Protestant Dissent: Introduction

Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.

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Eneas Mackenzie, 'Protestant Dissent: Introduction', in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827) pp. 367-370. British History Online [accessed 19 May 2024].

Eneas Mackenzie. "Protestant Dissent: Introduction", in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827) 367-370. British History Online, accessed May 19, 2024,

Mackenzie, Eneas. "Protestant Dissent: Introduction", Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827). 367-370. British History Online. Web. 19 May 2024,

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The assumption of spiritual supremacy by that brutal tyrant Henry VIII. and the general perusal of the scriptures, co-operated in exciting a spirit of enquiry in England, which led many not only to dispute the authority of kings over their consciences and faith, but also to reject "the sway of creeds and councils, of hierarchies and churches." These advocates of religious independence, afterwards denominated Puritans in derision, suffered severely during the reigns of Henry VIII. Mary, Elizabeth, and James I. In the reign of Charles I. they became triumphant, by joining the partizans of civil liberty; but on the restoration of Charles II. they experienced the vengeance of the crown and of the episcopal clergy. By the Act of Uniformity (14 Car. II. c. 4), all parsons, &c. who did not declare their unfeigned assent and consent to every thing contained in the Book of Common Prayer, were ipse facto deprived; and all schoolmasters were prohibited from teaching youth, under pain of three months imprisonment. In consequence of this law, more than two thousand ministers resigned their preferments in the church, and a numerous train of adherents joined in the separation from the Church of England. (fn. 1) Thus originated Nonconformity, or Protestant Dissent; for the Puritans had always, before this time, remained members of the established church, though labouring to promote a further reformation in it. (fn. 2)

Puritanism was very early and widely spread in Newcastle and the neighbourhood. The stern reformer, John Knox, aided by the zealous Mackbray and Udale, declaimed in the churches of this town against the show and ceremonies of episcopacy. (fn. 3) Many other bold and popular preachers have been mentioned in the preceding pages, who advocated the principles of the Puritans, amongst whom is Dr. Ralph Jennison, who died vicar of this town, and who had been suspended for some years for nonconformity. In consequence of the Act of Uniformity, his successor, Mr. Samuel Hammond was ejected from the vicarage. Mr. William Durant was expelled from the lectureship of All Saints, and Mr. Henry Leaver from the lectureship of St. John. The two latter continued to preach in Newcastle until their death, and were assisted for some time by Mr. Hammond, before his removal to Hackney. (fn. 4) The principles of Nonconformity were also supported and extended by many other ejected ministers. Mr. R. Ward, vicar of Hartburn, on his expulsion, came to Newcastle, where he opened a school, taught many gentlemen's sons, and preached occasionally. Mr. Thompson, rector of Bothal, also sought refuge in Newcastle, where he married a great fortune, and kept his coach. "That eminent servant of God," Dr. Gilpin, rector of Greystock in Cumberland, also settled in Newcastle, where he exercised his ministerial functions. He was assisted by Mr. John Pringle, the ejected minister of Eglingham, and Mr. William Pell, an eminent Orientalist, ejected from Great Stainton. Newcastle had also the services of Mr. Owen, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Pleasance, Mr. Lomax, (fn. 5) and, lastly, of the "Bold Mr. Rothwell, com monly called the Apostle of the North." (fn. 6) These men, from their eminent talents, exemplary piety, influential connexions, and, in some cases, from their opudence, were much respected, and seem to have enjoyed more liberty at Newcastle under the barbarous and vindictive acts of king Charles II. than their brethren in most other places. On this account, the bishop of Durham, in his letter to the mayor and corporation, dated 1668–9, calls this town "the nursery of faction in these northern parts," and threatens them with his "majesty's displeasure," for conniving at the "scandalous and offensive meetings" of those "catterpillers" who refused to conform to the law. (fn. 7)


  • 1. The following list of ministers ejected or silenced in Northumberland for nonconformity, chiefly by the Act of Uniformity, August 24, 1662, is selected from Dr. Calamy's Nonconformist's Memorial, second edition, corrected by Samuel Palmer:—Allenton, Mr. Strong.—Alnwick (curacy), Gilbert Rule, M. D.—Ancroft (curacy), Mr. John Foreside.—Bedlington (vicarage), Mr. John Darton.—Benton Magna (vicarage), Mr. Alexander White.—Berwick upon Tweed (vicarage), Luke Ogle and Nicholas Wressel, M. A.—Bolam (vicarage), Mr. Robert Leaver.—Bothal (rectory, £200), Mr. John Thompson.—Chatton (vicarage), Mr. James Duncanson.—Chollerton (vicarage), Mr. Taylor.—Cornhill, Mr. Henry Erskine, father of Ebenezer Erskine.—Earsdon (rectory), Mr. William Henderson: Randal mentions Henderson as an intruder, ejected from Earsdon curacy and Elsdon rectory in 1662.—Edlingham (vicarage), Mr. John Murray.—Eglingham (vicarage), Mr. John Pringle.—Ellingham (vicarage), Mr. Patrick Bromfield.—Felton (vicarage), Mr. John Seaton.—Hartborn (vicarage, salary £130), Ralph Ward, M. A.—Haughton, Mr. John Hume.—Houghton, Long (vicarage), Mr. Samuel Lane.—Kirkharle (vicarage), Mr. Robert Blunt.— Mitford, Mr. Benlows.—Norham (vicarage), Mr. Edward Ord: Randal says, "Edward Ogle, an intruder." —Ovingham (vicarage), Mr. Thomas Trurant.—Ponteland (vicarage), Mr. Humphrey Bell.—Stannerton, Mr. John Owens.—Stannington (vicarage), Mr. Haddon: Randal has it George Howden, M. A. 24th September, 1661.—Tweedmouth and Spittle chapels, Mr. William Merse.—Tynemouth (vicarage), Mr. Alexan der Gourdon.—Whalton (rectory), Mr. Ralph Wickliffe.—Warkworth (salary £100), Mr. Archibald Moor.—Whittingham (rectory), Abraham Hume, M. A.—Wooler (vicarage, salary £100), John Lomax, M. A. The party which separated from the Church of England suffered much by the operation of severe laws and vexatious informations. The Conventicle Act (16 Car. II. c. 4) made it unlawful for more than five (except the family) to assemble even in a private house for social worship. Another act (22 Car. II. c. 5) subjected to a fine of £20 any person who taught, or permitted such an assembly to be held in his house; and empowered justices, &c. to break open doors, and take offenders into custody. The Oxford Act (17 Car. II. c. 2) prohibited any ejected minister from residing within five miles of his former benefice, or of any corporate town. It was also enacted by the Corporation Act (13 Car. II. c. 1). that no person should be elected to any corporate office who had not taken the sacrament, according to the rites of the established church, within one year before such election; and the Test Act (25 Car. II. c. 2) subjected to heavy penalties, and the severest civil disabilities, every person who should accept any office of trust or profit without receiving the sacrament according to the usage of the Church of England. Indulgences were, however, occasionally granted by the court, under which Dissenters built places of public worship. At last (by 1 W. & M. st. i. c. 18), Dissenters were suffered, or tolerated in forming their own creed, and authorised to appear before the civil magistrate, under the denomination of Protestant Dissenters. But the Corporation and Test Acts were continued, as necessary to protect the interests and privileges of the established church.
  • 2. The following anecdotes concerning king Charles's restoration are extracted from the MS. Life of Barnes: "Levingston, a Scots minister, being inticed into the ship wherein the king was embarked to come for England, standing off some leagues at sea upon the deck, amongst sundry lords and gentlemen, in a most solemn manner, with uplifted hands and eyes said: 'Lord, if it be thy blessed will, let us all this moment sink down to the bottom of the ocean, for we are carrying over thy heavy wrath to Britain.' But God's wrath ceased not, and therefore they did not sink!!!—The restored king," adds this writer, "soon discovered what his manners were like to be, in a horrid debauch in the mulberry-garden, drinking to fifthy excess till 3 o'clock in the morning. Mr. Barnes, on his return home (from London), presaged, from the saturnine aspect of the king, that as his majesty resembled Tiberius Cæsar, so should his reign, i.e. our Lord should be crucified in it." Mr. Barnes fled from Newcastle when Judge Jefferies came on the northern circuit in 1684; but he soon returned, and occurs in 1688 as exerting himself to secure the election to the mayoralty of his brother-in-law. Alderman Hutchinson, who was also a Dissenter. Mr. Barnes seems never to have filled this office himself. Few particulars are known of him, except what are recorded in his MS. life, written by himself. It is a thick quarto, and abounds with the quaint divinity of his time. It is in the possession of the Rev. W. Turner, but is thought to be too dry and tedious for publication.
  • 3. During the minority of Edward VI. Cranmer, with the concurrence of the protector and privy council, invited a number of Protestant divines from Germany, who were employed as itinerant preachers in those parts of the kingdom where the people continued most attached to the Roman Catholic faith. Knox entered upon this service with great zeal, and first at Berwick, and then in Newcastle, advocated the principles of the Reformation. His speech against the Sacrifice of the Mass, delivered at Newcastle, April 4, 1550, before before the bishop of Durham and the learned men of the cathedral, is related in his life by M'Crie, 1 Note P. When summoned before the privy council, for a sermon preached in this town about Christmas, 1552, in which he lamented the downfal of the Duke of Somerset, he wrote to his sister thus:—"Rejoice, sister, for the same word that forespealeth trouble doth certify us of glory consequent. As for myself, albeit the extremity should now apprehend me, it is not come unlooked for. But, alas! I fear that yet I be not rife nor able to glorify Christ by my death; but what lacketh now, God shall perform in his own time. Be sure, I will not forget you and your company, so long as mortal man may remember any earthly creature." On his acquittal, he returned to Newcastle; and in another letter, dated March 23, 1553, addressed to his sister, he says, "Heinous were the delations laid against me, and many are the lies that are-made to the council. But God one day shall destroy all lying tongues, and shall deliver his servants from calamity. I look but one day or other to fall in their hands; for more and more rageth the members of the devil against me. This assault of Satan has been to his confusion and to the glory of God, And therefore, sister, cease not to praise God, and to call for my comfort; for great is the multitude of enemies whom every one the Lord shall confound. I intend not to depart from Newcastle before Easter."—See p. 279. Strype's Mem. of Reform. M'Crie's Life of Knox, vol. i. p. 3. Redpath's Bor. Hist. p. 577. John Udale (not Ephraim Udale, see page 280), after being silenced at Kingston upon Thames for his Puritanisim, came to Newcastle to preach about 1589, and continued there about one year. Fuller says he was a learned man, and of a blameless life, powerful in prayer, and no less profitable than diligent in preaching.—Neal's Hist, of the Puritans, vol. i. chap. viii.
  • 4. See pages 282, 316, and 355.
  • 5. John Lomax, M. A. of Emanuel Col. Cambridge, lived with his mother at Newcastle before he obtained the vicarage of Wooler. She lived comfortably "from a jointure which she had by Mr. Bonner, an eminent merchant, who died mayor of Newcastle; a man of so much worth, and of so public a spirit, that he deserves to be remembered with honour." When at Wooler, Lomax enjoyed the friendship of Lord Grey. After his expulsion, he removed with his family to Shields, where he practised physic and surgery, and kept the first apothecary's shop in that place. His salary, as minister, was only £4 per annum. He suffered much for his nonconformity. His aspect was comely, and his manners pleasing; and he abounded in substantial and po. lite learning. When Dr. Cartwright (then prebendary of Durham) was reflecting upon Mr Lomax, among other Dissenting ministers, in presence of Bishop Cosins, his lordship said, "Doctor, hold your tongue; for, to my certain knowledge, John Lomax is a learned man." Indeed, that prelate laboured much, but without success, to induce him to conform. Mr. Lomax died about the year 1694—Calamy's Mem.
  • 6. The Lady Bowes, being apprehensive of danger to Rothwell from so surly and fierce a people as he was going to preach amongst, he unconcernedly replied, "If I thought I should not meet the devil there, I would not come there. He and I have been at odds in other places, and I hope we shall not agree there."—Barnes' Life.
  • 7. See page 45; and Bourne, pages 240 and 241. In 1715. Mr. Neal made out a complete list of Dissenting congregations, of the three denominations, throughout the kingdom. It was intended principally to ascertain the strength of the Dissenting interest in parliamentary elections, on the side of the (then newly introduced) Brunswick family. He designed to give an account of each meeting-house, its minister's name, when he was ordained, where residing, the number of the congregation, and how many had votes for members of parliament. To this he had added the dates of deaths and removals of ministers, up to about 1732. This MS. is now the property of Dr. Toulmin. The account it contains of the Dissenting interest in Newcastle is as follows:—1. Presbyterians, Benjamin Bennett and Nathaniel Fancourt, 700 hearers. Mr. Bennet died in 1726–7, and was succeeded by Dr. Lawrence. Mr. Fancourt removed to Salisbury.—2. Presbyterian, John Lowe. 800 hearers.—3. Presbyterian, William Holbrook, 200 hearers.—4. Presbyterian, William Arthur, 200 hearers.—5. Independent, Thomas Barnes, 100 hearers. He was ordained May 26, 1698; died June 30, 1731.