Sequestration of the Rector of Peldon

Sequestration of The Reverend John Cornelius, Peldon's Rector, During the Civil War in 1643

[ Sequestration - the removal from his rectory and living and his goods confiscated ]

Political and religious conflicts between the supporters of King Charles I and Parliamentarians led to the English Civil War which lasted from 1642 to 1651.

It is considered by historians to be a series of three Civil Wars, the first between 1642 and 48, the second 1648-9 and the third after the execution of Charles I from 1649 - 1651. During the Wars the principal battles were Edghill, Naseby and Marston Moor but these were only a part of this bitter conflict between the two sides, popularly called the Cavaliers (Royalists) and Roundheads (Parliamentarians).

Towns such as Hull and Gloucester were besieged during the wars and locally, in 1648, Colchester was subjected to an eleven-week siege. The town, generally supporting Parliament, was used as a bolt-hole by the Royalists. The town gates were closed and the Royalists occupied the town while the Parliamentarian forces camped round the town, shelling those trapped inside and not allowing anyone out or food and supplies in. Evidence of the bombardment still stands including the church tower of St Mary at the Walls, in its vulnerable position by the Roman wall, partially rebuilt after the siege, and the musket bullet holes in the Siege House at the bottom of East Hill.

King Charles I, who came to the throne in 1625, believed in the Divine Right of Kings, refusing to listen to his Parliament and ruling without calling them from 1629 -1640. He instituted additional taxes, needing finance for his expensive lifestyle; most famously he tried to extend his Ship Tax to inland towns whereas it had been traditionally levied on coastal areas. This was a tax he levied without Parliament's approval and it had hitherto only been collected in times of emergency. From 1635 he collected this tax annually.

When Charles was finally tried and sentenced to death (he was executed in 1649) he was found guilty of attempting

a wicked design to erect and uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his Will, and to overthrow the Rights and Liberties of the People.

He had

traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament and the people therein represented

He was condemned as a Tyrant, Traitor, Murderer, and a public and implacable Enemy to the Commonwealth of England. Historic Royal Speeches and Writings www.royal.uk

Charles had also approved extremely unpopular ecclesiastical reforms undertaken by his close adviser and Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud.   Covertly favouring Roman Catholic doctrines, Laud was regarded by Puritan clerics and laymen as a formidable and dangerous opponent. King Charles, a Protestant, had married a Catholic French wife at the beginning of his reign, causing much disquiet about a papist plot to overturn the British government.

The strong Puritan movement against the influence of Catholicism within the Church of England and differences in religious practices brought the battle right to the heart of every parish in England. It made for a divided society - in some cases divided families.

On 2nd November 1640 The Reverend John Cornelius became the rector of Peldon. Born in Margaretting, he had studied at Cambridge University, had an MA and was a Doctor of Divinity. Having been appointed by the family of the Catholic Countess Rivers (who was also a Royalist supporter) he was clearly 'high church' and will have resisted adapting his religious beliefs and practices to the times.

Following a series of attacks by Colchester Puritan mobs on Royalist Sir John Lucas's house at Colchester and the Countess Rivers' house at St Osyth, further raids were made on homes of church ministers appointed by them. In August 1642, at the outbreak of Civil War, rectories in Great Holland, Great Braxted, Little Tey, Great Birch and Peldon were attacked.

It was on 24th August 1642 a crowd attacked and robbed the Peldon rectory, apparently doing so again the next day.

It seems the Rector, John Cornelius, was away from home and according to the Royalist newspaper Mercurius Rusticus, the rectory was plundered of some £400 worth of goods.

They spared not his library, nor his wives childbed linnen

In the Quarter Session Rolls for 3rd December 1642, held by the Essex Records Office, the indictment of William Hudson of Peldon, labourer, appears.

He broke into the dwelling house of John Cornelius clerk there, and stole 2 bibles worth 10s and 3 pairs of sheets worth 60s belonging to John Cornelius, and one bible worth 5 s of Philippa Perryn*, widow, and 4 silk buttons worth 2s of William Pissey from the house. Witnesses: Cornelius, Pissey and Samuel Luckyn. ERO Q/SR 319/101
*Perryn was Cornelius' wife's maiden name, was Philippa his mother-in-law?

Then in December 1642, there was a renewed attack.

A great company of people set out from Colchester to attack the minister at Peldon, one of the crowd's victims in the summer.

The ERO document Q/SR 319/87 at Epiphany 1643 records the undertaking by Cornelius to appear in Court

Recognizance of John Cornelius of Peldon, Clerk, to give evidence against William Hudson of Colchester, labourer, Sarah, wife of Edward Mann of Peldon, labourer and Mary Hoy for felony

According to Understanding Popular Violence in the English Revolution: the Colchester Plunderers by John Walter

Mann was the wife of a Peldon labourer, presented for unlicensed victualling in the 1650s. Mary Hoy was from the hamlet of Bures, but her unnamed brother was 'said to be one of Cornelius' servants to have taken part in the attack'.

The Calendar of the prisoners in Colchester Castle bound to appear at the Quarter Sessions reports

William Hudson committed by Francis Gardner for stealing goods out of the house of John Cornelius of Peldon, Clerk, in the daytime ERO Q/SR 319/46

The Quarter Session Rolls of Epiphany 1643 record the indictment of the attackers on 7th January 1643. The following is the content of the document given by the Essex Records Office.

Indictment of William Hudson and Sarah, wife of Edward Mann, both of Peldon, labourer, about 10 o'clock, forcibly broke into the dwelling house of John Cornelius clerk there and put divers persons of his household in bodily fear of their lives, and stole a 'bible' worth 5s, a 'locke smoothing iron' [Note 1] worth 2s, 2 'fanne of feathers with silver handles' worth 5 s another 'fanne of feathers with a handle of silver and guilt' worth 5s, 'unam 3 yards of tenie anglice silk and silver lace' [Note 2] worth 2s 6d 'unam virgulam anglice a brushe' [Note 3] worth 6d and 'a yealowe taffatie capp' worth 6d. Pleads not guilty. Acquitted. Witnesses: Cornelius, Samuel Luckyn ERO Q/SR 319/14

Note 1 'locke smoothing iron' It is possible  that 'locke' could be a diminutive form of lockram = linen
Note 2   'unam 3 yards of tenie'. 
  'unam' means 'one'. 
  'tenie' is a form of lace and here the translation is given as silk and silver lace
  'anglice' in this context means 'an English translation'.
Note 3 'virgulam'is a rod but the word here is used to mean 'a brush'.

Presumably the acquittal of the prisoners was a sign of the times.

In July 1643 a council of divines and members of the English Parliament was appointed to restructure the Church of England, this was the Westminster Assembly.

Then began the sequestration of clergymen loyal to the King and overtly influenced by Catholicism. They were replaced and silenced. Charges would be laid against them, often by local parishioners, who would tell of errors in doctrine, sometimes using the opportunity to get rid of a clergyman they didn't like. The accused had two weeks in which to prepare their defence but as a general rule Royalist clergy did not defend themselves.

It is known John Cornelius was sequestrated from the Peldon living by 19th December 1644.

So what did this mean? He, his wife and children would have had to leave their home. They were instantly stripped of home, income and possessions. Cornelius would, in every likelihood, have had to put himself and his family at the mercy of friends or family. We do not know where they went for the sequestration period which lasted from December 1644 - 1660.

Replacing Cornelius was The Reverend Francis Onge of whom the Reverend Anthony Gough wrote

Onge, a convinced Puritan, strongly supported the work of the Westminster Assembly

He was also one of the signatories of the Essex Testimony in 1648

A testimony of the ministers in the province of Essex, to the trueth of Iesus Christ, and to the solemn league and covenant; as also against the errors, heresies, and blasphemies of these times, and the toleration of them.

Gough tells us that Onge entered into a protracted litigation with Cornelius's wife concerning her 'fifths'. This was the allocation of a fifth of the proceeds of the living to the wife and family of a priest whose living had been sequestrated. From January 1643/1644 this was the normal practice laid down by Parliamentary Ordinance.

It was not until 1660 with the Restoration of the King, Charles II, that Cornelius was restored to the living in Peldon. He stayed until 1662 when he moved to the living of Clavering where the incumbent, John Moore, had refused to agree to conform with the new King, one of nearly a thousand ministers of the Church of England ejected for failing to do so.

Cornelius had been rector of Clavering in 1641, possibly another cause for complaint amongst his parish, his being priest of two parishes!

Gough tells us that Cornelius came to an arrangement with Onge and Francis Onge returned to Peldon in 1662, staying until his death in 1667. Gough tells us that Onge did conform under the Act of Uniformity.

Thomas Harwood in his 1806 History and Antiquities of the Church and City of Lichfield wrote of Cornelius

He suffered many difficulties and indignities during the Usurpation but survived the Restoration and was reinstated in his preferments. He died in 1674/5

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Project

Sources
"St Mary The Virgin, Peldon" The Rev Anthony Gough, 1970
"Understanding Popular Violence in the English Revolution: the Colchester Plunderers" John Walter 1999
"The Siege of Colchester" Daphne Woodward and Chloe Cockerill
"History and Antiquities of the Church and City of Lichfield" 1806 Thomas Harwood
Essex records Office documents
Q/SR 319/101
Q/SR 319/87
Q/SR 319/46
Q/SR 319/14

Thanks to Wendy Smedley for assistance with the Latin translations

Author: Elaine Barker
March 2020
ID: PH01_SEQ
Source: Mersea Museum