Book 1, Ch. 8: Edward VI and Mary

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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John Noorthouck, 'Book 1, Ch. 8: Edward VI and Mary', in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark( London, 1773), British History Online [accessed 20 July 2024].

John Noorthouck, 'Book 1, Ch. 8: Edward VI and Mary', in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark( London, 1773), British History Online, accessed July 20, 2024,

John Noorthouck. "Book 1, Ch. 8: Edward VI and Mary". A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. (London, 1773), , British History Online. Web. 20 July 2024.

In this section


From the accession of Edward VI. to the death of queen Mary.

Government at this time began to assume a more popular form. The antient nobility had been much diminished, by the murders, attainders, and executions, during the fluctuations of the crown, between the families of York and Lancaster: the two last Henries, in whom both claims were united, had also from motives of policy, endeavoured to depress the formidable power of the nobles, by elevating and conferring offices of trust on new men; which circumstances co-operated with trade to diffuse property, and give weight to the commons in their legislative capacity. The reformation had made great progress in Germany, and secretly in England; Henry's late resentment against the papal see, had relieved the kingdom from the yoke of a foreign priesthood, and rendered it independent in a religious as well as civil capacity. The doors of monasteries had been flung open, their institutions destroyed, and their revenues had reverted to the laity. The Bible was in the hands of the people, who had now discovered that the papal doctrines were not derived from that acknowledged fountain of all religious tenets. The united effect of these happy circumstances had rendered the people ripe for a reformation of church discipline, when Edward VI. a youth of nine years of age, ascended the throne. In this particular instance, the minority of their king was of service to his people, though his premature death afterward cast a temporary gloom over the expectations of the nation. The earl of Hertford, the king's maternal uncle, created duke of Somerset, was made protector; and having long been a secret favourer of reformation, now openly expressed his intentions of correcting religious abuses. The young king, who was greatly attached to his uncle, received a suitable education; and all men, foreseeing a total abolition of the catholic faith, gladly contributed to facilitate so desirable a change.

Edward was crowned with great pomp at Westminster, February 28; on which occasion the city was richly embellished, stately pageants were erected, and the people were particularly amused by a Spaniard, who undertook to fly from the steeple of St. Paul's cathedral; which he performed according to his own sense of the word, by sliding on his breast head foremost, with his arms and legs extended, down a rope from the battlements of the steeple, to the dean's gate in the churchyard.

Some good statutes were passed in Edward's first parliament, of which London reaped benefit in common with the rest of the nation. The many late laws against treason were abrogated, and those crimes reduced to the statute 25 Edward III. (fn. 1) the statutes against Lollards and heresies were repealed; private masses were abolished; the cup was granted to the laity; bishops were to be elected by letters patent from the king, and to hold their courts in his name (fn. 2) and the suppression of convents having filled the nation with strolling priests, and other mendicants, a very severe law was enacted against vagabonds (fn. 3).


By an act in the 2d and 3d of Edward VI. (fn. 4) conspiracies of artificers and labourers to raise their prices, or to alter their hours of working, subjected them to fines, imprisonment, and the pillory; and punishment was provided against combinations of dealers in provisions, to raise the prices of their commodities. A clause was added to this statute, for licencing all manner of workmen relating to building of houses, &c. to exercise their occupations in cities and towns corporate, though they were not free of such corporations. This shews that inconveniences were felt from the exclusive privileges of corporations, which began to call for some relaxation. The city of London had influence enough, however, to get this clause repealed by the following parliament (fn. 5) the preamble to which repeal pleaded the costs and charges their craftsmen were subject to, for the national as well as for corporation taxes, and the great danger of the decay of cunning, by driving freemen away, if foreigners were admitted to come in among them. But these very reasons against admitting cheaper workmen into corporations are strong evidence that their restrictions and privileges had a tendency to check their trade, and throw it into the hands of unprivileged manufacturers. See p. 113. ante.

The government had, however, happily overcome this narrow policy; for in this year, by the advice of archbishop Cranmer, encouragement was given to persecuted foreign protestants to come over and settle in England, where they were allowed the free exercise of their religion; and in return, enriched the nation by the manufactures they brought in with them. They settled principally at London, (in the suburbs probably) Southwark, Canterbury, and other great towns in that part of the country (fn. 6).

Other capital advantages were now gained over the papal mode of worship; for, by order of council, images were removed from churches; and a new communion-service was framed, in the preface to which, auricular confession, that great source of priestly dominion over men's minds, was treated as a matter of indifference; a circumstance of which the laity would not fail to avail themselves. But the minds of men being now distracted between opposite persuasions, it was plain that religion could not long remain in this loose uncertain state: to put a stop to pulpit controversies, which were greedily attended to, a total silence was imposed on all preachers. These measures were followed by the publication of a new liturgy in the vulgar tongue, in which the invocation of saints, and some other superstitions, were omitted (fn. 7). Priests were also allowed to marry, but at the same time were exhorted against it (fn. 8).

Such great alterations could not be expected to take place without difficulty; and the prejudices of those who retained an attachment to the old superstitions, would not be overlooked by such of the clergy as were not disposed to conformity. These prejudices uniting with the discontent of the people on the subject of inclosures, vented themselves in insurrections in several parts of the kingdom, which, though they were suppressed, the unquiet minds of the malcontent nobles, rendered the power of the protector Somerset still insecure. He gave great offence by the magnificent palace he built in the Strand; to make room for which he pulled down the parish church of St. Mary, with the houses of three bishops, and applied the materials to the structure. He also made an attempt to demolish the church of St. Margaret Westminster, for the sake of the stones; but the parishioners rose and drove away his sacrilegious workmen: this repulse, however, did not prevent him from laying hands on a chapel, cloister, and charnel house, in St. Paul's churchyard, together with a church of St. John of Jerusalem, for the use of his building; by which the monuments of the dead were destroyed, and the bones carried away to unconsecrated ground (fn. 9).

These and other imprudences were taken advantage of, and some of the members of the council entered into a cabal against the protector: they met at Ely house, and arrogating the whole authority of the board, acted independent of him. They sent injunctions to the magistrates of London, and the lieutenant of the Tower, to obey no orders from Somerset, but to keep the city and Tower in a state of defence: and having drawn up a charge against the duke of Somerset, it was, with the mayor's concurrence, proclaimed in several parts of the city. The party against the protector now grew formidable enough to intimidate him; the members of the council carried their complaints to the king; the city of London deputed Sir Philip Hobby on the same errand; and their representations had such weight, that Somerset was committed prisoner to the Tower. Dudley, earl of Warwick, who had taken the lead in depriving Somerset of his power, retained the chief management of affairs; and Somerset, after a fine which the king remitted, was restored to liberty, and again took his place at the council (fn. 10).


In the year 1551, the sweating sickness visited England for the last time; and carried off great numbers of persons of all ranks in life.

The city of London, in the fourth year of Edward's reign, obtained a charter, (See Appendix, No. XL.) by which the corporation became entitled to divers lands and tenements in Southwark; the manor and appurtenances thereof; the assize of bread, wine, beer, and ale; and a fair for three days: moreover, the offices of coroner, escheator, and clerk of the market, are for ever vested in the lord-mayor for the time being.

John Alasco, a Polish nobleman, who was expelled his country by the rigours of the Catholics, and had become preacher to a reformed congregation at Embden in East Friezland; foreseeing persecution there, brought his congregation over to London. The council, willing to encourage industrious refugees, gave them the Augustine Friars church for their religious worship, and granted them a charter of incorporation, by which they were erected into an ecclesiastical establishment independent of the church of England; consisting of a superintendant and four assisting ministers (fn. 11). The liturgy underwent a revisal this year, and some rites which had given offence, were omitted.

The principal trade of the kingdom had hitherto been carried on by foreigners, who, notwithstanding the restrictions and duties imposed on them as aliens, had found it worth their while to supply us with foreign commodities; and the Hanseatic merchants in particular, had obtained an establishment with many peculiar immunities. The English company of Merchant Adventurers, now entertained thoughts of excluding them, and certainly the interest of the nation called for encouraging the shipping and traffic of natives in preference to all others. The Merchant Adventurers made pressing applications to the council; and procured a revocation of the privileges granted to the Hanseatic merchants of the Stillyard; which reduced them to trade here on the same terms allowed to merchant strangers in general. Our merchants so well availed themselves of this turn of affairs in their favour, that they exported 40,000 cloths this year to Flanders (fn. 12).

A commercial treaty was also entered into with Gustavus Ericson, king of Sweden, which enabled the king to reform the coinage, by recalling the base metal, and issuing good specie. It was stipulated that if Gustavus sent bullion into England, he might carry away English commodities free of customs; that he should carry no bullion elsewhere; if he sent ozimus, steel copper, &c. he should pay custom as an Englishman; if he sent merchandize, he should trade upon the same footing as other merchant strangers. Though Sweden could not be supposed to furnish any great store of bullion, the quantity thus procured set the mint to work, greatly to the encouragement of trade (fn. 13).

The king, this year, borrowed a large sum of money of Anthony Fugger and company, bankers at Antwerp, and the corporation of London were jointly bound with him for the payment. Edward gave Sir Andrew Jud the mayor a recognizance to indemnify the city in this transaction.


The earl of Warwick now created duke of Northumberland, though he had procured Somerset to be degraded from his high offices, yet so far envied the remaining influence and popularity of that nobleman, that he determined on his destruction. By caballing with his friends and dependants, and thence betraying him into unguarded words and actions, he at last obtained sufficient advantages over him to commence such a prosecution for intended rebellion, as in the imperfect modes of trial in those days were sufficient to convict him. Northumberland himself with other enemies of the duke, made part of the jury of peers that condemned him; he was beheaded on Tower hill January 22d 1552, and the people revered him so much as so dip their handkerchiefs in his blood, which were preserved as relics.

The increase of taverns and wine vaults now engaged the attention of parliament; and it was enacted that the number of taverns or retailers of wine in London, should not exceed forty, nor those of Westminster exceed three (fn. 14). If the increase of the revenue was not thought of more national consequence than the morals of the people, some restriction would yet be observed in the discretionary power of granting licences to public houses. There are villages in remote country places, which can date the commencement of their poor rates from the introduction of a public house; and the rulers of the land complain of the licentiousness of the populace to little purpose, while other views cause them to tempt the people from sobriety. But it is doubtful whether we are not too far gone in debauchery to recur to such reflections as these.

By acquiring the manor of Southwark, the city became possessed of an hospital dedicated to St. Thomas the apostle, which fell at the dissolution of religious houses; it was now repaired and enlarged for the reception of poor sick and helpless objects. Edward also founded Christ's hospital in the Grey friars convent, for the education of children; and granted the old palace of Bridewell for the lodging of poor wayfaring people, and for the correction and employment of vagabonds, strumpets, and idle persons. By his charter for that purpose dated June 6th, 7th Edw. VI. the mayor, commonalty, and citizens of London in succession were incorporated as governors of the hospitals of St. Thomas the apostle, St. Bartholomew, Christ, and Bridewell; with possession of the goods and revenues belonging to them.

Edward, of whom the nation conceived such great hopes, died of a decline July 6. 1553, in the sixteenth year of his age; and Northumberland having prevailed on him to appoint the lady Jane Gray to succeed him, she was proclaimed in London with the customary solemnities. But the people not acquiescing in this measure, the council met at Baynard's castle, where, consulting with the lord mayor and aldermen, they all proceeded in cavalcade to Cheapside and proclaimed the princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, by Catharine of Arragon. Mary was received so chearfully by the citizens on her arrival, that she returned the lord mayor her thanks on the occasion. Northumberland and two others were tried and executed, but his son the lord Guilford Dudley, and the lady Jane Gray, neither of which young couple were yet arrived to seventeen years of age, were respited.

Mary was a bigoted catholic, and during the last reign could never be prevailed on to conform to the new regulations of religious worship, and doctrines. She now restored the catholic bishops, silenced all preachers but such as had licences granted them, which none but catholics obtained; and many reformers who saw how affairs were tending retired to foreign parts.


The queen's intended marriage with Philip II. of Spain, as gloomy a bigot as herself, gave universal discontent to the whole nation, both on political and religious motives. A general rebellion was concerted; and though the imprudent haste of some defeated the plans projected in other parts, Sir Thomas Wyat raised a formidable insurrection in Kent. The duke of Norfolk marched against him with some forces, among which were 500 Londoners commanded by Alexander Brett, who at Rochester carried his men over to Wyat: a desertion which raised the hopes of the insurgents, and dispirited the queen's forces so much, that the duke of Norfolk fled, and left his ordnance, ammunition, and field equipage a prey to the enemy.

As this desertion of Brett and his men seemed to argue a general disaffection of the city, the queen went to Guildhall, where she harangued the magistrates and city companies on the subject of this insurrection, and her proposed marriage. She justified her title to the crown, declared she was wedded to her people, and to the laws of her country; that she loved her subjects with a maternal affection, and that if this marriage should not be approved by the nobility and commons assembled in parliament, she was neither so wilful nor amorous, but that she was able to live and die in a single state. She concluded with exhorting the citizens to stand fast by their lawful prince against the rebels; and told them, she left the Lord Howard, and the lord treasurer to assist the mayor, in preserving the city from spoil and sackage, which were the only objects of this rebellious company.

Wyat in the mean time continued his march to London, and when he arrived at Southwark, he sent his proposals to the queen; but not being able to penetrate into the city, he marched up to Kingston, where he passed the river with 4000 men, and continued his route back toward London on this side the water. Instead of increasing his strength, it insensibly diminished; and though he entered Westminster, he found himself again stopped at Ludgate, and exposed to the scoffs and derision of those within. He was now surrounded by enemies who gathered from all quarters; and endeavouring to return, his retreat was cut off at Temple Bar by Pembroke's horse: he was therefore reduced to surrender himself to Sir Maurice Berkeley. He was executed on Tower hill: four hundred of his followers are said to have suffered for their rebellion; and four hundred more, being conducted before the queen with ropes about their necks, were dismissed with a pardon.

This rebellion proved fatal to the lady Jane Gray and her husband, who now suffered in consequence of their former sentence; and as this young accomplished pair were universally pitied, the people were sufficiently apprised of the queen's unrelenting disposition. The lady Elizabeth also, who had hitherto been very unkindly treated by her sister, was committed prisoner to the Tower; which fortress and all other prisons were filled with those who became objects of the queen's suspicion.

Philip arrived at Southampton July 19th, and married the queen a few days afterward at Westminster; they made their public entry into London August 12, with great pomp and ostentation: but the haughty reserve he maintained in his carriage toward his new subjects by no means tended to correct the prejudices the English nation had already received of his character. Cardinal Pole came over in quality of legate, and invited the parliament to a reconciliation with the holy apostolic see, from which the nation had been so long unhappily separated. There is nothing, however destructive to the true interests of the people, that a bribed parliament will scruple to agree to: Spanish gold had bought a parliament that professed a sincere repentance for their past transgressions; declared their intentions of repealing all laws enacted to the prejudice of the church of Rome, and implored forgiveness and absolution. The legate in the name of his holiness, gave the parliament and kingdom absolution, sreed them from all censures, and received them again into the bosom of the church (fn. 15).

A law was now passed to prohibit linen drapers, woollen drapers, haberdashers, grocers, and mercers, who lived in the open country, and were not free of any city, borough, or corporation-town, from vending their wares in the said towns, except in open fairs, and by wholesale. (fn. 16) Another law, flowing from a confined policy, or rather springing meerly from pride, was also enacted: it imported that "whosoever shall wear silk in or upon his hat, bonnet, girdle, scabbard, hose, shoes, or spur leather, shall be imprisoned for three months, and forfeit 10 l. excepting magistrates of corporations, and persons of higher rank: and if any person knowing his servant to offend against this law, do not put him forth from his service within fourteen days, or shall retain him again, he shall forfeit 100 l (fn. 17)." We may easily perceive how much the condition of the common people was altered, when it was thought proper to restrain them from ornamenting their apparel with silk. But while it is owned that such restrictions are palpably injurious not only to liberty, but to that trade which enables persons to indulge their fancies in the article of dress; it must be confessed, that with respect to servants, it is difficult to draw the line between private and public good. An undue spirit of emulation among servants to rival the appearance of superior classes in life, sometimes tempts them to have recourse to improper methods of supporting it: at best, it tends to keep them in a state of servitude, a circumstance which they would do well to consider. The imaginary consequence derived from dressing out of character, can only take effect among themselves, or among strangers; while it injures them in the opinions of their superiors to whom they are known.

The citizens of London appear to have always distinguished themselves by keeping good tables; for Maitland informs us, that the city magistrates lived in such a sumptuous extravagant way, that many citizens chose to evade serving those expensive offices. A law of the common council had been made in 1543 to restrain luxurious feasting (fn. 18) : but it appears to have been little regarded; for it was now renewed, with small variation.

The keeper of the compter in Breadstreet having been repeatedly censured and prosecuted for misusing his prisoners, and making his house a receptacle for disorderly persons, without effect; the magistrates removed the prisoners out of his custody into a large convenient house which they built for a compter, in Woodstreet; and which still continues to be used for that purpose.

The city mechanics obtained another order or act of common council against the admission of foreign workmen; but it is worthy noting, that it was found necessary to make an exception in favour of brewers, felt makers, cap thickers, carders, spinners, and knitters: by which it may be conceived that this order could not be observed even by other professions without inconvenience.


In January 1556, alderman Draper of Cordwainers ward, first instituted the office of bellman, whose care, agreeable to the prevailing prejudices at that time, extended even to the dead. He was to go about the ward by night, and ringing his bell at certain places, exhort the inhabitants with an audible voice to take care of their fires and lights, to help the poor, and to pray for the dead. Setting the dead aside, and referring the care of the poor to the day time, the first admonition was certainly seasonably adapted to every family; the custom therefore extended to the other wards.


The queen, who continued extravagantly fond of her husband, practised many extortions on her subjects to gratify his demands for money; and though his neglect of her, and the restraints he found his authority subjected to, had made him leave England, yet the influence of Spanish councils precipitated the kingdom into a war with France. To carry on this war, she obtained a loan of 20,000l from the city companies, on the security of certain lands, for which she agreed to pay 12 per cent. interest. The only consequence of this war to England, was the loss of Calais; which affected the queen so much, that added to her dejection on not obtaining Philip's affections, and a dropsy, which she was fond at first of mistaking for a pregnancy, she died November 17th 1558, unregretted by her subjects.

Under the government of two such confirmed bigots as Philip and Mary, the Romish religion, if such a system of priestly dominion can be called a religion, returned on the nation with all its horrors! a detail of the cruel persecutions carried on in the short space of five years is too shocking to enter into. It may suffice to observe, that punishment was not confined to persons convicted of teaching opinions contrary to those prescribed by the infallible head of the church; but persons suspected of heresy were seized, and if they refused to subscribe the articles offered to them, they were immediately consigned to the flames. It is computed that in various places 277 persons were brought to the stake for their opinions; among which were five bishops, twenty one clergymen, eight gentlemen, eighty four tradesmen, fifty five women, and four children, beside husbandmen, servants and labourers; and beside those punished by fines, imprisonment, and confiscations (fn. 19). Bonner bishop of London, was the most cruelly active instrument in this bloody work; and the fires so frequently lighted in Smithfield will perpetuate his infamy as long as history exists.


  • 1. 1 Edw. VI. c. 12.
  • 2. 1 Edw. VI. c. 2.
  • 3. 1 Edw. VI. c. 3. This law, cruel in the terms of it, was still more so to those poor monks who had been turned out of doors destitute of all provision for subsistence.
  • 4. 2 & 3 Edw. VI. c. 15.
  • 5. 3 & 4 Edw. VI. c. 20.
  • 6. Anderson, vol. I. p. 380.
  • 7. Hume.
  • 8. Stat. 2 & 3 Edw. VI. c. 21. This temporizing conduct, which was necessary in altering the national religion, to allure those over who were wavering in their opinions; may account for many things still remaining in the church, which being now no longer necessary, afford just cause for disgust, and cannot be defended but upon principles that would have deprived us of all the religious reformation we possess.
  • 9. Hume.
  • 10. Hume.
  • 11. Idem.
  • 12. Anderson, vol. I. p. 383.
  • 13. Hume.
  • 14. Stat. 7 Edw. VI. c. 5.
  • 15. Hume.
  • 16. 1 and 2 Phil. and Mar. c. 7.
  • 17. 1 and 2 Phil. and Mar. c. 2. repealed by 1 Jac. 1. c 25.
  • 18. See p. 121.
  • 19. Hume.