William Penn wrote about his friend and my 9th great grandfather, Cuthbert Hayhurst, dying in 1682. I have seen the letter in Penn's writing. How is it that he dated the death in 1682 when the Calendar Act wouldn't even be passed for another 70 years? The colonies were under the Julian calendar at that time.

  • 3
    What difference in dates were you expecting? The differences between the two calendars is measured in days. – Steve Bird Aug 31 '19 at 13:15
  • 2
    Welcome to History:SE. What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? What did you find? What makes you think that 1682 wasn't actually a date in the Julian Calendar? Please help us to help you. You might find it helpful to review the site tour and Help Centre and, in particular, How to Ask. – sempaiscuba Aug 31 '19 at 13:17
  • Is this the letter you are referring to? (The more info about why your asking you can add, the better.) – Gort the Robot Aug 31 '19 at 17:07
  • Also note that secondary sources sometimes translate from Julian to Gregorian without being explicit, which can make dates confusing. – Gort the Robot Aug 31 '19 at 17:10

I finally tracked down what seems to be a copy of the letter that I think you are referring to on Find a Grave. The extract of the relevant section is here:

Extract of letter by William Penn (Click to enlarge)

The text reads:

A testimony concerning that Faithful Servant of the Lord, & my Dear Friend and Kinsman Cuthbert Hayhurst, who was born at Easington in Bolland in the County of York in Old-England & departed this life, at his own house in the County of Bucks abt the 5th of the first mo 1682/3 near the fiftieth year of his age.”

The '1682/3' is a reference to the fact that the start of the legal New Year was commonly on Lady Day (25 March) in many places (including England and British dominions), and 1 January elsewhere (Scotland had changed its calendar year to begin on 1 January in 1600). Pitt (as was fairly common with letter writers at the time) used the dual-year format to account for this.

In England New Year's Day was changed to 1 January in 1752, when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted.

As you note, the Calendar Act introduced the Gregorian Calendar in Great Britain and British dominions in 1752.

What is, perhaps, less well-known is that the Act also changed the start of the legal New Year in England and the British Dominions to 1 January rather than 25 March (Lady Day), which had previously been the start of the legal New Year since 1155.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.