Hordle Shakers or Jumpers


30th March 2013 Saturday.

Hey you guys, this post was first posted on Legends back in February, I have added some more info so as not to make it identical to the one on Legends, just in case some of you have read it before so please be patient.

The New Forest Shakers or Walworth Jumpers (also Children of God, Girlingites or Convulsionists) were a new religious movement created by Mary Ann Girling in the 1870s in England. Originally from Suffolk, Girling preached the Second Coming, celibacy, chastity and communal life (a kind of communalism).

Mary Ann GirlingNew Forest Shakers

Mary Ann Girling was both revered and feared and at one point was almost tarred, feathered and burned as a witch. A new book by Southampton author Philip Hoare unravels the odd tale of the New Forest Shakers.

Britain in the 1870’s – Thomas Hardy was busy penning another classic, Alexander Graham Bell was about to dial up his first call, and a bizarre religious sect was setting up camp in the New Forest.

The sect was led by Mary Ann Girling – a self-proclaimed prophet and religious leader who, because of her public shows of religious fervour soon attracted the attention of the national media

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In the nineteenth century, one group came to the particular notice of the public when Mary Ann Girling along with 164 followers moved to live in the  New Forest Lodge, Vaggs Lane, in Hordle. Previously the sect has been based in Walworth Road, in East London and claimed that they died with conversion, and were then reborn to eternal life. They met in a rented railway arch where in 1871 ‘nearly 3000 people came to see the excitement caused by the dancing, prophesying and trance utterances of the sect known as the Walworth Jumpers.They were also called the Girlingites or English Shakers.’ 51 In 1873 Mrs Girling had a vision that they should move to the New Forest and, with the help of a wealthy patron, the property in Vaggs Lane was bought, with a small mortgage.However, because the strict rules of the sect prohibited the members from working, the mortgage remained unpaid and ‘on a bitterly cold night of December 1894, in the rain, sleet and snow, 60 flimsily dressed women, 35 men and 45 children were evicted. All the furniture was left along a half mile stretch of Vaggs Lane. It included 3 pianos, 77 beds, boxes of eggs,butter and vegetables valued at about £1,000 and worthless by the end of the night.

In nearby village of Sway there was a large tower being built,(Peterson’s Tower) and some of these people within the sect were employed as part of the work force. The name Shaker’s had been purloined from the American sect ‘Jumpers’ which would have been a more appropriate name, because that is what they did: they jumped. The leader was known as Jump for Glory Jane though her name wasn’t Jane, it was Mary Ann Girling.

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The group continued to live in the Hordle area for a further 11 years, leasing fields, or  camping by the roadside, and using an old barn as a chapel. They still maintained that they were immortal, and were severely shaken by the first death in the group. However, Mary Girling’s health was also in decline and, in 1886, she died of cancer. She was buried in Hordle churchyard, amongst her followers, each grave having a yew tree planted at its head. Today nothing remains of the sect except a few yew trees and a small plaque fixed to the church wall, which reads ‘Mary Girling, Leader of the Hordle Shakers, was buried here in 1886.’

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My link to this village apart from living in a nearby village was the knowing of and becoming great friends with Robert Isles, (Bob) who was the son of a butchers shop owner, and later became the owner himself. He started to follow us our band, at the time, and later started to roadie for us. But as time went by he showed he could also sing rock and roll and was extrovert enough to put on a good show. So for the next 9 months or so he fronted the band. But only on the heavy rock songs, otherwise the tambourine was his thing.

However he actually lived in the same lane and told us about this story, which his mother told him, at the time we were more into becoming rock stars. So unfortunately I cannot remember any details. One thing I can remember a small group of us did gather at the gate and wall of the same graveyard.. like most of our age just gathered and chatted and moved on.

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And time goes on.. read my next post,,’Jump to Glory Jane,,, a story related ghost story….

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24 thoughts on “Hordle Shakers or Jumpers

  1. What a mad bunch they must have been, and what weird neighbours for the rest of Vaggs Lane! I enjoyed learning about them, though. Thanks for writing this, Gerry.

  2. I think I took away even more with this posting of your forest tale. I wonder how the members did reconcile the death of their leader and the fact that what she preached did not come to be. As prof with her own death.

    Its a fabulous story My kind Sir, and an amazing piece of history that you are connected with. I look forward to the takes being continually told by you.

    1. Thank you my lady,, I have been quite fascinated myself realising lately how close I lived to all this,, and now recording for all to read,, well the half a dozen…;) honoured as always 😉

      1. I think you and your folk tales being documented is the key thing. Now that the are in your won words, with your personal history are the kinds of things in our lives which should go down with the rest of history.
        thank you My Kind Sir for continuing.. your tales always a great read. ~

    1. Thank you but how does a hairdresser playing bass and a horse jockey singer and is a good Elvis Presley imitator.. Oh yes and a semi pro footballer playing guitar (rhythm) smiling now thank you…;)

  3. I was going to say, “So much for her claim of immortality,” but she still might be lingering in those forests doing her shaking bit. Neat story, as always–made better by the way you tell it. 🙂

    1. Thank you very and enjoyed my visit,, please feel welcome and I hope you enjoy what you find,, and please come back.. there is much more Forest tales to comes..:)

  4. This was very interesting…funny how obsessed people can become of immortality. We’re all going to die someday, darn it, why can’t people just accept that and live life with meaning? Just me ranting a bit there 😉 Anyways, lovely story and looking forward to the next installment…

    1. It has always been the of people and life,, people cannot accept what they do not understand… as always welcome and appreciated ,, thank you 😉 watch for the next post

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