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Quakers in Pulloxhill

Former County Archivist and Quaker Joyce Godber wrote Friends in Bedfordshire and West Hertfordshire in 1975. He book has a number of references to Pulloxhill. The earliest reference to Quakers in the village is in 1667, a man named Henry Gamble being one "of the first that received Friends". In 1670 Quakers met at the house of Thomas Gamble in Pulloxhill. 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: "Thomas Gamble of Pollux-hill, was fined £20 for a Meeting held at his House, for which were taken by Distress, five fat Cows".

Quaker meetings (called preparative meetings) were grouped into larger units called monthly meetings. One such monthly meeting was held at Pulloxhill and based around Pulloxhill, Clophill and Barton-le-Clay. Monthly meetings were themselves grouped together into quarterly meetings and Joyce Godber argues in her book that in the 17th century that there was a quarterly meeting based on Pulloxhill, others being at Kempston Hardwick, Clifton and Dunstable. Thomas Gamble of Pulloxhill was one of the Bedfordshire Quakers prosecuted in the late 17th century for his Quaker allegiance – five of his cows, presumably representing a fair portion of his livelihood, were confiscated.

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. Quaker meeting houses registered in Bedfordshire on 30th April 1690 included Bedford, Biggleswade, Carlton, Clifton, Bourne End in Cranfield, Kempston Hardwick, Sewell in Houghton Regis, Stotfold and Turvey as well as Pulloxhill.

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. FormerCounty Archivist Patricia Bell has compiled returns from 1706 to 1720 for the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (Volume 81, published 2002); information for Pulloxhillincludes the following:

  • 1706: It [the parish] contains about 60 families in it. Of which 5 are of Quakers who have a Meeting house to which they resort once a fortnight. There is One Papist in this Parish, a Boarder, named Mary Major.
  • 1712: Families 34, of Quakers 8, Independents 2. (Independents might have been Baptists or Congregationalists).
  • 1717: I have about 40 Families, whereof five are Dissenters – Quakers. We have a Quaker Meeting, that Assembles once a weeke. Not Numerous".
  • 1720: About twenty Families, whereof four are Quakers. Meeting houses: No".

The last entry was either just a temporary lapse on the part of local Quakers or simply wrong. In 1748 the following was recorded [FR6/1/1/1]: "Pursuant to the Queries of ye Yearly Meeting we Have Here in this out Monthly Meeting Book Recorded our Setted [seated?] Meeting Houses and Burial Grounds as Followeth. One Meeting House and Burial Ground adjoining to it lying and being in the Parish of Pulloxhill in ye County of Bedford".

There had been a burial ground for Quakers at Flitton in the 17th century. The burial ground at Pulloxhill continued to be used until at least the last quarter of the 18th century as the following entries make clear. After that neither meeting house nor burial ground seem to be mentioned:

  • Thomas Finch of Ampthill, died 27th March 1778, aged 81 [FR6/9/10/6];
  • Philip Samm of Clophill, died 2nd January 1781, aged 80 [FR6/9/10/10];
  • James Mason of Clophill, died 13th July 1782, aged 30 [FR6/9/10/13].

In 1757 Jane Impey "late of Barton-le-Clay, now of Pulloxhill", spinster made her will. She left one guinea to Susan Andrews of Pulloxhill "who lives in the Meeting House" and gave all her "wearing apparel" to her niece, Mary Gunnis, who should bestow it on "such of the Poor Friends" as she should think fit. The will was proved in 1761 [ABP/R1761 folio 652].

In 1803 Quaker William Ashby from Pulloxhill appeared before the archdeaconry court. He received administration of the goods of his wife Ruth who had died intestate [ABP/A1803/8]. There is no indication today as to where either the Pulloxhill meeting house or burial ground were.

Pulloxhill Monthly Meeting was later renamed Ampthill Monthly Meeting. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has the following records for Pulloxhill Monthly Meeting:

  • FR6/2/2/1: women's meeting minutes: 1712-1782;
  • FR6/1/1/1: men's meeting minutes: 1734-1756;
  • FR6/9/1/1: marriage consent: 1738;
  • FR6/9/2/1-9: marriage clearances: 1739-1783;
  • FR6/7/5/1-40: removal certificates for Friends joining Pulloxhill Monthly Meeting: 1751-1798;
  • FR6/12/1/2: case for the opinion of counsel regarding refusal to serve in the militia: c. 1757;
  • FR6/1/1/2: men's meeting minutes: 1757-1780;
  • FR6/2/1/1: elders' and overseers' special meeting minutes: 1759-1797;
  • FR6/7/9/1-7: testimonies of disownment: 1760-1769;
  • FR6/7/11/1: correspondence between monthly meetings regarding discipline: 1765;
  • FR6/9/4/1-3: outward going marriage clearances: 1765-1792;
  • FR6/12/1/1: private accounts of T. Squire: 1769;
  • FR6/9/7/1-23: birth notes: 1775-1789;
  • FR6/9/10/1-23: grave order certificates: 1776-1785;
  • FR6/10/5/2: Monthly Meeting minute: 1779;
  • FR6/1/1/3: men's meeting minutes: 1780-1791;
  • FR6/7/6/1-17: copy removal certificates issued by the monthly meeting: 1780-1797;
  • FR6/4/5/1-11: subscription lists: 1791-1799;
  • FR6/10/5/1: Monthly Meeting minute: 1793;
  • FR6/10//1-2: National Meeting for Sufferings: 1793-1796;
  • FR6/9/14/1: notification of marriage intention: 1795;
  • FR6/1/2/1: rough minutes: 1796;
  • FR6/1/2/2: rough minutes: 1798;
  • FR6/4/6/1: rents: 1800;
  • FR6/9/6/1: birth register: 1839-1850;
  • FR6/9/10/24: burial ground note book: 1863-1968;
  • FR6/9/10/25: burial certificates book: 1863-1907;
  • FR6/9/11/1: orders for burial: 1863-1910.