Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pickworth, Henry

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PICKWORTH, HENRY (1673?–1738?), writer against the quakers, son of Henry Pickworth, a farmer of New Sleaford, Lincolnshire, was born there about 1673, and was in business in Sleaford as a tanner. After joining the quakers, he was appointed an elder and overseer by the Waddington monthly meeting. Hearing that Francis Bugg [q. v.] proposed coming, at the instigation of the bishop, to confute the quakers in Lincolnshire, Pickworth sent him a challenge to visit Sleaford, and hold with him an open dispute. Bugg arrived 11 Aug. 1701, and on the 25th the conference was held in the sessions house, before justices and clergymen. Pickworth seems to have cut a poor figure, and Bugg was given a certificate, dated 11 March 1702, that he had made good his charges. Two quaker books were publicly burned in the market-place. Both disputants issued their own version of the conference, and Pickworth attacked Bugg with vehemence in many pamphlets.

Pickworth was soon after completely won over to Bugg's views, and began writing against the quakers. Year by year he went punctually to the yearly meeting held in London in May and June, to present addresses, protests, and ‘testimonies,’ but was generally refused an audience. At last, on 9 June 1714, he was disowned by the quarterly meeting of Lincoln, ‘for that he has long been of a contentious mind, and has joined those called French prophets’ [see Lacy, John, and Misson, Francis Maximilian]. Pickworth vainly petitioned the lords and commons for another public conference. He then issued ‘A Charge of Error, Heresy, Incharity, Falshood, Evasion, Inconsistency, Innovation, Imposition, Infidelity, Hypocrisy, Pride, Raillery, Apostasy, Perjury, Idolatry, Villainy, Blasphemy, Abomination, Confusion, and worse than Turkish Tyranny. Most justly exhibited, and offered to be proved against the most noted Leaders, &c., of the People called Quakers,’ London, 8vo, 1716. In his abusive violence Pickworth sought to show that all quakers were papists, and that William Penn died insane. His book provoked replies from Joseph Besse [q. v.] and Richard Claridge [q. v.], to both of whom Pickworth retorted. Claridge, referring in his diary to Pickworth's vindication of 1738, describes him as ‘mendacissimus et invidiosissimus.’ In 1730 Pickworth sent another expostulatory letter to the yearly meeting, which he printed on their refusal to read it. He removed to Lynn Regis, Norfolk, before 1738, when he issued a defence of his indictment against the quakers. He died at Lynn some time after that date. He married, on 28 March 1696, Winifred, daughter of John Whitchurch (d. 1680) of Warwick Lane, London, by whom he had five sons, all born at Sleaford. His widow remained a minister of the society until her death at Lynn, 1 May 1752.

[Pickworth's works; Bugg's News from New Rome, Quakerism and its Cause Sinking, Narrative of the Conference at Sleaford, and his Vox Populi, passim; Besse's Defence of Quakerism, and his Confutation of the Charge of Deism, &c. p. 172; Smith's Catalogue, ii. 415; Registers at Devonshire House; Library of the Meeting for Sufferings, where five letters of Pickworth's are preserved.]

C. F. S.