Quaker beginnings

I’ve learnt a lot about the early history of the Quakers in the last three weeks, thanks to the excellent FutureLearn course ‘Radical Spirituality: the Early History of the Quakers’ www.futurelearn.com/courses/quakers/1 .  This course, put together by Lancaster University and led by Ben Pink Dandelion, has covered the beginnings of this religious group as it emerged in 17th century England.  We have read and heard extracts from George Fox’s journal and also the writings of other key early Quakers such as Margaret Fell and Francis Howgill and some of the videos have been recorded at significant locations in the formation of the group such as Pendle Hill and Swarthmoor Hall.  I was already aware of my husband’s Quaker ancestry when we visited Swarthmoor Hall near Ulverston on a particularly wet and gloomy day a good 25 years ago.  Despite the weather I have fond memories of it being a special place and of the warm welcome we received there.

I have known for years that some of the earliest Quakers in Norfolk were Musketts, but following this course has enabled me to appreciate just how early they were.  In the book ‘The Intwood Story’ by Reverend A J Nixseaman, published in 1972, he asserts that “the first of the Muskett family known to have been a Quaker was Andrew Muskett, son of John Muskett, Gent. of Fersfield.  We find him settled in Thelton in the year 1659, and then known to be a Quaker”.   What is unclear is where this information came from but, if accurate, it means there was a Quaker Muskett in Norfolk barely five years after the Quaker message was disseminated from its Lancashire origins, when the ‘Valiant Sixty’ (Quaker preachers) set out on an organised mission to spread the message to the rest of Britain.  The book goes on to tell us that the first citizen of Norwich to become a Quaker was Thomas Symonds, in 1654, and the source for this information is ‘The First Fifty Years of Quakerism’, compiled by Arthur J Eddington in 1932.

Andrew Muskett’s son Andrew was twice imprisoned in Norwich Castle because of his beliefs, we are told.  Quakers had been free to worship since the Act of Toleration in 1689, but imprisonments continued for non-payment of tithes.  Andrew’s eldest son John, born in 1711, had 12 children by two wives:  Ann Hart and then Mary Heyward, both from Quaker families.  John lived at Tharston Hall.  He sent his seven sons to a Quaker boarding school in Lancashire called Yealand’s, founded by brothers John and James Jenkins.  His sons were born between about 1739 and 1762 and at that time a stage coach must have taken several days to make the journey from Norfolk to Lancashire.  The seven sons were John, Ephraim, Joseph, Zachariah, Benjamin, William and Thomas, and it is from Thomas, born in 1762, that my husband’s line of the family is descended.  Thomas settled in Gressenhall, where coincidentally I have found some of my Norfolk George family.  I live in hope that one day I will find a connection between the two families!

The FutureLearn course has been a real eye-opener into the radical nature of the early Quaker beliefs.  At a time when the Puritans conveyed the message that the ‘elect’ had already been chosen for salvation, it must have been an amazing revelation to people to be told that they could discover God for themselves, without the help of the Established Church, just as George Fox had done in the 1640s.  An additional surprise was the role of women in the movement, not least Margaret Fell, whose strong leadership and organisational skills helped to ensure the survival and growth of the Quaker movement  despite the opposition it encountered.

The Quaker faith today is quite different , and we would be wrong to think of our early Quaker ancestors as being peace-loving and liberal-minded.   From what I have learnt during the last few weeks, they appear to have been feisty people who knew their mind.  If you have Quaker ancestors I would recommend the following websites for further information:

http://www.qfhs.co.uk/ The Quaker Family History Society

http://www.swarthmoorhall.co.uk/

http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/quakers/01_quakers_home.html

Swarthmoor Hall
Swarthmoor Hall

Going to the Fair

Don’t you just love going to a fair?  No – not the kind with bumper cars and candy floss, but a Family History fair, with the excitement of new resources to browse and buy and Useful Conversations to have!

Back in November I’d been to the West Surrey Family History fair in Woking, but this was a much smaller affair – the Sussex Family History Group ‘Family and Local History Day’, held at the Steyning Centre in, er, Steyning.

When I got to Steyning it was obvious that something else was happening in the town that day, with road closure notices abounding.  I made it to the Steyning Centre car park just before some sort of procession started, I think, securing the last space in the car park and then only because I have a very little car!

Heading first to the Sussex Family History Group stall I was able to purchase the CD ‘Sussex Poll Books and Directories’ which I had seen advertised in the journal and thought would be a good resource to have.  They seemed to be having a good clearout of old booklets, so I had a good rummage and came away with a number in exchange for a donation.  They may be dated, but background reading on, for example, Quarter Sessions, Victorian Censuses and English Noncomformity are often invaluable to dip into I find.

Moving round the hall I was surprised but pleased to see that the Quaker Family History Society had a stall.  I stopped to have a chat with them, since the Musketts were some of the earliest Quakers in Norfolk.  The Society’s next London meeting is coming up on 9 July.

Staff from The Keep and from West Sussex Record Office seemed to be very busy on their stalls .  I had a browse of the postcard stall, but without success.  However, I did have a lovely chat with the lady on the West Sussex County Council stall and bought a copy of the book they have produced in conjunction with the Record Office:  ‘ West Sussex Remembering 1914 – 18’. W S Remembering

I had not seen this advertised anywhere, but looks a useful book, with chapters covering aspects such as Women at War, The Local Economy and Invasion Threats.  On this stall I also learned about West Sussex Past Pictures.  This was not a site I had known about previously, but on looking it up when I came home I discovered that it is “a free to access online database of the best scanned photographs and pictures, with detailed descriptions, owned by the County Library Service and seven of the County’s museums”.  It offers free downloadable images for use in private research, so looks a very useful resource.  I quickly found an image of the interior of West Grinstead Park house, which I had certainly never seen before.

Before leaving I had a look at the WW1 display set out in the adjacent room, put on by the Sussex branch of the Western Front Association.  I was particularly fascinated to see the photos from what looked to be a reenactment day, with mounted soldiers pulling equipment and supplies and horse-drawn ambulances.

My exit from Steyning was scarcely less eventful as it coincided with a wedding party leaving the church opposite, unfortunately under umbrellas, but they seemed a very happy party.

All the fun of the fair!

Sussex Family History Group
SFHG Family and Local History Fair May 2016 – photo from the group’s facebook page

Christmas Present

Christmas tree

No, not as in ‘gift’, but as in ‘Christmas 2015’!

Family gatherings over Christmas are certainly a great opportunity to expand one’s family history knowledge.  We heard recently that turkey was not commonly consumed at Christmas-time until the 1950s, so I was curious to know what my parents might have eaten at Christmas when they were young.   Boxing Day was a great time to ask them.  Mum seemed to think they might have eaten chicken.  What we did not appreciate until she explained was that chicken was a treat.  The more common meat to be eaten year-round was beef and lamb, whereas for us it is those that are more of a treat being more expensive.

Moving on from food, Dad then regaled us with tales from his first job, working in the drawing office at Vokes during the war years.  In these days of health and safety and minimum working temperatures it’s hard to imagine having to work in your coat with no fire allowed!

This week it was time to quiz my husband’s side of the family.  I mentioned the S Combridge who had published the Picturesque Sussex that I blogged about the other week.  Ah yes!   He was known about and there might even be an address in Hove forthcoming that we could look up on a future visit.  The Combridge Indian connection was also explained.  And then it transpires, somewhat more surprisingly, that the South African Musketts who we found (or did they find us?) via social media have met my in-laws and are in postal contact!

Out came the family tree (which is vast – good thing a large table was to hand) and we were shown which were the branch that went to South Africa, which were the ones that went to Canada (the Clippesby connection) and which lot went to Australia (descended from ‘bad William’ who got transported!).

Muskett family tree
Muskett family tree

Yes, I know:  I really should have seen these coming and got some sort of recording device ready.

New Year’s resolution:  get it all written down!  And if ‘all’ sounds somewhat unattainable, then perhaps something that is achievable is to finish my write-up of the George family.

Oh and there were family history-related Christmas presents too – binders for my Family Tree magazines and ‘Tracing your East Anglian Ancestors’!

Happy New Year!

A Muskett village tour

Norfolk Musketts.  Where to start?

I referred in my second blog post to the ‘large Muskett family tree’ deposited at Kirby Hall, of which we also have a copy.  It is vast, and it is only part of the picture.  My father-in-law has, over the years, gathered and put together numerous other trees, which don’t necessarily tie in with each other.

Our own line is established back to an Andrew Muskett of Shelfanger and Thelton, born in the late 17th century.  He is thought to be descended from the Musketts of Haughley, Suffolk, as described in Suffolk Manorial Families.  David, my husband, is descended via John of Tharston, Thomas of Gressenhall, and three generations of Thomas of Attleborough.

For him, though, the research part of our Norfolk sojourn was partly about attempting to establish a link between the Musketts from Carleton Rode and ‘his’ Musketts.  Some of these emigrated to Tasmania in the 19th century, and we are now in touch with some of their descendants.

On our tour of some of the Muskett villages we visited Ashwellthorpe, where we spotted an intriguing signpost to ‘Audrey Muskett cottages’ and Tacolneston and thence to Carleton Rode.  We had seen a plan of the Carleton Rode graveyard and knew that there were Musketts buried there, but the plan seemed to indicate a sort of extension, which we could not find.  Having searched for Musketts without trace, we decided to continue on to the next village when, by pure chance, down the road we spotted a completely separate plot with more graves.

Thrilled that we had actually found this ‘graveyard extension’, we parked up to investigate.  And there we found the graves of Bishop Muskett (yes, that really was his first name) and his wife Ann, who died in 1901 and 1898 respectively.  Both gravestones are well preserved.

Carleton Rode; Muskett
Muskett graves Carleton Rode

Interestingly, though, Bishop Muskett seems to have emigrated to Tasmania and then returned!  He appears in the Tasmania, Australia, Immigrant Lists 1841 – 1884 on Ancestry.  A 28 year old single man and farm labourer, Bishop sailed on the ‘Southern Eagle’, arriving in Launceston, Tasmania, on the 28th August 1857.  However, by 1865 he was back in Norfolk as that is when he married Ann.

Carleton Rode; Muskett
Carleton Rode church

Bishop Muskett had a brother called James.  James and his wife Eliza (neé Moss) also emigrated to Tasmania,  arriving just before Bishop on 18 August 1857.  They settled in Franklin.  It is from James that the Tasmanian Musketts are descended Unfortunately we are no nearer working out the connection with ‘our’ Musketts!

So from our discoveries at Carleton Rode it was on to Tasburg, one of Norfolk’s Round Tower churches

Tasburg; Muskett
Tasburg church

and then Newton Flotman, where we found some more Muskett graves.  Photo This time they were badly damaged, but we were able to record the inscriptions before they deteriorate further.  They gave us some useful clues about family connections including  a reference to Andrew Muskett of Thelverton and Charles Muskett of Pressingfield, Suffolk.  Another grave gave us information about James Muskett’s death at Kenningham Hall, Mulbarton in 1864. This called for a slight diversion to find and photograph the Ancestral Hall.

Newton Flotman; Muskett
Newton Flotman church and Muskett graves

All in all, an intriguing and worthwhile Muskett tour, and one that we need to extend on our next Norfolk visit.