Anglicanism and Dissent in Southern England 1662 – 1829: Southern History Society Conference, 2013

Anglicanism and Dissent in Southern England 1662 – 1829

Nine papers were presented at this day conference with the University of Winchester well represented among the speakers. Professor Andrew Spicer, Oxford Brookes, welcomed all forty delegates. Mark Burden, of the Lucy Hutchinson project at the University of Oxford, gave the first paper on dissenting academies especially in the decade 1711-20. He discussed whether tutors at the academies really subscribed to the articles of the Church of England or in fact doubted the accepted Trinitarianism. His main conclusion was that private study and reading practices of students enabled them to challenge their tutors on whether they should subscribe to the tenets of the Church of England. Andrew Thomson then contrasted the actions of Bishop George Morley of Winchester on the national and diocesan stages. He concluded that Morley appeared to be much harsher with dissenters in national politics than he was within the consistory court of his diocese. Angela McShane of the Victoria and Albert Museum then gave a fascinating paper about the representation of religion and especially dissent within ballads. Some 10, 000 sheets of ballads from the 17th century have been discovered, some with the tunes specified. McShane concentrated on eight ballads dated 1674-5 of which three were anti Catholic and a fourth was anti presbyterian, accusing them of causing the English Civil War. Ballads parodied Non-Conformists and supported the Church of England, apart from one from an atheist’s viewpoint. She concluded that the texts of ballads changed once licensing lapsed in 1695. Roger Ottewill then considered the lasting impact of the Great Ejection of 2000 clergy in 1662 through a debate 250 years later in 1912 between Cyril Edwards, rector of Mottisfont, and Alexander Grieve, past minister of Abbey Congregational Church in Romsey. Edwards objected to the ejection being described as ‘persecution of non-conformists’ as it followed the ejection in the 1640s of those who rejected the Directory and Presbyterian church. He concluded that the irony of 1662 was that the Act of Uniformity perpetuated Non-Conformity in England. Rosalind Johnson, who is completing her Ph.D at the University of Winchester, also focused on 1662 by considering whether Hampshire clergy continued to practise after ejection including on Black Bartholomew’s Day, 24 August 1662. Johnson discovered ejected clergy ignoring the Five Mile Act and holding conventicles in former parishes and others practising in Hampshire but not in their former parish.

Dr Colin Haydon, Winchester, opened the afternoon session with a vivid portrayal of the opposition of Bishop Lavington of Exeter to early Methodists. Lavington denounced Methodism in a large book entitled The Enthusiasm of Methodists and papists compared. Sue Lane, who recently completed an MA at Winchester, then showed the continuing value of Winchester Consistory Court records in the 18th century especially when combined with clergy correspondence about seating, status and the role of young men in highlighting the relationship between clergy and dissent. Richard Selwood assessed the strengths and limitations of Bishop’s Visitations in Winchester Diocese in the 18th century for identifying the scale of dissent. While some parishes gave numbers of Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters, the response of Havant parish was merely ‘too many’. Andrew Spicer gave the concluding paper on disputes over conformity to the Church of England prayer book at the French Church in Southampton. He considered the rift between Conformists and non-conformists which led to the two separate churches with the French and Channel islanders following divergent routes. Professor Ralph Houlbrooke of Reading University summed up the main themes of the day.

The performance hall of Winchester Discovery Centre was an excellent venue with good seating, effective Powerpoint projection facilities and plenty of space for the quality sandwich lunch provided by the official caterers.
Jean Morrin

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