Cromwell's got Puritan ideals

PUBLISHED: 16:10 02 November 2006 | UPDATED: 12:05 04 May 2010

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

IN 1636, Oliver Cromwell and his family moved to Ely, next to St Mary s Church overlooking the green. Close by, was the Sextry Barn, and according to the people of Ely this was the second greatest barn in England and where Oliver, as Farmer of the Tith

IN 1636, Oliver Cromwell and his family moved to Ely, next to St Mary's Church overlooking the green.

Close by, was the Sextry Barn, and according to the people of Ely this was 'the second greatest barn in England' and where Oliver, as Farmer of the Tithes, stored his dues. The barn fell into disrepair after the tithe Act of 1836 and was soon after demolished.

In February 1637, Elizabeth Cromwell gave birth to a daughter, Mary, and the following year the last of their children, another daughter, Frances, was born. In 1632 the couple had lost a baby son, James.

Then in May 1639, disaster was to strike again when Oliver's eldest son died of an unknown fever or accident.

He was a pupil at Felsted School, close to the home of his grandfather, Sir James Bourchier. Robert is buried in the churchyard at Felsted.

Oliver was distraught over the death of his two sons. Some 20 years later he said that the death of his eldest son "went as a dagger to my heart" and he sought comfort in the Bible.

Oliver Cromwell was influenced by Puritan ideals and in the 1630s, he and others within his circle, became increasingly worried about where the English Church was going, eventually bringing them into confrontation with Charles I. Puritanism was a loosely organized reform movement originating during the English Reformation of the sixteenth century.

The name came from efforts to "purify" the Church of England by those who thought that the Reformation had not been completed.

The Puritans wanted a much more simple form of worship that concentrated on the words of the Bible and preaching sermons in English

They did not like the power of bishops and were strongly against any practices in church services that hinted at a return to Catholicism. In particular, Puritans wanted the Sabbath to be strictly adhered to as day of rest, called Sabbatarianism.

In August 1617, James I had been petitioned by a group of workers in Lancashire, complaining that the local authorities had banned them from Sunday recreations. In their support James issued the "Declaration of Lawful Sports" which permitted dancing, archery, athletic events and Whitsun-ales after the compulsory Sunday service.

The Puritans were unhappy about this and saw this declaration as a step backwards, away from Sabbatarianism.

When Charles I came to the throne in 1625, his French Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria, raised much Puritan suspicion. Whilst the practice of Roman Catholicism was against the law in England, with severe penalties if caught, Henrietta Maria had her own priests and celebrated Mass at court.

Charles did little to allay the fears of the reformers, indeed he made it worse. Charles wished to move the Church of England to a more traditional and sacramental direction. His goal was shared by his main political adviser, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. appointed in1633.

Laud was highly unpopular with the Puritans and began reforms in the Church to make it more ceremonial.

He attempted to ensure religious uniformity by dismissing, or rooting out, non-conformist clergymen and closing Puritan organisations. Laud made it blatantly clear that he wanted uniformity in the Church.

For the entire decade of the 1630s the King did not call Parliament and had to raise money by other means.

He looked to the statute books for help, reinstating feudal taxes like Ship Money causing growing resentment. Pockets of dissension were building polarising attitudes in support of the King or against.

A major issue in the Fens were the plans to drain them. Local inhabitants were unhappy about the threat to their way of life. The King and the Adventurer's saw it as a way to raise money. Cromwell's role in this will be discussed anon.

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