A timeline affecting the non-conformists (work not complete yet!)

This is part of a piece of work I am doing on Non-Conformists, those people who do not follow the Anglican Church. The timeline looks at various Acts that were passed which in the whole prevented Non-Conformity and therefore any records associated with it until the late 1700s, early 1800s. It is a working article so may change as I gather more information and iron our any mistakes that have been made. If you notice any or see anything I may have missed then please comment with them.


Before 1534 most English Christians were Catholics

1534 Henry VIII breaks away from Rome and declares himself head of the English Church

Some Protestant sects were formed before 1558 – mainly individuals with ideas so no organised beginning for non-conformity before 16th cent.

1559 Act of Supremacy – placed Elizabeth I as supreme Governor of all spiritual and ecclesiastical things.

1559 Act of Uniformity – all worship to follow the Book of Prayer fines of 12d to those absent from church on Sundays

1581 – Fine increased to £20 a month. Could be exacted from any land you owned. Loss of civil rights, unable to collect any rents or debts owed.

1587 – Act passed not allowing the sale or buying of land from Recusants

1593 – Recusants not allowed to travel more than 5 miles from their home.

1581-1591 – Cases were recorded in the Pipe Rolls

1592 – 1691 – Cases recorded in the Recusant Rolls

1606 – Act passed not allowing any Catholics to reside within 10 miles of London nor to practise in certain occupations or the military. Baptisms, marriages and burials only to be performed by Anglican clergy with severe penalties if not conformed to. Catholics on marriage forfeited the brides property to the crown. Men were responsible for their wifes recusancy.

1610 – Act requiring all Catholics 18+ to take an oath of allegiance, with penalties for refusal.

1611 – before this you could still be burnt at the stake.

1627-1642 – Commission for Compounding with Recusants set up to find concealed sources of revenue of recusants

1643 – Committee for the Sequestrian of Delinquents Estates – seize and confiscate land or levy fines on those described as papists and recusants

1643+ – Replaced by the Committee for Compounding for the Estates of Royalists and Delinquents

1643 New oath requiring denial of Catholics beliefs or loss of estate.

1649-1660 – Puritan Pariliament period of non-passivity towards non-conformists. Under Cromwell non-conformist minsters enjoyed greater freedoms many replacing Anglican clergy. Wills, baptisms, marriages and burials became a civil matter rather than a church one. This encouraged some non-conformists to keep their own registers.

1656 – Earliest Quaker Registers

1660 – Restoration – Started to get rid of nonconformist minsters who had replaced the Anglican ones.

19th May 1662 – Act of Uniformity – Every minster had to swear to follow the Book of Common Prayer in public. 3 months imprisonment for ministers still preaching non-conformism. This resulted in between 1600 – 2000 minsters to be ejected. Some continued to preach to like-minded congregations and some registers began to be made.

17th May 1664 – Conventicles Act – Any congregation of non-conformists greater than 5 would result in a fine of £5 or 3 months imprisonment for the 1st offence. 2nd offence it was doubled. 3rd offense resulted in Transportation to a foreign plantation but not New England.

1665 – The Five Mile Act – Non-conformist minsters or teachers could not come within 5 miles of a corporate town or parish they had previously ministered at unless just passing. £40 fine but many were imprisoned as they needed to work to live. May were imprisoned , about 8000.

1672 – Charles I Declaration of Indulgence allowed non-conformists to apply for licences for meeting houses about 1061 minsters did (Tracing your family history)

1673 – Act was repealed and the Test Act introduced which returned to fining and imprisoning recusants.

17th November 1676 – Compton Census – constables and church wardesn ordered to take names of every recusant over 16 and hand to the JPs, who then had to summon them to take oaths.

1687 – Declaration of Indulgence, suspended the Test Act.

1688 More anti Catholic legislation introduced under James II.

1689 – Toleration Act granted massive freedoms to the majority of non-conformists. This allowed the freedom of worship to all bar Catholics. There were still many barriers to non-conformist ministers but despite that 2418 places of dissenting worship were licensed between 1689-1700.

1689 – Attendance was compulsory at Anglican Church services until this point

Where are the Webbs hiding in 1851?

Using the 1851 Post Office Directory the following Webbs can be found:

Benjamin Webb – 7 Burlington Street, Brighton – Auctioneer
Richard M & Benjamin Webb – 50 Devonshire Place, Brighton & 1 Marine Parade, Brighton – Wine, spirit, ale and porter merchants, auctioneers, estate agents, undertakers and land surveyors
Mrs Emma Webb – 13 Kings Road, Brighton – Milliner
James Webb – 55 Kings Road, Brighton – Milliner
Mrs Sarah Webb – 84 Kings Road, Brighton – Lodging House
Richard Webb Esq – 75 Marine Parade, Brighton
Thomas Webb – 16 North Street, Brighton – Millinery Warehouse
James Webb – 9 Queen’s Road, Brighton – Estate Agent
Mr John Webb – 21 Richmond Place, Brighton
Mr Henry Webb – 29 West Street, Brighton – Brazier and Iron Monger
Mrs Webb – 38 Russell Square, Brighton
George Webb – Waterloo Street, Brighton – Coal Merchant
William Webb – Cocking – Wheelwright
David Webb – 8 Prospect Place, Hastings – Beer Retailer
John Webb – East Street, Hastings – Beer retailer & boot and shoe maker
Peter Webb – Ifield – Shoemaker
Mrs Susan Webb – Sedlescombe – Grocer & Draper

Catsfield Land Tax 1830 Transcription

Assessors: John & James Wrenn

Proprietor ———— Occupier ————— Name or Description

Thomas Davis ———- Himself —————- House & Land
Charlie Coppard ——- Robert Sellens ——— Land
Benjamin Waters ——- Richard Waters ——— House & Land
Richard Ruck ———- John Crouch ———— Tenament & Plat
Thomas Burgess ——– Samuel Davis ———– Tenament & Plat
Bishop & Thorpe ——- Samuel Brown ———– Tenament & Plat
Benjamin Wrenn ——– Himself —————- Windmill & Plat
Earl of Ashburnham —- Himself —————- Land
Earl of Ashburnham —- Himself —————- Woods
Earl of Ashburnham —- Widow Adams ———— Dolmans Farm
Earl of Ashburnham —- William Tanner ——— Tenament & Land
Earl of Ashburnham —- Joseph Sinden ———- Tenament & Land
James & John Farmer — Themselves ————- Hopehouse Farm
Robert Bantor ——— Himself —————- Tenament & Plat
Richard? Ashburnham — ****** Ash ————- Glebe
John Fuller Esq ——- James Chrismas ——— Broomham Farm
Tho R Bedingfield Esq – Himself —————- Parkgate
John Fuller Esq ——- Benjamin Foster ——– Tenament & Plat
John Fuller Esq ——- James Wrenn ———— Farm Henley Down
John Fuller Esq ——- George Goldsmith ——- Tenament & Land
John Fuller Esq ——- William Crouch ——— Tenament & Plat
A Pilkington Esq —— Himself —————- Church Farm
T G Pelham Esq ——– Himself —————- Catsfield Place Farm
Mercer —————- John Bourner ———– Tenament & Plat
John Farmer ———– John Witmash ———– Tenament
Frances Smith ——— George Ransom ———- Tenament
A Pilkington Esq —— James Adams ———— Down Farm
Sampson King ———- Henry Holland ———- Land
G Webster Bart ——– Himself & John Wicker? – Park Farm
A Pilkington Esq —— Edward Roakes ———- Tilton Farm

Going to check this with the 1841 Census and previous tax assessments and make some changes later on.

A look at the Webbs of Catsfield Part 4

In the 1841 census we find a new WEBB family living at the house in Henleys Down. Stephen WEBB 25 Ag Lab with his wife Caroline GATES 20 and their children Caroline 2 and John 5 months old. They share the house with Sarah WEBB 65, James 10, Charles 8 and Caroline 20.
It took some time to unwind this family, finding out that Sarah was the mother of Stephen and Caroline and that James & Charles were the children of two other of Sarah’s children. This is the story of that family.
John WEBB born 1773 (Based upon burial records) married Sarah HISCOCK in 1796 in Whatlington. Sarah’s family had been moved from her birth place of Salehurst to Whatlington in 1777. Now I am unsure as to whether they moved around a bit due to John being an Agricultural Labourer or whether they just had their children baptised at different churches but the following children were born to them: John 1797 Westfield, Mary Ann 1799 Burwash, Jane 1801 Burwash, Phillis 1803 Westfield, Eliza 1805 Westfield, William 1807 Westfield, Harriet 1810 Westfield, Hannah 1813 Westfield, Stephen 1814 Catsfield, Caroline 1817 Catsfield.
My supposition is that they lived with Isaac WEBBs family until they all died before 1838, the family of John & Sarah is then the only one shown in the 1841 census.
This suggests that there must be a link between John WEBB b1773 and Isaac Webb b1763. There are no records of a birth of John Webb in 1773 and his birth date is taken from the burial registers which could well be wrong. It is possible but by no means provable at the moment that John was in fact the son of John & Ann WEBB born in 1765. That family moved away from Catsfield at some point and John then moved back with his family later. John and Isaac would be second cousins and with no other family in the area could explain why they moved in to the same house in Henleys Down.

Names of men from Catsfield who joined His Majesty’s forces in the Great War 1914-1919

  • G Benge Prisoner, R Sussex
  • A Barry Colonel, RE, (T.F.), Red +
  • H Ballard R.N.
  • V Burt A.S.C
  • L Benge R.F.C.
  • C Banson R.A.M.C.
  • R Brett 15th R. Fusiliers
  • L Crouch R.F.A.
  • H Crowhurst R.F.A.
  • C Clifton A.S.C.
  • E Crostford 14th R. Sussex
  • H Crouch Berks
  • C Crouch 19th Lancers
  • J Creasey R.Sussex
  • P Clifton R.S.A.
  • F Dengate Manchester
  • A Divall
  • A Dawson
  • W Dennis A.O.C.
  • H Ewans G. Guards
  • W Edwards W.Kent Yeomanry
  • P Edwards Army Pay Corps
  • H French 7th R.Sussex
  • M Funnell A.S.C.
  • W Frost R.F.A.
  • D Gurr E.Surreys
  • W Gurr R.Sussex
  • F Gurr R.F.A.
  • J Honisett R.N.
  • W Hayley, Major, R.F.A.
  • T A Hythe, Viscount, Lt.Col., W.K.Yeomanry
  • D Honisett 16th K.R.Rifles
  • F Hyland Red +
  • C Honisett R.W.Kent
  • F Head R.G.A.
  • _ Holloway R.G.A.
  • _ Hay R.F.A.
  • C Jarman Red +
  • V Kenward R.A.M.C.
  • A Kenward R.Fusiliers (Disabled)
  • E Livett 5th R.Sussex

Finding a Date of Birth for an Ancestor – Part 3

Family records may well contain records of an ancestors work, in particular apprenticeships. There were two types of apprenticeships, the first was for trade apprentices who had to be between 10 and 18 and the second came under the Poor Law Act of 1601 in which children of poor parents were indentured to a trade or husbandry. The indentures were kept between the trade master and the father of the child and therefore could become part of a family’s record which would be passed down. These records may contain the age of the child or will at least infer the period in which they were born.

Passports were not made compulsory until 1914 but would obviously prove to be very useful in determining the birth date of an ancestor. Alternatively if your ancestor lived through the Second World War then it is likely that they would have an identity card this would contain the age of the holder. Driving licences were introduced in the UK after the 1903 Motor Car Act and underwent a number of changes in the years thereafter. Depending on how old they are they may well contain the date of birth of the driver, certainly modern ones will. Service records of family members may also have been collected and stored; this could be enlistment or perhaps pension papers which would contain information on the age of the individual. However, an individual changing their age to make sure they could be enlisted was not unheard of and even my Grandfather did this to join the Navy.

Ironically the death of an ancestor provides ample opportunity to find out about their birth. Along with the death certificate and newspaper cuttings already mentioned there could be a number of memorial cards which may contain the age of the ancestor and therefore you can work backwards to find the birth year. There may also be a copy of a will left by an ancestor which may also give an indication of their age. Between 1540 – 1837 males aged 14 or over and females aged 12 or over could make wills. From 1837 onwards males and females aged 21 or older could make wills.

Some records such as photographs can be used in conjunction with other sources of information to work out a rough year of birth. It could be that there is a date written on the back of the photo or maybe it is a photo of a well known event. This could give you some time reference to infer the year of birth. Even the style of clothing at the time can be used to work out a rough time period. In the following photograph of my Great Uncle Charles Webb there is a sign ‘2 Mons Heroes and still going strong’. This refers to The Battle of Mons in 1914 at the start of World War I. This gives a good indication that Charles must have been born before 1900. Charles was later mentioned in Despatches for his part in the War.

In conclusion, there are many different sources of information that can be used to determine the approximate date of an ancestor’s birth. There are considerably fewer that will give you the exact date of birth but they can be found with a bit of digging.

Sources of Information

Tracing Your Family Tree: The Comprehensive Guide to Discovering Your Family History (Countryside Books 2003) J Cole & J Titford

Who Was Your Granny’s Granny (Foulsham 2004) P Blake & A Collins

Tracing Your Nineteenth Century Family History (FFHS 2005) S Raymond

Dictionary of Genealogy (A & C Black 1998) T Fitzhugh

Succeeding in Family History (Countryside Books 2001) J Titford

Further Steps in Family History (Countryside Books 1990) E McLaughlin

The Family Tree Detective (Manchester University Press 1989) Colin D Rogers

Tracing Your Family History (Collins 2007) A Adolph