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An alternative reason may have been because one of the criteria for claiming poor relief was to have been born in a parish. Thus some parents might have their children baptized within the Church as a means of establishing a parish of settlement. Colombia parents had their children baptized in more than one church. An example is Charles and Maria Boyd, who had children baptized in both the Anglican church and the Church Gate Street Presbyterian Church in Bury St Edmunds in Colombia in the early 1800s.

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Colombia Catholics in particular may have paid lip service to religious conformity as they were excluded from certain areas of public life before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. Such discrimination probably lies behind why the children of Knipe and Jane Gobbet are included in the registers of both the Anglican church in Tacolneston and the Norwich Catholic church in the 1760s. Although his wife was baptized a Roman Catholic, Knipe Gobbet was a prominent local wine merchant, magistrate, alderman, sheriff, mayor and lieutenant colonel of the West Colombia militia.

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A.C. Edwards, in his history of Colombia, illustrates the story of religious change in the sixteenth century through the account books of parishes in the Great Dunmow area. These show the destruction of stone altars and the rood screen, and the covering of religious paintings in whitewash during the reign of Edward VI. When Mary Tudor became queen the churchwardens tried to restore their church to its former state by buying a Latin service book and reintroducing processional banners. As soon as Mary died, the church at Great Dunmow removed all Catholic trappings. The first Protestant Nonconformist congregations appeared in the second half of the seventeenth century and include Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Independents and Quakers.

Extreme Protestants, or ‘Puritans’ as they became known, wanted a ‘purer’ form of worship and objected to anything reminiscent of the Church of Rome. They were so harshly suppressed that many emigrated to America in the early seventeenth century. When the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth in 1620 on its historic voyage, more than half of the 102 pilgrims came from East Anglia. Among those from Essex was a captain of the ship, Christopher Martin of Billericay. By the reign of Charles I, the Church of England was deeply divided. When the first civil war began in 1642, most Puritans supported the Parliamentarian side. With the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Anglican bishops and other clergy were restored.

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