The Corbett One Name Study

The Quakers of Brailes


The earliest record I have of Corbets at Brailes, Warwickshire is that of William baptising his children Edward, Ann, John, Francis, Anna and Elizabeth between 1579 and 1589.

Edward Corbet (or Corbet, Corbit/Corbitt) married in about 1607 and had his children, Elizabeth, Edward, William, Letitia, Martha, John, Anna, Dorothea, Maria and Thomas baptised between 1608 and 1629.

Edward and John, in this family (and of the title), were baptised 4 April 1609 and 27 February 1617 respectively and they became Quakers.

The Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, as they are now known, was founded by George Fox in 1647. He was born at Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire (1624-91) and was apprenticed to a Nottingham shoemaker but at nineteen felt a divine call and wandered the country preaching, often interrupting services. He began preaching in the north of England and soon established a large following.

The name 'Quakers' was bestowed on them derisively in 1650 after Fox bade Justice Bennet of Derby to 'Quake before the Lord'. He also said that the Lord forbad him to take off his hat to any man, high or low. Throughout the rest of his life he endured insults, persecutions and imprisonment. In 1656 the year after he and his followers refused to take the oath of abjuration, over one thousand of them were in jail.

He married Margaret Fell, the widow of a judge, and went to Barbados, Jamaica, America, Holland and Germany. Part of the time he was accompanied by Penn and other Quaker leaders.

He died November 13 1690. He was said to be an amiable man with a heart full of love for his fellows. He instituted systems of registration, poor relief, education and self help. Friends also have a history of pacifism.

In 1650 a Act of Parliament made them liable for any act of blasphemy and meeting records exist from about 1654. In 1656 missionaries were sent to America.

In 1660 Edward Corbet appeared in the Warwickshire County Records Vol. IV: Proceedings in Quarter Sessions 1657-1665 (Names underlined appear again later.):
Brayles - Michaelmas 1660: Whereas this court was this day informed on behalf of the inhabitants of Brayles in this county that Nicholas Bishopp, Thomas Bishopp, William Eddon, Michael Tennant, James Rymill, Thomas Eddon, Trubshawe Swarbricke, William Bishopp, Samuel Hadland, William Kilby, William Phipps, George Wyatt, John Cockbill, Edward Corbett, Thomas Marshall and Thomas Huckvall, inhabitants of Brayles aforesaid, do neglect and refuse to pay their levies for and towards the repair of the church and school there, it is thereupon ordered that the said several persons before named, or any of them shall refuse to do so, then the next Justice of the Peace of this county to the said parish of Brayles is desired to bind over the said several persons or such of them as shall refuse to yield obedience to this order to appear at the next General Sessions of the Peace to be holden for this county of Warwicke to answer their contempt therein.

Further details about the two brothers appear in the following extract from 'Edgehill & Beyond, The People's War in the South Midlands 1642-1645' by Philip Tennant, page 226. Chapter: The Disintegrating Church (Subject: Dissent): Lorde Saye later spoke of Quakers as the devil's emissaries and had them evicted from cottages in Broughton and imprisoned. One of the most populous parishes in the district, Brailes, might serve as a fairly typical case-study in this spiritual diversity. One of the many Sheldon manors it was also home to another influential catholic family, the Bishops, who had figured so prominently in recusancy lists over the years, and with a vicar suspected of royalism. and friendly with the Crofts of Shipston, themselves allied to the Sheldons. It was William Bishop who later denounced several of his Quaker neighbours, George Wyatt, Edward and John Corbet, seized when harvesting in the fields and thrown into a dungeon at Warwick Castle 'twenty steps under the ground'. The ostensible reason for this persecution was non-payment of tithes to Bishop, a typical Quaker gesture .....' This event took place in 1660.

Many Friends were imprisoned and 4000 were released in 1661 after the end of the Commonwealth. The Quaker Act of 1662 (and 1664) allowed unlicensed meeting (conventicles) to be broken up and by 1670 another act encouraged informers.

The Society's system of organisation was establish in 1666 and its library in 1673. Another Act in 1672 required all holders of public office to take an oath of supremacy. This prevented Quakers from taking such positions because they refused to take oaths.

John Corbett was yeoman and his name occurs again and again in Quarter Sessions records from 1679 to 1687.

Michaelmas 1679 John Cockbill and Clemency his wife, George Wyatt and Bridget his wife, John Wyatt and his wife. John Corbert, Thomas Walker and Joan Fox, all of Brayles, presented for not coming to church and going by the name of Quakers.

Michaelmas 1680 .... John Corbert ..... of Brayles, presented for Quakers and not coming to their parish church.
Easter 1681 ...... John Corbett of Brayles .... presented severally for not coming to church and going under the name of Quakers.
Trinity 1681 .... John Corbett ... of Brayles presented severally for not going to church to hear divine service, being reputed Quakers.

His name continues to appear with the same charge at Michaelmas 1681, Epiphany 1682, Trinity 1682, and throughout 1683, Michaelmas 1685, Easter and Trinity 1686, where he is shown as a yeoman, and Epiphany 1687 when his name is spelt Corbitt.

In 1682 William Penn founded Pennsylvania as a Quaker state. An Act of 1689 ended persecution but as they refused to pay church tithes they still suffered.

Within the same Quarter Sessions records mentioned earlier further details are given regarding the Brailes Quakers.
'A Quaker from Brailes was distrained (had goods seized) in 1657, and in 1660 three were imprisoned for not paying their tithes. In 1669 a conventical was reported in the house of George Wyatt.

The Meeting House was built in 1678 when land was bought and in 1684 three Quakers were presented for erecting it. It was registered in 1689. The site was Cross Yeat close between Upper and Lower Brailes and included a burial ground which was extended in 1705. Up to 1689 the meeting was attended by members from Upper and Lower Brailes, Lower Chelmscote, Idlecote, Stourton, Sutton-under-Brailes, Whatcote and probably Winderton.

The number of certain Quakers presented at Quarter Sessions from this area during 1682-1687 was 23 though some of the Protestant dissenters were probably Quakers. Together presentments and registers indicate a membership in 1689 of between 50 and 100 of all ages.

During the 18th century membership extended in the area, but declined in numbers owing to emigration to America. Meetings became monthly in 1738 but returned to weekly, after a temporary increase in membership, in 1761. The meetings came to an end in 1854.

The meeting house was used by the Wesleyans until 1891 when it was in a dangerous condition and was pulled down. The burial ground remains in the possession of the Warwickshire monthly meeting.'

Here this part of the tale ends for I have discovered no further records of the Brailes Qauker Corbets.

Apart from an apprenticeship record 9 October 1656 Richard Corbett, son of Richard Corbett, late of Brailes in the County of Warwickshire, husbandman, deceased, hath put himself apprentice to Christopher Knight of St Katherines for 7 years from the 9th October and several marriages the Corbett family disappears. Margaret married in 1580 to John Jestor; Edmund 1588 to Joan Tubb; Anna 1614 to John Watkins; Joan in 1625 to John Bumpas; Edmund in 1626 to Joan Shepheard; Ann in 1637 to William Collins.

Another Quaker family came from Middleham, Yorkshire, that of Moses and Mary Corbett. Their son Matthew went to London where he married his first wife, Elizabeth Atkinson in 1791, and then moved to Manchester where he married twice more, Mary Jepson in 1802 and Sarah Spurr in 1805.

The nice thing about Quaker records is that they give both parents names and origin. One of our members, Richard, is connected to this (locally) eminent family. It is another family who may trace their name back to Corby rather than Corbet.

An article in the Essex Review of 1948 written by Felix Hull, then Archivist of the Essex Record Office, mentions another Quaker, Walter Corbet.
The record is among those of the Archdeaconries of Essex and Colchester and of the Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London in Essex and Herts., 1662-88. Walters' named is listed for the Parish of Steeple in 1662.

'Only once has reference to imprisonment been noted in the Archdeaconry Records, and that was in March, 1662-3, when Joseph and John Pollard of Steeple, together with one Walter Corbett, have the Latin word 'incarcerati' scribbled after their names. The cause of this imprisonment is unknown, though the same three were charged in December, 1662, 'for with holding tythes from the minister there and for refusing to pay 2l. 1s. 0d. to the church rates.' But as the ecclesiastical courts could not imprison this comment merely explains non-attendance at court.'

I have searched for the appearance of Walter in my records and a family which used this forename more than once lived in Romford at the time. Romford is some distance from Steeple and since many of the Essex parishes are not on the IGI I have no way of knowing if they were connected.

See also The Quaker Family of Yorkshire, London and Lancashire.