Church History: 17th century

The 17th century however, proved a time of great turbulence. Giggleswick parish favoured Oliver Cromwell’s side during the Commonwealth period and seems to have been greatly influenced by strands of Puritan “low” church theology and some practices which have left their mark almost to the present day. From 1643-7, Oliver Cromwell and his Commonwealth government set about destroying the Church of England as it had been nurtured by the English Reformers and the Elizabethan Settlement. The Book of Common Prayer was proscribed, just when Anglicans were beginning to value it. Ecclesiastical government and ministry by bishops, priests and deacons were abandoned. Universities were purged and many clergy evicted from their parishes. Church wardens were directed to remove all monuments of idolatry and superstition, such as stained-glass, statues, carvings on walls etc, in fact, anything that had escaped the first purging of a century before. Many items were thrown or buried in churchyards because church officers could not bring themselves to throw what had been considered holy, on to the common rubbish heap. Churches were to be utterly plain in furnishings with the emphasis on the pulpit, the English Bible, preaching and the written and spoken Word. Biblical scenes and paintings of saints on walls were whitewashed. In their place appeared painted texts, the Ten commandments and the Apostles Creed as on the east wall in Giggleswick Church, although these are late 19th century replacements. The practice of the Sacrament of Holy Communion became only occasional and there were certainly no lit candles on what could be clearly seen was an unadorned, movable table, and no longer a fixed and covered altar. Moreover, the feasting, dancing and celebratory parts of church festivals including Christmas, were banned throughout the whole Commonwealth period.

We know from a record of 1620, that there were late medieval and early Tudor stained glass windows in Giggleswick Church, but that there were just plain glass windows in the church after the Restoration of 1660. There is a strong tradition backed by evidence provided by the restoration of 1890-2, that Cromwell’s soldiers under Major General John Lambert camped and lit their fires in a bleak and bare Giggleswick Church. See the article on Thomas Brayshaw. Nationally, a new Presbyterian form of government, a new Directory of worship, a new catechism and confession of faith were introduced. The use of the term “minister” instead of “priest” for an incumbent was obligatory. I notice that in Thomas Brayshaw’s Red Book until at least the 1930s, only the term “minister” is used for a vicar of Giggleswick, never “priest”.

Oliver Cromwell died in 1658. Although he certainly left his mark on the religious life and practices of the national church, Anglicans had not taken to his Presbyterian form of church government .The date 1660 saw not only the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, but the restoration of the Church of England, followed in 1662 by the revision of the Book of Common Prayer, a revision which is still in use today. The Restoration brought its own problems for the pro-Presbyterian clergy who could not accept a return to Anglican beliefs, worship practices and government. Incumbents who could not conform to the new Act of Uniformity, were evicted from their livings. There was a problem with Anthony Lister, vicar of Giggleswick. He seems to have been vicar for 2 separate terms, with a gap in between. One began just before the Commonwealth period in 1638 and the other, from 1684-6.