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William Erbery 1604-1654 : Heretic ? Lunatic ?

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2016 9:24 pm    Post subject: William Erbery 1604-1654 : Heretic ? Lunatic ? Reply with quote

I am really - really - interested in William Erbery for a variety of reasons - not least a couple of personal ones such as my home being in the same neighbourhood as his was centuries ago ... I was first introduced to William Erbery thirty years ago but he is such an obscure character and has been so damed by others it was difficult to find out what I first suspected : that he was a man struggling to articulate a vision which we would now easily recognise as being " Republican " - or rather if we could penetrate his language we would be able to do so I think. What is the problem with his language ? He was a chaplain in the Parliamentary army where he found the freedom to ask some severely deep questions about what he witnessed : once the civil wars were over he plunged into a stupendous campaign of writing in which he poured out new ideas in a fountain of words culled from the existing literatures around him but in sentences which are carved out of his newly expounding consciousness like a man trying to fashion something by whittling it out of pieces of wood which are lying to hand ... until he came to an astounding conclusion : his focus shifted away from the words to the thing that he was trying to describe and so having personally had the experience of the difference between the words and the things which he was trying to describe with them he started advising people to not be concerned about the word at all but the thing itself ...

... In other words he firmly rejected credalism and even saw it as being anti-religious - and the consequences of this were that he recommended that religious meetings should be conducted as conversations and so without any prescribed words - no sermons, no prayers, no hymns - so that people could decide their own words for themselves ... In other words he demolished - or at least cracked - the very foundation of what was in the 1650s thought to be " religion " because these were the very things which provided his fellow clerics with their means to live - and so of course these " Hierocrats " as I denote them vigorously attacked him and denounced him as spreading disorder and disrespect for both religious and political authority ... Erbery's career had begun conventionally as the parish priest of Cardiff but then he began to hold conversations in his home and then prayer meetings in his orchard in Shipman Street ( now destroyed : part of the orchard later became the Cardiff Quaker Burial Ground and they were all then buried under the South Wales Railway Line by Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the orders of the Marquis of Bute - because in the 1840s the rest of the orchard and the house was occupied by the radical political leader John Bachelor : this was one of the few pieces of land Bute did not own and he used Parliament to get it - Bute offered Bachelor " compensation " of other premises on a one yearly lease to force Bachelor into submission or be utterly ruined.) ...

... The meetings in the orchard were for the purpose of trying to raise the religious life of Cardiff to a higher level ... but - having heard that William Erbery was extolling Truth, Love, Freedom, Peace and Life - The Burghers in Cardiff became concerned that all of this Spirituality was corrupting their employees which involved such distinct risks of them sobering up and demanding proper wages ... so they took the matter to The Sheriff of Glamorganshire who upon seeing himself surrounded with swords and pistols agreed to issue a Posse Comitatus - whereupon they proceeded together to their local brothel where there was a bishop whom they had prepared earlier who promptly swore on The Bibul that he had always intended to throw William Erbery out for his non-conformity ... So William Erbery hit the road and wandered we know not where whilst preaching for pennies by the waysides until he got a job as a regimental chaplain where he suddenly found himself with a congregation which hung on his every word - and then hanged it ... For men who were pitched into chaotic times and needed to make sense of what might prove to be shortened lives Erbery's illegal conventicle in his orchard was precisely the kind of religious exercise they needed to bind up and heal their wounded spiritualities - and so the Parliamentary officers became concerned. ... When The Ministers in Oxford scoffed at William Erbery as an uneducated country cleric he challenged them to a series of public debates in which he exposed their university education to an astounding critique - and so the Royalist establishment marked him down as an undesirable ...

... Sometime in 1648 our small ragged radical preacher from Cardiff was picking his way through the rubbish of war strewn down Lombard Street in London : soldiers without legs brought there to beg - ragged children begging in the hope of eating - women who might have abandoned such children begging but also offering themselves in the hope of food - the elderly drifting like ghosts without support and with no interest in food ... food ... food in a city bankrupted by war ... food ... William Erbery has not been paid for years and is now sundered from his regiment and ... food ... and he stops outside of what is now 54 Lombard Street - " At The Sign of The Black Spread Eagle " - from 1728 the shop was taken over by what became Barclays Bank - in 1648 it was the print and talk shop of notoriously radical printers Giles and Elizabeth Calvert ... he hesitates ... adjusts the bundle on his shoulder ... and steps into the middle of an argument : a shrilly trilling voice is scything through the air with all of the projection of a preacher - a Radnor man already known to him - the Fifth Monarchist Vavasor Powell - soon to be imprisoned for denouncing Cromwell ... " ... and so who shall rouse Him ? KING JESUS I SAY !!! " ... " No - NO ! - We need a new LAW - OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ! " - rejoined The Digger's leader Gerrard Winstanley in firm melodic tones ... " Ah-hA ! - But what is that my friends ? - Without due proceedings in our court rooms can there be justice of any sort ? - All men are Free-Born and endowed with rights by The Natural Law as ordained by God ! " - the other two were suddenly subdued before John Lilburne who disagreed with both - but especially with the third who now lurched into something resembling a life ... " Yer fool oh shiiiit Lilly-Burn-so-cal'd-Leviller ... Yer - Yer - Yer Constishutinilisism is-is-is jes papir wirke ! ... Yer - Yer - Yer seeeethisss ??? - Tha'sh a SINGLE EYE dash isss !!! - JeS jis JES JU NOTSKILS ANLYWUN - JUBASTRADS !!!! " ... Everybody in the shop averted their eyes from Laurence Clarkson's Ranter's breeches ( except Martha Simmonds ! ) ...

... " Hello my lovely ! " said Martha Simmonds to our little hero beneath her ample bodice ... Mr William Erbery continued to try to catch her attention but she was still gazing over her shoulder at Abiezer Coppe and Jacob Bauthumley who were trying to hold Clarkson upright whilst he continued to grapple with some kind of imaginary wheel in front of him whilst making a strange noise ... " Brrrrum-BRRRRUM ! " ... " Um - I - I - I - do - um - er - " ... " Privy's out the back lovely - you can take a sheet of paper with you - penny for a clean, ha'penny for a misprint - or you can wipe your bum on " The News of The World " for free ! " ... " My name is Rever - no : Mister William Erbery and I once wrote a book called " The Great Mystery of Godlinesse " - and I would like to write a sequel - please - several in fact and - " " Well it is no use talking to me luvver - you should talk to my bruvver - don't worry : he ain't heavy - he's Giles Calvert ! ... And - oh : ELI-ZAH ! ... ELI-ZAA-AAH ! ... Do' a little favour for the professor here ... he speaks terribly posh for a Taff mind ... he's a writer - wants to write a book - well they all do - don't they ... mind you - he looks terribly thin and ill and ... well - old ... doesn't he ? " " You been in the wars love ? Come and sit down - here : let me take that load off your shoulders and - OH !!! " ... The bundle that William Erbery is carrying bursts open and scraps of paper cascade onto the floor : scribbles cover everything - big bold - small scratchy - slowly traced and dashed off in pieces - words written between the lines and at right angles to everything ...

... Mister - no longer Reverend - William Erbery tried to keep up with Martha Simmonds as she marched through the puddles down the centre of the alleyway and he contrived to jump from side to side and avoid unmentionable things which he preferred not to look at ... As he paused once again before a door he looked back to see his progress in this pilgrimage marked by a paper trail of scribblings which escaped along the way ... besides his own bundle he had three others - one of pure white, one of pure black and the third of the many colours in between stuck into his hat band ... Martha Simmonds now called to him from the bedroom and hugging the memories of his wife to himself he mounted the narrow stairs to squeeze past the figure of Martha Simmonds which had grown monstrously large by the light of the smoking candle in her hand which she was now gripping lasciviously ... " Well lover - sleep tight : put your shoes up in the rafters - the rats will eat them otherwise ... " ... The door slammed shut and William Erbery found himself in near total darkness : he left his own bundle on the floor and putting down the paper on the bed he fell upon it as a pillow and slept with his hat on - awaking the next morning because of the fat bottle of ink boring into his side ... a hunger gnawed at him as he watched the dawn creep onto the broad window sill and he rose to greet it as a friend : The Light ... he found that there was a stool and he placed his pillow in The Light and in staring at it for a moment he moistened his lips ... reached for a quill to suck upon - and then he bit the end of it flat and took out his pen knife and ...

... The Great Mystery of Godlinesse ( 1639 ) ... Petition to The House of Commons ( 1640 ) ... Nor Truth nor Errour ( 1647 ) ... The Lord of Hosts : The Army's Defence ( 1648 ) ... To The Army Council ( 1649 ) ... The Grand Oppressor or The Terror of The Tithes ( 1652 ) ... The Sword Doubled : A Scourge for The Assyrian ( 1652 ) ... The Bishop of London ( 1652 ) ... The Welsh Curate ( 1652 ) ... Apochrypha ( 1652 ) ... The General Epistle to The Hebrews ( 1652 ) ... To The Lord General Cromwell ( 1652 ) ... A Call to the Churches ( 1652 ) ... A Dispute at Cowbridge ( 1652 ) ... The Honest Heretique ( 1652 ) ... [ IN 1652 CROMWELL'S BLUE FACTION CONTRIVED TO HAVE WILLIAM ERBERY CHARGED WITH HERESY AND BLASPHEMY : HE WAS PLACED UNDER ARREST FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AND TRIED IN FEBRUARY 1653 AND TO CROMWELL'S FURY WAS ACQUITTED AND STARTING WRITING AS IF POSSESSED ] ... Ministers for Tithes ( 1653 ) ... A Monstrous Dispute ( 1653 ) ... The Mad Man's Plea ( 1653 ) ... The Babe of Glory ( 1653 ) ... The North Star ( 1653 ) ... A Whirlwind from The South ( 1653 ) ... The Children of The West ( 1653 ) ... A Flash of Lightning from the East ( 1653 ) ... The Woman Preacher ( 1653 ) ... The Idol Pastor or The Foolish Shepherd ( 1653 ) ... The Wretched People ( 1653 ) ... An Olive Leaf ( 1653 ) ... The Man of Peace ( 1653 ) ... Jack Pudding ( 1653 ) ... The Great Earthquake ( 1654 ) ... [ PROBABLY PUBLISHED POSTHUMOUSLY - WILLIAM ERBERY DIED IN APRIL 1654 ]

William Erbery is a fascinating example of a man struggling to give birth to a new vision of The World.

" To do to everyone as we would that men would do unto us. This is the sum of All Religion ... "

" My Religion is, to be of no Religion, with man ; that is, to have fellowship with none, and yet have fellowship with all in God."

" All the people of God shall become one Land, one Continent, wherein the Lord alone shall live."

" That as the three chief Religions in the world, are the Christians, Jews and Turks ; so this Christian Common-wealth [ I.E. REPUBLIC ] appearing so favourable to the Jews, why not for misbelieving Christians, who in their utmost knowledge love the Truth and Peace ? Why may not honest Papists have the like Liberty of Conscience, in due time, amongst Protestants in England, when our Gouverners see good." [ WHAT WILLIAM ERBERY APPEALED FOR IN 1652 FINALLY HAPPENED IN 1829 ]

" The Defendant reserving to himself all the liberty to a free-born subject of England and Wales " [ IN THIS ERBERY IS CITING JOHN LILBURNE'S REPUBLICAN ARGUMENT ]

" God will find a way to feed the poor out of the bellies of the rich, who shall not only make restitution according to their substance, but shall vomit up all that they have swallowed."

" These kinds, with their Nobles, Lords, and Dukes, all proceed from a cursed pedigree."


What prompted me to finally write a bit about William Erbery was finding this online -

http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bq/23-3_114.pdf - William Erbery ( 1604 - 1654 ) and The Baptists

- and those quotations are taken from this long awaited biography and miscellany -


The Honest Heretique - The Life and Work of William Erbery ( 1604 - 1654 ) - John I. Morgans - Y Lolfa - ISBN: 9781847714855

" ... Erbery was the founder of the first Independent Church in Cardiff, and a chaplain in the parliamentary Army. He resigned as an Independent minister and was a forerunner of Quakerism. He was accused of heresy at St Mary's, Oxford in 1646, and at Westminster in 1652. Although acquitted, he was stigmatised by his enemies as a 'madman'. This stigma followed him into the second half of the twentieth century. ... "
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2016 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


From: David B Lawrence
Sent: 30 October 2016 23:13
To: commissioningwales@bbc
Subject: [ POST SCRIPT ] Fw: SPOOF HISTORY COMEDY PROGRAMME SUGGESTION : WILLIAM ERBERY ( + there is a broken link to the " Freelancers " webpage )

( If you will excuse my adding to that - please ? )

My central pre-occupation as a Meta-Ideologist is with periods of transition or " paradigm shifts " which have happened.

Around c1650 a paradigm shift was under way : this was the decade in which the balance tipped from theologically based ideologies towards the philosophically based ideologies e.g. before 1650 Descartes is still talking in a Theist mode but after 1650 Spinoza starts talking in a Deist mode. William Erbery was an ordinary man caught up in extra-ordinary times and he was struggling to make sense of what he was witnessing and he was precociously pre-modern in his insights ...

... All around Erbery were people trying to use theological ideas to frame a new conception for the society they lived in - and three things happened circa 1650 which have a contemporary resonance for us - ( A ) the first translations of The Koran appeared in English which both excited and horrified - ( B ) the Jews were re-admitted to England and Wales and became a sort of freak show where people went to stare at the " Christ Killers " and began to speculate as to converting them and thus ushering in The Millenium deemed by many to be coming in 1666 - ( C ) many fled to the continent and then returned with new ideas from their experiences there ... and a hell of a lot else happened - you could make several series !

After I sent the first email and struggled unsuccessfully with what I am supposed to be doing I took a break and began to think about how this could be done on a one stage set e.g. it could be done for radio before an audience with personal microphones so for the watching audience the actors could actually be doing a conventional sort of drama production ...

... And the idea began to titillate me that for the benefit of a contemporary multi-racial multi-faith Britain projected back into the 17c all of the elements of our contemporary society could be presented in historical dress with the problems of prejudices and getting along with each other grotesquely exaggerated : 17c London actually had some Jews and Muslims already and African, Asian and apparently even people from the far east were there - all in small numbers, but where else would they congregate other than in the print shop of the extremely liberal-minded Giles and Elizabeth Calvert ?

Parts of the story of the Calverts that I like are that when Giles was jailed and the press closed down Elizabeth dismantled it and put it into ( six ? ) wagons which circulated from place to place in order to re-assemble it and print the next radical pamphlet before dissembling it - a " secret " printing press " hidden " in - six wagons ! - I can not find a suitable emoticon ! - Giles' sister was Martha Simmonds - whom I suspect was one of the original Quakers who were later written out of the official Quaker histories - and she was married to Thomas Simmonds who after the James Naylor debacle of 1654 ( she was prominent in it and blamed ) agreed with the new Quaker leader George Fox to basically place her under house arrest and in return - he received all of the Quaker business which had previously been placed with Giles and Elizabeth Calvert ... why ? ... They had not deserted James Naylor and they were part - I think - of the original " Religious Society of Friends " which had formed in 1652 around their star author - William Erbery : he was the first to advocate that idea - and this was not the same thing as " The Quakers " who are recorded as having arrived in London from ... ( Amsterdam ? ) ... in 1647 !

Thirty years in Quakerism and I am well liked - but few Quakers accept that the story of George Fox as its founder is a lie.

But I am not an academical author but a polemical scribbler : in 2013 my patience ended with The Dis-United Kingdom -

- you will find lengthy tracts of rambling scrambling righting on Y Repwblic after I then rejected Democracy for Nomocracy.

Probably political suicide - but I despair of Devolution : we need a Constitution and an independent Judiciary to defend it.

Well : I know that I have neither the skills nor the time to write anything other than " quantity not quality " for Y Repwblic -

- but I hope that I have entertained you for a few minutes ?

I recommend that you go talk to some academics about the crazy ideas which sprouted c1650 : excellent comedy material !


" dai repwblic = Dai Saw = David B Lawrence : the author asserts his moral right - not to sue for copyright ! "

From: David B Lawrence
Sent: 30 October 2016 18:39
To: commissioningwales@bbc
Subject: SPOOF HISTORY COMEDY PROGRAMME SUGGESTION : WILLIAM ERBERY ( + there is a broken link to the " Freelancers " webpage )

Dear BBC Wales Commissioning,

this was a broken link so I have chosen to write to this email to you ... hopefully ... optimistically even ...


I will paste in the piece of writing which I did last night below my address line : it suggests a comedy idea ?

I really like the idea of William Erbery : I was first told about him thirty odd - very odd - years ago ... but the authors were all odd in Giles and Elizabeth Calvert's print shop " At The Sign of The Black Spread Eagle."

I have just been reading out this piece over the phone to a friend of mine complete with funny voices etc and it immediately struck me as to how much it sounded like a number of these historical Radio 4 spoofs.

After I put the phone down my creative mind started to crank into gear with all of the possibilities because nearly everybody who was somebody in radical religion and politics from the mid 1640s to the mid 1660s was connected in some way with the Calvert's print shop " At The Sign of The Black Spread Eagle " and it was right at the centre of important events and a thorn in the backsides of everyone who tried to sit on it.

If on the other hand you would like to consider a specifically Cardiffian location then William and Elizabeth Erbery's home located in what is now East Canal Wharf - then Shipman Street - is our very own parallel : in the Civil War years the earnestly conducted but cordial rivalries in Cardiff between the supporters of The King and The Parliament were really comical and there is a rich seam to be mined in each of those episodes of the control of the borough and castle changing hands - complete with supporting cast of visiting characters such as pirates and the earnest English Puritan Gowler brothers who were both fascinated and offended by Mrs Erbery and her daughter Dorcas Erbery ( later prosecuted for blasphemy.) Mrs Erbery was at the centre of the row over the corrupt election of 1660 when all of the wrong sorts of voters were arrested the night before the poll - which elected one Mr Floyd who upon learning about this in London protested that nobody had told him that he was a candidate in Cardiff and he had been elected in ( Montgomery ? )

Now I have a confession to make : I am buried under a lot of troubles at the moment and I can not write this.

But I hope that the idea amuses you and perhaps you will be able to find somebody who can make it work.

David B. Lawrence


Y Repwblic
Conversations with Wales' Republicans : Poblachiaethwyr - Repwbligwyr - Gweriniaethwyr

William Erbery 1604-1654 : Heretic ? Lunatic ?

Y Repwblic Forum Index -> Hanesyddol - Historical

Author : dai

PostPosted : Sat Oct 29, 2016 9:24 pm

Post subject : William Erbery 1604-1654 : Heretic ? Lunatic ?

I am really - really - interested in William Erbery for a variety of reasons - not least a couple of personal ones such as my home being in the same neighbourhood as his was centuries ago ... I was first introduced to William Erbery thirty years ago but he is such an obscure character and has been so damed by others it was difficult to find out what I first suspected : that he was a man struggling to articulate a vision which we would now easily recognise as being " Republican " - [ ETC ]
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