Among local documents are many papers relating to general
politics and affairs of administration, sent to the Holm for the
instruction of the authorities; in some cases the originals were
copied by the clerk and kept for reference. With most of these a
history of the parish need not concern itself, because they do no
more than illustrate the history of England as a whole and they are
found elsewhere. Of this kind is the series of instructions following the Act of 1581 and relating to measures taken against papal
emissaries or 'friends of the king of Spain' and their possible
supporters, the recusants. From such the Holm appears to have
been free; in the return of Chancellor Dethick, January 1597, none
are mentioned as belonging to this parish.
Nonconformity did not invade the Holm until the Commonwealth period. The first important movement was the formation
of a branch of the Society of Friends. George Fox found 'a large
Meeting' in 1657 as the result of pioneer-work by Robert Saull of
Silloth and Simon Osmotherley, who had already "separated
themselves from the national worship before the coming of Friends
and kept meetings in their houses, being men zealous in their way
and of those called Roundheads" (Beginnings of Quakerism, 1912,
p. 121). In 1653 James Lancaster of Walney came " to the
steeple house of Abbey Holm and declared ye truth to ye people.
As he was going away the people followed him and were something rude, but especially Mr. Briscoe." A little after came
William Dewsbury on the same mission; he was beaten and
ducked in the river but William Lothwaite received him "and was
convinced, and his wife, and others were soon convinced that day
at Abbeyholm." William Lowthwaite was imprisoned for 31
weeks in 1660 for refusing the oath.
One of the most notable of the sufferers for the cause in its early
days was Thomas Stordy of Moorhouse, a man of considerable
property and a descendant of Janet Skelton, great-niece of Abbot
Chamber (see the pedigree p. 152). In 1662 he went to visit
friends in Carlisle gaol (the Citadel) and was detained on suspicion.
The oath of allegiance was tendered to him, and as he refused to
swear at all, he was subjected to the penalty of a premunire. The
sheriff sold up all his real and personal estate, and he was kept a
prisoner for ten years, after which he was released and his real
estate was restored to him at the intercession of the Earl of
Carlisle. A few years later he was prosecuted for absenting
himself from church and thrown into prison, where he died in
December 1684. His daughter married George, son of Mungo
Bewley of Carlisle, also a prisoner for the cause (R. S. Ferguson,
Early C. and W. Friends, 109f). These were not the only sufferers
in the Holm; Besse (Sufferings of the Quakers, ii) mentions Hugh
Stamper as imprisoned at Carlisle in 1655 and again next year for
21 weeks; and there are references in the ecclesiastical courts to
presentments in 1670 of William Langcake, John Waite and John
Pearson for failing to have their children baptized, and in 1675
of a number of Skeltons, Sauls and others for the same reason.
Again, in 1680 John Saul, John Ostell and John Barne, of the
Holm, were presented for refusing to swear in the manor court.
In 1682 William Langcake, William Saul and John Waite had been
for over three years in prison at Carlisle at the suit of Sir William
Dalston, farmer of the tithes (Ferguson, p. 176). But on the
whole it is observed that Quakers in the Holm were not so actively
persecuted as elsewhere, and in 1689 their members were released
from prison and the Society enjoyed much more freedom. From
1706 to about 1720 they complained of the animosity of a group,
chiefly Pearsons and Robinsons of Wigton, who having been
Quakers turned against their friends, and under the name of
Ranters, disturbed meetings, broke windows and assaulted harmless individuals; but this had nothing to do with the legal aspect of
the matter. In the eighteenth century distraint for tithes was
still in force. It is said that from 1727 to 1788 goods to the value
of £580 were seized in the Holm to pay tithes amounting to £346,
the balance going for costs and loss on the forced sales.
Nevertheless Quakerism took firm root in the district. The
Beckfoot meeting, begun in 1653, was able in 1735 to purchase a
house and land, as we gather from a deed of 1819 referring to that
property. The original purchasers were John Saul, Daniel
Hayton and Robert Wilkinson, all of Beckfoot, and Thomas Ostle
of Newtown, and the price was £35. It is probable that this
transaction gives the date of the foundation of Beckfoot meetinghouse. Most of the inhabitants in the district lying along the
coast from Dubmill to Blitterlees became attached to the Society,
and even during the first quarter of the nineteenth century great
resistance was made to the payment of tithes; in the recollection
of some recently living, the auctioneer was brought in to effect
sales on behalf of the tithe-farmer.
On the other side of the parish, at Kirkbride and Angerton, there
was a similar colony of Quakers from about 1653. Their meetinghouse is mentioned by Quarter Sessions, April 9, 1698:—"These
are to certify that at the request of certaine people called Quakers
and by the p'sentment of the court p'suant to the late Act of
Parliament hath ordered one house at Kirkbride lately built there
upon a certaine piece or parcel of ground by Arthur Skelton and
other purchasers for that purpose to be recorded for a Meeting
house for their religious worshipp."
The Wesleyan chapel at Mawbray was opened on Oct. 12, 1843,
at a cost of £140 15s. 3d. The local trustees (other than these from
a distance) were Jos. Tremble, Jos. Thompson, Solomon Osborn,
Michael Boyle and Jonathan Pape (information from Mr. B. Bell
of Mawbray). At Abbeytown the Wesleyans met for some years
before 1859, when a chapel was opened. The chief movers in the
building were John Mann of Sandenhouse and William Osborne
of Abbey, and the total expense, being £257, was raised by
subscription. In 1909 this chapel was enlarged. At Silloth a
Wesleyan chapel was built in 1875 at a cost of £860. The
Wesleyan chapel at Foulsyke was opened in June 1889.
A Primitive Methodist chapel, seating 150, was built in 1868 at
A Congregational chapel, seating 320, was built at Silloth in
1862. The ministers have been the Revs. H. Perfect, 1863; Joseph
Thornton, 1871; J. Gordon, 1872; W. A. Wrigley, 1886; James
S. Swan, 1895; R. W. Johnson, 1900; G. T. Carr in 1908; H. T.
Wood from 1911 to 1915, and J. H. Morris from 1925. A little
chapel with sittings for 150 was founded in 1833 at New Couper;
it has always been under the care of the congregation of Aspatria
(information from Rev. Philip Ashton, Carlisle).
A Presbyterian church of England was built at Silloth in 1884
at a cost of £1000, to which a manse was added for £800. The
ministers have been—Rev. John Brown, M.A., 1884-1919; Rev.
William Kidd, 1920-22; Rev. J. G. Wiley, 1923-26 and from
May 1927 the Rev. Richard Downes, by whom this information is