Vicar of Northbourne 1607-1614
Henoch Clapham was vicar of Northbourne from 1607-1614, a former Separatist leader who later returned to the Church of England. Champlin Burrage, in his book on the history of the early dissenters, describes Clapham as a 'curious character'.
The Early Separatists
Foremost amongst the early Separatists were Robert Browne and Henry Barrow. Robert Browne (c.1550-1633) was one of the original proponents who demanded separation from the Church of England; his followers became known as Brownists. He gathered a Separatist Church at Norwich in 1580, and was imprisoned no less than 32 times, before going into exile in 1582. He subsequently returned to England, and conformed to the established church.
Henry Barrow (c.1550-1593) was a lawyer who, after leading a dissolute life as a student at Cambridge University, was converted and became a strict Puritan. He became a friend of the Separatist John Greenwood, and both were subsequently imprisoned after refusing to recant their beliefs, which included making no distinction between clergy and laity. Barrow was imprisoned again, and in 1593 he and Greenwood were tried for writing seditious books. On March 23rd 1593, they were sentenced to death and hanged early on the morning of the 6th of April.
There were several waves of English Separatists who set sail for Amsterdam, Robert Browne and his group in 1582, the Barrowists in 1593 and Francis Johnson's congregation in 1597. The congregations of Richard Clifton and John Smyth sailed in 1608, and on arrival one of the groups they encountered was Clapham's former congregation. Smyth drifted away from the other Separatists and insisted on preaching directly from the original Greek and Hebrew, his sermons often lasting hours. To John Smyth, Clapham was an apostate from the true cause, and he venomously denounced the former Separatist in print for returning to the fold. In 1609 he refers to Clapham as, 'to be one of the most fearful apostates of the whole nation' Clapham responded, and started a fierce pamphlet war against Separatism.
Henoch Clapham 'One of the Schismed'
Clapham's parentage is unclear, but his works suggest he was from Lincolnshire and connected to a gentry family from Beamsley in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His early life is obscure but he owed much to the Monsons of Carlton, Lincolnshire. He seems to have studied at Cambridge; but no details of his time there survive, although he clearly gained some knowledge of Hebrew. Clapham was one of the reputed early converts to Barrowism. A biographical note in his work Antidoton states in 1585 he gave up 'the vayne exercise of Poetrie' to be ordained a minister at an informal ceremony at Buckden by William Wickham, Bishop of Lincoln. In 1591-2 he had publicly ministered in Lancashire, but he was called before the court at Chester as 'a Brownist and mayntayner of sedious erroneous and false opinions', and expelled from the diocese. It seems he was imprisoned about 1592/93 and later left England. His release from prison seems to have been secured by the intercession of Richard Topcliffe. Between about 1593 and 1598 he moved back-and-forth between the Netherlands and Scotland. Some indication of his whereabouts is shown by his writings; in 1595-6 they were printed in Edinburgh, 1597-8 in Amsterdam, and 1600-9 in London.
Henoch Clapham probably came to Holland around 1593, and by 1595 he was minister of what he calls 'that poore English Congregation, in Amsterdam'. Among the congregation of 'his faithfull Bretheren' was former Separatist Christopher Symkins, who had been a loyal member of Greenwood's congregation after 1591. In March 1593 Symkins was taken captive 'in the wood by Islington', and examined on April 5th 1593 following his refusal 'to come to his parishe Churche'. Symkins probably came with other members to Holland in 1593 and Henoch Clapham may have led the resulting schism; Francis Johnson describes Henoch as 'one of the schismed'. Another member of the congregation was Thomas Farrat, described as a 'servant of William Green of Aldersgate streete'. Previously he had attended meetings of the London Brownists and had been taken prisoner. However he showed himself willing to conform and was released on bail. Later he went over to Holland and may have joined the Barrowists, although discontent must have set in and he later joined Clapham's schism.
Around 1597 he suffered a near-fatal illness, although he continued to publish works; in 1598 in In Syn Against the Holy Ghoste, he condemned the Separatists succession from the Church, and announced his 'conversion from schism' in Antidoton 1600, a summary of his nine sermons delivered at Southwark dedicated to his patron, Sir Edmund Anderson (1540-1605) a jurist, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1582-1605, and incidentally a bitter opponent of the Puritans. Clapham became a well-known preacher in London; in 1601 he preached at St. Paul's Cross.
Plague and Prison
Henoch left Holland and returned to England around 1599. By early 1602 he seems to have been attached to St. Peter's Wharf, London. John Manningham, who kept a diary for 1602-3, attended eight of his sermons describing him as 'a blacke fellowe, with a sower looke, but a good spirit, bold and sometymes bluntly witty'.
His publications had preceded him and some Puritan preachers did not welcome him. They had evidently given instructions that their followers should not read his books, talk with him, or hear him preach. He continued his work as a minister in London during the severe plague of 1603. The outbreak in March, the worst for ten years, coincided with the death of Elizabeth I - 30,000 died. In his 1603 tract, An Epistle discoursing upon the present Pestilence, the dedication states he has 'been sent to Coventry by the Brownists'. Perhaps it was some of these who complained to the Bishop of London that he preached a doctrine that the plague was not infectious. Henoch said that 'All that dyed of the plague were dammed, as dying without faith'. He was also critical of people who fled the city: 'If death came because of sin and not contagion, why would the innocent have to flee the city?' In 1603 the Lord Mayor of London ordered the number of people present at plague burials to be no more than six. This was an impossible task, and officials enforcing the limit were attacked. Officiating ministers were told to keep their distance from the deceased and the mourners. Henoch Clapham was one of ministers who flouted the restrictions and encouraged mourners to attend. In 1603, for preaching such doctrine contradicting the official position, he was committed to prison.
The amount of time he spent in prison is uncertain. He seems to have been released later in the year, but on 14th November he was preaching against his accusers, when, at the end of the sermon, he was conveyed back to prison. He was transferred from the Clink prison after eleven weeks, but his release was delayed and he stayed detained in the gatehouse at Westminster. He was interrogated by the Court of High Commission and by Lancelot Andrewes. Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) was an astute ecclesiastical politician, Master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge and Dean of Westminster. He would come to play a leading role in the translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible (1607). A learned theologian, it was not unusual for him to pray in private five hours every morning.
Clapham published a second edition of his Epistle, which toned down some of his views, and a further treatise in 1604 in which he made some retractions. He managed to accommodate himself and the orthodox view by suggesting there might be two types of plague, a natural one and a supernatural kind, although they could not be easily distinguished. Despite this he remained imprisoned, probably for almost three years. In 1605 he printed Doctor Andros his Prosopeia answered, a tract which states it is by 'Henoch Clapham, prisoner in the Gate-house at Westminster', and in An abstract of fayth (1606) he says he is 'in the beginning of his third year's bonds'. The Doctor Andros tract was partly a recantation drawn up by Lancelot Andrewes, who by now was Bishop of Chichester. Clapham was forced to backtrack on his controversial issues, and he now stated that for a minister to 'withdraw himself' from the plague was acceptable. No doubt this satisfied Andrewes who, during the height of the plague, fled to the fresh air of Chiswick.
Clapham produced about four new works after 1605, prior to this he had published at least 15 theological and polemical works. Clapham's writings remain obscure, his most important were, Errour on the Right Hand and Errour on the Left Hand, both published in 1608. These two books centred on a journey, real and metaphorical, where the characters engaged in various dialogues along the way. The two main characters are 'Malcontent', a puritan minister who is critical of the national church but not willing to separate, and 'Flyer', who has fled to Holland. The scenes take place in various locations, on the road and in taverns - Errour on the Right hand begins on the road to Gravesend then moves to Holland before returning to Gravesend. Errour on the Left Hand continues the story in England. The dénouement sees 'Malcontent' going through a spiritual crisis and he meets 'Mediocritie', who provides a middle way, guiding him back to the Church of England. The dialogues illustrate Clapham's own eccentric spiritual odyssey moving from one religious crisis to another and from sect to sect, all in the search for an elusive spiritual truth. In his earlier work, Antidoton, Clapham describes his own fall into Separatist thought as a series of misleading conversations. Clapham believed that the dialogues would allow people to become familiar with Separatist arguments and so defend and protect themselves against persuasive heretical rhetoric.
Vicar of Northbourne
After his imprisonment Henoch must have retained some favour with the established Church, in January 1607 Archbishop Richard Bancroft presented him with the living of Northbourne, and he was installed as vicar in October. Bancroft's motives are unclear as they clearly disliked one another. It may have been due to Clapham agreeing to publish the two Errour works, or maybe it was a ploy to move Clapham out of London to a quiet Kent parish. His income would not have been particularly high, probably between £30 and £50 per annum. It seems he augmented his income by practising as a licensed physician. On 4th September 1607 censorial hearings had arraigned him for advertising, stating that Clapham, a minister, had posted many bills in London 'lavishly claiming the cure of many diseases'. It goes on to say he was ignorant of the privileges of the College of Physicians and, when 'admonished in a friendly way', promised to desist.
Clapham was probably resident in the parish most of the time, I should imagine he would have disapproved of non-resident incumbents. He says Errour on the Left Hand (1608) is written 'from my house at Norburne East Kent, 8 of June'. In December 1609, Sir Edwin Sandys of Northbourne Court accused Clapham of being drunk and disorderly. A parishioner alleged that Clapham had fallen from his horse near Ham Pond 'verie much overtaken or out of the way in drinke'. The underlying cause of the denouncement may have been Henoch's past association with the Separatists. Sir Edwin had a long-standing opposition to religious radicals; his earliest known speech in the House of Commons in 1593 was an attack on the Barrowists and Brownists. Clapham contested the allegation of being drunk and pursued a suit of defamation in Canterbury consistory court. In the same year Clapham dedicated another work to his patron Sir Edmund Anderson and continued at Northbourne for a few years, but was deprived of his living on 12th December 1614. His last years are obscure, but in 1618 he was practising medicine as he is listed as a gentleman in Eastry and issued a medical licence by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Burrage, Champlin, The Early English Dissenters in the Light of Recent Research (1550-1641).
Vol. 1. (Cambridge, University Press, 1912), 194-200.
Rabb, T. K., 1998, Jacobean Gentleman, Sir Edwin Sandys, 1561-1629. (Princeton, University Press) 42 n23.
Physicians and Surgeons Licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury 1535-1775. (Lambeth Palace Library).
Slack, Paul, The Impact of Plague in Tudor and Stuart England. (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul) 1985, 233-36.
Dictionary of National Biography, 1908, Vol. IV, 371-2.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Vol. 11, 731-2
 - Publications include:
1595 - Sommons to Doome's-daie, sent unto his beloved England as a memorial of his deepe printed Love and Loyaltie, by Henoch Clapham. (Edinburgh, Robert Waldegrave). It contains a refutation of 'Napier's vain notion that the Latter Day, or end of the world, is covertly indicated in the Scriptures'.
1596 - The Sinners Sleep, wherein Christ willing her to arise receiveth but an untoward answer. (Edinburgh, Robert Waldegrave).
1596 - A Briefe of the Bible's Historie drawne first into English Poësy and then illustrated by apt Annotations. (Edinburgh, Robert Waldegrave). Other editions appeared in 1603, 1608, and 1639, each with various additions. The first part of the first edition contains a dedication to the Right Worshipful Master Thomas Mylot Esquier, signed 'your poore unworthy kinsman'. The second part is dedicated to 'one of her Majesty's chief commisioners in causes ecclesiastical', Richard Topclyf, Esquier, and thanks him for having been 'so ready to stir up the queen's honourable counsell (if not also her majesty's own person) to commiserate his dungeon estate, whereby I obtained in all good conscience happy deliverance'.
1597 - Bibliotececa Theologica: or a Librarye Theological; containing "a general analysis or resolution", and "a briefe elucidation of the most sacred chapters of Elohim, his Bible; drawne for the use of yonge Christians, specially of the poore sorte unable to purchase variety of holy men theyr writings". (Amsterdam).
1597 - Theologicall axioms or conclusions: publikly controverted, discussed, and concluded by that poore English congregation, in Amstelredam: to whome H.C. ad-ministreth the Ghospel. Togither with an examination of the saide conclusions. Here-vnto is added a litle tractate entituled The carpenter. (Amsterdam?)
1598 - The Syn against the Holy Ghoste made manifest, &c., Eccles. vii. 18, 19. (Amsterdam).
1599 - The discription of a true visible Christian, by He.Cl. (Amsterdam, I.I. [John Joope]). In 1599 after Clapham's departure from Amsterdam John Joope published a single chapter taken from an extended MS of 26 chapters written by Clapham.
1600 - Antidoton: or A soveraigne remedie against schisme and heresie: gathered to analogie and proportion of faith, from that parable of tares, Matth. 13. Aug.ep.3. Nullorum disput.&c. We ought to haue no men their disputations (although men Catholike and praise worthie) in that count as we haue the canonicall scriptures: so that it should be vnlawfull for vs to improue and refuse some things in their writings, if happily we finde that they thought otherwise then the truth hath. Such a one am I in other mens writings, and so would I haue others to vnderstand of my writings. (London, imprinted by Felix Kingston for John Wolfe).
1601 - Ælohim-triune, displayed by his workes Physicall and Meta-physicall, in a Poeme of diuerse forme. Adapted to the Hebrue text, the frame of Diuinitie, and Catholike exposition. Togither, with necessarie marginall notes for relieving of the young student'. [By the Widow Simson] for John Harrison, dwelling in Pater-noster-rowe, at the signe of the Ancker.
1602 - The Catholike Pardon: given first in Paradise, and sithence newly confirmed by our Almightie Father, with many large Priuileges, Graunts, and Bulles graunted for euer ... Drawne out of French into English, by William Hayward: and now reuised and enlarged, by Henoch Clapham. (London, T. Este for George Vincent).
1602 - A Tract of Prayer. (London, W. White).
1603 - An Epistle discoursing upon the present Pestilence teaching what is, and how the people of God should carrie themselves towards God and their Neighbour therein. (London, Printed by T. C. [Thomas Creed] for the Widow Newbery and are to be sold at her shop in Pauls Church-yard, at the signe of the Ball). In the dedication of this Clapham states that he has 'been sent to Coventry by the Brownists', probably because of Antidoton in 1600.
1603 - Three Partes of Salomon his Song of Songs, expounded ... By Henoch Clapham. (London, V. Sims for E. Mutton).
1604 - H. Clapham, his Demaundes and Answeres touching the Pestilence, methodically handled, as his time and meanes could permit. (Middelburg: Printed by Richard Schilders).
1605 - Doctor Andros his Prosopeia answered, and necessarily directed to his Maiestie, for remouing of Catholike scandale. 2. Sacred policie, directed of dutie to our sweet yong Prince Henry. 3. An epistle, directed to such as are troubled in minde about the stirres in our Church. By Henoch Clapham, prisoner in the Gate-house at Westminster, adioyning London. (Middleburg, Richard Schilders). (Prints and replies to a recantation, written by Lancelot Andrewes on Clapham's behalf, of the opinions expressed in Clapham's An epistle discoursing upon the present pestilence).
1606 - An abstract of fayth: grounded on Moses, and applyed to the common Creede; plainely and briefly. By Henoch Clapham, in the beginning of his third yeares bands. (London).
1606 - A manuel of the Bibles doctrine for law and Gospell, letter and spirit, signe and thing signified: reduced to the first chapter of Leuiticus: Wherewith (occasionally) be plainely considered, and briefelie concluded, the most mayne questions wherewith the christian churches be combied. (London: Printed by R. B[radock] for Nathaniell Butter, and are to be sold at his shop neere saint Austens gate).
1608 - Errour on the Right Hand through a Preposterous Zeale. Acted by way of dialogue. Betweene 1 Mal-content and Flyer. 2 Flyer and Anabaptist. 3 Anabaptist, & Legatine-arrian. 4 Flyer and Legatine-arrian. 5 Flier, Legaine-arria[n] & Familist. 6 Flyer and Familist. 7 Flyer and Mediocritie. Whereto is also added, certaine positions touching Church and Antichrist: as without the true holding thereof, it is impossible for a zelous soule, to auoyde either schisme or faction. (London, W. White, dwelling in Cow-lane).
1608 - Errour on the Left Hand through a Frozen Securitie: Howsoeuer hot in opposition, when Satan so hears them. Acted by way of dialogue. Betw. 1 Malcontent and Romanista. 2 Mal-content Romanista & Libertinus. 3 Malcontent and Libertinus. 4 Malcontent and Atheos. 5 Malcontent and Atheoi. 6 Malcontent & the good & bad spirit. 7 Malcontent and Mediocrity. (London, N. O. [Nicholas Okes] for Nathaniel Butter).
1609 - A Chronological Discourse touching, 1. The Church. 2. Christ. 3. Anti-Christ. 4. Gog & Magog, &c. The substaunce whereof, was collected about some 10. or 11. yeares since (as may be gathered by an epistle prefixed before a tractate, called, The visible Christian) but now digested into better order; and first published, by the author himselfe, H. Cl. (Imprinted at London: By William White, dwelling in Cow-lane ouer against the signe of the white Lion, 1609).