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

1 thought on “A timeline affecting the non-conformists (work not complete yet!)

  1. Your last entry is from 1689 “attendance at Anglican Church services compulsory until this point” .
    While not Sussex or Webbs , I accidentally found an entry in Hansard dated 11 February 1842 , relating to “The Rochdale Case” moved by Mr Monkton Milnes (MP) .
    This relates to J Carlton taken before Rochdale magistrates magistrates Clement Royds (a rich Rochdale industrialist) and William Chadwick Esquires , and ,charged with neglecting to attend divine worship on 29th day of June 1840 at Butterworth (Rochdale) ) , fined 1 shilling plus 14 shillings costs . Subsequently he had spent 10 weeks in gaol for non payment with no hope of payment – ever .
    He also lists 11 other prisoners in 1840 all fined 1 shilling and up to 19 costs .
    I am trying to find out more on this case , but hope it illustrates 1689 was far from the end of this subject !
    I have also found reference (New catholic encyclopaedia.com) to the Short Titles Act 1896 which relieved DISSENTERS (ie Catholics Methodists Quakers etc) , the necessity of attending an ESTABLISHED church at the prescribed times . ( NB C of E parishioners were not SPECIFICALLY included so in theory the law MIGHT still apply ! )
    Hoping this might be of interest , with curiosity , Kelvin Walmsley

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