The Woodforde Family

A History of the Woodforde Family from 1300



Robert the Puritan

Although it is possible to establish a number of basic principles to which the majority of puritans in the 17th century  would have subscribed,  a simple and universal definition of Puritanism is difficult to formulate.  Although Puritanism was not a coordinated movement across the country,  there were many highly influential puritan preachers who travelled widely and served to bind together the individual puritan communities.   Although he was not a preacher,  Robert Woodforde certainly travelled widely and frequently and was able to find the fellowship of like‑minded people in every town and village he visited.

The diarist had been born into a strong and close‑knit puritan community in the village of Old.  Later, as a young adult his legal career had again brought him into the heart of one of the most dynamic puritan communities in the country centred on the Church of All Saints, Northampton.  In the course of his legal duties he was free to travel widely and therefore to keep in contact with other puritan groups and preachers in towns and villages in Northamptonshire and beyond,  exchanging news,  experience and information.

Robert's staunch puritan beliefs,  which demanded much self‑discipline,  self‑analysis  and self‑denial provided a most suitable mental framework for his work as a steward and lawyer.  He was painstaking in his preparation of documents,  frequently working through the night in order to complete a lease or will.  His scrupulous attention to detail enabled him to detect subtle errors in the legal documents drawn up by other clerks.  His analytical mind was able to follow the drawn‑out debates in Westminster Hall and to judge with considerable accuracy the likely outcome.





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Stephen Butt 2004 - rev 29/02/04


The Diary of a Puritan

It is clear from the diary that Robert Woodforde recognised the basic tenets of Puritanism and was able to see the puritan struggle within the context of a national movement.   Many of his prayers refer to the `nation' and a number of diary entries indicate his vision of a church which is not only national but universal and worldwide, as in the diary entry for 20 February 1640:‑


" Lord we blesse thee for the great fruitfullnes of the gentiles, the Lord increase us a thousandfold,  but Lord let not the wife be allwayes barren,  & bringe in the remainder of the gentiles in America & otherwhere, and let the spirit of reformacon passe through this Island & Ireland & the adiacent kingdomes.

pull downe that cursed Antichrist of Rome that Babilon the great may fall in these o(u)r Dayes.Lord thou seest how the wicked B(ishop) limbs of hime here in this kingdome have even darkned the sunne in the heavens thereof & brought up a fog over the whole nacon. 

Lord cut them off roote & branch in one day forever. extirpate their heirachy, & set the Lord Christ upon his throne amongst us. Lord thou seest how they & some of their adherents have sought to enslave us & bring us  into bondage both in respect of soule & body but Lord breake the yoke of the oppressor  as in the day of Midian.

Strengthen the parliam(en)t  to that end. Lord guide them & doe good to us for the Lord's Sake. "

Rarely in the diary does the writer dare to express his religious convictions in such forthright language, although the tone of his expression becomes less controlled and more dramatic in the latter entries, perhaps reflecting his anxiety at the great changes taking place in society at that time.   

In the diarist's personal life the beginning of each day was celebrated in private prayer and meditation when many of his diary entries were made.  There were further sessions of prayer with his wife and later with his entire household.  Each Sunday he attended All Saints for both the morning and afternoon services and when he was absent from Northampton because of legal business he attended services at the appropriate puritan church.  On the 5 November 1637,  in a diary entry which commences with the title "Powder Treason Day", the diarist expressed more fully his religious convictions and his attitude to the Catholic church:‑

" I prayed and went (in London) to Dr Stoughton's church morning & eveninge.  A strange man preached in the morninge very honestly & Dr Stoughton him self in the afternoone very boldly & worthyly ... Blessed be thy name  oh Lord for p(ro)tectinge & defendinge thy holy gospell & the p(ro)fession of it especially for keepinge us from the cruelty  of this hellish powder plot."