Creating Communities in Restoration England

Parish and Congregation in Oliver Heywood’s Halifax


This book explores the nature of religious community at a time when, by some accounts, it was in its death throes. Many have argued that early modern communities suffered too much damage to survive, as cumulative assaults of the Reformation, the rise of Puritanism, and the denominational fragmentation of the Interregnum and Restoration destroyed parish unity forever. Without minimizing the significance of these events, this book argues for the resilience of religious community. By analyzing the religious networks of Oliver Heywood (1630-1702), a strategically-placed and well-documented Presbyterian minister, this work illustrates the flexibility of the communal ideal in the face of the challenges presented by the Long Reformation. Through Heywood’s eyes we watch the inhabitants of the northern parish of Halifax as they cross, and at times blur, the denominational boundaries that loom large both in the heated rhetoric of the time and in recent historiography.
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Biographical Note

Samuel S. Thomas, Ph.D. (2003) in History, Washington University in St. Louis, teaches history at University School outside Cleveland, Ohio. He has published scholarly articles and in 2013 will publish his first novel, The Midwife's Tale: A Mystery (Minotaur Press).

Review Quote

‘’Thomas’s book is distinguished by the detail and force of its historical and archival research and for the light it sheds on the ways in which early modern communities were formed and kept together. It will be of interest not only to scholars of Restoration nonconformity, but anyone interested in the nature of religious and social cohesion in the seventeenth century.’’ Carrie A. Hintz Cuny, Queens College and The Graduate Center. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 4, Winter 2013, p. 1444.

Table of contents

1: Introduction: Religious Communities in Restoration England “Community” and the Historians “I’m Not Dead!”: Religious Community in Early Modern England The Parish of Halifax: “In Short, It Is a Monster” The Abridged Oliver Heywood Heywood’s Notebooks Part I: Anglicans and Dissenters in Restoration Halifax 2: Oliver Heywood and Coley Chapelry Heywood’s Curacy Ejection and Exile Big Shoes to Fill: The Restoration Curates of Coley Heywood as Preacher and Pastor 3: Persecution in Coley Richard Hooke, Vicar and Bête Noir Unofficial Persecution in Coley Persecution and Accommodation The Tory Reaction 4: Litigating Community in Revolutionary Halifax Dramatis Personae Supporting Players Women, Servants, and Poor People, Oh My! The Battle to Define the Parish Part II: Creating a Dissenting Society 5: The Laity in Heywood’s Society The Journey into Dissent What Does a Dissenter Do? Heywood’s Society in Conflict 6: Worlds Within Worlds: A Closer Look at Heywood’s Society Young Men’s Meetings The Core of Heywood’s Society The Geography of Heywood’s Community 7: Old Age and Evangelism A Preacher Looks at Sixty (and Sixty-Five, and Seventy…) Old Age and Community New Pastoral Strategies Planting a Godly Seed Coda Bibliography List of Figures 1: Oliver Heywood Frontispiece 2: The Parish of Halifax and Its Townships List of Tables 1: Occupations of Corlas’s Supporters from Wills 2: Oliver Heywood’s Ministry


Those interested in religious history, early modern England, social history, religious persecution or toleration, Reformation history.