Historical Preview: History of a Dissenting Church Potterspury and Yardley Gibeon – Jack Clamp
After Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in 1529, as Head of the new Church of England he introduced certain changes in its organisation and doctrine, but he remained basically conservative in his religious thinking. However, there were from the outset those who wanted much more thorough-going changes, and these radicals got their way for a time during the reign of Henry’s son, the boy king Edward VI: for example, the Prayer Book was translated into English, to be used in all churches, clergy were allowed to marry, and altars were moved to the centre of the church, not separated from the congregation at the east end. Edward’s sister Elizabeth was more circumspect and tried to steer a middle way between the “High Church” Anglicans who wanted the church to remain much as it had been for hundreds of years before 1529, and the “Puritans” who wanted more fundamental organisational and doctrinal changes.
Under the first two Stuarts, conflict between these two groups intensified and by 1642 religion was one of the issues that divided Royalists and Parliamentarians in the Civil War. By this time there were two sorts of radical: those who remained members of the church and agitated for reform from within, and those who refused to attend church at all, and tried to set up their own organisations outside it.
After the Civil War the established church was dismantled and there was a period of experiment, but by 1660 people were by and large tired of experiment and were prepared to have the Church of England restored along with the Crown, provided that minority could worship as they pleased. Charles II accepted this.