In March of this year St Luke’s Education Department will be going on the road to the UK. We will be filming for a documentary to be released later this year entitled; “Born from Conflict: Cavaliers and Puritans of Newport Parish.” We will be examining the conflicts of the 17th century and their connections to the Lower and later Newport Parish in which our Old Brick Church was born. Our travels will take us first to London which was the center of Dissenter movements right in the midst of the Royal Court. One of the most prominent ministers of the Lower Parish was a Rev. Robert Bracewell of London. We will visit his natal church of St Andrew’s Holborn, a church noted for its firm loyalist stance. Bracewell would become known as the last Minister to sit in the House of Burgesses and served in the Lower Parish until his death in 1668. We will also have a tour of Westminster Abbey, the “Royal Peculiar,” which was the burial place of Kings and Queens for centuries, including James I who would be known for the Authorized Version of the Bible (Which American call the King James Version). The Bible was largely a tactic to deal with Puritans early in James’ reign. Puritans were Christians of the Reformed tradition (adherents of the theology of John Calvin) who were longing for a deeper Reformation in England.
Our tour will then stop in Oxford, the center of Cavalier religion and we’ll examine the era of Archbishop William Laud, whose reforms took the Church of England in a more high church direction that angered Puritans. The Puritan heavy Parliament would eventually prosecute Laud and put him to death in 1645 in the midst of the English Civil Wars. We’ll interview Oxford Professors about this period and visit the Chapel of St. John’s College where Laud is buried.
Early Colonists on the Southside of the James River in the Virginia Colony consisted of a large number of Puritan leaning men and women. Among the largest landholders in what became Isle of Wight County was Edward Bennett. Bennett was an absentee landholder and London Merchant who was born in Wiveliscombe. We will be touring the town with local historians and researching this Puritan town. Nearby is Pittsminster, the birthplace of another early Isle of Wight Colonist, Captain Anthony Fulgham. Fulgham’s son, Michael Fulgham, was the one who sold an acre of land on which stands our Old Brick Church. Next up will be Slimbridge and Dursley with the connection to the Bridger family. Joseph Bridger was the patron of our Old Brick Church and was baptized in Dursley. We will visit his birthplace of Woodmancote and also the church of St John the Baptist, Slimbridge where his grandfather Lawrence was once Rector. We will also visit Gloucester Cathedral where Bridger’s father, Samuel was an Auditor.
Prominent in our Old Brick Church is the 1630 organ of the L’Estrange family of Hunstanton Hall in Old Hunstanton, Norfolk UK. We will tour Hunstanton Hall which was a bastion of Loyalist sentiments during the Civil Wars. The L’Estrange family had to navigate through the period of the Commonwealth, where the Puritans were in power for just over a decade. We will also visit St Mary’s church where members of the L’Estrange family are interred.
Our Final stop will be Cambridge, the younger of the two major English Universities. Cambridge was throughout much of its history the haven of more radical ideas including those of Dissenting groups. We will interview a Cambridge Professor of Religious History as we conclude our tour of the UK.
What do we hope to accomplish in this documentary? Really to provoke questions more than answers. The 17th century was a turbulent time that eventually influenced the framers of our American Constitution to push for religious freedom, which UK History Professor Alec Ryrie refers to as the unintended consequences of those violent times. What can 21st century people learn from our past? What new understandings of that period elicit from us in the present turbulent times? We hope our journey will move you to consider the history and how it continues to influence us today and hopefully in ways that enhance rather than hamper freedom.
If you would like to make a contribution towards this project, please contact St Luke’s Executive Director Todd Ballance at [email protected] or call us at 757-357-3367. All those contributing to the project will be recognized in the Documentary credits.
Above: London/Westminster scene.
Above: St Andrew’s Church, Holborn.
Above: Hunstanton Hall.
Above: St John the Baptist, Slimbridge.
Above: Reredos at St John’s College Chapel, Oxford.
Above: The Castle, Taunton, Somerset UK.
Enjoy this article? Please consider supporting St. Luke’s with a donation!
About the Author
John Ericson is the Education Coordinator and a Public Historian for St. Luke’s Historic Church & Museum. John holds a degree in History from Roanoke College and a Masters of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. In addition to John’s role at St. Luke’s, he is the Pastor of Reformation Lutheran Church in Newport News, Virginia. John is married to Oneita Jamerson Ericson, a native of Isle of Wight County, Virginia. They have three sons, Matthew, Thomas, and James, as well as two granddaughters, Carys and Lennon. The Ericsons currently reside in Hampton, Virginia. John has been teaching Reformation History and the Early American Religious Experience for more than thirty years.