Quakers of the Lands End Meeting


celtic knot


In 1656 George Fox the founder of the Quaker movement entered the lives of the people of West Cornwall. Below we give some of the story of how this happened and what followed. 

When we came to Ives, Edward Pyot's horse having cast a shoe, we stayed to have it set; and while he was getting his horse shod, I walked down to the seaside. When I returned I found the town in an uproar. They were haling Edward Pyot and the other Friend before Major Peter Ceely, a major in the army and a justice of the peace. I followed them into the justice's house, though they did not lay hands upon me."  Quaker link   

These words record the arrival of George Fox the founder of the Society of Friends and two colleagues to the Town of St Ives in Cornwall in the year 1656. The Society ( otherwise known as Quakers ) was growing in numbers and many of the establishment saw it as a threat. Fox argued that to anyone could contact God at anytime. He said that people did not need to go to church or have the guidance of a priest. This was seen as seditious especially as he also argued that the bible stated that people should not swear allegiance to anyone or anything other than God. Members of the sect refused to pay their tithes which were used to pay for the priest. 

Many local magistrates were determined to put an end to Fox's and his Society of Friends and Major Ceely of St Ives was amongst these. Fox had written an open pamphlet to the people of the seven parishes of the Lands End. This had been circulated before his arrival so the population were expecting him and his friends. In his journal Fox records the following:- 

"When we came in, the house was full of rude people; whereupon I asked if there were not an officer among them to keep the people civil. Major Ceely said that he was a magistrate. I told him that he should then show forth gravity and sobriety, and use his authority to keep the people civil; for I never saw any people ruder; the Indians were more like Christians than they.

This first visit of George Fox to St Ives in 1656 ended with him and his two friends being taken to Launceston Jail, (which was in the castle) here they remained for nine weeks. Fox wrote the following about the Jail:

"The place was so noisome that it was observed few that went in did ever come out again in health. There was no house of office in it; and the excrement of the prisoners that from time to time had been put there had not been carried out (as we were told) for many years. So that it was all like mire, and in some places to the tops of the shoes in water and urine; and he would not let us cleanse it, nor suffer us to have beds or straw to lie on.

At night some friendly people of the town brought us a candle and a little straw; and we burned a little of our straw to take away the stink. The thieves lay over our heads, and the head jailer in a room by them, over our heads also. It seems the smoke went up into the room where the jailer lay; which put him into such a rage that he took the pots of excrement from the thieves and poured them through a hole upon our heads in Doomsdale, till we were so bespattered that we could not touch ourselves nor one another. And the stink increased upon us; so that what with stink, and what with smoke, we were almost choked and smothered. We had the stink under our feet before, but now we had it on our heads and backs also; and he having quenched our straw with the filth he poured down, had made a great smother in the place. Moreover, he railed at us most hideously, calling us hatchet-faced dogs, and such strange names as we had never heard of. In this manner we were obliged to stand all night, for we could not sit down, the place was so full of filthy excrement.

The first report of Quakers at Sennen appears in the a book by Norman Penney, " The Record of Sufferings of Friends in Cornwall ". Mr. Penney transcribed a record kept by Thomas Lower the step son-in-law of George Fox. Thomas Lower reported that in 1657 John Ellis, whose home was at Brea Farm on the Sennen- St Just boundary was summoned before the local justice Peter Seeley (Ceely) and charged with failing to raise his hat to Seeley and James Launce. The argument was that, as appointees of the government, Seeley and Launce should be shown respect by people raising their hats when meeting them. George Fox reported a similar instance in his biography and just as in his case, John Ellis was taken to the " Doomsdale " at Launceston for refusing to remove his hat. This was to be his first of many visits there. The year was 1657 and on his release he returned home to Brea Farm where he and others had set up a group of Friends or Quakers.

It was the Quakers practice not to pay the tithes or cost of repairs to the church (Steeple House) and as a result they were often beaten and had their property removed. A record of these happenings was kept in the " Book of Sufferings " and a number of the entries are produced below.


John Ellis had a horse taken from him by Thomas Quarum and Richard Whiteforde who farmed the tithe of the priest of Sennen ( Joseph Hull ).

Nicholas Jose had taken from him at harvest time 39 sheaves of rye for failing to pay his tithe. This was done by officers acting for priest Hull and no warrant was produced.


As Nicholas Jose was travelling along the highway he was attacked by Thomas Treave the elder of Sennen. Treave beat him with roapes and threw stones at him resulting in Jose being injured. Jose later reported the attack to Michael Richards and John Saundry the local constables but could not get them to act.

James Myers was beaten up by parson Hull whilst the parson's wife held him.

In 1660 Parliament invited Charles I son to return as king. Cromwell had been dead for two years. Under King Charles II the Church of England regained some of the power it had lost under Cromwell. It  it was deemed an offence to hold Society meetings but Friends continued to meet at each others homes. If the authorities caught them they were arrested and faced imprisonment and the " Book of Sufferings " records the following: 


On the 29th of February 1660 the home of George Reed was raided by the constables and the following arrested. George, John and Tobyas Read and John Tonkyn of Sennen. They were taken before Walter Vincent and John Vivian, Justices at Truro who committed them to Launceston jail where they remained for around 7 -8 weeks.


On the 27th of August 1662 A Captain Jones arrested the following at a meeting at the house of Nicholas Jose:-

Nicholas Jose, George Reed, William Roberts, Edward Auger, John Reed, John Mathew, Sampson Jeffrey, Richard Hunt, Degory Vingoe, John Tonkyn.

Also arrested where 5 women:- 

Johan Penwarden, Mary Penwarthen, Jane Wilkey, Anne Treeve and Blanch Bosistowe.

By 1662 there were around 1,300 Quakers in prison and Justice William Godolphin added to the number by sending all the above to Launceston jail. They appeared before the Judge at the next assizes. Four of them  Nicholas Jose,  George Reed, William Roberts and Edward Auger were indicted and fined 40s each and committed to prison until this was paid. The rest were also committed until they could find sureties for their good behavior. All of these latter group were held for three x assizes without any charge being laid against them and they each served almost two years in prison. The other four who had been fined were kept in prison for five and a half years.

There were those who saw the persecution of the Quakers as a means of enriching themselves. Hugh Jones was a  local Sennen Justice who lived at Penrose Manor. He would fine Quakers and then remove  goods worth much more than the amount of the fine. He would then either pay the fine to the court and pocket the difference or in the case of goods which had been confiscated pay the fine and keep the goods. Here are some instances of this practice.


Taken from John Wallish by Richard Warren and Martyn Millarde constables and Nowell Roberts and Mathew Humphrys wardens off the parish. Who came on the 6th day of the 4th month 1670 and distrained by a warrant from Hugh Jones, called a justice, two milk cows, two oxen and three heifers to the value of £20 for a fine for attending a meeting though John Wallish was a prisoner at Launceston at the time.  

Also taken from Jane Wallish by the aforesaid officers for her being at the same meeting one milk cow worth £3 4s for a fine of 5s imposed upon her. 

Also William Roberts for attending the same meeting had four milk cows, sixteen sheep and two rearing calves taken away on a warrant from Hugh Jones.

Also taken away from George Reed of the parish of Sennen by John Mathew and Nich: Wallish constables and John & Thomas Terreeve wardens by a warrant from Hugh Jones for his permitting the aforesaid meeting to take place in his house and for being present at the same, 3 Milk cows and one horse being worth £12

Taken from Nicholas Jose for attending the same meeting One brasse pan and one chair worth £1 for a fine of 5s. Jose was also in prison at the time.

Taken from Thomas Richards (also in prison) one brasse pot worth 8s.

So from this one meeting Hugh Jones had secured ten milk cows, two oxen, three heifers, one horse, two rearing calves, one chair, one brass pan and one brass pot.

The persecution of the Quakers by Hugh Jones continued and in 1677 he sent George Treweege to collect goods to the value of £25 12s 6d from the shop of Nicholas Jose, all taken as a fine for the non-payment of his tithe. Jose owned one and a half acres of land. Each year Jones sent his clerk at Harvest time to take sheaves of corn from Jose and other Quakers  

In 1685 there was a pardon for all Quakers but in the two years prior to this Hugh Jones had sent a number of Sennen Quakers to prison:


John Mathews, Isaac Chappell, John Tonkyn, Richard Richards, Jone Olivy and Wilmott Richards sent by Hugh Jones, Justice, for attending a meeting to Launceston Gaol. They came before the infamous Judge Jeffreys. After careful consideration he discharged the prisoners.


Again Justice Jones imprisoned John Mathew, Richard Richards, Jenkin Vingoe, John Tonkyn and Samson Olivey for unlawful assembly in Sennen. Judge Montague set them all free.

In 1685 James II came to the throne and the Society of Friends was recognised by the state. The hard won rights to worship God as they choose had led to the deaths of many of them as a result of their time in prisons such as Launceston. Now they had the law on their side Justice Hugh Jones found other ways to continue his harassment of members of the Lands End meeting. William Bottrell the nineteenth century historian records this story in the third volume of his "Stories and Folk-Lore of West Cornwall":-    

"As the notion of the transmigration of souls is not at all new to Cornish people, you may imagine that, in some former state of existence, you lived out west about the time that old Justice Jones resided in Penrose, and was long the unquestioned tyrant of that part of the country. In complaisance with the good pleasure of the justice, many old men in the parish, even farmers, did the work on his farms of Penrose and Brew, for no other payment than his worthless promise that their sons should not be impressed and sent off to serve the king on board a man-of-war. It seems that in the time of this ancient edition of Colonel Peard, the magistrates were entrusted with warrants which empowered them to draft off whomsoever they pleased for the kingís service, and to gratify their ill-will they had only to intimate to the press-gang that the disliked were eligible men.

  Old Jonesís usual mode of proceeding was to compel all the laboring class to go to church every Sunday (in case of non-attendance these guardians of the law might also fine or imprison). The justice would be first to leave the church, and would remain in the churchyard (where those who feared him were collected to learn his pleasure) until he had intimated what work he wished to have done, and by whom, during the week. When he wanted any extra hands during the week, as was often the case in harvest, furze-carrying, and other times of work requiring quick dispatch, he would hoist a flag on a flag-staff which used to be placed in a large holed stone, which was perforated for that purpose, and built into the top of the angle found by the green court and garden walls. It was a common saying that not to give anyone sufficient wages was like old Jonesís payment, of a kick in the rear, which many, who neglected their own harvest work to save the old justiceís corn, richly deserved. But he was not long allowed to domineer over the poor folks of the west. Many of the old families belonging to the parish among whom the Vingoe's of Treville, were the most important, did all they could to check his proceedings. This ancient Norman family, who had held Treville ever since the Conquest, and had been the wine-tasters to unknown Norman chiefs for equally unknown ages, regarded old Jones, for all his riches, as nothing but an upstart stranger in the west; yet they did not succeed in bringing the justice to act in a reasonable way until a. smuggling crew came to their aid. Most of the young men of the west country (many of them farmersí sons) belonged to this band, as well as two young men of Morvah - a Daniel and a Ustick, who were related to the Vingoe's, and might be styled gentlemen. Their head-quarters were at Priestís Cove and Pendeen, as best suited their convenience. One fine day in the harvest, when old Jones had summoned folks from all over the parish to save his corn, the smugglers, taking the law into their own hands, marched down to Penrose well-armed, took the old justice and his man (as big a rogue as himself) from the house, hung them head downwards to a tree in the town-place, and gave them the bastinado until they were within an inch of giving up the ghost; then made the old sinner give them money to treat the men, and sent them off to pass a jovial day, ďOne and All,Ē at the First and Last. Before the smugglers left, they told the justice that, if he ever attempted to practice any of his old tricks again, they would come some fine morning when he least expected, and take him off to his cousin Davy Jonesís locker, and from this time he had such a wholesome fear of the smugglers that he seldom left his den, nor anymore interfered in the neighborhood. "

Whether William Bottrell's story is fact or fiction we do not know. The Jones family left the Sennen area shortly after the death of Hugh Jones in 1715 with one son James setting up a shipping business in Plymouth.

Known Quaker families from Sennen:-

Chappell, Ellis, Jose, Mathews, Myers, Olivey, Reed , Richards, Stevens, Tonkin, Vingoe, Wallish, Williams.

A Record of Some Quaker Births.
1668: 15 Apr. Jane Wallish dau of John and Marye of St.Just
1671:10 Apr.  John Wallish son of John and Mary Wallish of St.Just
1673: 16 Aug. Elizabeth Wallish dau of John and Mary Wallish of St.Just  
1702: 30 Mar Mary Wallish dau of Robert and Ann Wallish  
1715: 01 Nov John Wallis son of Nicholas and Prudence Wallis

A number of weddings took place amongst the Quaker community 

1657: John Reed of Sennen s. of George & Ann Reed to Margaret Penwarthen of Buryan.
1658: Tobias Reed of Sennen son. of George & Ann Reed to Margaret Thomas of Market Jew
           (Marazion) dau. of John & Francis Thomas.
1665: Jenken Vingoe to Mary Read of Sennen Mary dau.. of George & Ann Reed.
1672  05 Dec: Ann Reed of Sennen dau. of George & Ann Reed to Nicholas Wallish son. of Digory Wallish.
1672:   Stephen Reed of Sennen, son of George & Ann Reed to Elizabeth Ellis dau. of John and Phillippa Ellis of St.Just
Witnesses:- Nicholas John, William Roberts, George Read, Jenken Vingoe, Charles Ellis,
John Wallish, Sampson & Richard Daniel, John Mathew, William Lawry, Nicholas Wallish, Tobyas Read, Dorothy Ellis, Briget Ellis, Philip Ellis, Blanch Bosustow, Lowdy Ellis, Ann Reed.
1674: 14 Dec. William Lawry of St.Just and Jane Wallis, dau of Thomas Wallis.
Witnesses: John Ellis, Nicholas Jose, Thomas Wallish,  Nicholas Wallish, Richard Dennis,  Sampson Dennis, Tobias Reed, William Roberts, , William Provis, John Mathew, Isaak Chappell, Thomas Richard, John Tonkin, Hugh Ladnor, Jenkin Vingoe, John Edwards, 
Thomas Bennett, Phillip Ellis, Marye Ellis, Honner Jose, Marye Jose, Sarah Read, Ann Wallish, Sarah Wallish, Joane Mathew, Elizabet Thomas, 

Ref. Cornwall Records Office SF 84 page 181.

1679: 04th Nov., John Stevens of Treag to Mary Jose dau of Nicholas Jose
Witnesses:  Nicholas Jose, George Reed, Tobyas Reed. Charles Read, Richard Dinnys (Dennis), Will Roberts, Nicholas Wallish, Jenken Vingoe, Richard Richards, John Williams, Isaac Chapple, John Mathews, 
Elizabeth Jose, Honour Tregelles, Ann Reed, Honour Roch, 

Ref. Cornwall Records Office SF 232. recorded in Marazion Quarterly Meeting Book.

1685:  04th July, Charles Rowd to Mary Tonkin at Troofe. 
          Witness Jenken Vingoe and others.
1701: 03rd July, Robert Wallish of St.Just and Ann Edwards dau of Edward Edwards at Marazion 
         Witnesses:- None shown

celtic knot


Burials at the Quaker Burial Ground, Brea.


05 Jun  1677: John Wallish of St.Just.
25 Apr  1687: Seth Vingoe son of Jenkin Vingoe of Sennen.
06 Feb  1690: Ann Wallish wife of Nicholas Wallish of Sennen.
16 Apr  1702: Ann Wallish wife of Robert Wallish of Sancrett (Sancreed)
.............1703: Mary Wallish
26 Oct  1705: Jenkin Vingoe of Sennen 
29 Feb  1708: Mary Vingoe, widow of Jenkin Vingoe
03 Mar 1714: Richard Dennis of Buryan.
11 Jan  1715: Margaret Reed, wife of Tobias.
28 Jan  1716: Sampson Olivey
22 Dec  1723: Jane Dennis of Buryan
22 Sep  1724: William Bottrell of Sancreed.
31 Aug 1730: John Ellis of Penzance
16 Jan 1733: John Williams of Sennen.
25 Mar 1733: Prudence Wallish of St. Levan, wife of Nicholas Wallish of St.Levan at Brea. 
01 Mar 1737: Jane Richards of Sennen, w of Richard of Paul.
Known Lands End Meeting Quakers Buried elsewhere.
03 Sept 1695: St Just Parish church, Ann Reed, A Quaker [Wife of George Reed & mother of Tobias] 
12 Mar 1698: St Just Parish Church, Tobias Reed, A Quaker of Zennor [ son of George and  Ann Reed.]
01 Jul 1700: St Just Parish Church, Elizabeth Ellis, A Quaker daughter of Pascoe Ellis Gent  Sennen.
04 Sep 1700   St Just Parish Church, Blanche Busustow, A Quaker of Sennen.


Known Land's End Meeting Quakers Baptisms 
at St Just Parish Church.
19 Aug 1699:  John Lawry about 20  a son of William Lawry - a Quaker.
03 Apr 1700:  William Lawry about 23  -  a Quaker.
18 Apr 1715: Bryan Lawry, a son of Quaker parents.
18 Apr 1715: Jane Lawry  a daughter of Bryan and Grace Lawry - Quakers.
29 Mar 1718: William Lawry, a son of Bryan and Grace Lawry - Quakers.
07  Jun 1718:  Ann Daughter of John and Jane Lawry - Quaker converts.
-  - Jan 1721:  Thomas  a son of John and Jane Lawry.
The Wallis' named in this list were descendants of John Wallish and Jane Drake and Nicholas Wallish and Dorothy.
In 1683 William Lawry  age 92, says he went to Bosworlas as a tenant to John Wallish, the grandfather of Francis Wallish,
about 60 years since and was a tenant for 30 years. William mentions John Wallish, the elder, and John his son, also a
John Wallish, father of Francis.
My thanks go to Kenneth Wallis and Carlene Harry for some of the information used in the preparation of this page.





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Sandra and George Pritchard are the authors of original work on this site.