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Registration and Early References in Caddington

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.

Visitations by the Bishop of Lincoln to Bedfordshire in the early 18th century give some idea as to the number of nonconformists in each parish from returns made by the vicar or rector. Former County Archivist Patricia Bell has compiled returns from 1706 to 1720 for the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (Volume 81, published 2002); information for Bromham includes the following:

  • 1706: [the parish] “contains 180 families within it. Among these there are some Quakers, who have a Meeting house at Market street in this parish, and many Anabaptists [Baptists] but no Papists”.
  • 1709: “Near 100 families. No Papists. 14 or 15 families of Anabaptists. The Quakers have a meeting on Friday once in 3 weeks, the preacher John Chester of Dunstable”.
  • 1712: “Families 100, of which 9 of Anabaptists; 4 of Quakers. Each of these have a Meeting. The Quakers meet Frydays and Sundays; the Anabaptists only on Sundays”.
  • 1717: “We have two Meeting-Houses, one Quaker and the other Anabaptist. Whether licensed of not, or how often they assemble, or in what Numbers, I know not”.
  • 1720: “There are 2 Meeting houses One Quakers the other Anabaptists. They Assemble Sundayes, Tuesdays and Fridays. I am a stranger to their Teachers and to the number of their Congregation”.