Dissenting Minister at Altham and Wymondhouses.


The 1851 census shows that my GGG grandmother, Alice Thornber, a widow, lived at Wymondhouses near Pendle Hill. I learned that this had been the site of a meeting place for Dissenters led by the Rev. Thomas Jolly in the late 17th century. My work transcribing the parish registers of St. Mary and All Saints, Whalley led to the discovery of the burial of the wife of a Mr. Thomas Jolly who was the grandson of the first Thomas.

Burial Entry: 1726 Jan 02      Ann wife of Mr. Thomas Jolly, Wimenhouses, Pendleton, Dissenting Minister, in the church.

This reference set me enquiring into the Rev. Thomas Jolly and his life in Altham and Pendleton. Audrey Barrett, associated with a Sabden village website now defunct, sent me a list of sources and I found a copy of the Chetham Society volume on Jolly at the Portico Library in Manchester. In 2016, I received information from Val Dagley, about a Thomas Jolly, Dissenting Minister, reported in the parish registers of Trunch in Norfolk. The entries relate to two births and two baptisms all between August 1715 and August 1717 and further clarification is being sought. In all four records Thomas' wife is reported to be Anne. These records appear to relate to Thomas the grandson of the original Thomas of Wymondhouses, who had died on 14 March 1702/3.

The Suppression of Dissenters following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660

During the period from 1642 to 1660 there was no state church. There were no bishops and many ministers of Presbyterian or Independent persuasion were intruded into livings. From 1653 births rather than baptisms were recorded in parish registers by the "parish register" a person appointed for the duty. Marriages were civil ceremonies conducted by magistrates.

In April 1660, Charles II issued the Declaration of Breda, promising a general amnesty and freedom of conscience. Parliament accepted the Declaration and he was proclaimed king on 8 May 1660 and landed at Dover on 26 May. Charles wanted to make himself an absolute ruler and favoured Catholicism for his subjects as most consistent with absolute monarchy. The government which followed the Restoration was by aristocrats and was known as the Cavalier Parliament. The provisions of the Declaration of Breda were ignored and restrictive measures was taken against the Parliamentarians and Nonconformists.

Charles's chief advisor, the Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674) introduced what became known as the Clarendon Code between 1661 and 1665, a series of acts directed at Dissenters to secure the supremacy of the Church of England

By the Corporation Act, Nonconformists were prevented from being in any office in national or local government, including being an MP or an army officer. The Act of Uniformity of 1662 reinforced the need to use the book of common prayer. About 2000 ministers were forced out of their livings. The Five Mile Act of 1665, prevented them from living within five miles of their former living. They began to meet in secret but the Conventicle Act of 1664 made it illegal for more than five people not in the same family to meet for prayer. Charles II's declaration of indulgence towards Catholics and Nonconformists was made in March 1672 but withdrawn the following March.

The Test Act passed in England 1673 required holders of public office to renounce the doctrine of transubstantiation and take the sacrament in an Anglican church, thus excluding Catholics, Nonconformists, and non-Christians from office. Its clauses were repealed 1828-29. All the provisions of the Clarendon code were finally abolished in 1871. The University Test Act 1871 abolished the theological tests required for the MA degree and for Oxford University and College offices.

The regulations had meant that teachers and pupils at grammar schools had to be Anglican. Some of the dissenters emigrated such as William Penn. In order to provide their sects with future ministers, Dissenters set up academies for training young men. The first of these was at Rauthmell near Settle and was run by Mr. Frankland. These academies were often short lived. They were closed down because of prosecutions against the organisers or moved as the principal moved to a new location. Among the more famous of these academies in the North was Warrington Academy in the late 18th century which was succeeded by a similar academy at Manchester.

Charles II died in 1685 and was succeeded by his brother James II, a Catholic who started to appoint catholic officers to the army. He suspended the Test Act but in 1688, when his son was born, fear grew of a Catholic succession. As a result a small number members of the House of Lords invited William of Orange with his wife Mary, the daughter of James II to come to England and James fled. Subsequently the two main contenders met at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland where William defeated James. In 1689 the Act of Toleration was passed and this allowed Dissenters such as Unitarians and Presbyterians to have places of worship

Thomas Jolly's Family Background

Thomas Jolly was the son of James Jolly who came from Wigan. James was born in 1600 and became a clothier in Gorton. He married Elizabeth Hall, a widow at the Collegiate Church in Manchester on 21 February 1625/6. When the Civil War began James became a soldier in the Parliamentary army and rose rapidly through the ranks becoming Provost Marshall General of the Parliamentary forces in Lancashire on 21 January 1642. A year later he was appointed Quarter Master General of the army of Sir Thomas Fairfax and on 3 February 1647 became Provost Marshall to the garrison at Chester and of the regiment of foot under Colonel Duckinfield. In April 1647 he was appointed Captain of a company of foot. By 1652 he was a major.

After the Restoration, James Jolly lived in Chester. He was arrested on 3 July 1665 for attending an illegal conventicle or religious meeting. He died on 7 November 1666 and was buried at St. Michael's in Chester. James and his wife Elizabeth had several children. The eldest was James, born in 1627 who went to Cambridge University and is assumed to have gone into the church as Thomas Jolly is known to have had two brothers in the ministry. Thomas was the second son, about whom more shortly.

The third son, John, studied at Trinity College, Dublin and later lived near Bredbury in Cheshire. Here he came into conflict with the new order arising from the Act of Uniformity. He preached at the chapel at Norbury a chapel-of-ease for Stockport on 12 January 1672/3 and was brought before the church authorities. John Jolly may have been an assistant to the Rev. John Angier of Denton. Colonel Robert Duckinfield, Lord of the manor of Duckinfield, Hyde and Norbury had the first private Independent chapel in England on his estate from 1644. It was a Congregational chapel, a movement founded in 1580. John Angier was a Puritan Divine at St. Laurence's who lived in this area from 1605-1677. John Jolly would have been known to the Duckinfields through his father's connection during the Civil War. John Jolly was ordained into the Presbyterian ministry in 1672. He died on 17 June 1682. Among James' children was John Jolly junior, his second son, who entered Frankland's Academy at Rauthmell on 23 February 1688. He was ordained at Wymondhouses on 29 September 1696 and was a minister at Newton in Bowland. He assisted his uncle, Thomas Jolly at Altham and succeeded him as minister of the group at Wymondhouses. He was a friend of the Rev. Peter Walkden, minister at Hesketh Lane Chapel, whose diaries have been published in recent years by the Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society and by the Chipping Historical Society. John Jolly the younger lived for a time in Clayton-le-Moors and died on 29 June 1725.

Thomas Jolly during the Commonwealth and Protectorate.

Thomas was the second son of James and Elizabeth Jolly. He was born in Droylsden on 14 September 1629. As a boy he was injured by a wild boar. At the age of 15 he went to Trinity College Cambridge but there is no evidence that he graduated. However, his tutors supplied him with a reference claiming that he was a suitable candidate when he was appointed pastor at Altham Chapel on 16 September 1649. Altham was founded as a church in 1249 but later became a daughter chapel in the parish of Whalley. The Chapelry served the township of Altham and part of Clayton-le-Moors. When Jolly started at Altham he had problems with differences of view among the Presbyterian and Congregational wings of his flock. Thomas Jolly's first wife died in 1653, giving birth to their second son and she was buried at Altham. Later in the year (the Julian Calendar still pertained at this time) the Blackburn parish register shows that an intention of marriage was published on 1st, 12th and 19th March for Thomas Jollie, pastor of Altham, but the marriage itself was not recorded. However, he was a widower again very shortly. Jolly soon married a third time but his wife died in childbirth the following year.

Jolly is known to have had a dispute with a Mr. Webster, who it is supposed was the man in Clitheroe one who wrote "The Displaying of Supposes Witchcraft". John Webster was born in 1610 in Yorkshire and was an assistant curate at Kildwick in 1634. He acted as surgeon in Colonel Shuttleworth's regiment in the Parliamentary army during the Civil War. Webster was intruded into the living of Mitton in 1648 but neither instituted or inducted. Among the monuments in Clitheroe church described in 'An Illustrated Itinerary of the County of Lancaster', the authors mention one inscribed on a brass plate to the memory of Dr. John Webster, the astrologer, and the intrepid detector of witchcraft, who was master of the Free School in Clitheroe in 1643, and died 1682.

In 1653 the vicariate of Whalley was vacant. Jonathan Schofield was appointed to officiate on the petition of the inhabitants. In 1656, Schofield moved to Douglas Chapel in the parish of Eccleston and William More (or Moore) got possession, against the wishes of the congregation. In 1659 they offered it to Thomas Jolly. He declined the post unless More resigned. Jolly visited Chester and Wakefield to consult with other ministers and in 1658 visited London for a meeting of the Congregational churches and he preached there. So, Thomas Jolly's early career, during the Civil War and the Commonwealth and Protectorate, brought him into prominence in the prevailing religious thinking of the time. All this was to change very markedly with the Restoration of the Monarchy and the introduction of legislation against the Dissenters.

Thomas Jolly during the Restoration.

In November 1660, only six months after the return of Charles II from exile in France, Thomas Jolly was arrested and charged with sedition at Preston. He was arrested again on 15 February 1661. In March, Captain Nicholas Bannister of Altham, shut him out of the Chapel. He was called before the bishop's court in Chester where charges were brought against him by the rector of Bury, the Rev. John Lightfoote, by Mr. More, the vicar of Whalley and by Richard Walmesley of Dunkenhalgh who had shut Jolly out of Langho Chapel. James Whittaker of Altham, a carpenter, stated at the court that Jolly had come to Altham 12 years earlier and had been ordained as a Presbyterian and sworn to defend the ministry to the last drop of his blood. He claimed that Jolly had been minister for the last nine to ten years against the wishes of the congregation and against the will of the vicar of Whalley, William More. In the last three years he had developed a separate congregation called the Society and had declined to baptise or administer the sacrament to those not in the Society. Jolly was also accused of not using the Book of Common Prayer and having private religious meetings at his house. Mr. Bannister of Altham tried to lock Jolly out of the chapel but he had fitted a new lock and key. A further charge was that Jolly had delivered Jenet Cunliffe and Joan Atkinson to Satan and had refused to bury a child. The nature of the first accusation was not made clear. The bishop of Chester, Dr. Walton died on 29 November 1661 and his successor, Dr. Ferne died a few months later in March. It was characteristic of Thomas Jolly's confidence in his case that he regarded these deaths as Divine intervention on his side of the argument. He frequently records in his journal the downfall of his enemies and states that it is a consequence of their sins and actions against him.

On 25 July 1662, Captain Bannister and his ensign, John Grimshaw brought new charges against Jolly, to be answered at Chester and on 17 August Bannister, Grimshaw and Captain Alexander Nowell brought him an order for suspension from this position and forced him out of the chapel. To prevent him from organising a private meeting a squadron of soldiers on horseback was sent to the village. On 16 March 1664/5 Captain Bannister died. Jolly recorded in his journal that "he became his own executioner by excessive drinking". Soon after, Mr. More, formerly vicar of Whalley died "in great poverty and dis-esteem and his wife shortly after him." Once again Jolly saw this as a suitable retribution.

Jolly went to live for a time in Healey near Burnley but on 9 October 1663, Captain Parker with a lieutenant and soldiers seized him and took him to Burnley from where he was taken to Bury. Before Colonel Nowell and Mr. Holt of Castleton he was accused of holding illegal private religious meetings. He was detained for a time at Skipton then returned to Burnley before being arrested again in November. This time he was taken to York and detained for at least a month, possibly on suspicion of being involved in a plot against the government. Twenty prisoners were executed but Thomas Jolly was released but was soon in trouble again. He was holding a meeting at the house of Richard Ingham on 12 February 1664/5 when Captain Parker arrived with some soldiers and broke down the door. Jolly was taken before local JPs, Mr. Starkie and Mr. Braddyll who committed him to Lancaster Castle where he was imprisoned for three months. In November 1665 he was arrested again and taken before Justice Edward Rigby who bound him over to appear again if needed.

The Five Mile Act was passed in 1665, requiring all ministers deprived of their livings to live at least five miles from their former abode. Thomas Jolly then purchased a house at Wymondhouses on the side of Pendle Hill began to form a new Society. He was arrested several times. On 25 April 1669 he preached at the house of Abraham Howarth in Altham and was arrested again by Captain Nowell. This time he was committed by Colonel Kirby to Lancaster jail. The Act of Indulgence of 1672 promised to give some relief to Dissenters and Wymondhouses was licensed for preaching. However, the Act was repealed in 1674. On 14 June that year Captain Nowell confronted Thomas Jolly at pistol point while he was preaching at the house of Thomas Riley.

Between 1662 and 1671 Thomas Jolly married for the fourth time but she died on 8 June 1675. From 1679 to 1693 Jolly kept a journal. It records his frequent journeys to preach in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire and his various arrests with Alexander Nowell his chief antagonist. The chapel at Wymondhouses was founded on 15 May 1688 and completed the following July. By this time James II had been deposed and William and Mary took over. The chapel at Wymondhouses was used until 1869 but was demolished by in the late 19th century.

Thomas Jolly and Mr. Newcome were appointed by a general meeting of the United Bretheren (Presbyterians and Independents) in Manchester as joint secretaries for the county on 4 September 1694. Jolly lived until 14 March 1702/3. He was buried at Altham at the age of 73. The register records "Buried Mr. Thomas Jolly of Pendleton in the p'ish of Waley, 18 March. A chapel was erected at Altham in 1874 as a memorial and in one of the walls is inserted the lintel that was over the door of the Wymondhouses chapel, bearing the initials TJ. His only published work was "The Surey Demoniak, an account of Satan's strange and dreadful actings in and about the body of Richard Dugdale of Surey near Whalley in Lancashire, which was published in 1697.

Thomas Jolly had two sons by his first wife and son by his third wife and two daughters by his fourth wife. Thomas, the eldest son, born on 31 October 1652 died in 1671. Samuel, the second son, born in 1653 went to London to train as a surgeon. He died in Sheffield in 1691. He had a son, Thomas, whose grandfather, Thomas Jolly of Wymondhouses arranged for his education. He went to Bradford Chapel in Norfolk to be ordained on 13 June 1712. (My correspondent Val Dagley suggests that this should be Bradfield Chapel as it is adjacent to Trunch.) In 1725 he succeeded to the ministry at Wymondhouses and remained there until 1737. It is presumably this Thomas whose wife was buried at Whalley in 1726 as noted in the introduction.

The third son was Timothy who was born at Altham in 1656. He became a student at Frankland's Academy in Rauthmell and was ordained by his father, Oliver Heywood and others on 28 April 1681 at Sheffield. He was arrested in 1682 under the Five Mile Act and imprisoned at York until June 1683. Frankland's Academy was moved to Attercliffe near Sheffield and on Frankland's death in 16987 Timothy Jolly succeeded him. One of his students, Thomas Secker, subsequently became Archbishop of Canterbury. Timothy died on 28 March 1714. He had a son Timothy who also trained for the ministry and died in 1757.

Thomas Jolly's Journal and Church Books.

The journal of Thomas Jolly from 1671 to 1693 and his Church Books for Altham and Wymondhouses are full of names and are a useful source for local and family historians with an interest in the late 17th century. The Bannisters or Bannestres were lords of the manor of Altham. The Braddylls and Ashetons were the two families who obtained most of the land that belonged to Whalley Abbey at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Braddylls lived at Portfield and several members of the family are mentioned in Whalley parish registers at this time. Among the other local gentry were the Starkies of Huntroyd near Padiham. John Starkie is mentioned in the marriage registers at Whalley during the Commonwealth Period as a magistrate performing civil weddings. As noted above Thomas Jolly had been brought before the magistrates Mr. Starkie and Mr. Braddyll in 1664.

The Nowells were the leading gentry family in Read. Alexander Nowell of Read was buried at Whalley on 6 January 1695 and two wives, Margaretta and Eleanor are recorded in the Whalley burial registers for 28 April 1673 and 15 December 1683. Thomas Jolly notes the latter death in his journal and the illness of Major Nowell. For once he is merciful to his antagonist and states that the news gave him occasion to have "more pity in my heart towards him and to send up more prayers to God for him." In 1689, after the arrival of William of Orange, the tables seem to have been turned. Jolly notes in his journal "Major Nowell laboured to get his commission renewed but was rejected; though I had an opportunity with the Lord Lieutenant and had some interest in him, yet it was as well that I was not instrumental for the casheering of him, yet it was more providence of God that he is cast out of his habitation and office also." The latter is is believed to have been Morton Hall near Whalley.

Jolly reports that one Feilden a retainer of Captain Nowell was a drunken and debauched fellow who in 1676 was at Whalley Abbey drinking and gaming when the Lord smote him with an insatiable thirst. He drank at the river, a stitch took him and he died. There is mention of the fever being very prevalent in 1675 and in February 1679 a woman died ten days after her house in "Bashaw-Eves" was struck by a thunderbolt during a great storm.

In 1687 Jolly states "It fell in my way to speak against the inordinate affection to the immoderate use of tobacco which did cause much trouble in some of my hearers and some reformation did follow."

In 1690 we learn "that one Richard Atkinson, a profane, drunken bailiff, riding over Hodder Bridge was lifted off his horse, turned thrice about and thrown into the river by an invisible hand, whence he was taken dead". His wife reported that the previous evening her husband had told her that he had been brought home by the Devil who said he would fetch him shortly." In early 1693, Jolly visited Justice Parker who died the same evening. "It seems he killed himself by his intemperance and has suffered himself to be made use of to hinder a meeting at Clitherow as it should be." Once again Jolly sees Divine retribution for his enemy.

The church books are full of the names of members of the congregation with details of who joined, left or died. They are entitled "An Account of the Church of Christ Meeting at Altham, Wymondhouses and Sparth from the years 1649 to the year 1737 under the paternal care of first Mr. Thomas Jolly, from Cambridge and Mr. John Jolly his nephew and lastly Mr. Thomas Jolly, his grandson.


1. 1851 Census, HO 107/2256, Enumeration District 1B, folio 385, page 5. At property number 10 on the schedule, at Wymondhouses, Alice Thornber, a widow aged 61, a farmer of 36 acres employing two labourers lived with her son Thomas, aged 26 and granddaughter Mary Dawson, aged 5 . The next property was occupied by Alice's daughter Ellen Dawson, 28, her husband, David Dawson, 33 and two children Thomas and Richard Dawson aged 4 and 2, all born in Pendleton. Alice Thornber's will of 1865, when she was still at Wymondhouses, states that it was land she farmed as a tenant of LeGendre Nicholas Starkie.

John and Alice had several children and at the baptism of the first seven the family was said to be of Cold Coats. The eighth child, William, was baptised on 30 April 1820 and the family were said to be resident at Whyman Houses. For the baptism of the last two children, in 1822 and 1825, the parents were said to be resident in Pendleton. It is possible that John and Alice and then Alice as a widow, were resident at Whyman or Wymond Houses from 1820 through to 1865. When Alice died in 1868 the death certificate stated that she was resident in Pendleton.

2. Chetham Society, New series, Vol. 33 : 'The Note Book of the Rev. Thomas Jolly A.D. 1671 to 1693. Extracts from the Church Books of Altham and Whymond Houses, AD 1649 -1725 and an account of the Jolly family of Standish, Cotton and Altham', Edited by Henry Fishwick. Published in Manchester, 1895.

3. Course on 'The History of Cheshire Churches', given by Ian May at Wilmslow Guild, Winter 2001.

4. 'Rev. Peter Walkden's Diary and Early Nonconformist Baptisms', edited by G. A. Foster, Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society, August 1996.

5. 'A History of the Parish of Mitton, in the West Riding of Yorkshire', by Frederick George Ackerley, M.A., D.D., F.R.S.A., Aberdeen University Press, 1947.

6. Whalley Parish Registers, 1653-1753 by John A. Laycock (1861-1922) and Craig W. Thornber, Volume 162 in the Lancashire Parish Register Society series, published in 2006.

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