Saturday, June 25, 2022

Quaker Burial Ground

The Quaker burial ground of Dodderhill parish

There is in existence a map of Droitwich made in 1786 which shows a Graveyard towards the western end of the Vines area of the town. Interest was aroused when one of our project members was looking through some 19th century deeds, and found a reference to a piece of land called the ‘Quakers’ Graveyard’ in the Vines area of the Parish of Dodderhill in the Borough of Droitwich,

The history of the Vines area is odd and confusing. It lay within the boundaries of the Borough of Droitwich, the so-called ‘In liberties’, but was divided up between the five adjacent parishes, Dodderhill to the north, St. Nicholas mainly to the west, St. Peter mainly to the east, and St. Andrew and St. Mary Witton to the south (St. Mary Witton being a separate parish until united with St. Andrew in 1657 – according to the Register). So an area which we regard nowadays as being in Droitwich, was before 1900 thought of as belonging to a particular parish, and one of five different parishes at that.

The Quaker movement began in the middle of the 17th century when the ‘seekers’ after a more simple form of worship were united by George Fox, and Quakerism quickly spread from the north-west of England, despite the Friends (as they were otherwise known) suffering for their beliefs, as did other dissenters at the time. The first recorded meeting of the Friends in Worcester took place in 1655, and by 1670 the Churchwardens’ Presentments for St. Andrew’s list nine Quakers in Droitwich. Only one Dodderhill Quaker has so far come to light, William Tombs in 1690.

But where were these Quakers meeting, and where were they buried? The answer to the first question is elusive. In 1674 John Roberts is keeping a ‘house of conventicles’ – ie his house was licensed for Quaker meetings, but it isn’t known where he lived. A Beatrice Roberts, widow, lived in St. Andrew’s parish and kept an inn ‘The Hen and Chickens’, and this was probably the house referred to. She was definitely a Quaker, and her burial in 1696 was in the Quaker burial ground ‘called a Graveyard which is in the parish of Dodderhill’. Edward Phillips, the vicar, entered it in the Dodderhill Register.

Also in the Dodderhill register that year are the burials of the following Quakers: John Watts Junior, and Francis Watts, ‘Gent’, both of the parish of St. Mary Witton; John Tyler of St. Andrew’s (who had been left 5s. in the will of Beatrice Roberts); and in 1697, William Sale of St. Andrew’s. The burial of Widow Tiler (sic) in ‘ye graveyard’ in 1701 appears in St. Andrew’s Register, when James Tinker was the rector.

Some of the Quakers left wills which leave no doubt as to their religion. Beatrice Roberts and John Tombs both specified bequests to the ‘Poor Friends’, and Anne Hiatt in 1711 wished to be buried after the manner of the Quakers. She was the widow of a blacksmith in St. Andrew’s parish. In 1735 John Haydon, currier, died. His son Joseph was the sole executor and ‘appeared personally … and being of the sect called Quakers made a Solemn Affirmation according to the statute’ (Quakers refused to swear an oath).

Some 19th century deeds confirm that the graveyard shown on the 1786 map was still locally known as belonging to the Quakers – in 1846 and 1898 deeds it was described as lying between the River Salwarpe and the lane from Bromsgrove Turnpike to Berry Hill Gate which is now known as Vines Lane, and the site still remains there today as an undeveloped plot. Perhaps some descendants of those early Quakers would like to search out their ancestors’ resting place within the ancient bounds of Dodderhill Parish?

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