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Quakers of Dorset

In following the trail of the Norman family of Charminster I came across an entry in the parish registers between 1745 and 1746 which read "The names of the children of James and [blank] Norman, Quakers - inserted here by their desire" and there followed a list of names with dates of birth between 1734 and 1746. And so my journey into Quaker ancestry began.

I have found several Norman families which I am sure must be connected, but have yet to find the vital links. The three main ones all include children named Lewis, Ralph and James, two of them have clockmakers in them, and they all have some Quakers too. In trying to sort these out, I became intrigued by one particular Lewis Norman. I don't know where he was born or where he died, but his life is well documented amongst Quaker records. Here then, is a brief account of his journey through life as a Quaker.

He first appears in Quaker records in the Minutes of the Quarterly Meeting in 1694 where it says that he is to set up a weekday meeting at Whitfield (in the parish of Lillington). Two years later he was married to another Quaker, Mary Bound. He was then of the Whitfield Meeting. A year after their marriage, Mary died and was of the Sherborne Monthly Meeting.

In the records of the Dorchester Quarterly Meeting in 1705, Lewis (Luce) Norman is ordered to attend the "servis of Truth" at the Yearly Meeting at Bristol. Lewis attended many of the monthly and quarterly meetings, not just in his own locality. He appears in Sherborne, Dorchester, Weymouth and Bridport. Through the years he represents the meetings of Sherborne, Ryme Intrinseca and Yetminster.

In 1711 he married Mary Masters, a widow of the Bradford Abbas Meeting at the Sherborne Meeting where he is said to be of Whitfield. Two years later their daughter Sarah was born and is recorded at the Ryme Intrinseca Meeting and two years after that, a son Jonathan. Also in 1715 his brother Samuel died. Lewis was bound on the administration along with his mother Hannah.

Hannah died the following year in 1716 and left a will. Given that no record of births have been found, Quaker or otherwise, of this Norman family, Hannah's will is extremely helpful. She leaves money to her son James and his four children by his first wife, to her son William and his four children, to her daughter Elizabeth and her seven children including one named John Hull, to her grandaughter Mary, daughter of her late son John, married to John Webb. To her grandaughter Sarah the daughter of her son Lewis, to her son in law Thomas Tuffin, to her kinswomen Mary and Elizabeth Walsh and also to the Friends of the Whitfield Meeting. The residue was to go to Lewis.

During the following twelve years, Lewis is to be found in the Book of Sufferings. Quite vast sums were extracted from him for the non-payment of tithes. The first time appears to be in 1717 when it is recorded "Taken from Lewis Norman of Whitfield in Lillington oxen worth 9.15s". In 1719 things seem to get a bit more serious for we find "Taken from Lewis Norman of Whitfield by warrant under the hand of Robert Hendy for not paying tithes 9".

A year later Lewis seems to have tried to escape, albeit not very far away because he is by then of Yetminster but charged for non-payment of tithes "whilst he lived at Whitfield". This occurs almost yearly and in 1726 he has to pay 25.10s.

Besides appearing many times in the Book of Sufferings he appears elsewhere in Quaker records. In 1719 he was made a trustee of land for charitable uses by deed of Daniel Taylor of Bridport, another Quaker.

He is mentioned in connection with the lease of the Knapp and Bluntshays estate at Whitchurch Canonicorum in 1745, and again in 1747 as a trustee in the deeds of the Pymore Estate. He is then still of Yetminster. By this time he would be in the region of 70 years of age and certainly appears to have led a full life, well travelled and devoted to the cause of the Society of Friends.

Sources all at Dorset County Record Office:

NQ1 A15 Account of Sufferings 1659-1741

NQ1 A19 Letters - departed Quakers 1669-1741

NQ1 A20 Certificates of enrolment of Meeting Houses at Quarter Sessions 1691-1728

NQ1 Q2 Births - Wilts, Dorset & Hants 1648-1836

NQ1 Q3 Burials - Wilts, Dorset & Hants 1659-1836

NQ1 Q4 Marriages - Wilts, Dorset & Hants 1668-1836

NQ1 A1 Minutes of the Dorset Quarterly Meeting 1668-1786

NQ1 F1 Minutes of the Sherborne Monthly Meeting 1728-1738

NQ1 D1 Minutes of the Bridport Monthly Meeting 1690-1783

NQ1 R3/1 Report of conveyance of charitable use land - Daniel Taylor 1719

NQ1 R3/5 Deeds - Lease of Knapp and Bluntshays estates 1745


Nb. This is not a complete list of the records of the Society of Friends at DCRO.


Copyright © Debby Rose

This article appeared in The Greenwood Tree, journal of the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society, Vol.21 No.1 February 1996 under the title of "Norman Family of Charminster"

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