‘Communities of Dissent’ research project

January 4, 201711:57 amJanuary 4, 2017 11:58 amLeave a Comment


Invitation to participate in a new research project for local and family historians

Religious dissent, its impact and changing role, is the focus of a new research project for local and family historians.

This is the latest major venture of the Family and Community History Research Society (FACHRS). The society was established in 1998, initially by former Open University students of courses in social, family and community history who wanted to continue their involvement in active research, including shared, major projects done collectively and comparatively by members throughout the country. It has continued independently of the OU with current membership of over 250, of whom on average around 50 take part in major projects. Previous themes have included Swing riots, allotments, and almshouses.

Now attention is turned to the local history of Nonconformity, with Dr Kate Tiller of Oxford University as Project Director. Researchers will begin by assessing the presence of religious dissent in their chosen locality during the heyday of Nonconformity from 1850. In the following period ‘Chapel’ was a widespread and significant feature of local and national life, often drawing on proud earlier antecedents, but now with enhanced status and scale. To be ‘Chapel’ was an important source of choice and identity for individuals, families and groups. It touched not only on the spiritual but also the social, educational, political and cultural aspects of people’s private and public lives. The presence of Nonconformity gave a distinctive character to many communities.

The Communities of Dissent project will involve participants with experience in researching local and family history in two phases of active research. Phase One will produce a profile of local dissent, recording (or recovering a record of) its buildings – chapels, schools, Sunday schools, meeting rooms, institutes, ministers’ houses- and making an initial assessment of the Nonconformist culture of which they were part. A range of ‘universal’ records, including the 1851 religious census; population census; directories; newspapers; standing buildings; large-scale OS and other maps; 1910 Domesday; denominational magazines will provide a shared basis for comparative local profiles of Nonconformity. This profiling will also reveal the extent of surviving evidence for local chapels and lead into Phase Two of research involving the in-depth use of chapel records, links to other sources and analysis on topics chosen from a range of possibilities according to researchers’ interests and the available source material. Research guidance, case studies and a dedicated website will be provided. The FACHRS spring conference at the University of Leicester, 6-7 May 2017, will feature plenary contributions from Kate Tiller and project participants and a project workshop.

Researchers are being recruited fast (see map). Individuals and small groups may take part (provided at least one is a member of FACHRS and acts as contact person with the network). Recruitment is open until the end of January 2017 if space permits. If you are interesting in joining the FACHRS project, either in the areas shown or other places not yet covered please contact Janet Cumner, the project coordinator, at chapel.project@fachrs.com. She will also be interested to hear from those who may have relevant information on the Communities of Dissent being studied, a map of which will be posted on the FACHRS website.

communities of dissent

Written by Amy Rushton

3 thoughts on “‘Communities of Dissent’ research project”

  1. Janet Cumner says:

    This project is now fully subscribed.

  2. Sarah Margittai says:

    I have some information about an 18th century Sabbatarian community in Melton and district (Suffolk). The survivors eventually joined an Independent Congregation in Woodbridge. I am attempting to ‘save’ what remains of their burying ground. Please contact me if this is of any interest to you.

    1. Judith Stephenson says:

      Hi Sarah, thanks for this. I passed the query onto Louise, the Ipswich archivist and I understand that she has been in touch with you already.

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