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Quakers in Woburn

A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers Volume I 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 1670: “By a Law then made, instituted, An Act to prevent and suppress seditious Conventicles, imposing Fines both on Preachers and Hearers, and giving one Third to the Informer or Informers, the vilest of Men were encouraged to prey upon the Conscientious. This induced Thomas Dier, a Barber in Wooburne, to inform the Officers there of a Meeting at the House of William Albright. The Officers went to the House, and called William Albright out, but neither went in, nor saw who else was there. However, they, with Dier, went next Morning to Justice Charnock at Sawford [Salford], and gave in the Names of such Persons as they supposed to be at the Meeting, and obtained the following Warrant, viz.”

“To all the Constables, Churchwardens, and Overseers of the Poor of Wooburne, to either or any of them”

“Whereas the Persons here underwritten have, contrary to the late Act of the present Parliament, met at a Conventicle at Wooburne aforesaid, and do stand convicted thereof by the Oaths of two or more Witnesses, that the said Persons underwritten, did meet under Pretence of religion, at the House of William Albright of Wooburne aforesaid, upon the 15th Day of this Instant May, 1670, to the Number of above four Persons, besides the Persons usually residing in the Family of the said William Albright. These are therefore in his Majesty’s Name to command you, or either of you, upon the Sight thereof, to demand of the several Persons underwritten, the several Sums set upon them, they being according to the said Act fined”.

“IMPRIMIS, William Albright, for permitting the said Conventicle at his House, the Sum of £20”.

“William Albright, for being present at the said Conventicle, the Sum of 5s. The Wife of the said William Albright, for being present at the same Conventicle, the Sum of 5s. For the Speaker, whose name cannot be known, fined £20 to be levied upon all that were present at the same Conventicle. The Wife of Francis Coleman, for being at the same Conventicle, 5s. Sarah Baker, for being at the same Conventicle, 5s. Thomas Sinfield, for being at the same Conventicle, 5s. Mary Saunders, for being at the same Conventicle, 5s. Robert Gurney, for being at the same Conventicle, 5s.”

“And if the said Persons do upon Demand refuse to pay you the several Sum or Sums of Money by Fine set upon them, that you, and every of you, levy upon the Offenders Goods and Chattels, the said several Sum or Sums of Money by Distress and Sale of the said Offenders Goods, returning the Overplus. Given under my hand and Seal this 16th Day of May 1670. St. John Charnock”.

“The Justice further directed that the Speaker’s Fine (though in Truth there was no speaker at the Meeting, for the Assembly was altogether held in Silence) of £20 should be levied, £5 thereof on William Albright, £5 on George Galsey, and the other £10 on William Cooke of Bowbrick-hill [Bow Brickhill, Buckinghamshire]: Accordingly, Galsey had his Haycock taken away, and Cooke his Cart, Hay, household Stuff, and other Things. Robert Gurney, for his Fine of 5s. had a Kettle taken worth 8s. and Mary Saunders, for her fine, had six Pewter Plates taken worth 12s. some of which were her Mother’s who at that Time received Alms of the Parish”.

“But far more severe were the Sufferings of William Albright, for on the 6th, 8th and 9th of the Month called August in this Year, one Bumstead, a Bayliff’s Follower, with others, came to his House, and by Warrant from the said Justice Charnock, broke open his Doors, and took away Timber, Malt, Oats, and other Things to the Value of above £70. Howbeit, the said Albright continued steadfast, in permitting religious Meetings at his House, till by repeated Seizures he was so impoverished, that having nothing left to satisfy the Fines, he was committed to Prison about the Month of October this Year”.

“Although Albright was now close shut up, yet his Heart and House continued open to his Friends, who held their religious Meetings there as before, in Faith and Patience: At one of them Mercy Cartwright and Thomas Harvey, being present, were fined £10 each for a supposed Preacher, though the Meeting was held in Silence: Such Mistakes the Justices frequently made, for they not understanding the Nature of performing spiritual Worship in an awful and holy Stillness, took for granted, that where a Meeting was, a Preacher must be”.

“Sarah Baker, a poor Widow, for 15s. Fine, suffered Distress of the few household Goods she had; among which, having boiled Milk in a Skillet for two sick Children, the Informers threw away the poor Babes Sustenance, and made Prize of the Skillet”.

“Robert Gurney and Francis Ireland, for Tithes of 10s. each, suffered Distress; the former to the Value of 30s. and the latter of 22s.”

“The Officers and others concerned in the making of the Distress, were excited to Severity by Justice Charnock, telling them, they might take an £100 for £20 and bring him the Money, for his Clerk must have some of it for his Pains: Adding, that they must take the more, because few would buy the Goods. For about that Time it happened, that Richard Laundy of Boldenhurst [Bolnhurst], for being at a Meeting at the House of Thomas Sutton in Little Stanton [Little Staughton], was fined 5s. for himself and £10 for the Preacher, and had Wheat taken from him worth £14 which Wheat, when exposed to Sale at Bedford Market, no Body there would buy; nor would the Officers, who made the Distress unwillingly, take it at any Rate: so it was left to the Justices and Informers to dispose of”.

There was never a purpose built Quaker Meeting in Woburn. However, from 1672 the Hogsty End Meeting house in what is now Woburn Sands [Buckinghamshire] began to be used and Woburn Friends repaired there for worship. It is this meeting to which another entry, for 1675, no doubt refers: "Several Inhabitants of this County, taken at a Meeting in Buckinghamsnire, were fined by Justice Thomas Hacket of that County, who certifying the same to Sir John [sic] Charnock, he granted a Warrant for Distress, by which were taken"

"From Richard Hartwell of Wooburne for £3 5s. fine, goods worth £3 19s.
Francis Ireland for 5s. fine, goods worth 15s.
Sarah Baker of Wooburne for £1 5s. fine, goods worth £4 10s.
Mercy Cartwright of Aspley Guise for £9 fine, goods worth £15".