Letter from John Ferrar
This letter was transcribed by Bernard Blackstone in ‘The Ferrar papers’ and is given here: in John’s handwriting and the transcription.
"…the present sad and turbulent condition…a general deluge of consumptions of estates fell upon the whole land for our great sins…this last judgment of God an universal and unheard of punishment fell upon all for all had sinned; and in our particular estate we were scourged…we were fain to submit to a long sequestration for then the wars raged horribly but that was not all: to save our consciences from what was imposed that that might not ruin also we rather resolved to leave our native country and so I took you and my VF (Virginia) and went beyond sea…there being so many open wide throats gaping to devour Little Gidding."
The Ferrar Papers, edited by B. Blackstone. Cambridge, University Press, 1938
In it John refers to his having left Gidding and gone overseas to Holland. John’s wife Bathsheba did not go with her family to Holland but stayed with relatives in Essex and returned to Gidding to collect the rents during their absence. The estate was briefly sequestered during the Commonwealth, and perhaps some deterioration came about as a consequence of neglect, but there is no mention of deliberate destruction, nor of the font being thrown into the pond. Indeed when the font was examined and restored by metallurgists at English Heritage in 1993 no evidence of immersion in water was found.
Peckard also alleges that the church organ was torn down and made into a fire upon which sheep were roasted: there is no evidence that there was an organ in the church, although there was certainly one in the Manor House.
Possible sources for the allegations:
The narrative given by Muir and White in their ‘Materials for the life of Nicholas Ferrar’ includes the notes written by John Ferrar for the eventual writing up of this life by an unidentified Historian. John Ferrar describes the scene at Nicholas’ deathbed when Nicholas commanded that his books be gathered together and burned on the place he had marked for his grave, and ‘a great smoke and bonfire and flame they made. And it being upon a hill, the towns round about and men in the fields came running up to the house, supposing some great fire had happened at Little Gidding….in a few days, it was by rumour spread all the country over at market towns that Mr Nicholas Ferrar lay a-dying, but he could not die till he had burned all his conjuring books and made a great fire of them upon the grave that he would be buried in.’ (p110 para 185)
Later, referring to the pamphlet The Arminian Nunnery published four years after Nicholas’ death (1641), and its allegations of Catholic practices, John writes that ‘although it was most easy to have been confuted’…’soldiers then raised, that came out of Essex to pass towards the north way to Gidding, intelligence was given them at Gidding, from good hands, that these books was given to many of them, and that they were hired and animated...to have offered violence to the family and house. But God Almighty, in his special providence, did turn away their fury at that time and it then passed over.’ (p111 para 187)
Muir, LR and White, JA editors. Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, Literary and Historical Section, Vol. XXIV, Part IV, pp. 263 – 428, December 1996