The Quakers of Brailes
AND JOHN CORBET OF BRAILES, QUAKERS
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
.... 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
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
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
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.
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.