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Grindletonians

Summary

A radical religious sect founded at Grindleton, Yorkshire ca. 1610. The community of Grindleton lies at the foot of Pendle Hill which is associated with George Fox, the Quaker leader, as his Mount of Vision. The sect seems to have been named for the community where this rather obscure sect developed rather than for any individual. The sect was active in Yorkshire and Lancastershire into the 1660's.

There earlier congregation at Kildwick, Craven was under John Wilson sometimes referred to as a religious radical. Someone has suggested that the soil was already prepared for Roger Brearley when he arrived.

Roger BREARLEY (1586-1637)

 

An early leader of the movement was Roger Brearley (or Brierley, Brereley) (1586-1637), he was born in Marland, Rochdale, Lancs. In 1615, he was the curate at Grindleton Chapel, Milton in Craven , Yorks., where his sermons attracted the local interest.

In 1617, Brearley moved about ten miles East to Kildwick, or North Kildwick in North Yorkshire and resided there until 1631. During 1631, Brearley moved to Burnley, Lancs., where he died in 1637. Brearley seems to have been a respected member of the York See during his life.

Brearley preached Antinomian views, the power of God's "spirit" to influence good men to a higher level of understanding including the Scriptures. He argued against the organized Church, and the Sacraments. He espoused lay preaching and what he called "Spiritual-baptism".

Brearley had influence beyond this local community. His message of " the glorious estate of perfection" attracted many. The early George Fox, Quaker, may have be influenced while at Grindleton. The early Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) may have been influenced with Antinomianism or Grindletonianism. John Everard, an army radical and sometime Digger, he was a friend of Brearley, and may have had an influence on Brearley.

Grindletonianism was often seen as a stage of progress from one sect to another. Two well known Quakers Francis Howgill (1618-69) and John Camm (1605-1657) had at one time professed Grindletonian beliefs, became Seekers before adopting Quakerism.

After Brearley left Kildwick, the parish was served by John Webster (1610-1683) as curate in 1634. Information about this period is uncertain. Webster was probably influenced by Brearley's views left in the congregation.

The Grindletonian message was transmitted to western Yorkshire and eastern Lancashire, the major areas of the sect. One of the major messenger was a Robert Towne during the 1640's. Good data of this sect is still rather limited.

Some of common tenets of Grindletonians included: the importance of the Spirit of God within; the Bible was only as starting point; an anti-clerical bent; a possibility of having a Heaven here on Earth; a true Christian with the "Spirit" does not sin; refused to pray for the King. They preached a type of perfectionism on Earth, or a form of Antinomianism.

 

Many of these common roots were shared with other sects of the period. There are ties to the Anabaptist, Familists, and the early Quakers. The Rev. Stephen Dennison in 1627 refers to the Grindletonian Familists. They may have been practicing a form of Familism which was itself not uniformly practiced.

A SELECT GRINDLETONIAN BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Brearley, Roger,A Bundle of Soul-convincing, Directing and Comforting Truths (1670)

Dennison, Stephen,The White Wolfe (1627)

Webster, John,Examen Academiarum (1654)

Secondary Sources

Darling, J. The Grindletonians Roger Brerely, John Webster, Robert Towne. Ph.D.(thesis), Columbia University, 1988.

Hylson-Smith, K.,The Churches in England from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, Vol. 1, 1558-1688 (1996)

Hill, C. "e;The Grindletonians"e; In The World Turned Upside Down (1991)

Jones, R.M.,Mysticism and Democracy in the English Commonwealth (1932)

Marchant, R.,The Puritans and the Church Courts in the Diocese of York (1960)

Nuttal, G.F.,The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience

Sippell, T.,Zur Vorgeschiche des Quakertums (1920)

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