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Nicholas ferrar 6

Nicholas Ferrar

Nicholas Ferrar was assumed to be born in 1592. I have found that his most

probable birth date was in February of 1593. This is due to the usual calendar

confusion: England was not at that time using the new calendar adopted in

October 1582. It was 1593 according to our modern calendar, but at the time the

new year in England began on the following March 25th.

Nicholas Ferrar was one of the more interesting figures in English history. His

family was quite wealthy and were heavily involved in the Virginia Company,

which had a Royal Charter for the plantation of Virginia. People like Sir Walter

Raleigh were often visitors to the family home in London. Ferrarsÿ niece was

named Virginia, the first known use of this name. Ferrar studied at Cambridge

and would have gone further with his studies but the damp air of the fens was

bad for his health and he traveled to Europe, spending time in the warmer

climate of Italy.

On his return to England he found his family had fared badly. His brother John

had become over extended financially and the Virginia Company was in danger of

loosing its charter. Nicholas dedicated himself to saving the family fortune and

was successful. He served for a short time as Member of Parliament, where he

tried to promote the cause for the Virginia Company. His efforts were in vain

for the company lost their charter anyway. Nicholas is given credit for founding

a Christian community called the English Protestant Nunnery at Little Gidding in

Huntingdonshire, England. After Ferrar was ordained as a deacon, he retired and

started his little community. Ferrar was given help and support with his semi-

religious community by John Collet, as well as Colletÿs wife and fourteen

children. They devoted themselves to a life of prayer, fasting and almsgiving

(Matthew 6:2,5,16).

The community was founded in 1626, when Nicholas was 34 years old. Banning

together, they restored an abandoned church that was being used as a barn. Being

of wealthy decent, Ferrar purchased the manor of Little Gidding, a village which

had been discarded since the Black Death (a major outbreak of the bubonic plague

in the 14th century), a few miles off the Great North Road, and probably

recommended by John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln whose palace was in the nearby

village of Buckden. About thirty people along with Mary Ferrar (Ferrarsÿ mother)

moved into the manor house. Nicholas became spiritual leader of the community.

The community was very strict under the supervision of Nicholas. They read daily

offices of the Book of Common Prayer, including the recital of the complete

Psalter. every day. Day and night there was at least one member of the community

kneeling in prayer at the alter, that they were keeping the word, ÿPray without

ceasingÿ. They taught the neighborhood children, and looked after the health and

well being of the community. They fasted and in many ways embraced voluntary

poverty so that they might have as much money as possible for the relief of the

poor. They wrote books and stories dealing with various aspects of Christian

faith and practice. The memory of the community survived to inspire and

influence later undertakings of Christian communal living, and one of T.S.

Eliotsÿ Four Quartets is called ÿLittle Gidding.ÿ

Nicholas was a bookbinder and he taught the community the craft as well as

gilding and the so-called pasting printing by means of a rolling press. The

members of the community produced the remarkable ÿHarmoniesÿ of the scriptures,

one of which was produced by Mary Collet for King Charles I.. Some of the

bindings were in gold toothed leather, some were in velvet which had a

considerable amount of gold tooling. Some of the embroidered bindings of this

period have also been attributed to the so-called nuns of Little Gidding. The

community attracted much attention and was visited by the king, Charles I. He

was attracted by a gospel harmony they had produced. The king asked to borrow it

only to return it a few months later in exchange for a promise of a new harmony

to give his son, Charles, Prince of Wales. This the Ferrars did, and the

superbly produced and bound manuscript passed through the royal collection, and

is now on display at the British Library.

Nicholas Ferrar, who was never married, died in 1637, and was buried outside the

church in Little Gidding. Nicholasÿs brother John assumed the leadership of the


John did his best to make the community thrive. He was visited by the king

several times. At one time the king came for a visit with the Prince of Wales,

he donated some money that he had won in a card game from the prince. The kings

last visit was in secret and at night. He was fleeing from defeat from the

battle of Naseby and was heading north to try to enlist support from the Scots.

John brought him secretly to Little Gidding and got him away the next day.

The community was now in much danger. The Presbyterian Puritans were now on the

rise and the community was condemned with a series of pamphlets calling them an ÿ

Arminian Nunneryÿ (Ariminius was a Dutch reformer and theologian who opposed the

Calvinist doctrine of predestination and election)

In 1646 the community was forcibly broken up by Parliamentary soldiers. Their

brass baptismal font was damaged, cast into the pond and not recovered until 200

years later. The village remained in the Ferrar family but it was not until the

18th century that the church was restored by another Nicholas Ferrar. Ferrar

restored the church, shortened the nave by about 8 feet and built the ÿdull

facadeÿ that Eliot spoke of. In the mid 19th century, William Hodgkinson came

along and restored the church more. He installed the armorial stain glass

windows, (4 windows with the arms of Ferrar, Charles the 1st and Bishop Williams

inserted). He then put in a rose window at the east end (this rose window was

later replaced by a Palladian-style plain glass window). Hodgkinson recovered

the brass font, restored it and reinstalled it in the church. An elaborate 18th

century chandelier now hangs in the church, installed by Hodgkinson. from _

Little Gidding_ by T.S. Eliot

If you came this way,

Taking any route, starting from anywhere,

At any time or at any season,

It would always be the same: you would have to put off

Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,

Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity

Or carry report. You are here to kneel

Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more

Than an order of words, the conscious occupation

Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,

They can tell you, being dead: the communication

Of the dead is tongued with fire

beyond the language of the living.

Here, the intersection of the timeless moment

Is England and nowhere. Never and always.


Etherington & Roberts. Dictionary--Ferrar, Nicholas - Bookbinding and the


of Books A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology. Ferrar, Nicholas ( 1592-

1637 )

Columbia Encyclopedia - Table Of Contents - Columbia Encyclopedia. F. Faber,


William. Faber, Johannes. Fabian, Saint. Fabian Society. Fabius. Fabius,

Laurent. fable.

fabliau, plural...

Christian Biographies Commemorated in November - FOR THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

(1 NOV) FIRST READING: Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14 ("Let us now praise


men...."; a commemoration of patriarchs,...

A History Of The Church In England, J.R.H.Moorman, Morehouse Publishing

copyright 1980

The Story Of Christianity, Justo L Gonzalez, Harper Collins Publishers copyright


The Episcopal Church, David Locke Hippocrene Books, New York copyright 1991

Source: Essay UK -

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