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History of Nonconformists in London, England and surrounding counties

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Date: 1700 to 1850
Location: London, Englandmap
Surnames/tags: nonconformist dissenter London
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History of Nonconformists in London, England and surrounding counties

Aim of project

To write the history of English protestant nonconformist or dissenters from the perspective of the families involved. Many of these families were nonconformist for many generations, married other nonconformist families and were part of the nonconformist community which existed across the country.

The Corporation Act of 1661 and the Test Act of 1673 were among several statutes that imposed civil and religious restrictions on non-Anglicans The Toleration Act of 1689 made public worship easier for dissenters but did not fundamentally alter their legal status as second class citizens. [1]

The starting point for my research are the families in London and surrounding counties, from about 1700 to about 1850.

There is clearly no list of people who were Nonconformists but individuals can be identified through church records, burial records, lists of supporters for Nonconformist causes and membership of Nonconformist organisations. It is planned to develop a picture of the Nonconformist community through these sources.

England Team Topic

This page is part of the TopicsTeam, a topic of the England Project. Please get in touch with Topic Manager Trevor Pickup or EP Topics Coordinator Marjorie Gibbon if you are interested in joining the team!

Nonconformist Churches: Categories on Wikitree

Individuals can be identified when they christen or baptise their children in nonconformist churches, and when they are buried in nonconformist burial grounds. They may have also been named as supporting nonconformist causes, such as charities or publications.


Categories of interest top this topic are:-

City of London

City of London

Aldermanbury Postern Independent Chapel

The Aldermanbury Postern meeting house was built for the congregation formerly assembling in Rope-makers Alley, Moorfields. The meeting house was built in 1672 and it continued to meet there until 1753 when another building was constructed, when Rev Thomas Towle (abt.1755-abt.1828) was the minister.

In 1797 the church joined the congregation at Founders Hall, continuing under the pastoral care of Rev. Joseph Barber . Use this link Aldermanbury Postern Founders Hall for this category from 1797 onwards. For a detailed history see The History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches and Meeting Houses, in London, Westminster, and Southwark (London, 1808-1814).

Link to the category here. 11 individuals identified by February 2024

Aldermanbury, Postern and Founder's Hall Chapel, City of London

This category is for profiles associated with this church from 1797 onwards, when it was established.

The Aldermanbury, Postern and Founder's Hall Chapel was formed in 1797 when 2 separate congregations formed a union at Aldermanbury Postern. These were
Aldermanbury Postern which met from 1672-1797.
Founder's Hall which met from 1760-1797, which met at Little St Helen’s from 1760 until 1764 and then at Founders Hall from 1764 until 1797.

Link to the category here 11 individuals identified by February 2024.

Fetter Lane

Fetter Lane Independent Chapel was founded in Fetter Lane, in the City of London in 1738. The Fetter Lane Society was founded by Peter Boehler, the London Moravian leader. They began with the purpose of meeting once a week for prayer and fellowship. Most of their members were Anglicans, most prominently John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield.

Link to the category here 10 individuals identified by February 2024.

Founders' Hall, aka Founders' Hall, Lothbury

Founder's Hall Chapel, London, also known as Founders Hall, Lothbury, met from 1760 until 1797

The Founders Hall congregation was formed in 1760 when Rev. Joseph Barber (1727-1810) moved to London to take charge of a newly formed church, consisting of those who had separated from Mr Samuel Pike (abt.1717-bef.1773)'s Church at Three Cranes. The church met at Little St Helens from 1760 until 1764 when the Founders Hall became vacant. In 1797 the congregation formed a union with the congregation at Aldermanbury Postern.

Link to the category here 8 individuals identified by February 2024.

London Wall Scotch Church

The Old Scots Church Meeting was established at Founders' Hall from 1672 and London Wall from 1764.
The church moved to Islington in 1857 on the expiry of the London Wall lease. It was known as Trinity Presbyterian Church, Canonbury and was situated on Church Road (later North Church Road), off Southgate Road.

Link to the category here 6 individuals identified by February 2024.

Paved Alley

See under Poultry Chapel

Poultry Chapel, Camomile Street

The congregation first met in 1640 under the leadership of Thomas Goodwin D.D. (1600-1680) somewhere near Thames Street and moved to the Paved Alley meeting house Lime Street, when it was built in 1672. The congregation was considerable both in numbers and wealth and had the largest collection for the fund of any church in London.

In 1755 the East India Company purchased the site. The congregation divided into two with one moving to Artillery Street (and then Whites Row, see entry) and the other moved to Miles Lane. The latter moved to the Poultry in 1785. The church then moved again and was known as The City Temple, Holborn Viaduct.

There is more detail available about Poultry Chapel.

Link to the category here 10 individuals identified by February 2024.

Essex

Essex

Bocking Independent Chapel, Bocking,

The Independent Chapel, at Bocking End, adjoining Braintree, was a large and handsome building which was erected in 1707.

Link to the category here 29 individuals identified by February 2024.

Coggeshall Independent Church,

The first independent place of worship in Coggeshall was a converted barn on East Street, put to use in 1672. In 1710 a permanent chapel was built on Stoneham Street for "Protestant Dissenters from the Church of England, commonly called Independents". By 1716 there were 700 hearers including some of the wealthiest and most influential people from the local area. In 1834 the chapel was enlarged and again in 1865.

Link to the category here 33 individuals identified by February 2024.

Newland Street Independent Church, Witham

The church was founded in 1715 with Baptism and Burial records existing from 1752.

Link to the category here 27 individuals identified by February 2024.

Kent

Kent

Butt Lane Independent Church, Deptford

Link to the Category here

24 individuals identified by February 2024.

Middlesex

Middlesex

Bull Lane

The congregation was formed in 1644 and in 1674 a Meeting House was built on a piece of ground to the west of St Dunstan's Church, south of Stepney Green and near what is now the corner of Stepney Way and Garden Street. This building, which later became known as the Old Meeting House, was demolished in 1863 and a new Meeting House was built close by on the same piece of ground. Badly bombed during World War II, the remains of this were demolished in 1950.

Rev. Samuel Brewer (abt.1723-1796) was the minster from from 1746- 1796 and his children and some of his grandchildren were baptised in the church.

Link to the category here

52 individuals identified by February 2024.

Old Gravel Pit Independent Church, Hackney,

Link to the category here

Pavement Chapel Moorfields, later at New North Road Hoxton

Link to the category here

34 individuals identified by February 2024.

Whites Row Independent Chapel, Spitalfields

The congregation had previously met at Artillery Lane and built the Chapel probably in about 1755, by a congregation of Independents under Edward Hitchin (abt.1726-abt.1774). Many members of the congregation at this time are said to have had Huguenot names. Hitchin died in 1774 and was succeeded by Nathaniel Trotman (abt.1751-abt.1793). The congregation was then large, drawing most of its members from within a mile of the chapel: Trotman's reception service was attended by 1,200 persons. He died in 1792 and was followed by John Goode, who served the chapel until his resignation in 1826, by which time the congregation had dwindled considerably.

Link to the category here 18 individuals identified by February 2024.

Suffolk

Suffolk

Tacket Street Independent Church, Ipswich

Link to the category here 41 individuals identified by February 2024. Link to the churchyard category here 12 individuals identified by February 2024.


Nonconformist Ministers: Categories on Wikitree

... was a nonconformist minister

The categorisation of ministers is not straight forward. Some moved between the church of England and nonconformist churches. More commonly, ministers moved between nonconformist views, with Independents becoming Congregationalists, for example. Others changed their thinking with the growth of Arianian, Socinian and Unitarian views over time. The following categories are in use

England Nonconformist Ministers

This is for ministers of protestant independent nonconformist or dissenting churches. This is the main category used by this topic, The link to the category is here. England Nonconformist MInisters

252 individuals identified by February 2024 (225 in May 2022)

Non-English Nonconformist Ministers

This is mostly Scottish and European ministers, some of whom worked in England.. The link to the category is here. Nonconformist Ministers.

The Nonconformist Register at Dr Williams Library

Dr Williams Library Many nonconformist churches maintained their own christening or baptism records which can be searched on the well known sites. In addition, many families registered the birth of their children at the library, and they category for these registrations is Dr William's Library.

Amongst its aims was that, for a small fee, it kept a central registry of the births mainly (but not solely) of non-conformist families, to avoid the necessity of having to have a child baptised in the Anglican Church. Over 49,000 births were registered up until the national registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in 1837. The Wikitree category has identified 267 individuals (February 2024 figure, up from 90 in May 2021), so still much to be done.

Nonconformist Burial Grounds

There are numerous burial grounds used by nonconformists, who did not wish to be buried in Anglican graveyards.

Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington

Opened in 1840 as a non-denominational cemetery, during the Victorian period, Abney Park Cemetery became an attractive resting place for nonconformist or dissenting ministers and educationalists, with many people who were Congregationalist, Baptist, Methodist and Salvation Army members. There are over 200,000 graves. See Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, London, England for more information.

The category used for those buried there is Abney Park Cemetery category

278 individuals identified by February 2024.

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Situated in Islington is the largest nonconformist burial ground in London, with about 123,000 internments. The Wikitree category has identified 245 individuals (February 2024 figure, 147 individuals January 2022 figure), so still much to be done.

The burial registers are available on Ancestry and the images often include a place of death (where the body was brought from) and sometimes the age of the person.

There are also several publications available on the internet including The Inscriptions Upon The Tombs, Gravestones, etc., in The Dissenters Burial-Place Near Bunhill Fields written in 1717.

Some famous individuals are included in Jones, John Andrews. Bunhill Memorials, Sacred Reminiscences of Three Hundred Ministers (James Paul, London, 1849)

Also History of the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground first published in 1893

The category used for those buried there is Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Deadman's Place Burial Ground, Southwark

Deadman's Place was a small burial ground where the notable Alexander Cruden (1699-1770) was buried. The category used for those buried there is Deadman's Place Burial Ground, Southwark

7 individuals identified by February 2024.

Subscribers to Nonconformist Publications

The nonconformist community produced a significant amount of printed material and some of the publications represented a significant financial risk to the author. In order to mitigate this, individuals would be asked to subscribe to the publication before printing, and would have their names listed. This practice was widespread and provides numerous lists of individuals who were either genuine supporters, family members or friends of the author.

The History of the Dissenting Academy at Homerton 1812

The history of the Dissenting Academy at Homerton published in 1812 includes a significant list of supporters, subscribers and ministers who were educated there. The freespace page has links to over 190 of those named.

Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States

William Gordon (1728-1807) was a nonconformist pastor at Gravel Lane Southwark, before he went to America. He returned to England ands published, in 1788, "History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States", in 4 volumes. He raised over £300 from over 400 named subscribers. This source has been linked to 24 profiles (March 2022).

Seventeen Sermons on Important Subjects

This is a collection of sermons written and preached by the nonconformist minister Samuel Hayward (1718-1757) and published the year after his death. It the sermons were compiled and edited by John Conder D.D. (1714-1781). The sale of the book helped provide financially for Mrs Conder

About 350 people subscribed to the book before it was published and this provides a list of his friends and associates, mostly within the nonconformist community. 31 have been identified so far (February 2024).

Dissenting Deputies

The London Dissenting Duputies were an organisation of prominent London laymen of the Three Denominations of Old Dissent (Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists) formed in 1732 and dedicated to protecting and expanding the civil rights of Dissenters through legal action.

The full account of the history can be read here British History on Line

The biographical details of the 1786-1790 Committee [2]and the 1827-28 committee provides other lists of key nonconformist's from this period.[3]


Nonconformist Associations and Charities

A large number of groups and associations existed and many were widely supported. Of particular interest are those who published lists of their subscribers or supporters, sometimes with addresses and dates, which can be used to identify individuals.

Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge among the Poor

The Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge among the Poor was established in 1750, to provide Bibles, Testaments and other good books where most needed.

The Society was founded by a group of London based dissenters, led by Benjamin Forfitt, who had been sending Bibles to Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) in the year before. Thomas Gibbons (1720-1785) hosted their first meeting and became a keen supporter.

Although their origins were in the dissenting community, their membership was interdenominational and included many from the Evangelical wing of the Church of England. [4]

Their annual reports included lists of their supporters, many of whom were from well established nonconformist families. The names (and occasionally addresses) of supporters were published in their reports and 23 individuals have been identified and linked to profiles (May 2021).

The Orphan Working School

The Orphan Working School, Hoxton was founded on the 10th May 1758 by Edward Pickard (1714-1778) for the orphans of dissenting families. Attendance at a local nonconformist church was required. The 1769 report includes details of the rules of the charity with a list of about 250 supporters, who appear to all be from the nonconformist community. Links to profiles are created as people are identified, with 20 identified so far (February 2024).

London Annuity Society

The London Annuity Society was established by a group of nonconformist to provide annuities for their wives when they died. They sought a Royal Charter of Incorporation in 1765 and the National Archives has the names of those who involved. Out of the original 24 men named in the Petition, 15 have been identified and linked to profiles.

Nonconformist Schools

Horsley Down Dissenters Charity School, also known as Maze Pond

The school was established in 1714 in Horsley Down, to educate boys and girls. The school was supported by the nonconformist community. The school moved to Maze Pond, Southwark in 1790. The 1796 publication, a brief account of the Protestant Dissenters Charity School includes names and addresses of their numerous supporters, from the nonconformist community

A variety of nonconformist schools were set up, which include fee paying schools and charity schools.

John Ryland's school

Schools were set up to educate the sons of Nonconformists, such as the school run by Rev John Collet Ryland, in Northampton. Several LOndon families sent their sons. See Rev John Collet Ryland's Scholars.

John Pye Smith's school

Rev John Pye Smith established a school for Nonconformist families in Mill Hill, north London in 1807.

Dissenting Academies

The dissenting academies were schools, colleges and seminaries (often institutions with aspects of all three) run by English Dissenters, that is, those who did not conform to the Church of England. They formed a significant part of England's educational systems from the mid-seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. See | Dissenting Academies Wikipedia Article for the history.


Gosport Academy

The category for students and staff of the academy is {https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:Gosport_Academy here] with 5 people identified (February 2024)

Homerton Academy

The 1812 History of the Dissenting Academy at Homerton provides a history of the Academy with some details of who had attended but also a list of current supporters. The supporters list provides a clue as to the key nonconformists in London at the time. 192 profiles have been identified and linked to the page (March 2022)

The category for students and staff of the academy is here 137 Individuals identified (February 2024).

Mile End Dissenting Academy

The category for students and staff of the academy is here with 15 people identified (February 2024)

Plaisterers Hall Dissenting Academy

The category for students and staff of the academy is here with 15 people identified (February 2024)

Links to other pages

The Sandemanian Church

An overview of research into the Sandemanian Church

Research into the London Sandemanian Church and the questions I am seeking to answer
The arrival of Sandemanianism in London with details of the people involved and the impact on the nonconformist community

Other nonconformist families London Nonconformist Glass Cutters, the Leathley, Chater and Hayward Families

Entries that use this source

History of Nonconformists in London, England and surrounding counties|WikiTree Profiles that use this source]]





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Hi Trevor,

I have been compiling a history of my Willmott ancestry for over 30 years now and one prominent theme from the early 1800s (at the latest) is that they all described themselves as "Dissenters". I am in possession of a document written by my 2x great grandfather William in which he wrote ""Although my parents were staunch dissenters, I was 'christened' at Islington Parish Church. This was done because there was at that time no satisfactory mode of registering births outside the English Church - so my mother said." After his emigration to Australia, he wrote as his reason for leaving - "I had long been dissatisfied with the artificial and unreal mode in English among the people we were brought into contact with. Everyone seemed to be enslaved to conventional usages. We also laboured under the disadvantage of being Dissenters, a disadvantage unknown to this colony. At this time an opportunity offered itself of emigrating to Victoria. Several of my friends had done so, among them my wife's brother. All had prospered. We therefore thought it advisable to take the opportunity to escape to the freedom of a new land."

As best I understand, I think we would classify the family as either Baptist or Presbyterian but in any event William was a preacher of sorts and an career educator, opening an establishment known as the Upton Academy in both Richmond, Melbourne and Islington, Essex before emigrating.

I refer William and the family to you for your information. You can find his letters here.

posted by Murray Willmott
edited by Murray Willmott
Hello Trevor here is profile of my 8th great Grandfather Samuell Angeir, a nonconformist minister. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Angeir-2
posted by Shirley Blomfield
edited by Shirley Blomfield
I have a special interest in Nonformists. My ancestor Thomas Hebbert Boykett (Boykett-4) appeared to be an ordinary solicitor when he migrated to Adelaide in 1854, but he had earlier written a very evangelical letter to his sister on her conversion. It turned out that at age 19, he had become a Congregationalist and later, he was appointed one of two secretaries of the Nonconformists in London, and the only active one. He took a reading at the ordination of his lifelong friend, Rev. Bunn (graduate of Hoxton.) Later, he switched to legal practice.
posted by Doug Laidlaw
Hi Trevor,

I am working on adding information from my family tree in Family Search to wikitree, which may be of interest to you in this project.

I wanted to let you know that so far I have added in Samuel Luke (abt. 1744 - 1804) was married to Obedience North (1746-1798) and was the son of Samuel Luke (1708-1768) and Elizabeth Fordham. Obedience North was the daughter of Abraham North (currently unknown) and Jane Clarke (currently unknown) who married 9th December 1735 in Saint Botolph, Bishopsgate, London.

Jane Luke (1779-1855) was my GGGG grandmother and was married to Jacob Prime (1779-1832).

They seem to be prevalent around Royston in Hertfordshire and then London (Hoxton).

Most of my sourcing is via family search.

posted by Melanie Geyer
Dear Melanie, Thanks for making contact, I will have a look at the family. I have noticed that there was already another profile created for Obedience North and there are two Samuel Luke profiles too. These will need to be merged, so we can build one shared tree.

I have just looked up the family on Ancestry and found 7 entries for their children at Dr Williams Library, a nonconformist Register. Definitely nonconformist !

Trev

posted by Trevor Pickup
I have ancestors married in the Tottenham Baptist Chapel - do you consider the Baptists to be included in your ‘Non-Conformist’ category? If yes, please give me a ‘tag’ to add to their profile. Thankyou!
posted by Pip O'Brien
Thanks for making contact. I haven't got to the Baptist churches yet, as I still working on the independent nonconformist churches, which might take another five years! Good to hear from you.
posted by Trevor Pickup