Autobiography of a non-conformist minister from infancy, through the Civil War and up to the last years of the Stuart Dynasty. Of equal importance to the Diary of Samuel Pepys, but now largely forgotten. A self-educated ordinary working class man, Adam was born in 1523. His father was in great debt at this time. Adam was unusually accident prone, almost drowning, falling down mineshafts, tumbling from horses, etc, throughout his life. He takes  calamity with good humour and astonishing honesty. Taught to read by his sister, he took care of his own learning from an early age, with an early love of the Bible. He went to a Free School in St. Helens, and to other, (not free) ones later. In 1632 tragedy struck twice. His Mother died, and his sister rode home on learning of this from her house in London. She had twice contracted plague in London but survived each time, but on the ride north she contracted smallpox and died without first uniting with her already grieving family. With Civil War erupting in Lancashire, Adam describes the ruthless recruitment tactics of The Earl Of Derby. Derby (Lord Strange) forced men with scythes and hoes to the front of his marching lines with musketeers behind, threatening to shoot them if they tried to desert. The men were effectively trapped between enemy guns and those of Derby’s men. The war saw many merchants withdraw their monies to invest in the armies, so Adam’ father, already drinking too heavily, lost his entire fortune. Adam took a temporary posting in the Wigan town called Holland. As a clergyman-teacher he gained permission not to fight, but Roundhead bullies forced him to sign up anyway to the Parliament Army. Adam became a clerk to Colonel Moore, governor for Liverpool, Adam had neither pike nor musket, but he did have a sword for self-defence. Liverpool fell to Prince Rupert and Adam surrendered without fighting.  He was treated cruelly and imprisoned for nine weeks. For him, the war was over. He kept a low profile from then on until the close of the fighting. Adam moved to Gorton, Manchester, where his wife had five children, three of who died within a year. Theological disputes kept his church arrangements in perpetual schism. He was continually on the sharp end of hostile peer group pressure. His obstinate near-Catholic views on transubstantiation of blood of Christ at the Last supper were a particularly thorny theological issue for him. Some arguments were petty, i.e.; should a church be called a steeple-house? Adam’s father died in 1658. Though he despised Cromwell, Adam served the principles of The Engagement laws. These laws imposed on Adam to ensure that his parishioners observed the Sabbath, and he enforced this with some gusto. This got him in serious trouble. Adam, who took a local constable with him, visited one lady refusing to attend mass. Adam clams that he was not present when the constable later whipped the lady, who later died of a chill. Adam found himself indirectly accused of her murder for this. With Cromwell’s death in 1658, his son Richard became Lord protector, and Sir George Booth called for Royalists in Lancashire to create disturbances in order to bring back the monarchy. Adam naively let slip that he hoped Booth would succeed which many regarded as seditious. With the restoration, Charles 2cd created the law of opposition to Conventicles, which proved dangerous for Adam. It was now illegal to have any religious activity outside of the private home or an officially recognized church gathering. This not only prevented large open air prayer meetings where conspirators could make plots together; it also prevented vicars like Martindale giving comforting prayer to the sick, grieving and dying. Like many, he broke the rules. Like many, he got caught doing so. He was sent to prison in Chester. Released on bail-bonds, Adam had a local maypole destroyed as a symbol of pagan worship. His imprisonment cost him dearly. He was £3,000 in debt, which he paid up by selling livestock and moving to Leigh. Adam now defied the five Mile exclusion laws, which stated that no non-conformists could live or work near to any town in which they had preached before. He was arrested again, but his knowledge of law and casuistry got him freed from all charges. In 1671, Adam was teaching and preaching in Middleton, Manchester and at Dunham Massey. The King now passed a toleration Law for all dissenting faiths. Adam was free to preach as he wished, but he resented the same freedom extending to Catholics and Quakers who he despised. The death of his son hit Adam hard in 1680. Things might have gone well for Adam now in his dotage, but for the doomed Monmouth Rebellion. Monmouth wanted to snatch the throne from James 2cd, but he failed and died. However, in fear that they might give support, all non-conformists, including Adam, were arrested. Again, he was sent to Chester for imprisonment, but his jailor sympathized with his position and treated him leniently, even inviting him to his own house for meals. Again, he was released on bond. His story ends with a lament about the death of a friend in 1685. A footnote tells us that Adam died himself in some pain in September 1686.



© Copyright. Arthur Chappell