Crouch, William (DNB00)

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CROUCH, WILLIAM (1628–1710), member of the Society of Friends, born 5 April 1628 at Penton by Weyhill, near Andover, Hampshire, was the son of a substantial yeoman. His father died in William's infancy, and the child had little more education than his mother, a woman of strong puritan feeling, could supply. In 1646 he was apprenticed to an upholsterer of Cornhill, and afterwards set up for himself in the same trade in a shop in Spread Eagle Court, Finch Lane, Cornhill. After enduring much torment owing to religious doubts, Crouch met in 1654 Edward Burrough [q. v.] and Francis Howgill, and under their influence openly joined the Friends' Society in 1656. His mother and sister, who were residing near Bristol at the time, took the same step. On 19 April 1661 a distress was levied on Crouch's house on his refusal to pay the rate for the repair of the church of St. Benet Fink, and a month later he was committed to the Poultry compter for eight days on declining to take the usual oath on being elected scavenger of Broad Street ward. In July he refused to pay tithes; was thrown into prison, and remained there for nearly two years. From the Poultry compter he addressed a long letter to Samuel Clarke (1599–1683) [q. v.], rector of St. Benet Fink, arguing the unscriptural character of tithes, and on 21 July 1662 Clarke replied, but the rector took no notice of two further epistles sent to him by Crouch in August. Crouch afterwards entered into a controversy about swearing with William Wickers, the prison chaplain, and Richard Greenway, who was for a time Crouch's companion in prison, helped Crouch in the composition of his letters. In 1662, while still a prisoner, Crouch was elected constable of his parish, and on paying the fine imposed on him on his declining to accept office, he was released from the compter. In 1666 Crouch's house by Finch Lane was burned in the fire, and he opened a new shop in Gracechurch Street. In 1670 he was charged with contravening the Conventicle Acts by attending quakers' meetings, and was fined 10l. He appealed to a high court of justice against this judgment, without result. In 1675 he came into conflict with John Clyffe, rector of St. Benet Fink, on the old question of tithes, and a distress was levied on his goods. On 23 June 1683 Crouch with George Whitehead had an interview with Archbishop Sancroft at Lambeth, and complained of the persecution which his sect suffered. Late in life Crouch wrote a full account of his sufferings, with notices of George Fox, Burrough, Pearson, and other friends. He died 13 Nov. 1710, aged 82, and was buried in the Friends' burying-place at Winchmore Hill, Middlesex. Crouch married twice. His second wife, Ruth Brown, was of his own way of thinking, and their marriage was privately solemnised at his house in Finch Lane in 1659. She died 2 Feb. 1709–10, aged 72. By his first wife Crouch had two children. A rare mezzotint of one William Crouch, signed ‘N. Tucker, pinx. 1725,’ is extant. Below are verses in praise of ‘Honest Will Crouch.’ It is probable that this is a portrait of the quaker. Crouch published in his lifetime ‘The Enormous Sin of Covetousness detected,’ Lond. 1708, with an epistle by Richard Claridge [q. v.] In 1712 Claridge edited, with an account of the author, Crouch's autobiography under the title of ‘Posthuma Christiana, or a Collection of some Papers of William Crouch.’ The book was reprinted as ‘Memoirs of William Crouch’ and formed vol. xi. of the Friends' Library, Philadelphia, 1847.

[Crouch's Posthuma Christiana; Smith's Friends' Books; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. i. 228.]

S. L. L.