of 20 Sep 1723). On 29th November
that year, the Friends disowned him. Joshua had a riding accident,
suffered a gangrenous leg, and died in 1731 at the age of 29. His
widow had their three sons baptised at St. Mary's church exactly
three months later, thus sealing her fate and that of her children
as there is no mention of them in the will of their rich and childless
uncle John Fielden of Todmorden Hall, although the two sons who
survived did very well in life, and the widow may have had help
unofficially from the family. Nevertheless, publicly, they were
following lists are names of Todmorden Quakers extracted from the
Minutes of Brighouse Monthly Meeting for the period 1688-1737 and
from Todmorden Preparative Meeting 1737-1867. The names shown are
those of the representatives from Todmorden at the Monthly Meetings.
information was extracted and submitted by Alan Longbottom to
whom we give our sincere thanks.
Books are held as part of the Carlton Hill Collection of Quaker
Items in Leeds University Special Collections MS 1979/1