HISTORY SLOT - William Edmundson of Crosby Garrett

Posted 30th November 2015 by Lesley Haughton
Newsletter Vol: 114, November 2015

The following item appears as a result of assistance given by Vivienne to the author, Lesley Haughton, who has been researching this family and it reveals details of yet another internationally important character with Westmorland roots. If anyone would like to know more, there is lots of information to be found on the Internet and Vivienne can put you in touch with Lesley. If anyone can add anything, Lesley would be keen to know.

William Edmundson of Crosby Garrett

William Edmundson, my eight times great-grandfather, is very well known in Quaker history. He was born in Crosby Garrett, the son of John Edmundson (1578-1635) and Grace Cliborn (1586-1631) of Little Musgrave. The parish register shows that both John and Grace are buried at Crosby Garrett, although we could not find gravestones for them in the churchyard. John was the son of Thomas Edmundson (1540-1590) and Agnes Jackson (1544-1580), who are also listed in the burials list for Crosby Garrett. We don’t know exactly where they lived, and both couples are listed as being married at Little Musgrave, where there is no church. William was born in 1627 and is listed as being baptised in October of that year. He was the youngest of six children. He went on to become the founder of Quakerism in Ireland, and to travel the world to preach about Quakerism and to work towards the abolition of slavery. He wrote a journal about his travels, which means that we have a lot of information about his extraordinary life and the times he lived in, and a clear sense of his personality from the testimonials in the journal and his own will, in which his relationship with his children is made clear.

His parents died when he was four years old, so his uncle became his guardian. He became an apprentice carpenter in York at the age of 13, and later he joined the Parliamentary Army and fought in Scotland, and in Worcester under Oliver Cromwell. During this time he married Margaret Stanford, from Derbyshire and, on the suggestion of his brother John, moved to Ireland to become a shopkeeper. Margaret seems to have been an extraordinary woman in her own right to keep up with William’s energetic evangelism and to raise and keep the family in his many absences. She died as a result of religious persecution. In 1652, William landed in Dublin, and Ireland was to remain his home until his death as an old man in 1712, in spite of the considerable persecution he experienced as a Quaker. He was jailed a number of times because of his Quaker activities and beliefs, and lived through turbulent times in Ireland’s political history.

He opened a shop in Lurgan, Co. Armagh and, after hearing James Naylor, a Quaker preacher, in England, set up the first Quaker meeting in Lurgan. He became a friend of George Fox and William Penn. He later became a farmer and moved again, finally settling in Rosenallis and establishing the Quaker meeting in Mountmellick. During this time, he continued to travel and to preach throughout Ireland, England, America and the West Indies, and made many converts. He made one of the first public statements about slavery in Barbados. He and Margaret had seven children. He and Margaret, and a number of their descendants, are buried in the Quaker “Sleeping Ground” at Rosenallis, and there is a plaque and a tree planted there to celebrate his life.

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