The Cockpit of Conscience
Society, Politics, & Religion in Stuart Lancashire 1603-1714
J. A. Hilton
Seventeenth-century Lancashire, stretching from the Mersey to Coniston Water, seemed a county of religious extremes. Religion was seen as the glue that held society together, so religious uniformity was essential, and attendance at the Sunday services of the Protestant Church of England was compulsory. In Lancashire, however, an obstinate minority remained Roman Catholic. Moreover, some Protestant ministers were Puritans, who believed that the Church of England was not Protestant enough.
Meanwhile, many people were ignorant and superstitious, plague was endemic, the county was infested with witches, fairies, and demons, but there were a few alchemists and scientists. Religious differences intensified political tensions, and resulted in the Civil Wars, which tore Lancashire apart. The Puritans abandoned the Church of England, and divided into Presbyterians and Congregationalists, which provided the opportunity for increasingly novel and bizarre sects, not only Baptists and Quakers, but also Seekers, Grindletonians, and Ranters, many of them scribbling away to be read by us. Eventually the Revolution Settlement provided religious toleration for all Protestants, and provided the excuse for some to absent themselves from both church and chapel.
Paperback; 210 x 148mm