A Penley Register of the Interregnum - Part 1
by Derrick Pratt
(From Hel Achau, Issue 46, August 1995)
As most pedigree chasers become aware sooner or later in their researches, the fluctuating diocesan affiliations of the rural parishes east of Wrexham can cause problems. Until the Reformation
Holt, Isycoed, Bangor, Hanmer, Overton, Penley, Whitewell (Iscoyd), and Worthenbury were in the diocese of Lichfield and
Coventry. In 1541 all the foregoing, with the exception of Penley, were transferred to the newly created diocese of Chester. In 1849, apart from Whitewell, the six parishes in turn became part of St. Asaph diocese. Penley would remain part of Lichfield until Disestablishment in 1920.
The ecclesiastical history of Penley is further complicated by the fact that until c.1866 it was a chapelry and Perpetual Curacy of Ellesmere, Shropshire, with, for the genealogist, all those problems implied by subordinate status. However, Penley's own registers date from 1752 when the then churchwardens, Edward Dymock and John Randles, purchased a suitable calf-bound parchment book "for the Use of the township of Penley".
This earliest general register (Ba 1753-1812, M 1753, Bu 1753-1812) was transcribed, indexed and published in typescript in 1975, as was also (in 1980) the missing register of Baptisms covering the period 1813-72. The latter deficiency was made good from Bishop's Transcripts (BTs) (Lichfield JRO B/v/7 with photo-copies in CHOH NT/521). The BTs themselves are lacking for the years 1847, 1850 and 1864-72, which nine-year gap coincides with the incumbency of Rev. Richard Spoonley. The missing register contained 100 pages with eight entries to a page. If completed a maximum of 62 baptismal entries are unaccounted for over these nine years - a pity really, for up to 1852 there were only ten entries wanting in the transcripts. As 'restored' the register is 91% complete. Both these are being reset to bring them into line with the format of CFHS's published registers.
Prior to 1752, therefore, researchers into Penley family connections must have recourse to the Ellesmere registers which begin in 1654. It is interesting to note that Penley's own 1752 Register
starts off to include marriages. There are just two entries for 1753. Then something occurred and marriages ceased to be held or
recorded locally. This was possibly die to tightening up of regulations and the realisation that the building was not licensed for marriages (and would not be again until 1866 when the Rev. R. Spoonley himself defrayed the cost of the licence). The Penley Marriage Register recommenced in February 1867. But one should note that in the Ellesmere registers between 1679 and 1749 at least 22 weddings are specifically annotated as having taken place at Penley.
Now was the 1752 Register Penley's first? The long run of BTs at Lichfield JRO, also beginning in 1752, would seem to suggest it. But also in the JRO is a fragment, literally so, of a BT return
for 1663) containing just one baptismal entry. Hitherto I have been reluctant to assume that this could mean an earlier register was being kept by Penley Chapel. If so one would expect to find
more than the single scrap of paper that survives in BTs today. Yet something was happening. Prior to 1752 all Ba, M, and Bu entires in the Ellesmere registers relating to Penley (and the other
chapelries of Cockshutt and Dudleston) are usually distinguished by ' ... of Penley (or Cockshutt/Dudleston) township or something similar. But although Ellesmere registers begin in 1654, designated
Penley baptisms do not appear until 1669 and burials, after one false start in 1654, only in 1668. Similarly with
marriages - one Penley marriage in 1654, another in 1655 and then a gap until 1671. If not in Ellesmere's registers, the arrivals and departures of Penley folk must have been recorded separately In another book - or does one assume that there were no births, marriages or deaths in Penley over a 14-16 year period, or that over the same measure of time successive vicars of Ellesmere did not differentiate entries relating to their three outlying chapelries?
Such was the uncertain state of our knowledge up to June 1995. Then, out of the blue, the CRO, Hawarden, received a photo-copy of two sides of a large sheet of parchment some 11½ x 16½ins, badly stained in the lower half but for the most part legible. Each side was ruled down the centre and the columns headed "Baptizeings 1657" and "Burials 1659" in the hand of the 'incumbent', with the name 'Penley' in a different hand. It clearly represents the first two pages of an intended general register for Penley: Ba 1657-61 (26 entries), Bu 1659-60 (5 entries) all specified as taking place in Penley. Indeed the very first entry, dated 21 November 1659, is for the christening of one Samuel, son of the 'Minister' of Penley, John Broster. The book was taken away from Penley Church sometime after March 1661 and put to other uses as some sort of 17th century Common Place Book, ending up in London. A more detailed description of the book and its contents is awaited with interest. John Broster is first encountered in Hanmer's 1653-1743 Burial Register (VoI.2/Pt.2 in CFH's published series) where the burial of his elder son Richard is noted on 12 March 1658.
The dates are of significance and the use of the term 'Minister' smacks of the Puritan church organisation in the latter years of Oliver Cromwell's regime as Lord Protector. Even before the
1650 Act for the Better Propagation & Preaching of the Gospel, many Anglican vicars had withdrawn or had been removed from their
livings. The Rev. Henry Bridgeman was ousted from Bangor in 1646 and restored 1660. The Rev. John Roan of Hanmer was deprived in 1645 after less than year in office. He was no loss being dismissed briefly as 'Though a native of the parish not accepted of the people'! They were replaced with an initially itinerant clergy selected more for their skill as preachers and responsible for a number of congregations. In this they varied little from the pluralists before them and possibly merited the cynical comment 'the sinecure rector makes way for the fleeting preacher'! Post 1653 these arrangements gradually gave way to a settled ministry with ministers being 'intruded' into those places which had earlier served as bases for an itinerant ministry. This explains why in Maelor, instead of just the two multi-township 'ancient parishes' of Hanmer and Bangor, one also finds Presbyterian ministers at Whitewell, Worthenbury and Penley.
The date for this would appear to be late 1657 when, for example, Revs. Philip Henry and John Hanmer, who had received the Presbyterian ordination on 16 September 1657, were 'intruded' respectively into Worthenbury and Whitewell. Philip Henry's 'Intrusion' into Worthenbury was aided by the fact that he was domestic chaplain to John Puleston of Emral Hall, Worthenbury, former judge of the Common Pleas, member of many Parliamentary Committees for Flintshire and Denbighshire, as well of the Commission for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales. He bought the advowson of Worthenbury, and endowed the 'living' with £100 a year and a house. Based on the evidence of the registers, 1657/8 fits in very nicely with the time that the Rev. John Broster is first met with as 'minister' at Penley.
In fact Broster would appear to have been installed at Penley before official paperwork confirms the former chapelry's new parochial status. On 12 March 1657, following the recommendation of the Trustees for the Maintenance of Ministers and Division of Parishes, the Council of State formally approved "an augmentation of £40 to the minister of Penley Chapel, co. Flint, within the parish of Elsmeere, co. Salop". Such monies were found from the profits of sequestrated church lands and tithes. But it was not until 1 May 1658 that the Council appended its seal to orders, already put into effect on the ground, for the severance of Penley from Ellesmere and 'to make it a distinct parish'. (Cal. State Papers, 1656-7, 310; ibid. 1657-8, 376).
It goes without saying that, following the Restoration of Charles II in May 1660, these intruders were in turn ejected and Worthenbury, Whitewell and Penley reverted to the status quo as chapelries
of their ancient parishes. Full parochial status would be regained only in 1689, 1885 and 1866 respectively. Philip Henry
was replaced in 1661 by Rev. Richard Hilton as 'minister' of Worthenbury. But within months, as a restored and rather vengeful Rector of Bangor refused to acknowledge any ecclesiastical disposition made during the Commonwealth and harshly re-asserted the rights of his rectory, Hilton was transferred to Hanmer in the stead of the much loved Richard Steele, minister of that place 1645-62.
The last entry by John Broster in the Penley register is for 26 March 1661. He must have been forced to pack his bags shortly afterwards. It would be interesting to find out more about
this enigmatic clergyman. Unlike Philip Henry, who continued to live at Broad Oak, Iscoyd and in 1672 was even licensed to hold Presbyterian
meetings at his home, Broster leaves the area, taking his register book with him. He may have been re-ordained by bishops, conforming to the Book of Common Prayer as revised in 1662, or possibly he was forced to turn to schoolmastering somewhere. The next curate of Penley of which we have any notice is the Rev. George Armstrong, in place 1682, probably earlier, to c.1695, and therefore, given the usual mobility of curates, not likely to have been John Broster's immediate successor. However, with the latter having begun a register for Penley, it would appear that, in the rather fluid conditions that persisted for some time after the
restoration of the episcopacy, a curate(s) of Penley continued the tradition for the next eight or nine years until 1668/9, when the Vicar of Ellesmere ordained otherwise!
The information as contained in Penley's short-lived register of 1657-61 is as follows:
Penley Baptisms 1657-1661
|21 Nov 1657
||BROSTER Samuel, s/o John, Minister of Penley (born Nov 7)|
|25 Apr 1658||CHETWOOD Thomas, s/o Robert, Overton Maddocks|
|6 Jun 1658||CLEA Mary, d/o Luke otp (later: "dyed August ye last following")|
|17 Oct 1658||POWEL Joseph, s/o Peter, Hamptons Wood|
|17 Oct 1658||RANDLE Ermin, d/o John otp|
|14 Nov 1658||KINASTON Samuel, s/o Thomas otp (born Nov 1)|
|20 Mar 1659||TAYLOR Ermin, d/o Thomas otp (born Mar 2)|
|3 Apr 1659||GRYFFITHS Mary, d/o William otp|
|10 Apr 1659||WILLIAMS Sarah, d/o John otp|
|17 Apr 1659||BARNETT Margarett, d/o Thomas otp|
|24 Apr 1659||BROSTER John, s/o John, Minister of Penley (born Apr 14)|
|15 Jun 1659||DAVIES John,s/o Edward otp|
|7 Aug 1659||PARREY Daniel, s/o David otp|
|14 Aug 1659||ADAMS Joseph, s/o Thomas, Northwood|
|22 Jan 1660||LLUELIN Thomas, s/o Thomas otp|
|11 Mar 1660||John, s/o Richard ap Ellis otp|
|13 May 1660||SHONE Margarette, d/o Edward otp|
|30 May 1660||KINASTON Elinor, d/o Thomas otp|
|17 Jun 1660||BROAD Edward, s/o William|
|24 Jun 1660||LUNT John, s/o Raph otp|
|1 Jul 1660||EDWARDS Joseph, s/o Robert|
|15 Jul 1660||DRURY John, s/o John, Northwood|
|9 Sep 1660||JOHNES John, s/o Peter, Northwood|
|30 Nov 1660||JOY John, s/o Rhese, Northwood|
|26 Feb 1661||ROBERTS Awdrey, d/o John otp|
|26 Mar 1661||WILLIAMS Deborah, d/o John otp|
Penley Burials 1659-1660
|9 Apr 1659
||SHONE Margarett, w/o Morgan otp (died Apr 7)|
|27 Dec 1659||WILLIAMS Eward, s/o John otp (died Dec 26)|
|20 Apr 1660||LEE William, (died Apr 28) 'was buried in Penley Church in ye South lie neere ye south doore'|
|1 Aug 1660||JOHNES Elizabeth, d/o Isaack|
|2 Aug 1660||JOHNES Anne, d/o Isaack aforesaid|