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Quakers in Aspley Guise

Aspley Guise was home to a two prominent Quaker families. First were the Cartwrights. One of these is mentioned in a book called A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers, Volume I of which was published in 1753 and covers acts against Quakers from 1650 to 1689 throughout the country. Each county has a chapter and that for Bedfordshire notes that in 1675 a number of Quakers were apprehended at a meeting in Buckinghamshire, no doubt the meeting house in Hogsty End, today's Woburn Sands, which had been in use since 1672. One of those taken was Mercy Cartwright, who lived at The Old House, she was fined £9 and had goods to the value of £15 distrained as security to pay the fine. She had subscribed £7/10/- to help buy the property in Hogsty End to use as a meeting house [FR4/12/1].

In 1680 Mercy's daughter Ann married a Quaker fellmonger from Leighton Buzzard called Thomas How. Mercy's husband, Isaac, had by then been dead for many years. Thomas and Ann had three children, Mercy, Thomas and Richard. Thomas seems to have been something of a wastrel but Richard was able to buy back what his brother squandered and The Old House remained the family home for nearly two centuries.

Volume 81 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (2002) is devoted to returns made during episcopal visitations to the county by the Bishop of Lincoln in the early 18th century, edited by former County Archivist Patricia Bell. It throws some interesting light on nonconformity. The return for 1706 notes that there were about six families (out of fifty six) who were either Quakers or Anabaptists (Baptists). The 1709 return states that there were six families of Quakers and two of Baptists. The returns for 1717 and 1720 give five and six families of Quakers respectively.