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William Parkinson of Quorn - A staunch Baptist, 44 years a ruling Elder

Loughborough Echo 14th January 1938

How He Was Converted
In the Baptist Churchyard at Quorn lies a simple gravestone, weathered and green with age, but yet on which it is possible to decipher the words:

“Dedicated to the memory of
who, after a life of exemplary usefulness and piety
as a man and a Christian, exchanged this mortal for
an immortal state on the 4th of May, 1808.”

The stone and its inscription are a tribute to the memory of a man who for many years in the latter half of the eighteenth century was the acknowledged leader of the village life of Quorn. It is related of him that nothing was ever done in the village without his concurrence. Nobody would ever have dreamed of opposing his will. Fond of music, a Whig by politics, deeply religious, he was the “Grand Old Man of Quorn,” a benevolent dictator respected and admired by all.

True, he was said to be “subject at times to a degree of irritability,” but his biographer charmingly excused this slight failing as being probably due to stones in the kidney.

He was one of the original members of the Loughborough Society for the Prosecution of Felons, founded in 1783; and this, together with his pronounced Liberal sympathies, brought him into contact with John Chapman, the Loughborough clockmaker.

Chapman was a much younger man, but his friendship with Parkinson became deep and intimate. The Parkinson family gig was often to be seen outside the clockmaker’s shop in the High-gate; and later Chapman marries as his second wife, Sarah, the youngest daughter of Parkinson.

By trade, Parkinson was a farmer, and unlike most local farmers of the time, was an admirer of Robert Bakewell, of Dishley. Indeed the two men were close friends, and the squat figure of Bakewell was often to be seen on his friend’s farm at Quorn, while similarly, Parkinson was often to be seen jogging through the Market Place at Loughborough on his way to Dishley. He enthusiastically entered into Bakewell’s schemes for the revolution of farming, adopted them on his own farm, and was not without his own reputation as a sheep-breeder. The farm was situated on land belonging to the New House at Quorn.

The New House, on the south side of Meeting Street had been purchased in 1758 by John and Mary Hyde. It remained in the possession of the Hydes until the death of Saville John Hyde in 1830. It was then purchased and pulled down in 1841 by E.B. Farnham.

At one time a serious fire occurred at the House. Parkinson, as chief tenant of the estate, helped to fight the flames; and the following story is related to illustrate the universal respect for him as a man of incorruptible character. At the height of the fire, Mr. Hyde, senior was heard to cry out: “Parkinson! Parkinson!” When Parkinson came he was led through the confusion to an inner room on the ground floor. There Hyde stopped and whispered: “Parkinson, all my wealth is hidden in this room. Here is a pick-axe. If the fire extends here peck up the floor in that corner and take away what you find.” In actual fact, the fire did not reach that part of the building, but the descendants of Parkinson used proudly to tell how Hyde never thought it necessary to lay any injunction of secrecy upon his neighbour.

Parkinson had been born in 1729 at Sawley. His parents were prosperous farmers and had a large family. Their ancestors had long been settled in the neighbourhood of Sawley, and a writer in 1756 stated that there were many monuments to the family in Wilne Church; but the present writer, during a recent search, was unable to find any reference to the family of Wilne or the neighbourhood.

Be that as it may, Parkinson assisted his father till thirty years old, and then moved to Quorn circa 1769 to start farming on his own account. His parents were strongly attached to the Church of England; but their son, on his removal to Quorn joined the local Baptist community, and later became its Ruling Elder.

He as fond of telling to his friends the story of his conversion. It occurred when he was riding from Quorn to Sawley on a visit to his parents. “Passing through Kegworth he heard the singing of a congregation. As he was partial to singing, and proficient in it, he was induced to go in and joint the worshippers.” This was the General Baptist meeting of the village, and the preacher was Francis Smith, one of the most famous of eighteenth century preachers, and whose descendants live in Loughborough to this day. After the singing, Mr. Smith preached from the text, “I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand and no man regarded,” and William Parkinson was so impressed that he thenceforward began regularly to attend the Baptist Chapel.

His conversion resulted in much unhappiness. His wife (Ann, daughter of John Thompson, of Sawley), his father and all his relatives turned against him. His father went so far as to disinherit him, and even visited Mr. Hyde at Quorn, to request him to turn the heretical William out of his recently acquired farm. Hyde, however, though a good Churchman, had too much respect for the honesty of William’s character, and so refused.

At another time his wife and her family literally kidnapped Parkinson, and took him to a meeting at Sawley, where were arraigned against him all his relatives, with the rector of Sawley as spokesman. There he was put through a lengthy catechism, questions being fired at him from all sides. Finally the rector delivered a long harangue and urged him to renounce his new faith. But when it came to his turn to reply, Parkinson spoke with such effect and put the rector through such a scathing counter-catechism that the latter cut a sorry figure; and we are told, Mrs. Parkinson went home in a towering rage because the rector, her champion, had been worsted.

However, a few months later, Mrs. Parkinson herself – perhaps partly influenced by a desire for domestic peace – joined the Baptist Church, and thence-forward William Parkinson’s family life was a happy one. His home became locally famed for its hospitality, and people of all ranks were entertained there.

One by one his other relatives also became Baptists until eventually, with the conversion of his father, his triumph was complete. His brother Robert followed him to Quorn, and there fitted up two rooms, which were used as the earliest Baptist Chapel in Quorn. This was in 1766, and the first separate chapel was built in 1770.

Later another brother, Thomas, also migrated to Quorn, and there became a deacon of the chapel. Of his other brothers, the eldest, Joseph, remained on his father’s farm at Sawley, while Edward moved to the neighbourhood of Hinckley, and both became prominent local Baptists.
In the earliest days there was no division of the local Baptist community – there was but one congregation, drawn from a huge area stretching from Mountsorrel to Castle Donington, and from Barton-in-the-Beans to East Leake. In 1764, however, a division was effected whereby Quorn and Loughborough were combined into a separate church. It was then that Parkinson was elected Ruling Elder – a post which he held till his death 44 years later.

At that time Quorndon was the more important section of the Quorn-Loughborough Church, and both Ruling Elder and Minister resided at Quorn. The latter was the celebrated Benjamin Pollard – Benjamin Pollard who began life by earning 2d. per day in the slate pits at the Brand, but later rose to be the foremost local slate carver and one of the most powerful of Baptist preachers. He had a stonemason’s and stationer’s shop at Quorn, and many were the important discussions held here between Minister and Ruling Elder.

William and Ann Parkinson had eight children – five sons and three daughters. All but one of these survived their father, and as an old man Parkinson used frequently to say that “he thought no father was so blessed as himself, who had five sons and two daughters, all of whom were attentive, not only to the things of this world, but also to the concerns of eternity.” One son became a well known Loughborough doctor- “Dr. Parkinson.” An old advertisement for Loughborough Grammar School in 1812 states that “reference may be made to Dr. Parkinson, of Loughborough, who has a son in this establishment.” Maybe readers of the Echo may be able to give information concerning other descendants of the subject of this article.

For many years, and especially in the days following the death of his wife in 1797, the old man suffered from a disease which eventually brought about his death on May 4th 1806. He was then buried in the Baptist Churchyard at Quorndon. Benjamin Pollard delivering his address on the occasion from “And Israel said unto Joseph, behold I die but God shall be with you and bring you again to the God of your fathers.”

 Submitted on: 2011-07-14
 Submitted by: Christine Sibcy
 Artefact ID: 1330
 Artefact URL: www.quornmuseum.com/display.php?id=1330
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page

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