Powys Digital History Project

The beginnings of dissent 4
The Quakers and the restoration


Welsh Quakerism
In the north of England George Fox was very successful in his pilgrimages recruiting people to the 'Children of Light'. A Welsh convert, John ap John of Ruabon, returned to his native land determined to spread the word. By bringing in well known English Quakers he converted many Baptists, and in 1657 he toured Wales with Fox himself preaching to thousands. Many were recruited into new congregations, but Fox met with hostility also and he was convinced that there were murderous plots being hatched against him in Brecon.
Welsh Quakerism at this time was a militant creed, antagonistic towards the established church and willing to confront its opponents. Quakers would interrupt church services, refuse to pay tithes,or doff their hats to their ‘betters’. This challenge to secular authority brought them into direct conflict with the authorities, and many were locked up. Puritans from other sects resented their success and violent clashes were not infrequent. Vavasor Powell took on leading Quakers in Radnorshire in public debates.

The return of Anglican liturgy
The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 re-established an Anglican church which was anxious to resume a grip on the spiritual life of the community. Anglican liturgy was re-introduced and Puritan ministers were ejected.
The 1662 Act of Uniformity demanded that from then on all parish incumbents should conform or be ejected. After years of strife and division, the mass of the ordinary people of Wales who felt no powerful religious calling were probably relieved to get back to a settled pattern of familiar service and festival. A series of Acts in the 1660s made independent worship in separate congregations liable to severe penalty, and the Test Act of 1673 disqualified Dissenters from public office. While the Quakers of Montgomeryshire suffered greatly, small groups like the Anabaptists of Llanafan Fawr managed to struggle on. The possibility of worship outside the established church had been raised, though, and the ground prepared for a later period of nonconformity.

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