RELIGIOUS CHANGES IN SURREY/SUSSEX SARGANTS
(Note: The spelling of the surname varies)
This article has been compiled from various sources by Jim Sargant – great great grandson of Benjamin Serjant, b 1810 Horley, Surrey.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Sargants living in the countryside adjacent to the Surrey/Sussex border seem to have been very involved with the Baptist Church, especially those in the Horley area.
The Philip Serjant who may well have been the father of Benjamin (b 1810 Horley) was a member of the Horley Baptist Church in the early 1800s and there is a record of other Sargents associated with that Church in the 1700s.
In the Surrey Quarter Sessions records is a certificate of approval of Nathaniel Palmer Jun of Oxted as a preacher and of the use of houses of David Sargeant at Nutfield and Nathaniel Palmer Sen at Oxted as places of worship. It is dated April 13 1787 (Easter). No connection has yet been established between this David Sargeant and our family. Possiblities include David Sargant, christened February 4 1749 at Petworth, Sussex, parents David & Martha Sargant ; David Serjeant, married 21 Oct 1754 at East Grinstead, Martha Ingerfield.
It would be interesting to know what happened during the period from about 1830 and 1845, when there was a spate of adult christenings in Anglican Churches among the Sargants. Among these is one for David Sargeant at Horley on January 15 1832 : could this be the same David who was such a devout Baptist that his home was a place of worship 45 years previously ? Other family members recorded as being christened at St Bartholomew’s Church, Horley on that day – Robert & Abraham, sons of Philip Serjant & Mary Cook ; Dinah Sargeant, possibly a daughter of David Sargeant & Elizabeth Ridley ; and Benjamin Sergeant (possibly my great great grandfather), son of an unknown Benjamin; Mary, Benjamin, Eliza, George & Ambrose, children of Benjamin Sargent & Elizabeth Strudwicke, and William, son of Isaac & Mary Sargent (unidentified relationship with our Sargants). Also christened on this day at Horley was Elizabeth Huggett. Could this have been the same Elizabeth who was to marry another of those christened then, Abraham, on April 10 1847 at East Grinstead?
Another four sons of Philip Serjant & Mary Cook were christened at Horley on January 5 1834 – Matthew (6), Mark (4) and twins Luke & John (this was the day of their birth).
In the Burstow Parish records, four Sargents (children of Thomas & Ann Sargent1) were christened, having been born between 1818 and 1827. The record book explains that the family converted from being Baptists.
Other notable adult christenings include Thomas Serjant (son of Philip and Mary) on April 13 1834 at Nutfield, when and where he & his wife-to-be, Catherine Brown, were also witnesses at the marriage of Benjamin & Amelia Serjant. There is also a record an adult christening of a Benjamin Serjant at Merstham on May 11 1845. This seems unlikely to be ‘our’ Benjamin (b 1810 Horley).
Subsequently, we know that several members of our family became leading members of various Anglican Churches.
Will we ever learn what caused an apparent mass conversion of the Sargants from Baptists to Anglicans over 160 years ago ? One possibility is related to one of the firm beliefs of the Anabaptists and more strict elements of the Baptist Church in pacifism. In the turbulent times of the 18th and 19th centuries, could the patriotism of our ancestors have been a factor ?
Although there is not the slightest indication of a link to our ancestors from Sargant Country, there was a number of Sergeant and Sergent christenings at two of the Huguenot Churches in London between 1677 and 1787, in most cases the parents having been born in France.
Nonconformist Movement in Sussex – probable background to the Baptist/Anabaptist faith of many of our ancestors
It seems likely that our Surrey Sargants had their ancestry in Sussex. The late 1500s marked the advent of Puritanism, which eventually led to the establishment of nonconformist Churches, At first, Puritanism was a new way of being a member of the Church of England, although Puritans disliked ritual & hierarchy and questioned the need for bishops.
At the Eastern end of Sussex, Puritanism became especially strong. After Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentarians prevailed in the Civil War, the Puritan tendency held the upper hand. Parliament established the Westminster Assembly of Divines to reform the Church of England along Presbyterian lines. One duty of the Assembly was to decide which incumbents were doing their job diligently enough to retain their livings. All incumbents had to sign a new Act of Uniformity by 1662. In Sussex, many refused and about one in four of all incumbents resigned or were ejected from their livings.
This was what pushed Nonconformists into splitting into separate denominations, though attendance at Church of England services was compulsory and probably many turned out occasionally for the law’s sake, before attending a nonconformist service in a private house. Such were the circumstances which prevailed for our Baptist forebears in the Horley area, as it is recorded that the first Baptist Chapel there was not opened until 1846. Most of adult christenings in the Anglican faith were earlier than this.
Browsing through the IGI records on the Family Search (Church of Latter Day Saints) site, it is evident that many of the Sargant* family in other parts of England also had affiliations with the non-conformist movement.
To add to the confusion about the possible religious origins of our ancestors, IGI records also include several Sergeants & Sergents christened in French Huguenot Churches in London.
1 This Thomas was probably a brother of the David who married Elizabeth Ridley, & Philip who married Mary Cook, and whose wife was Ann Huggett (married December 22 1817 in Nutfield). These do not appear on our family tree – at present.
on 2010-06-04 22:10:50
I have been researching the Sargant family, with its variety of spellings for over 10 years. My immediate ancestors came from Surrey, but I am keen to find links with families in other parts of the country & overseas.