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Registration and Early References in Kensworth

In 1672 Charles II issued a Declaration of Toleration for Protestants dissenting from the Church of England; this had the effect of some dissenting meeting houses registering with the Secretary of State. The Toleration Act of 1689 enshrined the right of protestants to dissent from the Church of England and, once again, encouraged meeting houses to register voluntarily with local quarter sessions and Anglican church. Registration provided protection against persecution, laying a duty of protection upon magistrates and so was popular with nonconformists. Most registrations were made with quarter sessions until the middle of the 18th century, presumably due to the mutual antagonism of nonconformists and established Church. However, from that point registration with the Church, via the local archdeaconry began to become the favoured method, because the archdeaconry Registrar would issue a licence at any time rather than during the days each quarter when the quarter sessions met.

Registration continued through the 19th century even though persecution faded away - this was because registered buildings were allowed to claim exemption from parish poor rates, were exempt from control by the Charity Commission and were allowed to be licensed to carry out marriages. These things meant that registration became almost compulsory in practice for well established nonconformist meetings. This is fortunate for the local historian because sometimes the only surviving references to a nonconformist meeting occur as registrations. One drawback with the registrations are that they do not usually inform the reader of the particular type of denomination involved, though sometimes it is possible to infer it from other evidence.

As Kensworth was in Hertfordshire until 1897 Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service does not have any registrations of nonconformist meeting houses - these are at Hertfordshire Archives Service in Hertford. The dwelling house of John Frost was registered as a meeting for an unknown denomination in 1807 by Frost himself, John Read, Francis Emerton, William Iredale, James Wright and George Bingham with the dwelling house of David Taylor being registered by Taylor, John Coates, William Iredale, John Read, Henry Bradshaw, James Wright and George Bingham three years later.