Harding of Frensham and Headley – Quakers in the 1600’s

Our story begins with the Will of John Harding of Spreakley, Yeoman of Frensham, written for him by a scribe on 12 June 1648, when he provided £5 each for the 4 children of his deceased son John: “to my granddaughters Ann and Joan, and grandsons William and John Harding.”

👉🏻 John Harding’s grandson, William Harding married into the Heath family ~ prominent Quakers of Headley. Another grandson, John married into the same family in a Quaker marriage.

Quakers were members of a movement advocating peaceful principles founded by George Fox around 1650. George Fox and others were dissatisfied with the teachings of the Church of England and with other groups. They referred to themselves as ‘People of God’ and as the ‘Society of Friends’ but were more commonly called ‘Quakers’.

🔹William Harding ~ born in Frensham in the 1640’s and lived in Headley ~ by 1674 was a Quaker 🔹

Turning to the Society of Friends records we find William Harding’s marriage on ‘the five and twentieth day of the 12 month 1674 ~ 25 February 1675 in the New Style calendar:

Upon the five and twentieth day of the 12 month Anno Domini 1674, William Hardinge the Son of John Hardinge of Spreakley in the parish of Frensham in the county of Surrey deceased & Rebekah Heath the daughter of Edmund Heath of Heathley in the County of Southton before having had the advice & comfort of Friends att their Monthly Meetings the Certificate aforesaid under the Hands of Friends from their Monthly Meetings att Alton more att large have demonstrated and also with the Advice and Comfort of their closest Relations were Married in a publique Congregation in Heathley aforesaid in the presence of us: (list of names)


  1. Quakers objected to using names of days and months derived from pagan gods, substituting numbers; hence, the use of ’12 month’ above (which was February in the Julian calendar);
  2. The Certificate referred to was issued at Alton 15 day of the 12 month 1674 to allow William and Rebekah to marry;
  3. Heathley = Headley and Southton = Hampshire;
  4. The first Quaker marriages in England were not legal according to English law and it wasn’t until 1753, with the passing of the Marriage Act, that Quaker marriages in England and Wales were recognized;
  5. Quaker marriage involved an exchange of vows in front of witnesses.

🔹 William and Rebecca Harding had two sons ~ William and John ~ but neither boy survived.

▪️William born sometime in 1675 (record not found) and died in 1686 at age 11. Burial record from Bramshott Quaker Burial Ground:

▪️John born 8 May 1676 ~ no baptism, just a record of birth date l(image below) and was buried 19 November 1686 at Bramshott Quaker Burial Ground.

▪️Rebecca Harding died within 2 years of her marriage to William and was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground in Bramshott on the 21st day of the 3rd month 1676 ~ which was 21 June in New Style calendar:

▪️William Harding remarried after the death of Rebecca. The event took place at the Alton Meeting House when William promised to be a faithful and loving husband to Mary Locke, daughter of Henry Locke, Yeoman of Headley on 19 June 1677.

Who signed (or made a mark) on William and Mary’s Certificate of Marriage at Alton? The names represent some of the Quaker families in the area:

  • 🔸 the mark of Mary Harding ‘lately called Mary Lock’ ~ the bride (Headley)
  • 🔸 Will Harding ~ the groom (Headley)
  • 🔸 Henry Locke ~ father of the bride (Headley)
  • 🔸 Edmund Heath ~ William’s former father-in-law (Headley)
  • Dorcas Bicknell ~ this was William’s sister-in-law, formerly Dorcas Heath, and her husband, Henry Bicknell (Headley)
  • Mary and Stephen Streator (Bramshott)
  • Elianor Chennell (Headley)
  • Nicholas Gates (Alton)
  • Hannah, Henry, and Ezra Gill (Eshing, Surrey)
  • Sarah and John Vallor (Headley)
  • Edmund Jessup (Alton)
  • Thomas Aylor (Alton)
  • John Harward (Alton)
  • Raphael Hounsham (Headley)

Death of William Harding

The Bramshott Quaker Burial Ground records show William Harding’s burial on “the 9th day of the month called January” 1731/2

Assuming this is the same William Harding, he lived into his 80’s.

🔹 John Harding ~ of Spreakley, Frensham 🔹

A day after his brother William married Rebecca Heath, John Harding of Spreakley, Frensham married Rebecca’s sister Elizabeth Heath of Headley at the Alton Meeting House on ‘the 26th day of the twelth month 1674’ ~ 26 February 1675 in the New Style calendar:

I have not found any further Quaker records for John and Elizabeth Harding of Frensham.

🔸 Edmund Heath, Quaker of Headley, was buried in Bramshott:

📌 Brief note on the Persecution of Quakers: Acts of Parliament made it difficult: ▪️1662 Quaker Act made it illegal to refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown but Friends believed it was wrong to take such oaths. ▪️1664 Conventicle Act banned secret meeting by those who did not pledge allegiance to the Crown. Quakers were jailed, stripped of their property, physically mistreated and more. ▪️1689 Toleration Act allowed for freedom of conscience – Quakers became tolerated though still not widely understood or accepted.

Alton Quakers: a record exists that in 1670 a meeting was disrupted and Quakers pulled out of the house they were meeting in and goods seized. Many were fined. Some appeared in court in Winchester charged with not paying to repair the steeple house at Alton, non-payment of tithes, not attending the parish church and so on. Despite this, the Alton Quakers funded a meeting house which is considered to be second oldest Meeting House in the world.

Alton Quaker Meeting House

👉🏻 Record from Quaker Burial Ground at Bramshott: “Humphrey Smith who upon the 14th day of the eighth month 1661 was committed to the county goal at Winchester for being at an unlawful meeting at Alton and a ringleader and one of the chief of the Quakers there. He has remained in gaol until the day of his decease and was buried at Bramshott the 6th day of the third month 1663.” Humphrey Smith was a well-known Quaker preacher and writer who was repeatedly imprisoned and he likely died from typhus (gaol-fever) in Winchester Prison.

Select Sources

  • TNA Ref PROB 11/211/268
  • England & Wales, Society of Friends (Quaker) Births, Marriages, and Burials 1578-1841
  • www.historyofhampshire.com
  • Wikipedia.com
  • Hampshire Archives
  • Headley ~ http://www.johnowensmith.co.uk
Filling some of the lacunae (gaps) in history