which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell.

Claye's Barn and the Quakers

Margaret Lynam's tale

photo of Clays barn

Claye's Barn is at the end of the main path through the churchyard

In 1661 Squire Claye’s barn was used to imprison, overnight, a party of forty-one Quakers from the Eyam area who were being walked to Derby Gaol. Their story is a moving one, telling of the hardship of being a Quaker at this time. The Fritchley Quakers were involved in the events which happened.

The following story has become part of Quaker history –

The story begins with John Lynam, born in 1631, who married Margaret Ridge an eloquent Quaker preacher. John and his brother Thomas were repeatedly sent to jail for non payment of tithes. In 1661 John Lynam was given ten weeks imprisonment in Derby gaol for failing to pay tithes to Peter Coates the priest of South Wingfield.

Whilst he was in gaol in 1661, forty-one male and female Quakers from Eyam were arrested and ordered to Derby Gaol. Of course no transport was provided, they had to walk accompanied by four constables. On the way to gaol they stopped over at Crich where they were all lodged in Squire Claye’s barn without food or water.

What follows is an account of this incident as told by Margaret Lynam and recorded by Thomas Davidson.


The sun of Midsummer Day was still high over Thorpehill and Culland Woods when Margaret Lynam called her nephew, Samuel a lad of ten, to bring the cows down from the "Mainpiece", ready for milking when the haymakers came up from the Dingle Close.

Sam had been sent by his father from Pilsley to help Aunt Margaret while Uncle John was lying in Derby Jail, kept there by Peter Coates, the persecuting vicar (1646 -1676) of South Wingfield.

"Tie up the cows lad, and I hear that Thomas Bowmer is going to Derby with his pack horses tomorrow, so I want thee to run to Barnclose with these things for Uncle John, and if Thomas Bowmer can see him, he may tell him that we are getting on very well.

There is a rare crop in the Amber Meadow and it will soon be ready for getting. "Aye, and he can tell Uncle that we had a good meeting at Pentrich on First day, and all was quiet and peaceable. And Sammy, take these boots as well and go on to the cobbler at Crich, for we must have them mended, by Uncle John get home.”

Sam was soon on his way by Park Lane and delivering his bundle and message to Thomas Bowmer at Barnclose, struck through Fritchley and along Crich Common. When he got to the market place he found a crowd gathered around a number of prisoners whom four constables had just brought into the town.

Thieves?; they did not look like thieves, and when Sam got up to them he recognised their neighbour. Richard Furniss of Higham and various other Friends whom he had seen at meetings in Pentrich and Pilsley.

These Friends, forty one in number, had been meeting at Eyam the day before and driven on foot thus far on their way to Derby Gaol. When Sam saw them put into Squire Clay's barn, he took to his heels and was soon along Dimple Lane, up Nun Fields, through Thorpehill Woods and home to his aunt with the sad tidings.

The evening meal was in progress when he burst in with the terrible news. Aunt Margaret said but little and the servants were also very silent. Some of them were already convinced, and all of them respected the sorrow and trouble of the quiet self-possessed woman who so bravely endeavoured faithfully and patiently to bear her burdens.

Two of the men were soon ready to go with her to Crich, and, taking cheese and what bread, oatcakes and milk they could carry, set out to relieve the necessities of their suffering brothers and sisters.

Calling at Barn Close, they requested Thomas Bowmer to inform Friends at Little Eaton that the prisoners would be likely to pass that way the following afternoon. At Crich they found the sufferers shut up in one room with no provision for their comfort, but they were permitted to give food that they had brought and, in the presence of Margaret Lynam, seemed to cheer and solace some whose faith had been tried and whose hearts were ready to fail.

Elizabeth Deane of Worcester, under whose concern the meeting at Eyam had been held, had felt discouraged, but the peace of God again flowed in upon her soul, and rising from her resting place on the cold stone floor, she was enabled to hand forth word of comfort and consolation to those who were suffering with her. Anthony Bowman's voice was heard in thanksgiving and praise, and the sinking faith of James Mettam was again revived. Ralph Sharpley and William Yardley each had an encouraging message for the persecuted ones. And Margaret Lynam departed with a promise to see them in the morning.

The tidings had spread, and next morning when Margaret Lynam appeared, her supplies were augumented by contributions from the Hopkinsons of Shirland, the Furniss family of Higham and the Fletchers of Wessington. The morning meal was a time of spiritual refreshment and communion and over all the holy covering was to be felt.

True, there were fears and forebodings, for Episcopacy was again established, and the iron hand of the Bishops was increasingly being felt. but above all these discouragements was the assurance that the protecting arms of the Lord was around them, and that he would not fail to sustain in every time of need. With another message of loving encouragement to her imprisoned husband, whom these Friends were soon to join, Margaret Lynam saw the sad procession march down Crich Common, and going with them as far as Fritchley, with a heavy heart she turned aside to her home and the daily task.

Down the track on the Common, among the gorse and heather, and along "Top Hag" with its birch and hazel bushes, the company slowly went across the Amber and along the highway through Belper, where the nailer boys were inclined to pelt them, but were mostly restrained by the nailer women who knew that these were no malefactors. When Little Eaton was reached, a tempting meal was offered to the constables to induce them to stop and the few hours notice that Thomas Bowmer had given, had enabled the Friends there to prepare for the whole company. Again in the breaking of the bread and in prayer was the presence of the Lord manifested, hearts were tendered, and they were comforted together.

After a month's confinement in Derby Gaol most of them were set free and, about the same time, John Lynam was also liberated. But this was only, as it were, the beginning of suffering for Margaret Lynam.

Two years later, her husband was again prosecuted by the vicar of South Wingfield. But faithfully and steadily he and she were enabled to bear their testimony for nearly thirty years, when, weary of the continued persecution, they felt at liberty to go to Pennsylvania with many more of their brethren and sisters from Derbyshire.

There, seven miles south west of Philadelphia, these Derbyshire emigrants, Lynam's, Buntings, Burton's, Matlacks and others, founded a township which they named Darby, and where free from Clergy and informers, they were able to spend the evening of life in peace and quietness.

Has Margaret Lynam's faithful testimony been in vain?

Nay verily, for though her name be almost forgotten, and maybe her descendants profess no the truth that she suffered for, the faithfulness of her and her generation has won for us a rich inheritance of liberty and spiritual freedom.

The Quaker school children now ramble over the "Mainpieces" and search Culland Woods for nests and flowers. The household at the "Dingle" fear no informers but, with their neighbours, in security and peace can wend their way Meeting-wards.
Not now does the farmer at Barnclose saddle his horse to tell of prisoners coming but at the call of his Lord, has been able to cross the wide Atlantic with the Gospel message, in the peaceful assurance that neither vicar nor magistrate would disturb his loved ones while he was away.

But has outward suffering passed forever? Does the dark cloud of conscription begin to hover over our land, small at present as a "mans hand" but is it not already risen out of the sea? When it comes, will the Quaker boys of Fritchley stand firm as their predecessors in profession did, some two hundred and fifty years ago?

And even if conscription does not come, will they be brave enough to stand on the unpopular side? We shall see. Shall the mothers and sisters be willing for their loved ones to suffer for Christ's sake, and will the fathers hold nothing so dear as the truth and know of no greater joy than that their children walk therein?

signed, Thomas Davidson, Third month 1900

(with thanks to Rosemary Bower for a copy of the above)

In 1670 an Act of Parliament was passed that inflicted fines of £20 for every meeting at which more than five persons beyond the inmates of that house were assembled, £20 for a preacher and 5 shillings each for any worshipper. The first house recorded in Matlock was that of Anthony Bunting and the fines totalled £90-3s-4d which was paid by confiscated goods. And in 1676, John Lynam, Thomas Farnsworth, John Wagstaff and others unknown, were fined for attending a meeting at Eggstone (Egstow) in the parish of North Wingfield.

After 30 years of persecution John and Margaret Lynam decided to go to America where William Penn had established the territory of Pennsylvania. In 1677 they sailed from Hull on the fly boat "Martha", along with other Friends from Derbyshire. There they helped to found Darby County where they were able to live out the rest of their lives in peace and with freedom to worship in their chosen manner without further persecution.

John died in Darby County, USA, on the 29th of January 1697 and Margaret died a few weeks later on the 12 of March 1697. In his will John left legacies to the Monthly Meeting of Philadelphia for a free school for the children of poor Quakers.

The Lynam family lived at Tithe Farm, South Wingfield Park, and their descendants farmed there until the 1980's.

Additional notes

In the fIrst half of the 11th century people began to question the established principles and teachings of former scholars and the Church. Political revolution led to the Civil War and free-thinkers were questioning the ethics of religion and authority. Small groups of religious dissenters developed. who met for worship and discussion. In general terms they were called "Seekers" and included groups such as Anabaptists and Mennonites whose ideas had much in common with the later Quakers. These groups were scattered throughout the country and they had no leader to coordinate them. Eventually a "Messiah" did emerge in the figure of George Fox.

Fox had been wandering around the country for some five years in the late 1640's, spreading his message which the people accepted and understood. Crowds of over 1000 people are said to have gathered to hear him preach. George Fox met with much opposition from the authorities and was no stranger to punishment and imprisonment. He was imprisoned at Nottingham in 1649 for interrupting a church service. and again in 1651, at Derby, under a new Blasphemy Law. This was the beginning of the Quaker movement and the suffering and persecution that would be inflicted upon them for their beliefs.

It was into this time of political and religious turmoil that John Lynam was born. John was the son of John Lynam and Alice (nee Allin), and was christened at North Wingfield on the 23nd of December 1631. John became a wheelwright by trade and married Margaret Ridge who became an eloquent Quaker preacher. John, his brother Thomas (baptised 1626) and their mother were all Quakers. They would attend meetings at each other's houses and at Meeting Houses in Tupton and Chesterfield. John and Thomas were repeatedly sent to jail for non payment of tithes and the fIrst recorded entry for this was in 1657. In 1661, John Lynam suffered 9 or 10 weeks imprisonment for failing to pay tithes to the priest of South Wingfield, and in 1662 he was fined 25 shillings and had a cow worth £3-10s-4d taken from him by the same priest.

The priest of South Wingfield again demanded a payment of 25 shillings and a cow worth £3-10s-4d was taken from him in 1663. he was also excommunicated by the church in the same year.

Sources: The research notes of Valerie Jones, nee Lynam (of Retford)
Joseph Besse: "The Sufferings of the People Called Quakers"
"Three Centuries ofDerbyshire Annals"
"'The Quakers"

photo of Clays Barn

The gable end of Claye's Barn can be seen at the end of the main path through the churchyard

Home | Non conformist Index