Category Archives: Monasteries

Cardinal Wolsey and the monasteries

wolseyWe tend to think of Thomas Cromwell as the man who did for England’s monasteries but before he became Henry VIII’s Vicar General, Cardinal Wolsey had already demonstrated various ways and means of milking the cloisters.

Most famously between 1524 and 1527 he arranged the suppression of 29 monastic foundations in order to finance his school in Ipswich and Cardinal’s College Oxford.  One of Wolsey’s men of business  at the time was Thomas Cromwell.  In 1530 after the fall and death of the Cardinal, Cromwell spent five days in Canwell and Sandwell (Staffs) seeing to the winding up of the two priories there which had been closed to finance Wolsey’s educational enterprises.

It should be added that Wolsey was not doing something new when he suppressed the 29 monasteries.  He was copying  William Waynflete of Winchester who had suppressed foundations in Hampshire in order to fund Magdalen College in 1458.  Wolsey studied there so it is not hard to see where he might have got his inspiration from.

Nor for that matter was he simply suppressing English monasteries because he could do so – when he became papal legate in 1518 he also received a mandate from Pope Clement VII to reform the monastic establishment as he saw fit.  The papal bull for these suppressions also identified Cardinal Campeggio.  It is evident from the State papers that Wolsey was careful to keep his royal master informed of events.  Here is an extract of a letter dating from 1528 sent to Campeggio.

Sir [Gregory] Casale….where he received letters from the King and the cardinal of York, with orders to obtain certain favors from the Pope. Not being in a fit state to ride, he has caused his brother, the elect of Bellun, to repair hither. You will have learned what the King and Cardinal desire, namely, the union of certain monasteries to the value of 8,000 [ducats?], for the two colleges established by the grandfathers of his Majesty. As the Pope was able to grant this sine consilio fratrum, the bull will be expedited. … We have letters from the King and Cardinal to the Pope, to which an answer shall be sent when the “expeditions” shall have been made. 

This was all well and good whilst Wolsey had Henry VIII’s favour but as every English churchman was aware – if they fell from favour the charge they would face was one of praemunire i.e. maintaining papal authority above that of the monarch. The pope did not simply give Wolsey carte blanche to close what he wanted.  Each of the foundations was required to close with the consent of its patron or founder.  Consequently the charge of closing the monasteries was a bit of a mean one as Wolsey  had in many cases required the intervention or consent of the king (Butler and Given-Wilson).

Wolsey started his suppressions with St Frideswide in Oxford with its fifteen canons and an income of approximately £20 p.a..  The canons were transferred to other foundations. The properties and their estates and churches were either sold or leased.  Most of the other monasteries he suppressed also only had a handful of clerics and a limited income.  In Ipswich where he founded his school he suppressed the local priory and used its land as the site for the school.  Ten more monasteries in Suffolk closed to finance the Ipswich venture.

 

There were various ways of interfering in the monasteries aside from closing them down.  As readers might expect Henry VII and his tax advisors Empson and Dudley had a few wheezes of their own.  The Crown often interfered in the election of abbots and priors.  St Mary’s Abbey in York paid the Crown £100 so that it might have free elections as did Great Malvern Abbey.  The Cistercians coughed up £5000 to cover all their foundations. The practice continued in the reign of Henry VIII.  In 1514 Evesham paid £160 for a free election and further £100 was added to the bill for a certain cleric called Wolsey.  Later in his career he took to charging for appointment to office.  The abbot of Gloucester was supposed to have paid Wolsey £100 for the job as did the abbots of Chester and Peterborough.

Of course, 1514 was the year the Wolsey became Bishop of York.  The office was followed by the title of cardinal the following year.  As a bishop Wolsey had the right to carry out visitations within his diocese.  Effectively bishops could demand to see an abbey or priory’s accounts and make enquiries into the moral solvency of a foundation.  Wolsey could not only to pry into the corners of Yorkshire’s monastic soul but also the dioceses of Winchester, Durham and Bath and Wells.  In 1518 he became a Papal Legate and his rights to stick his nose into abbey habits became nationwide. The following year Wolsey sent three Augustinians off to visit all Augustinian foundations and it would certainly appear that he had it in for the Augustinians if the list of suppressed monasteries in this post is anything to go by.  Supporters of Wolsey identify his reforming vigour.  Opponents are more likely to comment on the visitation as a strategy for extortion.

In 1523 he was voted a monastic subsidy – think of it as a clerical tax headed for the chubby paws of the cardinal.  It should also be noted that monasteries made an incredibly generous number of financial gifts to England’s spiritual leader.  Whalley Abbey sent him £22  for example.

Later when Wolsey fell from favour and the charges against him were drawn up the suppression of the twenty-nine monasteries featured on the list as did his habit of sending his employees to influence monastic elections not only of abbots and priors but also of high stewards.  The charges of praemunire include one of “crafty persuasions.”

But back to Wolsey’s suppressions.  There is a note in Henry VIII’s letters and state papers sent to Master Doctor Higden the first dean and former fellow of Magdalen College on the 21 June 1527:  Of the late monasteries of St. Frideswide, Liesnes, Poghley, Sandwell, Begham, Tykforde, Thobye, Stanesgat, Dodneshe, Snape, Tiptre, Canwell, Bradwell, Daventrie, Ravenston; of lands in cos. of Essex and Suffolk; Calceto, Wykes, Snape; of monasteries suppressed in cos. Stafford, Northampton, Bucks, Oxford and Berks; Tonbridge, in Kent; and in Sussex.

List of monastic foundations suppressed by Cardinal Wolsey

  1. St Frideswide, Oxford.  (Augustinian)
  2. St Peter and St Paul Priory, Ipswich. (Augustinian)
  3.  Bayham Abbey (Premonstratsensian)
  4. Begham Priory
  5. Blythburgh Priory (Augustinian)
  6. Bradwell Priory (Benedictine)
  7. Bromehill Priory (Augustinian) – Suppressed in 1528 by Dr Legh.
  8. Canwell Priory (Benedictine)
  9. Daventry Priory (Cluniac)
  10. Dodnash Priory (Augustinian)
  11. Farewell Priory (Benedictine nuns)
  12. Felixstowe Priory (Benedictine)
  13. Horkesley Priory (Cluniac)
  14. Lesnes  Abbey (Augustinian)
  15. Medmenham Priory  (Augustinian)  Medmenham  would later be the site of the notorious eighteenth century Hellfire Club.
  16. Mountjoy Priory (Augustinian)
  17. Poughley Priory (Augustinian) – Thomas Cromwell valued it at £10
  18. Pynham Priory (known as Calceto)  (Augustinian)
  19. Ravenstone Priory (Augustinian)
  20. Rumburgh Priory (Benedictine)
  21. Sandwell Priory (Benedictine)
  22. Snape Priory (Benedictine)
  23. Stanesgate Priory (Cluniac) – Visited by Dr Layton.
  24. Thoby Priory (Augustinian)
  25. Tiptree Priory (Augustinian)
  26. Tickford Priory (Augustinian)
  27. Tonbridge Priory (Augustinian)
  28. Wallingford Priory (Benedictine)
  29. Wix Priory (Benedictine nuns)

The value of the monasteries that Wolsey closed came to £1800 – or one decent sized manor.  He used his administrative team to evaluate and suppress the monasteries.  Thomas Cromwell would use the same men on a far grander scale from 1535 onwards.

Butler, Lionel and Given-Wilson, Chris. (1979) Medieval Monasteries of Great Britain. London: Michael Joseph

 

Heale, Martin. (2016) The Abbots and Priors of Late Medieval and Reformation England. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hutchinson, Robert (2007) Thomas Cromwell: The Rise And Fall Of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister  London: Orion

‘Henry VIII: November 1528, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 4, 1524-1530, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1875), pp. 2134-2150. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol4/pp2134-2150 [accessed 24 April 2018].

‘Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Stanesgate’, in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2, ed. William Page and J Horace Round (London, 1907), pp. 141-142. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol2/pp141-142 [accessed 24 April 2018].

 

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Sir John Pole of Hartington (d.1397)

 

DSC_0174John Pole of Hartington (the picture is of Hartington Church) in Derbyshire held some important offices in the Duchy of Lancaster – not least being the steward of the High Peak – which I think you’ll agree is a rather wonderful title as is the title of forester of Crowdecote – another of John’s nice little money spinners. The Crowdecote office came with the purchase of land which appears to have occurred shortly after Pole inherited the family lands in the area. The Parliamentary website also suggests that it was the purchase of the land at Crowdecote which first brought Pole into the orbit of Gaunt’s sphere of influence certainly it was from this time that Pole acquired grazing rights to land in Hartington in the ownership of Gaunt as part of the Duchy of Lancaster  (Hartington had been in the hands of the Ferrers family until involvement with de Montford’s rebellion saw his estates ending up in the hands of Edmund of Lancaster).

We probably shouldn’t be too surprised, either, to learn that Pole became a member of parliament following his links to Gaunt – it is pure supposition to consider the idea that Pole purchased the land at Crowdecote with the single aim of improving his political and financial standing by hooking up to the Lancaster bandwagon but it certainly isn’t outside the realms of possibility.

In 1381 Pole can be found suppressing revolting peasants – a role which he continued throughout his career in Gaunt’s service as in 1386 he is on the record arresting people following unrest in Worksop. Ironically it was probably his role as an assessor of tax in 1379 that led to the unrest in the area in 1381! He is also noted as being sent off  in 1395 to lean on juries in Staffordshire along with other men in Gaunt’s retinue…suddenly its all sounding very mafia-ish.

 

More importantly so far as history’s knowledge of Pole is concerned is his keenness to take people to court – lawyers are good at written records and consequentially we know quite a lot about him.  He first appears in 1376 suing someone from Alstonfield for poaching and there are also records of him suing his own family over the inheritance of the manor of Sheen which had been split for a number of years due to the way it was inherited but when the manor was finally reunited under John’s tenure he promptly sued the previous occupants for laying waste the estate – presumably they weren’t too happy about the fact that the manor was ultimately going into John’s hands and took what they could whilst the going was good. Ultimately another John Pole would sell the manor of Sheen to Edward IV.

 

Our fourteenth century Pole appears to have recognized which side his bread was buttered and became on of the duchy’s most loyal supporters in the region. In return he gained preferential rates for grazing in the High Peak as well as an annuity of £10 a year as one of Gaunt’s retainers – crucially both in times of peace and war. He was newly knighted in 1386 when he set off for Spain with John of Gaunt and Constance or Constanza of Castile in John’s abortive campaign to claim the Spanish throne. Fortunately for Pole he avoided succumbing to the disease that rampaged through Gaunt’s army and returned to Derbyshire.

 

When he returned to England he appears to have continued extending his land holdings in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. His behaviour either on his own behest or for his master seems to have caused major disagreements with the abbot of Dieulacres in 1395.

Dieulacres, a Cistercian Abbey near Leek, had a bit of a reputation! The abbot was prone to suggesting that it was put upon but the Victoria County History for Staffordshire paints a rather different picture as this extract demonstrates:

 

The abbey appears as aggressor as much as victim in numerous breaches of the peace in the area during the later Middle Ages, the abbot maintaining armed bands like any troublesome lay magnate. A royal commission of inquiry in 1379 recited ‘information that one William, Abbot of Dieulacres, desiring to perpetrate maintenance in his marches and oppress the people’, had kept a band of 21 retainers ‘to stay with him . . . to do all the mischief they can to the people in the county of Stafford and that they have lain in wait for them, assaulted, maimed, and killed some, and driven others from place to place until they made a fine with them’. In 1380 a similar group was indicted for having beheaded John de Warton at Leek by command of Abbot William. The abbot surrendered and was imprisoned, but he was soon pardoned and released. At the beginning of Henry V’s reign the county was in a very disturbed state, and among the many indictments was one involving a monk of Dieulacres and a servant of the abbot. They were accused of being members of a group of 80 who had broken into William Egerton’s park at Cheddleton in 1413 and stolen ironstone.

 

So the dispute between Pole and the Cistercians was probably a rather lively one which has been relegated to a passing footnote of history. 1395 also saw Pole being charged with the illegal use of hunting dogs – whether it was connected to the abbot is another matter entirely.

 

Pole was probably dead by 1397 because he disappears from the register and his son, another John, is described as a minor. John senior’s widow, Isobel, went on to marry Sir Thomas Beek, another member of Gaunt’s retinue. Isobel and Sir Thomas appear in the records in several land ownership cases at the time as well as sueing Henry Marion, William Perkson, William de Tyderyngton and Hugh del Grene, for treading down and consuming her grass at Alstonfield – I should add that it was the cattle of the aforementioned doing the trampling and eating!

 

The family tradition for suing all and sundry was maintained by young John when he came of age because he promptly sued his mother and step-father for failing to account for their stewardship of his estates – including at Alstonfield- the general feeling being that they had lived rather well on the proceeds.

 

I have the feeling that I will be returning to the Poles at some point. And before anyone asks; I know that they were related to the Poles of Radbourne in Derbyshire and linked to the Chandos family but not to the de la Poles (dukes of Suffolk) or to the Pole family who were Henry Tudor’s cousins (Henry married off Margaret Plantagenet- daughter of the duke of Clarence- to his cousin Sir Richard Pole – she went on to become the Countess of Salisbury and was brutally executed by Henry VIII). I should add that that particular Pole family came from Cheshire. A casual glance at the map reveals that it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that the two families were somehow linked but the two sets of Poles were distinctly separate entities so far as known history is concerned.

DSC_0173.jpg

 

G C Baugh, W L Cowie, J C Dickinson, Duggan A P, A K B Evans, R H Evans, Una C Hannam, P Heath, D A Johnston, Hilda Johnstone, Ann J Kettle, J L Kirby, R Mansfield and A Saltman, ‘Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Dieulacres’, in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, ed. M W Greenslade and R B Pugh (London, 1970), pp. 230-235. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol3/pp230-235 [accessed 22 August 2017].

 

POLE, Sir John de la (d.c.1397), of Hartington, Derbys. and Alstonfield, Staffs. Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993.  Available from Boydell and Brewer

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Derbyshire Monastic houses

In Yorkshire prior to the dissolution of the monasteries there was approximately one monastic house in every one hundred and nine miles. In North Yorkshire that dropped to one in every eighty-two miles. It’s impossible not to think of the great Cistercian establishments and the ruins that still dominate the landscape.

It’s a bit of a different story in Derbyshire.  There were no Cistercian foundations swelling in the area.  Of the seven houses, not counting Bradbourne which was a cell of Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire, five were Augustinian and two were Premonstratsensian.

Here’s a map. Click on the map to change its size and on the bullet points for further information about each of the monastic foundations in the region:

The pattern of their dissolution followed the national pattern with visitation followed by surrender and suppression.  In addition to which thirty monastic houses held land, manors and benefices in Derbyshire.  Whilst Henry VIII’s change of “ownership” didn’t leave dramatic ruins in its wake it did change land ownership and the balance of power in the area.  Francis Leake and Sir William Cavendish both pocketing valuable estates.  The former’s descendants would become the earls of Scarsdale whilst the latter’s decedents would become the dukes of Devonshire.

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Layton and Legh again – letters from the North.

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01Time slips on, two weeks into February and I haven’t had my accustomed snoop around Thomas Cromwell’s letters. I’d have to say the pattern is very familiar in terms of the letters’ contents. This month it is very clear that the repercussions of closing the monasteries were beginning to be felt in the wider community; that Layton and Legh may have been colleagues but they didn’t trust one another further than they could see one another and vied in a long distance game of one-up-manship to be Cromwell’s best buddy. And finally it is also clear from these letters that Cromwell took the opportunity that death and forced surrender provided to seize the moment and place men of his own choosing in post – in order to line his own pockets – quel surprise.

Lord William Howard sent a missive at the beginning of February to Cromwell pointing out that the monks of St Oswald’s in York were second to none for “good hospitality and good order,” or they had been until Cromwell’s visitors had arrived bandying their strictures left right and centre. Howard suggests that Cromwell relax them pronto as he needed somewhere to stay. This does, of course, raise the interesting question of where did folk stay after the dissolution of the monasteries – inn keepers must have been dancing jigs in the street upon the news that their competitors had been put out of business.

 

Meanwhile the Bishop of Norwich had popped his clogs and Cromwell’s agent Sir Thomas Rushe wrote on the 3rd to say that he was ‘active in searching and guarding the plate’ of which there was a great deal or in other words the bishop’s belongings had just become Crown property. There was also a flurry of letters on the 3rd from Whitby. Clearly the abbot and his visitors hadn’t got on particularly well as we’ve already seen, not least because the abbot insisted on declaring his innocence in regard to anything unabbottish in no uncertain terms.He’s now complaining that the strictures set upon the care of monastic scholars at the abbey will only result in trouble.  He probably wished that he was involved in piracy by that point in proceedings.

It goes quiet in the north until February 7th when Layton provides Cromwell with an update as to his travels:

This day I had been at Fountains to make the election, but that I tarry in York to induce a lewd canon and his flock, if possible, to surrender his house of 140l. good lands and only 40 marks of it in spiritual tithes. I had contrived this matter long before now, if a little false knave in York had not been a “doggarell” of the law and a “pursevant” of Westminster Hall. Dr. Leigh keeps the visitation whilst I go forward with these matters. The prior of Gisborowe, a house of 1,000 marks, has resigned into our hands privily. If you make no promise of that house to no man till we come up to London, we shall by the way spy one for it meet and apt, both for the King’s honor and discharge of your conscience and also profitable. If the treasurer of York knew of it, he would make hot suit for a young man of that house, a very boy for such an office. On the 8th we pass to Carlisle. We have done all in Northumberland, and at Shrovetide trust to see you. York, 7 Feb.

You have to admire their speed and efficiency!

On February 9th Marton Priory, an Augustine establishment, in North Yorkshire surrendered. Marton Priory has an interesting history and its fair share of real mischievous monks if the visitation of 1314 is any indicator.  Amongst their number was  Brother Roger who seems to have seen rather more than his fair share of the ladies: Ellen de Westmorland living at Brandsby, with Beatrix del Calgarth wife of John de Ferlington, Eda Genne of Marton, Maud Scot of Menersley, and Beatrix Baa, relict of Robert le Bakester of Stillington are identified as having been a little bit too friendly. His penance was to fast and eat vegetables on a Wednesday. Just in case diet had no impact on his private habits he was also forbidden from speaking to women…though I get the impression that speaking was the least of the problem. In 1536 Thomas Godson, the prior, seems to have recognised that changes were afoot and handed over the keys and the seal of the priory without any coercion or indeed evidence of naughtiness.  Perhaps his appointment as rector of Sheriff Hutton Church, the living of which was in the hands of the priory, has something to do with it. (As an aside this is the church where Richard III’s son Edward of Middleham is buried.)

Thomas Barton, one of Cromwell’s agents and a man local to the area acquired the property of Marton Priory.

 

The following day, the 10th,  Cromwell received a letter from the borders from William Barlow who complained that althought there were monks and priests in the area that the ordinary people were sadly lacking in their understanding of the Gospel. Presumably they were all far too busy reiving one another’s sheep and cattle or at deadly feud with one another.

 

Also, on the 10th a letter arrived from Legh repeating much of the information in Layton’s letter and taking credit for Guisborough. It can only be described as toadying. He acknowledges that there are other of Cromwell’s men who are more learned than he but he suggests that if Cromwell were to make Legh his chancellor he would be the most profitable appointment.Interestingly ‘profitable’ is the word that Layton uses.  Clearly Cromwell never managed to leave his old persona as a man of business too far behind him. Legh concludes by saying that he keeps three things in his mind – God, the king and gratitude to Cromwell. I shall be taking note of that particular letter in the event of any job applications I may need to complete. It’s short but covers a mountain of ground between bribery and crawling -you may wish to apply other phrases but I couldn’t possibly comment. In between times Legh tells Cromwell that Sherbourne has surrendered and “I have been at Mountgrace and Hull, and find them there and in all other places ready to fulfil the King’s pleasure. Layton is now at the monastery of Fountaines to perform your mind.”

Clearly there were no noteworthy misdeeds to record at either Mountgrace or Hull.

 

‘Henry VIII: February 1536, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 108-126. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp108-126 [accessed 13 February 2017].

‘Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Marton’, in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1974), pp. 223-226. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/vol3/pp223-226 [accessed 3 February 2017].

 

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23 December – Of Samuel Pepys, three nuns, a turkey and that man Cromwell.

pepysWith only two days of my metaphorical advent calendar to go I really should be getting a bit more festive – so with no further ado allow mw to introduce the turkey – property of one Samuel Pepys. In 1660 Mrs Pepys was troubled by the art of spit roasting the aforementioned bird. In fact you can read every single 23rd December that Pepys ever recorded should you feel the urge by following the link:

http://samuelpepystoday.com/?day=1123

 

A swift search of the net reveals that in the UK ten million turkeys are eaten each Christmas. I had thought it was a relative new comer to the Christmas table. After all, you only have to think of Ebenezer Scrooge and the prize goose that graced the Cratchets’ table to realise that the turkey has not always been the bird of choice but apparently, and I really am sorry about this because I had hoped to avoid him today, that the first turkey arrived in England in 1526 and, yes, the first monarch to eat turkey was Henry VIII though it was Edward VII who made them into a popular festive meal.  For more about festive birds read the History Extra article here.

Since it’s proved impossible to bypass the terrible Tudor I should probably also mention that Dr Legh, one of Cromwell’s monastic visitors, was wandering around Huntingdonshire on his way north on the 23 December 1535. He took it upon himself to visit Hinchinbrooke  Priory.  Sadly the prioress, Alice Wilton, was very unwell and the sight of Legh was enough to finish her off.  Legh promptly took charge of the keys and the money coffers before asking Cromwell what he should do next.

There being only three nuns in addition to the prioress and it being a poor establishment the priory was swiftly suppressed. Ownership passed on to Richard  Cromwell who was the son of Morgan Williams who married Katherine Cromwell, Thomas Cromwell’s sister. Richard took his uncle’s name and benefited from his uncle’s patronage to the tune of several large chunks of monastic land including Hinchinbrooke Priory and Ramsey Abbey.  Hinchinbrooke was to become famous as the birthplace a couple generations down the line of  Oliver Cromwell.
‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 21-25’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 340-350. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp340-350 [accessed 6 December 2016].

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The priory of Hinchinbrook’, in A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 1, ed. William Page, Granville Proby and H E Norris (London, 1926), pp. 389-390. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol1/pp389-390 [accessed 7 November 2016].

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Dr Richard Layton

Visitation_monasteries.jpgI’m still perusing Henry VIII’s letters and papers. One of today’s letters to Cromwell is an eyebrow raiser so I couldn’t resist it. The letter  containing scandalous information about a nun from Syon was written by Richard Layton who has been mentioned many times in this blog but has never had his own post – so I thought that today’s metaphorical advent could be Dr Richard Layton.  This image shows the monastic visitors arriving at a monastery with their cavalcade of out runners or “rufflers” and much fanfare.

Here’s the letter:

Bishop this day preached, and declared the King’s title, to a church full of people. One of the “focares” openly called him false knave: “it was that foolish fellow with the curled head that kneeled in your way when ye came forth of the confessor’s chamber.” Must set him in prison, to deter others. Learnt yesterday many enormous things against Bishop in examining the lay brethren, —that he had persuaded two of them to have gone away by night along with him, but that they lacked money to buy the secular apparel, —that he tried to induce one of them, a smith, to make a key for the door to receive wenches at night, especially a wife of Uxbridge, dwelling not far from the old lady Derby. He also persuaded a nun, to whom he was confessor, ad libidinem corporum perimplendam, and that she would be forgiven if she confessed immediately after each occasion, and was absolved by him. She wrote him many foolish letters, and would have got his brother, the smith, to have pulled a bar of iron out of that window where Cromwell examined the Lady Abbess, and at which they used to commune by night. He got the sexton also to assist him. Intends to make further search this afternoon both of the brethren and of the sisters, and will certify Cromwell tomorrow morning. Most of the brethren are weary of their habit. Such religion and feigned sanctity God save me from!

 

To all intents and purposes Layton presents himself as a loyal subject of the king and a religious reformer.The letter sums up his rather tabloid writing style; his approach to the visitation of the monasteries and his strategy of looking for gossip amongst the lay members of a community. The letter even contains an example of the rather delightful habit of referring to anything carnal in latin in order that messengers carrying his communications to Cromwell might not be tainted with the knowledge of a letter’s contents. In this case the literal translation is “the passion of their bodies fulfilment.”

So who was he? Layton was a Cumbrian descended from the Layton who owned Dalemain at that time.  Dalemain had been in the hands of the Layton family since 1272. It would leave the family in the seventeenth century due to the fact that there were six daughters and no sons.  If you go far enough back up the family tree its possible to find Nevilles  but the Laytons weren’t nobility they would be more correctly defined as gentry. Layton’s mother was a Tunstall – Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham, was his uncle.   He was  born somewhere near the turn of the century. Moorhouse notes that he was supposed to have thirty-two siblings (Moorhouse:27), another one of them became an MP.  It is clear however that with such a large extended family Layton had to look to his own skills for advance.  He was also, somewhat ironically, related to Robert Aske one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace who rebelled against the dissolution of the monasteries and I think that there’s a priest hole at Dalemain demonstrating that the family weren’t all as keen on reform as Richard.

It would appear that Layton, having finished his education and been received into the priesthood, entered Wolsey’s service.  This was a conventional enough progression in the   Tudor civil  service which still drew on the Church for its clerks at this time.  He appears to have had a number of livings in London including on at the Tower of London but as it required his presence he resigned from it fairly swiftly when better opportunities arose.

He came to the forefront of the changes that were occurring in the 1530s because of his acquaintance with Cromwell.   As the King’s Great Matter became ever more pressing he found himself interrogating the likes of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher – his education and ordination giving his  questions legitimacy.  Cromwell must have found his old colleague efficient and effective because he sent him along with Thomas Ap Rice to the University of Oxford to undertake an investigation there as well.

The following year, August 1535, he found himself heading up the team of visitors rootling through the monastic houses of England and Wales with a list of pre-prepared questions in hand but always reporting back to Cromwell who arranged their findings into two groups: firstly, the Valor Ecclesiasticus which contained the accounts and lists of relics; secondly, the Comperta or ‘Black Book’ which contained all the monastic misdeeds. Layton had a hand in the construction of the questions and also in the injunctions which were issued at each visit.  An example of the latter would be the prohibition on leaving the monastic enclosure.  This prompted many letters to Cromwell complaining about the unreasonableness of the strictures involved.  It should be noted that  Layton was the only ordained cleric on the team of visitors.  Initially there seems from Cromwell’s letters to have been some jockeying for position between Layton and Legh, another visitor.  Both told tales and complained about one another but generally speaking Layton emerges in history as Cromwell’s chief visitor.

Layton gathered confidence with each foundation he visited.  His task was to inspect the accounts, uncover any poor practice from failure to obey the rule of St Benedict to encouraging superstitious practices as well as administering the oath of supremacy.  He seems particularly good at sniffing out scandal amongst the monks and nuns of the places he visited – much of it with a tabloid quality!  The letter above is a case in point – it reads like a particularly bad bodice ripper; although interestingly he did sometimes note a blameless monastic foundation.  Bristol and Durham received a clean bill of health from Layton. Having said that it is worth remembering  that Layton  was related to Cuthbert Tunstall who as bishop was also the titular abbot. Having finished visiting the southern monasteries, narrowly avoiding being burned in his bed whilst visiting Canterbury, he volunteered to visit the northern monasteries – it was after all a lucrative task. He set off just before Christmas 1535. As a consequence of his dependence on Cromwell for advancement his letters are often toadying and nearly always full of tales of naughty nuns and monks.

Layton managed to make himself so disliked that he together with Thomas Cromwell and  Legh are identified in the list of the pilgrims grievances in 1536 with a request that these “wicked” advisers be punished.  Not that this had any effect! As the monasteries closed it was Layton who journeyed around the country accepting the surrender of many of the monasteries that he’d inspected earlier.  It is impossible to know how many bribes he took for recommending former monks to new posts.

Layton became rector of Harrow-on-the-Hill and rather lucratively in the north he was appointed Dean in York on 23 July 1539.  He helped himself to rather a lot of York’s plate and pawned it for his own benefit. This only surfaced after his death when the deanery were forced to redeem the items in question.

By now he had a reputation as a ‘can do’ man so he found himself on the team  investigating the validity of Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves. He’d already had a role at Anne Boleyn’s trial.  In short his career follows the path of many Tudor administrators but it was through his work on the monasteries that he attained notoriety.

His career as a diplomat began to extend in the period that followed. He became English Ambassador in the Court of the Netherlands. He was with the Queen of Hungary in March 1544 dealing with safe conduct passes.   We know this because he receives a mention in one of her letters to Chapuys. It is from the Spanish archives that we can learn about his illness and his death. He died in June 1544 in Brussels.

For those of you who are a little Henried out I will try to find something less Tudor tomorrow.

‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 318-340. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp318-340 [accessed 6 December 2016].

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/layton-william-1514-5152

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The nuns of Nun Appleton Priory

augustinian nunThe 5th December 1539 was a busy one for Cromwell and reveals todays group of figures – though sadly no pictures -the Cistercian nuns of Nun Appleton Priory. Cromwell received letters confirming the surrender of St Albans Abbey and Nun Appleton Priory in Yorkshire. There are plenty of men listed in these documents and they would be relatively easy to write about.  They were Cromwell’s administrators who took the opportunity to line their own pockets and assure their own futures with the dissolution.

 

It is much more difficult to find out about the women involved in this episode. The prioress was Anna Lankton. There is also a list of nuns and the fact that they received pensions. The sub prioress and Margaret Carter were supposed, during the visitation by Layton, to have been found guilty of giving birth but both women were beyond child-bearing age and both were in receipt of their pensions suggesting that Dr Layton may have been prone to exaggeration, not least because Bishop Lee of York had also visited the nunnery the previous year and found nothing worthy of note.

 

“Elinore Normavell, subprioress, Agnes Ardyngton, and Agnes Sympson, 46s. 8d.; Joan Gore, Isabel Gascoyn, Janet Watson, Marg. Carter, Eliz. Carter, Magdalen Kylbourne, Agnes Anger, Dorothy Man, Anne Jonson, Margery Elton, and Alice Sheffelde, 40s. each; Agnes Snaynton, 3l.; Janet Fairefax, Agnes Asselaby, Eliz. Parker, and Ellen Bayne, 33s. 4d. each. Signed by Hendle, Legh, Belassys, and Watkyns, commissioners.”

 

Anna Lankton features in an Andrew Marvell poem as the aunt and jailor of the heroine, Isabel Thwaites who married into the Fairfax family.  The poem is dedicated to General Fairfax. There’s no evidence that there’s any truth in the poem entitled “Upon Appleton House,”  though Isabel Thwaites did  marry into the Fairfax family. In later times General Fairfax and Lady Fairfax would be buried in nearby Bilborough.

 

And that’s your lot for today- not necessarily terribly exciting but an insight into the difficulty finding out more about the fate of England’s Tudor nuns who are, to a large extent, invisible unless they appear in court records, on pension lists or their burials are recorded.

 

 

‘Letters and Papers: December 1539, 1-5’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 14 Part 2, August-December 1539, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1895), pp. 226-233. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol14/no2/pp226-233 [accessed 17 August 2016].

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Christchurch Priory, Canterbury

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01The monks of the Cathedral Priory, Christchurch, Canterbury were uppermost in Cromwell’s thoughts this week in 1535. The monks wrote to Cromwell on the 25 November complaining about their prior, Thomas Goldwell, who had accused them of not living according to the rule of St Benedict. In addition “He retains six persons under 24 years of age in the monastery against their will, &c. He is avaricious, and pretends to be poor; but of late, as God would, his treasure was disclosed.” If that wasn’t bad enough the next letter contains accusations and counter accusations of murder and poisonings. This was swiftly followed up with accusations that prayers had been made on behalf of the pope rather than the Bishop of Rome – something contrary to the Act of Supremacy. Interestingly no further action seems to have been taken.

 

In all honesty Cromwell’s dealings with the priory weren’t without drama. Layton visited the priory in October 1535 and was nearly burned whilst he slept. The fire damaged the priory but the monks may well have wished that Layton had been a bit more singed on account of the injunctions which he issued in regard to food, prayer and wandering around outside the priory walls. He also banned the abbey fairs and keeping shops inside the monastery – which does seem a reasonable request.

 

Ultimately the priory would be suppressed in 1538 with the prior, still alive despite his concern, being awarded a pension of £80.00 p.a.  The number of monks had gradually dwindled but there were jobs for a dean and twelve canons in the newly constituted cathedral church. The newly organised cathedral wasn’t without its detractors.  There’s a letter from Cranmer to Cromwell expressing the view that things could have been done differently. Cromwell transferred much of the property from the priory into the hands of the new cathedral along with other monastic properties.

 

The correspondence between Cranmer and Cromwell is an interesting aside. The former, Henry VIII’s married Archbishop of Canterbury, had links with Lutherans and reformers across Europe.  It is his wording that sees the Church of England developing with the foundation of the Ten Articles in 1536 and then the so-called Bishop’s Book which expands   on the theology contained in the articles.  Evangelical or not, the archbishop was doing the King’s bidding and the articles of 1539 written by three English reformers and three Lutherans didn’t meet with Henry’s approval so never saw the light of day. Post 1540 the religious climate would change once more so that by the time Henry died England’s beliefs were officially almost as catholic as they had been before the break with Rome – except of course Henry was still in charge and there were no monasteries.

 

‘Henry VIII: November 1535, 21-30’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 288-310. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp288-310 [accessed 2 November 2016].

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The cathedral priory of the Holy Trinity or Christ Church, Canterbury’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 113-121. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/kent/vol2/pp113-121 [accessed 7 November 2016].

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Garendon Abbey, granges and a spot of drunkenness

lh_leicestershire_garendonhall_fs.jpgGarendon Abbey in Leicestershire near Loughborough was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1133 by Robert, Earl of Leicester. The first monks at Garendon probably came from Waverley Abbey which was the first Cistercian monastery in England. As it happens Garendon is the only Cistercian abbey in Leicestershire.

 

Don’t get carried away with the notion that the earl of Leicester was a particularly spiritual or generous man. Survey of his endowments and bequests to the Church by Postles reveals that he gave land which he regarded as of little value to him to a range of monastic orders. Postles describes his actions as “spiritual insurance.” Given he was also alive and kicking during the reign of King Stephen his actions undoubtedly held a political dimension.

 

images-101Over time the monastery at Garendon acquired more generous land bequests in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire making them agriculturally viable. The monks could do what the Cistercians were very good at, sheep farming, through the grange system. We know exactly what the monks of Garendon owned because of the existence of a cartulary in the British Library. A cartulary is a list, or file, of charters, privileges and legal rights which is how we know that the monks  at Garendon owned granges at Roystone near Ashbourne, Biggin and Heathcote – all in Derbyshire and described by Mick Aston in Monasteries in the Landscape.

 

Essentially a grange was a monastic farm, stud or industrial unit. It was a way of managing monastic landholdings effectively. The system was developed in the twelfth century by the Cistercians or white monks as they were known on account of their undyed woollen tunics. The system was then utilized by the other monastic orders. Each unit could be managed by a few lay brothers who reported directly to the cellerar of the abbey.   It all went swimmingly well until the Black Death of 1349 and then labour became something of an issue. Some granges effectively became monastic holiday homes or were required to take on labourers according to the seasons. Those granges that farmed sheep remained the most efficient ones because very few people were required to tend the flocks. At Roystone Grange the monks stopped farming and leased the grange to tenants reflecting the changing economy of the period.

 

In 1225, however, according to the Cistercian  History the abbey was exporting wool to Flanders and they had a chapel in Cripplegate, London. The problem for the Cistercians who were initially an austere order and who sought to live in isolation away from the temptations that had beset the Benedictines was that sheep farming made them wealthy which led to backsliding. In addition, it appears that the monks at Garendon weren’t without their personal foibles. One of their abbots is recorded as having been married, which rather goes against the vows of chastity whilst another of the brethren was purported to have converted to Judaism. There was also a small problem at the end of the twelfth century with drunkenness and brawling amongst the abbey’s inhabitants. They got themselves into debt and hid robbers. In short Garendon, if accounts are to be believed, was the kind of abbey that encouraged anti-clericalism and drove the demand for reform.

 

The Valor Ecclesiasticus reveals that in 1535 the abbey was worth £160 per annum so was defined as one of the lesser monasteries. Over the centuries, if Cromwell’s visitors are to be believed, the monks hadn’t really changed their unfortunate habits either. Five of them were guilty of “unnatural vices” whilst a further three were fed up with being monks. It was however found that five children were maintained by the monks’ charity along with five “impotent persons.” Twelve of the monks were described as being of good character.

 

Unsurprisingly the abbey was suppressed in 1536 with the abbot receiving £30 pension. The abbey and the land upon which it stood ended up in the paws of Thomas Manners, earl of Rutland.  He paid just over two thousand pounds for it. The abbey was partially demolished whilst the cellars and drains were incorporated into a manor house which remained in the Manners family until it passed into the ownership of the dukes of Buckingham when it formed part of a dowry.

Garendon House, as it was known, was in its own turn demolished in the middle of the twentieth century. The lost country houses website puts its disappearance down to general neglect and death duties in 1964.  According to Wikipeadia the rubble from the house is somewhere under the M1.

 

 

‘House of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Garendon’, in A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2, ed. W G Hoskins and R A McKinley (London, 1954), pp. 5-7. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/leics/vol2/pp5-7 [accessed 8 November 2016].

Aston, Mick.(2012) Monasteries in the Landscape. Stroud: Amberley Publishing

Postles, David. The Garendon Cartularies in BL Lansdowne 415 (http://www.bl.uk/eblj/1996articles/pdf/article7.pdf) accessed 14 November 2016

http://www.lostheritage.org.uk/houses/lh_leicestershire_garendonhall_info_gallery.html (accessed 14 November 2016)

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Letters from Tudor England November 1535 – monasteries, marauding and a touch of treason

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01Its that time of week again when I delve through Henry VIII’s letter and papers looking for the thoughts of Thomas Cromwell.

Dr Legh continued his periguination of Norfolk writing to Cromwell on November 19 1535, “there are many pretty houses here in Norfolk, both of monks and canons, which have only a prior and one with him.” He goes on to ask Cromwell what he should do about them.

Elsewhere in the southeast the next stage of the suppression was well under way. The Close Roll of that time reveals the “Surrender to the King of the Premonstratensian Abbey of St. Mary and St. Thomas the Martyr, Langdon, Kent, by Will. Dayer, abbot and the convent” on the 13th November. It notes that the surrender took place in the abbey’s chapter house. That same week the priory of St Mary and St Eanswith in Folkestone closed its doors. The following day the prior of St Mary’s in Dover surrendered along with eight other of his brethren. By the 16th of November Cromwell’s men were in Canterbury writing up their accounts. They informed Cromwell that the majority of the brothers of the suppressed houses were still in situ whilst they awaited new situations, that they’d confiscated the abbey seals so that no further business could be done and that they had checked the inventories of the suppressed houses. They commented rather touchingly of Folkestone. “It is a little house, well repaired, and the prior a good husband and beloved by his neighbours.”

 

It is easy to imagine that Cromwell was completely consumed by his job as Vicar General but a letter on the 15th of November from Sir William Parr reminds readers of Henry VIII’s letters and papers that Cromwell had oversight of everything. From Sir William we discover that Sir Thomas Clifford the captain of Berwick was “sore sick.” We also discover that Sir William had his eye on Clifford’s job because he asks Cromwell that if Clifford dies could he have the post because his “whole comfort rests upon it.” I can only hope that Sir William enclosed a large gratuity to help Cromwell remember Parr’s name. He might have done well to take note of another correspondent who sent a letter to Cromwell accompanied by a brace of fowl to ensure that Cromwell gave his attention to the annuity which his wife hadn’t received.

 

Sir William Parr’s letter does demonstrate that it was quite hard for Cromwell to escape the topic of monasteries because he continues his letter with a plea for  Pipwell Abbey in Northamptonshire. Parr offers a heartfelt testimonial to the godliness and hospitality of its inhabitants and asks that Cromwell should show them understanding.  Pipwell was near to Kettering and it had an income of less than £200 a year. The abbey was earmarked for suppression. Interestingly Sir William Parr, who would end up as the King’s brother-in-law, wrote once more to Cromwell offering to give the Vicar General £200 when it became clear that the lesser monasteries, Pipwell included, were to be suppressed. Ultimately, of course, it made no difference and Parr wrote a third time in 1538 asking about pensions for the abbot and the brothers and also that he should have the building and estate – this was duly granted. There are more letters in the archives from Parr because it rather looks as though folk helped themselves to fixtures and fittings that they shouldn’t have touched.

 

In addition to a spot of bother with Scottish reivers raiding the west march of England there were business matters in Calais to deal with, the ramblings of Lord Lisle and just to finish the week off Cromwell was also required to deal with an outbreak of treason. The vicar of Rye apparently didn’t take well to all those changes that were afoot in the 1530s, in particular the king becoming the Head of the Church of England. He had in his possession a booked called “Eckyus Enchiridyon…against the King’s being head of the Church.” If that wasn’t enough “when he stopped at the Black Friars here of London, friar Dr. Maydland said he would like to see the head of every maintainer of the New Learning upon a stake,—that of his principal among them,—and to see the King die a “vyolent and a shamefull” death; also “to see that myschevous hore the quene to be brent.” He knew by his science of necromancy that the New Learning should be suppressed, and the Old restored by the King’s enemies from beyond sea…” It’s always good to get a charge of witchcraft in with the treason – it makes for a nicely rounded case!

 

William Inold, the vicar of Rye, had already got away with offending the king once. In 1533 he had likened Henry VIII’s actions to those of King John when the medieval monarch had managed to incur papal wrath and get himself and the whole country excommunicated. Cromwell had Inold arrested on account of his seditious sermonizing but he was eventually released. The new treason laws of 1534 ensured the vicar didn’t escape a second time and the letter in the archives suggests that the evidence collected by Cromwell for the vicar’s second trial was guaranteed to ensure an unhappy end for Inold.

 

Henry VIII: November 1535, 11-20′, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 271-288. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp271-288 [accessed 5 November 2016].

House of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Pipewell’, in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, ed. R M Serjeantson and W R D Adkins (London, 1906), pp. 116-121. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/northants/vol2/pp116-121 [accessed 11 November 2016].

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