Written by Dr Jack Binns
The restoration of monarchy and state church in 1660 seems to have passed peacefully at Scarborough. Edward Carleton, the Puritan preacher, who had come from London and had never been fully welcome in the parish, gave up his living without fuss or delay.
Much to the delight of Scarborough’s vintners, Mr William Simpson, the former parish vicar, returned to his old place at St Mary’s. During his exile in Cloughton, his consumption of claret and canary wine had been prudent, but the early restoration of his stipend allowed him to return fully to his former addiction.
Among the items paid for by St Mary’s churchwardens in 1661 was a new church Bible which cost £2 15s.; the Common Prayer Book, 13 shillings; and bread and drink for the bellringers who celebrated May 29, Oak Apple Day, Charles II’s birthday, and the anniversary of the king’s triumphant return to London in 1660.
During the following year, there were bills for “drawing, guilting and framing the King’s Arms” and “setting up the Commandments”, coming altogether to £3 12s. Where once the rood screen with the figure of Christ flanked by Mary and St John had partitioned the nave from the chancel, now the royal arms were prominently displayed to the congregation to emphasize the royal supremacy.
Simultaneously, Christopher Gilson, master glazier and plumber, had been busy re-glazing, re-leading and mending windows; plasterers had been repairing and white-washing interior ceilings and walls; and masons had been re-building church yard walls. John Taylor, the enduring, bibulous parish clerk, was provided with expensive parchment to enter baptisms, marriages and burials in the parish register. But the great west window over the doorway was not re-glazed and the ruined choir not cleared of rubble and rubbish until as late as 1666-7.
William Simpson died in 1668 and was replaced by William Hodgson, so that he did not live long enough to see St Mary’s central tower finally though not fully restored.
The national appeal of 1660-1 had yielded less than £250 and it was left to Scarborough’s greatest seafarer, Admiral Sir John Lawson, indirectly to make re-building possible.
Lawson had died of battle wounds in London in 1665, but he had kept a house at 4 West Sandgate and left it and three closes of meadows in Scarborough’s fields to his widow Isabel. He also left £100 to the poor of the town without specifying how it should be employed. With good reason, Lady Lawson was most reluctant to hand over such a large sum of money to the town’s burgesses until she was assured that it would be used as her husband had intended. In the event, she seemed satisfied that the Common Hall would pay out six per cent interest on it every year to the poor of St Thomas and hold the capital in reserve until they could find “a convenient piece of ground” for a new hospital.
In fact, unknown to Isabel, the burgesses decided to use the admiral’s bequest to pay for St Mary’s new “steeple”. Between 1669 and 1672, also using a tax on householders, hundreds of stones were brought from North Bay sands and Cloughton quarries to raise a new square tower and another £15 to lead it and the damaged nave roof. Inserted in the wall above the doorway entrance to this new bell and clock tower is today the inscription “Francis Thompson, Thomas Oliver, Bayliffes, 1669”. Perhaps the old Baptist admiral would not have wanted to be associated with an Anglican “steeple-house”.
Meanwhile, even though nationally the Friends had formally rejected all forms of physical violence even in self-defence, in Scarborough they were suffering from vindictive, punitive persecution. By 1663, when George Fox made his second visit to the town and again stayed with Peter Hodgson, the Quakers there were being fined for holding illegal meetings and imprisoned for refusing to swear oaths of loyalty to the Crown. Soon afterwards, Hodgson was committed to York castle and William Gradell, his close companion, died there after two years. The Conventicle Act of 1664 permitted Scarborough’s two bailiff magistrates to arrest, convict, fine and imprison Quakers without the presence of a jury.
Fox’s third visit to Scarborough was involuntary. In May 1665 he was transferred in chains from Lancaster to Scarborough castle to become the prisoner of Sir Jordan Crosland, its Catholic governor. Though none of the Friends was allowed to see him, Fox made a most favourable impression on Anglican and Presbyterian inquisitors and even on the governor himself by his unrivalled knowledge of the Bible and his fortitude and conviction. He was released after 16 months and once again addressed Scarborough’s Friends in Peter Hodgson’s house.
Though some of Scarborough’s Quakers found their ill-treatment unendurable and re-joined the Anglican establishment, thanks mainly to Hodgson’s invincible courage, the group survived. As early as 1658, he had bought their first burial plot on the south side of Bull Lane (Westover Road) and his was the largest single contribution to their first meeting-house in the town. The land and building in Low Conduit Street (Princess Square) cost nearly £200.
By 1689, where the Toleration Act finally gave them freedom of worship, there were more than 50 adult Quakers living in or near to Scarborough, 25 men and 12 women in the town and 17 men and women in Staintondale and thereabouts.