A new blog

If you like this website, and you’re interested in the Tudor and Stuart period, you might like my new family history site, Yeomen and Kinsmen, which tells the story of my maternal ancestors in sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century Sussex. They included Catholics, ‘church papists’, puritans and conformist protestants, and I hope that tracing their story chronologically will throw some light on a fascinating period in English history.

The search for Gregory Martin

In recent posts I’ve written about Thomas Lucke, the former Augustinian canon who was precentor of Michelham Priory, Sussex, until its suppression by Thomas Cromwell in 1537, and who was serving as a curate in the neighbouring parish of Litlington at the time of his death in 1552. Thomas was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Richard Lucke of Mayfield, and Richard was the father of Alice Lucke who married Magnus Fowle: they were my 12 x great grandparents.

In my last post I noted that Thomas Lucke’s will of 1551, with its explicitly Catholic preamble, suggests that Thomas retained his attachment to England’s traditional faith, despite the fact that when he made his will he was serving as a priest in the reformed Church of England, two years after the Catholic mass had been banned by Edward VI. In addition to this evidence of Thomas’ religious sympathies, his will is also a useful source of information about his relatives and contemporaries, including as it does a substantial number of bequests. I’ve been following up some of these names, in an attempt to understand the milieu in which Thomas Lucke, and my other sixteenth-century ancestors, lived.

Gregory Martyn mentioned in Thomas Lucke's will

Gregory Martin mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will of 1551

In his will, Thomas Lucke makes a number of bequests to his niece Alice, my 12 x great grandmother. One of them reads as follows:

I wyll of that monye that ys in Gregorye Martynes hands of Mayghfelde xlv to the povertie there to be dystrybuted by my executor. And the Resydue of the monye in his hands, I wyll halfe to Alice Lucke: the other halffe I wyll equally betwene Thomasyn Lucke and Elizabeth Lucke, by the hands of my executor to theme to be delyvred. 

Gregory Martyn (or Marten, or Martin) is the only name that occurs both in Thomas’ will of 1551, and in the will of John Lucke of Mayfield, composed two years earlier in 1549 (see the previous post for my comments on the Catholic references in John’s will). I’m fairly certain that John was a relative of Thomas’, and may indeed have been another of his brothers. The witnesses to John Lucke’s will are listed as follows:

Richard lukk John Mone Gregory mtty: John Wenborn wm penkherst with others

I’m almost certain that ‘mtty:’ is an abbreviation for ‘Martyn’ and that this is the same person who would be mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will. There is at least one reference to Gregory Martin of Mayfield in the manorial court rolls from Edward’s reign: for example, on 4th October 1551 he was one of the twelve men ‘appointed for the lord king’ to the court; my ancestor Richard Lucke was another. However, my search for additional information about Martyn in the contemporary records has proven somewhat frustrating. His name does not appear in the 1524-5 lay subsidy rolls for Mayfield or indeed for anywhere else in Sussex, though the names of Christopher, Laurence and Thomas Marten can be found in the Mayfield listing. Nor can I find a will for a Gregory Martin in the Sussex archives.

Gregory Martin mentioned in Robert Sawyer's will of 1529

Gregory Martin mentioned in Robert Sawyer’s will of 1529

However, there is one other reference to a Gregory Martin in the records, and it’s an intriguing one. In 1529 Robert Sawyer of Mayfield made his will. The opening paragraph is in Latin and it culminates in a list of witnesses, which includes the name ‘Gregorio Marten’. The word that follows this name is difficult to read, but it could be ‘clico’, which might be an abbreviation for ‘clerico’. Indeed, the transcript by the Sussex Record Society translates the word as ‘clerk’: in other words, priest.

Is this the same person who would appear in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke some twenty years later, and was he really a priest? Unfortunately, I’ve found no trace of a Gregory Martin in the clergy records, but they only begin in 1540. Could he have been a member of a religious order, rather than a secular priest? Then again, if the person mentioned in those later wills was a priest, why was he not described as such, given that Thomas Lucke doesn’t hesitate to append the word ‘clerke’ to the name of Richard Cressweller, one of the witnesses to his will? Had Gregory Martin ceased to serve as a priest by 1551, or is this a different person altogether?

Father Gregory Martin (via wikipedia)

Father Gregory Martin (via wikipedia)

Interestingly, my search online for clues as to the identity of Gregory Martin led me to a very different person with the same name: the Catholic priest, scholar and author who was chiefly responsible for the Douai-Rheims translation of the Bible that first appeared in 1582. Although this Gregory Martin’s origins are largely obscure, it’s said that he was born at Maxfield, in the parish of Guestling near Winchelsea – also in Sussex. Indeed, an introductory chapter to Martin’s book Roma Sancta, by George Bruner Parks, includes the following speculation:

There was an older ‘Gregory Martin clerk’ at Maughfield or Mayfield in northeast Sussex in 1529 and again in 1551, and the unusual Christian name makes it almost certain that he (if he was one man) was related to our author. If so, this priest, though he is not listed at either university, must have influenced the younger man’s schooling and vocation. 

The references here are to the wills of Robert Sawyer (1529) and my ancestor Thomas Lucke (1551). One thing is certain: the Gregory Martin mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will can’t be the priest and translator of the Bible, since the latter was probably born some time in the 1540s and would still have been a child when Thomas died. We know that this Gregory Martin went up to the newly-founded St John’s College, Oxford in 1557, as one of its first scholars, where he befriended and may have influenced the conversion of the future Catholic priest and martyr Edmund Campion. For a time Martin was a tutor in the household of the Duke of Norfolk, before the increasingly hostile atmosphere for Catholics under Elizabeth I prompted him to travel to the continent and join the English College at Douai. After a sojourn in Rome, he returned to the College at its new home in Rheims, where he worked on his translation of the New Testament, before dying of consumption soon after its publication.

As already noted, Father Gregory Martin was said to come from Guestling, near Winchelsea. At the time of the lay subsidy rolls of 1524-5, there was a John Marten living in the parish and two William Martens. As for Maxfield, reputed to be the Marten family home, there is still a house in Guestling known as Great Maxfield. Apparently the property belonged to Battle Abbey until its dissolution in 1538. However, I’ve found no trace in the records of any association between Maxfield and the Martin family. At one stage, this made me doubt the sources that claimed Maxfield as Gregory’s home: I even wondered if somebody had once misread ‘Mayfield’ as ‘Maxfield’ and the misunderstanding had become accepted as fact. The earliest source I’ve found is an 1843 edition of A Defence of the Sincere and True Translations of the Holy Scriptures Into the English Tongue, Against the Cavils of Gregory Martin by the Puritan divine William Fulke, a contemporary of Martin’s. I wonder if the assumption that Martin was born at Maxfield is based on any earlier sources?

Great Maxfield

Great Maxfield

On the other hand, if we could prove a connection, it might be further proof of the Catholic sympathies of my Lucke ancestors, especially if Gregory Martin of Mayfield was actually a (former?) priest. However, even if he turns out to have been born elsewhere in Sussex, and even if he was from Mayfield, we have no evidence to connect him with the Gregory Martin of Mayfield mentioned in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke. The fact that they shared a name, and an unusual one at that, suggests some kind of connection – but what?

I’d be interested to hear from anyone with more information about Father Gregory Martin, particularly if you know of any research into his family background.

The Augustinian connection

We were in Vienna, Austria, for a few days last autumn, and on the Sunday morning we went to High Mass at the Augustinerkirche, which was once the parish church of the Habsburgs. The church is noted for its excellent music, and the service was accompanied by a full choir and orchestra performing in the gallery above us. However, as far as I was concerned, the most notable feature of the church was that it was served by a community of Augustinian canons. In fact, although my schoolboy German couldn’t make sense of everything that was going on, I got the impression that a new canon was being admitted to the order during the Mass that we were privileged to attend.

High Mass at the Augustinerkirche, Vienna (via augustiner.at)

High Mass at the Augustinerkirche, Vienna (via augustiner.at)

I found all of this particularly meaningful because of my recent discovery that a surprising number of my ancestors were members of the Augustinian order. I’ve written before about Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of the Augustinian house of St Mary Overy in Southwark, who had previously been a canon of Leeds Priory in Kent. Bartholomew is said by some sources to have been the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle of Southover, who was master of the Free Grammar School at Lewes, Sussex. In my last post I mentioned Thomas Lucke, who was a canon at Michelham Priory until its suppression in 1537. Thomas was the brother of Richard Lucke whose daughter Alice would marry Magnus Fowle, son of Gabriel. Magnus and Alice were my 12 x great grandparents.

I’ve also discovered a third Augustinian connection. Gabriel Fowle was the son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, on the Sussex-Kent border. There is substantial evidence that Nicholas was connected, probably by marriage, to the Pattendens, another yeoman family from the same area. Nicholas’ will of 1522 was witnessed by Walter Pattenden, son of William Pattenden of Benenden. It seems likely that Nicholas was himself the son of William Fowle, who died in 1487. William’s will was witnessed by James Pattenden, who made his own will a year later, in which he made bequests to a certain Thomas Pattenden, prior of Combwell, who also witnessed the will.

Former priory of Combwell, Kent (via theweald.org)

Former priory of Combwell, Kent (via theweald.org)

Combwell was another Augustinian foundation, about five miles from Lamberhurst, and Thomas Pattenden was its prior from about 1480 until his death in 1513. In his last year, the priory was subject to a visitation by William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. The account in the Victoria County History does not reflect very well on Thomas:

Archbishop Warham made a visitation of the priory in 1512. Thomas Pattenden had been prior for thirty-two years, and there were six other canons, who stated in their evidence that the infirmary was in great need of repairs and nobody attended to the sick, who had to lie in the dormitory. They had not enough food and drink or clothing, the prior never rendered any accounts, and there was no teacher of grammar. The manors of Benenden and Thornham needed great repairs. John Lanny said that the prior and convent laid him under a debt of £40 in an obligation without any condition to two outsiders, now remaining in the hands of the minister of Mottenden, and arranged that the house should not be indebted by this. The prior said that the obligation was cancelled, and was ordered to show it to the archbishop; and he was also ordered to make a proper account and inventory, to make sufficient repairs to the infirmary before All Saints and to correct the other points mentioned.

I suppose that, before the Reformation, most English families had at least one member who belonged to a religious order. But the frequency of my ancestors’ connections with the Augustinians is quite striking and suggests a close relationship with the order. Founded in the eleventh century, the Augustinian Canons Regular live together in community and their main purpose is to undertake the public ministry of liturgy and sacraments. There seem to have been a remarkable number of such communities in Kent and Sussex in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and I would be interested to hear,  from anyone who is familiar with the history of the order, whether this was typical of England as a whole.

I’m not sure whether the connection between the Fowle, Lucke and Pattenden families and the Augustinians means that my ancestors were particularly pious. However, there is some evidence that their attachment to the Catholic faith remained strong, even after the English Church split from Rome. In writing about Bartholomew Fowle, I noted that he continued to serve as a priest after the suppression of Southwark Priory by Thomas Cromwell’s agents in 1539, and that five years later he was still being asked to say prayers for the soul of the wife of a former lord mayor of London. When my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle made his will in 1554, he asked for ‘x preistes yf they can be gott to celebrate & say masse for my sowlle & all crysten sowles, & to be honestly recompensed by my executor’ and bequeathed ‘my wrytten masse book’ to his parish church in Southover. Admittedly, this was during the reign of Queen Mary, when Catholicism was briefly restored in England, but it suggests that Gabriel kept faith with the old religion through the difficult days of Henry’s and Edward’s reigns.

Gatehouse, Michelham Priory

Gatehouse, Michelham Priory

Thomas Lucke had composed his own will three years earlier, when Edward VI was still on the throne. We know from visitation records that Thomas was serving as precentor at Michelham in 1521. He was one of eight canons, in addition to the prior, Thomas Holberne. Michelham was suppressed on 1st October 1537, becoming the first religious house to be given to his notorious agent Thomas Cromwell by Henry VIII. Following the priory’s enforced closure, the canons each received a pension of £13.13.4. The prior lived on near Eastbourne, receiving a pension of £20, until his death in 1545. Apparently most of the other canons went to Sussex parishes and were allowed to keep the beds on which they had slept.

Thomas was transferred to the nearby parish of Litlington, where he was serving as curate in 1551, the year in which he made his will. The will, as well as supplying us with a useful catalogue of local names, is notable for its traditionally Catholic preamble:

Ffyrst I comytt my soule into the hands of almyghtie god, wth the intercessyon of the blessed virgyn marye mother of god and all the holy companye of heaven.

These words, written four years into the reign of Edward VI and two years after the Catholic mass had been banned in England, suggest that Thomas continued to adhere to the old religion even after his enforced departure from Michelham and his appointment to a parish in the (now protestant) English church. As Robert Whiting explains, bequeathing one’s soul to the Virgin Mary and the saints remained common throughout the middle years of the 16th century, despite the dramatic changes under Henry and Edward, and the practice only began to decline during the reign of Elizabeth. Tim Cooper points out that preambles of this kind were popular not only with the laity but also among clergy who wished to signal their continuing attachment to the traditional faith. Robert Brooke of Litlington, one of the witnesses to Thomas Lucke’s will, included a similar bequest – ‘to our Lady Saynt Mary and to all the holy company of heaven’ – in his own will six years later.

There is evidence that Thomas was not the only member of the Lucke family to maintain his allegiance to the Catholic faith after the schism between England and Rome. John Lucke of Mayfield, who was almost certainly a relative of Thomas, and may well have been his brother, made his own will two years earlier, in 1549. Like Thomas, John Lucke begins by committing his soul ‘to Almightie god our lady saynt Mary and all the glorious company of heaven’. But he goes further than Thomas in his explicit Catholicism, following the medieval practice of donating money for the maintenance of ‘lights’ for the altars of local churches:

Item I give to the high aultir ther for my tithes & oblacions forgotten or withholden lyd. Item I bequeath to the light of the withsaid church lcyd. Item to our mother church of seynt ayngell of Southemallinge vyd.

As Caroline Litzenberger notes, bequests of this kind provide us with vital evidence of continuing popular adherence to the traditional faith. Indeed, some historians maintain that most of the population remained Catholic in their sympathies until Elizabeth’s reign. Towards the end of his will, having left money to his unmarried daughter Christian, John Lucke appends the following proviso:

Item if the saide Cristian happen to dye before she be married then the said fyve poundes to be bestowed in this manner five nobles to apriest to praye for my soule her soule and all xten soules and other five nobles to the church of maughfield aforesaid. 

Paying to have Masses said for one’s soul after death was a defiantly Catholic practice. John Lucke’s bequest suggests either that he knew his parish priest was enough of a traditionalist to carry out his request, or that he was confident, despite Edward’s protestant reforms, of a return to Catholic practice.

Parish church, Litlington, Sussex

Parish church, Litlington, Sussex, where Thomas Lucke served as curate after the suppression of Michelham Priory

The wills of Thomas and John Lucke suggest that the Lucke family remained Catholic in its religious sympathies, at least during the middle years of the century. This may help us to understand how my 12 x great grandparents Alice Lucke and Magnus Fowle came together. I’ve already mentioned the explicitly Catholic will of Magnus’ father Gabriel. I’ve also written written before about the likelihood that Magnus was himself at the very least a church papist – a covert Catholic, outwardly conforming to the newly-protestant Church of England – living as he did during the reign of Elizabeth I, with its increasing persecution of those who remained faithful to England’s traditional religion. Evidence of Magnus Fowle’s true allegiance can be found in the bequest of twenty shillings in his own will of 1595 to Eleanor Ashburnham, a member of a notable family of Sussex recusants (Eleanor had been fined £40 for recusancy three years earlier). Moreoever, it appears that Magnus’ bequest of his own soul to the Trinity – ‘to Almightie god, the father, the sonne, and the holie ghoste, Three persones and one god’ – was a neutral form of words often used by Catholics and ‘church papists’ to signify their allegiance to the traditional faith, while avoiding both an accusation of recusancy and the florid Calvinist-influenced language of the reformers.

This evidence from my family history research goes some way to confirming the claim, made by a number of historians, that the population of England remained mostly Catholic until at least the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign.

What became of the monks and friars expelled from their monasteries?

What happened to the monks and friars who were expelled from their monasteries and other religious foundations when they were suppressed by Henry VIII?

Earlier this year I wrote about Bartholomew Fowle alias Lynsted, the last prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, who I believe to have been one of my ancestors. Southwark was an Augustinian foundation and before joining it in 1509, Bartholomew had been a canon of Leeds Priory in Kent, where I believe the Fowle family originated. I’ve been trying to discover Bartholomew’s precise relationship to my Fowle ancestors: some sources claim that he was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle, the master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes, Sussex, but I’ve yet to discover any reliable evidence of this.

St Mary Overy, Southwark

St Mary Overy, Southwark

We know that Bartholomew continued to serve as a priest after his expulsion from Southwark priory, if only because of a bequest in the will of Dame Joan Milbourne, the widow of a former Lord Mayor of London, which was a payment in return his prayers for her soul. This bequest, made in 1543, is evidence not only of the persistence of traditional religious practices, nearly a decade after the Act of Supremacy, but also of Bartholomew continuing to practice as a Catholic priest.

Last week I came across another clue in my quest for information about Bartholomew Fowle, one that throws a little more light on his life after the ‘surrender’ of St Mary Overy to Thomas Cromwell in 1539. The last will and testament of a certain William Fowle of Mitcham, Surrey, made in 1547, makes two bequests to ‘Sir Bartholomew Fowle, priest’. The first relates to ‘my …. gardeyn with thappurtenances at Camberwell’ and the second consists of ‘all suche money as Sir Edward Boughton knight and his sonne do owe unto me by their obligacon with condicion’. (Boughton was a landowner who owned property in Woolwich, on the banks of the Thames.) Once again, it’s clear that, eight years after the closure of Southwark priory, Bartholomew Fowle was still being described as a priest, and presumably one who was still living in the environs of London (Camberwell is about three mile from Southwark, and about eight miles from Mitcham).

London Bridge, St Mary Overy and part of Southwark, from a 1616 drawing by Wenceslaus Hollar

London Bridge, St Mary Overy and part of Southwark, from a 1616 drawing by Wenceslaus Hollar

Frustratingly, I’ve yet to discover whether Bartholomew held a formal clerical post after his dismissal from St Mary Overy. A record of the dispossessed clergy of Surrey provides information on what became of twelve canons of St Mary Overy (was that the total number?) after the Dissolution. We learn that Thomas Hendon became rector of Staplehurst in Kent in the years 1554 – 1559 (roughly the years of Mary’s reign), while a Thomas Kendall or Kensall was vicar of Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight in 1543. The only information given about Bartholomew Fowle is the amount of his pension (£100) and the fact of his being given a house ‘in the Close’ (presumably in Southwark). Did the pension mean that he didn’t need to seek a regular clerical appointment, or was his failure to take up such a post a reflection of his dissatisfaction with the post-Reformation Church?

I recently discovered that Bartholomew Fowle isn’t the only Augustinian canon in my family tree. Gabriel Fowle’s son Magnus married Alice Lucke of Mayfield, Sussex, and they were my 12 x great grandparents. Some time in the 1550s they were involved in a legal dispute concerning the will of one Thomas Lucke, dated 1551. Thomas seems to have been Alice’s uncle (the brother of her father Richard Lucke of Mayfield) and at the time of his death he was curate of Lythington or Littlington in Sussex. A man named Thomas Lucke had been a priest at the nearby Michelham Priory, an Augustinian foundation until its suppression in 1537, when it had the dubious distinction of being the first monastic site to be awarded to Thomas Cromwell. Is it possible that this Thomas Lucke became a secular priest on his ejection from Michelham and turned up at Litlington, which after all was only about six miles away?

Interestingly, yet another – and rather more controverisal – former Augustinian turns up as a witness to the will of another of my Sussex ancestors. Christopher Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, was another of my 13 x great grandfathers: his great granddaughter Mary married Stephen Byne, the son Edward Byne and Alice Fowle, the latter being the daughter of Magnus and granddaughter of Gabriel. They were my 10 x great grandparents. Christopher Maunser made his will in 1545, bequeathing his soul ‘to almighty God, our lady Saint Mary and all the (glorious) company of heaven’, another indication that Catholic practices had by no means died out in the later years of Henry VIII’s reign (he died in 1547).

However, one of the witnesses to the will was a certain ‘Sir Thomas Hothe, preste’. The same man would also witness the will of John Wenbourne, who was probably the father-in-law of Christopher Maunser’s daughter Mildred, just over a year later. Despite my best efforts, I’d been unable to find any reference to Hoth in contemporary records, and there seems to be nothing about him in the clergy database. But then I came across a chapter by Paul Quinn on ‘Richard Woodman, Sussex Protestantism and the Construction of Marytrdom’ in Art, Literature and Religion in Early Modern Sussex: Culture and Conflict (Ashgate, 2014), in which he mentions a Thomas Hoth who was formerly the precentor of the Augustinian New Priory in Hastings, but who in 1533 was charged with ‘rejecting purgatory, tithes and payment on the four offering days, and of supporting clerical marriage, a vernacular translation of the New Testament, and justification by faith’. In other words, he was an early protestant radical. It’s possible that this Thomas Hoth went on to become an itinerant protestant preacher and that he may have radicalised a number of the Sussex martyrs who died during Queen Mary’s reign.

The burning of Richard Woodman and other protestant martyrs in Lewes in 1557

The burning of Richard Woodman and other protestant martyrs in Lewes in 1557

Quinn also suggests that Hoth may himself have suffered for his beliefs, perhaps being identical with the Thomas Ahoth who is listed in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. If my ancestor Christopher Maunser was one of those who responded to Hoth’s preaching, then his will provides fascinating evidence of how emerging protestant sympathies sat alongside continuing affiliation to Catholic practices, such as prayers to Mary and the saints.

Of course, it should be remembered that the whole business of the Reformation can be blamed on yet another renegade Augustinian friar: Martin Luther.

Recusants, nonjurors and conspirators in early modern Worcestershire

This website grew out of my family history research, and specifically my exploration of the recusant and Catholic connections of my sixteenth-century Sussex ancestors. More recently, my attention has shifted northwards to Worcestershire, the birthplace of my 9 x great grandfather Thomas Forrest, a London haberdasher in the second half of the seventeenth century. By virtue of his sister Alice’s marriage to gunmaker William Boulton, Thomas was connected to another family with Worcestershire roots. Alice’s son Captain Richard Boulton was a prominent member of the East India Company, while her great grandson Henry Crabb Boulton would become chairman of the company and Member of Parliament for Worcester.

I’ve been trying to trace the Worcestershire origins of the Forrests and the Boultons, and have come to the conclusion that they lived in the part of the county lying between Evesham and Pershore, fifteen miles or so to the south-west of Worcester itself. Thomas Forrest’s brother William was a yeoman farmer in Badsey, near Evesham, and there are also links with the village of Fladbury, a village lying on the River Avon a few miles to the west. Another of William and Alice Boulton’s sons, Major Peter Boulton, who was a gunsmith like his father, married a woman from Fladbury.

Old map showing Fladbury, Worcestershire and surrounding area

Old map showing Fladbury, Worcestershire and surrounding area

I was also interested to discover that Peter’s sister Margaret married a man named Thomas Sanders or Saunders, from the hamlet of Moor near Fladbury. Intriguingly, Thomas’ name occurs in an official return of ‘papists and nonjurors’ estates’ from 1723. This document can be found in the National Archives, whose website provides this explanatory note:

Following the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, all Catholics refusing to take oaths of loyalty to king and government were required to register their names and estates at quarter sessions. Lands not so registered would be forfeit. This series consists of returns by clerks of the peace for most counties of England and Wales and several towns of the names and estate details of Catholics and nonjurors, registered pursuant to an Act of 1722. 

Frustratingly, it’s not clear from the documentation whether Thomas Sanders was a Catholic or a nonjuror. The latter were Anglicans, including some clergy, who refused to take an oath of loyalty to William of Orange after he deposed King James II in the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, believing that they were bound by their original oath to James. Although this was not necessarily a doctrinal split, most nonjurors were high church Anglicans. Nonjurors tended to be Jacobite in their sympathies, but this did not necessarily mean that they supported the uprisings of 1715 and 1745.

Thomas Sanders was one of only twenty-one people from Worcestershire to be included in the return, and the only person from Fladbury. However, one of his neighbours, Sir Thomas Throckmorton, was listed in the return for Warwickshire. The Throckmortons were a prominent recusant family whose main home was (and still is) at Coughton Court near Alcester, on the Warwickshire-Worcestershire border, but who also owned property in the Fladbury area. The village of Throckmorton is just a few miles north of Fladbury, and the National Archives holds the record of a legal case from 1608 concerning land in the area, involving Thomas Throckmorton and, among others, various members of the Forrest family of Fladbury.

Sir Thomas Throckmorton was a staunch Catholic who suffered persecution and loss of property during the reign of Elizabeth. During his time Coughton became an important recusant centre: the Tower Room, with its panoramic view for monitoring any approach to the house, made it an ideal location for the secret celebration of the Mass, and the house also included an ingenious double hiding place for priests, built by Nicholas Owen, who was tortured to death in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot and canonised in 1970.

Coughton Court

Coughton Court

I suspect that Thomas Sanders was probably a nonjuring Anglican rather than a Catholic recusant, since there is no other evidence of Catholic affiliation in the family from this period, but I may be proved wrong. It seems that Worcestershire tended to be strongly Tory and loyal to the Stuarts, perhaps as a legacy of its firm support for the Royalist cause during the Civil War. Another neighbour of Thomas Sanders was the Tory politician and landowner Sir John Pakington of Westwood Park, who railed against the latitudinarian theology that had come to dominate the Church of England. In the election of 1702 Pakington faced a vigorous campaign against him by William Lloyd, the Whiggish Bishop of Worcester. According to one source:

Lloyd used the occasion of his episcopal visitation to issue veiled exhortations to the voters to eschew Pakington, and in private excoriated the baronet for debauchery and adherence to the Pretender. The dispute between Pakington and Lloyd epitomized one of the most important divisions within the Church, that between an increasingly Whiggish, Latitudinarian episcopate and a High Anglican, Tory squirearchy.

Lloyd went so far as to write to local vicars, encouraging them to put pressure on their parishioners to vote against Pakington. One letter, ‘To the Reverend Poutney, Rector of Fladbury’, berates the local electors for voting for Pakington in the past and adds a postscript: ‘The enclosed is a list of the voters from Fladbury at the last election. I pray God direct them this time to vote better or to stay away’. The list then follows, and from it we know that Thomas Sanders was one of those entitled to vote. The bishop’s campaign clearly had little effect, since Pakington emerged victorious from the election, and went on to complained to the Commons in November 1702 of a breach of privilege against the bishop. The upshot was that the House voted Bishop Lloyd and his son (later to be appointed, ironically, the vicar of Fladbury) guilty of ‘malicious, unchristian and arbitrary’ proceedings which were ‘in high violation of the liberties and privileges of the Commons of England’.

Recently I’ve discovered that another of the Boulton siblings married into a Worcestershire family with nonjuring and recusant connections. Elizabeth Boulton, daughter of William and Alice, was married twice. Her first marriage, in 1686, was to John Littleton. The ceremony took place at the church of St Botolph Aldersgate in the City of London and was led by Dr Adam Littleton, the son of Thomas Littleton of Halesowen. Educated at Westminster School, Adam Littleton was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1644 ,where he was a conspicuous opponent of the parliamentary visitation which purged the university of Royalist sympathisers, writing a satirical Latin poem on the subject, and was expelled in November 1648. However in May 1651 he joined with three other students in a petition for the restitution of their scholarships, which seems to be have been successful. Appointed as an usher and then second master at his old school, after the Restoration Littleton taught at Chelsea where he was also appointed rector of the parish church. Besides his excursions into verse, Adam Littleton was the author of a number of theological texts and translations from Latin. Charles II made Littleton a royal chaplain, and he also served as a chaplain to Prince Rupert of the Rhine. In 1674 he became prebendary of Westminster Abbey, in 1683 rector of Overton in Hampshire, and in 1685 he was licensed to the church of St Botolph, Aldersgate, where he served for about four years.

Naunton Court, Worcestershire, home to the Littleton family

Naunton Court, Worcestershire, home to the Littleton family

I’ve yet to identify the precise relationship between John Littleton and Adam Littleton, but they both seem to have been members of the same large extended family, with many branches and a number of illustrious members. By examining a legal case in which Elizabeth was involved after John Littleton’s early death, I’ve discovered that he belonged to the branch of the Littleton (or Lyttelton) family who lived at Naunton Court, Naunton Beauchamp, about seven miles from Fladbury. They descended from John Littleton of Frankley who bought Naunton in about 1500, and then bequeathed it to his son Roger. After Roger’s death the property came into the possession of his son Humphrey, who died in 1624, bequeathing it to his son Edward. It was Edward’s son, another Humphrey Littleton, who was the father of the John Littleton who married Elizabeth Boulton.

The name Humphrey Littleton will be very familiar to British readers. The much-loved jazz trumpeter and broadcaster of that name , who died in 2008, was in fact a descendant of the Littletons of Naunton. But the name may also be familiar as belonging to one of the men executed in the aftermath of the Gunpower Plot. This Humphrey Littleton was a distant relative of the Littletons of Naunton Beauchamp. Roger Littleton, who inherited Naunton, had an older brother John, who was his father’s principal heir. This John Littleton was knighted by Elizabeth I and married Bridget Pakington, daughter of Sir John Pakington of Hampton-Levet (an ancestor of the John Pakington referred to earlier in this post). Sir John Littleton lived at Frankley but owned many other properties, including the manor of Hagley.

Gilbert Littleton, the eldest son of Sir John and Bridget Littleton, inherited Frankley. His son and heir was yet another John Littleton who married Meriel, daughter of Sir Thomas Bromley, the Lord Chancellor of England. This John Littleton was implicated in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion and was sentenced to death, though his sentence was later commuted to imprisonment in the Tower and loss of his estates. John was a Catholic, but his wife Meriel did not share his faith and after his death in 1601 decided to bring up their children as Protestants. She also successfully petitioned King James I to restore her late husband’s estates.

The Humphrey Littleton who was executed in the aftermath of the Gunpower Plot was Meriel’s brother-in-law, and thus the brother of her late husband John. (I believe Wikipedia is wrong to describe Humphrey as one of the sons of Sir John Littleton of Frankley.) It was at her house at Hagley that Humphrey sheltered their nephew Stephen Littleton of Holbeach and his friend Robert Wintour after the collapse of the conspiracy. It seems that Stephen was the son of George, another brother of John and Humphrey. Stephen Littleton was tried, condemned and executed at Stafford for assisting the conspirators.

Hindlip Hall, Worcestershire

Hindlip Hall, Worcestershire

After his capture, Humphrey Littleton tried to bargain for his life by revealing the whereabouts of the Jesuits Father Edward Oldcorne and Father Henry Garnet. However, this was not enough to save him and he was executed at Worcester with others implicated in the plot, including Father Oldcorne. Also condemned at Worcester, but later having his experience commuted, was Thomas Habington of Hindlip Hall, where the Jesuits had been hiding. Habington had previously been imprisoned in the Tower of London for his part in the Babington Plot to effect the escape of Mary, Queen of Scots. Thomas Habington was an antiquarian who compiled a famous ‘Survey of Worcestershire’, in which he describes Humphrey Littleton of Naunton (presumably the one who died in 1624) as ‘a gentellman of nobell and worthy descent, with whom althoughe in hys lyfe I had discontentment, yet before hys deathe theare was between us, eaven with expressyon of teares, that true reconcilyation as I intreate all myne eaver to love hys.’

It’s not clear how much of the mutual ‘discontentment’ or later ‘reconcilyation’ between Habington and Littleton was based on religious sympathies or differences. Some branches (and generations) of the Littleton family were Protestant, others Catholic, and I haven’t managed to discover on which side of the divide the Naunton Littletons fell. However, it seems clear that, in the years that followed the Gunpowder Plot, through the Civil War and the succession crisis at the end of the century, the Littletons in general tended to favour the Royalist and then the high church or nonjuring cause.

My research into my Worcestershire ancestors and their possible involvement in the religious and political disputes of their time has prompted me to read more about the background to those events, and particularly the Gunpower Plot. I recently read Antonia Fraser’s book about the conspiracy, which combines depth of research with page-turning excitement, and then The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest by Father John Gerard, who narrowly escaped arrest and execution after the failure of the plot, despite the fact that he, like those priests who were actually captured and martyred, was entirely innocent of any involvement. Both books have given me new insight into the recusant experience, and I found Father Garnett’s account particularly inspiring and deeply moving.

The last prior of Southwark

I’ve decided to write something here about my (probable) ancestor Bartholomew Fowle, who was the prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, even though he was not strictly speaking a recusant – a term that would only really come into use during the reign of Elizabeth I. However, like countless other faithful Catholics, Bartholomew’s world was turned upside down by the seismic upheavals of the Reformation. Moreover, telling Bartholomew’s story seems like a natural sequel to the last post about my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle and his recusant connections. As with my that post, I’ll be drawing on my own original genealogical research, some of which I’ve already published on my family history blog Past Lives.

St Mary Overy, from John Norden's map of London (c.1593)

St Mary Overy, from John Norden’s map of London (c.1593)


If some sources are to be believed, Bartholomew Fowle was Magnus Fowle’s uncle, the brother of his father Gabriel, who was my 13 x great grandfather. Gabriel Fowle was the master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes, Sussex, which historically had been linked to the Priory of St Pancras, until the latter’s dissolution and destruction in 1537 by Thomas Cromwell. Gabriel died in 1555, during the brief restoration of Catholicism under Queen Mary, and his will is evidence of his loyalty to the old faith, requesting ‘x [ten] preistes yf they can be gott to celebrate & say masse for my sowlle & all crysten sowles’ and leaving ‘my wrytten masse book’ to his parish church in Southover, Lewes.

Gabriel and Bartholomew were supposedly the sons of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, Kent, who died in 1522, but there is no mention of Bartholomew in Nicholas’ will. This, and the fact that Bartholomew was also known as Bartholomew Linsted or Lynsted, apparently because he came from the village of that name, also in Kent but some thirty miles from Lamberhurst, lead me to cast doubt on the tradition that he was Gabriel’s brother. It seems more likely that he might have been Nicholas Fowle’s brother, and therefore Gabriel’s uncle. However, there is some evidence pointing to Bartholomew’s connection with the family. When another Fowle brother, Thomas, made his will in 1525, he asked to be buried in the church of St Margaret, Southwark, to which he also bequeathed money, despite the fact that his home was in Lamberhurst. St Margaret’s belonged to the priory of St Mary Overy, Southwark, of which Bartholomew Fowle was then prior. Thomas also left money to his ‘ghostly’ – i.e. spiritual – father: might this have been Bartholomew?

One of the sources of information about Bartholomew Fowle’s birth is the chapter on Lynsted in an eighteenth-century history of Kent, which notes that ‘Bartholomew Fowle, alias Linsted, a native of this place, was the last prior of St Mary Overie, London, being elected to that office anno 1513.’ Interestingly, Lynsted was also closely associated with the Roper family, who were linked by marriage with Sir Thomas More: I’ve written before about the recusant Lady Roper of Teynham who lived at Lynsted Lodge in the early seventeenth century.

Some sources give Bartholomew’s name as Lynsted alias Fowle, while others reverse the order. We can only speculate as to why Bartholomew used an alternative surname. Was it a common habit to take the name of your home village, or was it a particular practice among members of religious orders? Did Bartholomew find it politic to conceal his Fowle family connections for some reason, or alternatively did he have a particular reason (a local benefactor or sponsor, for example) for identifying with Lynsted?

Lynsted Lodge, Kent

Lynsted Lodge, Kent

Leeds Priory

Bartholomew Fowle joined the Canons Regular at the Augustinian priory of St Mary and St Nicholas at Leeds, Kent, about twelve miles south-west of Lynsted and eighteen miles north-east of Lamberhurst, which happened to be one of the manors it owned and one of the parishes for which it possessed the advowson .

Canons Regular were priests living in community under the Rule of St Augustine and sharing their property in common. Unlike monks, who lived a cloistered, contemplative life, the purpose of the life of a canon was to engage in a public ministry of liturgy and sacraments for those who visited their churches. Apparently the canons sought to reflect supernatural order and stability within their priories, with examples of worship, farming, medical care, librarianship, learning, and so forth. The canons often worked in towns and cities, where the worship, medicines, education and the skills of the enclosed Benedictines were not present to the growing numbers of urban dwellers. By the twelfth century hundreds of communities of canons had sprung up in Western Europe. Usually they were quite autonomous of one another, and varied in their ministries.

Augustinian canon

Augustinian canon

I’m not sure at what age young men and women joined religious orders at that time, but my research into recusant families suggests that it was usually in their middle teens. Even so, this doesn’t help us with determining Bartholomew’s date of birth, since although we know when he left Leeds priory – 1509 – we don’t know when he joined. I haven’t found any records for Leeds priory during Bartholomew’s time there, but two years after he left, Archbishop Warham of Canterbury made a visitation. According to a county history:

Richard Chetham, prior, said that all was well; John Bredgar, formerly prior, was now vicar of Marden, and rarely came to the monastery, but thought that all things were well; and Thomas Vincent, sub-prior, said that much had been reformed, but much still remained to be reformed by the prior and sub-prior. […] Besides the eight canons already named there were twelve others, making a total of twenty in addition to the prior.

St Mary Overy 

Bartholomew Fowle transferred from Leeds to the priory of St Mary Overy at Southwark in 1509, the year in which Henry VIII came to the throne. Presumably this was a promotion of some kind, but if so, it wasn’t yet to a senior role in the community, since that would not come until 1513, four years after Bartholomew’s arrival in Southwark. According to one source, Bartholomew Lynsted alias Fowle was elected sub-prior in January 1513, but there is a suggestion that he was promoted again to prior very soon afterwards, perhaps as early as February in the same year. Robert Michell had been prior from 1499 until his resignation in 1512, when he was succeeded by Robert Shouldham, whose term of office appears to have been less than a year.

Southwark church and London Bridge in 1616

Southwark church and London Bridge in 1616

According to oral tradition, there had been a church in Southwark, just south of London Bridge, since before the Norman Conquest. In the early twelfth century it was re-founded as an Augustinian priory, dedicated to St Mary, and became known as St Mary Overy (‘over the river’). The canons created a hospital alongside the church, the direct predecessor of St Thomas’ Hospital and originally named in honour of the martyr St Thomas à Beckett.

We know very little about Bartholomew’s time as prior of Southwark, which coincided with the tumultuous years of Henry VIII’s reign. We do know that he was present at an important chapter of the Augustinians in Leicester, on Monday, 16 June, 1518, when one hundred and seventy 1 joined in the procession, of whom thirty-six were prelati or heads of houses. According to one account:

As night came on they adjourned till Tuesday morning at seven, and when they again assembled, the prior of Southwark, with every outward demonstration of trouble and sorrow, appealed for a stricter and verbal observance of their rule. His manner and address excited much stir, but he was replied to by many, particularly by the prior of Merton. On the first day of this chapter a letter had been read from Cardinal Wolsey observing with regret that so few men of that religion applied themselves to study. On Wednesday, the concluding day of the chapter, Henry VIII and his then queen were received into the order.

Sources claim that Bartholomew Fowle was ‘a very learned man’, and not just in matters of religion. He was the author of the book De Ponte Londini in which he popularised a tradition about the origins of London Bridge, subsequently repeated in Stow’s Survey of London. According to one source:

In the early part of the Saxon times there is no notice of any town or other place on this spot ; but a tradition of Bartholomew Linsted, or Fowle, Iast prior of St. Mary Overie, preserved by Stow (Survey of London, book i, chapter xiii), notices that the profits of the ferry were devoted by the owner, “a maiden named Mary,” to the foundation and endowment of a nunnery, or “house of sisters,” afterwards converted into a college of priests, by whom a bridge of timber was built, which with the aid of the citizens was afterwards converted into one of stone.

In 1535 the annual value of Southwark priory was declared to be £624 6s. 6d, with its rents in Southwark alone realising £283 4s. 6d. On November 11th of that year there was a great procession by command of the king, at which the canons were present, with their crosses, candlesticks, and vergers before them, all singing the litany. However, if this was a sign of royal favour towards St Mary Overy, it was to prove shortlived. 


In 1531, following the dispute with Rome over his plan to divorce Queen Katharine, Henry VIII had declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England. Five years later the king, through the agency of his chief enforcer Thomas Cromwell, began the process of suppressing the country’s religious houses and appropriating their property. According to Wriostheley’s Chronicle for the year 1539:

Also this yeare, in Octobre, the priories of Sainct Marie Overis, in Southwarke, and Sainct Bartholomewes, in Smithfield, was suppressed into the Kinges handes, and the channons putt out, and changed to seculer priestes, and all the landes and goodes [escheated] to the Kinges use.

The priory of St Mary Overy was ‘surrendered’ to Thomas Cromwell’s agents on 27th October 1539. Cromwell himself signed the pension list, which granted £8 each per annum to two of the canons and £6 to nine others. There were eleven annuitants in all, besides the prior, with their pensions totalling £70 in all. At least one source claims that Bartholomew Fowle quibbled over his original grant of £80 per annum and managed to have it increased to £100.  In addition, Bartholomew was provided with a house ‘within the close where Dr Michell was dwelling’. Robert Michell was the last prior but one before Bartholomew, and had probably resigned due to ill health or old age. (A certain William Michell, almost certainly a relative, had witnessed the will of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst in 1525.)

Montague Close, Southwark

Montague Close, Southwark

In 1545 the priory buildings and grounds came into the possession of Sir Anthony Browne, and there were complaints in the manor court of Southwark that he had opened a public bowling green in the close and was allowing gambling there. Although he was a staunch Catholic, Browne remained a close friend of Henry VIII and became the owner of a great deal of former monastic property. His eldest son, another Anthony, was created Viscount Montague in the time of Queen Mary. It seems probable that Lord Montague lived in what had previously been the house of the prior of St. Mary Overy and utilised the other buildings for stabling and so forth. He died in 1593, leaving to his wife, Magdalen, his mansion house of ‘St. Mary Overies,’ for her life, with reversion to his grandson Anthony.

The area around the former priory buildings became known as Montague Close and, as I’ve noted before, it would become a notorious refuge for Catholic recusants, under the protection of the Browne family. 

Later life

There is evidence that Bartholomew Fowle remained in London after his enforced retirement, and also that he continued to serve as a priest. For example, in 1543 Dame Joan Milbourne, the widow of a former lord mayor of London, bequeathed money in her will to a number of priests to come to her burial at the church of St Edmund, Lombard Street, and to pray for her. She left the sum of £6 13s 6d ‘to my very good friend Bartholomew Linsted some time prior of St Mary Overies, to pray for my soul’. From this, we can conclude two things: firstly, that Bartholomew Fowle was well connected with the gentry of London, and secondly that, despite the religious changes of Henry’s reign, Catholic practices such as prayers for the dead remained popular.

The date of Bartholomew’s death is unknown, and I’ve failed to find any trace of a will, but a number of sources confirm that he was still receiving his pension in 1553. In other words, he lived for at least another fifteen years or so after his expulsion from St Mary Overy. This means that, like my ancestor and his relative Gabriel Fowle, Bartholomew may have lived long enough to have his hopes revived by the brief restoration of Catholicism under Queen Mary.

Nave of Southwark Cathedral (Anglican)

Nave of Southwark Cathedral (Anglican)

As for St Mary Overy, in time the priory church would be renamed as St Saviour’s (my 9 x great grandparents, Magnus Byne, rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer and Anne Wane, were married there in 1640), before becoming the Anglican Cathedral of Southwark in 1905. A Catholic cathedral – St George’s – was dedicated in Southwark in 1848.

My ancestor and the Ashburnham family

This website had its origins in my curiosity about a reference to the Langworth family in the will of my maternal 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle, a yeoman farmer of Mayfield, Sussex, who died in 1595. My ancestor’s will includes a rather hostile comment about his neighbour Arthur Langworth, brother of Dr John Langworth, the ‘church papist’ whose religious sympathies I discussed in the previous post. This animosity might lead us to conclude that Magnus Fowle did not share the Langworth family’s well-documented Catholic sympathies (three of Dr Langworth’s children, for example, married into known recusant families). However, another brief reference in Magnus’ will paints a rather different picture, and in this post I want to take that as a starting-point for discussing another prominent recusant family with links to my own family history. In doing so, I’ll be drawing on material already published on my family history blog, Past Lives.

An old map of east Sussex

An old map of east Sussex (Ashburnham is at bottom right of the image)

The very first beneficiary named in Magnus Fowle’s will turns out to be the most intriguing: ‘I give to Elynor Ashbourneham the daughter of Mrs Isabell Ashbourneham Twentie Shillings in gold.’ The Ashburnhams were an ancient Sussex family, associated with the village whose name they bore, which was near Battle and about fifteen miles from Magnus’ home in Mayfield. The Isabel Ashburnham mentioned in Magnus Fowle’s will was almost certainly the widow of John Ashburnham who sat in Parliament for Sussex in 1554. Isabel was the daughter of John Sackville of Buckhurst in Kent. John and Isabel Ashburnham had six children, of whom the Eleanor Ashburnham mentioned in my ancestor’s will was the fourth. Apparently she died unmarried. Intriguingly, after her husband’s death in 1563, Isabel Ashburnham spent her later years in Lambeth and in 1584 was buried at St Mary Overy in Southwark, a church which had powerful associations for my Fowle ancestors. Bartholomew Fowle, said by some sources to have been the brother of Magnus’ father Gabriel, was the last prior of the Augustinian house at St Mary Overy at the time of its dissolution in 1539. I plan to write about Bartholomew in another post.

St Mary Overy, Southwark, by Wenceslas Hollar

St Mary Overy, Southwark, by Wenceslas Hollar

It would appear that the Ashburnhams remained loyal to the traditional Catholic faith, at least initially, despite the upheavals of the sixteenth century. John Ashburnham junior, the son and heir of John and Isabel, and the elder brother of Eleanor, had an accusation of recusancy laid against him in 1574. By 1588 he had amassed so many unpaid fines that his estate at Ashburnham was sequestered by the Crown and later farmed out by Queen Elizabeth to her master cook, William Cordell. It was only recovered when John died and his son, another John, who presumably did not share his father’s religious scruples, became head of the family. The estate was forfeited again during the Civil War, due to the family’s support for the King, but returned to them at the Restoration. (Ashburnham House was eventually sold off and partly demolished in the 1950s. It’s now a Christian conference centre: I remember spending a weekend there in the 1970s). I wonder if it was the family’s loss of their estate that prompted Isabel Ashburnham’s move to Southwark, and perhaps Magnus Fowle’s generous gesture towards her daughter? The question still remains as to why a yeoman farmer was leaving money to a member of a distinguished gentry family. At the same time, I can’t help wondering whether Magnus’ association with the Ashburnhams indicates that he shared their religious principles. Although we know that his father Gabriel, a master at the Free Grammar School in Lewes who died in 1555 during the reign of Queen Mary, remained true to the traditional faith, I have no evidence that Magnus was a recusant. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t sympathetic to those who were brave enough to risk all for the religion of their (and his) forefathers, especially if there were long-standing links between the two families, perhaps connected with their shared patronage of the priory of St Mary Overy. The preamble to Magnus’ will provides few clues to his religious affiliation. Certainly there isn’t the appeal to Mary and the saints that we find in his grandfather’s will, but neither is there any sign of the sole dependence on the Passion and merits of Christ that we find in those of some of his more ardent Protestant descendants. Instead, there is a simple evocation of the Trinity, which Michael Questier claims was often a feature of Catholic wills at this period.

Ashburnham House, before its partial demolition in the 1950s

Ashburnham House, before its partial demolition in the 1950s

The recurrence of similar names in successive generations of the Ashburnham family, together with contradictions between the available sources, can make understanding their story confusing. So it’s probably useful to begin with a simple account of their journey through the turbulent sixteenth century. William Ashburnham died in 1530. Since his son John (1), who was married to Lora Berkeley, predeceased him, William left his estate to his grandson, another John (2), who was born in about 1528. It was this John Ashburnham who married Isabel Sackville and served as Member of Parliament for Sussex under Queen Mary. John (2) and Isabel Ashburnham had five children: John (3), Thomas, Anne, Margaret and Eleanor – the latter being the beneficiary of Magnus Fowle’s will. Eleanor’s older brother John (3), who was born in about 1545, inherited the family estate on his father’s death in 1563. It was this John (3) who was accused of recusancy in 1574 and, because of unpaid fines, had his estate sequestered by the Crown in 1588. He married Mary Fane and they had six children: Katherine, John (4), Thomas, George, William and Mary. John (3) died in 1592. His son, John (4), seems not to have shared his father’s religious principles and successfully recovered the family estate. He married Elizabeth Beaumont, Baroness of Cramond and was knighted.

Sir John Ashburnham (1593) by Hieronymus Custodis

Sir John Ashburnham (1593) by Hieronymus Custodis

Or, to put it more simply:

William Ashburnham (1) died in 1530

John Ashburnham (1), son of William, married Lora Berkeley

John (1) and Lora had a son – John Ashburnham (2) (c. 1528 – 1563) – who married Isabel Sackville (1545 – 1592)

John (2) and Isabel had these children:

John Ashburnham (3) (1545 – 1592)

Thomas (1549 – )




John (3) married Mary Fane – they had these children:

Katherine (c. 1570)

(Sir) John (4) (1571)





The names in bold are those referred to in the Recusant Rolls – see below. It’s also helpful to see events in the Ashburnhams’ family history in the context of key national events, as in this timeline:

c.1528  Birth of John Ashburnham (2)

1530    Death of William Ashburnham

c.1544 Marriage of John Ashburnham (2) and Isabel Sackville

1545    Birth of John Ashburnham (3)

1547    Death of Henry VIII – accession of Edward VI

c.1552 Birth of Eleanor Ashburnham

1553    Accession of Queen Mary 1

559   Death of Mary – accession of Elizabeth I

1563  Death of John Ashburnham (2)

1568  Marriage of John Ashburnham (3) and Mary Fane

1571  Birth of (Sir) John Ashburnham (4)

1584  Death of Isabel Ashburnham

1592 Death of John Ashburnham (3)

I’ve managed to find the names of various members of the Ashburnham family in the Recusant Roll for 1592. According to one source:

The rolls recorded the punishments and fines of those who refused to conform to the Anglican doctrine. After 1581, recusancy became an indictable offence, so recusants often appear in Quarter Session records and the fines levied were recorded in the Pipe Rolls. After 1592 a separate series of rolls called Recusant Rolls was created which continued until 1691 (previously recusancy was recorded in the Pipe Rolls). The Rolls could include other dissenters or nonconformists and show the fines and property or land surrendered by the accused.

1592 was a critical year for the Ashburnham family. It was the year in which John Ashburnham (3), who had inherited but then forfeited the family estate on account of his recusancy, died. His death offered the prospect of the estate being returned to its owners, once John’s son and heir, John Ashburnham (4), conformed to the state religion.

I’ve obtained a copy of the Recusant Roll for 1592. It’s written in legal and abbreviated Latin: I took Latin ‘O’ Level some forty years ago, so my knowledge of the language is a little rusty, but with the help of a dictionary I’ve been able to make some sense of the document. The Roll is organised by county, and in the section dealing with Sussex I’ve found two long passages which appear to detail the sequestration of the estate of John Ashburnham (3) and its occupation by ‘Willelmus Cordell magister coquus coquine domine Regine’ – William Cordell, Queen Elizabeth’s master cook – and (I think) its return to the Ashburnhams on John’s death.

There are two brief references to Eleanor Ashburnham in the Recusant Roll. In the first ‘Ellionara Ashburneham’ appears in a list of recusants fined £40. Eleanor’s name comes after that of one Eleanor Parker, a spinster of Willingdon, a village about fifteen miles south-west of Ashburnham; she is said to be ‘de eadem’ – of the same – and also a spinster. There is a similar reference a few pages further on in the document. The first list in which Eleanor’s name appears includes three other members of the Ashburnham family: Mary and Katherine Ashburnham, both said to be of Ashburnham and both spinsters, and William Ashburnham of Dallington, which was about five miles north of Ashburnham. Mary, Katherine and probably William were all the children of the recusant John Asburnham (3) who died in 1592. Clearly, they did not share the desire of their brother John (4) to conform to the Church of England, but instead maintained their father’s recusant principles.

There is a reference elsewhere in the document to a William Ashburnham of Ashburnham, but I’m not sure if he is identical with William of Dallington. There are also two references to a Thomas Ashburnham, who is probably another sibling of Mary, Katherine and William, but it’s also possible he was Eleanor’s brother of that name, who is mentioned in their mother Isabel’s will of 1584.

To summarise: we know that in 1592, three years before her name appears in Magnus Fowle’s will, Eleanor Ashburnham, the unmarried, middle-aged daughter of John and Isabel Ashburnham (she was probably about 40 years old at the time), was fined for holding fast to her late brother’s recusant principles. She was joined in this by two of her nieces and at least one of her nephews, and perhaps by her own brother. It’s worth noting that Eleanor’s nephews and nieces would have been in their late teens or early twenties at the time. They were all born in the reign of Elizabeth I and thus represented a new generation determined to hold on to the faith of their ancestors, despite the increasingly heavy penalties for doing so. If Eleanor Ashburnham was still being fined £40 on a regular basis three years later, when Magnus Fowle wrote his will, it makes his bequest to her of ‘Twentie Shillings in gold’ more understandable. It also makes it more likely that Magnus was sympathetic to Eleanor’s religious stance, even though he felt unable, for whatever reason, to adopt that stance himself and face the legal consequences.

The Vale of Ashburnham, by JMW Turner

The Vale of Ashburnham, by JMW Turner

I’m not an expert on Tudor history, but what I’ve read in the works of Eamon Dufy and other writers on this period makes me wary of assigning definitive religious identities to my sixteenth-century ancestors. When Magnus Fowle was writing his will, the separation from Rome under Henry VIII, the brief restoration of Catholicism under Mary, and the renewed separation under Elizabeth, were fairly recent memories. Magnus would have been baptised a Catholic, married in a church that was officially Protestant, perhaps christened his children in a restored Catholic ceremony, and was buried in a Protestant churchyard – and it’s perfectly possible that all of these ceremonies occurred in the same parish church. The divisions between ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’  identities were yet to harden, and the character of the separated ‘Church of England’ was still in the process of development. A (growing) minority identified themselves as proudly Protestant, and on the other side the recusants, like Eleanor Ashburnham, were defiantly Catholic. But most people, whatever their sympathies, probably kept their heads down and quietly conformed to whichever religious regime was currently in power. As we’ve noted in earlier posts, there were many at this time who were described as ‘church papists’  – that is to say, people who attended or even, like Dr John Langworth, officiated at services of the official Anglican church, in order not to attract heavy fines or other penalties, but secretly maintained their Catholic faith and practices. I wonder if my ancestor Magnus Fowle was one of them?

‘A notable hyprocrite and a man suspected all his time’: new information about Dr John Langworth

The lack of activity on this site since January reflects the fact that I’d reached something of a dead end in my exploration of the Langworth family and their recusant connections. To date, I’ve been unable to find any evidence of recusant activity in the life of Francis Langworth (1597 – 1688), youngest son of Dr John Langworth (1547 – 1614), despite the fact that he married into the Catholic Darell family of Calehill, Kent. Two of Francis’ sisters, Mary and Helen, married known recusants.

Canterbury Cathedral in the 17th century

Canterbury Cathedral in the 17th century

However, my interest in the Langworths has been re-awakened by some new information sent to me by Emily Buffey, the doctoral researcher in English Literature whose original email first sparked my curiosity about the family. Emily has come across a reference to Dr John Langworth in a book about the ‘trial’ of John Howson before James I, which took place at Greenwich on 10th June 1615. Howson, a prominent cleric, was accused of ‘popery’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot (1562 – 1633), a noted Calvinist. Howson’s answers to Abbot’s accusations were enough to convince the King that the charges were misplaced and to save his clerical career: he went on to become Bishop of Oxford and then Bishop of Durham.

George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury

George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury

The extract from the collection of Howson’s answers to Abbott, edited by Nicholas Cranfield and Kenneth Fincham, describes John Langworth as ‘a friend of Carier’. Benjamin Carier or Carrier (1566 – 1614) was a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, chaplain to Archbishop John Whitgift and also to King James. Interestingly, Carrier was born in Kent and served as rector of Old Romney and then as a Prebendary of Canterbury in 1608. John Langworth was also a Prebendary at Canterbury Cathedral until his death in 1614. Benjamin Carrier travelled abroad some time in the early 1610s, ostensibly for the benefit of his health, but in reality to make contact with exiled Catholics and to be received into the Church, on whose behalf he then proceeded to write a series of polemical works. It was partly Carrier’s conversion that placed John Howson, another good friend of his, under suspicion. One can imagine a similar shadow being cast over his Canterbury colleague John Langworth.

Cranfield and Fincham quote from a letter of 16th March 1613 from Archbishop Abbott to the diplomat Dudley Carleton (1573 – 1632), in which he writes:

You wrote unto mee once concerning two Lungworths [sic], whose father was a greate Papist, althought a Dr. of Divinity. Hee was a notable Hypocrite, and a man suspected all his time, but went to Churche, and received the Communion. His second sonne called Arthur is lately dead at Padua, as I am informed. But the other brother is come home, and for his demerith abrode lyeth now in the Gatehouse. 

This is intriguing, not only for confirmation of the suspicion that Dr John Langworth was a ‘church papist’, but also for the information about his sons. Sources seem to disagree about the number and names of John Langworth’s children. According to the pedigree in the Visitation of Kent of 1619, John and his wife Frances only had two sons, Thomas being the eldest and Francis the second, as well as four daughters: Mary, Anne, Helen and Martha. In his will of 1613, or at least in the summary version available online, Langworth mentions three sons: ‘my youngest son Francis Langworth’, ‘Arthur my second son’ and ‘my son John’. However, a note below this summary lists John Langworth’s children as Thomas, Arthur, John, Anthony, Francis, Mary, Helen and Martha.

The identity of the ‘other brother’ mentioned by Archbishop Abbott remains a mystery: was it Thomas, who married Margaret Clerke, daughter of Joseph Clerke of Surrey, or does his absence from his father’s will mean that he did not survive him? Or was it Francis? Presumably the ‘Gatehouse’ is the building of that name in Canterbury, which served as a prison. Further research will be needed to solve this mystery, but for now the most interesting thing about Abbott’s letter is the reference to the brothers’ absence abroad, and specifically to Padua. Did two of John Langworth’s sons follow the example of their father’s friend, Benjamin Carrier, and go abroad to make contact with Catholic exiles?

The University of Padua in the 17th century

The University of Padua in the 17th century

As I’ve noted before, the university at Padua seems to have been a popular destination for English Catholic students seeking to avoid taking the Oath of Allegiance, which attendance at Oxford or Cambridge would have required of them. John Hawkins, the recusant physician and writer who was the brother-in-law of John Langworth’s daughter Mary, studied medicine there, as did John Kirton, nephew of John Hawkins’ brother Thomas.

This new information suggests that at least two of John Langworth’s sons were active recusants, rather than simply ‘church papists’ like their father. As for John himself, it seems that his Catholic sympathies emerged into the open at the very end of his life. Cranfield and Fincham note: ‘Catholic newsletters disclose that a Roman priest attended Langworth on his deathbed, although he was not received into the Catholic Communion.’

Francis Langworth (1597 – 1688)

In the last few posts, I’ve been exploring the lives of Mary Langworth and her husband Richard Hawkins, an early seventeenth-century Kent landowner and prominent Catholic recusant. Before that, I wrote extensively about other members of the illustrious Hawkins family, all of whom were staunch Catholics, and before that about Mary Langworth’s sister Helen, who married Nathaniel Spurrett, another recusant. Mary and Helen Langworth were the daughters of Dr John Langworth, the poet and cleric who served as Prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral but was reputed to be sympathetic to Catholicism. According to the Langworth pedigree in the record of the 1619 Visitation of Kent, John Langworth and his wife Frances had seven children. Besides Helen and Mary, these were Thomas, Arthur, John, Anthony, Francis and Ann.

Parish church of St Michael, Wilmington, Kent (via kentarchaeology.org.uk)

Parish church of St Michael, Wilmington, Kent (via kentarchaeology.org.uk)

Of these, we probably know most about John’s youngest son Francis. In the pedigree included in the records of a later Visitation, which took place in 1663-8, Francis is said to be of Wilmington, which is in the north-west of Kent, near Dartford, and some forty-five miles from Canterbury. The pedigree places Francis’ father John in the same village, despite his official position in Canterbury and the fact that some records identify him with other properties in Kent. The pedigree states that Francis was 66 years old in 1663; we know from his tombstone that he was born in 1597. Francis Langworth followed in his father’s footsteps, going up to the Catholic-inclined Hart Hall, Oxford, and matriculating there on 31st October 1617. The list of Oxford alumni confirms that he was from Wilmington, but contradicts the Visitation record in claiming that his father John lived at Ospringe, near Faversham, where we know that John’s brother Adam owned property. In 1620 Francis Langworth was apparently a student at Grays Inn, London. On 7th July 1628 he married Mary Tucker, who was born in 1602, the daughter of George Tucker of Milton near Gravesend and his wife Mary, who was the second daughter of John Darell of Calehill. The wedding took place at Little Chart near Ashford, close to the ancestral home of the Darells at Calehill.

Parish church, Little Chart (via wikipedia)

Parish church, Little Chart (via wikipedia)

This connection to the Darell family is one reason for my interest in Francis Langworth. The Darells of Calehill were another notable recusant family and were related to the Darells of Lamberhurst, whose history overlaps with that of my own ancestors. I’m interested to discover whether Mary Tucker inherited the religion of her mother’s family, and whether her husband Francis was, like his sister Mary and Helen, a Catholic. What do we know of George Tucker and his family? Apparently he was born at Milton, the son of another George Tucker and his wife Maria Hunter. He married Mary Darell on 20th February 1598, also at Little Chart, where she had been born in September 1577, the daughter of John Darell. According to at least one source, Mary Darell was George Tucker’s second wife, his first being Elizabeth Staughton. The same source claims that George’s will, made in 1622, reveals that he and his brother Captain Daniel Tucker owned shares in the Bermudas and were members of the Virginia Company. Apparently some members of the family would migrate to Virginia and become leading figures in the colony. Mary Darell, the mother-in-law of Francis Langworth, was the daughter of John Darell of Calehill, who died in 1618. Among his other offspring were Nathaniel Darell, a governor of Guernsey, and John Darell, a gentleman harbinger to both James I and Charles I.

Calehill House - demolished in the 1950s (via lost heritage.org.uk)

Calehill House – demolished in the 1950s (via lost heritage.org.uk)

According to the 1663 pedigree, Francis and Mary Langworth had three sons and a daughter, though other sources claim they had a greater number of children. At the time of the Visitation their son George Langworth was said to be of Froome in Somerset. Francis, their son and heir, was said to be 33 years old in 1663, which means he was born in about 1630. Daniel was apparently their second son. Their daughter Elizabeth was said to be the wife of George Sidley or Sedley of the parish of St Dunstan’s in Fleet Street, London. (The name Sidley or Sedley recurs in the Darell family tree: John Darell’s sister Elizabeth married a Robert Sidley, and his daughter Elizabeth married a Richard Sedley). Inscriptions on the family tombs in Wilmington parish church confirm that there were a number of other Langworth children who died young. For example:

Here lies the remainder of Mary Langworth, daughter of Francis Langworth who departed this life April 30 1663 at the age of [?18] years 3 months and – days. Here lyeth interred the bodyes of Sarah and Bartholomew Langworth. She dyed ye 5th of September 1650 aged 19 yeares 9 moneths. He dyed April 24th 1653 at ye age of eight yeares 1 moneth 22 dayes. She was the eldest daughter and he the 6th sonne of Francis Langworth.

It seems that Daniel Langworth also died before reaching adulthood:

Here lyeth interred the body of Daniell Langworth, youngest son of Francis Langworth who ended this life October 13 1665 aged 17 yeares 5 moneths 7 dayes.

Francis Langworth died in 1688 at the age of 91, while Mary lived for another 13 years, dying in 1701 at the age of 98. Born in the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, they had lived through the reigns of James I and Charles I, the Civil War and execution of the King, the Restoration under Charles II, and the short reign of James II. Francis died a few months before the coup that ousted James and brought William of Orange to the throne, while Mary survived almost until the reign of Queen Anne. The inscription of their tomb reads as follows:

Here rest the bodyes of Francis Langworth, gent., and Mary his wife who lived in wedlock sixty years and were married ye 7th of July 1628. The parents of seven sons and three daughters. He died the 1st day of June 1688 aged 91 years and 3 months being the 5th son of John Langworth, D.D. decd. Born February 25th 1597. She dyed the 29th day of January 1701 aged 98 years and 10 months being the second daughter of George Tucker, Esq., of Milton iuxta Gravesend, decd. Born March 1st 1602.

Their married daughter Elizabeth is also buried in Wilmington church, as we read in the following inscription:

Here rest the body of Elizabeth Sedley daughter of Francis Langworth, gent., of this parish and relict of George Sedley citizen of London by whom she had issue 2 sons and 5 daughters. She died ye 8 of October 1693 aged 61 years 15 days.

I’ve been unable to find any records that associate Francis or Mary Langworth with recusancy, or any indication of their religious sympathies. Francis made his last will and testament in August 1666, two years before his death. I’ll discuss the will in my next post, and among other things I’ll be scrutinising it for evidence of his religious affiliation.

Some notes on the will of Richard Hawkins

Before Christmas I posted my transcription of the 1640 will of the recusant Kent landowner, Richard Hawkins, the husband of Mary Langworth. In this post I’ll share some reflections on what the will can tell us about Richard, his family and his Catholic connections.

Richard asks to be ‘decentlie buryed’ in the parish church at Boughton-under-Blean, next to his brother Sir Thomas Hawkins the younger, who was recently deceased, and his parents Thomas Hawkins the elder and ‘Dame Anne his wife’, both of whom had died about fifteen years previously.

Hawkins family monument, parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Boughton-under-Blean

Hawkins family tomb, parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Boughton-under-Blean

Richard Hawkins makes generous provision in his will for five children – his sons John and Charles, and his daughters Katherine, Bennet and Martha. I haven’t been able to discover what became of any of them, though Katherine is probably the niece who is mentioned in the will of Richard’s brother Thomas Hawkins the younger. Notable by her absence from the will is Richard and Mary Hawkins’ other daughter Anne who, as I mentioned in an earlier post, joined a community of English Franciscan nuns in exile in Brussels and would have been about thirty years old when her father died.

Among the properties left to his younger son Charles is one in Selling, near Boughton, called ‘Solestreete’, which Richard had apparently purchased from Anthony and Thomas Langworth. These were almost certainly the sons of Adam Langworth, the brother of Richard’s father-in-law Dr John Langworth – and therefore his wife Mary’s cousins. This suggests a continuing close relationship between the Hawkins family and their Langworth relatives, though I have no information as to whether Adam Langworth or his offspring were also recusants.

At least two other relatives were among the witnesses to Richard Hawkins’ will. One of these was William Pettit, who was probably his cousin (Richard’s mother’s maiden name was Pettit). The Pettits, who lived at Colkyns in Boughton, were another prominent Kent recusant family. The other was Katherine Kirton, who was almost certainly a relative of the recusant physician John Kirton, described as a nephew in the will of Richard’s brother Thomas Hawkins the younger. Katherine may have been John Kirton’s sister, or perhaps his mother.

Wootton Lodge, Staffordshire, built by Sir Richard Fleetwood (photograph by Roger Temple, via geograph.org.uk)

Wootton Lodge, Staffordshire, built by Sir Richard Fleetwood (photograph by Roger Temple, via geograph.org.uk)

We learn from Richard Hawkins’ will that he had purchased annuities from two prominent members of the Staffordshire gentry, suggesting a connection of some kind with that county. Sir Richard Fleetwood of ‘Kullwidge’ (Culwich or Caldwick) had been created a baronet in 1611 by James I and served as High Sheriff of Staffordshire. Sir Walter Heveningham of Pipe had also served as High Sheriff. Both men were staunch Catholics and, despite their public status, had suffered for their recusancy, with Sir Walter and his wife being fined frequently for their non-attendance at church.