O is for Oaths

Oaths of Allegiance to the Sovereign date back to Magna Carta and have been extensively revised and reinvented in response to various circumstances. Examples include the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (in the gloriously named Popish Recusants Act 1605). Supremacy of the sovereign was a component of oaths of allegiance until the Promissory Oaths Act 1868. The religious component of the Oath remained however until the Oaths Act 1888. This gave partakers the right to affirm allegiance rather than swear to God. 'To God', rather than 'by Almighty God'; that came later in the Oaths Act 1909 which also made provision for Jews to swear on their scriptures whilst Christians swore on the New Testament.

This oath had to be sworn by people elected to parliament and other public roles including magistrates and members of the armed forces and, later, the police. As Quakers were not prepared to swear allegiance, believing their allegiance to be to God alone , they were excluded from these roles. Springhill and environs has a large Quaker community dating back to mid 16th century. The wider region also had a large recusant population who would be caught by any oath which denied the authority of the Pope as oaths in the time of James I did.