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D is for William Dowsing

William Dowsing was born at Laxfield in 1596. He worked as a farmer until 1643 when he was appointed as ‘Commissioner for removing the monuments of idolatry and superstition from churches in the Eastern Association’. Everywhere else in the country this process was overseen by churchwardens appointed by an Act of Parliament, Dowsing was the only exception.

For fifteen months he kept a journal of his actions recording the systematic removal of images, chancel steps, and windows from Churches in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. In 1644 his work was widened to include any representations of angels and images in stone, glass or wood.  At Suffolk Record Offfice we hold published copies of his journal and his will of 1668, which was witnessed by members of the Godly congregation. He was recognised in 1804 by the annotator of the Laxfield baptism register:

This man was appointed visitor of the Churches in Suffolk to destroy and abolish all the remains of popish superstition in them. There are few which do not yet bear marks of his indiscreet zeal.

Entry from Laxfield christening register, 1596 (FC80/D2/1)