Gratton, John (DNB00)
GRATTON, JOHN (1641–1712), quaker, was probably born not far from Chesterfield in Derbyshire in 1641. His father appears to have been a prosperous yeoman or farmer. As a boy Gratton kept his father's sheep. As a child he took great delight ‘in playing cards, and shooting at bulls and ringing of bells,’ until he was ‘visited with the light.’ He attended various preachers and read pious books without obtaining religious peace. He joined the presbyterians, but was unable to sing psalms truthfully. After the Restoration he frequented the church, but disliked set forms of prayer. He therefore attended various dissenting conventicles, and had a controversy with Muggleton in 1669. About the same time he married, and shortly afterwards went to live at Monyash in Derbyshire. He next joined an anabaptist congregation till it was broken up by the Conventicle Act. Ultimately he joined the quaker society at Matlock, and after a short time ‘convinced his wife.’ As he states they lived together for thirty-five years afterwards, this must have taken place about 1672. Gratton now became a recognised preacher, and a letter dated 1673 shows that he made ministerial journeys. He had a number of narrow escapes from arrest under the Conventicle Act, and relates that, on the understanding that the meetings were silent, the Friends were protected by constables. In 1675 he was fined 20l. for preaching in the Vale of Belvoir, and several times was sentenced to similar fines, but, owing to the respect in which he was held, these fines were rarely enforced. About 1680 he was served with a writ of excommunication, and was subsequently lodged in Derby gaol, being leniently treated. He was moved to London by a writ of habeas corpus, but, his suit being unsuccessful, he returned to Derby, where he lay in prison, he says, ‘quietly till King James set me at liberty.’ During this period he was allowed to go home for several weeks at a time, and was fined at least once for illegal preaching during the time he was a prisoner. He was also permitted to hold quaker meetings in the prison. He got leave to visit London again in 1685, and was there when Charles II died. He was set at liberty in March 1686, when, after spending a short time with his wife, he made a religious journey through the greater part of England and Wales, and until 1695 he was almost ceaselessly occupied in making ministerial visits in England and Scotland. During this year he visited Ireland, where he stopped five months. After this journey ill-health compelled him to give up regular journeys. Early in 1707 he disposed of his estate at Monyash, and went to reside with his son, Joseph Gratton, at or near Farnsfield in Nottinghamshire, where in December of that year his wife died at the age of sixty-eight. Another religious journey led to an illness, and he finally settled with his daughter, Phœbe Bateman, at Farnsfield, where, after much suffering, he died on 9 March 1711–12. He was buried by the side of his wife in the quaker burial-ground at Farnsfield. Gratton was a man of high character, pious, unassuming, and charitable. He once travelled to London to procure employment for the son of a rough gaoler. His ‘Journal’ (published 1720) has been frequently reprinted; it gives valuable descriptions of village life in a pleasing style.
Gratton's chief works are:
- ‘John Baptist's Decreasing and Christ's Increasing witnessed’ (a treatise on baptism), 1674; reprinted in 1693 and 1695.
- ‘The Prisoner's Vindication, with a Sober Expostulation and Reprehension of Persecutors’ (written in Derby gaol in 1682), published 1683.
- ‘A Treatise concerning Baptism and the Lord's Supper,’ &c., 1695.
- ‘The Clergy-Man's Pretence of Divine Right to Tythes examined and refuted, being a Full Answer to W. W.'s Fourth Letter in his Book intituled “The Clergy's Legal Right to Tithes asserted, &c.,”’ 1703.
[Gratton's Journal; Phœbe Bateman's, Whiting's, and other Testimonies; Muggleton, Veræ Fidei Gloria est Corona Vitæ; Smith's Catalogue of Friends' Books.]