Scafes at Pontefract in the Seventeenth Century

A recent edition of "The Bulletin" [Keighley's Quaker Newsletter] carried a short history of the beginnings of the Pontefract Friends Monthly Meeting in which it is stated; "There were Quakers in Pontefract, Knottingley and district from the early 1650s including William Sykes who died in York Castle in 1652 for his testimony against tithes. This is a reflection of the fact that several early Quaker leaders came from the surrounding towns and villages. The first Friends in the town were probably Peter and Mary SCAFE ..... Meetings for worship were held in private houses such as the home of Henry and Mary Calfe in Mickelgate. A burial ground was acquired in Southgate in 1685, and the first Meeting House was built on this site in 1698."

William Sykes may have been the first inhabitant of Pontefract Parish to be sentenced to imprisonment in York Castle for refusing to pay Tithes but he was not the last. Joseph Besse in his collection of "The Sufferings of the People called Quakers", published in 1753, informs us that in October 1678 "Peter SCAIFE of Pontefract, prosecuted for Tithes by Jane Drake, Widow, was sent to prison by a Warrant of the Justices, grounded on a Certificate of Excommunication." Later, under the heading 'ANNO 1680' Besse informs us that "Peter SCAIFE died a prisoner for his religious Testimony against the Antichristian Yoke of Tithes."

Peter and Mary SCAFE married on the 23 April 1678 in the house of Miles Oddy, at Dacre, Nidderdale. The witnesses to the marriage were fellow Friends - "Miles Oddy, Thomas Hardcastle,John Danson and others." Clearly Peter and Mary did not long enjoy the bliss of wedded happiness following their marriage as Peter was imprisoned in York Castle six months later. The marriage entry clearly records that Peter was "of Pontefract." His spouse however was a Nidderdale girl. Mary Grange was born in 1656, the youngest of ten children born to Peter Grange of Pateley Bridge. She was baptised at St. Mary's Church, Pateley Bridge on 4th August 1656. The Grange family can be traced back three more generations in the Pateley Bridge Parish Records through her grandfather Stephen Grange born in 1559, and his father Henry born circa 1528. Of Peter SCAFE's origins nothing is known, and while we have knowledge of his tragic demise nothing further is known about his wife, unless some member has knowledge of this.

Peter SCAFE/SCAIFE was not the sole member of our 'family' who suffered for his beliefs. Under the date December 1682 Besse records a lengthy list of Friends "long imprisoned in Yorkshire goals" for not paying Tithes amongst whom we find "Thomas SCAIFE" a Prisoner "upwards of sixteen months." Unfortunately Besse does not inform us where Thomas had his home but the West Riding Quarter Sessions dated October 1682 may provide the answer.....

West Riding Quarter Sessions, Barnsley, Oct.1682,
Illegal Conventicle.
Thomas Cooper of Knottingley (who was speaking or praying), Sarah his wife, with Thomas Scafe of Pontefract, Samuell Wiedye of Pontefract, Richard Crabtree of Owston, Abraham Brigg of Kildwicke Parish, Peter Barrett of Carleton, on Dec. 24 last, held a conventicle at the house of Elizth. Stones.

It is my belief that Thomas SCAFE of Pontefract has to be a close family member of the above mentioned Peter SCAFE, perhaps his bother?

I would be very interested to hear from any member who can add in any small way to the history of this family, who appear to vanish after the death of Peter SCAFE in 1680 and the imprisonment of Thomas SCAFE in 1682.

Dr. John Scaife