Thursday, 29 December 2016

John Baber, Vicar of Great Chesterford (1716-1792)

Great Chesterford Church

For many years, I have been aware that John Baber (1716-1792) was Vicar of Great Chesterford, a village between Cambridge and Saffron Walden in Cambridgeshire. However, because until quite recently, I could find only very little about his life, beyond the theft of his Madder plants having taken place, and that he had been a pluralist, as were so many of his brother Church of England clergymen at this time: I had assumed that his life and career was one of quiet contemplation, punctuated the weekly round of services.

However, with the recent appearance of the Church of England Database, [1] and the explosion of information coming available via the Internet, I am finding that his life has considerable interest.

John was the brother of my 5 x great grandfather, Thomas Draper Baber, the fourth son of John Baber 1684 – 1765 of Sunninghill in Berkshire.

John was born shortly before the 4 July 1716 at Sunninghill in Berkshire.

Sunning-Hill Park, Berkshire. [2]

John and Anne had previously had three boys, Thomas Draper Baber, born on the 19th of May 1711, William born on the 2nd of September 1712, however he only lived a short while, dying on the 5th of November that year, and in April 1714, Peregrine was born and baptised on the 4th of the month. A further daughter, Charlotte arrived during August 1718.

They were brought up at Sunninghill Park in Berkshire, which had been inherited by their father on the death of their grandmother in 1719.  Their grandfather had died in August 1718.

We know nothing about John’s upbringing, beyond the fact that in 1722, it was costing his father £100 a year to educate all of his children.  It is probable that John went to Reading school, as had his elder brother Thomas.  John Loveday of Caversham described John’s father as “an admirable Grecian and polite scholar.”

John's father had inherited the estate from his late Grandmother, Mary the daughter of Sir Thomas Draper; however, much of the money had already been spent, and it is probable that John’s father was one of those who lost heavily with the bursting of the South Sea Bubble.

John’s father had been a passionate stag hunter, who also ran a literary spa based around the Wells Inn Public house. The house was run as a spa which became a resort for many of the local gentry, and literary names of the day, including Lord Hervey and Lady Montagu Wortley.

However, family life must have been strained, because on 7th of July 1727 his parents separated. This must have been a traumatic event for the children. His mother was Lady Anne Stawell, who had married John Baber of Sunninghill on the 28th of April 1710.

Until the 1720's the marriage had endured, however it was to end in a complex divorce, which in those days entailed the passing of an Act of Parliament. A huge document survives in the National Archives at Kew that sets out John's case for divorce, based on desertion.  Anne was absenting herself to London, and spending £500 a year on dresses and extravagant living.

John's father meanwhile was building sets of farm houses and buildings at £400 on his estate at East Ham for each and spending freely on books, amassing at least 2,500 titles.

When John was 19, he went up to St John’s College Oxford, where he Matriculated on February the 6th 1735 – 6. He took his B.A. there in 1739.

In the following year he was ordained Deacon at Bangor on the 1st June 1740. It is not known what John did for the following six years, but on the 10th of October 1746, John became the domestic chaplain to Edward 4th Baron Stawell of Somerton in Somerset.

Edward 4th Baron Stawell (1685-1755) by Michael Dahl.[4]

Edward, Baron Stowell was the nephew of John's mother Anne. Edward Stawell lived at Hinton Ampner in Hampshire, Aldermaston Court, and occasionally at Somerton in Somerset. It is very probable that he also had a house in London as well. It is not possible to say just how much time that John Baber would have spent in his role as domestic chaplain to Baron Stawell, but presumably it must have been a fairly comfortable time.

The Surviving gates to Aldermarston Court.

Stawell's home at Aldermaston, was the closest to to the Baber family home at Sunninghill, and was most probably where John Baber acted as Chaplain to the Baron.  The fact that the Baron felt able to employ John, when his sister Anne had been divorced by John Baber's father, suggests that John and his mother had maintained contact following her divorce.

We don't know where Anne lived after her divorce, but it is very likely that she spent some of her time at Aldermarston. After her death, she was buried in the Baber family vault at Sunninghill Church.

A year or so later, on the 2nd of December 1747, he took his M.A. degree at Cambridge. On the 6th of March 1747-8 he was ordained at Lincoln, and became Rector of Little Chesterford on the 9th of March 1748, and Vicar of Great Chesterford on the 22nd of March 1748.

Little Chesterford Church

While we know that John married Elizabeth Bate Prissick, at present I cannot establish when the marriage took place, or indeed where.  What I have been able to establish is that her father was Codrington John Prissick who came from Carlton in North Yorkshire [5]

Codrington John Prissick had been baptised in 1701 at St Dunstan's in the East End of London. He was the son of Christopher Prissick and Sarah (nee Codrington), who had been married in 1691 in Barbados, where Sarah had been the daughter of one of the major landowning families on the Island at that time.

Codrington Johns' father, Christopher, originated from Carlton in Yorkshire, and was a wealthy merchant, who appears to have lived in London, but then moved back to Carlton before his death in 1718.

Codrington John Prissick was married in 1723, at Whorlton, North Yorkshire, to Elizabeth Perrott [6], daughter of Charles Perrott, sometime Mayor of York, and they had at least 7 children, who were baptised in Carlton between 1724 and 1736.

Codrington John Prissick inherited significant properties from his father in 1718, including the manor of Carlton and its associated Alum mines. 

The Manor House at Carlton, probable childhood home to Elizabeth Prissick.

The alum mines have a particular significance, as Alum could be used not just as part of textile dying process, but was also used extensively for the refining of raw sugar loaves.

It is probably highly significant that her father was Codrington John Prissick.  The Codrington family under Christopher Codrington (c. 1600-1656) had been amongst the most successful of the pioneering settlers in Barbados. Chistopher Codrington married Frances Drax, who had several sons, including John Codrington (c.1642-c.1688) who had married Sarah Bate, daughter of Colonel William Bate of Barbados.

This marriage produced at least five children, including Sarah Codrington, who had married Christopher Prissick of London, parents of Codrington John Prissick.[7]

Former Alum Mines on Carlton Bank, looking north towards Middlesborough

Note how Elizabeth Bate Prissick has the middle name Bate.  This naming pattern was very common during the 18th Century, with my great x 4 grandfather Samuel Hawkins, a London solicitor and promoter of loans to South Wales mining interests calling his sons by long strings of names including Bennett, Popkin, and after a number of other mining owners who were amongst his clients.

John Baber appears to have suggested this practice to his brother Thomas. John's living at Great Chesterford was within the gift of the Hervey family, major East Anglian landowners, with the result that my 3 x great grandfather was called Henry Hervey Baber, and he had Thomas Hervey Baber, and James Hervey Baber for brothers.

There were many members of the Bate family active in Barbados and Antigua while Elizabeth was a child, and it is probable that one of them was invited to become her Godfather.

Late 19th Century Mapping of Carlton Bank, showing both the former Alum mines,
but also the Jet Workings.

Quite a number of the early colonial planters tried to vertically integrate their sugar plantations, by using brothers or other close family members to organise the marketing of the sugar in England or to the Continent. Two thirds of the sugar arriving in England was for onward sale to Europe.

It looks as if the Prissick family had repatriated funds to England, and had bought up the Alum mines so that they could supply Alum to the processing works in Antigua where their main plantations were.

The Alum mines at Charlton have been restored over the past 30 years, removing much of the former workings, but as the following image shows, their effect on the landscape is still clearly to be seen from the following aerial photograph.

Alum and Jet Mines on Charlton Bank.  
The village is situated in the plain to the north of the escarpment.

Because it is not at all clear where Elizabeth and John were married, and because a gap of about five years exists in John's documentation, it is entirely possible that John had made the voyage to the West Indies, and this may have been where they met.

John Baber's father had spent some of his childhood in Spain, and when his library was sold in 1766, it contained what was then the largest collection of Spanish and Italian books in England. These included a number of titles on the Spanish colonies in South America and the Spanish Main.  John's brother Peregrine Baber had made the journey to the West Indies as a Marine Officer where he had taken part in the ill fated siege of Cartagena in 1746.  The regiment of Marines Peregrine served in was raised in Hartlepool and South Shields.

It is quite possible that John was involved in this expedition, or may have already been in the West Indies.

It does appear however that not all was well, with Elizabeth's father as the properties were passed on to his Uncle John Prissick during the 1740s.

By October 1746, John was active and appears in the records in England once again.

Appointed Vicar of Great Chesterford on the 22nd of March 1748, he now had two parishes to run, situated a little over a mile apart.  Great Chesterford was not situated on the main London to Cambridge road, although these were not far removed. It was however on the main London to Newmarket route, much used by crowds visiting the horse races. As such the village was well supplied with pubs and inns.

Interior of Great Chesterford Church.

As far as we can tell John and Elizabeth Baber lived in Great Chesterford for the next twenty years. There is no record of their having any children, and it is not entirely clear where in the village they lived.  There are at least three vicarages in the village. One in the grounds of the other two, is a modern post 1970's vicarage, while the second larger one behind the church appears both too recent for the family to have lived in, as well as two large.

Next to the church gate is the "Old Vicarage" which appears to have a considerable amount of 15th Century, or possibly earlier woodwork in its structure.

I believe that this is the most likely house to have been the home to John and Elizabeth Baber.

The Old Vicarage, Great Chesterford. 
The Church gate can be seen to the right of the photo.

Codrington John Prissick died in 1753, at which time he was living in York. The administration of his estate was granted in that year. A possible clue to the loss of his property being that the administration was granted to his principal creditor, a Joseph Hawksworth of the City of York, a Wine & Spirit Merchant. [8]

Ockley's History of the Saracens.

One of the frustrations of historical research into ones ancestors, is that it is very hard to find out what caught their interest.  In the case of John Baber, we get a tantalising glimpse from the fact that he was interested enough in Islam and the rise of the Saracen Empire to buy Simon Ockley's book, The History of the Saracen's. The book had been written in about 1708 by Ockley who was Vicar of Swavesey and was appointed professor of Arabic in 1711.  Ockley who fell into debt was imprisoned in Cambridge Castle in 1718, and had died in 1720.  The life of Mohammed was added by Roger Long who reissued the book in 1757 as a way of relieving the distress Ockley's destitute daughter was in. Perhaps this is why John bought the book, perhaps he was aware of her plight.

The subscription page for surnames beginning with B.

Aged 47, on the 3rd of March 1763 John became Chaplain to Robert Carteret, 3rd Earl of Granville (1721-1776). Robert Carteret had succeeded to his father’s title on the death of the latter on the 2nd of January 1763.

Robert Carteret, 3rd Earl of Granville (1721-1776) by John Smart [9]

It is not clear why John Baber should have wished to take up this post, however the Carteret family, who were originally from the Isle of Jersey had had property in Sunninghill in Berkshire, and as such must have know the Baber family for much of the previous hundred years.

Robert Carteret was the only surviving son of John Carteret, 2nd Earl of Granville. He is described as being of weak intellect, although through influence he had been secured a seat as MP for Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight in December 1744. An unsuccessful attempt had been made to have him adopted as a candidate for Cornwall in April 1744.

Elizabeth Wyndham wrote in 1744:

"Young Carteret has been at Wooburn, where he has raised the Devil in a manner so indecent that I cannot give you details. The Duke has told his father that he ought to have him put under control, for his head appears to be turned, as it may well be, for he drinks brandy from morning till night."

On 16 Aug. 1744 Horace Walpole wrote to Mann:

“About a fortnight ago he was at the Duke of Bedford’s and as much in his few senses as ever. At five o’clock in the morning he waked the Duke and Duchess all bloody and with the lappet of his coat held up full of ears; he had been in the stable and cropped all the horses.”

It is possible that John Baber was being expected to try to exercise some control on a less than rational being, who now had lost the restraint his later father might have tried to impose.

20 years later, and at about the time John Baber became his Chaplain, Elizabeth Montagu wrote of him:

"It is grievous to see such a creature represent the late Earl, who had all the grace and dignity of manner added to great talents".

Robert Carteret had had a mistress for over forty years who was called Elizabeth, and was probably of French origin.  He eventually married her, but died without heirs.

Elizabeth, Lord Carteret's Daughter?

The National Gallery of Victoria has a second portrait of “Lord Carteret’s Daughter” also by John Smart. Robert Carteret is not believed to have had any heirs. Was this a daughter who died before him, or is this really a portrait of his mistress?

It is quite possible that it was John Baber’s role to try to moderate Robert Carteret’s extremes, but if this was the case, he does not seem to have been at all successful, because another contemporary report described Carteret in 1776 as:

"rather deficient in his intellects, fond of low company, profuse, fickle and debauched. He appeared constantly in the mean garment of a groom or coachman, shunning his equals, and rioting in taverns with pimps and prostitutes. The conclusion of his inglorious amours was a Fleet marriage with one Molly Paddock, a woman of vile extraction, bold, loose and vulgar, the superintendent of a bagnio".[10]

Along with his estates in England and on Jersey, Robert Carteret had inherited a large amount of land in North Carolina from his father.

When in London Carteret appears to have lived at 3 New Burlington Street in London from 1764 to 1775, where presumably John Baber must have ministered to him.[11]

He also inherited Hawnes Park, in Bedfordshire situated in the village of Haynes, which was about 35 miles due west of Great Chesterford.

Hawnes Park, in Bedfordshire situated in the village of Haynes.

We don't know how John Baber divided his time between his duties for Lord Carteret and his parochial duties. Presumably he employed curates to minister to the villagers at Chesterford.

There is an interesting possible indicator both of the fact that with the vicar spending less time in the village, the locals felt that they could help themselves to his property.

Madder Roots, used to make red dyes.


CHESTERFORD, Jan. 7, [1764]

Whereas a small Plantation of MADDER, containing near a Quarter of an Acre, lying in the Parish of Little Chesterford in the County of Essex, and belonging to the Rev. John Baber, has been robbed of a considerable Quantity of Plants and Roots, to the great Detriment of the Owner; this is to give Notice, that anybody who will inform against the Person or Persons who have robbed the said Plantation, so that he, she, or they, may be lawfully convicted there- of, shall receive the Reward of Ten Pounds, by the said J. BABER. [12]

John Baber's signature.

In amongst a set of family autographs collected, very probably by my five times great grandfather Thomas Draper Baber, are two signatures from two documents dating from February 1766. This was the year when his father's estate at Sunninghill was being broken up and sold. Nearly a hundred years of their family life was being dispersed.

John Baber's second signature.

In 1770, Christopher Prissick, Elizabeth's brother died at Havannah in Cuba.

Havannah at about the period HMS Rippon and Christopher Prissick arrived there.

Christopher Prissick's will gives interesting detail of her wider family.

Prerogative Court Canterbury, Admons:
8 March 1770
Adm granted to.. 

- Hannah Gisborne (wife of Thomas William Gisborne) the daughter and admr of William Gyles decd (who whilst living was a creditor of the said decd)
- Elizabeth Prissick, widow, natl and lawful mother and next of kin
- Elizabeth Bate Baber (wife of the rev John Baber) and Hannah Rennie, widow, natl & lawful sisters
- Elizabeth Prissick, spinster, niece of the said decd having renounced and Ann Prissick, spinster, Codrington Charles Prissick, Thomas Prissick & Bate Hannah Prissick, spinster, the nephew & nieces of the said decd having also renounced by Elizabeth Prissick widow their natural and lawful mother and curatrix or guardian lawfully assigned.

With his previous employer dead, aged 60, and possibly finding parish duties too much John first found a new post as domestic chaplain, and then resigned his livings at Great and Little Chesterford.

On the 1st April 1776 John became domestic chaplain to David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassilis (c. 1734-1792.) The Earl of Cassilis estates lay near Alloway south of the River Doon. His home was at Culzean Castle, which he re-built, commissioning Robert Adam as his architect. The cost of the re-building greatly exceeded the Earl’s income, and by the time of his death he owed £60,000 to his creditors.

Culzean Castle built in stages between 1777 and 1792

Again, we face the frustration of not knowing how much time each year John had to spend with the Earl, or indeed where the Earl himself was living.  Presumably with the Castle being substantially re-built throughout much of this period, the Earl and by implication his Chaplain must have only visited the site of Robert Adams work.

James Boswell described the Earl of Cassillis as ”a good honest merry fellow.”

Before succeeding to the Earldom, David Kennedy had been working as an advocate living at Newark.

In June 1776, the following notice appeared in the Ipswich Journal.

The Rev. Edward Waterson, B. A. is presented by the Earl of Bristol to the vicarage of Great Chesterford in Essex, void by the promotion of the Rev. Mr. Baber.[13]

Possibly with a view to retaining a living in the South of England in the event that his employer died, or his role came to an end, John took the living of Little Chishall which is about nine miles west of Chesterford, set into the folds of the Chiltern escarpment, not far from Royston.

John became Rector of Little Chishall on 13th May 1776 and remained in that post until his death in 1792.

St Nicholas Church, Little Chishall.

The village of Little Chishall is very sparsely populated even today, and John's parish duties cannot have been onerous. It is probable that for most of the year he lived with the Earl of Cassillis as part of the Earl's household, and that he employed a curate to take the services in Chishall.

The Rectory, Little Chishall.

By  1782, Thomas Draper Baber, John's brother had taken a house in Newton, a village about nine miles due north of Little Chishall.

A map showing the locations of Great Chesterford, Little Chishall and Newton

In 1792 during his seventeenth-year Henry Hervey Baber recorded: -

“Went in July with my fath sic. (to) Great Chesterford and staid there 2 days in which time the Rev.d John Baber died aged 75.”[14] 

An entry in the diary of Henry Hervey Baber's recording the death of the Rev'd John Baber.

What is interesting, is that it shows that John had returned to Great Chesterford for his final years. Little Chishall was such a small village, that it must have been very isolated. 

It is unknown where John is buried. As late as 1827, it was hoped to bury Thomas Baber in the family vault at Sunninghill, but this provided not to be possible at the time because the church was being re-built in that year. It is quite possible that John was placed into the family vault at Sunninghill, as there is no obvious monument to him at Great Chesterford.

Great Chesterford Graveyard, the dates on several gravestones
 are those people who must have been his parishioners

A curious entry in the Clergy Database suggests that on the 22 February 1793 John had become Curate of St George Hanover Square, however this must be a mistake as he had died in the previous year.

The River Cam at Great Chesterford.

If you should stumble onto this blog perhaps because you are researching the history of your village or family, and you recognise any of the people and places named, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I am particularly trying to fill in the gap during the 1740's. Can you find John and Elizabeth, perhaps in the West Indies? Or perhaps you are aware of where in England they were?

Do you know of any accounts of visits to the homes of  Edward 4th Baron Stawell, Robert Carteret, 3rd Earl of Granville, or the Earl of Cassillis as I would love to be able to establish how John Baber fitted in his role with these domestic chaplain posts and those in his parishes.

I can be contacted at

[2] From
[4] National Trust, Hinton Ampner.
[5] In Cleveland since the changes to the County Boundaries during the 1970's.
[7] See Matthew Parker's book, The Sugar Barons, for simplified family trees, and much much more on the Codrington, Prissick, Drax and Bate families. Published 2011.
[8] “In February 2003, we received the following information from Mr David King who came across the Societies website whilst researching one of his Ancestors; Codrington John Prissick, Captain of the Arrow in 1726.  From”
[12] The Ipswich Journal- Saturday 21 January 1764.
[13] The Ipswich Journal - Saturday 29 June 1776.
[14] From “Memoranda relating the life of Henry Hervey Baber”, a handwritten diary of H H Baber’s life.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Buckden & Henry Hervey Baber's Ordination 1798

Buckden Bishops Palace and Church, December 2016.

For many years I have known that my great x 3 grandfather Henry Hervey Baber had been ordained at Buckden in Huntingdonshire.  The village used to sit astride the Great North Road, from London north to Edinburgh, although it is now bypassed.  Recently, I had occasion to drive past the village, and unusually I had time to go into the village and explore it in more detail. It was a cold drizzling afternoon a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Returning home, I looked up Henry's diary, and was agreeably surprised to see that we had by chance visited Buckden almost to the day, 218 years after he had arrived.

Entries from Henry Hervey Baber's Memorandum for December 1798
(Please click on this image and the others for larger versions)

In the life of any clergyman, the day of his ordination is always going to be a particularly important day.  Fortunately for me, a record of the events surrounding Henry's ordination survive, and recently I was able to visit the locations where these events took place.


11  Set off from Oxford for London -- Set off

12 On the following day went to Mr H Cowpers - and received my Title for Orders
-- which was at Ibstock in Leicestershire.
-- the Rector - Mr Madan.

Henry Cowper (1758-1840) was the third son of General Spencer Cowper and Charlotte nee Baber, who was Henry's great aunt  Henry Cowper was a lawyer at the Inner Temple,  grandson of William Cowper, clerk of the parliaments 1739–40, and great-grandson of the judge Spencer Cowper.

Family connections were being used to the full here, as the Rev'd Spencer Madan who was Rector of Ibstock, in Leicestershire, as well as St. Philip's, Birmingham, and Canon Residentiary of Lichfield Cathedral, as well as being one of the King's Chaplains, was a close relative of the Cowper family.

In 1723 Judith Cowper (1702-1781), a skilful poet, had married Colonel Martin Madan, groom of the bedchamber to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and MP for Wootton Basset. He had died at Bath on 4 March 1756, aged 53. Their sons included Rev Martin Madan, author of Thelyphthora a defence of polygamy and the Right Rev. Spencer Madan bishop successively of Bristol and Peterborough.

Spencer Madan, Rector of Ibstock, was the son of the Bishop of Peterborough, and Lady Charlotte Cornwallis, sister of the first Marquis Cornwallis.  His uncle was Bishop of Lichfield. His father had been Chaplain in Ordinary to the King until 1787, when he resigned his post, which was then handed on to his son.

As a puralist, with so many posts to fill, Spencer Madan must have needed several curates to service his other livings.[1]

Henry's entries for December 13th to the 25th, 1798.

13 met ( Isham there - on Thursday set
off from the White Horse, Fetter Lane by the
York High Flier for Buckden 61 miles, 
took up my abode at the George Inn, where I met
the rest of the Candidates for H. Orders. -- on the 
14, 15 Friday and Saturday examined by Mr
16 Maltby - and on the Sunday ordained a Deacon
by the Bishop of Lincoln.  There were
18 Candidates - 2 of whom were pluck'd. --
returned to London on Sunday night
on the outside of the Glasgow Mail.--

The White Horse, Fetter Lane in Holborn, 
departure point on December 13, 1798 for Buckden.  
The inn had been refurbished in 1794 by Landlord John Roberts [2]

The journey must have been an anxious one for Henry as he would face a searching interview and examination on his arrival. The route to Buckden up the Great North Road through High Barnet, Baldock, Biggleswade and St Neots, was not totally unknown to Henry as he had previously travelled down from it from Stamford in 1782, when he had been aged 7. Now aged 23, he was to face the final hurdle into his chosen profession.

As he checked in to the George, he must have apprehensively viewed the other eighteen candidates.

The George Inn, Buckden in December 2016.

Over the following two days the candidates were all interviewed and examined by the Reverend Edward Maltby. [3]

Maltby was the Vicar at Buckden. In 1794, Maltby had also become domestic chaplain to George Pretyman, Bishop of Lincoln.  His career had become assumed when his cousin Elizabeth had married the Bishop in 1784, and they subsequently mentored Maltby's career.  He was made a Prebend at Lincoln Cathedral, and then he had received the parishes of Buckden, in Huntingdonshire, and Holbeach, in Lincolnshire.

Buckden had been one of a number of travelling palaces, that had belonged to the Bishops of Lincoln since Medieval times.

In those days, the Bishops of Lincoln had occupied some of the most important roles in government, and had control of a diocese that stretched from the Humber to the River Thames at Dorcester.  By the end of the 18th Century, most of the palaces had gone, and many new dioceses had been split out from the original Medieval one.

The palace complex, which is on the opposite side of the road, a short distance north of the George survives to this day. It has become a Catholic Conference Centre these days.

The entrance to Buckden Palace from the former Great North Road.

Henry does not make it clear from his diary, however, it is very probable that it was inside the Palace that the interview took place.

The Reverend Edward Maltby (1770-1859)

The Palace had been at its most opulent during the 16th Century, when it was used by the Tudor Royal families on a number of occasions, as well as the Bishops.  By 1798, it was becoming quite run down, and in the 1830's large sections were demolished.

The Bishops Palace at Buckden, and the parish church
 where Henry was ordained as a Deacon

The Rev'd Maltby, who ran a private school at Buckden, was known to be a fierce inquisitor.  He would later become Bishop of Chichester  from 1831 until 1836, and Bishop of Durham from 1836 until 1859.

In any event, Henry must have passed the examination, as on Sunday the 16th of December, he was ordained as a Deacon by the Bishop of Lincoln.

Sir George Petyman, Bishop of Lincoln.

Sir George Petyman came originally from Bury St Edmunds, and went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge. Following his graduation, he stayed at the College as a Fellow, and had the good fortune have been appointed tutor to William Pitt the Younger, who had arrived at Pembroke as a 14 year old.  In 1780, Pitt stood unsuccessfully for parliament for the Cambridge University seat, but in January 1781, Pitt was able to secure the backing of the Lowther family who controlled the Pocket Borough of Appleby.  By 1784, Pitt had become Prime Minister, after the Fox North government had fallen.

Petyman was made Pitts Private Secretary, and used his considerable mathematical skills to advise Pitt on suitable financial methods to fund the government, and which were to play a major role in enabling Pitt to successfully fund the Coalitions set up in Europe to wage war on Napoleon's France.

At first Pitt's government was not expected to survive more than a few weeks, but it eventually ran for seventeen years.  There was considerable criticism of Petyman for having taken on the role of Private Secretary to Pitt, whilst still a clergyman. [4]

However, it did his career no long term harm, as Pitt in his role as Prime Minister, was able to appoint Petyman first as Bishop of Peterborough, in 1787.  In 1820 Sir George became Bishop of Winchester.

Interior of Buckden Church.

Although Henry does not say as much, I believe that it is most likely that he was ordained inside Buckden Church.

From the Clergy of the Church of England Database [5] it has been possible to assemble a list of eleven of the eighteen candidates at Buckden on that December day in 1798.

Richard Barnett
John William Robert Boyer
William Cowley
Peregrine Curtois
John Dolignon
Thomas Cotton Fell
John Tottenham O'Keefe
Martin Sheath
William Tate
William Thistlethwaite.

All that remained for Henry to do, was to return to London. This he did on the outside of the Glasgow Mail.  He appears to have travelled through the night, and it must have been a long and very cold ride, perched on the roof seats, in the position of the man in the brown coat in the following image as he was.

London to Glasgow Coach.  
Although this painting dates from 1815-1830, the earlier coaches were little different in style. [6]

If you are aware of any other details of the events discussed above, I would be very pleased to hear from you. I can be contacted on 

[1] See The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 7, page 205 and 206 for Revd Spencer Madan's obituary. [2] The Cambridge Telegraph Coach at the White Horse Tavern and Family Hotel, Fetter Lane, London, by James Pollard (1792–1867) from National Trust, Arlington Court and National Trust Carriage Museum
[3] See for more details of Maltby's career.
[4] For more on Sir George Petyman see
[6] See for more on the Glasgow to London coach services

Saturday, 24 December 2016

John Wolton, Bishop of Exeter, c.1537-1593

Joannes Wolton tomb in Exeter Cathedral

When I first found this monument to John Woolton, who was one of my 11 x great grandfather's, I was at first a little disappointed.

I had expected that as a Tudor Bishop of Exeter that he would have had one of those  grand tombs complete with an effigy, like that of Bishop Valentine Carey of Exeter who died in 1626 and which is shown below. 

Perhaps I hoped that I might be able to see what he had looked like.

Bishop Valentine Carey. [1] 

However as I looked at the tomb in more detail, and had overcome my initial disappointment, I began to realise that it was actually telling me a great deal about what John Woolton had probably hoped to be remembered for, and that by its very difference from the tombs of other Tudor Bishop's both at Exeter and elsewhere, he was sending us a clear message.

The sides of the tomb are covered with what looks like Elizabeth attempts at Classical symbolism. It draws its motifs not from Medieval or even English vernacular tradition that the other tombs used, but from Renaissance works sourced from Italy, going back to the Classical tradition.

I was then struck that while similar work is present in houses and other monuments built in England, these appear to have been first built in the period after 1600, a decade or more after Woolton's tomb had presumably been erected.  

End detail of John Woolton's tomb in Exeter Cathedral

He seems (or his executors seem) to be telling us that here was a Bishop who hoped to be seen as a moderniser and thinker.

This opinion is supported by the letter that the Earl of Bedford wrote to Lord Burghley, and which appears to have led to John's appointment to the see.

The Earl of Bedford to Lord Burghley.

1578, Oct. 10. Trusts that before this time he is recovered. Cannot but remember his lordship for a good bishop in this diocese, and, now that the progress is ended, trusts there will be time to consider thereof. John Russell told him how well Burghley took the letters written in that behalf, adding, if the Earl had written for any particular man, his lordship would have been willing to further him. Has small judgement in the choice of a bishop, and his chief desire is that a meet man might have the place. There is one Mr. Woolton, a canon of this church, a man well learned, of honest life and conversation, wise in government, and a very good and diligent preacher; has very often attended Burghley for causes between the Queen and the Church. Is well thought of in this country, and was brought up under the Dean of St. Paul's. Some speech there is in this country that Mr. Townsend should be in the election. Thinks him nothing fit for the place, and conceives so much the worse of him for that part he once played (which his lordship may well remember) for the College at Manchester.—Exeter, 10 October 1578. [2]

Endorsed :—“Mr. Wolton to be preferred to the bishoprick of Exeter.”

On August 2nd 1579 John Wolton was consecrated Bishop of Exeter at Croydon Palace by Edmund [3] Archbishop of Canterbury, John [4] Bishop of London, and John Bishop of Rochester [5] [6].

John's appointment was no doubt aided by the fact that he had been "brought up under the Dean of St Paul's" who was in fact Alexander Nowell (1507- 1601), his brother in-law.

Alexander Nowell, Dean of St Paul's

 Alexander Nowell's brother, Robert Nowell (born circa 1517-20 died 1568) was already well known to Lord Burghley because he had been appointed Queen's Attorney of the Court of Wards on 8th February 1560-1.

Robert who died in his chamber at Gray's Inn on the 6th of February 1568-9, had for many years acted on behalf of the Lord Burghley who took a key interest in the many under age heirs of major estates and titles, who had been placed under the control of the Court of Wards. In some cases he ensured the future prosperity of his own family by making dynastic marriages to these orphans and heiresses to members of the Burghley family.

John Woolton's brother, James Woolton worked as a clerk for Robert Nowell, and after his death he became one of his executors along with Alexander. Robert had died leaving an immense fortune arising from his legal work, but with no heirs of his own.

He however left a will, which instructed that the money should be used for good purposes. James Woolton and Alexander Nowell followed these instructions, and between the years of 1568 and 1580, the dispersal of Robert Nowell's legacy is recorded in "The Spending of the Money of Robert Nowell of Reade Hall, Lancashire: Brother of Dean Alexander Nowell, 1568-1580."

How did John Woolton reach a position to become Bishop of Exeter?

Well besides having influential friends in high places, it is also clear that he was a powerful and influential preacher. He had been very active across Devon throughout much of the 1560's and 1570's preaching in many locations.

This ability is brought out in the following letter dating from 1568.

To Archbishop Parker, July 2, 1568.

Salutem in Christo. I am desired by my very good friends, Sir Peter Carew [7]and Sir John Chichester[8], to pray your grace to grant dispensation of non-residence to one John Wolton, preacher. I hear very good of the man, and his desire is to have dispensation, not for that he intendeth to neglect his cure, (for he is reported to be a man of very good conscience,) but that he may more freely preach abroad in your grace’s province, and elsewhere, and yet to avoid the danger of the promoters, who are most busy against the best men. In consideration whereof, I pray your grace to shew favour to the said Wolton concerning the premises, which I nothing doubt but he will use to the more ample setting forth of God’s glory. God keep your grace! From my house at London, this second of July, 1568.
Edm. London.[10]

John Woolton (c.1537-1594), had been born at Pendleton in Lancashire, where his family had lived as tenant farmers from at least as early as 1425.

Wolton’s of Pendleton.

Halmote of the Manors of Penhulton, Chatburn, and Worston, held at Clederhow, on Tuesday next after the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 3 Henry VI. [6thFebruary, 1424-5]
The Jury from Penhulton, viz., John de Wolton, Thomas de Marseden, Richard Dissher, and Thomas del Chaumber have nothing to present. 

Although his father was evidently of relatively humble origins, his mother was Isabella, was a younger daughter of John Nowell (d 1525) of Read Hall, near Whalley, and the sister to Robert, Alexander and Laurence Nowell and twelve other siblings. It is very likely that the Nowell family was the more prosperous and important of the two families, and it would appear that the Woolton family may have sent the boys to take up service within the Nowell family household.

It is clear that the connections between the Woolton and the Nowell family were close, both as neighbours and fellow tenants of the nearby Whalley Abbey. John Nowell had had at least fifteen children, and as such he must have had to draw on the children of many of his neighbours as possible, in his search for suitable marriage partners for his many offspring. 

Indeed, so far and wide did John Nowell cast his net, that his offspring married into many other Lancashire families, and as a result, and through later marriages occurring during the 18th and 19th Century, I find John Nowell occurring in my family tree on two occasions

The area they all came from lay under the southern and western slopes of Pendle and was dominated by the Abbey at Whalley, which was to become the scene of one of the climatic events of the Pilgrimage of Grace when in October 1536, Nicholas Tempest and other leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace arrived at the Abbey and persuaded Abbot John Paslew and eight other monks to take the rebel oath.

Ruins of Whalley Abbey. [11]

The major centre of the rebellion had initially been in Louth in Lincolnshire (the Lincolnshire Rising, 2nd October 1536) and then in East Yorkshire, (the Pilgrimage of Grace, 13th October 1536) before it spread to Westmoreland and Cumbria by the following Spring.

The central Government very quickly suppressed the rebellions in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, before commencing a reign of terror on the local populations, many of whom were executed. Paslew would have quickly have become aware of the rebellions in East Yorkshire because of the close links that existed with the Pendle area.

Many families including the Nowell family were involved in droving young cattle across the Pennines as their keep ran out during the autumn via Wakefield (where the Nowell's also owned property, and grazing land) and then on to the south via the Great North Road to the pastures in East Anglia and close to London.

 What Paslew had probably not appreciated, such was the slowness of communications, was that those rebellions, had been crushed within 12 days, and were almost certainly over, by the time he had declared for the rebels.

All too soon the Kings officials were at the Abbey arresting him. He was tried and executed at Lancaster Castle in March 1537, and his body was placed into a Gibbet in the fields behind his families house in Wiswell. The Woolton land backed on to the Paslew land, so they must have been only too aware of the perils of non-conformity or rebellion.

The opposite end of the tomb, now playing the prosaic role as a repository for hymn books.

We cannot know what the Nowell and Woolton families thought about the fate of Abbott Paslew, however it is clear that they were less enamoured with the established Catholic Church than were many of their neighbours, and sometimes even close relatives.

This may have been down to their experiences as tenants of Abbott Paslew. The accounts for the Abbey survive in extraordinary detail, and they clearly show a change between 1478 and 1521, with expenditure on food and high living greatly increased towards the later year.  Paslew raised the rents and tithes, to pay for an expensive new Abbott's House. [12]

Was it their experiences as Abbey tenants, and when witnessing at close quarters, the extravagance that started to turn these families towards the Protestant cause?

John Nowell, part of the previous generation appears to have had conventional religious views, and at one point he intended to establish a Chantry at Burnley Church.

“His father, John Nowell, esquire, was twice married.  By his first wife, Dowsabel, daughter of Robert Hesketh, esquire, of Rufford in Lancashire, he had an only son, Roger Nowell; whose issue male, in a direct line, enjoyed the family estates for more than two centuries. By his second wife,Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Kay of Rachdale, he had four sons, Alexander,Laurence, Robert and Nicholas, and several daughters. In the reign of Henry VII. He obtained leave of the crown to inpark his estate at Read; and, in later life, gave a rent-charge in trust, to endow a chantry in the parish church of Burnley [13]; a design, which, owing perhaps to the mutability of the times, seems not to have been carried into effect; but he who projected the pious deed, we may presume, did not neglect to impress the infant minds of his children with congenial principles, to which Providence afterwards gave a better direction.” However for reasons that remain unclear, this never seems to have happened.

There is also evidence of a festering dispute that existed with the Abbot of Whalley, as is evidenced in the following note from 1535, although sadly, it does not give any details.

Order by the Erle of Derbye that enquiry to be made in a dispute between the Abbot of Whalley, and Sir Robert Hesketh and Roger Nowell, esq. whereupon he will make an award. [15]

What is clear, however is that John Woolton, followed the Nowell brothers educational path most probably at the urging of his mother, when he was educated at Middleton School.

Middleton Old School, founded by Thomas Langley in 1421. 

Thomas Mawdsley was the teacher at the school when Robert, Alexander and Laurence Nowell attended, and he must have been both a very good teacher, as well as having had a profound effect on the boys. Somehow he was able to educate the boys, from this rural upland backwater to the point that they could enter University, and would go on to greatly influence Tudor life.

I cannot establish whether Mawdsley was still present during the latter years of the 1540's when John and James Woolton went there. [16] Alexander and Lawrence Nowell went on to attend Brasenose College Oxford, where they were exposed to the works of a number of Protestant teachers including several who originated in Germany and who brought brought over doctrine developed by Erasmus and the other pioneering German Protestant thinkers.

Rodolphus Agricola

Soon, Alexander, was himself lecturing at Brasenose on the works of Rodolphus Agricola, who had been born in either 1443 or 1444, Agricola had died at Heidelberg in October 27, 1485. [17]
Rodolphus is thought to have originially come from Frisia. He had been educated in Holland and in Italy, and was one of the first of the later Medieval Scholars to study Greek as well as Latin.

Agricola became a close friend of Alexander Hegius, who was headmaster of Erasmus’s school at Deventer. He was publicly associated by Hegius with the school’s avowed purpose of teaching the tenets of the “devotion moderna”, and Erasmus met Agricola shortly before the latter’s death when he visited the school.

While at Brasenose it is said that Alexander shared rooms with John Foxe, later, the author of the famous book on the fates of the Protestant Martyrs during the reign of Queen Mary, to which both Alexander and Laurence Nowell contributed testimony.

“When he [Nowell] quitted the University, we find him in a conspicuous situation in the metropolis, as Master of Westminster School; where that excellent topographer, William Harrison, was, as he modestly says of himself, “sometime an unprofitable grammarian under him”. [18]

With the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the King and Thomas Cromwell had effectively destroyed much of the existing educational system in England. We cannot, tell if this was deliberate, but it was to have a profound effect on England for a couple of generations, as monks and clergy had provided schooling for thousands of boys every year.

It rapidly became clear to King Henry VIII that he had to establish schools for a new Protestant leadership in lieu of the monastic schools. One of his first foundations was Westminster School, that took place inside the precincts of Westminster Abbey directly opposite the Palace of Westminster. Alexander Nowell was chosen in 1543 to be the first Second Master, due no doubt to his ability to deliver Protestant doctrine to the students. This renowned seminary claims Henry VIII. as its founder; and Nowell was the second master on the new foundation, appointed in 1543, with the approbation, no doubt, if not the particular choice of the king,…”

Nowell is credited with having introduced the practise of the reading of Terence to the boys, and on one day of every week reading St. Luke's Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles in Greek with the elder scholars.

In 1551 Nowell has presented by King Henry VIII to one of the prebendary stalls at Westminster, which had become vacant following the death of John Redmayne.

It is believed that it was to Alexander that John Woolton owed his education and perhaps also his religious beliefs.

Following the death of King Henry VIII, on January 28th 1547, the nine year old King Edward VI came to the throne. Edward was strongly Protestant in his beliefs, and men like the Nowell's were in the ascendant. [20] This was the period when the majority of the churches were stripped of all their religious effigies, and when the Protestant Doctrine was imposed most strongly.

It was also period when huge controversies were created, and enormous cultural damage was inflicted, so that today the interiors of our churches are but a bare remnant of what they had once been. It was the nearest we came to a "Cultural Revolution."

On July 6th 1553, the King died at Greenwich, and sister half sister Mary became Queen.

On 26th of October 1553, only weeks after the accession of Queen Mary, John Woolton became a student at Brasenose College, Oxford, were Alexander Nowell was already a fellow.

Nowell had recently been elected member of Parliament for West Looe in September 1553, and was soon in trouble. He had previously been made a Canon of Westminster, which should have disqualified him from becoming an MP. The new Parliament was the first of the new Queen's reign.

Queen Mary was strongly Catholic in her beliefs, and almost immediately she set to work to return England to the old religion. The Nowell brothers were amongst the most prominent members of the Protestant establishment, and they soon came under pressure.

Laurence Nowell who had been ordained Deacon by Bishop Ridley, and who had been a school master at Sutton Coldfield was the first to flee to to Europe in 1554, travelling via Pembrokeshire and Carew Castle, where he was hidden by Sir John Perrot, for a while until a ship could be found. He is believed to have spent his time in exile first in France and then at Padua in Italy. [21]

The new Bishop of London, Bishop Bonner wished to restore the site to its former position as a monastery.

“In his [Alexander Nowell's] retreat from parliament there was perhaps no immediate personal danger. His escape out of England was not effected without imminent hazard; as we have the account, though less circumstantial than might be wished, from the quaint pen of Thomas Fuller, in his Worthies of Lancashire. It happened that he was fishing upon the Thames, an exercise wherein he much delighted; and while he was intent upon catching fish, Bonner, understanding who he was, was intent upon catching him; in which he had succeeded, and had sent him to the Shambles, had not Francis Bowyer, at that time a merchant, afterwards Sheriff of London, safely conveyed him beyond the seas.” [22]

Alexander had fled before May 1554, first to Strasbourg and then onto Frankfurt.

Woolton supplicated for the degree of BA on 26 April 1555, aged about eighteen.  Woolton was still up at Brasenose in October 1555, however, he is believed to have fled abroad soon afterwards to join his and possibly his brother Robert joined his uncle in exile in Frankfurt, where it is thought that he was a servant in the household of Alexander Nowell, where they remained until at least January 1559.

On 17th of November 1558, Queen Mary died in Westminster, and her half sister Elizabeth, who had been in confinement under what amounted to house arrest, was brought to the throne

This must have been extraordinary moment for the Protestant exiles in Germany, Switzerland and France, when the news reached them, for now they could consider returning to England.

Laurence Nowell was the first of the Nowell exiles to return. Whatever was the exact time of his arrival, his brother Laurence, who had also been abroad, obtained preferment before him; for he was installed Dean of Lichfield on the 29th of April, 1559.

His predecessor in that dignity had been John Ramsridge, D.D. of Merton College, a zealous papist, who was made dean in the first year of queen Mary, and leaving England without any compulsion, in the accession of Elizabeth, being much troubled at foreseeing the alteration of religion, he went into Flanders; where wandering about in great discontent, he was accidentally met by thieves, who robbed and murdered him.” [23]

Laurence was shortly afterwards appointed by Sir William Cecil as tutor to the Earl of Oxford.

“The new Dean was entrusted by Sir William Cecil with the education of the young earl of Oxford, his ward who afterwards married his beloved and accomplished daughter,Anne Cecil; and on prospect of leisure when he was about to be released from his honourable charge, he submitted a proposal to the Secretary, expressed in very elegant Latin, offering to frame and present to him an exact map of England.”[24]

His pupil was Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford who has in recent years been put forward as a possible alternative author of Shakespeare's plays. Whether Edward did, or did not write these plays is quite outside the scope of this blog, however he certainly went on to become a successful court poet.

Alexander Nowell appears to have returned to London by the 28th of May 1559. Presumably John Woolton as part of his household would have returned to England with Alexander Nowell. Nowell would shortly become Dean of St Pauls, and go on to become a key member of the Synod that in 1564 set out the basic form of the Protestant services that were introduced following the accession of Queen Elizabeth, and the return to the Protestant Church.

With Protestantism restored, John Woolton was able to take Holy Orders when he was ordained as a priest on the 25th of April 1560, by Dr. Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London, who he probably knew well through having both been in exile. [25]

On the 15th of August 1561, he was instituted to the living of Sampford Peverel, which was held by Sir Anisy Paulett [26]   This might be a misspelling for Sir Amias Paulet (1532-26 September 1588.)

Amais Paulet was the son of Sir Hugh Paulet and Philippa Pollard, and his name is sometimes spelt 'Amyas.' Sir Hugh Paulet had been made Governor of Jersey in 1550, and Amias went with him. The situation in the Channel Isles was a very serious ones with constant raids and piracy occurring,which involved the Paulets in considerable difficulties. They were trying to rebuild Mont Orguiel Castle, however they were struggling to get sufficient funding.

Sir Amias Paulet (1532-26 September 1588.)

Amias Paulet is known to have been strongly anti-Catholic, and when the first Huguenot refugees began to leave France and to arrive in Jersey in 1558 he appointed some of the priests amongst them as Rectors.

These priests were Calvanist and they soon established a reformed church. A second wave of refugees arrived in 1568, who were also welcomed by Amias despite his father’s misgivings.
Sir Amyas Paulet who came from Hinton St. George in Somerset made many diplomatic visits to France including one starting on the 25th September 1579 when he landed at Calais as Ambassador. He returned in November of that year.

Paulet, a strict Protestant, together with Sir Drue Drury were later appointed gaolers at Tutbury of Mary, Queen of Scots, by Elizabeth in January 1585, replacing a more tolerant earlier gaoler, Sir Ralph Sadler.  Paulet remained her gaoler until Mary's execution at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 February 1587.

Sampford Peverel Church.

It appears that it was while at Sampford Peverel that John was in contact with Sir Peter Carew.

John was made a Prebendary at Exeter on the 22nd of March 1566. [27] and on the 26th of May 1568 John Vowell, alias Hooker wrote a long letter to Sir Peter Carew from Ireland where Carew had estates, which he was trying to recover.

Sir Peter Carew.

“My Lord Chancellor being very sick in the gout, and my Lord Justice Fitzwilliams in an ague, neither of them being able to write their letters of commendation as they appointed, have willed me in their behalfs and in their Ladies’, to do the same unto you. My commendations to my Lord Bishop and to the Lady Rogers, and also to Mr. Mayor and his brethren, with an excuse for my absence. I trust you will not forget to bring with you your two physicians, namely Mr. Wolton and Mr. Narcissus. If Sir Gawen Carwe’s cook do depart from you,deal with Mr. Treasurer for his Nicholas.

Dublin, 26 May 1568.

John Vowell, als Hoker. [28]
The reference to Woolton's medical abilities is intriguing, because he became well known for his curing abilities, especially when as Bishop of Exeter he treated many townspeople in the course of an outbreak of the plague.

It was the support of Sir Peter Carew and Sir John Chichester, that first brought about his licensing to preach more widely outside of his own parish, and John Woolton began to travel widely across the county of Devon preaching in services in many churches. Devon was a deeply conservative community, and the new religion was by no means popular, so there must have been considerable hostility to much that John was preaching. Men like Paulet and Carew had witnessed the Praybook Rebellion, and knew just how precarious the position of the Protestant Church was.

What is believed to be the old Vicarage at Sampford Peveril.

John's abilities as a powerful preacher were recognised when as Johannes Wolton, on the 4th of May 1570 he was made Perpetual Vicar of Brampton. In Archbishop Parker’s register he is described as a preacher (concionator).

In order to support John in his role as a Canon at Exeter, where he read a divinity lecture twice a week, and where he preached twice on Sundays.

A great plague struck the city, and he and one other, were the only clergy who remained in the city, the others having all fled for safety.

He was also instituted to the Rectory of Kenn, on 15th October 1573. [29] This living belonged to Sir Thomas Prydeaux.

Whilst canon at the cathedral Woolton wrote a book in 1576 called “The Christian Manual, or of the life and maners of true Christians,” which is preserved in the Additional Manuscripts collection of the British Library [30]. Extracts of this book are published in “Society and Religion in Elizabethan England”, by Richard L. Greaves [31]. These extracts give a fascinating insight into the beliefs of my forebear.

John signed his introduction off “At Whymple, the 20 of November, Anno Dom. 1576.  Your workship’s humble John Woolton.”

The village of Whimple was in the deanery of Aylesbeare, about eight and a half miles from Exeter, on the road to Honiton. There was an annual fair at Whimple, chiefly for sheep, held on the Monday before Michaelmas.

The Christian Manual 1576

The book was dedicated to Sir William Cordell, (1524-81) Master of the Rolls [32], to whom “John Woolton Wisheth Prosperous Success in all worldly affairs, and in the life to come joy and immortal felicity.”

The manor of Whimple together with Aylesbeare, were the property of Sir Francis Englefield and Sir William Cordell, so that it is quite possible that John had been able to stay with William Cordell.

The Christian Manual was one of a considerable number of books and pamphlets that Woolton wrote and had published during the period from 1576 onwards.

The others include.
An Armour of Proufe; very profitable as well for princes, noblemen and gentlemen, as all other in authoritie,shewing the firm fortress of defence and haven of rest in these troublesome times and perilous dayes. Published London, 1576.

A Treatise of the Immortalitie of the Soule; wherein is declared the origine, nature and powers of the same, together with the state and condition thereof, both as it is conioyned and dissolved from the bodies.  Published London, 1576.

A Newe Anatomie of the whole Man, as well of his Bodie as of his Soule, declaring the condition and constitution of the same in his first creation, corruption, regeneration and glorification. Published London, 1576.

Discourse of the Conscience.  Published London, 1576.

The Castell of Christians and Fortress of the Faithfull besieged, and defended now almost sixe thousand yeares. Published London, 1577.

He seems to have believed in the importance of maintaining the out rigidly ordered society where everybody knew their place and maintained the status quo. The Elizabethan era was one of considerable social change with the development of a new moneyed middle class.

He asked everyone to live according to his calling, remembering, “that all men are fed and sustained of God, not to riot, but to live; and to learn with the Apostle, to ‘be content with that they have,’. [Phil.4:11].” [33] However he condemned courtiers and noblemen whose haughtiness and personal ambition made them hold themselves aloof from the lowly.  He believed that Anglican teaching required respect for superiors and gentleness towards inferiors as the means of preserving social tranquillity. [34].

The critical shortage of suitable schools for the sons of the local yeomanry and gentry had become really pressing across the country, and this led to the founding of Manchester College to which John Woolton was appointed to the Wardenship of in 1575. We also became Rector of Spaxton in the deanery of Bridgewater, although one wonders how he managed to travel between the two locations.  Presumably he must have employed curates at Spaxton.

A carved pew door from Spaxton Church showing a woollen manufacturer at work, belived to date from about 1536.

The death of Dr. Bradbridge the Bishop of Exeter opened up to John Woolton the vacancy at the See of Exeter, to which he was consecrated, on August 2nd 1579 John Wolton as Bishop of Exeter at Croydon Palace by Edmund[35] of Archbishop of Canterbury, John [36] Bishop of London, and by John Bishop of Rochester [37] [38]

Croydon Palace

Strype wrote in his “The Life and Acts”

Anno 1579.

I find the Archbishop in this Year at Croyden; so that either his Confinement was taken off, or rather he had leave for the sake of his Health to retire to his House at Croyden. And here John Wolton S. Th. P. was by him Confirmed Bishop of Exon, Friday July 24 and Consecrated Aug. 2. In the Chapel there, John Bishop of London, and John Bishop of Rochester assisting.  Thus we see how he exercised this part of his Archiepiscopal Function even under his Sequestration by Commission from the Queen.[39]
At the time of being appointed Bishop, John Woolton was so poor that he found it necessary to ask fifteen of his clergy to lend him £5 each so that he could afford to buy furniture for his palace; Exeter was at that time an impoverished see, worth only about £500 per annum. In order for Bishop Woolton to have sufficient funds to support his new role, he was allowed to hold two further livings in commendam: Lazant in Cornwall from 1584.

 At the time of John Woolton's consecration Archbishop Grindal was under what was effectively house arrest. By June 1576 Grindal had become concerned at the activities of a group of priests who were increasingly following the “way of Discipline in the Church, conformable to that practised at Geneva by Elders. Which was quite different from the ancient and present Government by Bishops and their Officers.”[40]

These followers of John Knox from Geneva were trying to introduce new forms of public prayer to replace the English Liturgy.  They were holding separate meetings across the country and trying to take over churches.

“But now they brake out in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire to act these Matters more openly to the making of great Hubbubs and Disturbances, by their Endeavour of setting it up in the Parish Churches.[41]

The Queen soon heard about these affairs, and shortly afterwards on the 7th of June 1576 Archbishop Grindal received letters from three of the most powerful of the Queen’s courtiers, led by the Earl of Leicester, followed shortly afterwards by a letter that arrived from Mr. Secretary Walsingham, and then another from the Lord Treasurer. From the latter, Grindal received the names of the two ringleaders.

“and withal the Names of two of the chief Sturrers of these Matters, viz. Paget and Oxenbridge.”[42]

Eusebius Paget (c1551 – 1617) was a Northamptonshire clergyman originally from Cranford St. Andrew.  He is thought to have become a chorister at Christ Church in Oxford as a twelve year old boy before matriculating at Christ’s College Cambridge on the 22nd of February 1564.  He later became vicar of Oundle and rector of Langton.  He had moved parishes to become Rector of Old, also in Northamptonshire, when on January 1573, he was cited before Bishop Edmund Scambler of Peterborough.  Bishop Scambler of Peterborough suspended Paget and some other clergymen including Arthur Wake of Great Billing, Thurston Mosley, George Gildred and William Dawson for openly defending work by Cartwright against Archbishop Whitcliff and established church.

In 1574 Paget was deprived of his living for his preaching. He then became a “posting apostle” in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire where he was one of the most outspoken Puritans.

Eventually Paget moved to Kilkhampton in north Cornwall, where at the request of Sir Francis Hastings, Sir Richard Grenville gave him the living. At this point he became a thorn in the side of Bishop Woolton, and in the following letter Woolton reports his initial difficulties with Paget.

May 20. [1582]

55. John Wolton, bishop of Exeter, to Lord Burghley (?). Unquiet state of the country by means of persons expelled from other places. Intends to suspend Padget for some disorders. Has prevented Matthew Eaton from appearing in Devon, against whom most grievous and unnatural crimes were charged. [43]

The situation continued to be tense, and in April 1585 six years after his consecration John Woolton was again attacked by the Revd Eusebius Paget Rector of Kilkhampton, in a series of articles of accusation.  These accusations must have been a very serious issue for John at the time, as they were sent up to the Archbishop of Canterbury, however for us today they are a fascinating read as they reveal a fascinating insight into his life and events in the Cathedral that would probably have otherwise remained concealed by the passage of time. [44]

John Woolton was Paget’s Bishop and previously;he had been sufficiently concerned about Paget to have made a visitation to Kilkhampton, which is located near Bude in North East Cornwall.

Following an investigation Paget was convicted by the Bishop of ignorance and wilful contempt of the laws. Paget was retaliating, and his articles against the Bishop charged as follows: -

  1. That he had never visited the whole diocese in his own person.
  2. That he had, in his first visitation, indirectly restored certain ministers into their places who had been justly thrust out by Dr. Townshend, one of the visitors, for their ignorance and lewdness.
  3. That, in his second visitation, not liking to have men of gravity, who loved the good of the church, he put into commission two unadvised and rash youths, to visit in his stead, who behaved themselves accordingly, to their discredit, his shame, and the grief of the godly.
  4. That, at his second visitation kept at Exon, in a church near his own house, yet he himself came not at it.
  5. That he preached very seldom; and that, in his own benefices, he might be presented for not preaching his monthly and quarterly sermons; yea, that he would be in his bed, or in his stables among his horses, or in his kitchen amongst his servants, when there were sermons in the church by his house.
  6. That he sold the vicarage of Newlyn for £100; and, at the same time, brought a benefice for his son, in Somersetshire, for 100 marks.
  7. That he borrowed a loan of the ministers of his diocese, towards the payment of his first fruits, which were forgiven him; but the loan not as yet repaid.
  8. That he gave the archdeaconry of Exon, in marriage with his daughter, to one Barret, an unmet person for such an office, having trained up as an ordinary serving man, and unlearned.
  9. And the archdeaconry of Totnes upon one Cole, who had little or nothing from it; and the profits were gathered up for the bishop, as one Bawton, the collector, confessed; and the said Cole died deeply in debt.
  10. And that since his death, the bishop gave the same to one Sweet, who must have nothing out of it for two or three years; and must resign it when the bishop shall appoint him. And the same person as before gathered up the fruits thereof, as he did before.
  11. That he gave the archdeaconry of Barnstable to one Law, his kinsman; who by his own confession, had but £20 by the year out of the same, and the benefice of Ashwater.
  12. That he made boys and ignorant men ministers, and that he made his own son minister, being but eighteen years of age.
  13. That he made his first wife’s father a minister, who had been the duke of Somerset’s cater, and a man unlearned, not having any understanding of the Latin tongue.
  14. That divers persons, priests, and others, were called before him for whoredom, and other notorious crimes; and he did not assign them penance, not yet release them, but kept their matters depending, that they might bring him in gain.
  15. That two harlots were got with child in his own house, which accused two of his men; but none of them brought to penance; yea, and still the men wait upon him.
Thomas Barrett[45], was Archdeacon at Exeter and John’s son in law began a visitation on the 6th of April 1583, which amongst other things demanded the clean defacement of all statues and other superstitious things in churches like roodlofts.[46] Thomas Barrett was married to Margaret Woolton, sister to Mary, one of my 10 x grandmothers.

On the 20thof October 1581, Thomas Carew, who was patron of Haccombe church gifted the living to John Woolton. [47]

Haccombe Church near Newton Abbott.

My great x 10 grandfather, John Baber was ordained as Vicar of Chew by Thomas Godwin, Bishop of Bath and Wells on 14th June 1589.[48]

We don't know how, or when John Baber, met Mary Woolton, the Bishop's daughter, however he was married in about 1590 to Mary Woolton.  We don’t know whether he had been at Exeter prior to his marriage however in 1591, the year following his marriage, he was appointed as a Prebendry of Exeter Cathedral in place of Thomas Langherne. He retained the position until his death in 1628, for Hugh Cholmeley replaced him on 14 August 1628.

Francis Godwin, (1562-1633) the second son of Bishop Godwin, married Susan, sister to Mary, on 13 August 1590, or shortly thereafter. He became a sub-dean of Exeter. Like John Baber, he was also a Prebend of Wells, as well as vicar of Weston Zoyland, and also Porlock.  Francis Godwin was a considerable scholar, and wrote many books, including what is now regarded as the earliest science fiction book, The Man in the Moone.

Bishop Francis Godwin, of Llandaff and Hereford.

The Man in the Moone details the adventures of one Domingo Gonsales, a Spanish adventurer who having had to flee Spain where he has committed a murder, goes to Teneriffe, and there he ends up befriending a flock of geese, who he trains to work in harness, and to draw him up into the air.

The Man in the Moone

After several weeks of successful flights, Gonsales unwittingly goes for another flight on the very day that the geese would have normally set off for their annual migration.  At that time Barnacle Geese were believed to migrate annually to the Moon.

Gonsales riding with his geese

After spending the winter on the Moon, the geese successfully pull Gonsales back to Earth.  

The book is still in print to this day, and is a great read.  What is however fascinating, is that the detailed knowledge that the book contains of the coast line of several Atlantic islands, the activities of the Jesuits in China and other matters that point towards Godwin having access to go intelligence material on the Spanish Empire.

This is not entirely surprising, because as a young clergyman at Exeter he would have met many of the late Elizabethan naval and merchant families from the West Country. Bishop Woolton had been tasked with developing Protestant Doctrines with which to combat the growing influence of the Catholic Counter Reformation that was spreading across Europe.

Living in Devon, the Bishop knew that he was potentially right in the front line of any conflict. Potential invasion forces were constantly being monitored along the Spanish coastline.

One of the Bishop's key appointments during this period was that of Dean Matthew Sutcliffe (c1550-1629.) Sutcliffe had been present with the English Army under the Earl of Essex in the Netherlands, where he had commenced writing his 1593 book, The Practice, Proceedings, and Lawes of Armes,
a pioneering study of strategy and the laws of warfare.

On the 27th of  October 1588 Sutcliffe became Dean of Exeter, a position that he held for more than forty years.

On the 9th of March 1607 he also became a member of the council for Virginia, and on 3rd of November 1620 of that for New England.

This busy man also founded Chelsea College in 1609, based on his previous work at Exeter, and Sutcliffe went on to train many of the translators who were to compose the King James Bible, one of the greatest works in the English Language.

The gateway into the Bishops Palace at Exeter. 

Although the windows are mainly later insertions, the earlier arrow slits of this early Tudor building survive.

The main palace building appears to have been largely re-built since John Woolton's time, however one other tangible item connected to the Bishop survives, which is a second monument set high up on the cathedral walls. It is not at all easy to get to a suitable angle from which to photograph the text.

Monument to John Woolton, believed to have been installed by Laurence Woolton, his heir, and a controversial Doctor in Exeter

One other "family" memorial survives in the cathedral. This is the following monument to Matthew Godwin, who was a younger brother of Francis Godwin.  He was appointed as organist and head of music in the cathedral, but died shortly afterwards, while only a young man.

Matthew Godwin, musician.

Francis Godwin was present in the Palace during John Woolton's last hours. Until two hours before his death, he was still writing letters, and when advised to take care of his health, paraphrased a quotation by Vespasian “A bishop ought to die on his legs.”[49] which were reputedly his last words.

John Woolton was survived by two sons, John and Matthew, and by five daughters, Margaret Barrett, Susan Goodwin, Mary Baber, Hester, and Alice. John, who had been a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, was imprisoned for a while by his father for converting to Catholicism

Mary Woolton married my 10x Great Grandfather the Rev John Baber of Chew Magna and Tormarton.  John had become a Prebendary of Exeter and this was presumably how he had come to meet Mary.

John Woolton has had a lasting impact on many lives, not least on mine, for he is one of my 11 x great grandfather's and tracking down his story has taken me into many aspects of Tudor life that I would have otherwise have been otherwise totally unaware. Thank you John.

If you are aware of other material relating to Bishop Woolton, or indeed any of the other main characters in this blog, I would be very pleased to hear from you. I can be contacted on

Exeter Cathedral

[2] 'Cecil Papers: October 1578', in Calendar of the Cecil Papers in Hatfield House, Volume 2, 1572-1582 (London, 1888), pp. 208-224 [accessed 28 February 2015].
[3] Edmund Grindal
[4] John Aylmer.
[5] John Young.
[6] n Apology for the Doctrine of Apostolical Succession: with an Appendix on ... By A. P. Perceval, page 196.
[7]Probably Sir Peter Carew, 1514-1575, of Mohun’s Ottery, Devon.  A younger son of Sir William Carew and Joan, daughter of Sir William Courtnay of Powderham.  He had been a soldier of fortune in France and Italy, then became M.P. for Tavistock.  He played a part in suppressing the Prayer Book troubles in Devon under Henry VIII.  A strong Protestant, he became one of the leaders of the Western Rising in 1554.  He fled to France, from where he planned a landing in England.  He narrowly escaped assassination by Catholic Agents in Venice.  He may have turned coat, as it is believed that he engineered the capture Sir Cheke by Philip of Spain’s agents.  A very good article appears on him in “The Marian Exiles” by Christina Garrett, pages 104 to 108.
[8] Sir John Chichester, d 1569. Married to Gertude, daughter of Sir William Courtnay of Powderham.  Like Carew above he was involved in piracy, and was a local MP.  He was involved in suppressing the 1549 insurrection, but although he was knighted early in Queen Mary’s reign he came under suspicion in the Western Rising of 1554.  See The Marian Exiles” by Christina Garrett, pages 118 to 119.
[9] The Remains of Edmund Grindal: Successively Bishop of London and ..., Volume 19, By Edmund Grindal, page 299.  Original in MS. C.C. Coll. Camb. Cxiv. 195.
[10] The Court Rolls of the Honor of Clitheroe in the County of Lancaster, page 159.
[11] From Kate Ash-Irisarri's excellent blog on Whalley Abbey.
[12] History of Whalley by T. D. Whitaker, LL. D. 1800. P.143.
[13] Revd. Ralph Churton, Life of Dean Nowell Published Oxford 1809.  Dedicated to the Right Reverend, the Lord Bishop of St. David’s.  Churton was Archdeacon of St. Davids, and Vicar of Middleton near Banbury. Page 4.
[14] See and also Thomas Dunham Whitaker, An History of the Original Parish of Whalley and Honor of Clitheroe for many more details.
[15] FILE  - ref. DDHE 57/14 - date: 20 Jan. 1535/6
[16] See for an excellent article on the school, and the Nowell connection.
[17] For a really good set of articles about the lasting effect, the learning of Agricola had see Rodolphus Agricola Phrisius, 1444-1485 : Proceedings of the International ...  edited by Fokke Akkerman, Arie Johan Vanderjagt
[18] Churton page 9, and also as the original source Holinshed, vol. I. P. 151. 2nd ed. 1587.
[19] Churton page 10.
[20] See for a good article on the boy King.
[21] The Marian Exiles, a Study in the Origins of Elizabethan Puritanism.  By Christina Hallowell Garrett published 1938.  Page 238 & 239. & 
[22] Churton page 20.
[23] Churton page 35.
[24] Churton page 39.  See the original in the Burghley MSS. Brit. Mus. Vol. Vi. No. 54. June 1568.
[25] History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, By Edward Baines, page 198. Published 1836.
[28] Calendar of the Carew Manuscripts: 1515-1574,  By Lambeth Palace Library, George Carew Totnes (Earl of), page 384.
[29] Lives of the bishops of Exeter: and a history of the cathedral, with an ...  By George Oliver. Page 141.
[30] British Library. Additional Manuscript  MS 35,324, f. 18r.  This book was republished in Cambridge in 1851.
[31] “Society and Religion in Elizabethan England”, by Richard L. Greaves published Minnesota Press 1981.
[33] “Society and Religion in Elizabethan England”, by Richard L. Greaves, page 16.
[34] Greaves page 22.
[35] Edmund Grindal
[36]John Aylmer.
[37]John Young.
[38] An Apology for the Doctrine of Apostolical Succession: with an Appendix on ... By A. P. Perceval, page 196.
[39]Strype, Life of Grindal. Page 242.
[40] Strype, Life of Grindal. Page 215.
[41] Strype, Life of Grindal. Page 215.
[42] Strype, Life of Grindal. Page 215.
[43] 'Queen Elizabeth - Volume 153: May 1582', in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Elizabeth, 1581-90, ed. Robert Lemon (London, 1865), pp. 53-57
[44] History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster,  By Edward Baines published 1832, page 198 onwards.
[45] Thomas Barrett, son in law of Bishop John Woolton, was instituted Archdeacon on the 14th January 1582-3, on the presentation of James Woolton, of London, gent. and William Brewton, of Exeter, notary public.  He died on the 25th of November 1633, aged 82, after 50 years in the post.  The History of Exeter, by George Oliver (of St. Nicholas' Priory, Exeter.) xxiii.
[46] Medieval English Roodscreens with special reference to Devon, a thesis by Michael A Williams, University of Exeter, June 2008. Page 98.
[47] Probably Sir Peter Carew, 1514-1575, of Mohun’s Ottery, Devon.  A younger son of Sir William Carew and Joan, daughter of Sir William Courtnay of Powderham.  He had been a soldier of fortune in France and Italy, then became M.P. for Tavistock.  He played a part in suppressing the Prayer Book troubles in Devon under Henry VIII. A strong Protestant, he became one of the leaders of the Western Rising in 1554. He fled to France, from where he planned a landing in England. He narrowly escaped assassination by Catholic Agents in Venice. He may have turned coat, as it is believed that he engineered the capture Sir Cheke by Philip of Spain’s agents. A very good article appears on him in “The Marian Exiles” by Christina Garrett, pages 104 to 108.
[49] Last Words of Saints and Sinners: 700 Final Quotes from the Famous, the ...  By Herbert Lockyer, page 59.