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Dissenters' Meeting-House Certificates and Registrations for Bristol and Gloucestershire, 1672–1852

Anthea Jones

(Volume 32, 2018)

A dissenting meeting was an act of defiance, a declaration of individuality, of an unwillingness to follow the politically acceptable religious norms of the Church of England. Dissenters believed they followed a purer Christianity. Bishops they would not tolerate. Services were purged of Roman Catholic practices. This volume shows how widespread were dissenting meetings in Bristol and Gloucestershire.

Dissenters did not have freedom to meet for religious worship, apart from Charles II and James II’s short-lived declarations of toleration, against the will of parliament (some evidence of which is found in this volume), until William of Orange insisted that parliament pass a Toleration Act. This became law in 1689, allowing Protestant dissenters to meet with the permission of the county justices of the peace or of the bishop. Close to 2,000 meetings were officially registered in Bristol and Gloucestershire before 1852, when parliament accepted the freedom to dissent. The Introduction reviews this historical background.

Certificates requesting (in a few cases ‘demanding’) a licence to meet named those involved, some 7,000 men and women in this collection. Many and varied locations are described. Meetings were usually domestic in scale, for example in kitchens; only towards the end of the registration period did some dissenters build chapels.

This collection of certificates and registrations in Bristol and Gloucestershire bears witness to the determination of many to follow their religious beliefs in their own way. It documents an important dimension of social and political history.

As is customary in this series, the edition is fully indexed, and is illustrated with examples of surviving meeting-houses, selected original certificates, and three maps.

Anthea Jones read modern history at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. Her PhD from the University of Kent at Canterbury concentrated on social and demographic history. Her previous local history publications include Tewkesbury (1987), The Cotswolds (1994), Cheltenham - A new history (2010). An interest in the complexities of parish organisation led to A thousand years of the English parish published in 2000.

Colour and B&W illustrations + 3 maps, ISBN 9780900197956

Price: £30 (free postage)

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