Hunter Powell’s monograph, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution, 1638–44, is now out with Manchester University Press.
‘This book seeks to bring coherence to two of the most studied periods in British history, Caroline non-conformity (pre-1640) and the British revolution (post-1642). It does so by focusing on the pivotal years of 1638–44 where debates around non-conformity within the Church of England morphed into a revolution between Parliament and its king. Parliament, saddled with the responsibility of re-defining England’s church, called its Westminster assembly of divines to debate and define the content and boundaries of that new church.
Typically this period has been studied as either an ecclesiastical power struggle between Presbyterians and independents, or as the harbinger of modern religious toleration. This book challenges those assumptions and provides an entirely new framework for understanding one of the most important moments in British history’.
N.B. References in brackets refer to The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652, ed. Chad van Dixhoorn (5 vols., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
I have recently been fortunate enough to have access to Chad van Dixhoorn’s new edition of the minutes of the Westminster Assembly, and it struck me how over the next few years, it will be interesting to see what use scholars make of the minutes, and what details lie within a primary source which had previously only been utilised in manuscript form by the most dedicated of researchers.
The intention of this brief blog post is to highlight a small example of what details can be found within the minutes, and how the minutes might be used to adapt our understanding of the careers of individual clerics. Richard Heyrick had been appointed in 1635 as the warden of the Manchester collegiate church, and is well known as one of the leading lights of the classical presbyterian system which was established in Lancashire in 1646 (the year in which episcopacy was abolished). Within the Lancashire province, the Manchester classis (under Heyrick’s watch) continued to function until the summer of 1660, just after the restoration of Charles II to the throne. Though he did not participate in the Westminster Assembly to the same extent as his fellow member for Lancashire, Charles Herle (the rector of Winwick), he was nonetheless a relatively regular attendee of its debates. It was during these debates that Heyrick made two particularly interesting contributions.