A History of the County of York: the City of York. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1961.
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Religion and the Reformation
The earliest surviving records of Protestantism in the city mostly concern immigrant craftsmen or their immediate descendants. Gilbert Johnson, 'Dutchman and carver', abjured his heresies in the archbishop's court in 1528. He had rejected the confessional, prayers for the dead, holy bread and water, fasting, and other ceremonies; he had also denied the authority of popes and bishops to curse any man, denounced the venality of the priesthood, and refused to pay tithes. Having abjured, he went on four long penitential processions about the city, undergoing discipline at the hands of the Dean of the Christianity of York. (fn. 1) Such spectacles doubtless acted as a deterrent, while helping to increase the rising tide of anti-clericalism which can be clearly traced throughout the diocese. In 1540 Denise Johnson abjured the heretical belief 'that the sacrament is not the blessed body of Christ' and was ordered penance in the minster. (fn. 2) Earlier in the year John Burne from Belford (Northumb.) was overheard by parson Joye of All Saints', North Street, ridiculing St. Mary Magdalen in the churchyard. His ribaldry—it seems little more—brought him into the archbishop's Court of Audience. (fn. 3)
Much more serious were the cases of the brothers Edward and Valentine Freez, sons of the Dutch immigrant Frederick Freez, one of York's earliest book-printers. (fn. 4) Though the story of Edward is related at some length by Foxe, its sensational episodes did not occur in York. An apprentice painter, later a novice in a monastery, he escaped to secular life and married; eventually, having been arrested for heresy, he was driven mad by a cruel imprisonment in the Lollards' Tower. (fn. 5) Foxe dates these latter events between 1529 and 1531. Edward's brother Valentine in 1533 engineered the escape of the Protestant Andrew Hewet from the house of the Bishop of London. (fn. 6) Imprisoned by Bishop Rowland Lee the following year, (fn. 7) Valentine apparently obtained his release through Cromwell's favour (fn. 8) and returned to York. In 1539, described as a cordwainer, he attained the freedom of the city by patrimony, (fn. 9) but in 1540 both he and his wife were haled before the Council in the North as sacramentarians, members of the extremist sect which denied transubstantiation. (fn. 10) Shortly afterwards, records Foxe, the pair 'gave their lives at one stake in York for the testimony of Jesus Christ'. (fn. 11) Independent evidence occurs in the York Register of Freemen opposite the name of Valentine 'Frees': combustus erat apud Knavesmire propter heresem. The pair probably suffered condemnation not by the church courts but by the Council in the North itself under the recent Six Articles. The House Book records under the year 1547 the adventures of two sacramentarian tailors, who had come from London to live in York. They are said to have been indicted, put into the sheriff's kidcote, and condemned to burning, but to have then recanted before the ecclesiastical judges in the chapter house and gone back to prison. (fn. 12) These two should probably be identified with the two sacramentarians Burdone and Grove, who were in fact convicted by the Council in the North and pardoned by the king a few days before his death. These were adherents of the Protestant martyrs, Ann Askew and John Lassels, from whose execution they had recently fled. (fn. 13)
All these Henrican heretics must be considered in the general context of contemporary heresy throughout the diocese of York. Despite the strong Dutch element, the recorded beliefs of this group are neither Lutheran nor Anabaptist, but Lollard: they compare very closely with other cases of the pre-Lutheran years. The immigrant families may have been pre-disposed by their origins to receive heresy, but surprisingly little evidence appears to connect their actual beliefs with foreign sources. It remains very hard to avoid the suspicion that in York, as in other Tudor towns, an outsider, whether Netherlander, Northumbrian, or Londoner, ran special risks of denunciation if he expressed heretical views.
In addition to these Lollard-sacramentarian heresies, the influence of the educated 'New Learning' was not wholly absent in the York area. One of its representatives was Wilfrid Holme, head of the ancient family at Huntington, whose poem The Fall and Evil Success of Rebellion was written in 1537 but remained unpublished until 1572. Previously taken as an account of the Pilgrimage of Grace, it has recently found recognition as a startling manifestation of the New Learning, devoted not merely to the glorification of Henry VIII, but to fierce invective against clerical privilege, monasticism, and scholastic pedantry. (fn. 14) Behind such an outburst one may sense the anti-clericalism from which even northern England was not immune. Everywhere it had been intensified by the pride and pretensions of Wolsey, whose long absentee tenure of the archbishopric (1514-30) and claims for his servants appear to have made him widely unpopular in York. (fn. 15) As far as can be judged, the number of the unorthodox in York must have remained small. The York wills of the twenties and thirties, with their numerous bequests to the friars and their conventional provision for satisfactory masses, suggest no imminent religious cataclysm. Alongside this démodé piety, runs the materialist and unromantic attitude revealed by the municipal dissolution of chantries in 1536. (fn. 16) The action appears to have had no protestant doctrinal overtones, but it indicates that by this date chantries founded in the previous century for the repose of their predecessors' souls now commanded little veneration amongst the York oligarchy.
As for the sympathy toward the Pilgrimage of Grace shown by so many York men, it forms part of a problem which passes far beyond religious history. The year 1536 saw the city restive and divided over issues unrelated to the ecclesiastical policy of the Crown. The old schism persisted between the commons and the ruling oligarchy. In May the commons riotously cast down recent inclosures on Knavesmire, quoting their M.P. Sir George Lawson as saying that a parliamentary Act had forbidden the inclosure of commons. Two citizens' wives were subsequently carted round the city for three days, to punish them for putting a curse on the mayor and his brethren for inclosing the common land. (fn. 17) A long series of inquiries in August 1536 ended in the confession and punishment of various persons who had persistently set up by night slanderous bills directed against Aldermen Hodgson, North, and Gale. (fn. 18) The lastnamed, it appears, had been slandered to the effect that he gave presents to escape the office of sheriff. (fn. 19) In September a violent altercation occurred in the Merchant Adventurers' Hall between Hodgson and Peter Robinson, merchant, who accused the alderman of being 'false both to God and unto the king'. Under examination Robinson alleged that his adversary had brought about his discharge from the common council contrary to the royal charter and so was untrue to God and the king. (fn. 20) On 3 November, during the Pilgrimage itself, the city council noted 'a murmur and great grudge' amongst the commons of the city occasioned by sinister rumours emanating from 'certain malicious persons'. That this movement had been directed at the conduct of the city finances then appears from the appointment of 2 aldermen, 2 of the 'twenty-four', and 4 honest commoners as auditors of the chamberlains' accounts. (fn. 21) This was specifically done to pacify the malcontents. A similarly secular conflict between the oligarchy and the unprivileged at Beverley had just played a clear and important part in the inception of the Yorkshire Pilgrimage of Grace. (fn. 22)
At York the commons took no such part in the earliest stages of the rebellion, yet their sympathies lay predominantly with the rebels. Wilfrid Holme relates that the mayor, William Harrington, would have resisted had he not mistrusted the commons of the city; amongst the other loyalists mentioned by Holme are Dr. Stephens (i.e. Stephen Thomason, M.D.), physician to the Earl of Northumberland, Roger Ratcliff, and the parson of St. Mary's, Castlegate. (fn. 23) On 9 October Lord Darcy, still behaving correctly, ordered the mayor to resist, pointing out that the rebels lacked artillery. (fn. 24) The following day the Sheriff of Yorkshire urged Darcy to send a force immediately to York to overawe its rebel faction. (fn. 25) The subsequent testimony of Lancelot Colyns, treasurer of the minster, illuminates the next stages. On 10 October Colyns heard of the rising under Aske in Howdenshire, and the very next day 'they were up in York itself', the insurrection being spread by the letters of a friar of Knaresborough, who said churches should be pulled down and men taxed for christening and marriage—the usual false rumours which contributed so powerfully to rouse the common people. The same day it became known that Archbishop Lee, Lord Darcy, and others of the king's council had fled to Pontefract: Colyns thought their flight encouraged the insurrection. (fn. 26) Darcy himself reported to the king from Pontefract on 13 October that he had told the mayor to look to the safety of the city and the good order of the people there, 'who, I hear, are lightly disposed'. In detailing the extent of the rising he adds that 'the city of York favours them'. (fn. 27)
On Sunday 15 October the main host of the Pilgrims, variously estimated from 20,000 to 40,000, (fn. 28) assembled at the city gates, and the next day Aske with 4,000 or 5,000 horsemen was permitted to enter. Footmen were excluded to avoid looting: they presumably found shelter in the suburbs and neighbouring villages. At the minster door the whole cathedral clergy received Aske and thence took him in procession to the high altar, where he made his oblation. (fn. 29) As for William Harrington and the aldermen, they wisely left no incriminating minutes of their actions in the House Book. Ironically enough the king was writing them a letter of thanks for their efforts on the day after Aske had made his triumphal entry. (fn. 30) Nevertheless, the wavering of Darcy and the royal counsellors must bear chief responsibility for the fall of York and the consequent further progress of the rising. The grievances of the York commons were local in character and their participation might have been avoided by firm yet conciliatory leadership.
During the stay of the host, monks and nuns of the small houses already dissolved were restored. Some of the gentry threatened to burn down the Treasurer's House, since it bore the arms of Cromwell. (fn. 31) The occupation was necessarily brief. On 18 October Aske left for Pontefract with a small party, and the main body must have started very shortly afterwards, since it reached Pontefract three days later. (fn. 32) The considerable force headed by Sir Thomas Percy and Sir Oswald Wolsthrope passed through York as late as 20 October. They made the Abbot of St. Mary's carry his finest cross at their head through the city, but he was unwilling, and stole away at the first opportunity. Sir Thomas, riding 'gorgeously' through the city 'with feathers trimmed', was greeted with special affection by the commons as the true leader of the oppressed but still popular house of Percy. (fn. 33) To the Pilgrims' conference with the Duke of Norfolk early in December at Pontefract, the city sent an impressive delegation, headed by Sir George Lawson and including an alderman, a sheriff, and two chamberlains. (fn. 34)
On the collapse of the rising an immediate royal visit came under discussion and in February 1537 the corporation listed the available accommodation. (fn. 35) Relief was doubtless widespread at the postponement of the plan. Henry did not in fact appear until the autumn of 1541, yet, even so, the city fathers were still justifiably flurried concerning the submission and the presents expected by offended majesty. Repeatedly they consulted the Duke of Norfolk and Archbishop Lee in order to ascertain the king's wishes. (fn. 36) They also perused the submission already made by the men of Lincolnshire and framed their own on similar lines. Reaching York on 18 September with his flighty young queen, Henry was met at the boundary cross along the Fulford road by the mayor, Robert Hall, the recorder, the aldermen, the 'twenty-four', and 120 of the most discreet commoners of the city wearing new gowns of fine 'sadde tawny'. Also in attendance were 60 notables drawn from The Ainsty. On the king's approach the assembly fell to their knees and the recorder made his fulsome oration. Lacking knowledge of God's word and ignorant of their bounden duty, they had heinously offended by the odious offence of traitorous rebellion. The king, having the lives, lands, and goods of these 'wretches' at his pleasure, had charitably and bountifully granted them his pardon. They 'from the bottoms of [their] stomach repentant' promised to spend their all in the royal service. This effusion over, the king was handed a paper bearing words to the same effect, and this was reinforced by presents of cups of 'silver double gilt', that for the king containing £100 in gold and that for the queen £40. (fn. 37) Whatever the domestic surprises then being prepared for him, Henry had good reason for political satisfaction as he retired to the King's Manor for the night. In the event, his visit proved an historical landmark of the first order. Never did York again offend his dynasty. It stood staunchly behind the reigning monarch until the universal defection of 1688. Above all, the king's appearance marked the end of the initial phase of the Reformation in the north and the erection at York of a reformed king's council destined to contribute so powerfully to the religious and political unity of the nation. Henry came to York only once, yet herein he did more than his three successors, who showed so marked a lack of curiosity concerning their northern subjects and dominions.
The disappearance of the chantries affected townsmen more intimately than the monastic dissolution. The York chantries fall into two groups: those founded in the minster, about 47 in number; and those in the city, about 41 spread among 19 churches. The former boasted somewhat better endowments, but the average annual income of a minster priest remained only about £5, as opposed to £4 for the city priests. Of the 49 minster priests, at least 18 were also vicars choral with separate stipends, (fn. 38) while nearly all the rest had other livings, or else pensions as ex-monks. Many of the city priests were less comfortably situated: 33 of them held the 41 chantries and of these 15 were not pluralists, thus being dependent on their pensions at dissolution. Everywhere among these small and decayed endowments, pluralism had become a necessity. It was not grossly abused, since, of all the chantry priests in the minster and the city, only four enjoyed very large total incomes of the £20 order. (fn. 39) The commissioners had few charges to bring against these priests and, with one exception, (fn. 40) described them by some such phrase as 'of honest qualities and conditions'. The minster priests are shown to have been markedly better educated than the rest, (fn. 41) though none has been identified as a graduate.
In addition to saying mass for their founders, the minster incumbents had specified duties at the cathedral services, while the foundation masses themselves were in some cases attended by strangers, casual visitors, and artisans. (fn. 42) The city priests mostly helped their parsons to administer the sacraments. Some foundations exercised a popular function. The mass of the chantry in Foss Bridge Chapel had formerly been timed from 11 o'clock to noon, but had now been altered 'by the advice of the parishioners there, as well as for their commodity as travelling people'. (fn. 43) The new time affords an interesting reflection on contemporary habits; it was 4 to 5 a.m.
Though the chantries were much the most numerous of the institutions dissolved by Edward VI, certain others demand brief notice. Three collegiate bodies came within the statutes. The college of vicars choral, a somewhat poorly disciplined body in 1545, (fn. 44) was noted by the chantry commissioners to be depleted in numbers and sorely ruined in endowment. (fn. 45) A royal grant of its site and buildings in 1545 speaks of the 'late college'. Nevertheless, the chapter obtained in 1552 a decree from the Court of Augmentations regranting the site and buildings to the subchanter and vicars choral. For the time being, the membership of the college fell to five. (fn. 46) Even this bare survival was not vouchsafed the others. With the dismissal of the minster chantry priests, the necessity for their college of St. William disappeared: the site was granted to Sir Michael Stanhope and John Bellow in April 1549. (fn. 47) Much more wealthy, and slightly more important in the outside world, was St. Sepulchre's College. (fn. 48) Its aged master, the distinguished diplomatist and civil servant, Thomas Magnus, had accumulated by an astonishing feat of pluralism an income approaching the enormous figure of £600. (fn. 49) Several of his prebendaries, though mostly of mediocre learning, enjoyed extremely handsome pluralities. (fn. 50) It should be recorded favourably of this plutocratic foundation that it distributed £26 annually to the poor of those parishes upon the endowments of which it battened. (fn. 51) Otherwise its dissolution cannot have been widely regarded as a calamity. It is noted as 'the late chapel' in a grant of 1 August 1550. (fn. 52)
In the lives of York people a far greater influence had been exerted by the religious guilds. That of Corpus Christi had enrolled 16,850 members in its history of a century and a half. (fn. 53) Up to its dissolution in 1547 it had also satisfactorily managed the hospital of St. Thomas, (fn. 54) but this hospital was still maintaining poor people in 1556 (fn. 55) and its continuance in the Elizabethan period has already been noticed. (fn. 56) The guild's own social work was modest but useful, for besides paying 6s. 8d. a year to ten poor people, it daily provided eight beds for poor strangers. (fn. 57) On dissolution the priests sold the goods and bestowed the proceeds at their own discretion. (fn. 58) Its real treasure was the magnificent shrine carried in the Corpus Christi procession and this naturally fell to the Crown. Presented in 1449 by Thomas Spofford, Bishop of Hereford, (fn. 59) and valued at £210, it must be numbered with the major artistic losses of the Reformation period in York. (fn. 60)
The important guilds of St. Christopher and St. George had long been functioning as one. Their affairs had occasioned one of the bitterest internal quarrels within the York oligarchy. About 1533 numerous witnesses testified in the Star Chamber that their former masters, Aldermen Ralph Pulleyn and Ralph Sympson, who had been unconstitutionally elected, had embezzled substantial amounts of the guild funds and had been abetted in this by the then master Thomas Thornton. Pulleyn and Sympson counter-charged the mayor, John Hodgson, with wrongful imprisonment, expulsion from their aldermanships, and other acts of oppression. This cause célèbre raged also before the Council in the North and in Chancery; it was complicated by proceedings brought in the ecclesiastical court against Sympson by his supplanter, Alderman Dogeson, an adherent of the mayor. Sympson, it appeared, had called Dogeson a cuckold and had defamed Mrs. Dogeson with the chaplain, Robert Johnson. (fn. 61) Despite this surrounding morass of feud and corruption, the guilds of St. Christopher and St. George continued until their dissolution to maintain the Guildhall and various bridges and highways, besides relieving certain poor people. (fn. 62) In December 1548 the city council sent the guild clerk to London to discover whether its properties came within the compass of the statute, and, if so, to sue for them to the king. (fn. 63) The following January Alderman North and the common clerk were ordered to sue in London for the preservation of the guilds, (fn. 64) but Sir Michael Stanhope nevertheless managed to purchase the properties before 31 May 1549. (fn. 65) By the following month the city agreed with Stanhope's solicitor, John Bellow, upon a further sale, and ultimately the Crown granted the city all the possessions of the guilds for the sum of £212. (fn. 66) To recoup a part of this sum the new owners then stripped the guild chapel of its lead and re-covered it with stone. (fn. 67) They had struck a very satisfactory bargain. The other religious guilds were apparently small parochial affairs. In the parish of St. Lawrence, for example, there was 11s. 6½d. in stock for the maintenance of a guild of St. Agnes, sums ranging from 2d. to 2s. being in the hands of certain parishioners listed in the chantry surveys. (fn. 68) Like so many medieval institutions, some had vanished by this date and therefore do not appear in the chantry surveys. (fn. 69)
Unlike many places, York entered upon Elizabeth's reign better equipped with schools than it had been during that of Henry VIII, a fact due both to Protestant and to Catholic zeal. The three schools established at York, Hemsworth (W.R.), and Malton (N.R.) by Archbishop Holgate in 1546 constitute a monument of the former, (fn. 70) while the Marian refoundation of St. Peter's after its eclipse in the early part of the century was specifically intended to 'ward off and put to flight the ravening wolves, the devilish men with ill understanding of the Catholic faith, from the sheepfolds committed to them'. (fn. 71) While in this sphere both the Protestant New Learning and the incipient CounterReformation thus find expression, one may doubt whether either movement made any significant impact upon the stolid citizenry of mid-Tudor York.
Within the minster close, matters proved very different. Archbishop Holgate's 30 injunctions for the minster, issued in 1552, exemplify the evangelical, scriptural, and educational approach of the moderate reformers. (fn. 72) Not all the minster clergy welcomed these changes. Amongst Holgate's local opponents was a deacon named John Houseman, who in 1553 claimed that the archbishop had refused to admit him to priesthood, since he was one of those in the minster who denounced clerical marriage. (fn. 73) In October 1553 the Marian government committed Holgate to the Tower: he was deprived for marriage in the subsequent March. (fn. 74) In York and throughout the diocese the Marian reaction nevertheless lacked the drama which it developed in those areas where Protestants proved numerous and their persecutors resolute. The new archbishop, Nicholas Heath, was a moderate and an absentee, while the chief ecclesiastical judges at York, Drs. Rokeby and Dakyn, seem in general to have exercised their powers with restraint. (fn. 75) Six of the cathedral prebendaries, William Clayborough, Thomas Cottesford, Robert Watson, Henry Williams, and Miles and Thomas Wilson, had married and were deprived between 1554 and 1555. Apart from Williams, all these men had been instituted under Edward VI, and were presumably known adherents of the new ways. Cottesford was a distinguished Protestant writer and a Marian exile. (fn. 76) Along with these six went at least two of the vicars choral, Walter Lancaster and Peter Walker. On the other hand, the clergy of the city parishes appear to have been deterred from marriage by conviction, poverty, or the pressure of conservative local opinion: among the recorded deprivations appear only those of Robert Cragges, Rector of All Saints', Pavement, and Ralph Whitling, Rector of St. Michael's, Spurriergate. The latter admitted to marrying, but finally agreed to live apart from his wife in order to obtain restitution to sacerdotal functions. (fn. 77) For the York laity the Marian proceedings also provided little excitement. An exception was the case of Christopher Kelke, a gentleman of York, who in November 1555 replied in the ecclesiastical court to certain articles 'touching the safety of his soul and the crime of Lollardy'. Three women of the parish of Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, gave evidence on his case, while Kelke called the York physician, Dr. Stephen Tubley, and a priest, John Clayby. Unfortunately, the court book omits the evidence and the sentence. (fn. 78) The term 'Lollardy' cannot, however, be dismissed as a mere anachronism since cases of pre-Lutheran heresy closely similar to these continue to appear in other parts of the diocese up to the Marian period.
Whatever the aspirations of the queen and a few other enthusiasts, the material results of the Reformation could seldom be undone. The corporation petitioned Cardinal Pole in vain for the restoration of St. Leonard's Hospital (fn. 79) and continued its efforts to gain a grant of the chantry lands in the city. (fn. 80) One of the few Marian 'restorations' in York affected the Corpus Christi plays. In May 1548 the pageants depicting the death, assumption, and coronation of the Virgin had been omitted by order of the corporation. (fn. 81) In February 1554, however, they were restored. (fn. 82) At the same time, there are small grounds for any supposition that York opinion ardently ranged itself behind the policy of Queen Mary. Her lengthy and enthusiastic order to celebrate with bonfires the reconciliation with Rome is dutifully copied into the House Book, but the note added by the corporation omits any mention of the queen's purpose and merely states that the celebration should be regarded as 'thanksgiving to God for his mercifulnesses now and at all times'. (fn. 83) Few of the York aldermen are likely to have been active Protestants; their lack of enthusiasm may more reasonably be attributed to the fact that papal jurisdiction had effectively disappeared as long ago as Wolsey's legateship. Now, over 30 years later, its revival can scarcely have seemed in non-speculative York a vital necessity.
While the Elizabethan Settlement entailed numerous changes amongst the upper clergy, it touched very few parish priests: whatever their real beliefs, the vast majority of them continued in their benefices, observing the new Prayer Book and Articles of Religion. (fn. 84) York provides an admirable miniature of this national picture. The royal Visitors for the northern province began proceedings there on 6 September 1559 and continued for four days. Most of the chapter, headed by Dr. Rokeby, appeared and took the required oath. (fn. 85) Ten prebendaries failed to attend. After repeated examinations two, Drs. Palmes and Marshall, suffered deprivation, while two others, Geoffrey Downes and Robert Pursglove, Bishop of Hull, had their benefices sequestered. At dates subsequent to this visitation at least four, and probably six, of the rest were also deprived. All these unfortunates were clearly Marians and recently instituted after the displacement of married prebendaries. They amounted to less than half the chapter. (fn. 86)
The parish clergy remained almost untouched. Henry More, Rector of St. Martin's, Micklegate, had his cure sequestered by the Visitors on 9 September, but may later have conformed. (fn. 87) No exceptional number of resignations occurred during the subsequent years. Doubtless some of the city clergy were less than enthusiastic about the new order and at least one elderly unbeneficed priest was suspected of anti-Elizabethan activities. He was Edward Sandall, a pensioned ex-monk of Kirkstall, who had formerly held three chantries and had been transferred by the corporation in 1545 from Foss Bridge Chapel to do service in that of Ouse Bridge. (fn. 88) In February 1568, while resident in the parish of St. Martin, Micklegate, he was presented at the archbishop's visitation as a misliker of the established religion and as a sower of seditious rumours who said that he trusted to see the day when he should have 'twenty of the heretics' heads that now be in authority under his girdle'. He had also, it was alleged, openly maintained the doctrine of praying to the saints. As a 'corrupter of youth', he had been forbidden to teach, yet defiantly continued to do so. Instead of exercising himself in the scriptures, he commonly read the vain book of 'The Four Sons of Amon', 'Reynard the Fox', and other romances. This otherwise attractive survival of the old school was also reputed to be a great usurer. Sandall vigorously denied the charges, except for his addiction to romances, which he admitted. Since being barred from teaching he had taught 'but one boy which waiteth upon him'. He was finally allowed to purge himself by the oaths of twelve men, but incurred punishment on a charge of contempt, since it was found that he had served the cure at Tadcaster without admission by the diocesan authorities. (fn. 89) Such cases were rare throughout the diocese and show no ostensible connexion with the Catholicism of the later Elizabethan period, which derived its inspiration from the Continent.
Of normal disciplinary processes affecting the Elizabethan clergy in York, one may read much in the diocesan visitation books. By 16th-century or earlier standards the record is a good one, yet here and there the usual offences appear: omission of parts of the service, (fn. 90) failure to teach children, (fn. 91) or to catechise, (fn. 92) administering communion to excommunicated persons, (fn. 93) and keeping an ale-house in the vicarage. (fn. 94) Rectors, and more especially lay farmers of rectories, often proved at this period grossly negligent of their obligations to preserve the fabric of chancels. York churchwardens are sometimes presented for omitting to report the resultant decay. At St. Mary's, Bishophill, Senior in 1571 the wardens had failed not only to do this, but also to deface the stone altar and the images and to provide a communion table, a pulpit, and books sufficient for divine service. They proceeded to make good these defects; probably their slackness had no doctrinal implications. (fn. 95) Pluralism and non-residence occasionally appear, though their extent and purpose were soon to be misrepresented by the Puritans. Robert Mell, Vicar of Hollym (E.R.), carried the practice too far when in 1567 he held also the vicarages of Withernsea (E.R.) and All Saints', Peaseholme, in York. (fn. 96) Anthony Hartforthe, Rector of St. Martin's, Micklegate, was non-resident in 1596 and made no distribution to the poor. (fn. 97) Yet in general pluralism seems less extensive than might be anticipated in the face of the poverty of many York benefices. And while the acquisition of a wife and sturdy sons must have helped many a farming rural priest, (fn. 98) the same cannot be supposed in the case of a man holding an urban cure. Amongst the Elizabethan clergy the grosser offences prove rare, though one minor cleric was accused of giving 6s. to people who saw him resorting to a certain house in Bootham. (fn. 99)
The jurisdiction of the church courts over the sins and negligences of the laity was very little relaxed by the changes of the Reformation: York citizens continued to appear before Elizabethan commissaries on a luxuriant variety of charges. Non-payment of the parish clerk's wages and the church dues, (fn. 100) failure to attend church or take communion, remaining excommunicate: (fn. 101) such offences did not necessarily indicate unorthodox religious belief. In 1578 Leonard Dente of Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, 'lieth in his bed on Sundays till twelve of the clock and doth also brag and say he thanked God he never came at Sermon in his life'. (fn. 102) At the same time William Hewet of Holy Trinity, King's Court, protested that his non-attendance showed no malice, but simply his fear of being arrested for debt. (fn. 103) Archbishop Grindal found in 1575 that 'the people on the Pavement do commonly open their shops on Sundays and holy days if fairs and markets fall on such days'. (fn. 104) Robert Sedgewicke of St. Mary's, Castlegate, 'cometh not to the church, and keepeth evil company in his house tippling in service time'. (fn. 105) Even in York a scene of violence might occasionally happen in church. John Stock was presented by the churchwardens of St. Martin's, Coney Street, because he laid violent hands upon one William Owthwayte during the reading of the Epistle: (fn. 106) Stock claimed to be 'an officer or serjeant' making a legitimate arrest; his punishment is not recorded. Superstition of various types continued rife and cases of necromancy occasionally came before the diocesan courts. (fn. 107) Usury, seldom presented before 1580, attracted more attention thereafter. (fn. 108) In York, as elsewhere, the sins of the flesh led considerable numbers of lay men and women before the ecclesiastical judges and thence to public penance.
Puritanism, a highly imprecise term as applied to Elizabethan society, covers an immense variety of beliefs and practices. In York its most violent manifestations are scarcely represented before 1603. Of the Brownists, or of those clergy who refused certain Prayer Book rites as Romish, examples have not yet been found within the city. The significant development of the reign might suitably be termed 'Anglo-Puritanism', that is to say a Puritan emphasis in the interpretation of the Prayer Book and the Articles of Religion. Archbishop Grindal (1570-6), later notorious for his sympathy with Prophesyings, imported something of the new scriptural and sermonizing spirit, (fn. 109) while his successor Edwin Sandys (1577-88) has been understandably described as 'an obstinate and conscientious Puritan'. (fn. 110) Matthew Hutton, Dean (1567-89) and Archbishop (15951606), however hostile to Presbyterianism, certainly leaned more toward Puritanism than most of the Elizabethan prelates. (fn. 111) A more sustained influence was that of Lord President Huntingdon, as much a Puritan as a cousin and trusted official of the queen could be, and to whose entourage so many early Puritan influences in the north may be traced. Even before his time the corporation had shown itself in harmony with the increased emphasis upon sermons. In 1570 it ordered parish constables to warn householders that they must cause at least two members of every household to attend the sermon in the minster on Sundays and holy days. (fn. 112) Opposition to the new spirit seems indicated in the case of Robert Cripling, the anti-clerical mayor who in 1579 quarrelled so violently with Huntingdon's council and was slack in prosecuting Romanists. (fn. 113) In the following year the campaign to bring people to sermons and lectures in the minster continued', (fn. 114) while in June 1580 the corporation agreed that 'a well-learned man' should be engaged as city preacher at a handsome wage of £40 to be paid by the common chamber. (fn. 115) The first city preacher, 'Mr. Cole', was appointed at this salary in May 1581; (fn. 116) his successor 'Mr. Middop' had at first to be content with £20, but in 1583 this was raised to £30 together with £10 'given him of benevolence'. (fn. 117) The appointment continued to be held only for short terms. 'Mr. Holden', who had succeeded in 1584, left early in 1585, when the corporation applied to Henry Cheke, Secretary to the Council in the North, to procure a suitable man. (fn. 118) In addition to this provision, the corporation made special arrangements in 1583 for the archbishop and his chaplains to preach in four of the city churches. (fn. 119)
The mid-Elizabethan period also saw a tightening of municipal control over morals. Members of the council were forbidden in 1578 to take part in weddings marked by the old boisterous ceremony of blessing the bridal bed: even the city cooks were forbidden to dress wild fowl for such weddings. (fn. 120) In 1584 the tipstaves were ordered to serve as 'common informers against all such as use any unlawful games, and such as are common drinkers in service time'. (fn. 121) Imprisonment was in 1588 agreed upon as punishment for those found by the wardens tippling in service-time. (fn. 122) As early as 1569 the corporation forbade the midsummer festivity of rush-bearing, notorious everywhere for its tendency to go beyond legitimate dancing and flirting. (fn. 123) Notoriety also attached to the local ceremony of Yule Riding on St. Thomas's Day, when, according to a letter of 1572 signed by the archbishop and other ecclesiastical commissioners, 'two disguised persons called Yule and Yule's wife should ride through the city very undecently and uncomely, drawing great concourses of people after them to gaze, often times committing other enormities'. (fn. 124) The corporation complied and banned the ceremony henceforth.
A more regretted casualty of the new age was the medieval drama. Naturally enough, the pageants on the life of the Virgin were again omitted from the Corpus Christi Play in 1561, (fn. 125) though the rest was given in that year and in 1562 and 1563. (fn. 126) The play was not given during the next three years, perhaps because of the collapse of Ouse Bridge; in 1567 certain pageants were ordered to be examined and 'reformed'. (fn. 127) The following year the corporation proposed to substitute the Creed Play, but Dean Hutton refused his approval. 'I find many things that I cannot allow because they be disagreeing from the sincerity of the gospel.' Were these undesirable passages to be omitted, 'the whole drift of the play should be altered and therefore I dare not put my pen unto it, because I want both skill and leisure to amend it'. The corporation therefore dropped the project and returned the play-books to their keepers, the Master and brethren of St. Thomas's Hospital. (fn. 128) When in 1572 the Paternoster Play was revived, Aldermen Beckwith and Herbert refused to accompany the mayor to the performance. Feeling ran high and the two offenders, having first been put in ward for their contempt, were finally disfranchised for their obstinacy. (fn. 129) Weightier influences then came to bear and Archbishop Grindal demanded, and was sent, a true copy of all the play-books, as they had been performed that year. (fn. 130) Three years later he still had them and the corporation asked for their return. (fn. 131) In April 1579 it was agreed that the Corpus Christi Play should be revived, but that 'first the book shall be carried to my Lord Archbishop [Sandys] and Mr. Dean [Hutton] to correct'. (fn. 132) The ecclesiastics again temporized and nothing further happened until the next year, when, at the mayor's oath-taking, the commons earnestly requested that the Corpus Christi Play should be performed that year, whereupon the mayor answered that he and his brethren would consider their request. (fn. 133) This effectively marks the end of the medieval drama in York. Popular agitation certainly persisted as late as 1580, while the oligarchy, though divided, seems to have stood predominantly in favour of continuance.
By this date a far more tragic episode of the Reformation-conflict had developed: that resulting from the Bull of Excommunication, the Seminarist missions, and the increase of Romanist recusancy. Though the archiepiscopal visitation of 1575 showed recusancy as yet negligible, (fn. 134) it flared up between 1576 and 1577, both in York and in Ripon, only to be checked temporarily by ecclesiastical and municipal action. The House Book contains a list, dated 20 November 1576, of 59 recusants, no fewer than 51 of whom were women, and nearly all poor people of the small tradesman or artisan class. (fn. 135) It includes the future martyr, Margaret Clitheroe, whose husband, with goods valued at £6, is the most substantial on the list. Along with three other well-known Roman Catholic sufferers, Alice Awdcorne and Anne and Edward Tesshe, she was either then or very shortly afterwards in prison. All these recusants must have been under the guidance of seminary priests, since they gave clear and almost uniform answers when asked the reason for their recusancy: either 'because there is neither altar nor sacrifice', or else 'because her conscience will not serve her'.
A year later, on 28 October 1577, Archbishop Sandys and the Ecclesiastical Commission sent to the Privy Council a diocesan list of recusants which included some 45 of the names in the House Book list. (fn. 136) Of these, six or seven were now prisoners in York castle, while in addition, the schoolmaster, John Fletcher, (fn. 137) and the physician, Dr. Thomas Vavasour, (fn. 138) and two or three other York men were imprisoned at Hull. The Sandys list includes fifteen York names not on the earlier list and among these are Elizabeth Dineley, wife of the then mayor, Lady Pacocke, widow of a former mayor, and Edward Beseley, gentleman, and his wife. Otherwise it agrees with its predecessor regarding the small properties and humble status of the majority. The personal adventures and sufferings of this unfortunate community might be compiled at great length from the printed Roman Catholic martyrological collections (fn. 139) and from voluminous manuscript sources such as the act books of the Northern Ecclesiastical Commission. (fn. 140) The story of Margaret Clitheroe has been told by one of her confessors, John Mush, in a life too often rhetorical, inevitably unjust to some of the protagonists, yet nevertheless moving and valuable. (fn. 141) Daughter of Thomas Middleton, sheriff of York, and wife of a butcher and chamberlain, she intermittently harboured seminary priests and suffered imprisonments over several years before her condemnation and her execution on 25 March 1586.
Like the rest of her generation, Margaret Clitheroe had little direct connexion with pre-Reformation Catholicism: she had been brought up in the Anglican faith and then instructed by the Seminarists. In making his return of recusants in 1577, Archbishop Sandys blamed its recent rise in York and Ripon upon the ministrations of Fr. Henry Cumberford (fn. 142) and other missionaries. These men, mostly the sons of gentle English families and educated in the seminaries of Rheims and Rome, had certainly by this date become active in the city. Between 1582 and 1589 no fewer than fifteen of them, together with four Roman Catholic laymen, were executed on Knavesmire. (fn. 143)
Having undergone a check between 1577 and 1578, recusancy again increased and presented many problems to the city authorities during the last two decades of the reign. In 1580 the common clerk is found preparing indictments at the assizes against recusants. (fn. 144) Orders to apprehend Seminarists appear in the House Books, (fn. 145) and subsequently a receipt by the keeper of the castle at Hull for the delivery of eleven of the missionaries. (fn. 146) The corporation itself incurred responsibility for many recusant prisoners kept in the kidcotes on Ouse Bridge. When in February 1584 the sheriffs viewed these prisons they found amongst the committed recusants 'certain mass books, pictures, holy water, with "trendles", beads, pieces of vestments, wax candles, one girdle and a great canvas bag, belonging to some man, having in it some unlawful books; wherefore it is supposed that some seminary priest did resort to the said gaol and there did say mass, persuading the said prisoners to remain in their disobedience'. In addition, the children of the draper, William Hutton, himself incarcerated, were freely carrying messages in and out of the gaols. The sheriffs proceeded to concentrate all the recusants in the mayor's kidcotes and the prisoners for debt in their own, access to the former being rigorously controlled and the recusants forbidden to come up to the 'grate or holes of the said kidcotes', but to be kept below. As for the Hutton children, they had to stay in prison with their mother unless their father could provide satisfactorily for them. (fn. 147) Despite his own religious convictions, Lord President Huntingdon had realized the unwisdom of excessive persecution, (fn. 148) but during the last years of the century, under the presidency of the 2nd Lord Burghley, Romanists were indicted in larger numbers. (fn. 149) In 1600 Burghley forcibly compelled the recusant prisoners in the castle to hear weekly sermons for several months in his presence. (fn. 150) Archbishop Hutton, much against his will, was prevailed upon to participate by his colleague Whitgift, 'lest they say that zeal is quenched in you, and that you dote in your old age'. (fn. 151) But the final advantage lay with the victims, who were so obstreperous at his last sermon that they had to be gagged.
Despite such dramatic episodes, the numerical increase of recusancy in York proved far from sensational during the later years of the reign, and for a time many Romanists compromised by merely refusing the Anglican communion, while avoiding fines by formal attendance at matins. In 1582 the archiepiscopal visitation revealed 15 recusants and only 4 non-communicants, but in 1586 the corresponding numbers were 20 and 32, and in 1590, 14 and 40 respectively. (fn. 152) The fullest survey of Yorkshire recusancy was made in 1604, when the recent accession of James I had encouraged waverers in many parts of the country to absent themselves from church in the hope of finding the new government more tolerant. (fn. 153) Here are listed for the city some 50 recusants and 8 noncommunicants. The role of women had by this stage become less preponderant, though they still numbered 31 of the 58. Unlike that of the countryside, where the Seminarists made so many of their converts in the entourage of the Roman Catholic gentry, York recusancy remained 'democratic'. With only five exceptions, which included Christopher Herbert, the mayor's brother, the offenders of 1604 were small tradesmen, poor widows, and people of similarly humble status. They were fairly evenly spread throughout the parishes; the largest concentration being only eight in St. Michael-le-Belfrey and the same number in St. Cuthbert's. The survey notes a secret baptism and two secret marriages by popish priests. (fn. 154) Unlike certain other parts of the shire, York shows little evidence for a remarkable upsurge of the problem at the accession of James I. Of the 27 recusants whose periods of recusancy are given, 19 had been offending for periods between 2 and 16 years. Altogether, even allowing for concealed sympathizers, 'churchpapists', and waverers generally, the Romanist group must have been a very small and a relatively stable proportion of the total population. Indeed, as known to officialdom, its extent in 1604 proved almost exactly that of 1576. Without question, most York citizens had moved alongside the Elizabethan régime and its Church settlement.
Most impalpable of all is the growth of 'Anglicanism'. The development of a specific devotional atmosphere, a popular affection for the Anglican liturgy and doctrinal compromises—these things were not created in 1559 by Acts of Parliament, yet somehow they spread extensively in most English communities during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. Of its very nature this process cannot be adequately documented in York, but it remains among the significant imponderables of local history. And despite the genuineness of its religious aspects, it became inextricably mixed with patriotism and the struggle for national survival. The perils of civil war and foreign conquest grew ever more manifest; most men came to hate and fear the seminary priests, since in practice they could not dissociate their mission from the disruptive and dangerous schemes of Mary Stuart and Philip II. That even York, stolid and exclusivist, fully shared this national trend cannot for a moment be doubted. Its complete steadiness in the crisis of 1569 has already been observed. Then, as the murder plots came to light, so loyalty grew more intense and vocal. In 1584 the 'association' for the preservation of the queen's person was signed by about 1,300 of the citizens. (fn. 155) This fervour owed nothing to any manifestations of interest by the queen, who, despite some tentative preparations in 1575, (fn. 156) never once visited the north during the 45 years of her reign. Yet good servants, sound sense, and the ineptitude of the opposition carried the day. One of the pleasanter passages in the House Books describes how in August 1586 the people of York celebrated the deliverance of their queen from assassination. The dean preached a sermon in the minster, followed by a general communion.
And all the same day was observed as holy day. And in the afternoon the streets were strewed with flowers and herbs, and green boughs set up in the said streets, and the houses sides towards the said streets hanged with fine carpets and coverings; and every man supped in the said streets at his own door, with all their plate set forth in the said streets, with great rejoicing and singing of psalms and ringing of bells. And after supper bonfires did begin to be made, and did continue burning till nine and ten of the clock in the evening of the same day. (fn. 157)