Dadlington's association with the early days of the Quaker movement

This article first appeared in The Stoker 
If you drive through the nearby village of Fenny Drayton, you may well come across a monument to George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends or the Quakers as they are more commonly known. Born in 1624 in Drayton-in-the-Clay as Fenny was called then, George was fascinated by religion from an early age and, as a young man, he travelled around the country, discussing and debating his views with other men of religion and preaching. It was a time when many were rebelling against the strictures of the established church and George soon found he had followers who agreed with his ideas about what being a Christian was about. Life wasn’t easy and he and his supporters were often beaten and imprisoned. Sentencing him in Derby in 1650, a judge mocked George’s exhortation to” tremble at the word of the Lord,” by calling him and his followers Quakers. The name stuck. 

After the English civil war, the authorities viewed the Quakers more kindly and George met twice with the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. However, once Charles II was restored to the throne, the persecutions began again. George continued to be imprisoned on a regular basis, with calls to execute him rejected by parliament who didn’t want another religious martyr. Despite this, the Quaker movement grew and expanded across the country and overseas. George made trips to Europe, the Caribbean and North America before dying in 1691. He was interred at the Quakers burial ground at Bunhill Fields in London. George was a local man, but could there be closer connections to Stoke Golding and Dadlington?

Today the churches at Fenny, Stoke and Dadlington are part of the Fenn Lane Benefice and share the same clergy, often meeting together. In the 17thcentury it is unlikely that George, the son of a Fenny Drayton churchwarden, would have attended services more than occasionally in our villages. His mother was called Mary Lago before she married and the local historian W. T. Hall suggests that she originally came from Dadlington. The parish records for Dadlington certainly show a number of children being born to a George Lago in the early 1600s but not a Mary. Lago also appears in Stoke’s records. In his writings, George mentions a meeting with Cousin Bradford, another family name W. H. Hall found in the Dadlington records. Cousin Bradford had shocked George by professing to be religious but then getting drunk!

Although the local populace often sympathetically viewed Quakers, the authorities were intent on making life difficult for them. A 1670’s Dadlington man, Justice of the Peace Samuel Cotton, provided the legal force to help his brother William, the rector of Broughton Astley, to rid that village of their Quaker community. The meeting house was locked up and when the women Quakers tried to return, they were set upon by local youths. The Quakers were a determind group and simply up sticks and set up a new meeting house in the nearby village of Sutton in the Elms. Dadlington was to get it’s own religious dissenters’ chapel but that wouldn’t be for another hundred years. The building still stands, in the grounds of Hall Farm.

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