The biography of Nicholas Ferrar (1593-1637) is the story of a man whose ministry to his family turned a worldly misfortune into a spiritual opportunity. When financial crises struck the family in 1624, he persuaded them to abandon London for their newly-acquired property at Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, there to embrace a distinctive pattern of piety that made them an example of community to their own and future generations. Avoiding the hagiographic tone of earlier biographies, Joyce Ransome brings the man and the family alive revealing not only their strengths but also their frailties. Whilst they strove to reject worldly values, they nevertheless had to live in the world and attend to such worldly matters as preparing their children for work and marriage and managing the family's finances. As he succeeded in transforming his mercantile family into a religious and educational community, Ferrar hoped their example would become a 'Light upon a Hill' to inspire his contemporaries.
While that hope was at best only partially fulfilled in his lifetime, those who had known him at Little Gidding preserved accounts of his and the family's life that made later generations able to know and adapt their example of community. For some that example took the form of voluntary religious societies and helped to make such groups acceptable within a Church of England that was changing from a national to an established but essentially voluntary institution. For its fresh prospective on the unique Little Gidding that Ferrar created, this book will appeal to both an academic and general audience of readers interested in early modern history, church history, English literature, theology, family history (historical sociology) and gender studies.