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Josiah Collier, Grindletonian

The 17th-century religious movement known as ‘Grindletonianism’ is mainly associated with the preacher Roger Brereley (1586-1637), who was at one time curate of Grindleton in Lancashire. Grindletonianism was a particular northern version of antinomianism, the doctrine that Christ’s message was so overpowering that the true believer, filled with his spirit, was freed from the need to pay attention to Old Testament or Mosaic law, which Christ’s coming was considered to have superseded.

Our knowledge of Grindletonianism is, however, derived mainly from the endeavours of Josiah Collier (1595-1677), a Yorkshireman who preserved versions of Brereley’s sermons (and of his poem ‘Of True Christian Liberty’) alongside extensive and often ecstatic writings of his own, in both verse and prose. Two substantial manuscripts in Collier’s hand have come down to us, one held in Chetham’s Library, Manchester, the other in Lambeth Palace Library, London.

Grindletonianism is examined in detail in David Como’s groundbreaking book, Blown by the Spirit (2004), which draws attention to Collier’s importance in transmitting Brereley’s teachings, but necessarily discusses him in piecemeal fashion. To give Collier the greater prominence he deserves, I have recently published a separate study, Josiah Collier of Yeadon (1595-1677), West Riding Grindletonian and Disciple of Roger Brereley, which has appeared as Borthwick Paper 127 (Borthwick Institute, University of York, 2017). This includes an account of Collier’s life as well as a discussion of his doctrine, and ends with reference to the growth of Quakerism, which Grindletonianism is considered to have influenced.

A companion article in the March 2018 issue of The Library, ‘Grindletonianism in Manuscript and Print‘, discusses aspects of Collier’s two manuscripts and especially their relationship to a printed book, A Bundle of Soul-Convincing, Directing and Comforting Truths. This small, poorly produced volume, which was published in Scotland in 1670, includes an introductory epistle by Collier, twenty-six of Brereley’s sermons, his long poem ‘Of True Christian Liberty’, and an altered version of one of Collier’s own poems.

The article discusses the textual modifications that took place in the transition from manuscript to print, and considers the extent to which Collier himself may have been involved in the production of the printed volume. The conclusion is that Collier very likely revised some of the manuscript materials in an apparent effort to make the antinomian doctrines more acceptable to a mainstream Puritan readership, and that he was possibly prompted to do this by his patron Jane Baildon, for whom he wrote the less outspoken of the two manuscripts.

The Building of Settle Quaker Meeting House

A small group of early Quaker documents from Settle, North Yorkshire, has recently returned from America. They were taken there in the late 19th century by descendants of the Tatham family of Settle. Their owner, working on her family history, decided they should return to Yorkshire, and has now presented them to Leeds University Library, where they are held as part of the extensive Yorkshire Quaker Archives.

The most fascinating document is the original building accounts for Settle Quaker Meeting House, which was constructed as early as 1678. They are the oldest known such accounts, by almost a century, for any Yorkshire Quaker meeting house. The document shows not only the sums of money contributed by each of the Quaker meetings within the Settle area, but the precise costs of each element of the building work, naming the individuals to whom payment was made. A high proportion of the names mentioned, including Michael Preston, the main contractor, can be identified as local Quakers, which may partly explain the low overall cost of £74 3s. 5d. The document reveals, among other things, the significant contribution made by the leading local Quaker, Samuel Watson, and members of his family.

I have recently published an article on the subject, ‘The Building of Settle Meeting House in 1678’, in the delayed volume 66 (for 2015) of the Journal of the Friends Historical Society.

Henry Hall of Hereford, Poet and Musician

Henry Hall (c. 1656-1707) was organist of Hereford Cathedral, an admired composer of church music, and a prolific poet and songwriter. In 1994 I published an essay in The Library entitled ‘Henry Hall of Hereford’s Poetical Tributes to Henry Purcell‘ (Hall and Purcell has been fellow-choristers at the Chapel Royal) and I subsequently wrote an account of his life for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. This drew attention to, among other things, his unrepentant Jacobitism. Many of his poems of the 1690s vilify William III and Mary, and his drinking songs, from his base in Hereford, call for the return of James II. After the accession of Queen Anne his links with London appear to have strengthened, and he began writing fulsomely in praise of the new monarch.

My intention had always been to publish a detailed study of Hall’s poetic output (which amounts to at least 140 items) and I have now resumed work, building on a concentrated period of research in the early 2000s. Starting with descriptions of the major manuscript collections and of Hall’s own autographs, I am tracing the distribution of his poems and songs in other manuscripts of the time and in printed collections. Particular questions relate to problems of correct attribution, including: Did Hall necessarily compose the words of all the songs to which he wrote the music? Was he in fact responsible for all the widely-circulated political satires ascribed to him in the main manuscript collections? Was a fellow-poet justified in saying that Hall passed off other people’s work as his own?

One difficulty in arriving at correct answers to these questions is Hall’s undoubted versatility as a poet, able to operate across different genres and styles. But he is at his liveliest and most characteristic when writing irreverent satires, especially against political opponents, and I am planning to include an edition of an important group of verse epistles, addressed to like-minded friends in Hereford.

Sir Michael Sadler, Eva Gilpin, and Artwork at the Hall School, Weybridge

The educationist Sir Michael Sadler (1861-1943), one of the best-known Vice-Chancellors of the University of Leeds, married, as his second wife, the Quaker Eva Gilpin, who founded the pioneering Hall School in Weybridge, Surrey. Subjects here were taught not in isolation but as part of a broader educational programme in which art and performance were prominent. Sadler and Gilpin, who both believed in progressive education and the importance of the liberal arts, first met in the 1890s when she was working as a governess in the Yorkshire home of the prosperous Quaker Harvey family. Sadler having been much impressed by her methods, she moved with him and his wife to Weybridge, initially to teach their own son and the latter’s second cousin John Harvey. In 1897, with Sadler’s backing, she opened a school in the village hall, which expanded and flourished, and in due course became well known for its annual plays and its pupils’ creative artwork.

Of particular note are six illustrated books – in effect children’s artists books – that were produced from 1915 to 1930, largely in the school itself and by the children’s own efforts. Produced often in small numbers, they became collector’s items, and four of them serve as records of the plays that were put on. In 2012 I gave an illustrated  talk in the University of Leeds entitled ‘Education as Exploration: Sir Michael Sadler, Eva Gilpin, and Artwork at the Hall School, Weybridge’, in which I drew on copies of Hall School books held in the Special Collections department of Leeds University Library and on associated archival material given by the Harvey family. A slightly revised text of the talk is now freely available online.

The Early History of Ilkley Quaker Meeting

The older Quaker meeting houses in mid-Wharfedale – at Askwith, Addingham (Farfield), and Otley – had closed by the early part of the nineteenth century because of falling membership. Ilkley, meanwhile, was becoming prosperous, and accommodation for Quaker meetings there was established in 1862, followed by the erection of a purpose-built meeting house in 1869.

On 26 June 2016 I gave a short talk at Ilkley Meeting House that takes the story of Ilkley Meeting up to the 1890s. The text of the talk, The Early History of Ilkley Quaker Meeting‘, is now freely available online.

The Journals of Joseph Wood

The Yorkshire Quaker Joseph Wood (1750-1821), from High Flatts, near Penistone, left voluminous journals of his travels and ministry ‘in the service of Truth’. These notebooks (along with other papers) are now housed in the Special Collections department of Leeds University Library, and a description and detailed catalogue records have recently been completed.

A remarkable feature of Wood’s notebooks is that their covers, in many cases, are made from contemporary brightly patterned pieces of wallpaper, or other decorative paper. Images of these covers accompany the new catalogue records.

Joseph Wood’s life and writings were brought to light by Pamela Cooksey, who after many years’ work published, first, Joseph Wood, 1750-1821, A Yorkshire Quaker: An Introduction to his Life, Ministry, and Writings (2010). This was followed by five volumes of transcription of Wood’s journals (The Large and Small Notebooks of Joseph Wood (1750-1821), a Yorkshire Quaker), published in 2011. Pamela Cooksey’s final contribution was an index volume entitled Joseph Wood (1750-1821), a Yorkshire Quaker: People and Places Noted in the Large and Small Notebooks, 1773-1821, published in 2102. All these books are available for consultation in Leeds University Library, alongside the Joseph Wood archive itself.

Janet Pickering recently gave a talk about Joseph Wood as part of the 31st Leeds Symposium on Food History and Traditions, held at York Quaker Meeting House on 23 April 2016. In a paper entitled ‘Refreshment for a Travelling Quaker Minister: Evidence from the Journals of Joseph Wood (1750-1821)’, she spoke in detail about the different ways in which Wood was sustained on his travels, as well as about the nature of his journeys. Sometimes he and his travelling companions carried food with them. They were frequently fed in the houses of members of the extensive Quaker network. And very often they obtained food and drink at inns, and the sheer number of inns named by Joseph Wood – along with the prices they charged – is one of the fascinating aspects of his journals.


Verse into Prose: Case-Notes from Middle English Religious Texts

A successful small conference on “Editing and Interpretation: The Literatures of Medieval England” was held 8-10 September 2015 at the University of Hull. It was in honour of Dr William Marx of University of Wales Trinity St David’s (Lampeter campus), and the main organisers were Professor Veronica O’Mara (University of Hull) and Dr Margaret Connolly (University of St Andrews).

My own contribution concerned the late-medieval phenomenon of the unrhyming, or deversification, of earlier Middle English poetry. Entitled ‘Verse into Prose: Case-Notes from Middle English Religious Texts’, the abstract was as follows:

‘The practice of rewriting verse texts as prose, apparently common in medieval French and German literature, does not seem to have been widespread in Middle English. This paper examines some half-dozen cases from the Middle English religious corpus by means of close analysis of related verse and prose passages, bringing out some of the different ways in which the prose revisers react to their verse originals. It is shown that material surviving only in prose form can in several instances be used to reconstruct verse that has otherwise been lost. Texts discussed include the well-known examples of the Speculum vitae /Myrour to Lewde Men and Wymmen, and the recasting of South English Legendary lives in some manuscripts of the Gilte Legende.’