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Printable Version Roger Brierly and his fellowship of Grindletonians

Roger Brierley and the Grindletonians


(the article contains references/notes which have not copied properly, all the notes are there but the identification number has gone)

There is some information which will add considerably to our understanding of the beliefs of the population of western Craven and the latter stages of the reformation in these “northern parts”. It is early days but further research will enable us gain a fuller understanding of the conflicts between the Puritans and the young dissidents of the age.

Marchant quotes from a visitation record that the churchwardens of Giggleswick reported “many goe to Grindleton and neglect their own parish church”.   In itself this is of interest but the original in fact reads :

“William Paley, Robert Carr, Gregory Twistelton and John Houghton, old churchwardens, They want a book of homilies, a Chest for the poore, the roofe and leades of ther Church is in decay, many goe to Grindleton and neglect ther owne parish Church, and none of these defects by them presented”

This implies that the churchwardens were in league with the people who attended Grindleton and that the loss to the congregation was reported by Christopher Shute the aggrieved “puritan” vicar.

So what attracted them to Grindleton and did the “many that goe” there mean tens or scores or more. It was certainly enough for Shute, a proud and deeply spiritual gentleman , to forget his position for once and ask for help.

In 1848 the Chetham Society published “The Journal of Nicholas Assheton… for part of the year 1617 and part of the year following” in which Ashton mentions “April 18th Jo. Swinglehurst buried: he dyed distract; he was a great follower of Brierley” (p89) against which, in the original, TD Whitaker has written “Some frantic enthusiast of that time, who turned the heads of his followers”.

The editor of this Chetham volume was the Rev FR Raines who knew of a book published in 1677 and entitled “A Bundle of Soul-convincing, Directing and Comforting Truths etc… being a brief summary of several sermons preached ….. by Mr Rodger Brierley minister of the gospel at Grindleton” . Raines provides some extracts from the work and adds some biographical information especially of Roger Brierley’s family. (A brother had been granted arms, another descendant was related to a local wealthy gentry family and so forth, information that mattered to his readership at the time, but adds little more to the story of Roger Brierley himself).

For this we have to return to Marchant who gives details of the visitation of 1615 to Gisburn where Brierley had preached without licence and baptised a child without using the sign of the cross in the absence of the vicar . Grindleton is in the parish of Mitton in Craven but it was from Gisburn that Brierley was reported for not reading the Book of Common Prayer at Grindleton and not receiving communion at his parish church.

The vicar of Gisburn was Henry Hoyle a noted Puritan . He like Christopher Shute of Giggleswick was educated at Cambridge and the two were undoubtedly friends.

It was not until 1st October 1616 that Brierley was prosecuted in the High Commission by John Bannister gent for 50 erroneous propositions held by Brierley and his congregation [a point ignored by all but Christopher Hill below]. Now, Sir William Lister of Thornton was a friend of John Bannister and was executor to Henry Hoyle’s will. The Listers of Thornton were noted Puritans (their house was later burned down by Royalist forces) and it appears that Brierley was being hounded by Lister, his friends and a powerful group of Puritan vicars.

For a while Brierley was held in custody and on the 1st April Christopher Shute and others, joined by further witnesses on the 29th April and 17th June including 24 laymen were called. Nothing was proved and the case was over by the 30th September 1617, Brierley was excused paying costs.

As mentioned above Shute probably alerted the visitors in 1619 that Brierley was still attracting large audiences.

Brierley was at the High Commission again in 1627 where he was prohibited from preaching at Grindleton or elsewhere except Kildwick. John Foote was the vicar of Kildwick at the time, a supposed pluralist and certainly absent from the parish for long periods. When Roger Coates , a very different man to John Foote, became vicar in 1628 Brierley was quietly moved to Burnley within two years.

In 1995 the Yorkshire Archaeological Society published a paper “Grindletonianism” in which David Foss is keen to separate the preachings of Brierley from those of the Familists, a link made by contemporary sources such as Denison “I would we had not Grindletonian Familists in the north part of England”. The extracts from Brierley’s published works quoted by Raines do indeed differ from Familist beliefs .

Christopher Hill has attached some considerable importance to Brierley . He has identified a number of his friends and has quoted from Sippel to provide some further details of the case brought against him. However, nowhere does Hill or any other author list the “dozens” of witnesses who were called to the court. This will provide the hard data required to identify some of his followers. Others, such as John Webster curate of Kildwick from 1634 and Richard Tennant we know, as we do the JC (Josiah Collyer), who published Brierley’s works. David Como and Peter Lake believe Peter Shaw may have had Grindletonian beliefs and David Como has discussed this further in “Blown by the spirit: puritanism and emergence of an antinomian underground in pre-civil war England”.

Perhaps the greatest contribution since Raines (and that forthcoming by Como), though, is that by Nigel Smith who has published an elegy to a Grindletonian written by the minister William Aglin

from every quarter come both rich and poor,
blind, lame, withered; great and mighty store
of wise and learned multitudes of men
came hasting to that place appointed then
for cast they card not, length of the way
was then no burden wandering every day
to those fair court unto thy voice so sweet
where all that companv in one did meet.

From which we can gather the congregation was indeed very large. This is an excellent article which will be of immense use. The American interest is due in part to the case of Ann Hutchinson and because Grindletonian beliefs are said to have influenced the Quakers.

The original sermon notes made by Brierley are at Lambeth Palace Library MS3641 and have been examined only (as far as I can tell) by David Como and passed to Nigel Smith who has noted significant alterations made in the published texts. (Josias Collyer was writing for an Anglican audience). The library has agreed to microfilm the volume and provide a copy for further work at home.

The records of the case at the commission in York are being photocopied for further home study although, as I write, there are some problems identifying them.

Roger Brierley was baptized 7th August 1586 in Marland, a hamlet in the parish of Rochdale. His father, Thomas Brereley, and his grandfather Roger Brereley were farmers, and in 1626 Roger himself was still in possession of a close in Castleton, in the manor of Rochdale, which had belonged to his grandfather. On the 6th September 1615 he married Ann Hardman (bapt. 1585) at St Mary, Bury, Lancashire who (I believe) was the daughter of Bartini Hardman and Thomasina (nee Bradley) of Kildwick. His daughter Ales and son Thomas were baptized at Waddington in August 1618 and August 1620 respectively. Maria was baptized at Kildwick 14th October 1624 and Roger 20th October 1630. On the 15th June 1628 Roger Brearly signed the articles agreed by the Church of England “for the avoiding of dissension and difference in points of religion” . A fortnight later Roger signed for his previous six months salary and appears to have been paid until 25th December 1628. His son Abel was baptized at Burnley on 15th December 1633 (his will dated 1696 gives his occupation as chapman). His son John (baptism unknown) was admitted sizar (aged 15) to Christ’s college 1640 having been educated at Wakefield, he was descrbed as the son of Roger perpetual curate of Grindleton. His son Roger, admitted to Magdalene 30th March 1652 was also at Wakefield school. Brierley’s brother-in-law was a senior master at Wakefield.

Roger Brierley did not apparently receive any formal university training but the register he kept at Burnley (15th May 1635 to 26th Aug 1636) was written in Latin, previous entries in English were in a “neat and legible hand” . At the foot of each page of Kildwick Parish Registers from 1624 to 1629 are the words “Ita teste Rog. Brearleye Cur”. He is said to have translated and published some important antinomian works.

The beliefs of Roger Brierley have been described by Como in the current DNB.

The challenge today is to identify his followers. We have one in Thomas Barcroft of Colne (perhaps father of Ambrose) who became a quaker and in 1656 wrote a treatise : "chiefly for the service of those with whom I have had in times past sweet society and union in spirit, in the days of that glimmering of light under the ministry of Brierley, Tonnan (Tennant?), and some few more, whose memories I honour, .... called then by the professors of the world Grindletonians, Antinomians, Heretics, Sectaries, and such like names of reproach, as in these days the Children of light are in scorn called Quakers" .

But what is known of William Eglin (sometime a “minister” at Thornton) who wrote the eulogy to Roger Brierley? There was a judge called Eglin who was involved in the Pendle witchcraft trials but he was based in London.

Ronald Marchant “The Puritans and the Church Courts in the Diocese of York 1560 – 1642” Longmans, London 1960 p40
Visitation 1619 Court Book f.57v-58v
See his case at York 1586 reproduced in “Lives of the Puritans”
“The Journal of Nicholas Assheton… for part of the year 1617 and part of the year following” The Rev. F.R. Raines Chetham Society 1848
This is available in microfiche form at Leeds University
Marchant p232
Marchant p256
Not to be confused with the recusant Listers, friends of the Sherbornes of Stoneyhurst.
Those named by Marchant are: Christopher Shute, T. Brooke [minister at Gargrave from 1632, his patron was Richard Monks a friend of Lister. Brooke fled to Lancashire from the Royalists]; R. Gibson vicar of Marton [patron Christopher Marton]; E. Watkin vicar of Carlton [patron Christ’s Church, Oxford]; J. Foote vicar of Kildwick [absent for much of the time]; W. Harrison vicar of Otley [friend of Thomas Moor of Guiseley and probably of Chris. Shute]; G. Wiber vicar of Long Preston (probably friends with Shute in the adjacent parish); J. Eastwood curate of Barnoldswick [John Bannister was dominant landholder here]; A. Emmot rector of Bolton by Bowland (he was succeeded by Henry Hoyle ]; F. Peele curate first at Bolton by Bowland then perpetual curate at Barnoldswick; T. Jobson minister at Waddington, J. Harrison; J. Brodley (of Halifax); T Drake curate then rector of Thornton in Craven [patron William Lister]
Marchant p233
David B Foss “Grindletonianism” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal vol67 1995 pps 147 – 153.
Stephen Denison “The White Wolf” a sermon preached at Paul’s Cross 11th Feb 1627. Quoted by Raines in Ashton’s Journal.
Christopher W Marsh “The Family of Love in English Society 1550 – 1630” Cambridge 1994
Christopher Hill “The World Turned Upside Down” Penguin edition 1975 pps 81 – 84; 185.
Thomas Sippell “Zur Vorgeschichte des Quakertums” Giessen 1920 (lists the 50 articles with which Brierley was accused, in English)
Como, David and Lake, Peter “Puritans, Antinomians and Laudians in Caroline London: The Strange Case of Peter Shaw and its Context” Journal of Ecclesiatical History vol50, no 4 October 1999.
Nigel Smith “Elegy for a Grindletonian: Poetry and Heresy in Northern England 1615 – 1640” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 33:2 Spring 2003
the family is from Devon but William is possibly the son of John and baptised at Ryton, Durham in October 1593. On the 24th April 1654 there is the following entry in Kildwick Marriage Registers “Dyonis Brigg of the parish of Kildwick and Elizabeth Mitchell of the parish of Thornton made it appear by the certificates of John Towne registrar for Kildwick and William Eglin registrar for Thornton it had been three Lord’s days to wit the 26th March last, ye 2nd and 9th April instant published in the several Churches of Kildwick and Thornton were this 24th day of April 1654 in the presence of John Towne, William Watson and John Horne married before me Roger Coates”. William Eglin was called as a witness in Brereley's first high commission trial.
Burnley Parish Registers
in William C. Braithwaite "The Beginnings of Quakerism" (London 1912) p24


I am desperate for a copy of this treatise, the words “sweet society and union in spirit” speak volumes.

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 Added on:  19/11/2006
 Author/Source:  Roy Price
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 Posted by:  roy619
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