Society of Dependents

A Christian sect once common in Surrey and West Sussex, England, founded by John Sirgood

They were widely known as "Cokelers". This name is believed to come from "Cuckolders", meaning adulterers, a slander on them by religious opponents, rather than the alternative explanation that they drank cocao because they were teetotal.

Their faith was very simple: they were teetotal, conscientious objectors to the war and were encouraged but not required to remain unmarried. Beginning in the 1850s meetings were held on commons or in barns and faced great opposition from the landed gentry and the clergy. Both men and women preached, which was unusual at that time, seeking converts among the poor and humble.

They first established themselves at Loxwood because it was outside of the control of the large estates whose Anglican owners would have denied them land or premises. The first chapel was opened there in 1861. Seven more chapels were built in Norwood, Shamley Green, Warnham, Lord's Hill,Northchapel, Chichester and Hove. These were simple undecorated buildings, with a room where those who had walked long distances to attend could rest during the day long Sunday worship.

They opened a number of combination stores around 1879 in Norwood, Lord's Hill, Northchapel, Warnham and Loxwood, where members lived communally, working in the business. Some followers disagreed with entering the world of commerce but they were successful, selling everything from soap to suspenders, bacon to bootlaces. They also grew their own produce to sell, living communally on tenanted farms. When there was a fashion for cycling in the 1890s they opened bicycle shops at Northchapel, Loxwood and Warnham.

All profits were put back in the business or used to help the needy. They also made furniture to sell: attractive, sturdy pieces some of which still survive.

The following verse comes from the Dependents Hymn Book [Pamela Bruce,"Northchapel A Parish History" (2000) Published by Northchapel Parish Council.]

"Christ's Combination Stores for me" "Where I can be so well supplied," "Where I can one with brethren be" "Where competition is defied."


ee also

*Peter Jerrome,"John Sirgood's Way" (1998)

External links


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