History GCSE: The Conventicle Act of 1664 and the Independence of the Jury

Charles II's religious persecution was enforced using the Conventicle Act, restricting non-conformist worship and banning assemblies of more than five non-Anglicans.

Many felt the law was morally wrong.

When two Quakers, William Mead and William Penn, were tried for breaking it, they were found not guilty by the Jury, led by Edward Bushel.

The judge imprisoned them at Newgate jail for failing to bring in the ‘right’ verdict.

Lawyer Harry Potter then discusses with Lord Igor Judge, the significance of Edward Bushel’s use of habeus corpus and how Chief Justice Vaughan decreed that juries should be free to return their verdict without fear of punishment.

This short film is from the BBC series, The Strange Case of the Law.

Teacher Notes

Students could identify key words while watching this short film.

Discuss why the judgement of Chief Justice Vaughan was so significant.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching GCSE history and social studies. This topic appears in OCR, AQA, Edexcel, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

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