A ‘Dissenting’ word on Long Buckby, Northamptonshire 1795-1836

An interesting note appears in the Long Buckby Parish Register:

Sir,

We the undersigned beg leave to state that we are Dissenting Ministers having chapels and considerable congregations in the Parish of Long Buckby, in the County of Northamptonshire.

Long Buckby, in connextion with a few surrounding parishes, forms a District of the Daventry Poor-Law Union; its population is reckoned at 2500, and nine-tenths of its inhabitants are Dissenters.

It might have been supposed, therefore, that in the appointment of a Deputy Registrar some regard would have been had to the Convenience of incomparably the most important and populous part of the District; and acordingly two or three respectable and well qualified inhabitants applied for the office.

Without any discussion, however, the Daventry Board of Guardians rejected them in favour of a Mr. Phillips who resides at a small village (Ashby) 5 miles from Long Buckby and to which there is no access but by bad and unfrequented crop-Roads.

Now, if the Marriage and Registration Acts contemplated the Relief of Dissenters, is it reasonable that the Inhabitants of this town should be under the necessity of sending to the most distant and isolated part of the District, for the Registrar, whose duties will in a very great way be required by them? To many of the labouring class it would be serious hardship in cases or Birth and Death to leave their homes and main Labours, and loose their time: and as to Marriages, the Dissenters in this place demur with regard to having their chapels licensed on this very account.

We have deemed it proper to make the Statement, that the Commissioners may be able to judge whether such an appointment may be sanctioned, or not.

Yours very respectfully,

Daniell Griffiths, Independent Minister

By way of explanation: for the Dissenter, Christ was the sole head of the Church and Scripture was the only rule of faith and practice. Faith was left to the individual to encounter in his own way and by the power of reason invested in his own private judgment. The Dissenters thus objected to the Creeds as well as the offices of the Church of England. They were, on the whole, utilitarian calculators who made moralistic arguments on the relative merits of the Christian faith. The only true criterion of religion, they found, was its ability to produce virtue, as virtue was necessary for society. Yet this society was not about to accept them upon an equitable basis. The Dissenters were throughout the eighteenth century denied specific civil and political rights as were Roman Catholics and Jews.

The Dissenters had hardened their hearts against a state that had rejected them. Deeply and firmly established in the society of England, they formed a great, permanent undercurrent of dissatisfied criticism of the state of England.  In general, the Dissenters pressed the Church of England for recognition and involvement in the affairs of the country. Their social and political aims can be briefly stated as follows: they requested from the state the toleration to worship God in accordance with their own beliefs; they desired to be considered upon an equal legal basis with Anglicans; they desired equality in marriage, education, the ability to hold office and ultimately to sit in Parliament. They also fought to win toleration for both Roman Catholics and Jews because it was their desire to place all men upon an equal footing.

They devoted a great deal of time, energy and money to the spread of education amongst all their members. The state was in no way to be allowed to interfere with the education of children; this was to be left to the discretion of the parents, and often their children were sent to one of the many Dissenting academies such as Daventry, Warrington, Hoxton, Hackney or Northampton.

It was during the reign of George III that the political radicalism of the Dissenters assumed a more active role in the affairs of national politics. Up to 1760 they had, in general, been acquiescent in political affairs. But from then on their increasing awareness of their unequal status became unbearable. This was partly due to a changing economic situation in which the Dissenters prospered and a growing alienation from both the Hanoverian dynasty and the system of government of George III. They attempted to abolish compulsory subscription to the Articles of Religion in the 1770s. They also championed the cause of the American colonists in their bid for independence.

The Rational Dissenters’ political radicalism culminated with their efforts to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts – By the Corporation Act of 1661, no one could enter a civic or municipal office unless he had taken the sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England. Under the Test Act of 1673, all who held offices under the Crown were required to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, sign a declaration repudiating the doctrine of transubstantiation and to receive the sacrament according to the Church of England. Both Acts potentially restricted the activities of the Dissenters.

The Dissenters, frustrated by their failures to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts and their abortive pleas for civic equality, renewed their support for parliamentary reform and responded to the new challenge of “Church and King” clubs by organizing new radical societies. These societies were open to all working men and their objectives were exclusively political.

I suppose that what the foregoing discussion suggests is that late 18th century English radicalism was created by a number of forces, one of the most important of which was rational Dissent. There is no doubt that events in the American colonies in the 1770s as well as developments across the English Channel in the early 1790s played a major role in stimulating the movement for parliamentary reform. What we must keep in mind, is that political discourse in England was conditioned by series of complex forces, rational Dissent being one of the most potent.

Extracted from ‘A Note on Protestant Dissent and the Dissenters’ as displayed on The History Guide

You can see why the guys at Long Buckby were so upset. Many of the Ivens who were brought up in Long Buckby supported the Non-Conformist church.

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2 responses to “A ‘Dissenting’ word on Long Buckby, Northamptonshire 1795-1836

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