R is for Religion

Religious legislation around the time of the Reformation and Civil War is long and complex and only a brief outline is given here. This is with an emphasis on those aspects which relate to Springhill.

There were a series of Acts of Uniformity in the C16:
1549 established the Book of Common Prayer
1552 required its use in worship
1559 set the order of prayer to be used in worship and mandated all persons had to attend weekly or fact a 12d fine. It was repealed in 1650.
1662 re-established the rites and ceremonies of the Book of Common Prayer in church services. It also prescribed that adherence was a prerequisite for holding ecclesiastical office. Dissenters holding civil office was prohibited by the Corporation Act 1661.

It is this 1662 Act which is of interest to Springhill as it ultimately gave rise to the 'Kippax' myth of the Rev Kippax, vicar of St Nicholas, resigning his living under this Act to lead the Dissenting congregation which ultimately became Sion Baptist. Unfortunately for the romantics, Kippax was still practising as curate there after 1662.

Charles II's Royal Declaration of Indulgence permitted greater freedom of worship for both Catholics and Dissenters. Both Quaker and Dissenting meeting houses were licencesed at this time, the former at Chapel Hill and the latter in Springhill, later becoming Sion.

The Toleration Act 1689 allowed Dissenters to worship freely provided they gave an oath of allegiance to the crown. This did not apply to Catholics (of which there were plenty to the north of Springill in the Burnley and Bowland areas) and Unitarians. Restrictions against the latter worshipping were not rescinded until the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813 and it was not until the Repeal of the Test Act in 1828 that Catholics and nonconformists were allowed to become Army officers.

Springhill is on the fringes of the 'witch' country of Pendle and, more recently by repute, areas of West Yorkshire. There are certainly aspects of pagan and new age practice but, although rumours of witchcraft in the immediate area arise from time to time, they have never been substantiated.

I was amused however by the series of legislative acts controlling witchcraft and spiritualism. The first is the Witchcraft Act of 1735 which prohibited one person claiming that another was practising witchcraft or had magic powers. So not only was it an offence to claim to be a witch or medium but also to claim that someone else was. It was replaced in 1951 by the Fraudulent Mediums Act in which it became an offence to claim to be a medium in order to deceive or make money. This was in turn replaced by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

I just find it amusing that something which started as an issue of belief, practice and slander became one of consumer protection. mmm.