Saturday, August 07, 2010

Lords, Ladies and Lollards

Stones above lintel record it was given by Earl Derby, and when it was closed. But there's more to its history than that.
As on August 8, 1555...


UXBRIDGE, on the western edge of London, is part of the London borough of Hillingdon now, indeed has its civic centre, as well as the offices of several big companies. But in the shadow of modern office blocks and shopping malls there survive bits of the historic Middlesex town.

Having some time to fill in Uxbridge recently, I took a stroll down Windsor Street and had a look at the seemingly nondescript bit of land surrounded by busy traffic, and called Lynch Green.

There are still a few gravestones against the far wall to show this ground's former use. But what caught my interest first was the stone above the entrance archway informing us that "Henry, Earl of Derby, Lord of Stanley and Strange, Lord of Man and the Isles" had donated this bit of land or use as a graveyard in 1575.

There was a time when I only knew the Earl Derby as a pub on Kilburn High Road, apart from the 12th. earl's contribution to the horse racing calendar. But the 18th earl unwittingly stepped into my path about 1970, in a minor row at Lancaster, and that prompted me to read how his ancestor Lord Stanley withdrew support from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and, so the story goes, spied the defeated king's crown under a gorse bush, and niftily extracted it and placed it on the head of Henry Tudor. And the rest is history.

In 1579 Alice Spencer -one of the Althorp Spencers, from whom Diana descended - married Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, who subsequently became the fifth Earl of Derby. They had three daughters, Frances, Anne and Elizabeth. Her husband died suddenly, apparently poisoned, either because he had been suspected of a plot against the throne or because he had refused to participate in it. The Jesuits were suspected. Conspiracies affecting these families are not some new invention. Alice decided to leave Knowsley in Lancashire where they had been living, and moved to Harefield, where she is buried.

Uxbridge was growing, with its flour mills by the river and market. "The seventeenth century was marked by conflict. From 1630 to 1633 the townsfolk were in dispute with the Countess of Derby over the payment of market tolls. This was finally resolved and the occasion marked with a banquet. " (Hillingdon b.c. website) Before she died in 1637 , Lady Alice willed alms houses for six poor women of the parish, with a pound a year for repairs and a fiver a year for a curate to say prayers for them. You pass these on the way up from Uxbridge to Harefield.

But back in Uxbridge, Lynch Green had an association with death before it was handed over as a graveyard.
It was here on Lynch Green that three heretics were burned to death in 1555 Foxe's Book_of_Martyrs" tgives the names as John Denley, Robert Smith and Patrick Packingham", but other sources call the last one Patrick Rockingham. He was found guilty of denying the Trinity.

In the 14th century, a Yorkshireman called John Wycliffe had gone up to Oxford, where he was influenced by the empiricism of Roger Bacon and the logic of William of Occam. Wycliffe came to believe in the reailty of the material world, and in critical dialectic, and to preach against the superstition and corruption of the Church. He translated the Bible, believing that the more people who could read and understand it, the better.
"Even though there were a hundred popes and though every mendicant monk were a cardinal, they would be entitled to confidence only insofar as they accorded with the Bible."

As his preaching awakened people's ideas beyond learned circles, Wycliffe was blamed for the 1381 Peasants Revolt, though he did not approve of it, and he was denounced as a heretic, first by the Chancellor of Oxford University and then by the Archbishop of Canterbury. His followers were labelled "Lollards", meaning they mumbled their prayers, but actually they were claiming the right to say the Lord's Prayer and learn Bible passages in their own language, rather than trust the priest's mumbo-jumbo.

This movement - without any formal organisation though it was - became international. In the faraway country of Bohemia, after Jan Hus, master at Charles University had been burnt at the stake for heresy, it became a national revolt from 1419 – 1434, during which not just printing, as with Bibles, but that other great invention, gunpowder, was put to good use. Henceforth the privileged in their armour and castles were no
more guaranteed security than the Church was safe from criticism.

In the 16th century, Reformation in Germany brought on the peasant wars. In England, Kett's revolt in Norfolk, in 1549, though primarily a socio- economic struggle, was accompanied by demands relating to the Church and education. If a churchman was not up to scratch his congregation should be able to replace him, they said. Furthermore, they asked of the king, " We pray that every proprietary parson or vicar having a benefice of £10 or more by year shall either by themselves or by some other person teach poor men’s children of their parish the book called the cathakysme and the primer". A very modern movement.

The Lollards whom the bishops and authorities feared and persecuted in London, and in the Chilterns, in Amersham and Chesham, and Uxbridge, particularly during Queen Mary's Catholic reign, do not appear to have had any thoughts of armed revolt, or such like. Though often unschooled, craftsmen and apprentices, some unable to read, they tried to learn and study. A few might meet together, or pass on books to each other, or listen to an unapproved preacher. Watched by informers, and remembering the terrible fate of their fellows burnt at the stake in Amersham, in 1521, they depended on knowing whom they could trust, the 'justfast men", the "known men".

"The " known men " were largely poor and ignorant folk ; they shared in many of the faults and errors of the time ; but their faces were towards the light, and it was in their lowly homes, rather than in the palace or the cathedral, that the promise and the potency of the coming change really lay.

The Lollards of the Chiltern Hills
Glimpses of English Dissent in the Middle Ages
W. H. SUMMERS(1906)

And not just men, as we see from this testimony : "The poor fellow confessed that he had " learnt his doctrine " of Thomas Chase, and of Agnes Ashford, of Chesham, to whom he had paid seven visits before he could learn by heart a few verses of the fifth chapter of Matthew. His sister Marian testified that he had taught her the Paternoster, Ave,and Creed, in English, and that he had persuaded her for the last six years not to go on pilgrimages or worship images".

Pilgrimages and images were not just part of religious practice, they strengthened priestly authority, and they brought in money for the church, as the Lollards commented.

What money they had was to be put to better purpose: 'One John Sawcoat mentioned Richard Sanders as " ever defending them that were suspected to be known men," and as having "bought out his penance, and carried his badge in his purse." His wife Alice Sanders, according to another witness, gave Thomas Holmes a shilling to buy a book for her daughter, when he told her that a noble (6s. 8d.) would not suffice to buy it. Another time she had contributed 6d. towards the purchase of a book which cost no less than five marks (3 6s. 8d.) a glimpse, by the way,at the method by which expensive books were sometimes obtained'.Indeed, in those days these were considerable sums.

Though the Almighty might be all-seeing, his official representatives were not depending on him to see or to punish. "Thomas Holmes, ...horrified the townsfolk by the wholesale manner in which he now betrayed his brethren, and they came to the conclusion that he must be "a fee'd man of the Bishop." He named nearly sixty persons, not only in Amersham, and in the neighbouring villages, but in various parts
of Herts, Middlesex, and Oxfordshire'.

"Three victims suffered as near the Bucks borderder as the Lynch Green at Uxbridge John Denley and Robert Smith, on the 8th of August, 1555, and Patrick Packingham on the 28th of the same month".

'At last, in November, 1558, the Fiery Terror of the Marian persecution was brought to a close by the death of Mary on one day and of Pole on the next. Immediately on the accession of Elizabeth, a " Commission of Lollardy," which had been issued by Philip and Mary in 1556,was called on to give in its report, but it was only in order to stay further proceedings. Early in 1559 the acts against Lollardy were finally repealed; although, as we have seen, an oath against it continued to be taken by magistrates till 1625'.

It was not the end of religious persecution in England, though now the boot was on the opposite foot, for Catholic priests and the families who harboured them were seen -not without justification - as serving a hostile foreign power. But Elizabeth I enunciated the politique view when she said that she would not try to "open a window into men's heads" - outward conformity and loyalty to the monarch would suffice, and it was not till later that the authorities again became concerned over dissenters challenging the authority of the monarch's church.

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At 9:02 PM, Anonymous David said...

You don't happen to know why the pub in Kilburn was called that do you?
I'm trying to find out.


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