John Phips: A Nonjuring Weaver, 1717

A list of various individuals inhabiting various locations appeared in the Weekly Journal in London in 1718. From the wording and punctuation, it’s hard to tell for sure who “took the oath” and who did not. Presumably everyone listed did. So, what was “the oath”?

The oath referred to here concerned what became known as the nonjuring schism. John Phips, a weaver, is listed with others at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, as having assembled at the “Non-juring Meeting-House” on Sunday, 10 November 1717.

We have dealt with various political and religious rifts in Britain and America which directly affected the Phips, Fips, Phipps, etc. family. The nonjuring schism was yet another of those great debates. This was a polarization which hit the Anglican churches following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. At question was whether William of Orange and wife Mary should be regarded as the reigning monarchs of English, Scotland, and Ireland.

The oath was called a “nonjuring” oath because it was considered a “non-swearing” oath. This was presumably an effort to avoid the strictures of James 5:12 and Matthew 5:34. Yet another debate could have easily ensued, however, over whether calling an oath a nonswearing oath actually makes it such, or whether it’s just a game of semantics.

St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, is an Anglican church which is said to be located on a site used for Christian meeting purposes for over a millennium. The church is located in the Stepney, London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Note that the John Phips who (evidently) took the oath was a weaver, and this was in 1718. We have discussed Robert Phipps and the 1768 Spitalfield Riots, which concerned the weavers of Spitalfields. Spitalfields was a parish in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, so we are dealing with the same general area as the St. Dunstan’s, Stepney church of John Phips.

We discussed how the loom belonging to a weaver named Phipps was destroyed by a mob in the 1768 riots. Although the given name of this Phipps is not specifically given in a period account of the riot, we know that a Samuel Phipps of Spitalfields was living there in 1718 and was a bricklayer.

Robert Phipps of Christ Church in Spitalfields, however, was described in 1783 specifically as a weaver. Then from 1807 to 1885, an individual referred to as “Robert (poss. John) Phipps,” whatever that means, is supposed to have been a silk mercer at Spitalfields. He lived from 1807 to 1855.

The claim has been made that the Spitalfields silk weavers first arrived there around the late 17th century (1600s), and that they were Huguenots. Claims have been made that this Phips or Phipps weaver family was Huguenot. Claims have also been that the “Phibbs” and sometimes Phipps, etc. family of County Sligo, Ireland had Huguenot origins.

As noted earlier, the claim has been made that the progenitor of the Spitalfields Phipps or Phips weavers was one Robert Phipps, but that appears to ignore the fact that there were other individuals of this surname in and around London much earlier.

Robert was a framework knitter living at St. Botolph in Aldgate (Aldersgate) when he married in 1730 at Westminster. St. Botolph was a parish today located where the City of London meets the East End. This would be some distance east and slightly south from the Hornchurch from which the Jamestown, Virginia surveyor John Phips emigrated in 1621.

From The Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer: Being the Freshest Advices Foreign and Domestick, London, Saturday, 15 March 1718, p. 3 (989):

A List of the Persons Assembled at Dr. Welton’s Non-juring Meeting-House, on Sunday the 10th of November 1717. . . .

St. Dunstans Stepney.

Mary Smith, and Eleanor Smith Spinsters. Jos. Merrill, Barber. Wm. Sheringham, Weaver, Took the Oaths. Tho. Corker, Taylor. Edw. Parker, Weaver. Nich. Bond, Weaver. John Goodwin, Weaver, Took the Oaths. Edw. Crochley, Weaver, Took the Oaths. John Phips, Weaver. Richard Underwood, Weaver. Isaac Goss, Weaver. Joseph Brookes, Weaver, James Spalding, Weaver. Thomas Hodgkin, Book-keeper. [page break, p. 4 (1000):] John Reynolds, Weaver. Zach. Tardin, Weaver. John Smith, Painter-Stainer. Henry Babstock, Brick-layer. William Frankley, Salesman, Took the Oaths. Bryan Saunders, Joyner. Eleanor Denton, Spinster, Samuel Bullock, Distiller. Hannah Williams, Widow. Mary Rowland, Spinster. Margaret Bennet, Spinster. John Atchbury, Weaver. Thomas Young, Weaver. Vincent Hurlock, Weaver. John Smith, William Aldin, his Apprentices.


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