Forgotten Matlock man’s key role in American history

Historian Martyn Gillie at the site of a former home of John Bowne in Matlock.
Historian Martyn Gillie at the site of a former home of John Bowne in Matlock.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

So begins the US Bill of Rights, one of the most famous and important documents in American history.

Historian Martyn Gillie at the site of a former home of John Bowne in Matlock.

Historian Martyn Gillie at the site of a former home of John Bowne in Matlock.

However, what is less well known is the major role a man from Matlock played in its creation.

John Bowne grew up at Lime Tree Farm on the site of what is now the One Stop Shop on Lime Tree Road.

After emigrating to America in the 1600s, Bowne’s campaign for religious freedom led to the legacy of tolerance Americans enjoy today.

Now, Martyn Gillie, from Youlgrave, wants this significant son of the Dales to get the recognition he deserves in the town of his birth.

That this guy from a little backwater town of Matlock can have a such a significant impact is amazing.

Martyn Gillie

He said: “That this guy from a little backwater town of Matlock can have a such a significant impact is amazing.

“But nobody knows anything about him.

“It would be great if we could get a plaque or something like that to say this is where he came from.

“Maybe Donald Trump might come over and unveil it.”

Bowne first came to prominence in 1662 in New York, when he stood up to the colony’s Dutch governors over the rights of Quakers to practice their faith.

After being deported to Holland to stand trial, he eventually won his case, paving the way for greater tolerance of different religions on the continent - and ultimately, in 1791, the Bill of Rights.

As well as getting greater recognition for Bowne, amateur researcher Martyn, 58, also hopes his campaign will bring more of his descendents in the area forward.

If you think you might be related to John Bowne, get in touch with Martyn on the Old Matlock Pics Facebook page.