Tag Archives: Dr Legh

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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Cuthbert Tunstall – Bishop of London and Durham.

mw125060.jpgThe country here about Durham is substantially established in the abolition of the bishop of Rome and his usurped power. Would to God ye would send for the bishop of Durham and hear his advice for the utter extirpation of the said power, and how it might be extinguished for ever. I thought myself to have known a great deal and all that could be said in the matter; but when I heard his learning, and how deeply he had searched into this usurped power, I thought myself the veriest fool in England. If he would write a book upon it all the kings of Christendom would shortly follow our master’s steps, so great is his learning and reputation. In all other things concerning high judgment, Parliament matters, &c., he is not living that would advertise you more for your honor and prosperity. Expertus loquor. Your injunctions can have no effect in Durham Abbey in some things; for there was never yet woman was in the abbey further than the church, nor they (the monks) never come within the town. Newcastle, 26 Jan. – Layton

It’s been a while but I thought I’d have a look to see what Cromwell had on his mind at the end of January 1536.  His monastic visitors, the comedy double act, Layton and Legh had reached the county of Durham and as we can see from this letter the Bishop of Durham made quite an impression on Layton unlike the clergy of Bangor who wrote to Cromwell on the 30th January to complain about the injunctions for incontinence that had been placed upon them that would prevent them from offering hospitality to travellers – i.e. having women around the place.  The good brethren of Bangor complain that they will be forced to seek their living in “ale houses and taverns” if they cannot keep female servants and such women.  Nice try gentlemen!

So, who was the Bishop of Durham who compares so favourably to virtually every other cleric in the country and who managed to extract a good account from Layton? The gentleman in question was Cuthbert Tunstall and he replaced Cardinal Wolsey who had been Bishop of Durham from 1523 until 1529. He might not have agreed with Thomas Cromwell but he was a law abiding citizen and obedient to the will of his king.

Tunstall was a Yorkshireman from Hackforth born on the wrong side of the blanket and educated in Oxford before moving to Cambridge where he became friends with Sir Thomas More. Tunstall’s career was initially that of diplomat.  He worked on the engagement of the young Princess Mary to Charles V.  His reward for his work was to become Bishop of London in 1522. Interestingly, although Tunstall learned towards humanism and reform from within as did Sir Thomas More his future would take a very different course even though they both held a number of identical posts.

During the 1520s Tunstall worked to flush out heretics, to burn proscribed books and the men and women who adhered to new dangerous beliefs.  It was Tunstall who was Bishop of London in 1527 when Thomas Bilney, a radical preacher from East Anglia, was tried by Wolsey and found guilty of heresy.  In the church court was Sir Thomas More – a layman.  He joined with the clerics in their questioning of Bilney. Having been found guilty he was handed over to Tunstall who persuaded him to recant after some time in prison.  he was forced to walk barefoot to St Paul’s amongst other things.  It has been said that it was Tunstall who persuaded him to recant but ultimately it did not save Bilney’s life.  After a stint in prison he set out to demonstrate that he had been in error in going back on his beliefs and was finally executed in 1531 in Norwich.

Tunstall’s life was not about to get any easier.  Henry VIII wanted a divorce.  Cuthbert sloe up for Catherine of Aragon but ultimately switched sides.  It was he and Bishop Lee of York who were sent to Kimbolton in 1534 to try and persuade Catherine to take the Oath of Supremacy and to accept that her daughter was no longer heir to the throne. Tunstall decided to opt for obedience to the King in all things and it perhaps for this reason that a man who would continue in post during the reigns of Edward VI and Queen Mary received a remarkably clean bill of health when Cromwell’s visitors arrived in the County of Durham.

Recognising, perhaps, that the monasteries were to be purged he did not put up a fight to save them.  He did, however, insist that Durham’s library be kept in tact.

In 1536 he managed to keep a low profile during the Pilgrimage of Grace by holing up in one of his castles and refusing to come out until it was all over.

Henry VIII recognised Tunstall as a loyal servant of the crown and made him an executor of his will or perhaps Henry’s wife Katherine Parr offered a good reference.  Tunstall had been the executor of Sir Thomas Parr ‘s will- Katherine’s father.   He and Thomas Parr were cousins and it was perhaps for this reason that Cuthbert assisted Maude Parr with the education of her children- somewhat ironic given Katherine Parr’s leaning to the new learning.  Maude left Tunstall a ring in her will…once again proving that everybody of note was related to some degree or other.

As an aside, Cuthbert’s legitimate half-brother Brian managed to get himself killed at Flodden in 1513 and was immortalised in Marmion by Sir Walter Scott. The 1827 memoirs of Marmaduke Tunstall identify Cuthbert’s mother as a daughter of the Conyers family – a notable Yorkshire name. His father was Thomas who provided for the boy and saw to his education.

He officiated at Edward VI’s coronation.

Tunstall had the courage to speak out against the changes that ran counter to his belief.  He spoke against the Act of Uniformity in 1549 for example.  He didn’t like the idea of married clergy or the changes in offering both bread and wine to communicants.  But as with his initial support of Catherine of Aragon once laws were enshrined he acquiesced to their rule. When the Duke of Somerset fell from power and was replaced by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (who swiftly got an upgrade to  Duke of Northumberland) he hoped that the religious policies would be reversed.  They weren’t.  Even worse, Dudley didn’t buy this lawful bishop’s promises of good behaviour so Tunstall found himself in the Tower on charges of felony and only got out of jail when Queen Mary ascended the throne.

In 1558, having weathered three Tudor monarchs Cuthbert, now in his eighties, found himself faced with a fourth.  After all those years he finally refused to backtrack from his Catholic position.  He refused the Oath of Supremacy, refused to consecrate Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury and was, as a consequence, deprived of his office and committed into house arrest at Lambeth. He died there a few weeks later at the age of eighty-five of natural causes.

The image of Cuthbert is one of three held by the National Portrait Gallery.

 

‘Henry VIII: January 1536, 26-31’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 64-81. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp64-81 [accessed 20 January 2017].

Porter, Linda. (2010).  Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr. London:MacMillan

Townsend Fox, George (1827) Memoirs of Marmaduke Tunstall, esq., and George Allan, esq

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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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22 December in History

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01

Where would I be without Layton and Legh – today on the 22 December 1535 the dastardly pair  of monastic visitors were beginning their northern visitation at Lichfield (yes – I know its the Midlands but to Thomas Cromwell it was the north).  Layton paused en route at Chicksand in Bedfordshire where the Gilbertine nuns  “refused to admit him as visitor.” (I bet that went down well).  He found two of the nuns were “not barren;  one of them impregnavit supprior domus, another a serving-man.”  How he discovered this if the Gilbertine prioress refused him admittance is open to speculation.  He must have taken himself off to the local tavern and listened to the gossip. Rumour had it that one of the nuns was bricked up alive – its always good to go with the stereotype and offers us our festive ghost story- not that this prevented the prioress receiving a pension when the priory was finally suppressed in 1538.

‘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].

old pretender.jpgJumping forward two hundred years James III of England also known as the ‘Old Pretender’ landed at Petershead.  The Jacobites had been up in arms since September on account of George I not giving governmental position to nobles who felt that they deserved posts.  However, the jacobites were disorganised and poorly led meaning that by the time James landed it was all over bar the shouting. By February it was all over and James was back in France. The National Library of Scotland has a useful time line which may be accessed here.

king-stephenThere’s one last event for the 22nd which requires slipping back in time to 22 December 1135.  Stephen of Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror, was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.  Stephen’s uncle Henry I had intended his daughter Matilda to rule but his barons, forced to swear their support for her, felt that a woman was unfit to rule so crowned Stephen in her stead.  It didn’t help that she was married to Geoffrey of Anjou – a chap who the barons weren’t terribly keen to welcome as the king – given that a woman, no matter who she was, would by necessity be required to be subservient to her husband.

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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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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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King’s Mead Priory, Derby

 

DSC_0491The Benedictine nunnery of King’s Mead in Derby dedicated to the Virgin Mary was the only Benedictine foundation in Derbyshire and its inhabitants were initially under the spiritual and temporal guidance of the abbot of Darley Abbey – an Augustinian foundation.  History reveals that in the twelfth century there was a warden who acted as chaplain to the nuns as well as looking after the nuns’ business affairs. The nunnery grew its land holdings over the next hundred or so years so that it included three mills at Oddebrook. One of the reasons that this may have occurs was because Henry III gave the nuns twelve acres of land. Because the king had shown an interest it is possible that more donors followed suit in an effort to win favour. Equally donors such as Lancelin Fitzlancelin and his wife Avice who gave land and animals to the nunnery in 1230 or Henry de Doniston and his wife Eleanor could expect a shorter term in Pergatory after their deaths because the nuns would be expected to hold them in their prayers as a result of the land transaction.

 

By 1250 the nuns of King’s Mead and the abbot of Darley Dale were out of sorts with one another. It was decided that the nuns should go their own way and that the abbot of Darley Dale would cease interfering with their business. The land holdings of both organisations were perused and a division occurred.  The nuns were required to give some land to Darley Abbey but it was at this time that the church and living of St Werburgh in Derby along with other agricultural land was signed over to the nuns.

The pattern is similar to countless other monastic foundations across the country, so too are the difficulties that befell the nuns. Sadly they ended up so deeply in debt due to cattle morrain that by 1327 that they had to ask the king for protection as they were not able to offer hospitality to visitors to Derby. This raises an interesting question. Who exactly were the nuns petitioning? Edward II reigned from 1284 until 1327 but he was forced by his wife Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer to hand over his crown to his son, Edward, in January 1327 before being whisked off to Berkeley Castle where he died on the 21st September 1327 (if history is to be believed) due to an unfortunate accident with a hot poker. The petition must therefore have been addressed to King Edward III but realistically it was Mortimer who was in charge at this point in proceedings.

 

Things looked as though they were improving with the appointment of a new prioress, Joan Touchet, and custodians who could make the books balance. However the priory was still struggling seven years later. Joan was still in charge in 1349 but she died that year. It was the year of the Black Death.

 

After this time the nunnery seems to have ticked along without cause for concern. A possible reason for this could well have been the charter from Henry IV granting the nuns payment of one hundred shillings every year from the town of Nottingham. Another reason could well have been the fact that it was Derbyshire’s only nunnery so it had the monopoly on educating the daughters of Derbyshire’s leading lights.

 

Things start to look uncertain for King’s Mead with the reign of Henry VI. The County History reveals the tale of the abbot of Burton demanding the back payment of twenty-one years rent. The prioress, a lady called Isabel de Stanley wasn’t having any of it:

 

Wenes these churles to overlede me or sue the law agayne me ? They shall not be so hardy but they shall avye upon their bodies and be nailed with arrowes; for I am a gentlewoman comen of the greatest of Lancashire and Cheshire; and that they shall know right well.

 

With hind sight, it may have been a bit of a foolish thing for the abbot of Burton to do though he can’t have known that Henry VI would end up murdered in the Tower or that the only Lancastrian claimant left standing would be the  step son of one Thomas Stanley. The name Stanley should be ringing bells by now! The prioress was related to Thomas Stanley who just so happened to be Margaret Beaufort’s husband and she of course just so happened to be Henry Tudor’s mother…

 

Not that being cosy with the Tudors was something that would serve future prioresses of King’s Mead very well. The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, identifies Joan Curzon as prioress and gives the annual value of King’s Mead as £18 6s. 2d. and that the priory was in debt. The nuns of King’s Mead had already had a bit of a shock before the arrival of the visitors. The year before a fake visitor called James Billingford, who claimed to be the queen’s cousin arrived to inspect the barns. He was shown to be a fraud but it wasn’t long before Layton and Legh, Cromwell’s unfunny double act, arrived to poke into King’s Mead’s shady corners. They found nothing apart from a fragment of Thomas of Canterbury’s shirt which was venerated by the pregnant ladies of Derby. Interestingly, despite being the only nunnery in Derbyshire King’s Mead was not given a stay of execution. Perhaps the Prioress didn’t know that Cromwell was open to financial gifts or perhaps the sisters couldn’t afford to pay. In any event the nunnery was suppressed in 1536.

 

In 1541 the site fell into the ownership of the Fifth Earl of Shrewsbury and by the nineteenth century nothing remained apart from the name Nun Street.

 

 

 

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Delving into Cromwell’s correspondence …again

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01It’s that time of the week when I take the opportunity to ferret through Henry VIII’s 1535 papers in order to find out what Cromwell and his friends were up to during the coming week.  There’s no prizes for guessing that many of the notes were about monasteries and money.

It was becoming clear, thanks to the kinds of questions that Cromwell’s visitors had been asking across the south of England, that the king and Cromwell had plans for the Church’s belongings. As a consequence abbots and priors were beginning to dispose of their assets in an attempt to squirrel away a nest egg before the writing on the wall turned in to disconcerting fact.

Unfortunately for the brethren, and indeed sisters, they weren’t very good at fencing their goods or effecting swift or secret sales as is recorded on November 11 1535 by Thomas Legh and John Ap Rice in a letter to Cromwell. “At many places where we go they have sold lands and goods before we came, and prepared to go away and utterly relinquish their houses; as at a lewd nunnery hereby, called Crabhouse, where they sold lands to Mr. Conysbie, which we have sequestered and stayed the prioress from further alienation.”

 

Elsewhere there were all sorts of dodgy goings on in Llandaff which Adam Becansaw hints at but rather coyly doesn’t detail – perhaps Cromwell was of a gentle disposition after all and easily shocked. “We found the bishop and his archdeacon named Quarre guilty, not only of great ruin and decay in their mansions, but of other great faults.”

 

Meanwhile the Prior of Bokenham, who may or may not have been selling off the family silver, was attempting to bribe Cromwell to the tune of 26 shillings whilst trying to cosy up to the Vice Gerant with the news that some of the younger members of his priory were not ‘godly disposed,’ which, presumably, was music to Cromwell’s ears but not necessarily something which reflected terribly well upon the prior.

 

A rather predictable pattern is beginning to emerge – no doubt it will be continued over the next few weeks until the Pilgrimage of Grace flares up as the local populace of Lincolnshire fear that not only will their monastic houses be suppressed but that their local churches will be closed down. It will add a bit of variety into the equation when the Duke of Norfolk reaches for his quill and paper.

 
‘Henry VIII: November 1535, 6-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 262-271. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp262-271 [accessed 17 October 2016].
‘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].

 

 

 

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Croxden Abbey- Dissolution, William Cavendish and King John…

croxden-abbey-hero.jpgThe Cistercian abbey of Croxden, in the care of English Heritage, is in Staffordshire, one of approximately thirty religious houses across the county. Its story is similar to many other monasteries. It built its wealth on sheep in the twelfth century and then ran into debt as the political landscape of the countryside changed. By the late thirteenth century it was considerably poorer as a consequence of Edward I’s wars with Scotland and the loans it was forced to make to the warrior monarch. Murrain, plague and poor harvests didn’t help. It never recovered. It’s income in 1535 was given as £103 6s. 7d. which was substantially less than its early income and provided Cromwell with evidence, if he needed it, of the decline of the monasteries.

The Valor Ecclesiasticus reveals that money was paid out to seven laymen who fulfilled essential roles including stewards and bailiffs including the steward of Croxden, Ashbourne, and Caldon, the bailiff of Ashbourne and Caldon. The document for its suppression identifies its full estates of which several were in Derbyshire. Not that the division of land was always simple. Take Trusley, near Derby, for instance. Some of the land around the village belonged to the monks of Croxden whilst other parts belonged to some of Derby’s community of nuns.

By rights Croxden should have been suppressed in 1536 along with the rest of the smaller monasteries but the abbot paid a £100 and received a licence to continue. Two years later on the 17 September 1538 Dr Legh – an infamous abbey visitor and William Cavendish, equally well known at the time but less mentioned in this blog until now, received the surrender of the abbey. Along with the abbot, Thomas Chawner, who received a pension of £26 per annum there were twelve other monks. As with the other abbeys the building was stripped of everything valuable whilst the abbey’s water-mill, its lands and the rectory at Croxden were rented to Francis Bassett who just happened to work for the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. The archbishop wrote to Cromwell on December 14 1538 asking him to “accomplish his suit.”

250px-William_Cavendish_c1547.jpgWilliam Cavendish had been a servant of Cardinal Wolsey.  He also seems to have been very efficient at taking the surrenders of abbeys.  According to Bess of Hardwick’s biographer, Mary Lovell, there was a point in 1538 where he was overseeing ten surrenders a week. He’d begun by auditing the abbey at St Albans and gone on to gain a job with the Court of Augmentations when it was set up in 1536 by Cromwell specifically to oversee the transfer of Church land to the Crown. He earned twenty pounds a year in addition to the ‘profits of office.’ As Lovell observes, the Cavendishs were not alone in making their fortunes from the reformation but Cavendish seems to have been rather good at it. As for William, these days he is more famous for his third wife – Bess of Hardwick, the foundation of Chatsworth House and his role as Mary Queen of Scot’s jailer.

 

The monks received their pensions and were required to sign for them. There is a receipt dated May 28 1541 for one Robert Clarke. Another of the monks, a man called John Stanley, became Vicar of Alton in 1546 until his death in 1569. We know this because along with three other men we have the records of his pensions in 1557-58.

A swift search on the Internet revealed the interesting fact that King John’s heart is rumoured to be buried in the grounds of Croxden Abbey whilst the rest of him was buried in Worcester (http://www.farmonthehill.co.uk/local-history.html accessed 4 November 2016 19:45). This information completely sidetracked me from monks being kicked out of their home by Henry VIII, Cromwell and Cavendish.  It sent me off down the side alley of Croxden’s relationship with King John.

Apparently John awarded the monks of Croxden an annuity of £5.00 each year from the Irish Exchequer in 1200. An English Heritage research report shed that much light on the assertion of John’s heart but what about something more academic than a legend? The Gentleman’s Magazine (volume 38) asserts that the descendants of Bertram de Verdun were buried there – so far so good, he was the founder after all and the same sentence references King John’s ticker. In fact Victorian tomes trip over themselves in their desire to identify Croxden as the last resting place of at least one bit of King John. The Antiquarian and Architectural Year Book for Staffordshire explains that John’s physician was also the abbot of Croxden – which would account for the grisly souvenir.  Another text dating from 1829 identifies the abbot as Ralph de Lincoln but misidentifies Croxden as being in Leicestershire. A book dating from 1844 references a British Museum text from the Cotton collection which looks at the Chronicle of William de Shepesheved who details the fact that John’s bowels were buried at Croxden. The whole thing is starting to sound decidedly offal.

 

Have I been there? No, not yet – but trust me when I say that I shall shortly be finding a reason for being in the vicinity and I shall be studying English Heritage’s interpretation boards with great interest.

 

Graham Brown, Barry Jones Croxden Abbey and Its Environs London: English Heritage

Lovell, Mary S. (2006) Bess of Hardwick:First Lady of Chatsw0rth. 

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 Croxden’, in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, ed. M W Greenslade and R B Pugh (London, 1970), pp. 226-230. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol3/pp226-230 [accessed 13 October 2016].

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1538 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 438-455. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp438-455 [accessed 23 October 2016].

 

‘Henry VIII: May 1541, 26-31’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898), pp. 409-429. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol16/pp409-429 [accessed 18 October 2016].

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Great Malvern Priory

IMG_7747.JPGWhat a gem!  Great Malvern Priory was founded in 1085 by a hermit, Aldwin, from Worcester Abbey on land belonging to Westminster Abbey.  This means that during the life of Great Malvern’s monastic establishment it looked to  Benedictine Westminster for direction which is why it’s a priory rather than an abbey in its own right.

Aldwin was supported and guided by Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester who went on to become one of King John’s favourite saints. The priory also received its charter and funding from  William the Conqueror who gave charters to many monasteries – a reminder that the conquest of England had the Pope’s blessing and that William was conscious of the need to give thanks for his victory. Henry I and Edward III confirmed and renewed the charter. The priory wasn’t without its problems though.  The fact that it was on Westminster Abbey land but founded by a monk from Worcester and looked to the Worcester for guidance led to friction at various times in the priory’s history.

DSC_0102The pillars in the nave of today’s building are Norman and there are odd clues to the Norman past scattered about the building but the priory as it stands today dates largely from the fifteenth century.  The Bishop of Worcester was called upon to consecrate the new build in 1460 – just as the Wars of the Roses really got started (Battle of Wakefield December 30 1460).  However, the new build ensured that assorted Lancaster and York monarchs added their ‘bit’ to the decor from Henry VI’s tiles via Richard III’s stained glass windows to Henry VII. At least those monarchs wanted to enhance the building, finished in 1502.

In 1535 Dr Legh, one of Cromwell’s commissioners and a bit of a thug by all accounts,  visited the priory.  Things can’t have been that bad as there is no report of his findings amongst Cromwell’s documents.  According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, the income of the prior and convent amounted to £375 0s. 6½ d. It escaped the act suppressing the small monasteries, although a cell belonging to the priory wasn’t so fortunate.

DSC_0104.JPG

In 1539 the monastery was dissolved despite the please of Hugh Latimer the Bishop of Worcester (he would ultimately go to the flames in the reign of Mary Tudor for his Protestantism). He wrote to Cromwell on behalf of the prior; ‘at the request of an honest man, the prior of GreatMalvern, of my diocese,’ pleads for the ‘upstandynge’ of his house, and continuance of the same to many good purposes, ‘not in monkery . . . but to maintain teaching, preaching, study with praying, and (to the which he is much given) good “howsekepynge,” for to the “vertu” of hospitality he hath been greatly inclined from his beginning, and is very much commended in these parts for the same . . . The man is old, a good “howsekepere,” feeds many, and that daily, for the country is poor and full of penury. Alas, my good lord, shall not we see two or three in each shire changed to such remedy? . . Sir William Kingston can report of the man further.’ The letter dated 13 December 1538 finishes with flattery: “Blessed be God of England that worketh all, whose instrument you be! I heard you say once after you had seen that furious invective of cardinal Pole that you would make him to eat his own heart, which you have now, [I trow], brought to pass, for he must [needs] now eat his own heart, and be[as] heartless as he is graceless.”  Latimer went on to offer Cromwell 200 marks and the king 500 if they would spare the priory.

Not that it did any good. By January 1539 the priory had been suppressed and the lead stripped from its roof.  The prior, one Richard Whitborn, received h £66 13s. 4d. each year.  Ultimately, in 1541, the parishioners of Great Malvern purchased the priory for £20.00 as the original parish church was in a poor state.  They acquired the “stateliest parish church in England.” The parish church of St Mary and St Michael is without a shadow of a doubt a show stopper.

 

A second post will consider Great Malvern’s medieval tiles whilst a third post will explore the wonderful medieval windows and also a fourth post on the glass given by Richard III and by Henry VII.  As you might guess, I spent a very happy morning in Great Malvern Priory although I wasn’t able to study the misericords (the ledges on which the monks could rest during services) because of work being done in the choir of the church.  Great Malvern is unusual in that as well as depicting a mermaid on its misericords it also has a merman.

For fans of C.S. Lewis it is also worth noting that he went to school in Malvern College just before World War One and whilst he was there he may have been inspired by the enclosed east doors of the priory church which ultimately turned into the wardrobe by which the Pevensies entered Narnia.  A glimpse through the lock reveals a fir tree and a lamp post.

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Great Malvern’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 2, ed. J W Willis-Bund and William Page (London, 1971), pp. 136-143. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol2/pp136-143 [accessed 16 August 2016].

Cleop. E. iv.264. B. M.Wright’s Suppression of the Monasteries,148. ‘Henry VIII: December 1538 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 438-455. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp438-455 [accessed 23 August 2016].

‘Parishes: Great Malvern with Newland’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J W Willis-Bund (London, 1924), pp. 123-134. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol4/pp123-134 [accessed 16 August 2016].

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