Friends in Bedfordshire and West Hertfordshire
by Joyce Godber
Luton & Leighton Monthly Meeting, 1975
Paperback, 21*13.5 cm, 100 pages, 15 photographs
Relates to the Friends (Quaker) meeting houses in Bedford, Berkhamsted, Harpenden, Hemel Hempstead, Leighton Buzzard, Luton, Milton Keynes, St Albans, and Watford.
Missionary period, 1647-67
Organisation under stress, 1667-89
The changing pattern, 1689-1785
Maintaining the society. 1689-1785
Individual conduct, 1689-1785
Greater Security, 1785-1865
Sources & Notes.
Index (which contains a fair number of personal names.)
Membership of the Society
Hemel Hempstead Meeting House
It has been seen that Friends undertook a responsibility for their poorer members (of course they also had to pay the parochial poor rate to the parish overseer). This raised the question: who was a Friend? If a Friend who remained in his original meeting became poorer with advancing age, the responsibility for him was clear; but what of the needy Friend who arrived from another area? Should not his former Monthly Meeting take care of him? Friends were as acutely aware of this problem as any parish overseer anxious to prevent needy arrivals from gaining a settlement in the parish and adding to its rates. So when a Friend removed, his former MM sent a certificate worded in the cautious manner of Friends. Thus of Sarah Humphrey, who came to Dunstable in 1757, Baldock MM said "we do not find but that she was of sober life"; while it was high praise for Ringwood MM to say in 1762 of ]ohn Dollin, when he came to Luton, that he was well esteemed and had been "divers years in good unity".
Trouble sometimes arose, as over Thomas White who in 1780 came to King's Langley, in the province of Albans MM, from Hampshire. His former MM, which he had left two years previously, had some doubts about him, for when he left he had one small debt, but probably they hoped he had improved and they wished to be charitable, so they sent a certificate. In the meantime however, as later transpired, White had been in London, where he was imprisoned for further debt, and he had also two small children. There followed irate correspondence between Albans MM and Hampshire, Albans writing "It is not easy to conceive with what propriety you can in such a case tell us that his conduct and conversation was consistent with OUR profession", while the Hampshire MM replied with some reason that they could not tell what he had done in London. White did not help his own case - he was slack in coming to meeting, and talked about a bequest he hoped to get. It was eventually agreed that Albans MM could not take over his membership; yet the White family could not be written off; so it was agreed that they must be visited, and any expense incurred by Albans repaid by Hampshire. White departed again for London in 1782.
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Page updated July 2007