Frittenden’s Marian Martyrs
Edmund Allin was the local miller and a literate man who led bible-reading classes for Protestants and it is likely that he was a local Protestant leader. This would have meant that the Rector, John Taylor, probably saw the miller as a local rival for political leadership of the village.
Kent visitation records, from late 1557, report that John Taylor led a congregation of some 240 communicants. They also note that the village church was greatly in decay. Taylor was a zealous Catholic, at least during the reign of Mary I. However, he had received the rectory of Frittenden in the reign of Edward VI at the height of Protestant power.
The story of Edmund and Katherine Allin’s martyrdom begins when Taylor, acting with Thomas Hendon, the rector of Staplehurst, reported them to Sir John Baker of Sissinghurst, the local JP and patron of Frittenden Church and one of the prime movers against heretics in Kent. Sir John imprisoned Edmund and Katherine in Sissinghurst Castle. He let them share a room, hoping that they would agree to attend his chapel and recant. However, they remained obstinate and they were sent, with a gaoler, to Maidstone with a statement saying that they were heretics fit for burning. Stopping on the way, their guard left them alone and they seized the opportunity to escape. They fled to Calais where they met up with John Webb, another Frittenden Protestant, who had fled after the Allin’s arrest.
The Allin’s grew weary of exile and returned to Frittenden. On the first Sunday after their return they failed to attend Mass. John Taylor demanded that the congregation help him to arrest Allin. A posse arrived at the miller’s door, apprehended him and his wife and searched the house. They found an English Bible and Psalter, other books and £13 or £14. This was a good deal of money which the local rectors kept for themselves. The sums were sufficient that seven years later, in the reign of Elizabeth I, Allins heirs successfully sued Taylor to get his possessions back.
Allin and his wife found themselves once more in the custody of Sir John Baker. Allin was again questioned by Sir John and this is recorded in Foxe’s “Acts and Monuments”. Edmund and Katherine were eventually sent up to Maidstone and were burnt on 16 June 1557.
The Allin’s martyrdom, together with 5 others, is commemorated on a plaque on the wall of the Cork and Cask pub in Fairmeadow, Maidstone. While the plaque is on the wall of the Cork and Cask pub, in 1557 this location would have been part of the busy local trading area sloping down to the banks of the River Medway. This pub has previously been called ‘The Lamb’ and also ‘Drakes Pub’.
In 1904 a Memorial was raised at the crossroads in Staplehurst to “the Memory of Alice Potkins, Joan Bradbridge and Alice Benden of Staplehurst, also of Edmund Allen and Katherine his wife, of Frittenden, who for the faith suffered death 1556 · 1557 during the Marian persecution”.
Compton census 1676
An early form of Census was the so-called Compton Census of 1676. This was a count of conformists (or inhabitants), papists and nonconformists, for a high proportion of the parishes of England and Wales.
At Frittenden, in a hand other than that of the Rector, someone had annotated the return
… at Frittenden, 215 ‘persons of years of discretion men and women’ and near 100 ‘under age boyes and girles’
Robert Newton, the Rector of Frittenden, analysed Nonconformity in his parish as follows:
“Professed Presbitarians wholly refusing society with the Church of England as to so much thereof as is established with us in Frittenden we have not above 2 or 3 obstinate dissenters:
Anabaptists or so suspected we have 31
Newtralists between Presbyterians and Conformists there are between 30 & 40
Licentious or such as profess no kind of Religion 11 or 12
Other infrequent Resorters to their Parish Church we have
Between 30 and 40 living and residing in Frittenden”
In 1805 the Strict Baptist Chapel was erected. This indicates the strength of dissent in the Weald in general, centred on Cranbrook, at this time.
1851 Religious census
The Rector, Edward Moore, completed the return for St Mary’s for the 1851 Religious Census. This recorded for Frittenden:
Sittings: Free 152; other 303; total 455
Attendance on 30 March: Morning 119 + 73, total 192; afternoon 179 + 73, total 252.
Average attendance during previous 12 months: Morning 130 + 100, total 130; afternoon 200 + 100, total 300
In addition, Moore noted that of the 303 ‘other sittings’ 162 are appropriated to the children attending the Church Schools , and that space is calculated for children accordingly, and not for adults.
This compares with the return for the Providence Chapel signed by James Hickmott, owner:
Sittings: about 20 all free, Standing Room: 20
Attendance on 30 March: Morning 30, afternoon 100.
Average attendance: Alternate Sundays, about 130
The information on this page has been kindly provided by the Frittenden Historical Society