New Forest Shakers

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

Background and Origins

The New Forest Shakers, also known as the Walworth Jumpers, Children of God, Girlingites, or Convulsionists, were a religious movement established by Mary Ann Girling in the 1870s in England. Originally from Suffolk, Girling moved to London in 1871 after facing persecution. She initially joined the Peculiar People of Plumstead but later formed her own group, attracting many followers. The sect was dubbed “the Jumpers of Walworth” due to their ecstatic worship style. In 1872, Girling and her followers relocated to Hordle in the New Forest, Hampshire, seeking a more peaceful environment​​.

Beliefs and Practices

Mary Ann Girling preached the imminent Second Coming, celibacy, chastity, and communal life. She claimed divinity and envisioned herself ruling over a peaceful world post-Second Coming. The community, known for its industrious nature, lived in celibacy and followed Girling’s prohibitions on trade. This led them into financial difficulties, resulting in their eviction from New Forest Lodge in December 1874. The community’s eviction in severe weather garnered public sympathy, especially after reports of an infant dying from exposure​​​​.

Community Life and Decline

At its peak, the community in Hordle comprised 160 members who cultivated vegetables and worshipped together. However, Girling’s prohibition against selling produce or labor led to financial woes. The group faced multiple evictions and relocations, eventually settling in Tiptoe, where they built wooden huts and a worship hut. The community became a local tourist attraction, but it gradually declined, especially after Girling announced her divinity publicly in 1882 and later succumbed to cancer in 1886. Following her death, the community dispersed, with only a few members remaining at Tiptoe​​​​.