Monday, 11 February 2013

Howden area Quakers

I have been looking this week at Quaker history and specifically at some of our local families who emigrated in the late seventeenth century.

The Quaker movement was founded by George Fox. Early Quakers (or Friends) stressed the importance of a direct relationship with God through Jesus Christ and a belief in the universal priesthood of all believers. They emphasised a personal experience of Christ acquired through both direct spiritual experience and the reading and studying of the Bible.

Their beliefs meant that came into conflict with the 'establishment' and were often imprisoned for non-payment of tithes, for simply attending their meetings as the law then forbade religious gatherings of more than five people outside the Church of England, or for not taking an oath of allegiance to the king. Quakers did and do not agree with swearing oaths.

In Yorkshire there were many Quakers and several local men and women spent long periods in York Castle, several of them dying there. This took place mostly in the reign of Charles II.

Meetings of Friends were held at Elloughton, North Cave, Shipton, Barmby, Ferriby, Hotham, Sancton, Metham, Brantingham and Sandholme.

Meeting-houses were later erected at North Cave and Elloughton and records of their meetings survive including their minute books and records of suffering. These two local meetings later became incorporated into the Hull monthly meeting

At Sandholme there is still a Quaker farm, once owned by Sebastian Ellythorp who died in York Castle in 1695. 

Cornelius Empson was another local Quaker and member of the landowning Empson family of Goole Hall, where there is still a private burial ground. This is referred to in 1673 when Katherin Empson, wife of James, was buried as a Quaker in "Rich[ar]d Empson’s ground, Gowle".

On the 24th of the 6th month 1680 (the Quakers had their own dating system, beginning with March as month one), the Hull Monthly Meeting of Friends registered the birth of a son to Cornelius Empson. He was named Richard and was the eldest son of four born to Cornelius and his first wife Mary.

Cornelius Empson emigrated to America in 1684. In 1685 he was described as living on Shellpots Creek, a small stream in Brandywine Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware.

On the 12th December 1710 his will was proved. He was then described as Cornelius Empson, gentleman, of Goal [sic - Goole] Grange, New Castle County, Pennsylvania, later Delaware.

Some records suggest that Cornelius Empson was born at Booth. There were at least two Quaker families in the  nearby Knedlington area. I am not sure where they lived in Knedlington, which now consists of only a few houses, but early maps  do show a Quaker burial ground there.

The Wright family

Another local Quaker family were the Wrights of Howden and Knedlington. Robert Wright, a butcher in Hailgate, Howden and his wife Alice Lawtie had at least three, possibly four sons who all emigrated to America.

The eldest son was Thomas Wright. In 1677 he emigrated to the Jersey shore of the Delaware river on the "Flie Boat Martha" from Hull. Thomas Wildbuys or Wildcup was the master. The Martha arrived "at the end of Summer 1677" carrying "114 passengers" for the Yorkshire Tenth in Burlington. Thomas Wright wrote home to his wife on October 28th 1677, having just arrived. His family followed him. He died in Burlington County, New Jersey 1706.

The second son was Joshua WrightJoshua married on June 10th 1669 Elizabeth Empson of "Gowle Field House", Goole. I am not sure how she was related to Cornelius Empson, but she was possibly his sister.

Joshua obviously had a 'falling out' with the local Friends around the time of his marriage. The Friends records of 1669 (which are hard to decipher) for the South Cliffe meeting state that,

"Joshua Wright of Howden, having been convicted of frequenting friends meetings, denied the worlds went from it, paid tithes, forsooke ... and ... he being admonished and warned faithfully by friends, and afterwards proceeded ... world, and ...  marryed by a drunken priest."

Joshua was disowned in 1669 by the Cave Monthly Meeting for marrying Elizabeth Empson on 4 mo. 10. 1669, contrary to Discipline.

Joshua Wright, along with his wife and children Elizabeth, Joshua and Robert, seems to have left the area and eventually emigrated from Ashford-in-the-Water near Bakewell in Derbyshire. The family embarked for West New Jersey at Hull, in August 24, 1679 on the same ship as Joshua's brother Samuel (see below) and arrived at the falls of the Delaware, now Trenton, about December 20th 1679.

Joshua's will, which was written in 1690 although he  died in 1695, includes bequests as follows which show he was Samuel's brother.

"I give to Mary, late widow of my brother Samuel Wright, that farm or plantation whereon she now dwells during her life and to Samuel Wright her son to him and his heirs forever.

 I give to Peter Fretwell, my son-in-law, and Elizabeth his wife, my only daughter, our lot in the town of Burlington, belonging to the first part---------to them and their heirs forever.
 I give to Robert Wright my son - 100 acres of land and 30 pounds to him and his heirs forever. I give to Thomas Wright my son - 350 acres of land and 30 pounds to him and his heirs forever.
 I give to Joseph Wright my son - 350 acres of land and 30 pounds to him and his heirs forever.
 I give to Samuel Wright my son - 350 acres of land and 30 pounds to him and his heirs forever.

 I give to Elizabeth my wife one half of the farm or plantation whereon I now live during her natural life and after to my son Joshua with all the rest of my lands and herby give to him and his heirs forever. And the rest of my goods to Elizabeth my wife and Joshua my son, whom I make executors of this my last will and testament."

The third of the Wright sons was Samuel Wright, yeoman of Knedlington, who was born about 1645. He married Mary Starkey, daughter of John Starkey of Knedlington, on the 1st July 1671.

In 1675 Samuel Wright, of "Nedlington", grassman, was imprisoned for refusing to pay a demand of 4d for the wages of the parish clerk.

The Elloughton monthly meeting minutes of 1676 show that Friends of the Howden meeting were ordered to "enquire into the present condition of Samuel Wright's family (he being prisoner at York for the truth sake) and to bring in account the next meeting".

It was also minuted that "considering the condition of Samuel Wright of Knedlington, he being straitly kept prisoner and his wife great with child, and his estate but small; [they] sent her by Christopher Graves 10 shillings".

In 1677 another 10s was sent to Samuel's wife as she was "in weakness and her husband in prison, by a Capias Writt persecuted by the wicked Bishop's Officers".

Samuel Wright emigrated to America with his brother Joshua Wright, leaving Hull in August 1679 with his wife and children, Alice and Samuel. His daughter Mary was apparently born at sea on October 25th 1679. Samuel Wright settled in Burlington Co. along the south side of Crosswicks Creek. He died Burlington Co., New Jersey before 25th March 1690, when his wife was described as a widow in his brother's will. 

A fourth Wright son, Richard Wright, born in 1651, may have emigrated and lived at Cooper's Creek, Gloucester Co, New Jersey.

The Goforth family

William Goforth was born in 1631 at Knedlington. His father Miles had three known children, William,  George and Elizabeth.

Miles Goforth died in 1674 at Knedlington. William, who may have been married before, married Anne Skipwith in 1662 in the Friends meeting house in Hull. Anne's mother Honora Skipwith, wife of Willoughby Skipwith, was also a Quaker and died in 1679 in York Castle.

William and Anne and their family emigrated to  America on the Martha in 1677. Thomas Wright, also of Knedlington (mentioned above) was a fellow passenger. Sadly, William died in Burlington the following year. Ann remarried to another fellow passenger, William Oxley.

I am sure that there is much more to discover about the Quaker families in this area of East Yorkshire. I briefly mentioned Sebastian Ellythorp of Sandholme earlier in this blog piece. The Ellythorps are a fascinating local family and I researched them in greater detail for my book about Eastrington.

When I have time I will have a more detailed look at some of the other local Quaker families and their 'sufferings' which are available to read in the archives at Beverley.


  1. My maternal grandfather, Tennyson Clay Wright, is descended from Joshua (Robert) Wright. I've only recently learned of the Quaker connection and I'm fascinated to learn more! The Wrights remained people of strong, simple faith and were strong civic leaders and progressive social activists. It fits that the roots can be found in the beginning of Quakerism.
    I'm confused as to why Joshua would have fallen out of favor with the Friends if he was marrying another Quaker woman. Or was it that her brother was Quaker and she was not? My records show that Joshua and Elizabeth Epsom were married in Southcliffe and moved to Derbyshire..

  2. So interesting. My late husband was JMS whiting. From Leeds.
    Rita Whiting