New Forest Shakers

A 19th-century religious movement founded by Mary Ann Girling, known for its communal living and unique worship practices.

The New Forest Shakers, also known as the Walworth Jumpers, Children of God, Girlingites, or Convulsionists, were a new religious movement founded by Mary Ann Girling in the 1870s in England. Born in 1827, Mary Ann Girling became known for her charismatic leadership and controversial teachings, which included proclaiming herself as a divine figure and predicting the imminent Second Coming of Christ.

Girling’s religious journey began after she experienced persecution in Suffolk and moved to London in 1871. There, she initially associated with the Peculiar People of Plumstead before establishing her own group. This group attracted significant attention, partly due to Girling’s claims of divinity and her followers’ ecstatic worship practices, which eventually earned them the nickname “the Jumpers of Walworth”​​.

In search of a peaceful environment to practice their faith, Girling and her followers moved to Hordle in the New Forest, Hampshire, in 1872. They settled at New Forest Lodge, financed partly by follower donations and a mortgage. The community practiced strict celibacy and prohibited economic transactions, leading to financial instability and eventual eviction from their home in 1874. The eviction was notoriously harsh, involving the community being forced to leave during severe weather, which garnered public sympathy and support from figures like the libertarian politician Auberon Herbert​​​​.

After their eviction, the group faced further challenges, including multiple relocations and financial difficulties, before settling on a farm in Tiptoe, near Hordle. There, they erected wooden huts and continued their communal lifestyle, which by then had become a local curiosity and tourist attraction. Despite these efforts, the community’s numbers dwindled, particularly after Girling announced her divinity in a public letter in 1882​​.

Mary Ann Girling’s health deteriorated due to cancer, and she passed away in 1886 at Tiptoe. Her death marked the effective end of the New Forest Shakers, as the remaining community members soon dispersed​​​​.

The New Forest Shakers are remembered for their unique beliefs and practices, their communal living, and the intense devotion of their leader, Mary Ann Girling, who left a lasting, if controversial, mark on the religious landscape of Victorian England​​​​.

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