Wakefield Family History Sharing


Extracts from

Walkers History of Wakefield

2nd edition 1939 (privately printed)


Non-Conformity   (complete extract)

Joshua Kirkby of London, son of Francis Kirkby of London, gent., was baptized in London on June 2nd 1617.  He married Mary Balaam and was appointed Campden Lecturer at Wakefield Parish Church in 1650.  The lectures were given on Sunday afternoons generally to crowded congregations, and were amongst the most potent influences in diffusing and confirming Puritanism throughout the district.

Kirkby was a Presbyterian in doctrine, but at the same time a strong Royalist, and before his appointment to Wakefield had signed a declaration against bringing Charles I to trial, and was imprisoned during the Commonwealth for pulicily praying for the King. He resigned the Lectureship on the passing of the Act of Uniformity, August 1662, which compelled all ministers publicly to read the morning and evening service in the Prayer Book, to declare their unfeigned assent to everything contained in that book, and to make the declaration against the Solemn League and Covenant. On September 23rd 1659, after the plot by Sir George Booth of Dunham Massey to restore Charles II had been defeated by General Lambert, many Presbyterian ministers were arrested, of whom Mr Kirkby, minister of Wakefield was ordered by the Council of State to stand committed to Lambeth House for high treason in levying war against the Parliament.

About eighteen hundred incumbents, lecturers and curates, amont whom was Kirkby, elected to leave their ministries rather than assert their 'unfeigned consent and assent' to everything in the Prayer Book, and thus became known as Nonconformists. Though he still attended the services at the Parish Church, he was not allowed to lecture there, but preached every Lord's Day in his own house in Kirkgate at the south-east corner of George Street; in March 1663, he was committed to York Castle by Sir John Armytage, Bart., Richard Ranckard, Knt., Thomas Stringer and francis Whyte, Esquires, for having no licence from the Archbishop to preach, 'nor hath he read the Thirty-Nine Articles, nor the Book of Common Prayer, as by law is required, and dyvers times since his disability hath preached in his own house on his usual lecture day.'  One of Kirkby's principal amusements in gaol was writing verses, about which friendly pen tells us ' the sense was far beyond the poetry.'  On his release he continued to preach at Wakefield, Flanshaw Hall and Alverthorpe.  According to the State Papers, among the licences prayed for, and supported by Justice Clayton, was one for Mr Joshua Kirkby to preach in his own house in Wakefield.

The passing of the Five Mile Act in 1665, which forbade any Nonconforming minister to come within that distance of a corporate town, unless he first took the oath or non-resistance and expressed his willingness to make no attempt to alter the constitution of either church or state, led to some seven or eight of the ejected ministers making Wakefield their headquarters ; one of whom, Thomas Smallwood ejected from Idle, removed thence to Flanshaw Hall, where he died November 24th 1667.

Two congregations were formed in the Wakefield area, the one meeting in Kirkgate under the ministration of Mr Kirkby, which continued until his death in June of 1676, when he was buried in his own garden in Kirkgate.  Sisson, in 1824, records that 'several Nonconformists were buried in a garden attached to the house of Mr William Spicer, Corn Factor, in Kirkgate, and at the time when this house was built by the late Francis Maude, were there deposited.'  The second congregation met at Flanshaw Hall, then the residence of Robert Dyneley, son of Robert Dyneley of Bramhope (d 1667), where he organized congregations of those who were in sympathy with him. Here Oliver Heywood, the celebrated Yorkshire Divine frequently stayed and preached ; on October 11th 1665, he joined in a fast at Wakefield on behalf of a person who was supposed to be bewitched.

For both of these meeting-houses licences were obtained to hold religious services therein.  A Preaching licence was obtained by Mr John Issott, jnr., for his father's house in Horbury on May 22nd 1672.

The congregation at Flanshaw soon became too large for the accommodation at the Hall ; consequently a disued maltkiln in Flanshaw Lane was taken and converted into a meeting-house, which was opened by Oliver Heywood, who preached there on December 10th 1672 ; the adjoining house, "Kellice House", being rented as a residence for the first minister, the Rev. Peter Naylor, who came from Penistone, and on the issuing of the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 settled at Flanshaw, and of all the ejected ministers seems to have done the most in collecting the congregation of Dissenters in Wakefield.

From the diary of Oliver Heywood, on one of his visits to Wakefield, we learn that on September 20th 1674, he preachedat the chapel in Flanshaw Lane, "when three bailiffs came, yet they say it is not to take names.  In the afternoon many [persons] came amongst who was a wild young scholar one Radcliffe.  He hearkened diligently, yet on Monday night he helpt down liquor with his companions with minicry of my sermon and the delivery of it.  His companions were one Pinder, born in Wakefield, and Ledger's son of Bradford, all Oxford schoplars, bur very profane, sitting in the chair of scornful."  This wild young scholar of 24 years of age was the son of George radcliffe, then Govenor of the House of Correction, and afterwards became the celebrated Dr Radcliffe, Physician to Queen Mary and to queen Anne, and the founder of the Radcliffe Library, Oxford, of whom Dean Kay says "Dr Radcliffe lived at The Vine in Long acre, kept no house and was also ignorant, had face and effrontery.  He died worth £100,000 ; would not suffer any man to make up his prescriptions."  The Pindar mentioned was William son of Nicholas Pindar, who, like Radcliffe, proceeded from the Wakefield Grammer School to University College, Oxford, where he held a Fellowship and died in 1678.

Seven weeks later, November 1674, at a private sessions at Wakefield before Mr Copley and Mr White, Justices, forty of those including Heywood who were said to have been present in September, were brought up for holding an illegal coventicle, but the summonses failed for want of witnesses, and no convictions were recorded.  Again, on January 17th 1677-8 indictments were made against John Loxley, Samuel Thornes, and Richard Dawson for holding Conventicles at Wakefield.

On Sunday September 10th 1682, Heywood attended the service at Flanshaw Chapel ; at the close of the first prayer word was brought that the officers were coming, so the congregation withdrew, and when the officers appeared at eleven o'clock it was only to find an empty building ; on their departure the congregation reassembled and the service resumed.  Again, on November 5th, Heywood expounded, sung, prayed, but preached not more than a quarter of an house before the scouts brought intelligence that the cheif constable and other officers were approachig.  As Heywood writes, "We broke off and dispersed ; they came, pursued us with rage and hindered us all day.  At night I preached at Mr Holdsworth's, Alverthorpe."

In July 1683, Heywood was informed that two maids were yet in the House of Correction at Wakefield because they would not inform who were at that meeting in November.

Oliver Heywood rode to Wakefield on January 6th 1684-5 to attend the Justices' court at Wakefield, when the jury found a true bill of indictment against him ; he was fined £50 and was lodged in Wakefield Prison from Friday January 16th to January 24th.  On Sunday he was allowed to attend the Parish Church to hear Mr Lee, the vicar, preach.  On the 24th he was removed to York Castle and kept there until the fine was paid and sureties found for his future good behaviour.  For some weeks he was allowed a certain amount of liberty though under the care of gaolers, and he remained at York until December 19th.

In January, 1689, an Assemby of Dissenting Protestants at Alverthorpe made choice of the dwelling-house of Mr Peter Naylor, clerk, to assemble in for Religious worship as allowed by the late Act ; also the house of Mrs Kirkby in Wakefield and the house of Mr William Holden.  At Kellice House, Alverthorpe in September of that year Oliver Heywood with Peter Naylor as co-adjutor ordained John Holdsworth of Alverthorpe.  John Lister, John Kay, A Carrington to be continued

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