An Illustrated Social History

Walk 5.

oaths administered by two JPs denying the spiritual authority of the Pope, on pain of the penalties for resistance


£20 a month for not attending the parish church;


disqualification from holding office;


forbidden to keep arms, initiate a civil law suit, travel five miles without permission, act as executor, guardian, doctor or lawyer


Catholics could not sit in parliament or on corporations, or hold any civil or military office under the Crown


Catholics paid a double land tax, and protestant heirs had a prior claim to estates over Catholic heirs

THROUGH THE PARK AND UP CLAY HILL

WALK FIVE Starts from Caford, the ancient river crossing at the West end of the village, and crosses the former parkland belonging to the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, in the direction of Clay Hill. This old Roman Road may have been part of a major road down from Norfolk (‘Peddars Way’) which would have headed on to the great camp at Colchester. The walk turns left above Park Wood to run through the old common, where we have found Roman remains.


This was the day when we took the old road, Clay Hill, which connects Monks Eleigh and Semer, and which is said to have been one of the two Roman highways across these lands in and about the parish. It is a good road now, but many complaints were recorded in days past about the condition of the sunken roadway, when the only form of maintenance seems to have consisted of piling more and more flints into the worst of the water-filled pits in the rood surface.


On the way, we crossed the bridge by the confluence of the two rivers coming down from Brettenham and Lavenham, and passed through what in former days was the Park owned by the Abbey of St Edmunds - what better time, then, to raise the thorny issue of religion. After the conflicts of former generations, England in the early 1700s enjoyed relative calm on this front, but there were underlying tensions and also opportunities - a situation not so different from our own.


Perhaps the first part of this walk serves as an apt metaphor for our hopes for a more united community of faith, as one stream moves gently forward to merge with another, coming from a quite distinct direction, but combining with it to power a great engine working for human growth and development.


As often on our walks, we made this pleasant outing without meeting anyone with whom we might have discussed the subject.


Prologue - The State of Religion in the early Eighteenth Century


Religious conflict had been at the root of the turbulent century just past, and by the time of Queen Anne’s death, there was little popular appetite for renewed arguments over the rights and wrongs of the Hanoverian succession. The protestant church was secure in the hands of the monarch and parliament together.


In part, this security depended upon a series of draconian penal laws against Catholics and other dissenting communities. In the case of Catholics, these restrictions included:

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fines of £200 on priests for saying Mass, which counted as high treason


fines of 40s a day on unapproved schoolmasters, and £40 a month for harbouring them

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There were laws against dissenters, including Quakers, and against