LANCASTER
WHITHORN
CARLISLE
CARTMELL
FURNESS
TOGETHER
CUMBRIA AND BORDERS

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Jesus  and  Mary and the Disciples

 

Cumbria Christianity

Thomas Lawson

1630 - 1691

Following the persecution of the Catholics in the 16th century, the pendiulum swung the other way and Dissenters were the object of Government wrath. In particular, Quakers suffered, and Lancaster gaol was the scene of the sufferings of some from our part of the country. For one, his conversion to Quakerism, insulted in his becoming famous in an unexpected sphere'.

Thomas Lawson, born in 1630, and educated at Giggleswick and Cambridge, followed the usual course of scholars in those days and took Holy Orders, and became Vicar of Rampside, in Furness. Rampside is not far from Swarthmoor, the cradle of Quakerism. Thomas met George Fox and was converted. He left the Church of England, became tutor to Margaret Fell's two daughters at Swarthmoor, and published several books of a dissenting nature. He was excommulicated, and it is thought that he was imprisoned at
Lancaster.

The Lord Lonsdale of the time was tolerant of Dissenters, and he offered Lawson a dwelling in Great Strickland, and helped him to set up a school. He was a fine teacher and the school prospered, many pupils going to Cambridge and Oxford.

Thomas Lawson developed (and, doubtless, taught) his interest in plants, until he became the most noted Northern botanist of his day. In Camden's 'Britannia' the botanical notes were compiled by John Ray, who commissioned Lawson to report the flora of Westmorland. Lawson's notebooks are now with the Linnean Society of London, and it is fascinating to find some of the plants growing in the same spot today.

Thomas married Frances Wilkinson and they had three children. His descendants are known to this day and include Prof Brinton Thompson and his present-day family of Philadelphia USA also Jacob ThDThpson (1806-1879), the notable Penrith artist Thomas and his wife died in 1691 and lie in the tiny Quaker Burial Ground at Newby Head

Further reading: E. J. Whittaker Thomas Lawson (York 1986)

A Wilson Flora Of Westmorland (Arbroath 1938).
LLeweilyn Jewitt Life and Works of Jacob Thompson (London 18