Street Corner Society


Skip to site-wide links.


Reflections  >  Of Richard Clarke, a passing Quaker


Observations

concerning the Seates in Myddle
and the familyes to which they belong

by Richard Gough *

(An excerpt concerning Richard Clarke, for awhile a Quaker and later a Papist, who married into the Wolph family.)


Another share of this ninth Pew on the South side of the North Aisle belongs to Wolph's tenement in Myddle. This is the Earl of Bridgwater's land, and is one of those which they call half tenements in Myddle. It was formerly held by the family of the Wolph's, which was an ancient family in this Parish. I could name many of them; but since I can say nothing memorable of them until I come to Richard Wolph, I will begin with him. He married Anne, the daughter of one Humphrey Parbin, of Myddle, Anno Domini, 1587. He had issue by her three sons -- Richard, Thomas, and Zacharias. This Zacharias was a blacksmith, and built a Smith's shop on the side of Myddle Hill, near the town's end, (where now Martin Chesheire dwells,) and there he died, and was never married. Thomas Wolph was a shoemaker in Ellesmere. He was a good religious man, of a sober and discreet discourse, but he was somewhat tormented with a crew of Fanatical persons in that town, which were termed Anabaptists, and Dippers. The ring-leader of them was John Capper, a glover, but I believe they are now extinct in that place.

Augetur Religio Dei quanto magis premitur. -- Lactantius. *

Richard, the eldest son, was tenant of this small tenement, and had a lease under William, Earle of Derby. He had two sons, Richard and Arthur, and two daughters. Elizabeth was the youngest and I have forgot the name of the other. Richard was under cook to Richard Hunt, servant to Sir Richard Lea, of Langley. He went to London, and was there received into very good services. I met with him in London about forty years ago, and he took me to his Master's house, who was a Scottish Lord, and lived in Lincolne's Inne Square. He sent for his brother Arthur, and preferred him in service, but whether both or either of them be living, I know not. Elizabeth was married to one Edward Owen, a servant in Myddle. Arthur Owen, a tailor, who lives at Myddle town's end next the hill, is a son by that match. After the death of Edward Owen, she was married to one Richard Clarke, of whom there is many remarkable things to be spoken.

Aude aliquid brevibus gyaris et carcere dignum
Si vis esse aliquis. -- Juvenal,

Do something that deserves the gallows,
Or gaol, at least, if thou'lt be famous.

This Richard Clarke was the son of Richard Clarke, of Myddle Wood. He was naturally ingenious. He had a smooth way of flattering discourse, and was a perfect master in the art of dissembling. He was listed for a soldier on the Parliament side in Wem, whilst he was yet but a mere boy. There was nothing of manhood or valor in him, and yet he was serviceable to the officers of that Garrison by carrying of letters to their friends and correspondents that were in the Garrisons of the adverse party. He had an old ragged coat on purpose which he would put on, and go as a beggar boy. He carried a short stick, such as boys call a dog staff. There was a hole bored in the end of it, and there the letters were put, and a peg after them, and that end he put in the dirt. If he met with soldiers, he would throw his stick at birds, so that it might go over the hedge, and then go over to fetch it. When he came to the Garrison, he would beg from door to door, and consort himself with beggars until he came to the place where he was to deliver his letter. When a maid came to the door, he would desire to speak with the Master, from a friend. When the Master came, he would give him his stick, and go to clean the stable until the master brought his stick, and then return to begging as before.

After the wars, he married a wife that lived beyond Ellesmeare, her maiden name was Phillips. She was very thick of hearing, but yet she was a comely woman, and had a portion in money, which Clarke quickly spent, for he was a very drunken fellow if he could get money to spend. After he had spent his wife's portion, he came to Newton on the Hill, in a little house there under Mr. Gittin's, and here he set up a trade of making spinning wheels. He was not put apprentice to any trade, and yet he was very ingenious in working at any handicraft trade. He had a little smith's forge, in which he made his own tools, and likewise knives and other small things of iron. He had several children by his first wife. The eldest he named Jonathan, who now lives in Wem, and is as ingenious at working as his father, and as thick of hearing as his mother. This Richard Clarke, after the death of his first wife, married Anne Onslow, of Clive. She was descended of good parentage, and was a comely and good humoured woman. About this time that fanatical, self-conceited sort of people called Quakers began to start up here and there in this country. 'Nimietas plus obest quam prodest.' *  This Clarke, merely out of design, had a mind to join with these persons. He went to one Gefferyes, of Stanton, (who was a topping Quaker,) who received this new proselyte very gladly, and entertained him all night very kindly. He came home the next day a perfect Quaker in appearance, and had got their canting way of discourse as readily as if he had been seven years apprentice.

Cum optimis satiati sumu, varietas etiam ex vilioribus grata est. * -- Quintil.

This Clarke was for a while of some repute among the Quakers, till at last he had borrowed several sums of money among them, which, when they required, he at first gave fair promises, but at last utter refused, telling them he was not able, and they were worse than devils if they sued him. Upon this, at a general meeting of the Quakers, he was excommunicated. This Clarke, whilst he was in favour with the Quakers, had sadly abused our Ministers with his scurrilous language, calling them hirelings, dumb dogs, and Baal's Priests. He was once bound to the behaviour for saying the Protector was the Beast, and the Whore did ride him. When Clarke was cast off by the Quakers, he thought the Protestants would not receive him, and therefore he turned Papist, but was not regarded by that party. This Clarke had several children by his first wife, all which died while he was a Quaker, (except his son Jonathan,) and were buried by him in his orchard. When his second wife Anne was in travel of a child, the midwife told him that the child was dead in the womb, and unless it were drawn from the woman, she would die also; and thereupon Clarke made iron hooks in his little smith's forge, according to the midwife's direction, and therewith she eased the woman of her burden, and the woman recovered. But when she was with child again, and the woman was in the same condition, he would not suffer the midwife to do the like, so the woman died; and very quickly after he married this Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Wolph.

Richard Wolph was now grown old, and his wife was dead: this Clarke, by fair and flattering speeches, persuaded the old man to deliver all his estate to him, on condition of being maintained while he lived. -- Fistula dulce canit volucrem dum decipit auceps. *  Clarke having now got an estate, followed his old way of drinking; and when he came home drunk, he would so abuse the old man, that he made him a weary of his life; and, therefore, in a melancholic fit of grief, he went on foot to Wem, and bought poison, which he ate up as he came homeward; and when he came home he was extremely sick, and vomited exceedingly: he told him what he had done, and would fain have lived; but no antidote could immediately be had, so he died. The Coroner's inquest found him a felo de se; and he was buried on Myddle Hill, at that crossway where the roadway from Ellesmeare to Shrewsbury, called the Lower-way, goes over cross the way that goes from Myddle toward the Red Bull, but was removed next night: and some say he was interred in a rye-field of his own, which is over against John Benion's, in that corner of the piece next the place where Penbrook's gate stood. Thus ended Wolph's lease, which was one of the last of William, Earle of Derby's leases in this Lordship. Thus Wolph ended his life, and Clarke lost his estate.  -- Volentes fata ducunt, nolentes trahunt. *  -- Levis est fortuna, cito reposcit quae dedit. *

After the death of Richard Wolph, Mr. William Hollway, then Rector of Myddle, took a lease of this tenement, and Clarke removed to Ellesmeare, where some Papists lived nigh: but they regarded him not. However, when King James II began his Reign, Clarke looked as big as any of the Papists,  -- We apples swim quoth the horse-turd.

At that time a limner was employed to beautify the Parish church at Ellesmeare. This Clarke went to see his work, and said, "You do well to leave the Church in good repair for us, for you had it from us in good order." The limner (knowing him to be a Papist,) said, "What, do you think the Papists must have the Church?" "Yes, I do," says Clarke. Then says the limner, "What do you think shall become of us Protestants?" Then Clarke answered, "I hope to see all the Protestants fry in their own grease before Michaelmas next." The limner proved these words before Mr. Kinaston, of Oatley, a Justice of peace: Clarke was committed to prison, and indicted at next Assizes, for these seditious words: and judgement was given against him, that he should stand on the Pillory at three market towns, on three several market days -- viz. at Shrewsbury, at Ellesmeare, and at Oswaldstre. He was set on the pillory at Shrewsbury, but the under-sheriff, (knowing how enraged the people were against him,) suffered him to stand without fastening of his head through the penance-board.

Male regnatur dum vulgus ductat habenas. *

The People, by pelting him with eggs, turnips, carrots, stones and dirt, used him so hardly, that the under-sheriff took him down, for fear he should be killed outright. The people followed him to the Gaol-door, and pelted him all the way. He lay some while sick and sore at Shrewsbury, and after he was brought to Ellesmeare and there put to stand on the pillory, where he found the like favour from the under-sheriff, and the like hard usage, or worse, from the People; and hereupon the High Sheriff wrote a letter to the Judge, and acquainted him with what he had done, and will all told him, that he could promise to put Clarke upon the pillory at Oswaldstre, but could not promise to bring him alive from amongst the enraged Welshmen, and thereupon the rest of the punishment was remitted. Clarke lay in gaol afterwards for some time, and then came to Elesmeare, where he lived a few years, and then died. His wife sold all his tools and household goods, and went into Ireland; but she returned very poor, and so died. I have mentioned before, how Mr. Hollway took a lease of Wolph's tenement, and, when he died, he bequeathed it to his son, Barnabas Hollway, who sold his title to Mr. Hugh Dale, who is present tenant of it.


Notes and Links

Richard Gough
Born in 1634, and thus a boy during the Civil Wars, Gough was perhaps a few years younger than Richard Clarke, the subject of this excerpt, who "was listed for a soldier on the Parliament side in Wem, whilst he was yet but a mere boy." Gough treats Clarke at greater length than almost anyone else in the book. He wrote it in 1700-01, by which time he was a well-established yeoman in his community, with responsibilities in law and in the local church. He organized his book by writing about families in his church, one pew at a time. Gough shared the same pew with the Wolph family, so he probably had a particular interest in their affairs.
    The detail in the story of Richard Clarke serving as a clandestine courier for Parliamentary forces suggests that Gough probably heard it told in person. Perhaps as a boy Gough looked up to Clarke, and followed the later events of Clarke's life with increasing distaste. One wonders whether, as a young man, Gough considered attending the Quaker meeting held at the home of Richard Clarke (and Anne Oslow Clarke?):

But yet I must say something of the tenants of the house wherein Anne Chidley lived; for after her decease Richard Clarke, of whom I have spoken at large before, built a chimney in this house, and held only the house and garden: while he was a quaker he buried several of his children, and I think one of his wives in this garden. He had one Quaker's meeting at this house, but few if any of the neighbours went to hear them.

Myddle
In Shropshire, west Midlands not far from Wales, about 12 miles north of Shrewsbury.
the family of the Wolph's
The genealogy of the Wolph family, as told above, is posted here separately with a simple family tree. Richard Clarke's family background is told elsewhere. Note that Elizabeth Wolph married Edward Owen before she married Richard Clarke, and that Clarke had been married twice, first with a woman whose maiden name was Phillips, then with Anne Oslow. It was apparently during this second marriage that Richard Clarke became a Quaker.
Augetur Religio Dei quanto magis premitur.
The religion of God is strengthened the more it is persecuted.
"Quakers began to start up"
In the early to mid-1650s.
Nimietas plus obest quam prodest.
Excess is more of a liability than an asset.
Cum optimis satiati sumu, varietas etiam ex vilioribus grata est.
When we have had our fill of the best, we find an agreeable variety even in baser pleasures.
"if they sued him"
Quakers had little or no standing in court because they refused to swear, whether in a lawsuit or in any other legal dealing.
Protector
Oliver Cromwell.
Papist
Roman Catholic, i.e., following the Pope.
Fistula dulce canit volucrem dum decipit auceps.
The shepherd's pipe sings sweetly to the bird, while the fowler ensnares it.
Volentes fata ducunt, nolentes trahunt.
The Fates lead the willing, the unwilling they drag away.
Levis est fortuna, cito reposcit quae dedit.
Fortune is fickle, whatever it gives it soon demands back.
"when King James II began his Reign"
James II was the brother and successor to Charles II, but he held the thrown for only three years before being overthrown in 1688 for his Catholic leanings. (William Penn was a personal friend of his, and the Quakers had hopes of more tolerance from his government than they'd had under Charles II.)
Male regnatur dum vulgus ductat habenas.
The state is badly governed when the populace holds the reins.

This book was first published in 1834, by Sir Thomas Phillips, as Human Nature displayed in the History of Middle, and republished in 1875. Translations from Latin quips are from the 1986 Dorset Press edition, edited by David Hey, published by arrangement with Penguin Books. Spelling has been updated in the current version, except for the title and proper names.