yeovil people

Henry Lavor

Imprisoned, fined and excommunicated for his Quaker beliefs


Henry Lavor was the son of John Lavore and his wife Mary. John, of Kingston-juxta-Yeovil, (see Will below) was a prominent Yeovilian who was recorded in the Woborn Muniments as a Warden of the Woborn Almshouse in 1617, 1628 and 1637 as well as being Custos of the almshouse in 1619.

Henry married Joan Raymond, the daughter of Andrew Raymond of Marston Magna. It is not known if they had children, but certainly none are mentioned in his will (see below).

George Fox founded the Quaker movement in 1652 in the north of England. Henry was a long-time member of the Society of Friends, or Quakers. But in 1660, with the Restoration of the monarchy, the systematic persecution of Quakers began. The Conventicle Act of 1664 made persons attending private assemblies for religious worship liable to severe penalties yet several sects are known to have been active in and around Yeovil, the earliest on record being the Quakers, meeting in Henry Lavor’s house in Yeovil during 1654.

On 28 March 1661, the Assizes began at Chard, twelve miles from Ilchester, where many Quakers were held in prison. Some two hundred Quakers were forced to walk from the Ilchester Gaol to Chard. At the Chard Assizes, nine people were indicted for refusing to swear in accordance with the Act of Toleration. One of those indicted was "Henry Lavor of Yeovill", who was referred to as a husbandman. This term describes one who farms to support himself and his family, which doesn't entirely fit with what we know of Henry. All nine of the dissenters, including Henry, refusing to swear allegiance were returned to the prison at Ilchester to await the next assizes.

On 14 September 1662, Henry Laver was again taken, this time at a meeting at Trent. He was again committed to prison for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance. In 1664, for refusing to pay two pence demanded of him by the Church for an Easter offering, Henry Lavor was excommunicated.

In 1664, Yeovil's Poor Rate Book noted that Henry was one of four Overseers of the Poor (the others being William Daniell, Theophilus Collins and Thomas Phelps).

In an extremely interesting, but lengthy tome, with an equally lengthy title, "A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers, For the Testimony of a Good Conscience from the Time of Their Being First Distinguished by that Name in the Year 1650 to the Time of the Act Commonly Called the Act of Toleration Granted to Protestant Dissenters in the First Year of the Reign of King William the Third and Queen Mary in the Year 1689" it was recorded "On the 7th of the Month called June [1670], a Justice of the Peace, named Helliar, with Officers and Soldiers, came to a Meeting then at the House of Henry Lavor, and drew the Friends out, and conducted them to an Inn. In the Street, as they passed, Thomas Whitehead exhorted the People to repent and fear God, for which he was fined £20 as a Preacher, sent to the Blind-house Prison, and charged with seducing the King's Subjects. His Wife, Jane Whitehead, also uttered some Words of Exhortation to the People, for which the Justice fined her £20... They also fined Henry Lavor £20 for his House, and others 5s each; which Fines were levied partly on the Persons themselves, and partly on others present at the same Meeting." Later in 1670, "Mary Lavor, Mother of Henry Lavor, for his aforesaid Fine for the Meeting-house" had goods to the value of £20.14s.0d (around £3,300 at today's value) confiscated. The tome continues - "When Mary Lavor, who was not at the Meeting, was unjustly distrained on [that is, had her property seized in order to obtain payment of money owed] for her Son's Fine, she appealed to the Quarter Sessions, but instead of getting Relief, was obliged to sit down with an additional Loss of £9.12s.0d Cost on the Appeal. The Court, in her Case, were misled by Justice Helliar... "

The Quakers established a burial ground in Preston Road in 1669. In 1688 a house and garden in Kingston was purchased for use as a meeting house, on a site now occupied by Yeovil District Hospital. This, indeed, may have been the barn known to have been purchased by Elias Barnes, a Yeovil maltster, in 1674 for the use of his wife’s uncle, Henry Lavor.

It also appears that Henry was intimately linked with the licensed trade being associated with, if not owning, at least two hostelries in the town. The first, from an entry in the Poor Rate Book of 1677, was the Rose and Crown in High Street (roughly where Superdrug is today), for which Henry was rated 18 shillings - a relatively large sum at the time. In 1689 he was again rated for the "Crown in the Burrough". The second was the Bear Inn, probably a simple alehouse, whose location is unknown. A document dated 10 February 1682, concerning the Bear Inn, refers to (the owners ?) Henry Lavor, Elias Barns (the husband of Henry's daughter Mary) and Thomas Goodfare.

Henry is described in documents as a scrivener. There were two meanings for scrivener; the first was someone who was able to write original material (unlike a scribe who was usually just a copier), and therefore usually employed as a clerk or accountant. The second meaning was a person who invested money at interest for clients and lent funds to those who wanted to raise money on security. Bearing in mind Henry's wealth at this time (see his will below), the latter is more likely to describe him.

On 11 April 1683, Henry suffered "Distress of Goods for Absence from the National Worship... " and "... had a Book taken from him by one of the Churchwardens, but he returned it again the same Night, declaring that he could not be easy in his Conscience to detain it, though he had taken it by due Course of Law." This does seem strange for the Churchwarden to be involved, considering Henry had been excommunicated some twenty years earlier.

In the 'Register of Burials of the People called Quakers' is an entry made on 20 December 1683 that simply states "Henry Lavor dyed". It was not until 1689 that the Act of Toleration allowed Quakers to worship legally.

See Henry Lavor's Family Tree




A postcard of Ilchester Gaol in 1836. Henry Lavor spent some considerable time here.


The 1662 will of John Lavor


The one and twentith day of July in the yeare of our Lord One thousand six hundred sixty two I John Lavor of Kingston juxta Yeavill in the County of Somersett gent[leman] being sicke of Body but of sound and [word illegible] mind and memory doe make and ordayne this my last Will and Testament in manner Following Imprimis I give to [name illegible] of yeavill aforesaid Tenn shillings and the poore of the same P[ar]ish Forty shillings to be distributed by my Executor [hereinafter ?] named Item I give Twenty shillings to the poore of the P[ar]ish of [word illegible] twenty shillings to the poore of the P[ar]ish of Kingsbury Item I Will and bequeath to my now Wife All that my part and moyetie in three grounds called [Cockin Cresbyn ?] lyeing in the P[ar]ish of West Stower in the County of Dorset for terme of her life The remaynder in yeares (if any be) I give to Mary Pitman daughter of my daughter Gertrude [three words illegible] Gertrude had the [word illegible] person Item I give and devise to my Grandchild Amos Ma[r]ten Sonne of my daughter Alice and to his heirs the [word illegible] of all those Lands and Tenements which Thomas Francis Giles Hayne Edward King Andrewe [Skinner ?] John [Creath ?] doe hold of me with the Rents and herriotts [heriot = a feudal duty or tribute due under English law to a lord on the death of a tenant] due for the same And also [the ?] reversion and remainder after their p[re]sent Estates To have and to hold to the said Amos Martin and his heirs for [word illegible] Item I give Mary my now Wife Three of my [word illegible] Cowes and halfe of my provision that at the time of my decease shall be in my Dwelling House and backside thereof Also my Will is that my said Wife shall have [several words illegible] halfe of all such household stuffe and Goods as shall be found in my now Dwelling house for and during her life Item I give to the foresaid [Ane ?] Marten my [word illegible] daughter Tenn pounds a yeare yearely to be paid her towards the [several words illegible] three youngest Children the same to be paid in

[Note: the following top half of the second page is extremely faint and very difficult to interpret]

manner following that is to say by fower even and [word illegible] porcons at the fower most usuall Feasts in the yeare vizt Chrismas day our Lady day Midsomer day and Michaelmas day The [first ?] payment thereof to be made at such of the said Feasts as shall first happen after my decease And my Will is that my Lands called or known by the name of [word illegible] lyeing in the [Parishes ?] of Yeavell and [word illegible] or either of them shall be alwayes lyable for the payment of the said [word illegible] Tenn pounds as is formerly sett [downe ? - next word illegible] the life of the said Anie Marten [two words illegible] my Will is that if the s[ai]d yearly [word illegible] or Tenn pounds or any part

[Note: the following last half of the page is all but completely illegible]


Proved at London, 1662.


Transcribed by Bob Osborn


The 1683 will of Henry Lavor



I Henry Lavor of Yeovell in the County of Somersett being of sound and perfect minde and memory Doe make and ordaine this my last will and testament First I give to Joane my wife daughter of Andrew Raymond [word illegible] late of Marston Magna in the county of Somerset Yeoman deceased All that close of pasture called Greencrosse containing by estimation six acres and all [word illegible] at the head thereof called Newclose containing about four acres with their several appurtenances and the Shrouds of all trees usually shrouded the Topps of trees not Topped excepted which said Closes are scituate in the parish of Yeovell aforesaid at a place there called Greenclose To hold unto her for the [?? contraction for 'remainder' ?] of her life in full recompence for the house in Henford from I give her the house I now dwelleth in with the other part thereof when it falls in hand and all outhouses gardens and orchard and backsides thereto belonging and all that garden att [Clavshard ?] both situate in the parish aforesaid for the [?? contraction for 'remainder' ?] of her life Also I give her the use of all my goods and household stuffe for and during her Widdowhood The remainder of the said house gardens orchard and backside I devise to my cousen Samuel Goodford and his heirs forever Item I give to my said wife twenty and five pounds to bee paid out of the one hundred pounds secured by a mortgage of the Parsonage house or in lieu thereof and fifty pounds which [word illegible] Ring [word illegible] at her own choice also my will is and I doe hereby appoint that my Executors hereafter named shall pay my said wife yearly during my mothers life the yearly annuity of three pounds and tenne shillings at foure quarterly payments by equal portions Item I give to my nephew Phillip Taylor three hundred pounds and twenty pounds for his pains to bee taken about the Executon of this my Will Item I give his Brother John Taylor All those my five grounds at Swyncombe which I bought of John Phelps scituate in the parish of Yovell with the appurtenances And all my estate right and title in and to the same Also I give him Two hundred pounds Item I give his Brother Jonathan Taylor all those Two Closes called Ashley containing about twenty acres with th' appurtenances and the way leading thereto from the Highway being about twenty feete or one and the aforesaid closes called Greencrosse and Newclose with the appurtenances all of them scituate in the parish of Yeovell and Pitney or one of them To hold unto him and his heirs forever immediately after my said wifes decease Item I give unto his sister Mary Two Hundred and sixty pounds if shee marry with her friends consent and not otherwise Item I give to my Niece Mary [two words illegible] one hundred and twenty pounds Item I give and devise to the said Samuel Goodford All that tenement in the tenure of Robert Whitby with all orchards gardens lands meadows and pastures thereunto belonging And all other such cottages whereof I stand seized of an estate in fee simple of fee [word illegible] or for a long terme of years in possession or reversion scituate and being in the parish of Yeovell aforesaid with their severall appurtenances and all Rents reserved upon the severall Leases thereof To hold unto him and his heirs forever upon confidence that her will apply the benefitt of these my legacies and devices To such Children as hee hath or shall these by his now wife Item I give and devise to my nephew William Pitman All these my five Closes of pasture containing about one and Twenty acres commonly called Waynehill scituate in the parish of Windford in the County of Somersett And all that close called [Jude ?] containing about eight acres lying in the said parish of Yeovell at a place called [Noemans ?] plott with their and every of their appurtenances To hold unto him and his heirs forever immediately after my said wifes life in case His brother John bee not dead at the time of my decease otherwise I devise the said Closes to my Executors hereafter named and their heirs forever to bee by them disposed of and the moneys raised by the sale thereof to bee equally distributed between themselves and other the children of my sister Gartrude and Mary but in case his said brother John doe returne into England and the said William Pitman bee not suffered to enjoy the lands at Hummer in the parish of Trent in the county of Somersett without any clayme of his said brother or his heired or assignes Then my will is And I doe hereby appoint that my said Executors shall out of my estate make up such addition to the said William Pitmans Legacy or porcon [ie portion] as may with what otherwise given him amount to about three hundred pounds Item I give him also Tenne pounds Item I give his brother Henry Pitman Two hundred and fifty pounds and a fifty pound bond entered into by [word illegible] and Tatchell and all the benefitt thereof Item I give to my cousin Mary Martin Twenty pounds unto the foure children of my sister Martin Twenty pounds a peece Item I will and hereby appoint that my Executors hereafter named doe pay to William Adams of Marston Magna aforesaid and Robert Banton of Long Sutton in the same County and to the Survivors of them the yearly sum of Six pounds and Tenne shillings during my mothers life by two equall payments in the year Item I give five pounds to the poore of the parish of Yeovell to bee distributed by my said Executors Also Forty shillings to the poore of the parish of Martock and forty shillings more to the poore of the parish of Kingsbury and my will is and I doe hereby appoint that the surplus of my estate both reall and personall after all Legacies devices and other disbursements paid and satisfied bee equally divided by my said Executors betweene themselves and their respective Brothers and sisters herein above named Also I give to my nephew John Pitman five pounds to bee paid him when hee returnes hence Item I give and devise unto the said Phillip Taylor and Samuel Goodford All that my messuage comonly called Eabridge mills scituate in the parish of Kngsbury in the county of Somersett and all orchards gardens lands meadows pastures and commons there unto belonging with their severall appurtenances and the rent reserved upon a Lease thereof To have and to hold to them their heirs and assigns forever upon this Trust and confidence to apply the mony raised by and sale of Lease thereof and in the mean time the profitts thereof towards the Pformance of this my will to be equally divided betweene themselves and the children of my other two sisters Gartrude and Mary and upon noe other trust not to noe other use Item I give and devise to my kinsmen William Lavor and Edward Lavor both of the parish of Martocke All my Cottages Lands Meadows and pastures with their severall Appurtenances scituate in the said parish of Martocke will all rents reserved on the several leases thereof To have and to hold to them and their heires forever it being my desire That the said Lands haveing soe many hundred years in our name and blood may Ever soe continue Provided that if my said Cousen Edward Lavor doe not pay the Tenne pounds to my said Executors which is secured by bond in John Olds name and also Twenty pounds which George [Stower ?] oweth John Anderson within halfe a yeare next after my decease Then my will is that hee shall have noe part in the aforesaid devise And then and in such case I give and devise the premisses to the said William Lavor and his heires forever And my will is That my said Executors doe in the first place pay the Legacies before given to the poore of the respective parishes aforesaid And that in the next place they pay all such Debts as I owe either by mortgage or otherwise And afterwards the legacies before given to my cousin Mary Martin and my sister Martins Children And my Will to that my Executors be not such for any legacy before by me given within a years and a halfe next after my decease Nevertheless my desire is that thye pay them withall convenient speed And that in the meane time they pay them interest for the same after the rate of five P Centum Item my will is and I doe hereby appoint that my wife shall have the use of my bedsted in the Parlour Chamber and of the bedsted in the Hall Chamber and of the [remainder of sentence illegible] my Sister Taylor to make use of those in the Hall and little Chamber at her discretion Also I give my wife all my Sheetes also I give her the use of all other my Linnen during her Widdowhood All [Lumber ?] goods as tables bords frames stooks Chairs [several words illegible] and barrells to remaine in my house to the use of him to whom I have devised the Inheritance of my said house Also I will that all Chests Coffers and bedstedds doe likewise remaine in my house to the use aforesaid after my wifes life And lastly I make and constitute my said Nephews Phillip Taylor and Samuel Goodford Executors of this my Will desiring them to take care that it bee [justly ?] fulfilled in all p[ar]ticulars and if any doubt question or controversie happen to arise about the meaning of this my Will my desire is that the same be divided by Jasper Batt John Anderson my brother John Dandoe Thomas Powell and John Whiteing or any two of them And that all p[er]sons concerned doe fully acquiesse in their Judgement and award concerning the same otherwise every such person soe refuseing to have now benefitt by this my will In witness whereof I have hereunto putt my hand and seale the Sixteenth day of February Anno Domini one Thousand Six Hundred eighty and three

Hen[ry} Lavor

Sealed published and declared by the said Henry Lavor for and as his last Will and testament the word not [word illegible] the Twenty Sixth and Twenty Seventh [word illegible] and the [word illegible] at Hummer in the parish of Trent in the County of Somersett betweene the twenty ninth and thirtieth [Dayes ?] in the same sheete and the words Assignes Between the thirtieth and one and thirtieth [word illegible] of the same sheete being first [word illegible]

in the presence of us

Robert French      [Herman ?] Spracklin      Thomas Chead      Edw'd Jacob


Proved at London, 1685


Transcribed by Bob Osborn