Category Archives: 17th Century

Puritans and their weird names

round headI am a Puritan fan. How could you not be? We’re talking about a bunch of people who, in the days when the future of Protestantism was insecure in Britain, got into trouble for saying that Britain was not protestant enough. When parliament raised its standard against the king, it was the Puritans who formed the New Model Army and won the day.

And they did it with style. I mean, they did it with Bible study groups, discussions about politics, and an sense of discipline based on a shared faith that allowed room for people to work things out for themselves.

Civil War is a horrible thing, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any group that made it look quite so good.

Obviously, their victory was short-lived, and in 1660 some people decided England should be a monarchy again. Just two years later, in 1662, Puritan priests were expelled from the Church of England if they refused to accept the revised Book of Common Prayer. Most became non-conformists. Puritans were banned from holding positions in the military, positions in government, and even from getting degrees from Oxford or Cambridge. These restrictions were in place till the nineteenth century, and weirdly, in this time Puritans got into business. The Quakers alone developed fixed prices for goods in shops, drinking chocolate, and set up lots of businesses that looked after their workers as well as they could.

Ain't no party like a Ranter Party
Ain’t no party like a Ranter Party

They weren’t all humourless and restrictive either. There were groups like the Ranters who didn’t believe in sin, but did believe in dancing naked and drinking heavily. They were a diverse bunch. Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Puritan sense of humour is some of the names they gave to their children. Ostensibly, the goal was to give children godly names that wouldn’t be tainted by unbelievers using them. They also helped Puritans to recognise their own. But some Puritan names just got odd.

Here are some of my favourites. Most of these are courtesy of the brilliant Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. Weirdly for me, many of them originate from East Sussex, which means that most of the weirdest Puritan names in the country originate just a few miles away from where I’m sat now. Continue reading Puritans and their weird names