The Women Behind the 1689: Anne Knollys

After learning a brief history of the times surrounding the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (or the “1689”), I thought it would be interesting to see what could be learned, if anything, about the female relations of the signers of that document. While not an exhaustive study, hopefully these vignettes will give us a glimpse into the lives of the early Particular Baptist women. This time we will look at:

Anne Cheney Knollys

Anne Cheney was born in 1608. She married Hanserd Knollys, a man ten years her senior, in 1631 at around 23 years of age.  In 1636 Hanserd left the Anglican church due to conscience’s sake.  After a warrant was put out for his arrest, the family fled to America about 1638. After a tumultuous voyage they arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, nearly destitute and grieving the loss of their child who died during the trip. Rather than finding  a respite from their troubles, they were not considered welcome due to reports of Hanserd’s “antinomianism”.  Some men, however, invited the Knollys to travel north to what is now Dover, New Hampshire, where Hanserd was made pastor of the church in that town.

America does not seem to have been a peaceful place for Anne and Hanserd. While in New Hampshire, conflict arose between Hanserd and another minister, Thomas Larkham, who had arrived in New Hampshire in 1640. Larkham had wealth and influence, and had very lax standards for membership. This produced much division within the congregation, and Larkham at one point had Knollys removed from the pulpit. Many congregants then removed Larkham and restored Knollys as pastor. Larkham had armed men march up from nearby Portsmouth, conducted a trial which found Knollys guilty, fined him, and ordered him to leave. During his time reports circulated that Knollys was also censured for having a”filthy dalliance” with some young females living in his house. Records indicate that this was a false report as other ministers spoke of Knollys with respect. There is also a record that Hanserd had filed suit with a claim of slander. It was never prosecuted, as the Knollys did not stay in the colonies.

Hanserd Knollys (Anne's husband)

Hanserd Knollys
(Anne’s husband)

 The Knollys family (Hanserd, a pregnant Anne, and a 3 year-old child) left New Hampshire in 1641 and traveled back to England at the request of Hanserd’s father.  While poor, they had provisions provided for them through Christian friends. It was at this time that Knollys joined with the Jacob/Lathrop/Jessey church and solidified his views on baptism. He remained a member there for six months more, though, so that Anne could be fully convicted of credobaptism before moving on.* He pastored as a a Particular Baptist, yet his church was unable to support him fully, so he was a teacher as well. In 1660, after Hanserd was imprisoned in Newgate Prison for 18 weeks, he fled to Holland and then Germany, and Anne went as well with two of their children. They returned to England shortly afterward, residing there until Anne died in 1671.

What Anne’s thoughts were concerning her life I do not know. She is mentioned fondly by her husband, who described her as:

a holy, discreet woman, and a meet help for me in the ways of her household, and also in the way of holiness; who was my companion in all my Sufferings, Travels, and Hardships that we endured for the Gospel.

This is what is written on her gravestone:

Here lyeth the body of Mrs. Anne Knollys,

daughter of John Cheney, esq., and wife

of Hanserd Knollys (Minister of the Gospel),

by whom he had issue of 7 sons and 3 daughters;

who died April 30, 1671, and in the 63rd

year of her age.

My only wife, that in her life

Lived forty years with me,

Lyes now in rest, for ever blest

with immortality.

My dear is gone – left me alone

For Christ to do and dye,

Who dyed for me, and dyed to be

My Saviour-God Most High.

*Bustin, Dennis. Paradox and Perseverance, Paternoster Press, 2006. p.303.

Resources used:

Brook, Benjamin. The Lives of the Puritans, Vol. 3

Brown, John Newton. Memoir of Hanserd Knollys, 1837.

Bustin, Dennis. Paradox and Perseverance. Paternoster, 2006.

Howson, Barry H. Erroneous and Schismatical Opinions, Brill, 2001.

Pastoor, Charles and Johnson, Galen K. The A to Z of the Puritans. Scarecrow Press, 2007.

Renihan, James M. Edification And Beauty. Paternoster, 2008.

Resource I Wish I Had Access To:

Knollys’ autobiography entitled: Life and Death of that Old Disciple of Jesus Christ, and Eminent Minister of the Gospel, Hanserd Knollys, who died in the 93rd year of his age written with his own hand to the year 1672, and continued in general, in an epistle by Mr. William Kiffin.


10 thoughts on “The Women Behind the 1689: Anne Knollys

  1. I’m so glad you’re doing this! What a sister to meet when we get to heaven. I must admit that I thought the picture was poor Anne at first. Ha! Then I realized it was her husband. It’s always encouraging to hear about the women who served quietly at the sides of these men!

    • Ha! I thought people might think the picture was of Anne, but chose to post Hanserd anyways. (Alas, there were none that I could find in my brief research of Anne.) Maybe next time I’ll just redo that “fair Puritan” painting I used in a previous post. 🙂

  2. I can imagine that this was not the life that Anne dreamed of as a little girl. Granted, she lived in a time an place where expectations were probably not the same as we have today in this culture. But still, it must have been a difficult way to live. Did she struggle with anger at her husband for deciding that they should travel to America where she lost her first child and had a not-so-picturesque existence? Did she wonder if he was becoming a heretic when he started down the credo-baptist road? Did she ever wish they could just “live and let live”? It appears that she clung to her Savior through it all, did her best to come alongside her husband in each and every turn of events, and died as the object of her husband’s deep love. Oh, to trust Him more!
    I love the fact that Hansard was patient to wait for his wife to work through the issues of credo-baptism as opposed to just expecting her to come along and catch up.

  3. Pingback: Out And About (2014/05/13) » All Things Expounded

  4. Pingback: The Women Behind the 1689: Susanna Skidmore Partridge Keach | reformed baptista

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s