Thomas Hooker and John Eliot’s house in England

A few days ago, as part of my temporary work, I found myself making a delivery at a house with a blue plaque on it. I was surprised to read that this old farmhouse was the home, from 1626 to 1631, of Thomas Hooker, described as “The Father of American Democracy”, and of John Eliot, “Apostle to the Indians” (i.e. the Native Americans).

Cuckoos Farm, Little BaddowThe house is now known as Cuckoos Farm, in the village of Little Baddow near Chelmsford – in England, not in Massachusetts. This is officially listed as a 17th century timber-framed and plastered house, although sadly the windows are modern. It is about five miles from my home in Great Baddow.

There is more information about Hooker and Eliot, and their residence on Little Baddow, on the website of the Little Baddow History Centre. I was already aware that Hooker, a Puritan, had been a lecturer at what is now Chelmsford Cathedral, and I had heard of Eliot as a Bible translator. But I did not know that when Hooker was forced to leave Chelmsford he opened a school in Little Baddow, with Eliot as his assistant.

There seems to be some uncertainty about the dates. The school in Little Baddow may not actually have been founded until 1630. By 1633 both Hooker and Eliot had separately emigrated to Massachusetts. But their Puritan heritage lived on in Little Baddow. A Congregational chapel built in 1707 near Cuckoos Farm is still in use, now as a United Reformed Church.

Thomas HookerThomas Hooker was indeed one of the pioneers of American democracy, of which, in John Fiske’s words, he “deserves more than any other man to be called the father”. He is also celebrated as “the Father of Connecticut”, as he was one of the founders of that colony, and a drafter of its Fundamental Orders, a precursor of the Constitution of the USA. It is interesting to see that, although himself a pastor involved in politics, he was also a pioneer in separating church and state: he opposed the practice in Massachusetts of allowing the church to control who was allowed to vote, and this was one of his main motivations for leaving Massachusetts to found a new colony.

John EliotJohn Eliot is in some ways of greater interest to me because he was a pioneer missionary Bible translator. His complete Bible in the language of the Massachusett Indians (Native Americans) was perhaps one of the first ever in the language of a newly evangelised people group. Eliot was also a pastor involved in politics. Indeed, he was the author of “the first book on politics written by an American and also the first book to be banned by an American government”. But his politics were very different from Hooker’s: he proposed a theocracy based on Old Testament models, and might perhaps be considered a forerunner of today’s Christian Reconstructionists or “Dominionists”.

It is fitting that these two pioneers are still remembered in the village where they spent several years. It is sad that their story is not as well known as it might be.

10 thoughts on “Thomas Hooker and John Eliot’s house in England

  1. Hi Peter,
    I wanted to thank you so much for sharing this photo and the additional information about my 8th Great Grandfather John Eliot. I have read much about him and his early Bible but had never seen his home in England. It made me so happy to be able to share in what a home of that period would look like.
    I wanted to extend my gratitude toward you for sharing this and extending the knowledge of my Early Family. Sincerely, Kimmee

  2. Kimmee, you’re welcome as well. I’m glad you have managed to trace your ancestry that far back. The Little Baddow History Centre (link above) might be interested in contacting you and finding out more about Eliot’s descendants in the USA.

  3. Very interesting. As a student of Hooker’s views, a Christian, and a descendant of two men who followed Hooker from Massachusetts Bay Colony to the Connecticut Valley, anything concerning Hooker and Elliot is of great interest to me. I know very little about their lives in England.

  4. Thank you, Carl. I don’t know anything more myself about Hooker in England. If you want to find out more, you could try contacting Little Baddow History Centre or Chelmsford Cathedral. In a moment I will fix the broken link to the latter.

  5. I was raised in Little Baddow. I now live in the US but return regularly to visit family in the village. A very thorough and interesting read is “THOMAS HOOKER (1586-1647): Father of American Democracy” by Deryck Collingwood 1995

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