Chapter 4 – Arthurburys of Surrey County

St. Lawrence Church, Morden Parish, Circa 1636

Chapter 4 – Arthurburys of Surrey County

“These men went forth in long garments of coarse red woollen cloth, barefooted, with staff in hand, in order to represent themselves as pilgrims, and their wayfaring as kind of pilgrimage, their coarse woollen dress being symbol of their poverty and toil (‘poor priests’).  Thus they wandered from village to village, from town to town, and from county to county, without halt or rest, preaching, teaching, warning, wherever they could find willing hearers, sometimes in church or chapel, wherever any such stood open for prayer and quiet devotion, sometimes in the churchyard, when they found the church itself closed, and sometimes in the public street or market-place.”  Gotthard Victor Lechler’s description of the itinerant Lollard ministry, circa 15th Century England.

In the first two chapters of this work the author traced the ancestry of William Arterbury, the Maryland immigrant, from his parents, Edward Arterbury (mason) and Elizabeth Young (daughter of a waterman), backward for three generations to the family of William Arthurbury and his wife Anne [Olliver] in Morden Parish, Surrey County in the mid-17th century.  This current chapter will explore in greater detail those earlier generations of Arthurburys/Arterburys from Morden Parish, Surrey County and beyond.  This journey will lead the reader through the reformation of religious beliefs and practices in England from the romish church before the 15th century, to the protestant and quasi-protestant monarchical churches of the 16th and 17th centuries to the time of the Interregnum.  On this quest we will be introduced to Waterlander Mennonites, Anabaptists, Puritans, Presbyterians, and Separatists, including Brownists, Barrowists, Congregationalists, Independents, and other sectaries.

Morden Parish is an ancient land dating from before the Norman Conquest, and is believed to have been part of a large West Saxon settlement dating from the 6th century.  Refer to Figure 4-1 for an illustration of the territory believed to have been occupied by the Saxons in the 7th century.  Morden is located on the A24 (London Road) about 10 miles south of London, a route which approximates the alignment of the Roman road known as Stane Street, and which connected between London and Chichester.  Archaeologists have hypothesized that there may have been a posting station at Merton (abutting Morden to the northwest along the south bank of the Wandle River) during the Roman occupation of Britain.  A posting station at Merton would have been positioned within an easy half-day travel distance from London and may have included a mansiones, “where official messengers could change horses and travelers could rest”.[1]  In 1888 a large Saxon cemetery was unearthed on the north bank of the Wandle River in Mitcham Parish, nearby to Morden Parish.  Between this earlier exhumation and a later excavation of this site in the 1970’s it was discovered to contain almost 250 Saxon burials, many of which included armaments of swords, spears, knives and shields, dating to the 6th and 7th Centuries. 

Following is a brief description of the Saxon derivation of Morden:

“The Saxons settled in the area, though little has been found in Morden from this period.  A large Saxon cemetery has been excavated across the Wandle, within Mitcham.  The names of local settlements date from Saxon times.  Morden probably means “hill in a swampy place”.  The boundaries of the various settlements were also set during the Saxon period.  A charter of King Edgar of AD967, granting the estate of Merton to Ealdorman Ælfheah and his wife Ælfswith, lists the boundaries of the estate, including that between Merton and Morden.  Westminster Abbey possessed Morden from before the Norman Conquest. Although no original Saxon charters survive, tradition had it that 10 hides at Morden had been given to Westminster before the abbey was refounded during the reign of Edgar, and that Edgar had confirmed the grant in AD969.”[2]

A reference to Morden from the Domesday Survey of 1086 records the following:

“The Abbey of Westminster holds Morden itself.  Before 1066 it answered for 12 hides, now for 3 hides.  Land for … In lordship 3 ploughs; 8 villagers and 5 cottagers with 4 ploughs. 1 slave. 1 mill at 40 shillings.  Value before 1066 £6; now £10; however, it pays £15.”[3]

From the Domesday Survey the approximate size of Morden can be estimated in the 11th century as ranging between 1,000 and 1500 acres.  This estimation is based on the assessment of “12 hides”, wherein one “hide” generally was held to approximate 120 acres, although it is understood that the actual size of one hide could greatly vary.  According to Peter Hopkins, Merton Historical Society, a hide was composed of four virgates, which in the 13th century would have contained approximately 80 acres.  By definition, “one hide” was held to be an area of land sufficiently large as to sustain one family for one year and generally produced an income of about £1 per annum.  “Hide” was a term developed in the medieval period for purposes of taxation.  As evidenced by the Domesday record, Morden was in the possession of Westminster Abbey before the Norman Conquest, and it largely remained a possession of the Abbey until January 1540 when King Henry VIII declared himself head of the English Church and ordered the dissolution of monasteries.  Morden thence became the property of the Crown until 30Jun1553, at which time King Edward VI sold it to Edward Whitchurch, a London haberdasher, and Lionel Ducket, a mercer.  In the main, the manor was leased to tenant farmers, who occupied the manorial centre.  Whitchurch occupied a newly built copyhold property called Growtes, while Ducket occupied a Ravensbury copyhold (both within Morden).  Edward VI died one week after the sale of Morden.  King Edward’s successor, Queen Mary, was an ardent Roman Catholic, whereas Whitchurch was a Protestant.  Whitchurch was forced into exile and subsequently he and Ducket sold Morden manor to Richard Garth on 7Mar1554 in a transaction generally described as follows:

“Edward Whitchurch sold the manor house called “Growtes”, together with the lordship and manor of Morden and all his other lands, houses and rights in Morden, to the Garth family on 7Mar1554 ‘in the first year of the reign of our Sovereign lady Mary by the grace of god Queen of England, France and Ireland’ for the sum of £460 (at least a million pounds today)…[Edward Whitchurch] was a haberdasher and bookseller who with his partner, Richard Grafton, became printer to King Henry VIII, and his son Edward VI.  Among the firm’s publications were the Great Bible (the first official translation into English by Coverdale, 1539), primers for school children (one of which, in 1546, was the first book printed in Welsh), Church service books, and the first editions of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer…  One reason Whitchurch remained in favour was that he was known as a zealous Protestant, publishing many evangelical works during the reign of Edward VI…  We do not know where Whitchurch went after 1554, but he later married Margaret, the German widow of Archbishop [Thomas] Cranmer, which may indicate that he went to Germany…”[4]

It is not known exactly how much of Morden Parish area was actually purchased by Richard Garth in 1554, but very likely the Manor and Lordship encompassed more than half of the total parish lands.  It is known, for example that a part of the original Morden lands possessed by Westminster Abbey was ceded to Matilda, daughter of Baldric, in 1235 as described in the following concord:

“Westminster Abbey Muniments Book 11: ‘The Westminster Domesday’, fo. 172b-173 Concord between Matillis, daughter of Baldric and the Abbot of Westminster concerning one virgate [about 30 acres] of land in Mordon [1235].  This is the final concord made in the court of the lord King at Bermondsey on the fifteenth day from Michaelmas {13 Oct} of the nineteenth year of the reign of King Henry son of King John before William of York, William de Insula, Ralph of Norwich and Hugh Plays, circuit judges, and others faithful to the lord King then there present.  Between Matilda, daughter of Baldric, plaintiff, and Richard , Abbot of Westminster, defendant, by Theobald his monk in his place, to the gaining or losing of one virgate of land with pertinences in Mordon.  An agreement was made between them in court.  Namely that the aforesaid Abbot recognised the whole of the aforesaid land with pertinences to be the right of Matilda herself, to have and to hold to the same Matilda and her heirs from the aforesaid Abbot and his successors and his church of Westminster forever.  Rendering thence annually four shillings sterling at the four terms of the year, namely at Christmas twelve pence, at Easter twelve pence, at the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist twelve pence and at Michaelmas twelve pence, for all services and exactions.  And for this recognition, fine and concord the same Matilda gave the aforesaid Abbot twenty shillings sterling.”[5]

While in the possession of Westminster Abbey, Morden lands were used primarily for growing grain crops such as wheat, barley and oats, some of which was sent to the Abbey along with other produce, i.e., cheese, poultry, eggs and wool.  The main industry of Morden Parish under the manorial guardianship of the Garth family continued to be agrarian well into the 19th century, with much of the lands being worked by small tenant farmers.

During the 17th century the Garth family expanded its Morden holdings by the acquisition of the Hobald and Spital estates which had formerly been part of the Merton Priory lands within Morden, although Spital Farm was sold again in 1639 at the death of Richard Garth II.  A brief description of Morden Parish in the mid-17th century is as follows:

“During the early 17th century both of Merton Priory’s former Morden estates also came into Garth ownership, though Spittle Farm was sold again in 1639, on the death of Richard Garth II.  Richard Garth II restored the Rectorial tithes and appointed William Booth as Rector in 1634.  The refurbishing of the church in its present form was started at this time.  William Booth married Richard’s daughter, Ellen, in September 1635. Ellen’s first husband, Thomas Hicks, had died 15 months before. Thomas and Ellen had leased the farm later known as Lower Morden Farm.  By the mid-17th century the Garths had bought virtually all the freeholds and copyholds in Lower Morden, enabling them to complete the enclosure of the open fields and to reorganize the farms there.  Twelve Morden inhabitants contributed almost £19 towards a “Free and Voluntary Present” to King Charles II in 1661-2, following his return from exile.  The Hearth Tax returns for 1664 list 40 Morden properties, of which 31 paid the tax.  One property had 19 hearths, three had 15, one had 11, one 10, one 6, two 5, three 4, five 3, seven 2 and sixteen only 1. Eleven of the householders were widows.”[6]  

From the foregoing description of Morden in the mid-17th century it can be seen that the parish had a relatively large number of upper and middle class families, there having been 16 households with three or more hearths constituting about 40% of those households surveyed in 1664.  Members of the Garth family would have been in the upper classes of the parish, along with several middle-class householders, mostly London business owners or tradesmen.  Of the 23 households with less than three hearths, most would have been headed by husbandmen/farmers engaged in agriculture within the Parish.  Eight of the surveyed households (about 20%) did not pay any hearth tax, probably an indication that those households fell below the “poverty line” or were receiving public (parish) relief.

The boundary of Morden Parish in contemporary times is located at the northwest corner of Wallington Hundred as illustrated in Figure 4-2.  Morden is situated along the south bank of the Wandle River, abutting Mitcham Parish to the northeast, Cheam and Sutton Parishes to the south, and Merton Parish in Brixton Hundred to the northwest.  Also shown in red on Figure 4-2 is Mortlake Parish on the south bank of the Thames River about 6.5 miles north/northwest of Morden, as well as Christ Church, St. Saviour and St. Olave Parishes in Southwark along the south bank of the Thames.  Mortlake, Christ Church, St. Saviour and St. Olave will be shown later in this chapter to have been the residences of key Arthurbury/Arterbury ancestors.

A description of Morden from 1912 is as follows:

“The parish of Morden is one of the smallest of the ancient Surrey parishes, containing only 1,475 acres, of which 255½ acres are arable land, 632¾ permanent grass, and 33 woods. (fn. 1)  It is one of the few examples of the situation of the village and entire parish on the London Clay.  On the north it is bounded by Merton, the line passing through fields; on the south-east it is bounded by the Brighton road from Sutton to Mitcham which separates it from Carshalton (although some yards before the cross-roads near Rose Hill House the boundary goes up into the fields again); the Ewell and Merton road separates it from Sutton and boundaries across the fields from Cheam and Malden on the west, while the River Wandle separates it from Mitcham.  The parish, which is still quite rural, includes the greater part of Ravensbury Park, which is now being cut up for villas.  There is also a large park called Morden Park and a small wood called Chesny Wood.  Morden Park was enclosed by Mr. Ewart in the 18th century.  The house, which was also built by him, is now the seat of Mr. John Wormald.  Morden Common was on the western border of the parish.  The high road from Clapham to Ewell, Epsom and Letherhead passes through Morden at a point 9 miles from London.”[7]

Figure 4-3 contains a map showing the boundaries of both the ancient Morden Parish (in red) and the modern Morden Parish (in green).  This map illustrates the approximate locations of the Hobald and Spital tracts (shaded in green) that were acquired by Richard Garth II from Merton Abbey in the early 17th century.  The area shaded in white delineates the approximate area known as Morden Manor at the time that it was acquired by the Garth family in 1564 from Whitchurch and Ducket.  According to Peter Hopkins “the main tenant area was in Lower Morden, the demesne lands occupying Upper Morden, though the Garths broke up the demesne into 4 or 5 tenant farms from the end of the 16th century.”  A part of the lower portion of the Manor was in possession of Thomas Hicks and his wife, Ellen Garth, who later married William Booth, Rector.  The area shaded in blue and designated on the map as Ravensbury was a remnant of a larger tract known as Ravensbury manor, which from the Domesday record was the estate of Witford or Wicford held by fitzAnsculf in 1086.  The main body of Ravensbury fell within Mitcham Parish.  The portion of Ravensbury within Morden Parish became part of Morden Manor in the 16th century.

Lysons does provide a fair description of the history of Morden church:

“The church, which is dedicated to St. Lawrence, is built of brick, and consists of a nave and chancel, which are of the same height, and separated only by a raised step in the floor.  At the west end is a low tower.  The present structure was erected about the year 1636 (by Richard Garth II, grandson of Richard Garth, Esq.).  The windows, which are of stone, and of Gothic architecture, appear to have belonged to the old church (believed to have occupied the same site).”[8]

According to Peter Hopkins “Morden parish church was not ‘rebuilt’ in 17th century [as suggested by Lysons], only clad in bricks, the medieval structure still remaining within the present building, and still supporting the roof.”  The St. Lawrence Church at Morden “built” by Richard Garth II in about 1636 still stands today and is in continuing service as the parish church.  The structure today has received only minor alterations since its rennovation in 1636, and appears as shown in Figure 4-4.  This would have been the same church attended by William Arthurbury and his family in the latter half of the 17th century.  William’s children and grandchildren were baptized in this church, and it seems probable that he and his wife would have been buried in the adjoining cemetery.

Now, having set forth the chronological history of the geographic, political and cultural development of Morden Parish, this would be a good place to introduce the civil history of the region.  The earliest records of Morden civil activities are found in the Manorial Documents which were maintained for the medieval manor by Westminster Abbey and in later years by the Garth family under their authority as “lord of the manor”.  Following is a description of the manorial record archives for Morden Parish: 

“Many of the early documents survive at Westminster Abbey Muniment Room, while more are in other archives.  Translations of most of these Morden manorial documents, including court rolls and more than 100 account rolls are being added to this [Merton Historical Society] website and can be viewed or downloaded.”

Court Rolls

“A number of manorial court rolls survive, though many are missing.  Those covering the period 1296-1300 and for 1327-28 are in the Muniment Room at Westminster Abbey, while the British Library has those for 1378-1422, 1435-58, 1461-1503, 1507-9, 1512-29, 1534-43, and 1655.  Extracts and copies of entries from 16th-century court rolls can be found at the British Library, at Lambeth Archives and at Surrey History Centre, which also holds the court rolls from 1594 to 1901 and a 1535 Steward’s memorandum of the rents and other payments made at the manorial courts. The manorial court primarily existed to maintain the rights of the lord of the manor over his tenants, so the rolls record infringements of these rights and the fines or ‘amercements’ due to the lord for such infringements.  These might include failure to attend court; failure to ensure that every male over the age of 12 was sworn into a tithing; failure to maintain buildings, bridges, ditches and highways; breaches of the assize of bread and ale, especially by using illicit measures or by selling inferior products; and breaches of the peace. The transfer of tenant land also gave rise to the payment of entry fines for customary properties and ‘reliefs’ for freehold properties, as well as the payment of heriot, normally the best beast, on the death of a tenant.  These records therefore supply a great deal of useful information on local properties and their descent. Tenants served as jurors, to inquire into the rights of a case, and were also elected into various official capacities, as ale-tasters, constables, and head-tithingmen (also called chief pledges).  There were two tithings in Morden – East Morden and West Morden – and a separate tithing for the tenants of the abbey’s Morden Fee in Ewell, each with its own elected officers. Tenants also used these courts to settle differences between neighbours, such as trespass, debt, theft and acts of violence, the lord taking an amercement over and above the payment of damages to the injured party.  In later years the courts also issued by-laws relating to agricultural practices and the use of common grazing. In 14th- and 15th-century Morden, courts were usually held two or three times a year, one of which included the View of Frankpledge, at which the Common Fine, set by custom at 6s 8d, was paid to the manorial lord.  Later they were less frequent. Latin was used for court rolls until 1732, except during the Commonwealth period [mid 17th century]… [The Merton Historical Society has undertaken a project to translate these early records from Latin into English] The translations are by Peter Hopkins under the guidance of Maureen Roberts, and countless extracts have been checked and corrected by Dr Mark Page.”[9]

A further more general clarification of the construct and operation of Manorial Courts is offered as follows:

“The manorial courts were the lowest courts of law in England during the feudal period.  They had a civil jurisdiction limited both in subject matter and geographically.  They dealt with matters over which the lord of the manor had jurisdiction, primarily torts, local contracts and land tenure, and their powers only extended to those who lived within the lands of the manor, i.e. both the demesne and such lands as the lord had enfeoffed to others, and to those who held land therein.  Historians have divided manorial courts into those that were primarily seignorial – based on feudal responsibilities – and those based on separate delegation of authority from the monarch.  There were three types of manorial court: the court of the honour; the court baron; and the court customary, also known as the halmote court.[1]

Each manor had its own laws promulgated in a document called the custumal, and anyone in breach of those laws could be tried in a manorial court.  The earlier Anglo-Saxon method of trial by ordeal or of compurgation was modified by the Normans into trial by a jury made up of 12 local freemen.  The lord or his steward would be the chairman, whilst the parish clerk would write the record on the manorial rolls.

The three types of manorial court were distinguished by the importance of those who made use of them: the court of honour was for the manor’s chief tenants, the court baron for other free tenants, and the court customary was for unfree tenants.

  • Court of the honour

The honour court, also known as the curia ducis (“duke’s court”) or curia militum (“soldiers’ court”), was made up of the most important of a lord’s tenants, particularly those who owed him knight service. Unlike the other two types of manorial court its jurisdiction could extend over a number of manors.[1] Dealing as it did with the most important of the lord’s tenants it was initially the principal manorial court, and may have acted as a superior court of appeal for the lower manorial courts, at least until 1267.[2]

  • Court baron

The main business of the court baron was the resolution of disputes involving a lord’s free tenants within a single manor, to enforce the feudal services owed to the lord of the manor by his tenants,[1] and to admit new tenants who had acquired copyholds by inheritance or purchase, for which they were obliged to pay a fine to the lord of the manor.  The English jurist Edward Coke described the court in his The Compleate Copyholder (1644) as “the chief prope and pillar of a manor which no sooner faileth than the manor falleth to the ground”.[3]  The court baron was constituted by the lord of the manor or his steward and a representative group of tenants known as the manorial homage, whose job was to make presentations to the court and act as a jury.[3]

The court baron was originally held every three weeks, although its sittings became increasingly infrequent during the 14th century, and by the 15th century it was often convened only twice a year. Those required to attend were summoned to appear, often by an announcement in church on Sunday or by a notice pinned to the church door. “Reasonable notice” had to be given, usually three days. Attendance at the court was a feudal duty, and those who failed to appear could be amerced,[a] i.e. arbitrarily fined.  After 1267 however, generally only a manor’s unfree tenants could be compelled to attend.[1]

By the 13th century compilations of precedents such as Le Court de Baron had begun to appear, partly to standardise and formalise the proceedings of the courts baron, but also in response to increasing competition from the common law courts,[5] which were administered nationwide under the authority of the monarch.  As it became increasingly acknowledged by the legal establishment during the 15th and 16th centuries that custom had “a secure place in law”,[6] plaintiffs were able to resort to the common law courts to resolve their differences over tenure rather than the court baron.

  • Court customary

The court customary, or halmote court, was the equivalent of the court baron for the lord’s unfree tenants.[1]  As the use of the court baron declined, the court customary became the predominant type of manorial court, and gradually the court’s distinction between free and unfree tenants disappeared.[7]”[10]

Manorial Accounts [Account Rolls]

“Accounts of the manorial income and expenditure would have been kept by the manor’s steward or bailiff. Each account would nearly always cover a single year, running from Michaelmas (29 September) to Michaelmas and would take the form of a ‘charge and discharge’. The ‘charge’ was effectively the income, or monies received by the steward. These might be from rents, the sale of produce or from fines issued in the manorial court. The ‘discharge’ was a record of expenditure, or monies paid out by the steward – perhaps for purchasing corn or livestock, repairing buildings or paying for labour.

Manorial accounts were often also preserved as a ‘roll’ and sometimes there might be both a draft and final version of the account included.  The figures were usually set out according to a fairly standard format: they would begin with a record of the cash account, with details of the charge and discharge; next they might have a record of the corn account (a record of corn harvested or sown, for example), again with the charge and discharge; then they might have a record of the livestock account (for examples calves born on the manor or pigs dying), also with a charge and discharge; finally, there might be sections recording labour services due and performed, land available and how it was used, or implements which were remaining at the end of each year. At the end of every section there would be a balance, with a final balance at the end of the whole account.”[11]

Since the manorial documents for Morden Parish are quite extensive and not necessarily directly relevant to the Arthurbury family, they will be used sparingly to demonstrate specific topics that are relevant to the Arthurburys at Morden. 

First is the Custumal Roll of 1225:

“These are the free tenants [not subject to manorial customs] in the vill of Morden:

• John Ducet for 1½ virgates 3s & nothing other but he is used to being tallaged [taxed]

• Richard de Winnelendune for 2½ virgates 6s 4d & nothing other

• William de Wattune for 1 virgate 2s freely

Concerning customary tenants [villeins subject to manorial customs]:

• Hugh West holds one virgate of land 20 acres for which he owes 2s at the 4 terms and each week one work.  In harvest to reap in a week ½ acre and at five boonworks to provide one man.  Likewise to do carrying services 4 times in a year.  He must [plough] 2* two acres per year with food and 1 without food.  And to weed, with food, and to harrow twice in a year.  They must clean the pond, with food.  They must mow the meadow, with food, and lift, without food, and carry, with food.  They must carry corn once, with food.  They must for three days carry hay and the third day to have food.

• Relict Lane for 1 virgate 2s

• John son of Gode for 1 virgate 2s

• Thomas Ingulf for 1 virgate 2s

• Gunnild for a half 12d & service as for a virgate†

• Avicia for 1 virgate 2s

• Robert Edward for 1 virgate 2s

• Henry de Brus for 1½ virgates 3s

• Walter Wig for 1½ virgates 3s & so much tallage, unless he does communal works

• Hubert for 1 virgate 28d

• Reginald Miles for 1 virgate 2s

• William the clerk for ½ virgate 2s

• William Palmer for 1 virgate 2s

• John son of Gilbert for a half virgate 1s

• Hugh Aunger for a half virgate 2s & he ought to be the same

• William the oxherd’s son for 1 virgate 2s & he holds a plough

• Mabel for 1 virgate 2s & so much tallage

• William Swein for 3 acres 12d”[12]

In this custumal roll there was recorded a total of 20.5 virgates under lease either to free tenants or to customary tenants, which at 20 acres per virgate accounts for about 413 acres.  Presumably the remainder of the parish land amounting to approximately 1000 acres was demesne lands in possession of the lord of the manor.  This record shows the average rent rate to have been about one schilling per virgate per year.  In addition to their rents, the tenants were also obligated to perform work for the lord of the manor, i.e., ploughing, tilling, weeding, harvesting, draying, etc. 

It is of interest to this study that most of these tenants were recorded with a mixture of names: (1) John Ducet, Richard de Winnelendune, William de Wattune, Hugh West, Thomas Ingulf, Robert Edwards, Henry de Brus, Walter Wig, Reginald Miles, William Palmer, Hugh Aunger and William Swein [aka Sweyne] all appear with both given names and surnames; (2) Gunnild, Avicia, Hubert and Mabel were all reported having only a given name and no surname; (3) John son of Gode [later aka Godeson] and John son of Gilbert were not reported with surnames, but identified by their given name coupled with their father’s given name; (4) Relict Lane presumably was the unnamed widow of the deceased Mr. Lane; (5) William the Clerk [later aka William Clerk] was identified by his given name and his profession or position; and (6) William the Oxherd’s son was recorded with his given name and a reference to his father’s occupation.  None of these tenant’s surnames displayed the distinctly Saxon characteristic presumed by Beardsley to have been derivative of the Atterbury surname, namely the Saxon preposition of “ate” or “atte” combined with a locale descriptor.

However, in another manorial survey compiled in 1312 the list of tenants began to exhibit surnames presumed by Beardsley to be demonstrative of Saxon origins similar to Atterbury:

“Extent of the manor of Mordon made in the presence of Brother John de Wyterleye and John de Neuport, clerk, on 17th day of the month of October in the 6th year of King Edward [II] son of King Edward by Robert Fabian, Henry Guldene, Walter Atte Wode [later Attwood], William Antorneys, Henry Attehengg, John Godesone [formerly “son of Gode”], Henry de Hose, Thomas Attechirche, John Hubert, Adam Est, Roger Attechirche and Thomas Belle jurors,…

  • Robert Fabian & Walter Atte Wode hold a moiety [sublet from Henry Gulden]
  • William Attechirche holds {blank} formerly belonging to John de Marreys…
  • Roger Attecherche holds 20 acres formerly belonging to Isabell Attecherche
  • Henry Attehengg holds a tenement
  • Henry Attecherche holds a tenement
  • Thomas Attecherche holds 10 acres land
  • Alice Attecherche holds 10 acres land
  • Henry Attecherche holds 10 acres land
  • Roger Attecherche holds 1 cottage
  • Walter Atte Wode holds 1 tenement 1 cottage and ½ acre land
  • Thomas Attecherche holds 1 messuage and 1 curtilage
  • Matilda Attehegh holds 1 cottage
  • Alice Atterithe holds ½ acre land”[13]

From the two foregoing inventories of Morden Manor which span a period of approximately 87 years it can be seen that there was a significant influx of persons bearing Saxon names purportedly of similar derivations to Atterbury, namely the combination of the Saxon preposition “ate” or “atte” with a local descriptor.  To put the occurrence of these clearly Saxon surnames in Morden in 1312 into a statistical context, there were a total of 48 tenants (both free and customary) of which 13 [or 27%] had the Saxon surnames of Atte Wode, Attecherche, Attehengg, Attehegh and Atterithe.  A careful review of the Morden manorial records prior to the 17th century revealed the addition of several more distinctly Saxon surnames such as Attebryggend, Atteheth and Attewell, but none which bore any resemblance to Arthurbury, Arterbury or Atterbury.  In fact, by about 1600 all surnames bearing the Saxon preposition of “Ate” or “Atte” had ceased to exist in Morden manorial records altogether.  Consequently, the sudden appearance of William Arthurbury among Morden records in the middle of the 17th century would suggest that he and his family were fairly recent arrivals to Morden.

In addition to the manorial records, Morden was the home of St. Lawrence Church which is believed to date from Saxon times.  A wooden church structure is believed to have existed on the site of the present church, which was erected around 1636 through the largesse and munificence of Richard Garth II, grandson of the original Richard Garth, Esq., who purchased Morden Manor in 1564 from Whitchurch and Ducket.  Richard Garth II restored the rectorial tithes and appointed his son-in-law, William Booth, as the first rector of St. Lawrence Church in about 1635.  As fortune would have it, the register of Morden Church has survived the ravages of time, and its records were transcribed and edited by Mr. F. Clayton into a single volume in 1901 entitled The Registers of Morden, Surrey, 1634 – 1812.  Since its erection in 1634 the church register captures the vital statistic records of parish inhabitants, including births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.

The earliest record of anyone named Arthurbury, Arterbury or Atterbury in Morden Parish was an entry in the church register abstracted as follows:

  1. “16May1649 – ye wife of William Arthurburie was buryed.”[14]

It is difficult to deduce very much factual information from this record other than that a woman, who had been married to a man named William Arthurburie, was buried at Morden on 16May1649.  The record does not provide the name of William Arthurburie’s wife, it does not even affirm whether William Arthurburie was, himself, living or dead, nor does it allow us to infer William Arthurburie’s age, except to suggest that he probably was born sometime before about 1628 in order to have been married to a woman, who died in 1649.  It might be inferred that William Arthurburie and/or his wife had been resident in Morden Parish for more than two years prior to 1649, and that they very likely were tenants on land within the parish.

However, there was an earlier record from nearby St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Mitcham Parish which may shed some light on this mystery:

  • “1638 – William Allenburg and Anne Olliver were married.”[15]

Even though this record was transcribed with the surname of “Allenburg”, it seems highly probable that this was the marriage record of William Arthurbury and his wife, Anne, who appeared in several St. Lawrence church records listed below.  Figure 4-5 contains an enlarged image of the Mitcham marriage record which is in extremely poor condition.  It is easy to understand how this record might have been transcribed in error.  However, given the total absence of anyone else surnamed “Allenburg” or facsimile thereof anywhere in Surrey County in the 17th century, and given the close geographic proximity, the date, and match of the given names of the married couple to William and Anne Arthurbury of Morden Parish, it seems a virtual certainty that this marriage record was for William and Anne Arthurbury of Morden Parish.  The surname of the groom appears to have been spelled “Atterbury”.

Assuming that the above marriage record was for William and Anne Arthurbury of Morden Parish, this begs the question as to the identity of the wife of William Arthurbury recorded buried in Item 1, above.  In order for the deceased Mrs. Arthurbury to have been the wife of the William Arthurbury, who later appeared in numerous other records in Morden Parish, we would have to accept that he had married two different women with the given name of “Anne”.  Such happenstance, when coupled with the birth of a child just 12 months after this burial record, hardly seems likely.  A more probable explanation is that William Arthurbury, spouse of the deceased Mrs. Arthurbury, was not the same person as the William Arthurbury, husband of Anne.  If this is an accurate conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing analysis, then we might also conclude that there were two different William Arthurburys associated with Morden Parish in the mid-17th century.  The author is inclined to believe that the deceased Mrs. Arthurbury was actually the mother of the William Atterbury [aka Arthurbury], who married Anne Olliver.  What cannot be established from the limited available data is whether the deceased Mrs. Arthurbury’s husband was still living at the time of her death in 1649.  The fact that she was identified as his “wife” and not his “widow” suggests that her husband may still have been living.  All the other, later records found for William Arthurbury in Morden Parish are believed to have been related to the son of the deceased Mrs. Arthurbury, consequently, it seems probable that the elder William Arthurbury was himself already deceased sometime before 1649.

The author, by pure happenstance, stumbled upon a reference to a grave marker reported as follows:

  • Mordon: Page 363 – Add to the tombs in the churchyard, that of William Atterbury, who died in 1690, aged 97.[16]

This record of the grave marker for William Atterbury, buried in the cemetery adjacent to St. Lawrence Church at Morden appeared as an errata to the book The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey written by Daniel Lysons and published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1792.  Note that the errata which contained this reference to the grave marker of William Atterbury was actually contained in an appendix attached to The Environs of London: Volume 4, Counties of Herts, Essex and Kent, also written by Lysons and published by Cadell and Davies at London in 1796.  The author is of the opinion that the referenced grave marker could only have been that of William Arthurbury, who according to the St. Lawrence church register was buried as William Arterbury on 3Nov1696 (not 1690), 100 years before the existence of the grave marker was reported by Daniel Lysons.  Since Lysons appears to have erroneously reported William Arthurbury’s death year as 1690 (the numeral “6” could easily be misinterpreted as a “0” on a weathered marker), the author has good reason to question the reliability of the reported age at death, as well.  Such an advanced age during the 17th century would have been extraordinary.  If that age were correct, William Arthurbury would have been born in about 1599, and would have been almost 40 years old when he married Anne Olliver. 

Lysons published the errata to Volume 1 almost four years after its initial printing in 1792.  It seems probable that Lysons had actually visited St. Lawrence church some years before 1792 and made notes of his survey of that church and its grounds.  In Volume 1 Lysons listed only five burial records from the church yard extracted as follows:

“In the church-yard are the tombs of Peter Mauvillain, Esq. who died in 1739, Stephen Mauvillain, who died in 1740, and Peter Mauvillain, Esq. who died in 1755; Thomas Robson, rector, who died in 1778; and Sophia, wife of Thomas Conway, Esq. who died in 1785.”[17]

Yet F. Clayton in his 1901 Registers of Morden listed more than 200 grave markers from the church yard, most of which dated from the 19th century, but also included a few from the 18th century, and none from the 17th century.  Clayton’s inventory of the church yard grave markers included detailed descriptions of the Mauvillian family markers mentioned by Lysons, indicating that they were located to the southwest of the church.  Clayton also mentioned the markers of Thomas Robson, northwest of church, and Sophia Conway in the south wall.  Having singled out only five other monuments in the church yard, from what must have contained a hundred or more markers in 1790, why would Lysons see fit to add the marker for William Arthurbury?  The Mauvillian family was well known in the Mitcham-Morden area in the first half of the 18th century for the calico cloth printing factory they had established along the Wandle.  Thomas Robson, having been one of the latest rectors of St. Lawrence, would also have been considered an important figure in the community.  Sophia [nee von Schramm] Conway (see portrait in Figure 4-6) was the daughter of a German ambassador, whereas her husband, Thomas Conway had sailed to India as a free merchant in 1766, and then spent ten years in the Bengal Army.  Thomas and Sophia settled at Morden Park. 

It seems clear that Lysons was cherry-picking persons whom he considered to be of high social or historical importance to the Morden community.  That being the case, then why did he decide to add William Arthurbury to the list of church yard burials?  A reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that William Arthurbury’s longevity must have been considered a noteworthy attribute.  A careful review of all the grave markers reported by Clayton shows none as old as William Arthurbury was reported to have been.  Certainly, nothing else is known of William Arthurbury that would justify his being included with the rarified company of the Mauvillians and Sophia von Schramm-Conway.  Consequently, the author is inclined to accept the accuracy of William Arthurbury’s age at time of death as 97 years.  However, it cannot be ruled out that William’s age may have been 107 years, wherein the “1” might have been obscured by weathering, and the “0” misinterpreted as a “9”.  Having looked at weathered grave markers for many years, the author is well aware of how difficult it can be to decipher numbers, particularly if the stone is of a soft material which has been subjected to the elements.  If William Arthurbury had lived to 107 years, his age would be a match for another William Atterbury discussed hereinafter as “William Atterbury of Mortlake”.

The next chronological records found for an Arthurbury in Morden Parish are abstracted as follows:

  • “9Jun1650 – William the son of William Arthurbury and Ann, his wife, was baptized.”[18]  The author believes this William, born to William and Ann Arthurbury, to have been the same person, who married Jane Wilkinson on 21Jun1676 at All Hallows Church, London Wall, London, Middlesex County.  More on this William Arterbury later in this Chapter.
  • “17Oct1652 – Richard, the son of William Arthurbury and Ann, his wife, was baptized.”[19]  This Richard Arthurbury is believed to have been the father of Edward Arterbury and the grandfather of William Atterbury, the American immigrant.  Make note of the transition or “corruption” of the Arthurbury surname from Arthurbury to Arterbury, and thence to Atterbury over only three generations.
  • “11Oct1655 – At the View of Frankpledge with the Court Baron of George Garth, Esq., Jurys were appointed: Edward Styles, Thomas Warden, William Quarrington, John Major, John Franke, George Harrison, sworne. Edward Wharam, John Dollett, William Arthurbury, Michael Crouther, William Graves, Thomas North, sworne.”[20]  This and the following two records are extracts from the Morden Manorial Court Rolls translated by the Merton Historical Society and posted on their website.  It should be noted that these manorial court sessions were typically held 2 to 3 times each year in the 17th century, yet many of these records are missing.  In fact, prior to this record from 1655 there had been a gap in the records of 27 years.  This foregoing record from Oct1655 shows William Arthurbury being appointed as a juror.  Note that the jurors were selected in Morden and sworn in two groups of six members each.  A sitting jury would have consisted of all twelve members, which suggests that these two groups of six members were likely selected from two halves of the parish, possibly East- and West- Morden.  It is not clear from the record in which part of the parish William Arthurbury may have resided.  In order to have been appointed a juror William Arthurbury would have been a “paid-up” customary tenant of the parish for several years.  It should also be noted that in 1655 England was in the midst of the Interregnum or Commonwealth period in the wake of the English Civil War.  Charles II was in exile in France and the country was being governed by Oliver Cromwell and his “Generals”.
  • “15Apr1658 – At the View of Frankpledge with the Court Baron of George Garth, Esq., Jurys were appointed: Edward Styles, Thomas Warden, William Quarrington, Jonas Lowgee, John Major, Thomas Downes – sworne John Frankes, Edward Chardham, John Dallett, William Arterbury, Michael Crowcher, William Graves – sworne.  Again in 1658 William Arterbury was appointed a juror.  Note that nine of these jurors had also been appointed three years earlier in 1655.  Also, note the surname spelling corruption from Arthurbury to Arterbury.  Further, note that there was a Court Record extant for the year 1661, but William Arthurbury did not appear in that roll either as a juror or in any other context.
  • “20Oct1664 (16th year of Chas. II) – At the View of Frankpledge with the Court Baron of George Garth, Esq., Tithingman Appointment: Thomas Cocks, tithingman at the same place, charged, appears and is sworn etc. And he presents Common Fine payable at this day. And now at this court William Arthurbury is elected into the office aforesaid for the coming year. And being present in court he is sworn etc.”[21]  There is a surviving manorial court record for Morden from 1661, but no further entries are found for William Arthurbury until this record in Oct1664 in which he was appointed Tithingman [aka tax collector].  Tithingman was a very important position within the community, and suggests that William Arthurbury had risen to a high status of moral standing and trust in Morden Parish.  Assuming his birth year of about 1599, William Arthurbury would have been about 65 years old in 1664.
  • 20Oct1664 (16th year of Chas. II) – At the View of Frankpledge with the Court Baron of George Garth, Esq., Jurors were appointed: John Franke, Edward Stiles, William Quarrington, Jonas Lowgee, Michael Croucher, Robert Major – sworn. Edward Wharum, William Arthurbury, Hugh Dollett, Thomas Cocks, John Dollett, John White, Humphrey Mills – sworn. [22]  William Arthurbury was again selected as a juror.  Note that 10 members of this new jury panel were fellow jurors with William Arthurbury six years earlier in 1658 suggesting a fairly stable population of tenants within Morden Parish during this time period.
  • “1664 Hearth Tax Rolls – Morden Parish, Wallington Hundred:

[CHARGEABLE]

COLL ROBERT PHILLIPS 19; JOHN HIGHLORD ESQ 15; MR WILLM VANBURGH 17; MR WILLM BOOTH RECTOR 14; MR JOHN SIBLEY 15; MR JOHN SIBLEY IN A HOWSE EMPTY 4; MR DANIELL BALLOW 12; MR THO STYLE 3; WILLM BATTS […]; WILLM QUARINGTON […]; EDW STYLE […]; JONAS LOWGEE […]; MICH CRUTCHER […]; THO WARDEN […]; JOHN FRANKE […]; WID BISHOPP […]; ROB MAGOR 3; WID DOWNES 3; EDW WHARUM 1; WID DUMBRILL SEN 2; HUGH DOLLETT 1; WID DUMBRILL JUN 1; ELIZ GRAVE 1; WID HARRISON 1; WID [REEVES] 2; RALPH JESSOP 2; WILLM ATTERBURY 2; JOHN WIGHT 1 ; THO WAND 2; THO COX 2; WID HALL […]

[PERSONS NOT CHARDGEABLE]

WID THOMALIN 1; WID NORTH […]; WID MA […] IN […]; ROB ROGERS […]; THO NORTH […]; HUMPHREY MILLS MILLS 1; JOHN DOLL […]; A HOWSE EMPTY 1; WID M […] 1; JOHN WHITTINGTON 2”[23]  The hearth tax record for Morden Parish had 13 households that were partially illegible and 9 households that fell in the non-chargeable category.  William Arthurbury was recorded in the chargeable category and was taxed for two hearths.  Of the chargeable and legible households, 27% had one hearth, 27% had two hearths and the remaining 10 households had 3 or more hearths.  So, William Arthurbury was by no means one of the more affluent members of the parish nor was he of the poorest class.  In all probability, William Arthurbury was very likely a paying tenant farmer occupying a farm of about 20 acres.

  1.  “2Sep1683 – Anne Arterberry, the wife of William Arterberry was buried and an affidavit brought in 8 days*[24].”[25]  This burial of Anne (Olliver) Arterbury was almost certainly of the wife of the original William Arthurbury of Morden Parish, and the mother of William and Richard Arthurbury.
  2. “May1684 – Edward, son of Richard Arterbury and Jane, his wife, was baptized.”[26]  This is believed to have been the baptismal record of Edward Arterbury (mason), the father of William Atterbury, Maryland immigrant.  Edward’s parents are believed to have been Richard Arthurbury (chandler and fruiterer) born in Morden Parish on 17Oct1652 and Jane Bulley.  (more on this couple later)
  3. “14Feb1686 [OS] – Richard, son of Richard Arterbury and Jane, his wife, was baptized.”[27]  This is believed to have been the baptismal record of Richard Arterbury (carpenter), believed to have married two separate women named Elizabeth.  (more to follow)
  4. “3Nov1696 – William Arterbury of this parish was buried and an affidavit brought within 8 days of his burial with woolen onely [sic].”[28]  This almost certainly was the burial record of William Arthurbury, the progenitor of the Arthurbury family of Morden Parish.  Take note of the corruption of the surname of both William and his wife, Anne, from Arthurbury into Arterbury.  This was an important factor which enabled the author to make the connection between William Atterbury (Maryland immigrant) and his ancestors of Morden Parish.
  5. “10Jun1697 – Edward Williams of Casaulton, shoomaker [sic], and Elizabeth Arterbury of this parish were married.”[29]  No birth record was found for an Elizabeth Arterbury in Morden Parish, but given the unique nature of the surname, it seems highly probable that she was descended from William and Ann Arthurbury.  Elizabeth’s new husband, Edward Williams, very likely was from the neighboring parish of Carshalton [Casaulton] to the southeast of Morden Parish.  Edward very likely had completed an apprenticeship as a shoemaker.  The author’s research of St. Olaves Parish in Southwark showed shoemaking to be an important minor industry in that part of Surrey.  A search of Surrey County records failed to return any hits for children born to this couple.  However, there are burial records for both an Edward Williams (28Dec1734) and an Elizabeth Williams (11May1726) in the church register for St. Mary at Ewell.  Given the relatively close proximity and dates, it seems possible that these were the burial records for the parties shown in this marriage record.

This concludes the presentation of the records directly related to the Arthurburys of Morden Parish.  However, before leaving this discussion of Morden, it may be useful to present a brief overview of the socio-economic status of the neighbors of William Arthurbury during his almost 50-year recorded life in that parish.  The information presented in Table 4-1 has been gleaned from the Morden Church Registers and displays the occupations of individuals appearing in the church register covering the first 35 years of its rectorial life.  It should be noted that the occupation was not recorded for most persons entered in the register.  In the first three years in which the register was maintained the occupations were recorded with some regularity, but not in all instances.  After 1637 recording of occupations became more sporadic, and do not appear to follow any particular pattern, except that those of the highest rank and their servants do appear to have been regularly recorded, i.e., gentleman, esquire, rector, merchant, servant, maid servant.  Also, records involving parties from outside the parish seem to regularly display their occupations, i.e., grocer, coachmaker, mercer, goldsmith, merchant, oyleman, druggist (all of London).  Although the recorded occupations are somewhat sporadic and spotty, the church register did capture the occupation of eight of William Arthurbury’s fellow jurors (highlighted in green in Table 1).  From the occupations of these eight jurors, which have been extracted as a subset and presented in Table 4-2, it is possible to infer the general socio-economic grouping into which William Arthurbury must have fallen.  Three of these jurors were Husbandmen (farmers), three were Labourers (probably unskilled manorial employees), and the remaining two were tradesmen: a Tailor and a Bricklayer.  Given the socio-economic levels of William Arthurbury’s juror peers, it seems reasonable to conclude that William very likely was a small farmer, manorial employ (labourer), or tradesman, most likely a husbandman who farmed a small tenant property. 

One further test of the socio-economic status of William Arthurbury and his peer jurors is the number of hearths shown for their households in the 1664 Hearth Tax Rolls.  Virtually all of the 1664 Morden jurors also appeared in the 1664 Hearth Tax Roll, but the records for six of those jurors were partially illegible.  Of the four for which complete records exist, they were taxed as follows: Robert Magor [Major] – three hearths, Edward Warum – one hearth, Hugh Dollett – one hearth, and Thomas Cox [Cock] – two hearths.  So, with William Arthurbury being taxed for two hearths, he would have been of nearly equal socio-economic rank compared to his fellow jurors.  Of those jurors who had complete records in the hearth tax rolls, Robert Major, blacksmith, had the largest household with three hearths.  From this it might be inferred that William Arthurbury was of comparable socio-economic standing with a blacksmith or similar craftsman.

The daily life of William Arthurbury, a presumed husbandman, would have been regulated by a plethora of manorial customs inferred by the following actions of the manorial court during the 16th and 17th century:

Rents, Tenancies, Etc. – There were numerous Court Roll entries relating to the governance of land use within the manor including rents, heriots, inheritances of copyholds, freeholds, etc.  Following are only a select few of these entries which dealt with the more unusual or uncustomary transactions:

  • That Walter Blake has kept a certain Thomas Milbridge cohabiting with him and his dwelling house within the precinct of this leet as one inmate for two months against the form of the statute in cases of this kind recently enacted and provided.  Therefore he forfeits to the Lord 20 schillings.
  • That John Carpenter after Christmas last kept Robert Stevens and his wife cohabiting with him in his dwelling house within the precinct of this leet as one inmate for the space of a half a month against the form of the statute in cases of this kind and acted and provided. Therefore he is in mercy five shillings.
  • That George Style after the last court erected and built a certain cottage upon the wasteland of the demesne of the Lord of this manner without the Lord’s license, not having four acres of land of free tenure to the same cottage adjoining and adjacent and this erected and built after Christmas last, supported and maintained against the form of the statute. Therefore he is in mercy 12d.  It would appear that a tenant could not construct a new dwelling house unless they held claim to and dedicated at least four acres to the new structure.
  • That William Stephens encroached and intruded in land of the Lord without the Lords license and built one chimney upon the land. Therefore it is ordained by the court that he destroy the said chimney before Michaelmas next under penalty of forfeiting 40s.
  • That William Stephens converted a certain stable into a cottage or dwelling house against the form of the statute enacted in this respect. Therefore it is ordained by the court that the said William restore the said cottage so divided in its former state as a single dwelling house which it was used as before, before the feast of St. Bartholomew next under penalty of forfeiting 40s.  From this and the foregoing entry it would appear that William Stephens had attempted to convert a stables abutting to his dwelling house into a separate habitable dwelling by the erection of a hearth and other attendant improvements in violation of ordinance.

Livestock Management – there are numerous court entries involving various regulations and infractions thereof pertaining to various forms of livestock including cattle, sheep, pigs, geese and wild game, i.e. waterfowl, partridges, etc.

  • Fined five shillings for keeping five of his cattle feeding in the common highways of Morden contrary to the order of this court.
  • Fined two shillings for keeping two kine feeding in the aforesaid lanes.
  • Fined 12d for keeping one cow in the aforesaid lanes.
  • Fined for suffering his hogs to go in the streets to the common hurt of the parish.
  • Fined 10 shillings for putting three horses untied into the common meadow after the feast of St. Valentine and before the same was mowed contrary to an order hereto for made in this court for the same purpose.
  • Fined six shillings for suffering six of their hogs to go unringed whereby they did dig in a certain cornfield called Cobshawe.
  • Fined five shillings for two bullocks put into the common pasture of this Lordship to be pastured at the same place over and above the rate and portion approved and allowed to him in the same, against the ordinance in this regard before this made.
  • It is ordained by the court with the assent and consent of all tenants and inhabitants at the same place that no tenant or inhabitant of this Lordship henceforth shall put in the common field of this Lordship called the Southfield any of his livestock after the sowing of wheat growing in the same unless it is bound or in custody under penalty for each animal offending to the contrary 3s4d.
  • Furthermore, it is ordained that ordinances called bylaws hitherto made and appointed for and concerning the depasturing (denuding) of livestock of inhabitants and the maintenance of their geese in the lanes and waste called Morden Green…
  • And that one lamb aged four months, worth 3s4d in the Lords custody came into this Lordship as a stray around the feast of St. John the Baptist last past and proclamation therefore was made in the market and fair just as the custom is and none came forward. And that one mare colored worth 20 schillings in the Lords custody came into the Lordship as a stray around the feast of St. Matthew the apostle last past and proclamation thereof was made in the market and fair just as is the custom and none came forward.
  • The jury say upon their oath that Humphrey Mills shot with a certain gun and slaughtered birds with the same, and that he does not have 100 pounds a year. Therefore he forfeits to the Lord £.10.  (From this and other entries it would appear that use of firearms for hunting was prohibited by ordinance, else the person had an annual worth greater than £.100, effectively restricting such license to only the very wealthy residents of the manor).
  • At this court it is ordered that no inhabitant within the precinct of this leet shall keep any goose or any geese upon the Common after the feast of St. Bartholomew the apostle next, under penalty and forfeiting to the Lord for each goose 12d.
  • At this court is ordained that no person put in a cattle in a certain place called Bowlane under penalty of forfeiting to the Lord for each time 12d.
  • Is ordained also by the court that each person pay for releasing cattle of whatever kind or pigs impounded in the pound of the Lord of this manner for distraint upon the handing over of the same distraint.  2d.

Roads, Ditches, Dykes, Enclosures and Hedges – there were numerous entries involving the maintenance and upkeep of various public works such as grazing lands, roads, paths, ditches, dikes and hedges (enclosures), even to including members of the Lord’s family.

  • Fined 12 shillings for not making clean three perches of a certain ditch by Bush Close according to the order of the last court.
  • Fined 3s4d for not making the water barriers between Hobalds meadow and Hawkes meadow according to the order of the last court.
  • Fined 10 shillings for not scouring the ditch by a certain close called Mackerelles according to the order of the last court.
  • They affirm that everything presented above is true and furthermore present that Robert Garthe, gentleman has a day to scour his ditch being towards a Lane called Growtes Lane…
  • Lesdowne has not sent his team to repair and mend the royal road leading from market town to market town within the precinct of this view at any day of the six separate days proposed for that purpose by the Constable and the keeper of the ornaments of the parish church of Morden aforesaid and for that intent fixed, appointed and summoned according to the form of the statute in such case recently enacted and provided, but has defaulted.
  • And the order is given to George Garth, gentleman to purge the common sewer running from a certain parcel of land called the Lower Morden Green as far as a certain meadow called the Common Meadow before 25 March next under penalty of forfeiting for each perch there of then not having been purged. Fine 12d.
  • Fined 12d John Whitinge and John White to purge a certain ditch and to make a certain hedge against the ends of a certain two acres of meadow lying in the common meadow in Morden aforesaid nearly adjoining the Royal way at the same place called Bowhill Lane…
  • Fined 6s8d William Clever, clerk to purge a certain ditch running from his rectory as far as a certain land now in the occupation of a certain Henry Smith and to make two sluices both in the aforesaid ditch placed to convey water in the same ditch running from the rectory aforesaid as far as the land of the aforesaid Henry…
  • Fined 12d all those who hold any part of a certain meadow called the Common Meadow extending to the extreme limits of that meadow to make and repair ditches and Hedges by and against the ends of their separate parts…
  • That David Bennett after Christmas last blocked and stopped and diverted the watercourse running through the orchard of William Matthews to the nuisance of the Lord Kings subjects and lieges. Therefore he is in mercy 12d.
  • That John Savage has not worked with his cart in mending the Royal way in Morden regulated by the surveyor of the said way according to the form of the statute enacted in this respect. Therefore he is in mercy 6s8d.
  • That the ditch of William Stephens, Samuel Ln., John Savage, and William Matthew leading from the bridge which is called the Stonebridge going as far as the meadow is full of earth and dung, so that rainwater often flows outside the ditch of that Royal way inundating it to the nuisance of lieges of the said Lord came traveling by that way. Therefore it is ordained by the court that they cleanse the ditch aforesaid before the feast of St. Bartholomew next under penalty for each rod so deficient for each of them 12d.
  • Fined 12d for not mending his hedges which do enclose a certain close of the Lords called Barne close and another close of the Lords called the Great Barwelles.
  • Fined 10s Henry Baker has not repaired his hedge towards the land of William Thorn called Longeclose just as he had a day at the last court…

Manorial Resources – there were a few entries involving regulation of manorial resources, i.e., trees, loamy soils and clay.

  • Fined 12d for felling three young oaks in the lands of the Lord of this manner.
  • This court is given intelligence that William Plaistowe lopped and cut certain elms lately growing upon demesne land of this Lordship towards his land lying in Southwelles in the aforesaid Lordship.
  • Persons whose names follow dug loam in the Lords waste called Sparrowfield without the Lords license…
  • Fined 4d Nicholas Newington dug to cartloads of Clay in the Common without the Lords license.

Immoral Conduct

  • Fined John North receiving in his dwelling house a certain Elizabeth Robinson for her confinement having been made pregnant by a certain unknown in another parish, and supports her at the same place by comfort, in evil example to others as against the Queen’s peace.

Assault, Theft and other Torts

  • Fined – William Surman within this Lordship assaulted and made affray upon John Burnell his master and the same John with a certain stick worth 16d beat Andrew Blood from the same against the peace.
  • That Lawrence Spicer after Christmas last broke the pound of the Lord within the precinct of this manner and took and abducted pigs at the same place distrained and impounded in the same pound and made and permitted them to go at large. Therefore he is in mercy to shillings.
  • That Thomas Heath after Christmas last placed various cartloads of dung upon the wasteland of the demesne of the Lord of this manner to the nuisance of the Lord Kings subjects and lieges. Therefore he is in mercy 4d.

Ale and Bread Regulation – such staples as ale and bread were subject to taxation and, therefore, closely regulated.

  • Nicholas Matthew ale taster at the same place, charged, appears and sworn presents that Richard Kenfelde is a common Baker of bread for human consumption within this Lordship and supplies tortes called cakes within the precinct of the same against the laws of this realm of England.
  • Thomas Smith ale taster at the same place, charged, appears and sworn, presents that Edward Curtis is a common Baker of bread for human consumption and sales within the precinct of this court and breaks the assize.  And that William Surman is a common seller of beer within this Lordship and sells the same at the same place and breaks the assize.
  • Walter Blake ale taster at the same place, charged, appears and sworn, presents that Robert Thomalin is a common seller of beer within this Lordship and sells his beer and stone pots and from illicit measures and breaks the assize.
  • Fined 12d William Stephens keeps an alehouse within the precinct of this leet, and sells various drinks of beer to subjects of the Lord King now at the same place and measures not sealed against the form of the statute and respect thereof recently enacted and provided.

As a resident of Morden Parish for almost 50 years William Arthurbury would have been subject to a wide variety of customs and regulations enforced through the manorial court.  These customs would have included the registration of his two sons upon their reaching the tithable age of 12 years.  Since there is not one entry in the Court Rolls involving an Arthurbury, other than William’s appointments as a juror and tithingman, it can be reasonably inferred that he was a law-abiding and respected citizen of the community throughout his extraordinarily long life.  The fact that both William’s and his wife’s burials were attended by the appropriate affidavits governing the use of woolen burial clothes is further testimony of his socio-economic status and good citizenship.  One further illustration of William Arthubury’s status is the fact that both of his sons appear to have been afforded apprenticeships in the trades of chandlering and masonry.

William Arthurbury’s Ancestors

Before moving on to the next generation of Arthurburys, let’s digress momentarily (not necessarily briefly) to explore the possible ancestry and parentage of William Arthurbury, himself.  From the earliest Arthurbury record found in Morden Parish it was concluded that William Arthurbury’s mother was very likely the person buried at St. Lawrence cemetery on 16May1649.  It was further concluded from this record that William Arthurbury’s father was also named William Arthurbury (or Atterbury), and that he probably had died sometime before May1649.  From this data it can be concluded that William Arthurbury’s parents very likely originated from somewhere in the vicinity of Surrey County.  Since William Arthurbury was married in Mitcham Parish, immediately across the Wandle River from Morden, it is reasonable to assume that he, himself, originated from the vicinity of Surrey County. 

Any attempt to trace the origins of William Arthurbury’s parents might be most productive by searching for any families headed by a William Atterbury/Arthurbury within the nearest geographic proximity to Morden Parish in the early 17th century.  Mobility was relatively restricted during this time period, particularly among the lower classes.  So, it is highly probable that William Arthurbury came from a family living either within Surrey County or from one of the immediately abutting counties.  A thorough search of archival records revealed only a very few relatively close potential ancestors, which are presented and discussed as follows:

William Atterbury of Mortlake

Records exist for a William Atterbury living in Mortlake Parish during the early part of the 17th century.  Mortlake Parish is situated in Surrey County about six miles to the north of Morden Parish along the south bank of the Thames River (refer to Figure 7-2).  St. Mary’s was the parish church of Mortlake during the 17th century and its registers survived with vital records dating from about 1600.  A careful search of the St. Mary church register, a subset of the database contained on Ancestry.com and entitled All Surrey, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812, revealed several records pertaining to a William Atterbury listed chronologically as follows:

  1. 20Apr1617 Katherine Attseburie, daughter of William was baptized at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.
  2. 5Jan1620 Anne Attexburie, daughter of William was baptized at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.
  3. 30Jun1623 William Atternburie, son of William was baptized at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.
  4. 9Jul1623 William Atterburie, son of William was buried at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.  Note: this burial record very likely was for the son born on 30Jun1623.
  5. 21Nov1624 Elizabeth Atterburie, daughter of William was baptized at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.
  6. 6Aug1629 Hannah Atterbuie, daughter of William was buried at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.  Note: there was no baptism record found for Hannah Atterburie, so it seems possible that this may have been the same person as Anne Attexburie, baptized on 5Jan1620.
  7. 4Sep1631 Jane Arthurburie, daughter of William was baptized at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.  Note that the church register clearly shows the surname spelling as Arthurburie, even though all other entries related to William Atterbury of Mortlake were shown with the surname of Atterburie or close facsimile.
  8. 14May1632 Alice Atterbury, daughter of William was buried at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.  Note that no baptism record was found for Alice Atterburie.  It seems possible that Alice may have been born before the family moved to Mortlake.
  9. 30Jan1664 Ellen Arterbury was buried at St. Mary Church, Mortlake.  Note: After the burial of Alice Atterbury in Item 8, above, no further records were found at Mortlake for anyone with the surnames of Atterbury, Arthurbury or Arterbury until this burial record of Ellen Arterbury.  Since no name of a parent appeared with this burial record, it is safe to conclude that Ellen was an adult.  Was she a kinsperson of William Atterbury?

Note the variety of spellings of the surname.  These variances are believed to have resulted from errors in transcription or in the original recording.  The script of the original records is of surprisingly good quality and legibility.  All Ancestry database searches conducted for this research for the Arthurbury/Arterbury /Atterbury surname were performed using the following formats: a*t*b*, a*d*b* and a*r*b*, where the “*” is a wildcard for any mixture of letters that occur between or trailing the bracketing letters.  This method proves to be a very reliable means for obtaining hits on all of the various corruptions that may occur.  One further search format of “a*b*r*” was selectively used in order to cast a wider net.  It was this search format that disclosed the record for William Allenburg, who married Anne Olliver at Mitcham.  In spite of the numerous variations of the surname spelling in the Mortlake register, the author is of the opinion that all of these records pertained to one person, namely William Atterbury (with the exception of the burial record of Ellen Arterbury).

In addition to the records listed hereinabove from the church register of St. Mary’s Church, Mortlake, there was also another record found for a William Atterbury of Mortlake:

“In a muster roll of the entire population of Thames Watermen compiled in Feb1628/9 is listed the name of William Atterbury, aged 40 years of Mortlake.”

Given the location, name and date match with the preceding St. Mary church records, this William Atterbury, waterman, is believed to have been the father identified in the church records.  So, now we know that William Atterbury of Mortlake was employed as a Thames River Waterman, and that he was born about 1588.  From the church records it can be surmised that this William Atterbury also was married sometime before about 1615, and that he died sometime after 1632.

When the author first assessed the William Atterbury family of Mortlake, it appeared that this William may have been the father of William Arthurbury of Morden.  Such impression was formed before discovery of the grave marker record abstracted by Lysons and presented hereinabove.  Even before discovery of the grave marker record, doubt was already cast upon this linkage between William Atterbury of Mortlake and William Arthurbury as father and son, such doubt being caused by the fact that the only known son of William of Mortlake was recorded buried in Jul1623.  Unless there was another son named William, born after the first William had died, such connection to William Arthurbury of Morden was unlikely.  Now, armed with Lysons reported grave marker, such father-son connection to William Atterbury of Mortlake has been rendered biologically impossible.  So, if William Arthurbury was not a son of William Atterbury of Mortlake, might there still have been some kinship connection between them?

Given the probable birth year of William Arthurbury in about 1599 (or earlier, say 1589), it now becomes conceivable that William Atterbury of Mortlake and William Arthurbury were the same person.  The earliest record found for William Atterbury of Mortlake was the baptism of a daughter named Katherine on 20Apr1617.  Typically baptisms were performed within about two weeks following birth, suggesting a birth date of about 1Apr1617.  If Katherine were truly the 1st born child of William Atterbury, waterman, then he must have been married sometime before Jul1616.  William Arthurbury would have been only about 17 years old in 1616 (assuming a birth year of ~1599).  Is it reasonable to think that William Atterbury, waterman, could have married at such a young age?  Unless his was a clandestine marriage, he would have required the written consent of a parent.  From other research performed by the author on the young William Atterbury, Maryland immigrant, it was learned that he, too had been a Thames waterman, and that he seemingly had entered into two separate clandestine marriages before the age of 21 years.  Given this history and comparison, it does seem possible that William Atterbury of Mortlake could have been married by the age of 17 years, but not likely. 

However, another contradiction in this hypothesis must be recognized.  In the Feb1628/9 muster roll of Thames Watermen William Atterbury of Mortlake was reported to have been about 40 years old.  If that were an accurate age for William Atterbury in 1628/9, he would have been born about 1588/9, 10 years before William Arthurbury (assuming a 1599 birth year).  The author cannot explain this discrepancy, nor can he rule out the possibility that William Atterbury of Mortlake may have been the same person as William Arthurbury of Morden.  Since Lysons misinterpreted the year of William Atterbury’s death as reported from his grave marker, it seems possible that Lysons may also have mistaken the age at death.  There is no overlap between the records of William Atterbury, waterman, and William Arthurbury of Morden to controvert this possibility.  There is also the burial record for the daughter named Alice in May1632, yet no baptism record was found for Alice.  Such occurrence suggests that Alice may have been older than Katherine, and born sometime before Apr1617.  The last record directly linked to William Atterbury, waterman, was the burial of his daughter, Allice in May1632.  The earliest record believed to be for William Arthurbury was his marriage record to Anne Olliver at Mitcham Parish in 1638.  Assuming a birth year of about 1589, William would have been almost 50 years old when he married Anne Olliver.  It is logical to believe that William Arthurbury had been married before he married Anne Olliver.  Therefore, an earlier family at Mortlake makes sense.  One thing that would correct this seeming discrepancy would be if Lysons had been correct in the reported year of William Atterbury’s burial as 1690.  If that burial year were correct, then he would have been born in about 1592/3, which would more closely comport with his reported age from the Waterman’s registry.

Other factors for the reader to consider are the absence of key records in the St. Mary church register, namely the absence of burial records for either William Atterbury, waterman, or of his wife.  Over a 15 year period the births and deaths of several of William Atterbury’s children were recorded.  There was even the burial record of an unidentified Ellen Arterbury as late as 1664.  If Ellen Arterbury had been the wife (or widow) of William Atterbury, waterman, the record probably would have identified her as such.

Although the foregoing analysis of William Atterbury of Mortlake cannot conclusively state that he was the same person as William Arthurbury, it can be stated that Mortlake was sufficiently close to Morden, the given names are a match, the child-bearing ages match, and their respective socio-economic characteristics are similar.  The author is inclined to give William Atterbury of Mortlake a very high level of probability of having been the same person as William Arthurbury of Morden.

William Atterbury – Porter, Carman and Brownist

In the early part of the 17th century there lived a person named William Atterbury in St. Giles, Cripplegate, London, who could have been the father of William Arthurbury of Morden.  This William Atterbury was recorded in the church register records of St. Giles, Cripplegate at the christening or burial of several children, with each entry showing William’s occupation to have been a porter or carman.  The occupations of porter, carman and drayman were virtually interchangeable in the 16th century and were described as a person who carried or hauled regulated commodities within the City of London, i.e. coal, corn, salt, wool, etc.  They could be self-employed doing general haulage on their backs or with horse and cart or wagon, but they also could have been employed by others, and operated under an ancient Royal Charter given the City of London wherein their rates of pay, duties and places of operation were regulated.  Street porters comprised the greatest numbers of this trade, and frequently worked under orders of tacklehouse porters in a relationship described as follows:

“The street porters, working on foot, carried the goods of the merchants and traders, transporting them from river wharf to warehouse, or warehouse to customer. Like the watermen, the street porters were a large body of workers. In 1645 there were at least 3,000 of them. The porters could be hired at designated plying-places in the City of London. Often they were employed by the tacklehouse porters, a comparative elite who worked for the City’s leading gilds. A City ruling of 1640 laid down that the tacklehouse porters were only to employ street porters when the former were in need of extra labour. In 1605 the City government attempted to introduce some order into the street porters’ trade. They formed them into a society headed by twelve rulers drawn from among the porters’ own ranks. But a year later, because of ‘diverse disorders’ in the society, they dissolved it. The City next hit upon the idea of combining the street and tacklehouse porters into a single society, with the tacklehouse men in a superior administrative position. The 1609 Act laid down that the twelve rulers of the new society were to consist of equal numbers of tackle and street men. But in addition the Lord Mayor was to appoint (from time to time, as necessary) a ‘register’ or clerk to keep the society’s accounts. This officer was to be a tacklehouse porter. The Aldermen appointed two of their own number as ‘governors’ with supreme authority to settle any disputes. As a means of identification, the street porters were thenceforth required to wear tin badges or ‘tickets’.”[30]

It seems probable that William Atterbury was a street porter, but may also have been a tacklehouse porter, yet he was simply designated as a “porter” in the civil and church records.  In a 1605 church record from St. Giles we find a William Adderbury identified as a “carman”, rather than a porter.  The occupations of porter and carman were very similar, and almost identical to that of a waterman, except that the waterman plied his trade upon the Thames River rather than on the City streets.  The church register records pertaining to this William Atterbury, porter and carman are listed as follows:

  1. 3Oct1604 Dorothie Atterberry, daughter of William Atterbury, porter, was christened.
  2. 19Jun1605 Thomas Adderbury, son of William Adderbury, carman, was christened.  Note that the elapsing of only seven months between the christening of Dorothie and Thomas raises doubt as to whether Thomas was a brother of Dorothie, or the son of a different William.  To further cloud the kinship of Thomas was the difference in the surname spelling, and the difference in occupation.  However, it should be noted that the occupations of carman and porter were almost synonymous, much like waterman, seaman and mariner were used interchangeably.  Also note that the christening of Dorothie was the earliest record found for William, the porter.  Her christening may have been delayed for some reason, and she could have been born several months before her christening.  Because of the rarity of the Atterbury/Adderbury surname in St. Giles Cripplegate at that time, and the matching given names of “William”, the author is inclined to believe that Dorothie and Thomas were born of the same father.
  3. 11Nov1606 Dorotye Atterbury, daughter of William Atterbury, porter, was buried.  Almost certainly, this was the burial record of the Dorothie, christened on 3Oct1604.
  4. 25Sep1610 Joshua Atterbury, son of William Atterbury, porter, was buried.  No christening record was found for Joshua, but he almost certainly was the brother of Dorothie and Thomas.
  5. 4Sep1611 unnamed Atterbury, child of William Atterbury, porter, was buried.  Ditto.  Absence of a given name usually signified a still-born birth or child dying in childbirth.
  6. 27Jul1625 Sara Atterbury, daughter of William Atterbury, porter, was buried.  Ditto.  So there were three burial records for children of William Atterbury, porter, for whom there were no christening records found.
  7. 18Mar1629 William Atersbury, basketmaker, was buried.  More on this William later, but not same person as William Atterbury, porter/carman.

In addition to the foregoing church records of William Atterbury, porter, there also were found the following court records:

  • 15 April, 11 James I [1613].—William Atterbury of Grub Street, porter; for an obstinate Brownist.[31]  Clearly this record would have been for the same William Atterbury, porter, listed in the previous records from St. Giles, Cripplegate.  Note that he was identified as living on Grub Street, and that he was being cited as an “obstinate brownist”.  Does the fact that three of William’s children were lacking christening records suggest that William may have been associated with the Brownists for several years prior to 1614?  One of the tenets of the Brownists was the belief that christening of infant children was not required, as they did not accept the notion of “original sin”.  Moreover, Brownists (as did most dissenters of that era) viewed child christening as practiced by the Church of England to be a popish ritual carried over from the Catholic service by the Book of Common Prayer initiated under Edward VI.
  • Apr1617 – William Atterburie of Chick Lane, Jane Horne of Chiswell Street, widow, [blank] Lodge of St. Martin’s, doctor, and [blank] his wife, James Kisline of the same, bricklayer, John Garmitt, yeoman, and [blank], wife of George Hunt, gentleman, both of the same, all for not coming to church.[32]  This may have been a record of William Atterbury, porter, even though he was reported living on Chick Lane as contrasted with the previous record showing his residence on Grub Street.  Few of the lesser street names from the 17th century survive on present day maps of London.  However, on the 1746 map of London created by John Racque, Grub Street is shown as a short street situated immediately northeast of St. Giles Church, whereas Chick Lane was immediately west of Smithfield Market within the vicinity of St. Andrews, Holborn Church.  These locations were about one-half mile apart, or about 15 minutes walking distance.  Given that the only church records found for William Atterbury, porter, were from St. Giles, Cripplegate, it seems most likely that Grub Street would have been his main place of residence during the approximately 20 years he is known to have lived in London.  Non-attendance of the parish church was forbidden by law, but was typical of “brownists”, who were essentially adherents of the separatist movement.  In light of the two records presented hereinafter as Items 11 and 12 having occurred within a couple of months of this record, it should not be discounted that the William Atterburys in Items 8 and 9 were two different persons.  It is conceivable that this William Atterbury of Chick Lane may have been a son of William Atterbury, porter, and also may have been the same person as William Atterbury of Mortlake, who was first recorded at Mortlake in Apr1617.
  • 1 May, 17 James I [1619].—True Bill, for not going to church, chapel or any usual place of Common Prayer on the said day, nor at any time during the three months then next following,—against Robert Lockey yoman, his wife Margaret Lockey, Mary Loweman widow, Joan wife of Richard Gresham carpenter, Margaret Feild widow, Richard Lovett goldsmith, all six late of Saffronhill co. Midd.; Ferdinand Emerson cutler, his wife Jane Emerson, John Dam cutler, his wife Helen Dam, William Mathewes cutler, his wife Helen Mathewes, Mary Heyward widow, Susan wife of Edwin Saule gentleman, Richard Saule yoman, John Blague taylor, his wife Magdalen Blague, William Cooke gentleman, his wife Briget Cooke, Israeli Fryer yoman, his wife Susan Fryer, Anne Dowse widow, William Beswicke cordweyner, his wife Elizabeth Beswicke, John Coe stationer, his wife Elizabeth Coe, Thomas Knighte scrivenor, his wife Juliana Knighte, Katherine wife of Richard Knighte goldsmith, Susan wife of Thomas Strange taylor, Mary Scrogges spinster, Jane Woodfall widow, all twenty-six, late of High Holborne co. Midd.; Henry Pennington yoman, William Atterbury yoman, his wife Jane Atterbury, Elyas Tuckey yoman, his wife Margaret Tuckey, Christopher Abdey yoman, all six late of St. Giles’s-without-Creplegate London co. Midd.; Elizabeth Nashe widow, Lewis Evans yoman, his wife Anne Evans, all three late of St. Johnstreete co. Midd.; John Webbe gentleman, his wife Anne Webbe, Elizabeth Bolton spinster, Humfrey Paule yoman, Anne Robinson widow, John Clythrop yoman, all six late of Clarkenwell co. Midd.; . . . . Clare late of Fulham co. Midd. widow; Mary Cutler late of Ratcliffe co. Midd. spinster; Richard Abington gentleman and his wife Katherine Abington, both late of Hackney co. Midd.; Alice Cole spinster, Agnes Cole spinster, Jane wife of Thomas Cole yoman, all three late of Heston co. Midd.; Elizabeth wife of William Etheringham late of Hendon co. Midd. yoman; Daniel Knowleing late of Newbraynford co. Midd. yoman; and Gyllott late of Edmonton co. Midd. widow. G. D. R., 8 Dec, 17 James I.[33]  This record is presumed to have been for William Atterbury, porter, given that the names match, that he is reported in this record to have lived in St. Giles, Cripplegate, and that he was being fined for non-attendance of church, as in the record from April1613.  Note that in this record his wife’s name is given as Jane Atterbury, and that they both were being cited for non-attendance of church.  Also note that a group of 26 individuals from the St. Andrews, Holborn area were simultaneously being cited for non-attendance, as well as nearby Saffron Hill district adjacent to Smithfield Market.  This suggests that there were factions of separatists (Brownists) both in the Holborn and Cripplegate areas, which might explain the two different addresses given for William Atterbury in the preceding court records.  Also note that this William Atterbury was reported as a “yoman”, an occupation which during this period generally applied to someone involved in a small farming operation.  Does this suggest that William Atterbury had changed his employment from porter/carman to yeoman?  Note that in the burial record of his daughter, Sara Atterbury on 27Jun1625, William was described as a “porter”, not as a “yeoman”. 

And, lastly there were these two extraneous records from southwest London court records:

  1. 1-2May1617

Edward Odway of Marylebone [St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, gunmaker,] for beating and bruising Francis Finch at the same.

Prosecutor:—William Atterbury.

Sureties:—Thomas Dowsett, coachmaker, and Robert Potter, gunmaker, both of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, also bound for William Dowsett of the same, coachmaker, charged likewise with beating and bruising the said Francis.

Sess. Roll 557/41, 87.

Sess. Roll 558/39.

Sess. Reg. 2/403, 404.

P.R.B. 1/103d.

  1. 14-16Jul1617

John Harris of Marylebone [St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields] for assaulting and beating Francis Fynch at the same, so that he despaired of his life.

Prosecutors:—Constance Finch, Ann Atterbury, John Fynch.

Surety:—William Fortescue of St. Martin’s aforesaid, gentleman.

Sess. Roll 559/42, 133.

Sess. Reg. 2/433.

P.R.B. 1/106d.

The two foregoing records from Middlesex Sessions of the Peace and Gaol Delivery were contemporaneous with the three previous Session Roll records pertaining to William Atterburys for non-attendance of church or chapel.  The first record (Item 11) indicates that a William Atterbury was the “prosecutor”, i.e. suer or person bringing charges, whereas the second record (Item 12) identifies three “prosecutors”, including a woman named Ann Atterbury.  In both records the victim is identified as one Francis Finch or Fynch.  There appears to have been three different assailants identified in these complaints: (1) Edward Odway of Marylebone (St. Martins in the Field), gunmaker, (2) William Dowsett of same, coachmaker, and (3) John Harris of same.  All three assailants were from St. Martin’s in the Field Parish, but no indication is given as to the location at which the assault(s) took place.  However, since the sureties were all from St. Martin’s, it seems reasonable to assume that the event transpired within or near that parish.  The only William Atterburys known to be in or near London at this time period were William Addersbury, basketmaker of  St. Giles, Cripplegate, William Atterbury, porter of St. Giles, Cripplegate, and William Atterbury, waterman of Mortlake.  It seems reasonable to assume that the William Atterbury who “prosecuted” for the assault of Francis Fynch was one of these three William Atterburys, but just which one cannot be established with any certainty.  Probably William Addersbury, basketmaker, can be eliminated due to his advanced age, and the fact that his wife in 1617 is known to have been Alice Lyon, and the Ann Atterbury in this assault case very likely was the wife of the other “prosecutor”, William Atterbury.

The identify of the assault victim, Francis Fynch, cannot be established with any certainty.  However, there are church records from this time period associated with a Francis Fynch in the register of St. Dunstan’s in the West, which is in relatively close proximity to St. Martin’s in the Field, less than one mile to the northeast.  There was also a record for a John Fynch in the St. Dunstan’s register contemporaneous with those of Francis Fynch (1610 to 1625).  The author has reason to believe that the records of Francis and John Fynch at St. Dunstan’s very likely were for brothers, perhaps nephews of Sir Moyle Fynch and Elizabeth Heneage of Heneage House, Aldgate Ward, east London.  This possibility is based on the fact Sir Moyle Fynch named two of his sons Francis and John, and the children of Moyle Finch would have been contemporaries of the John and Francis Fynch named in these assault cases.  William and Ann Atterbury, who became “prosecutors” in this assault case, are a bit of a mystery.  Were they husband and wife?  If so, how might they have become associated with these Fynch’s?  Was Ann Atterbury born a Fynch, and, therfore, a sibling of Francis and John Fynch?

The author will now posit a theory which suggests that the connection between William and Ann Atterbury and these Fynches may well have been an association in common with the London separatist church.  If the author is correct about the ancestry of Francis and John Fynch having been kinsmen of Sir Moyle Fynch (probably his nephews), then their roots may have had connections with Heneage House located on the old Holy Trinity monastery lands in Aldgate Ward.  Refer to the following excerpt for a brief history of the succession of the Holy Trinity monastery:

“When King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries after his break with Rome, the eastern half of this splendid property was bestowed on the powerful Duke of Norfolk [Thomas Howard]…  The Western portion of the property, including the Abbot’s [of Bury St. Edmonds] palace, was bestowed upon Sir Thomas Heneage…  The great house faced on Burys Marks [named for a previous owner, Abbott of Bury St. Edmonds], now corrupted to Bevis Marks, and just over the City Walls at that point of Houndsditch.  Edward Southworth had married in Leyden in 1613, Alice Carpenter and as this is his last record there it is probable that he removed soon after to London.  By this marriage he became brother-in-law to George Morton (who immigrated in the Fortune), and Samuel Fuller, the Mayflower passenger.  Edward Southworth’s selection of Aldgate Ward for a home in London was not an accidental choice.  Already it was the home of hundreds of Dutch craftsmen — members of the same religious organization [Mennonites] which had welcomed him and the Scrooby exiles to Holland.  A Dutch church had been established nearby and its records show many residents of the Duke’s Place among its membership.  In addition to this there were many French Huguenots, as early as 1600, who increased the alien population of Aldgate Ward until it rendered the properties of the Duke of Norfolk and the Heneage family unsuitable for residential purposes of the nobility.  Both these owners turned their splendid buildings into tenements and in time they became like rabbit warrens for the teeming denizens of this locality.  Thus can you understand how Edward Southworth, of the yeoman class, came to be living in this famous house (Heneage House)…  William Bradford is found there (Aldgate Ward) in the Spring of 1620.  He had sold his house in Leyden in Apr1619, and in the subsidy roll of Mar1620 his name appears as taxed for personal property at the Duke’s Place…  The significance of his residence there lies in the fact that he was with his old associates of the Scrooby company and that Mrs. Southworth (Edward’s widow) became his [Bradford’s] second wife…  The immediate region surrounding Heneage House and Duke’s Place maintained its atmosphere of non-conformity after the departure of our pilgrims (Mayflower and Fortune).  In 1632 the Bishop of London, trying some of these Separatists and Brownists for contumacy, referred to Aldgate Ward as a “nest of non-conformists.”  Here was erected the famous Bury Street Chapel just back of Heneage House — the first Conventicle of these religious rebels…”[34]

It is reported that Sir Moyle Fynch married Elizabeth Heneage, eldest daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Heneage, at Heneage House, Aldgate Ward on 14Nov1572.  Elizabeth Heneage was the only daughter of Thomas Heneage (Copt Hall, Essex) and Anne Poyntz.  Anne Poyntz was a daughter of Sir Nicholas Poyntz and Joan Berkeley, daughter of Lord Thomas Berkeley.  Robert Crowley, Puritan minister and vicar/lecturer at St. Giles, Cripplegate between 1565 and 1588, was a tutor in the household of Sir Nicholas Poyntz for several years following his graduation from college.  Throughout his adult life Robert Crowley was shown to have had non-conformist leanings.  One example of such tendencies was captured in the LWT of Richard Culverwell, wherein Crowley was named as a principle beneficiary along with William Clarke, Richard Greenham [Robert Browne’s mentor], Walter Travers, John Field [Puritan Archivist and pamphleteer], Thomas Crooke, Nicholas Crane [Puritan martyr], etal.  All of these men are known leaders of the dissident puritan factions of the day.  The fact that Robert Crowley was, from his college days at Cambridge, known to be of dissident beliefs and that he was retained for a time as tutor to the children of Sir Nicholas Poyntz is strong suggestion that Sir Nicholas, himself, was of like opinions in ecclesiastical matters, and very likely passed those beliefs along to his children, including Anne Poyntz, the mother of Elizabeth Heneage.

Whether Sir Moyle Fynch or either of his brothers (Henry and Thomas) adopted dissident beliefs cannot be known with certainty, but there is some evidence in the parliamentary record suggesting that Sir Henry Fynch (Moyle’s younger brother) may have been a closet Brownist supporter.  When Parliament took up a bill in 1593 entitled “An Act to Retain the Queen’s Majesties Subjects in their due Obedience”, popularly known as the “Brownist/Barrowist Suppression Act”, Henry Fynch delivered the following objections:

“There be great faults in the Preamble and in the Body of this Bill.  It pretendeth a punishment only to the Brownists and Sectaries, but throughout the whole Bill, not one thing that concerneth a Brownist; and if we make a Law against Barrowists and Brownists, let us set down a note of them, who they are.  But as the Bill is, not to come to Church, or to speak against the government established, this is not the opinion of the Brownists.  The Law that is intituled “An Explanation”, is nothing else, save that it hath a name of it.  For Laws explanatory are not New Laws of themselves, but part of the old; for there ought to be nothing in the declaratory Law that was not in the former…”[35]

From his arguments presented in Parliament in 1593, it would appear that Henry Fynch had some intimate knowledge of the beliefs and practices of the Brownists and Barrowists of his day, in order to emphatically state an opinion on their core beliefs.  The Bill against which Henry Fynch was arguing was directed against persons over the age of 16 years for non-attendance of the parish church or chapel or for uttering opinions “against the established government”, certainly beliefs that would have applied to many of the earliest followers of Robert Browne, particularly after the publishing of his tract Reformation without Tarrying.  However, there were many non-conformists who were not absolute separatists, but who found it proper to partake of services in the parish church while also attending private conventicles.  To what extent Henry Fynch may have been aware of the full range of English schismatics at-large in the realm and abroad in 1593 cannot be known with certainty, but his remarks in Parliament on the occasion of this most repressive of religious reformation measure during Tudor England does indicate some degree of personal knowledge, if not outright support of their beliefs in religious freedom.  Both Moyle Finch and Henry Finch are known to have named sons Thomas, Francis and John.  The Francis Finch [Fynch] who lived in St. Dunstan’s in the West in the early part of the 17th century also named sons Francis, Thomas and John as evidenced in Table 4-3, below:

As stated earlier, it seems possible that the Francis Finch and John Finch, who appeared in records of St. Dunstan’s in the West, may have been the same Francis and John Finch associated with the assault cases filed by William Atterbury and Ann Atterbury, etal. in 1617.  Certainly, the dates in the St. Dunstan records fit with the presumed date of the assault upon the body of Francis Finch.  Given the matching names of these male Finches with those given names associated with Moyle and Henry Finch, it seems possible that the Francis Finch and John Finch associated with the assault case were kinsmen with Moyle and Henry Finch.  Also, given the probable religious non-conformist associations connected with the aristocratic Finches, and Sir Henry Finch in particular, it seems possible that it may have been the religious separatism beliefs of William Atterbury that brought him into association with Francis and John Finch.

[FINAL FINCH NOTE:  The author was able to acquire copies of the various records from the Middlesex Sessions of the Peace and Gaol Delivery pertaining to the assault on John Fynch.  Regrettably, nothing further could be gleaned from these records than that already presented from the abstracts iterated hereinabove.]

All things considered, the author is of the opinion that the William and Ann Atterbury associated with the Francis Finch assault case were husband and wife, and very possibly the same person as William Atterbury, waterman, of Mortlake.

Further, there was the following record for a Thomas Anterbury:

  1. “1Jun1618 (15 James I) — True Bill, for not going to church, chapel or any other place of Common Prayer on the said day, nor at any time during the month next following, — against Edward Martin…, Thomas Anterbury [probably William Atterbury, porter], and … Horne, widow, both late of Finsbury…”  This record almost certainly was for a person surnamed “Atterbury”, and, since the Bill was for persons charged with non-attendance of their parish church, very likely for someone associated with the separatist movement.  The close proximity of Finsbury to St. Giles Cripplegate might also suggest someone associated with William Atterbury, porter, or William Addersbury, basketmaker.  The only other record found for a Thomas Atterbury near London at this time period was the christening of Thomas Adderbury, son of William Adderbury, carman, of St. Giles Cripplegate on 16Jun1605.  That Thomas Adderbury would have been only 13 years old in Jun1618, too young to be charged under the Act of Conformity, unless perhaps he may have been born several years before his baptism.  However, note the reference in this record to “Horne, widow, both late of Finsbury”.  It should be noted that in Item 9., above, there was a party identified as “Jane Horne of Chiswell Street, widow” in the same record which cited William Atterburie of Chick Lane for not going to church.  Given the similarities, it seems probable that “Jane Horne, widow of Chiswell Street” and “Horne, widow, late of Finsbury” were one and the same persons.  Chiswell Street was the northern terminus of Grub Street, the described location of William Atterbury, brownist and porter in Item 8.  It seems possible, given the connection in common between the two references to a “Widow Horne”, that this record very likely should have been for “William” Atterbury, not “Thomas” Atterbury.

One final record was found during this same time period which the author believes may have been connected with William Atterbury, porter:

  1. 24Nov1607 Katcherine [Katherine?] Atterbury, wife of William Atterbury was buried at St. Mary’s, Islington.  It should be noted that there were no other records found in the St. Mary’s Church register at Islington for the surname of Atterbury during this time period.  Given the close geographic proximity between Islington and Grub Street, the matching names of the father/husband, and the dates, it seems highly probable that this record was for the burial of the 1st wife of William Atterbury, porter.  Later it will be shown that Islington had very strong ties for the Separatist Church basically founded by Robert Browne.  The fact that a marriage record and christening records are lacking for this family are further indications of connections with the Brownist sect.  In the Ancient Church it was not uncommon for marriages and christenings to be performed outside the conventional practice of the parish church.  On the other hand, burials of sect members in a parish church probably did not violate any of their religious tenets, and it would have been difficult to bury a body outside of the parish church without drawing unwanted attention from the “authorities”.  It seems probable to the author that Katherine was the 1st wife of William Atterbury, porter, and that he married a 2nd wife, possibly named Jane sometime after Katherine’s death and before the birth of Joshua on 25Sep1610.

Based on the similarities already stated, most of the foregoing records (church and court) are believed to have pertained to the same person, namely, William Atterbury, porter, carman, yeoman.  Even though the christening and burial records for his children had appeared in the St. Giles, Cripplegate registers, the court records would suggest that between about 1613 and 1620 (or perhaps earlier) William Atterbury and his wife, Jane, had become adherents of the Brownist religious sect, and were cited for not attending the Anglican church services. 

William Atersbury [Addersbury], Basketmaker

Note that there was a burial record in the St. Giles register (Item 7, above) which may offer a hint of yet another William Atterbury living in St. Giles, Cripplegate in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.  On 18Mar1629 a William Atersbury, basket-maker, was buried at St. Giles.  Initially, the author had thought that this William Atersbury was the same person as William Atterbury, porter, obstinate Brownist and carman.  It was not uncommon for persons in this age to change their occupations, much the same as people in the 21st century.  This burial record occurred just four years after the last known record of William Atterbury, porter, on the death of his daughter, Sara in Jul1625 at St. Giles.  However, by casting a wider net and using the search criteria “Ad*b*r*”, a whole new group of records were found as follows:

  1. 19Sep1576 Wyllm Adderbery and Dhye Lyon were married at St Andrew Hubbard, London, Middlesex.  Although the wife’s given name has been transcribed as “Dhye”, it probably was Alyc or Alice.  The first letter of “Dhye” in the original record looks identical to the first letter in William’s surname, namely an “A”, as shown in the figure below.  Further, note the burial record of Alice Addersbury, wife of William, basketmaker, on 19Sep1622, in Item 24, below.
  2. 25Aug1577 Lucretia Aldersbury daughter of William was christened at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  This very likely was a daughter of Wyllm Adderbury and Alyc Lyon.  The date of birth of Lucretia would fit with her having been the first born child of this couple.  It would appear that they were recorded in St. Giles, Cripplegate within the first year after their marriage in St. Andrew Hubbard.
  3. 31May1579 Michael Addersberry son of Wline [sic] was christened at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  Note that no occupation was given for the father in this record, but later records would clearly identify him as William Addersbury, basketmaker.  Also note that later records will show that Alice had a brother named Michel [Michael], probably the namesake for this son.
  4. 25Jun1580 Robert Addersbury son of Willm was christened at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  Ditto.  The given name of “Robert” did not appear in the records for the Lyon family, so may be a clue to the name of William’s father or grandfather.
  5. 26Sep1582 Martha Addersbery daughter of Willm, basketmaker, was christened at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  Ditto.
  6. 30Sep1582 Willm Addersbury son of Willm was buried at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  No birth record was found for this William, son of William Addersbury, but it seems likely that he was born in 1578, between the births of Lucretia and Michael.  It would have been customary for William and Alice to have named their 1st born son for the father.  The absence of a christening record for this son named William may be suggestive of the basketmaker family’s religious practices.
  7. 7Dec1582 Robert Addersbury son of Willm, basketmaker, was buried at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  This was the second record in which William Addersbury’s occupation was given.  He was consistently recorded from this date forward until his death as a basketmaker.
  8. 19Jan1605 Thomas Adderbury son of Willm, carman, was christened at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  Although the surname in this record is given as “Adderbury”, similar to Addersbury, it seems likely that this record was actually for a son of William Atterbury, porter, reported previously.  The 23 year gap between births and the differences in occupation is not consistent with William Addersbury, basketmaker.
  9. 25Sep1615 Mathie Adderbury married Henry Robinson at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  This could have been the marriage record of Martha Addersbury, daughter of William Addersbury, basketmaker, christened on 26Sep1582.  Martha appears to have been the 2nd daughter born to William and Alice, and she would have been 33 years old at time of this marriage.
  10. 19Sep1622 Alice Addersbury, wife of William Addersbury, basketmaker, was buried at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  Alice Addersbury is believed to have been born Alice Lyon [transcribed as Dhye Lyon in the Ancestry marriage record], the same person who married William Adderbury at St. Andrew Hubbard on 19Sep1576.
  11. 29Oct1623 William Addersbury and Margaret Carleton were married at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  This almost certainly was the marriage between William Addersbury, basketmaker and widow, and his 2nd wife, Margaret Carleton, widow.  Margaret Carleton very likely was the widow of James Carleton, porter, who was buried in Dec1622 at St. Giles, Cripplegate.
  12. 18Mar1629 William Atersbury, basketmaker, was buried at St Giles, Cripplegate, London, Middlesex.  There is virtually no doubt that this was the burial record for William Addersbury, basketmaker.  Note the surname corruption from Addersbury to Atersbury.

In addition to the foregoing records pertaining directly to the family members of William Addersbury, basketmaker, there were two other records from St. Giles, Cripplegate pertaining to his household as follows:

  • 13Sep1582 John Lyon, tenant in the home of William Addersbury, basketmaker, was buried.  Given that this John Lyon was resident in the home of William Addersbury, basketmaker, provides virtually irrefutable evidence that William Addersbury’s wife was Alyc Lyon, as already deduced by the author.  The identity of this John Lyon is uncertain, except to state that he almost certainly was a kinsperson of William Addersbury’s wife, probably a nephew, and possibly an apprentice to William Addersbury, basketmaker.  It is also possible that this John Lyon was actually Alice Lyon’s brother, Michel, as the last known record associated with Alice’s brother was the burial of his son, John, in St. Andrew Hubbard Parish on 12May1582 (Item No. 48, below).
  • 17Sep1597 Margaret Lyon, from the home of William Addersbury, basketmaker, was buried.  This very possibly was the burial of Michel Lyon’s 2nd wife, Margaret Wilkinson Lyon (see Item No. 43, below).  Based on this and the previous record, it would appear that Michel and Margaret Lyon may have lived in the household of William Addersbury and Alice Lyon in St. Giles, Cripplegate following the death of their son, John Lyon on 12May1582.  It also seems possible that Margaret Wilkinson may have been a kinsman of John Wilkinson, the author of The Sealed Fountaine, and that it may have been through that kinship connection that the manuscript came into the possession of William Arthurbury, several decades later (more to follow).

Now, having established with a high level of certainty the names of the spouses and children of William Addersbury, basketmaker, it is possible to establish with some degree of certainty the family of Alice Lyon.  Following are a series of records from St. Andrew Hubbard Parish believed to be members of Alice’s family:

  • 7Jan1543 Elizabeth Lyon was buried at St. Andrew Hubbard.  This was the earliest record found for the surname of Lyon in St. Andrew Hubbard Parish.  It seems possible that Elizabeth was a sister of Alice Lyon, who married William Adderbury in Sep1576.
  • 8Oct1543 Garbreys [or Gartreyd or Gertrude?] Lyon was christened at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Ditto.
  • 6Oct 1544 Jone Lyon was christened at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Ditto.
  • 20Jan1544 [1545 N.S.] Michell Lyon was christened at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Presumed brother of Elizabeth, Alice, Garbreys and Jone.
  • 3Nov1549 Susan Lyon was christened at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Ditto.
  • 8Nov1549 Susan Lyon was buried at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Ditto.
  • 11Jun1551 Susan Lyon was baptized at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Ditto. 
  • 1Feb1553 Annis Lyon, daughter of John Lyon was baptized at St. Andrew Hubbard.  This was the first record related to Lyon children in which the father, John Lyon, was identified.  The author believes that this John Lyon was also the father of Elizabeth, Alice, Garbreys, Joan, Michell and Susan(s) previously recorded in St. Andrew Hubbard records.
  • 5Jun1555 John Lyon, son of John Lyon, basketmaker, was baptized at St. Andrew Hubbard.  In this record the father, John Lyon, was identified as a basketmaker.
  • 17Oct1563 Anis Lyon, daughter of John Lyon, basketmaker, was buried at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Presumed to be the burial of the daughter, Annis, born to John Lyon and baptized in Item 36, above.  Again, father identified as a basketmaker.
  • 28Oct1563 John Lyon, son of John Lyon was buried at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Undoubtedly, the burial of the son baptized in Item 37, above.
  • Feb1565 Jone Lyon married John Oliff at St. Andrew Hubbard.  This almost certainly was the marriage of Alice’s sister, Jone Lyon, christened on 6Oct1544 in Item 31, above.
  • 25Jun1569 Michell Lyon married Grace Wenford at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Marriage of Alice’s brother, Michell, baptized in Item 32, above.
  • 19Jan1572 Graesse [Grace] Lyon, wife of Michell Lyon was buried at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Burial of Michell’s wife, Grace Wenford.
  • 17Jan1573 Michell Lyon married Margaret Wilkinson at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Michell Lyon’s marriage to 2nd wife, Margaret Wilkinson. 
  • 19Sep1576 Dhye [Alyc] Lyon married William Adderbury at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Marriage of Alyc Lyon, presumed daughter of John Lyon, to William Adderbury.
  • 31Mar1576/7 John Lyon, basketmaker was buried at St. Andrew Hubbard.  This is believed to have been the burial of Alice Lyon’s father, John Lyon, basketmaker.
  • 17Aug1581 Katherine Lyon was buried at St. Andrew Hubbard.  This is believed to have been the burial of Alice Lyon’s mother.
  • 6May1582 John Lyon, son of Michell Lyon, basketmaker, was baptized at St. Andrew Hubbard.  This is the baptism record of Michell Lyon’s son, John.  In this record Michell was also identified as a basketmaker “free of the Company”, suggesting that he had completed an apprenticeship and admitted to the freedom of the Basketmakers’ Company, or allowed entrance through patrimony of his father.
  • 12May1582 John Lyon, son of Michell Lyon was buried at St. Andrew Hubbard.  Ditto.

In addition to the foregoing Lyon family records from St. Andrew Hubbard, there were also several records for the children of John Oliff, husband of Jone Lyon, listed as follows:

  • 17Sep1566 Grace Oliff, daughter of John Oliff was baptized at St Andrew Hubbard. (Note: Ancestry has surname transcribed in error as “Cliff”)
  • 6Mar1568 Elena Oliff, daughter of John, basketmaker, was baptized at St Andrew Hubbard.  Note that the given name of Elena is not known to have occurred in the Lyon family, so probably Elena came from the paternal or Oliff side of the family, perhaps John Oliff’s mother.  Also, note that John Oliff was a basketmaker, same as his father-in-law, and brothers in-law.
  • 10Sep1570 Michell Oliff, son of John, basketmaker, was baptized St Andrew Hubbard.  Michell Oliff was almost certainly named for Jone Lyon’s brother, Michell Lyon.
  • 2Aug1573 Katherine Oliffe, daughter of John, basketmaker, was baptized at St Andrew Hubbard.  Katherine Oliff very likely was named for the mother of Jone Lyon.
  • 3Oct1574 Margaret Oliffe, daughter of John, basketmaker, was baptized at St Andrew Hubbard.  Michell Lyon had married Margaret Wilkinson in Jan1573, so perhaps Margaret Oliff was named for her new aunt.
  • 28Mar1581 Andrewe Olliffe, son of John, basketmaker, was baptized St Andrew Hubbard.  Andrew was probably the namesake for an Oliff ancestor, perhaps John Oliff’s father.
  • 15Dec1583 Sara Olliffe, daughter of John Olliffe, basketmaker, was baptized as St Andrew Hubbard.  Ditto.

It is important to note the continuity of the occupation of basketmaking among members of this Lyon family, extending from John Lyon to his son, Michell Lyon, and to two sons-in-law: William Adderbury and John Oliff.  It is equally important to observe the practice of strict naming conventions within the family, wherein children seemingly are named in honor of recent ancestors, i.e., fathers, mothers, grandparents or siblings. 

Following is a brief history of the Basketmakers’ Company:

“The Basketmakers’ Company was established by an Order of the Court of Aldermen on 22nd September 1569, and is fifty-second in order of precedence among the Livery Companies.  There are, however, earlier references to basketmaking in the City, particularly in the records of the Brewers’ Company for 1422. By ancient custom, only persons free of the City were allowed to sell any wares by retail, or occupy a shop within the City or the Liberties thereof; a privilege which had been confirmed by several Acts of Parliament.  Edward III encouraged the settlement of foreign artificers in London although Edward IV limited the number of apprentices and restricted foreigners again.  Under his reign, (1461-1483), by an Order of Common Council dated 1463, basketmakers were restricted to Blanche-Appleton, a district which had been set apart for aliens, so the choice of this area was in the nature of a compromise as it allowed the foreign basketmakers to remain in the “City”.  Blanche-Appleton was a manor situated in the parish of St. Katherine Coleman in Aldgate Ward, close to the present Mark Lane [aka Bury or Bevis Mark].  By the end of the fifteenth century basketmakers were living in the parishes of St. Andrew Hubbard and St. Margaret Pattens.  An old Vestry Minute Book of the latter has reference to fifteenth and sixteenth century basketmakers and their gifts or payments made to the church.”[36]

“Then in 1538, a fire broke out on the basket-makers’ premises in the parish of St. Margaret Pattens, more than a dozen houses were burned down and nine people died.  As a result basketmakers were ordered to leave the City and although they fought the order, which was suspended until 1541, Henry VIII confirmed their expulsion.  There is no record of the expulsion order being repealed, but City records show that basket-makers had returned by 1565”[37]

The exact boundary of St. Andrew Hubbard Parish is uncertain, since no maps of it could be located.  However, it is believed to have straddled Little Eastcheap Street in Billingsgate Ward, and to have abutted both St. Mary at Hill Parish and St. Margaret Patten Parish as illustrated in Figure 4-7.  St. Andrew Hubbard Parish contained approximately two acres, and had an estimated “communicant population of 282 souls in the mid-16th century”.  The mean population of other London parishes at this time was about 310.[38]  According to Clive Burgess the population of St. Andrew Hubbard was numbered among the poorer classes of craftsmen and tradesmen in the 16th century, composed mainly of drapers, tailors, victuallers, wood mongers, turners, carpenters, and, of course, basketmakers:

“In the 16th century, moreover, the parish became home to a clique of basketmakers who hailed from the Low Countries…”[39]

The reference to “Low Countries” was an allusion to immigrants from Holland, the Netherlands and Belgium.  It is conceivable that the Lyon family may have originated from Holland, and may have been part of the in-migration of Dutch basketmakers in the mid-16th century.  The origin of William Adderbury, basketmaker, is unknown to the author, but he may well have matriculated to the St. Andrew Hubbard area from somewhere in nearby Surrey County, possibly even from Laleham Parish, where there are records of a John Adderbury family in the 1540’s.  It seems possible that William Addersbury may have served an apprenticeship in the vicinity of St. Andrew Hubbard, possibly even to master basketmaker, John Lyon, his future father-in-law.

William Arthurbury, Seditious Printer

There is yet another curious history of one William Arthurbury, which suggests some connection on religious grounds to William Atterbury, porter, carman and yeoman of St. Giles, Cripplegate:

“After [John] Wilkinson’s death this manuscript seems to have been entrusted ” for the publicke good ” to the care of one William Arthurbury, who “considering how needfull it would be to be published rather than obscured” had it printed before Nov. 17, 1646, under the title, “THE SEALED | FOVNTAINE | opened to the Faithfull, and their Seed. OR: A short Treatise, shewing, that some Infants are in the state of Grace, and capable of the seales, and others not.  Being the chief point, wherein the Separatists doe blame the Anabaptists.  By JOHN WILKINSON, Prisoner at Colchester, against John Morton, Prisoner at London” [“Nou: 17 1646”].”[40]

The identity of this William Arthurbury, who had been entrusted with the manuscript written by John Wilkinson while he [Wilkinson] reposed in prison at Colchester in about 1613, is uncertain.  However, the treatise written by Wilkinson, and later published by William Arthurbury in 1646, clearly establishes a linkage between this William Arthurbury and the separatist, independent or congregational movement with which the Brownists were affiliated.  This connection of William Arthurbury to the writings of John Wilkinson provides a clear, albeit indirect, linkage to William Atterbury, porter, obstinate Brownist and carman.  The Brownist movement was such a small segment of the English population in the late 16th and early 17th centuries (probably less than 500 adherents), and particularly in London, it is not difficult to assume a familial kinship between William Atterbury, porter, and William Arthurbury, publisher. 

The treatise by Wilkinson was penned in 1613, the year before William Atterbury, porter, was charged in court records with being an “obstinate brownist”.  Edmond Jessop, a leading separatists of the early 17th century, suggests that John Wilkinson had died sometime before 1623, some say perhaps as early as 1619.  From the scant records it is implied that William Arthurbury, whoever he might have been, came into possession of Wilkinson’s manuscript sometime after Wilkinson’s death or in the last couple of years of his life.  Arthurbury appears to have preserved and treasured this obscure writing of Wilkinson, and valued it highly enough to have paid for its printing in 1646.  Was William Arthurbury the same person as William Atterbury, porter, carman and “obstinate brownists”?  Perhaps, but does the answer to that question have any relevance to the identity of the ancestry of William Arthurbury of Morden?  The answer to these questions may well hold the key to identifying the ancestry of William Arthurbury of Morden, and therefore the ancestry of William Arterbury, the American immigrant and all of us who share a connection to that immigrant.

First, it should be recognized that the Arthurbury surname has a history of very limited usage, almost to a point of such exclusivity as to suggest a contrivance or a fictitious naming invention, an alias.  Anyone who has read the author’s monograph entitled “What is an Atterbury”, will already have a good sense of just how rare the surname of Arthurbury truly was in the 16th and 17th centuries.  In fact, aside from the William Arthurbury family of Morden Parish, Surrey, there were only two previously recorded family groups using this surname: (1) Lewis Arthurbery of Lowick, Northamptonshire in the 1580’s, and (2) Paul Arthurbury of Woburn, Bedfordshire from 1573 to 1628.  Furthermore, the author has only been able to trace usage of the Arthurbury surname through successive generations in one instance, that being the William Arthurbury family of Morden Parish, whose descendants appear to have used that surname through at least five generations to the sons of the American immigrant, William Arterbury, in South Carolina in the late 18th century.  So, the fact that the publisher of the Wilkinson manuscript elected to use the “Arthurbury” surname in 1646 is particularly noteworthy to this investigation.  The only family known to have been using the Arthurbury surname at that time was that of William Arthurbury of Morden Parish, and he appears to have first adopted that surname spelling between 1638 and 1649.  At his marriage in Mitcham Parish in 1638 William of Morden Parish appears in the register as William Atterbury, not Arthurbury.  So, sometime between 1638 and 1649 William Arthurbury of Morden Parish appears to have adopted the “Arthurbury” spelling.

It is reasonable to ask whether their might have been some singular event that could have caused William Atterbury to suddenly adopt the surname of Arthurbury.  Let’s suppose for a moment that William Arthurbury of Morden Parish was the same person who published the Wilkinson manuscript.  Up until the surrender of King Charles I to the Scots at Newark on 5May1646, printing of the Wilkinson manuscript would have been considered an act of sedition, punishable by imprisonment and possibly death.  William Arthurbury published the Wilkinson tract in Nov1646.  Is this timing of the deposing of King Charles I and the printing of the Wilkinson manuscript pure coincidence?  As a precaution against prosecution, did William Atterbury purposefully change his name to William Arthurbury in an effort to obscure his true identity?  Presumably, William Arthurbury had been in possession of the Wilkinson manuscript for almost 33 years.  Why did he decide that Nov1646 would be the appropriate time to have this manuscript published?  Admittedly, this is pure speculation on the author’s part, but not an altogether implausible scenario.  Before drawing any absolute conclusions on the identity of William Arthurbury, the publisher of John Wilkinson’s tract, it will be helpful to expand upon the following key topics: (1) English Church Reformation, (2) Life in St. Giles, Cripplegate in the 16th and 17th centuries, (3) Brownists and the Ancient Church of London, and, finally, (4) Life of John Wilkinson. 

(1) Early Religious Reformation in England

John Wycliffe (1324-1384)

Anyone studying religious reform in England cannot help being struck by the importance and impact of John Wycliffe.  Perhaps one of the best biographies ever written on the life of John Wycliffe was a book entitled John Wycliffe and his English Precursors by Gotthard Victor Lechler, D.D., Leipzig, 1878.  The reputation of a man such as John Wycliffe is of too monumental importance to the development of the protestant faith as to be sullied by the inadequacies and intellectual shortcomings of the present author, rather the reader is referred to Dr. Lechler’s work for that more worthy account.  The following synopsis should suffice to convey to the reader the ways and means by which one man could leave such a deep and lasting positive influence on his fellow man for centuries to come:

  • Born in the North Ridings of Yorkshire in about 1324.
  • Showing an early interest in natural science and mathematics, he matriculated to Oxford in his late teens, where he studied theology, ecclesiastical law and philosophy first at Merton College and later at the newly formed Balliol College, earning a Bachelor in Theology in about 1356.
  • He was at Oxford when the Plague ravaged the country in the late-1340’s, and when the St. Scholastica Day riot broke out in Oxford on 10Feb1355.
  • [Richard de Abburbury was one of the knights and gentlemen who in the year 1357 accompanied the Black Prince (older brother of John of Gaunt) to Gascony to the assistance of Pedro of Castile.]
  • By 1360 Wycliffe succeeded to the mastership of Balliol College, an office he held until the following year when he was presented by the college a living at Fylingham, Lincolnshire, an office he held for seven years, while continuing to study and lecture at Oxford.
  • In 1362 he was granted a prebend at Aust in Westbury-on-Trym which he would have held in addition to the post at Fillingham.  (Some writers argue that Wycliffe must have declined the living at Aust, as he was vociferously oppose to clergymen holding multiple benefices.)
  • In 1365 Simon Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury, awarded him head master of Canterbury Hall, Oxford.
  • In 1365 he appears to have held a seat (probably one of several awarded to the clergy) in Parliament (according to Lechler).  It is said that on this occasion Wycliffe served as theological counsel to the government, and composed a polemical tract opposing payment of the tribute demanded by Pope Urban V from King Edward III.
  • In 1368, he gave up his living at Fillingham and took over the rectory of Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire, not far from Oxford, which enabled him to retain his connection with the university.
  • [In 1373 Richard de Abburbury represented Oxfordshire in Parliament and became the first master to Richard II, future King and nephew of John of Gaunt.]
  • In 1374 his name appears second, after a bishop, on a commission which the English Government sent to Bruges to discuss with the representatives of Gregory XI a number of points in dispute between the king and the pope.  (According to Lechler, it was at this time that Wycliffe established a close friendship with the King’s youngest son, John of Gaunt.)
  • In 1374, he received the crown living of Lutterworth in Leicestershire (possibly as repayment for his service at Bruges), which he retained until his death. Between 1372 and 1384, he became a Doctor of Divinity, making use of his right to lecture upon systematic divinity.
  • On 19 February 1377 Wycliffe was summoned before William Courtenay, Bishop of London, at St. Paul’s to answer unspecified charges (probably dealing with his writings and lectures which challenged clerical and papal authority).  With the direct intervention of John of Gaunt and Henry Percy, Wycliffe escaped the wrath of this tribunal.
  • On 22 May 1377 Pope Gregory XI sent five copies of a bull against Wycliffe, dispatching one to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the others to the Bishop of London, King Edward III, the Chancellor, and the university [Oxford]; among the enclosures were 18 theses of his [Wycliffe’s], which were denounced as erroneous and dangerous to Church and State.  (According to Lechler, action on this papal bull was intentionally delayed for several months because of the death of Edward III in June1377.)  However, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford confined Wycliffe at Black Hall until a proper hearing could be held.
  • In March 1378, he was summoned to appear at Lambeth Palace to defend himself against the charges leveled by the papal bull.  Wycliffe again was defended by his allies, this time by Sir Lewis Clifford in the name of the Queen Mother.  Wycliffe was discharged by the bishops, but forbidden to speak further of the matters contained therein [papal bull].  These actions led Wycliffe to write his De incarcerandis fedelibus, in which he demanded that it should be legal for the excommunicated to appeal to the king and his council against the excommunication; in this writing he laid open the entire case, in such a way that it was understood by the laity.
  • 1378 Pope Gregory XI died, thus rendering his bull against Wycliffe null and void.
  • Wycliffe’s influence was never greater than at the moment when pope and antipope sent their ambassadors to England to gain recognition for themselves. In 1378, in the ambassadors’ presence, he delivered an opinion before Parliament that showed, in an important ecclesiastical political question (the matter of the right of asylum in Westminster Abbey), a position that was to the liking of the State. He argued that criminals who had taken sanctuary in churches might lawfully be dragged out of sanctuary.
  • By 1379 in his De ecclesia (“On the Church”), Wycliffe clearly claimed the supremacy of the king over the priesthood.  He rejected the concept of purgatory, and disapproved of clerical celibacy, pilgrimages, the selling of indulgences and praying to saints.  [An open attack against Catholic Church doctrine].
  • In the 1380 Objections to Friars, he calls monks the pests of society, enemies of religion, and patrons and promoters of every crime.  He advocated the dissolution of the monasteries [a cause taken up by Henry VIII in 1538].
  • Wycliffe’s last six years [1378-1384] include continual attacks upon the papacy and the entire [church] hierarchy of his times. Each year they focus more and more, and at the last, the pope and the Antichrist seem to him practically equivalent concepts. Yet there are passages which are moderate in tone: G. V. Lechler identifies three stages in Wycliffe’s relations with the papacy. The first step, which carried him to the outbreak of the schism, involves moderate recognition of the papal primacy; the second, which carried him to 1381, is marked by an estrangement from the papacy; and the third shows him in sharp contest against the papacy.
  • In one final attempt to silence Wycliffe, on 17 November 1382, he was summoned before a synod at Oxford. He still commanded the favour of the court and of Parliament, to which he addressed a memorial. He was neither excommunicated then, nor deprived of his living.
  • In 1384 Wycliffe increasingly argued for Scriptures as the authoritative centre of Christianity, that the claims of the papacy were unhistorical, that monasticism was irredeemably corrupt, and that the moral unworthiness of priests invalidated their office and sacraments.
  • His last work, the Opus evangelicum, the last part of which he named in characteristic fashion “Of Antichrist”, remained uncompleted. While he was saying Mass in the parish church [at Lutterworth] on Holy Innocents’ Day, 28 December 1384, he suffered a stroke, and died as the year ended.
  • Unable to silence or censure Wycliffe in life, his detractors succeeded in having his works banned by the 1408 “Constitutions of Oxford”.  Further declaring that translation of the Scriptures into English by unlicensed laity was a crime punishable by charges of heresy.
  • The final humiliation came on 4May1415 (almost 30 years after his death) when the Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic, decreed that his works should be burned and his remains removed from consecrated ground.  This order was confirmed by Pope Martin V in 1428 at which time his corpse was exhumed and burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift near Lutterworth.

There are two other major contributions by Wycliffe which were not mentioned in the foregoing biographical summary: (1.) Translation from Vulgate Latin and printing of the first complete Bible in English, and (2.) The school for Itinerant Preachers (Lollards).  These activities were not mentioned in the biographical timeline, because their development cannot be ascribed to a specific place and time.  In fact, evidence suggests that these were “life works” of Wycliffe which he nurtured and advanced throughout most of his adult life as a theologian in Oxford.

Bible Translation

While many scholars (namely Sir Thomas More) have argued that there were earlier versions of an English translation of the Bible, the preponderance of research suggests that Wycliffe’s translation was in fact the first complete translation known to exist.  It is also clear that Wycliffe did not author the complete translation, but rather contributed only certain New Testament scriptural translations of the apostles, or perhaps the whole of the New Testament, but that the translation of the Old Testament was the work of others.  Be that as it may, it is generally accepted that Wycliffe was the main driving force behind this monumental effort, and should be credited with its achievement.  Several copies of this work survive in various libraries and archives sufficient in number as to suggest that there must have been 200 or more copies created and in circulation before the Council of Constance in 1418.  This was all accomplished before the invention of the Guttenburg Press.  These copies of the English translation of the Bible were hand-written by scribes on either paper (which was still relatively scarce) or on velum.  Wycliffe’s hope was that his Bible would provide the laity with access to the word of God, which in its Vulgate Latin form had been the domain of only the most literate and educated members of English society, namely members of the Roman catholic clergy.

School for Itinerant Preachers [aka Lollards]

Throughout his adult life Wycliffe had written and lectured against the corrupt nature of the Roman church establishment and doctrinal practices, and particularly against the unworthiness of its clerics.  From his writings it appears that fairly early in his career he came to question the legitimacy and authority of the Pope, and, as a consequence, was unconvinced of the necessity for ordination of priests.  From these early indications of tendency it can be assumed that Wycliffe used his various positions of “master” and lecturer at Oxford to establish his own “school” for itinerant preachers.  Such establishment is evidenced by the testimony of one William Thorpe while being examined by Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury (circa 1410):

“[William Thorpe] gave the following information concerning the course of his own studies and his relation to Wycliffe: ‘prayed my parents that they would give me license for to go to them that were named wise priests, and of virtuous conversation, to have their counsel, and to know of them the office and the charge of priesthood. And hereto my father and my mother consented full gladly, and gave me their blessing and good leave to go. And so that went to those priests whom heard to be of best name, and of most holy living, and best learned, and most wise of heavenly wisdom, and so communed with them unto the time that perceived, by their virtuous and continual occupations, that their honest and charitable works passed their fame which had heard before of them. Wherefore by the example of the doctrine of them, and specially for the godly and innocent works which perceived then of them and in them, after my cunning and power have exercised me then and in this time, to know perfectly God’s law, having will and desire to live thereafter.’ To the Archbishop’s further inquiry, Which are these men holy and wise Thorpe replied, ‘Maister John Wycliffe was holden of full many men the greatest clerk that they knew then living and therewith he was named passing ruly man, and innocent in his living.’ Besides Wycliffe himself, Thorpe names several of his admirers, such as John Aston, Nicholas Hereford, John Purvey, and others, and then continues thus: ‘With all these men was right homely, and communed with them long time and oft and so, before all other men, chose wilfully to be informed of them and by them and specially of Wycliffe himself, as the most virtuous and godly wise man that heard of, or knew.'”

This purported testimony by one William Thorpe would appear to set forth the manner in which he sought out and received the learned teachings of John Wycliffe and others of similar bent and stature, although himself [Thorpe] not having been formally educated by an orthodox institution.  In so recounting, Thorpe appears to have described the general way in which any pupil coming under the tutelage of John Wycliffe would have been prepared to go out into the world as an itinerant or poor preacher.  Although there is some doubt as to the actual existence of William Thorpe, or whether he was ever examined by Archbishop Arundel, there seems little doubt as to the reliability and accuracy of the process therein described.  Following is the conclusion in that regard as opined by Lechler:

“We shall scarcely err if we assume that Wycliffe, as long as he worked in Oxford as Doctor of Theology, and was in the habit of preaching frequently, if not regularly, before the University, formed there [a] training school of preachers, [a] sort of priest seminary, which, however, was of an entirely private and voluntary character.”[41]

Thus is described the manner and nature of the formation and conduct of the school for itinerant preachers by Wycliffe and some of his colleagues at Oxford.  Following are some of Wycliffe’s own views on the role and importance of the itinerant preacher:

“And as respects the fruits of preaching, it appears certain that single unlearned preacher effects more, by the grace of God, for the edification of the Church of Christ, than many who have graduated in schools or colleges, because the former scatters the seed of the law of Christ more humbly and more abundantly both in deed and in word.” But the most convincing passage of all, to my mind [Lechler speaking], is that which occurs in one of his later sermons, where Wycliffe asserts with great emphasis that for ministry in the Church the Divine call and commission are perfectly sufficient there is an installation by God Himself, although the bishop has given in such case no imposition of hands, in accordance with his traditions [i.e. ordination].”

Wycliffe condemned the practice of priestly ordination with the following:

“The sin of the common people is great, the sin of the lords, the mighty and the wise, is greater, but greatest of all is the sin of the prelates, and most blinding to the people.”

It is clear from the following mandate from William Courtenay, Archbishop of Canterbury to the Bishop of London in 1382 that Wycliffe’s school for itinerant preachers was already viewed as a threat to the clergy:

“William Courtenay, Archbishop of Canterbury, in mandate addressed to the Bishop of London in May1382, speaks of ‘certain unauthorised itinerant preachers who, as he had unhappily been compelled to learn, set forth erroneous yea, heretical assertions in public sermons, not only in churches, but also in public squares and other profane places,’ and ‘they do this,’ as he adds with special emphasis, under the guise of great holiness, but without having obtained any Episcopal or papal authorization.'”

The followers of Wycliffe’s reformation doctrine were labeled “lollards”, a term used by Pope Gregory XI to describe Wycliffe and his ilk and which may have etymological origins in the Middle Dutch word “lollaerd”, meaning “mumbler” or “mutterer”.  Clearly, it was a derogatory term similar to “Puritan” or “Brownist” intended to demean or debase its target as an uneducated, mono-linguistic person incapable of reading anything but English, therefore, incapable of understanding the “true” word of God.  In spite of its best efforts, the catholic church was unable to “put the genie back in the bottle”.  Lollardism, through the itinerant preachers and the spread of the English Bible, took root among all levels of English society and flourished through the 15th and 16th centuries.  Wycliffe became known as the “morning star” of protestant reformation in England.  Writing in about 1585, John Foxe stated:

“His persecutors thought they would kill his continuing influence by such an act [burning his corpse and scattering his ashes], but it was not to be so.  In the same way that the Pharisees thought they had killed Christ, and put his body in a dark grave, thinking He was gone forever, the Council who opposed John Wycliffe thought their symbolic act of disinterring the “heretic” and throwing away his ashes would kill his memory among his followers.  But as the Pharisees learned to their dismay, nothing could stop Jesus Christ, and nothing could stop the truth…  Though they burned his body and threw his ashes in the river, the word of God and the truth of Wycliffe’s doctrine could not be destroyed, and others would soon continue the work he started.”[42]

Many other noted theologians followed in the wake of Wycliffe’s legacy, too many to give attention in this genealogical investigation, but one in particular bears our attention:

William Tyndale

Following in the foot steps of John Wycliffe more than 150 years later, William Tyndale was still “walking the walk and talking the talk” of reformation.  Tyndale, born about 1495 in rural southern Gloucestershire, probably at Stinchcombe along the east bank of the Severn River, came from a relatively prosperous and landed family of that region.  His parentage is not known with certainty, but the family with certainty also used the name of “Hutchins”, the source of which is somewhat obscure; some sources say “Hutchins” was an alias adopted by a “northern” ancestor following the War of Roses, who settled in the Severn Valley.  William is known with some certainty to have had two brothers named Edward and John.  John Tyndale became a London merchant, who was charged with distribution of William’s banned English Bible.  Edward Tyndale in 1519 succeeded Sir John Walsh as the receiver of royal lands, formerly from the estate of the Marquise of Berkeley.  It was in the household of Sir John Walsh that William Tyndale lived for two years as tutor and chaplain.  In 1529 Edward Tyndale was granted the lease of the manor of Hurst in Slimbridge.  Some researchers believe that Hurst Manor was the true birthplace of the Tyndale children. 

According to one biographer, Robert Demaus, M.A., author of A Biography, A Contribution to The Early History of the English Bible, 1880, Tyndale’s early education was not neglected:

“The education of the young Tyndale was, we know, not neglected.  He had a peculiar aptitude for the acquisition of languages; and no doubt exhibited in childhood that sharpness of comprehension for which he was afterwards distinguished.  Of the nature of his early studies he has not left any record; the experience of later life probably led him to look upon them with contempt as a grievous waste of time.  One allusion only has been preserved in his works to what occupied the first energies of his mind, but it is a highly curious one, well deserving a place in this biography.  In the course of his Obedience of a Christian Man, while advocating the propriety of translating Holy Scripture into the English language, he asserts, “except my memory fail me, and that I have forgotten what I read when I was a child, thou shalt find in the English chronicles, how that King Athelstane caused the Holy Scriptures to be translated into the tongue that was then in England…”[43]

In a more contemporary biography: William Tyndale, A Biography, David Daniell offers the following connection between Tyndale and Wycliffe:

“Wyclif, between 1360 and 1390, and like him [Tyndale] critical of much in the practice of the Church, is set in the Vale of Berkeley and also still further north in the Malvern Hills.  Even severe persecution in the early 15th century had not wiped out the anti-clerical movement, and cloth-workers and Lollardy had long been linked in England.  In Tyndale’s time it was ‘clothmen’ who carried the Word as well as the product from village to village in Essex and Kent, as well as Oxfordshire and Gloucester.  They went to the craft halls and wool marts of the clothing centres of London, which acted as exchanges of ideas, as well as cloth.”[44]

Some researchers suggest that the extent and influence of the Lollards waned during the 15th century such that it had little impact on the rise of the protestant reformation that commenced in England in the 16th century.  Whereas others suggest that Lollards sowed the seeds and cultivated the fields, and even blended and melded with Lutheran, Calvin and Anabaptist sects that found their way across the channel from the Low Countries into England:

“This ‘secret multitude of true professors’ [Wycliffe’s itinerant preachers], as Foxe dubs them, continued pertinacious in certain areas during and even beyond the first three decades of the [16th] century.  In the London diocese, especially in Essex, Bishop Fitzjames prosecuted about 50 Lollards in 1510 and about as many again in 1518.  Between 1527 and 1532 his successors Tonstall and Stokesley caused at least 218 heretics to abjure: Colchester shows 20 convicted persons, Steeple Bumpstead 40, and Birdbrook 44.  A mixed heresy has now become apparent in the London diocese, yet while Lutheran doctrines become apparent in some cases, the basic and predominant element clearly remains Lollard.  Another classic locality of the old English heresy was the Chilterns area, especially around Amersham and Buckingham, where about 45 cases were presented to Bishop Smyth of Lincoln in 1506-7.  His successor Longland organized here in 1521 a major drive which resulted in 50 abjurations and five burnings… This area connected through a number of scattered communities in the Thames Valley with others in Berkshire, Wiltshire and the Cotswalds.  At Newbury 6 or 7 score [120 to 140] heretics are said by Foxe to have abjured together sometime during the early years of the century.  The final centre lay in south-west Kent, in the clothing towns of Tenterdon, Cranbrook and Benenden…  Between the various groups some links obviously existed: Thomas Man [an itinerant preacher?], burned at Smithfield in 1518, had moved about [the country] instructing Lollard communities in East Anglia, the Chilterns, the Thames Valley, and Newbury.  Late Lollardy appealed chiefly to the working-class people, especially the cloth-workers, who were mobile, but worked in compact communities…  In his detailed lists, Foxe also mentions tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, wheelwrights, and other small tradesmen and artisans [perhaps basketmakers?].  Mainly in the London diocese, there appear a very few merchants, friars, secular priests, and professional men.”[45]

The meaning of “adjuring” may appear foreign to the modern reader, hence this attempt to edify and clarify:

“Abjuration of the realm was a type of abjuration in ancient English law. The person taking the oath swore to leave the country [exiled] directly and promptly, never to return to the kingdom unless by permission of the sovereign. This was often taken by fugitives who had taken sanctuary [within a church or monastery]: One form of the oath of adjuration:  ‘I swear on the Holy Book that I will leave the realm of England and never return without the express permission of my Lord the King or his heirs. I will hasten by the direct road to the port allotted to me and not leave the King’s highway under pain of arrest or execution. I will not stay at one place more than one night and will seek diligently for a passage across the sea as soon as I arrive, delaying only one tide if possible. If I cannot secure such passage, I will walk into the sea up to my knees every day as a token of my desire to cross. And if I fail in all this, then peril shall be my lot.'”[46]

From the foregoing it seems highly possible that Tyndale was exposed to some form of protestant teachings near his home in the Vale of Berkeley.  Wycliffe, himself, had been awarded the cure at Aust, about 15 miles down river from Tyndale’s home.  John de Trevisa was a fellow at Queens College, Oxford, at the same time that John Wycliffe and Nicholas of Hereford were in residence.  Trevisa assisted Wycliffe in the translation of several books of the Old Testament.  More to the point, Trevisa, a strong proponent of Wycliffe’s reformist beliefs, served for a number of years as vicar of the parish church at Berkeley and as Chaplain to the 5th Lord Berkeley, who commissioned Trevisa to undertake major works of translation from Latin into French and English.  About 100 years later it was William Tyndale’s brother, Edward, who would be appointed receiver of parts of the Berkeley estate in Gloucester.  So, even though there are no records to establish the fact, it seems very possible that there were remnants of Lollardy still existing in Tyndale’s neighborhood which may have been the early foundation for his belief system.

There is no actual record of Tyndale’s time at Oxford, except that which is intimated by his own writing and that of others.  Foxe suggests that Tyndale entered residence at Magdalen Hall as a “child”.  Tyndale, himself, infers that Sir Thomas More had learned his Greek many years earlier than himself.  It is known that Sir Thomas More was a student at Oxford between the middle of 1497 and the end of 1498.  These are both rather vague references and do not provide any specific reference to dates at which Tyndale was at Oxford.  However, there is reason to believe that Tyndale was somewhat of a prodigy in the acquisition of languages, and that Magdalen Hall was initially established as a prep school for learning “grammar” (i.e., languages).  Therefore, it might be assumed that Tyndale was sent to Magdalen Hall in his early teens and later matriculated to Magdalen College.  Given the due course of studies, he probably earned his Bachelors degree at Magdalen College by the age of 18 years, and his Masters by the age of 22-3.  Assuming a birth year of about 1494, Tyndale could have been at Oxford for 6 to 8 years between about 1506 and 1516.  It is further known that after obtaining a Masters degree, Tyndale spent some brief time at Cambridge, probably as a lecturer and student of divinity.  As fate would have it, Tyndale may well have been in attendance at Magdalen Hall at the same time that two of his future detractors, John Stokesley and John Longland were Masters there. 

Tyndale looked on his university training with some disdain as evidenced by his own words:

“In the Universities they have ordained that no man shall look at the Scripture until he be noselled [nursed or trained] in heathen learning eight or nine years, and armed with false principles, with which he is clean shut out of the understanding of the Scriptures.  And at his first coming to the University, he is sworn that he shall not defame the University, whatsoever he seeth.  And when he taketh his first degree, he is sworn that he shall hold none opinions condemned by the Church; but what such opinions be, that he shall not know.  And then, when he is admitted to study divinity, because the Scripture is locked up with false expositions, and with false principles of natural philosophy, that he cannot enter in, they go about the outside, and dispute all their lives about words and vain opinion, pertaining as much unto the healing of a man’s heel, as health of his soul; provided yet always, lest God give His singular grace unto any person, that none may preach except he be admitted of the bishops.”

“In such hands theology was no longer a divine and ennobling study, but a wretched battle-field of the most useless and contemptible wrangling.”[47]

In the foregoing excerpt taken from Tyndale’s work entitled Practice of Prelates published in about 1530 (when Tyndale would have been about 35 years old) he sets forth a rather grim portrayal of his views on the state of Scriptural teaching that he encountered while a student at Oxford.  By extension, this was an equally negative judgment on the state of the Church and clergy of his time.  Given that Sir Thomas More, John Stokesley, John Longland and numerous other prominent prelates of the time had received their training at the same university, and, presumably from much the same professors, it is hard to imagine that Tyndale had not developed a predisposition toward scriptural learning before entering Magdalen Hall.  More, Stokesley and Longland seem to have been completely tractable to traditional orthodoxy, whereas William Tyndale seems completely intractable towards it.  How can such a divergent temperament be explained, but that Tyndale had been introduced to a completely different perception of church discipline and scriptural teachings before he entered Magdalen Hall.  Given the Lollardy leanings of the principle role model in his community in the Vale of Berkeley, namely the Lords of Berkeley, it seems probable that William Tyndale had an opportunity to read, or be taught from Wycliffe’s Bible, Trevisa’s translation of Polychronicon, and other reformative texts and ideologies.  Tyndale’s time at Oxford post-dated the presence of Erasmus of Rotterdam and John Colet, the lingering imprint of such early renaissance reformers must have had influence upon this erudite student of the Scriptures a decade later.

While it is written that Tyndale spent some years at Cambridge after leaving Oxford, little is known of his days at Cambridge.  Having attained a Master of Theology at Oxford around 1513-4, it seems possible that Tyndale could have received a fellowship at Cambridge with a view toward completing his doctoral studies and ordination.  Given his harsh perception of university learning, it is difficult not to imagine that his reformatory views (and very likely his organizing actions) would have come into conflict with the university administration. 

After university Tyndale reports that he returned to the Vale of Berkeley, where he took the post of schoolmaster and chaplain in the home of Sir John Walsh at Little Sodbury in about 1521.  Tyndale states that he commenced almost immediately to voice his opposition to the doctrines and practices of the catholic church to both Sir John and Lady Walsh, as well as to members of the clergy, who frequented his master’s table at Little Sodbury Manor.  His openness of speech and contrary views soon brought him to the attention of and in conflict with the clergy in his area.  While his gift of reason and extensive knowledge of languages enabled him to temporarily deflect the charges of heresy from his detractors, Tyndale came to realize that he was fast becoming a liability to his employer, whom he had thoroughly persuaded to his side through his translation of Eramus’ Manuel of a Christian Soldier.  Many researchers claim it was during Tyndale’s residence at Little Sodbury that he commenced his work on translating the Bible into a vernacular intelligible to the English under-classes:

“I defy him [the Pope] and all his laws; and if God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, to know more of the Scriptures than you do!”[48]

Although he enjoyed the full trust and support of Sir John and Lady Walsh, Tyndale decided that he should seek the wider and hopefully more receptive refuge of London, to which he conveyed himself in 1523.  Thinking (perhaps naively) he might elicit the patronage of Cuthbert Tunstall, the newly appointed Bishop of London, he arranged an audience and presented his letters of endorsement and introduction.  Perhaps, as they were both admirers of Erasmus, Tyndale may have thought he could garner the Bishop’s favor, but that was not to be.  Somewhat dejected, Tyndale sought employment elsewhere, and soon secured work as a temporary preacher at St. Dunstans in the West where he made the acquaintance of Humphrie Monmouth, a London cloth-merchant.  It may be noteworthy that Monmouth appears to have sought out the introduction with Tyndale at St. Dunstans, since Monmouth’s residence was at All Hallows, Barking near the Tower in east London.  Demaus suggests that Monmouth, who was an admirer of Erasmus and Luther, may have had some prior acquaintance with the Tyndale family of Gloucester, who purportedly were also engaged in the manufacture of “cloth”.  One further connection in common (albeit indirect) was that both Monmouth and Tyndale were close acquaintances of the Latimers of the Worcester area.  Monmouth was a close associate of Hugh Latimer, who would later become the martyred Bishop of Worcester.  Tyndale was a close associate of William Latimer (purported cousin of Hugh Latimer), as a parish priest at Weston Subedge southeast of Worcester.  The families of both William Latimer and Hugh Latimer are associated with Latimer Manor at Weston Subedge.  Hugh Latimer is reported to have employed Richard Webb, born at Chipping Sodbury and later curate at nearby West Kingston.  Almost 30 years after the death of William Tyndale, Richard Webb became a biographer to John Foxe, supplying the only presumed first-hand account of Tyndale’s life with Sir John Walsh at Little Sodbury.  Some writers go so far as to suggest that Richard Webb was a convert of William Tyndale’s, while Tyndale was a preacher at Little Sodbury.  Webb reported having first-hand knowledge of a woman heretic, martyred at a parish church (probably at Chipping Sodbury) when he was in his youth.  Foxe reported the following martyr’s burning:

“That same year [1508] in Chippen Sudburne [Sodbury?], a pious woman was burned at the stake by a chancellor named Dr. Whittenham, who had tried her as a heretic and condemned her.  As her executioners and others left the place where she was burned, a bull broke loose from the butcher and gored Dr. Whittenham through the body.  The bull carried Dr. Wittenham’s intestines around on his horns for sometime, but did not harm any others in the crowd.”[49]

Was this divine retribution or merely poetic justice?  The single source of this story of the “Godly Woman” appears to have been John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, who appears to have had it from Richard Webb.

Realizing the dangers attendant to his prime objective, translation and printing of a vernacular Bible, Tyndale, presumably with the financial support of Monmouth, sailed to the continent where he took up residence at Hamburg sometime in 1524.  Tyndale labored for the next two years writing his translation of the New Testament from Greek and Hebrew into vernacular English.  By 1526 copies of Tyndale’s English New Testament began to circulate in England, arousing grave concern within the Church.  The Bible was immediately declared flawed and heretical, and anyone possessing or transporting a copy was branded a heretic subject to execution.  Suffice it to say that William Tyndale was achieving his vision, his Bible was making its way into the hands and lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of his fellow countrymen, and changing their lives forever.  The English New Testament was soon followed with translation and printing of a complete English Bible by 1528. 

Between 1528 and 1536 William Tyndale became a lodger in the home of Thomas Poyntz in the English House at Antwerp.  From various sources it appears that Thomas Poyntz, a London Grocer from North Ockendon, was a distant cousin of Lady Anne [nee Poyntz] Walsh, William Tyndale’s former employer and benefactress.  Whether Tyndale’s connection with Thomas Poyntz was made possible by his prior connection to Sir John and Lady Walsh is uncertain, but possible.  Thomas Poyntz harboured and aided Tyndale, even to the extent of smuggling copies of the English Bible into England from Antwerp.  Through the villainy and scheming of Bishop Cuthbert Tonstal and Sir Thomas More, and with the assistance of a spy named Henry Philips, Tyndale’s place of hiding at English House was discovered.  Tyndale was arrested by Dutch authorities in the summer of 1536 and transported to a prison cell at Vilvorde Castle.  After a trial in which Tyndale elected to defend himself, he was convicted of heretical acts and condemned to death, which act of execution was carried out on 6Oct1536 at Vilvorde.

Thus far we have the history of two men with virtually identical visions: John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, who committed their lives to the work of translating the Scriptures for the benefit of the commonwealth of England.  For his pains, Wycliffe was on several occasions ordered to appear before Church commissioners to answer charges of heresy.  But for the intervention of his friends in high places, Wycliffe’s life would have been forfeit, and he would have endured the flames of the martyr’s pyre.  Tyndale, almost 150 years later, and almost certainly guided by Wycliffe’s legacy, [“the light of the Morning Star”] fulfilled his dream of sharing the gospels with the “boy that driveth the plough“, and paid the ultimate price for his “obstinance” and courage. 

Ironically, just three years after the martyrdom of William Tyndale, King Henry VIII granted a royal license to Myles Coverdale [Tyndale’s collaborator] allowing him to print a complete English Bible in England.  In fact, Coverdale had published an earlier version of his English Bible at Antwerp in 1535, the year before William Tyndale’s execution.  Furthermore, scholars agree that Coverdale used Tyndale’s translations of the New Testament and the Pentateuch, as well as some portions of Luther’s German Bible in the production of his own work.  So, Tyndale was burned at the stake, while Coverdale was granted a royal license to reproduce what was ostensibly the work of the martyr.  It is said that “timing is everything”.  But in Coverdale’s case, a bit of political prudence was useful.  He elected to dedicate his Bible to the King, and to omit the offensive “glosses” or footnotes common to Tyndale’s Bible, which had been found so offensive to the papish church.  Moreover, a copy of Coverdale’s Bible was ordered placed in every parish church in the realm, an achievement only dreamt of by William Tyndale.

So, it was substantially the lingering imprint of Wycliffe and Tyndale upon the religious fabric of Oxford and Cambridge that would begin to take hold of future generations of scholars, setting in motion a reform movement that would produce the likes John Foxe, Robert Crowley, John Field, Thomas Wilcox, Thomas Cartwright, Richard Fitz, Robert Browne, Robert Harrison, John Greenwood, Henry Barrow, Francis Johnson, John Penry, John Smith, John Robinson, William Bradford, Henry Jacob, and possibly even such laic leaders as John Murton, Thomas Helwys, Samuel Eaton, John Wilkinson and William Arthurbury [?].

Thomas Cartwright

A brief introduction to Thomas Cartwright is important to this genealogical research, since he is credited with having had the greatest impact upon the religious thinking of both Robert Harrison and Robert Browne.  Following is a biographical overview of his life:

“Thomas Cartwright, English Puritan and Presbyterian, was born in Hertfordshire 1535; d. at Warwick Dec. 27, 1603. He was matriculated as a sizar of Claire Hall, Nov., 1547, and as a scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge, Nov. 5, 1550. Being a Protestant and refusing to return to the Roman Church, he was debarred from the university during Mary’s reign (1553-59). In 1560 he became a minor fellow of Trinity College, and on Apr. 6 of the same year a fellow of St. John’s College; in Apr., 1562, a major fellow of Trinity College. In 1567 he took his bachelor’s degree, and in 1569 was chosen Lady Margaret professor of divinity, and began to lecture on the Acts of the Apostles. His lectures were exceedingly popular, and made a profound impression in favor of his distinctively Puritan views, but created a storm of opposition from the Prelatical party, headed by Dr. Whitgift. The Puritan platform is well stated in the six propositions which Cartwright delivered under his own hand to the vice-chancellor, the grounds of his persecution by the Prelatists:

  1. That the names and functions of archbishops and archdeacons ought to be abolished.
  2. That the offices of the lawful ministers of the Church, viz., bishops and deacons, ought to be reduced to their apostolical institution: bishops to preach the word of God, and pray, and deacons to be employed in taking care of the poor.
  3. That the government of the Church ought not to be entrusted to bishop’s chancellors, or the officials of archdeacons; but every church ought to be governed by its own ministers and presbyters.
  4. That ministers ought not to be at large, but every one should have the charge of a particular congregation.
  5. That no man ought to solicit, or to stand as a candidate for the ministry.
  6. That ministers ought not to be created by the sole authority of the bishop, but to be openly and fairly chosen by the people.”[50]

Following is one biographers description of the conflict between Whitgift and Cartwright at Cambridge:

“About this time, he, [Whitgift] and the rest of the Heads, discharged the University of the great ringleader of disorders and disturbances there, namely, Thomas Cartwright, B.D. the Lady Margaret’s Reader of Divinity; who both by his readings (preachings) and conversation had infected the minds of the scholars, of the youngest sort [Browne and Harrison included], with mighty prejudices against the Episcopal government and Liturgy established in the reformation of this Church.  His reading any more his lectures was forbidden [by the new statutes] by the Vice-Chancellor and Heads, without some satisfaction given them; lest permitting thereof should seem to give some credit to his new opinions; with which Whitgift acquainted the Chancellor [William Cecil, Browne’s kinsman], in a letter, and of his approbation for what was done.  Whitgift also, because the Chancellor seemed not so perfectly to understand [or perhaps agreed with] Cartwright’s principle, and the consequences of them, in the same letter, written in August [1570] set them down in several particulars: that upon the reading whereof, it might appear, how dangerous and destructive they were, both unto religion, and the settled constitution of this Church…  But Cartwright still kept his fellowship, till the year 1572. Dr. Whitgift now became the more noted in the University, and indeed throughout the whole nation, for his seasonable opposition of this man [Cartwright] of his own college.  It became a public quarrel, wherein both the University, and all the Bishops of England, and their officers were concerned; being all boldly struck at by him [Cartwright]; openly condemning both the orders of the University, and the calling of Bishops [polity]… Cartwright persisting in these his heterodox principles, and refusing before the Heads to renounce them; he was in the next place deprived of his lecture (Lady Margaret’s Chair), and of the University, by Dr. Whitgift, now Vice-Chancellor, in the month of November [1571], as he had been, the month before, of his fellowship, as turbulent, and seditious, and party-making (organizing) in the college; and likewise for breach of certain college statutes.”[51]

Cartwright had become a forceful and charismatic preacher in Cambridge in the 1560’s, which forwardness led to his discharge, and setting the stage for the spread of puritan and Presbyterian beliefs as described in the following excerpts:

“At age 15, Thomas entered Cambridge. He was a brilliant student and advanced rapidly. But when Cartwright was 18, Bloody Mary ascended the throne and Cambridge ejected him because of his Protestant convictions. When Elizabeth came to power, Protestantism was again in vogue and the political climate became favorable to men like Cartwright. At age 25, he returned to Cambridge and advanced rapidly in learning and spiritual power. His preaching began to draw large crowds. In 1564, Queen Elizabeth visited Cambridge. Cartwright was selected to preach in her presence. Hagstotz notes, “He is said to have drawn such a crowd that the windows of St. Mary’s Cathedral were removed to permit those outside to hear him. … A man of genius and one who would have been prominent in any age,” he was “an eloquent preacher and a rising theological scholar.” He was also “the first one to introduce extemporary prayer into the service.”

When Cartwright was 34 (1569), Cambridge gave him the Lady Margaret chair of divinity.  This was a prestigious position.  From it he began a series of lectures on the Book of Acts that were to greatly influence the church…  The church was ruled by the monarch and through appointed bishops.  Unity of society under one religion was the goal.  Despite the Reformation, there had been little change in church government since the days of the Roman Church.

As he studied the Book of Acts, Cartwright observed a decentralized church government.  Elders ruled the local church.  Although each local church had autonomy, a common allegiance to apostolic authority bound them together.  In other words, the Bible emphasized a church government free from State interference.

The goal of the Elizabethan Settlement was to unify society under the Anglican Church, but the effect was a bloated church bureaucracy corrupted with secularism and worldliness — one that gave the common Englishman little freedom of conscience.  It also made church discipline at the parish level almost impossible.

Using his prestige and authority Cartwright proposed his biblical model for the Anglican Church.  One of his great concerns was maintaining purity in the church through local church discipline.  He suggested rule by presbytery (the Greek word translated elder).  The term Presbyterian stuck.

Cartwright’s ideas were radical and incendiary to the 16th-century English mind.  “He averted that bishops should preach, deacons should look after the poor, and only ministers who knew how to preach should be selected to govern their own churches; that it was the right of the churches, rather than of the state or of the bishops, to elect their own pastors; and only what the Scriptures taught should be sanctioned in a church.”

Until now, Puritanism had been a burr under the saddle of the Anglican Church.  Cartwright’s lectures on Acts upped the ante.  His teaching stepped on powerful toes.  It threatened the queen’s sovereignty.

In the 16th century, control of the nation through bishops was deemed indispensable to the crown.  Cartwright’s proposal to replace bishops with presbyteries threatened the queen.  Cartwright’s ideas were a direct challenge to her power to control the State.  In his 36th year (1571), Cambridge fired Cartwright, a warrant for his arrest was issued, and he fled to the Continent.

Meanwhile, a friend [John Field] who remained in England drafted “An Admonition to Parliament for the Reformation of Church Discipline,” requesting legislation that would eliminate bishops in favor of Presbyterianism.  Cartwright returned to England to write the foreword.  About this time the first presbyteries began to secretly meet in southern England [particularly East Anglia].  In 1574, Cartwright once again fled to the Continent to escape imprisonment or death.  Unable to return, he spent 10 years in Antwerp pastoring an English congregation.

At age 50 (1585), he risked another visit to England and was immediately imprisoned.  Powerful friends interceded with Elizabeth for his discharge. After 2 months he was released and allowed to resume teaching and pastoring.

Meanwhile Presbyterianism was rapidly spreading and secret presbyteries were meeting underground. By 1590, nearly 500 pastors had embraced Cartwright’s radical ideas. Elizabeth again arrested Cartwright. This time he was imprisoned for 2 years in the Fleet prison. He emerged at age 57, an old man, his health permanently broken. When he died in 1603, bishops were still in full control of the Anglican Church.”

(2) St. Giles, Cripplegate, Circa 16th and 17th Centuries

Figure 4-8 herein below presents an extract from Ralph Agas’ map dated 1536 presenting the northwest London area that contains St. Giles Cripplegate Ward (outlined in green), which was composed of two main areas; that area within Cripplegate (i.e., inside the Gate) and that area without Cripplegate (i.e., outside the Gate).  During the 16th and 17th centuries St. Giles, Cripplegate Parish would have contained the area of St. Giles without Cripplegate Ward, and would likely have extended further north and west to have contained an area approximating that shown within Figure 4-9 (outlined with blue dashed border).

The enlarged area of northwest London shown in Figure 4-8 illustrates the location of several key areas discussed in this Chapter shown in their geographic relationship to St. Giles, Cripplegate Parish and Grub Street:

  1. St. James Clerkenwell is believed to have been the location of the marriage of John Wilkinson (author of The Sealed Fountaine) in 1589.
  2. Finsbury Court was nearby to Finsbury Field in which 55 persons were arrested at a conventicle of Brownists in 1583.
  3. Smithfield was the site of executions conducted during the Tudor reign of both catholic and protestant martyrs.
  4. Charter House was the site of mass burials totaling to 50,000 bodies during the pestilence of the 15th and 16th centuries.
  5. St. Mary Aldermanbury was the street on which the widow of Nicholas Crane (Puritan martyr) resided in the late-16th Century.
  6. St. Mary le Bow was directly across the street from All Hallows Honey Lane Church where Thomas Wilcox was reported to have held a curacy in the 1570’s.
  7. Newgate and Fleet Prisons were two of the most common places for incarceration of nonconformists during the Tudor period.
  8. Grub Street was recorded as the place of residence of William Atterbury, porter and brownist, as well as of John Foxe and John Field.
  9. Paul’s Cross at the northeast corner of St. Paul’s Cathedral was the allotted site for delivery of public sermons by both conforming and nonconforming ministers and prelates during the reformation period.

St. Giles Cripplegate Parish lies just outside the old City Wall with the postern gate known as Crepple Gate being the main way of entry from St. Giles into London.  The parish contained approximately 43 acres of land, and was divided into two ancient civil jurisdictions: (1) The Freedom (western) part as a dependency of the City, and (2) The Lordship (eastern) part, known as the Manor of Finsbury.  Stow reported in 1598 that St. Giles Cripplegate possessed about 1,800 householders, suggesting a population of about 8,000 souls.  A 1631 official survey by the Lord Mayor reported 6,445 occupants in the Freedom district, alone, which included the area west of Moor Lane.  Before St. Giles Church was first erected in medieval times, the area to the north of London was a large, continuous marsh with woodland beyond.  Much of this fen extended right up to the base of the old Roman wall foundation.  Fitz-Stephen writing in the time of Henry II describes this moor: “When that great marsh which washes the walls of the City on the north side is frozen over, the young men go out in crowds to divert themselves upon the ice.”  In the words of another writer, it was “a rotten moorish ground (in summer),” through which two or three shallow streams wound their sluggish way to the Thames.  The Reverend W. Denton, M.A. wrote in Records of St. Giles’ Cripplegate:

“London was in these early times entirely undrained, except by nature, this part of the fen absorbed a large portion of the sewage of the City, and the space lying between the wall and the higher ground of Finsbury was occupied with pools of stagnant water, dotted over with reeds, and tufts of rank grass, forming a melancholy sweep of swamp and rushes.  People who came from the confined streets and alleys of the City to live in this part of the suburbs found “more elbow room” but “scant better air” than within the walls…  At the Norman conquest, the whole moor, probably because it was a waste, was held to belong to the Crown, and was given or confirmed by William I, to the Collegiate Church of St. Martin le Grand…  There was at that time no church at Cripplegate, and we gather from the silence of the charter that there were no houses outside of the gate; the parish was merely a part of the moor.  “It was not,” to use the words of Stow, “until the reign of William the Conqueror and his son William Rufus, some houses were builded along the east and west thwart before the said gate that a church was builded for the use of the inhabitants.”  Until the middle of the 14th century, population increased but slowly outside the walls, as it did in other parts of England.  It grew more rapidly during the prosperous reigns of Henry III and Edward I…  The latter half of the 14th century was marked with at least five terrible outbreaks of pestilence, in which more than two-thirds of the nation were swept away…  That part of the open field on which now stands Charterhouse Square and the Merchant Taylors’ School was bought by Sir Walter Manny and others, and appropriated for a grave yard for those dying of the “black Death”…  50,000 bodies are said to have been thrown into this one burial place (about 1349)…  But though we have no directory of these early days to tell us who lived in Grub-Street and Moor-Lane, or along one side of the street known as Fore-Street , because it stood before the Wall, we can yet glean, from one document or another, information as to the kind of population which dwelt in Cripplegate Without, at the time this parish was growing into importance.  Foreigners… had a hard life of it in the City, and were roughly treated by the riotous City apprentices, and put to death without mercy in every outbreak of the City mob; and such outbreaks were but too frequent in the middle ages.  Foreigners again were not allowed to live within the walls of London, and, for these reasons, were glad sometimes to find shelter among the criminal and half-criminal populations dwelling without the City.  It was perhaps because of the lawless character of the settlers on the moor outside Cripplegate, that executions frequently took place there…  Gradually there grew up in the early part of the middle ages a population of tanners, skinners, catgut makers, tallow melters, dealers in old clothes, receivers of stolen goods, charcoal sellers, makers ofsham jewellery, coiners (counterfeiters), clippers of coin, and silver refiners, who kept their melting-pot ready day and night for the silver plate that might come to hand, toilers in noissome trades and dishonest dealers.  Down to later times ale and beer houses of the worst reputation, and yet even worse than such reputation, stood at the edge of the moor, where, despite the City authorities, gambling was always going on…  At the back of the street (Grub Street) towards the end of Moor-lane lay several Tenter grounds, where cloth might be stretched (to illegal proportions)…  The reader will not fail to note the evidence we have here of the half-agricultural character of the parish at this point in time…  There were still grazing grounds and tillage lands within the parish boundaries. And what were the houses which up to the end of the middle ages, that is up to the beginning of the 16th century, were tenanted by the inhabitants of St. Giles Cripplegate.  Many of them were not better than wooden sheds; some few, indeed, rose to the dignity of possessing a story (2nd level) over the basement; these were, however, but few in number.  The rooms were low, the walls were of clay and loam dug from the soil of the moor and strengthened by fern and rushes (daub and wattle construction similar to Figure 4-10).  The rooms on the ground had no floor, except the earth on which the house was built.  Few of these houses possessed any glass in the holes called windows — fewer still had any chimneys, and most of them, even at the beginning of the 16th century, were covered with thatch. “[52]

Thus, from Denton we have a rather bleak description of the growth and habitation of St. Giles Cripplegate Parish up to the beginning of the 16th century.  What this description fails to record is that a new parish church was erected on the site of the old Norman church sometime around the year 1390.  This new church measured approximately 120 feet by 60 feet, and possessed rather ornate features for the period.  Aside from damage caused by a fire on 12Sep1545, and damage from air-raid bombs during WWII, the medieval structure remains today substantially as originally built.  Refer to Figure 4-11 for an artists rendering of St. Giles from the 18th century, and to Figure 4-12 for a contemporary photograph, each containing perspectives of the church from the southwest corner.

Long since gone is the cemetery that flanked the early church, but the register and vestry minutes survive to give a glimpse into the mélange of the social spectrum that enjoyed the use of St. Giles church: for refuge, for spiritual nourishment, for celebrations of life and death, for monuments to past ancestral glorification.  Up through the end of the 17th century this church was the heart and soul of the community.  As evidence of the social diversity within the parish, we need only scan the church register in which were recorded noteworthy events:

Burial place of the rich and famous:

  • Henry Grey, Earl of Kent
  • Lucy family of Charlecot
  • John Foxe, Martyrologist
  • John Field, Puritan Archivist
  • Robert Crowley, Puritan Minister
  • Sir James Writhesley, Garter King-at-Arms
  • Richard and William Bullen or Boleyne
  • Sir Martin Forbisher
  • John Speed, Merchant Taylor
  • John Milton, author and minister
  • John Bunyan, author and minister
  • Daniel de Foe, author
  • Sir Thomas Egerton

Marriage of note:

  • Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth Bourchier (1620)

According to Denton, Grub Street, at the best of times was never a safe place, became in Tudor times deserted except for low gambling houses and bowling alleys (aka skittle-grounds).  According to William Fleetwood, Recorder of London at time of Elizabeth, the Harrow in Moorfields was well-known to the City authorities as one of the “harbouring houses for the masterless men, and for such as live by theft and other such like shifts.”  “Schools” for training pickpockets and pickpurses were set up in communities outside the wall, including St. Giles, and became the clearinghouses for stolen goods.  “Cages” were maintained in St. Giles for housing the destitute: one at Cripple Gate, one at end of Grub Street, another in Golding Lane, one at Moor Lane and one at Old Street.

John Stow in his 1598 Survey of London wrote the following descriptions of streets within St. Giles Cripplegate:

  • White Cross Street – King Henry V built one fair house, and founded there a brotherhood of St. Giles, to be kept, which house had sometime been an hospital of the French order, by the name of St. Giles without Cripplegate, in the reign of Edward I… which hospital being suppressed (by Henry VIII), the lands were given to the brotherhood for the relief of the poor.
  • Red Cross Street – on the west side from St. Giles churchyard up to the cross, be many fair houses built outward, with diverse alleys turning into a large plot of ground, called the Jews’ Garden, as being the only place appointed them in England, wherein to bury their dead…  This plot of ground remained to the said Jews till the time of their final banishment out of England, and is now turned into fair garden plots and summer-houses for pleasure.  On the east side — be also diverse fair houses, up to the cross.
  • Beech Lane – peradventure of called of Nicholas de la Beech, Lieutenant of the Tower of London…  This stretch (of Beech Lane) from Red Cross to White Cross, replenished, not with beech trees, but with beautiful houses of stone, brick and timber.  Amongst the which was of old time a great house, pertaining to the Abbott of Ramsey, for his lodging when he repaired to the City; it is now called Drewry House, of Sir Drewe Drewrie, a worshipful owner thereof.  On the north side of Beech Lane, towards White Cross, the Drapers of London have lately built eight alms houses of brick and timber…
  • Golding Lane – Richard Gallard of Islington, esquire, citizen and painter-stainer of London, founded 13 alms houses for so many poor placed in them rent free.
  • Barbican – On west side of Red Cross is a street, called the Barbican, because sometime there stood a burgh-kenin or watchtower (for City defenses).  Next adjoining to this is one other great house, called Garter house, sometime built by Sir Thomas Writhe, or Writhesley, knight, alias Garter, principal king of arms.
  • Grub Street – In the east end of Fore Street is Moor Lane; then next is Grub Street; of late years inhabited, for the most part, by bowyers, fletchers, bow-string makers, and such like occupations — archery giving place to a number of bowling greens and dicing houses, which in all places are increased, and too much frequented.

Almost 120 years later (1720) John Strype described Grub Street as follows:

“Grub Street, very long, coming out of Fore Street, and running, Northwards, into Chiswel street; but some small part, to wit, from Sun Alley to Chiswell street, is not in the Ward, but in the Liberty of Finsbury.  This Street, taking in the whole, is but indifferent, as to its Houses and Inhabitants; and sufficiently pestered with Courts and Alleys…”

Figure 4-13 provides one artists perspective of a typical view along Grub Street (perhaps from the corner of Fore Street) in the early part of the 17th century.  In the 16th and 17th centuries Grub Street attracted a wide cross-section of English society ranging from disaffected, college-educated clergy, attorneys and writers at the top end (including John Field and John Foxe), to printers and merchants of similar (mainly nonconformist) leanings in the middle, to craftsmen of various skills and trades near the bottom, including William Atterbury, porter.  Figure 4-14 provides an illustration of a writer’s studio in a house along Grub Street in the 17th Century.

The various writers in the foregoing descriptions of St. Giles Cripplegate from the 16th and 17th centuries suggest that the parish was the home of a fairly broad assortment of people across the entire spectrum of social and economic strata from thieves and murders, to forgers and counterfeiters, to conjurors and sorcerers, to poor craftsmen and tradesmen, to artists, writers, and actors, to publicans and innkeepers, to yeoman farmers, to defrocked clergymen and pamphleteers, to down-on-their-luck nobles and landed gentry.  The St. Giles Church Register is perhaps the best resource for studying the occupations and social status of the parish residents.  Church records commence in the summer of 1560 with entries for marriages, christenings and burials, but only with the names (sometimes kinship) of the affected parties and an occasional reference to status, i.e., householder, widow, widower, gentleman.  Starting in Jul1582 the records commenced reporting the occupations of the adult males, and occasionally of the adult females, in connection with christening and burial records only.  Occasionally, the place of residence may also be appended, i.e. street name, civil jurisdiction (Finsbury, etc.).  This practice continued for the next two centuries.

So, if it were possible to decipher the arcane cursive writings of the register clerk, it should be possible to compile a fairly reliable breakdown of the various social classes and occupations of the parish population from 1582 onward.  However, the author does no possess the training, nor the patience needed to glean and compile such demographic data from this register.  Figure 4-15 presents a sampling of the typical parish record entries in 1583, to illustrate for the reader the complexity of the problem.  While it is possible for the author to discern some of the occupations (carpenter, taylor, laborer, fletcher), many of the occupations are undecipherable.  The author has performed a similar extraction from the register of St. Olaves, Southwark during the early part of the 18th century, and, from that experience, knows the difficulties associated with such deciphering and tabulation. 

The author did tabulate occupation data from the burial and christening records for Jul thru Sep1603 (at the peak of a plague epidemic) which are presented in Table 4-5 for a snapshot of the parish resident occupations at that time.  To place this data into a rational context it should be recognized that the records from which it was compiled were difficult to interpret for a marginally qualified transcriber such as the author.  Consequently, roughly 20% of the occupations in the records could not be interpreted, and therefore were omitted from this tally.  Perhaps another 10% may have been incorrectly transcribed.  Be that as it may, the author is of the opinion that Table 7-5 contains a sufficient tabulation of the occupations contained in these records in this three-month period as to present a reliable representation of the crafts and trades present in St. Giles Cripplegate Parish at the turn of the 17th Century.  Further, it should be recognized that the compiled data represents both christening and burial records, and that the burial records heavily outweighed the number of christening records.  In July there were an estimated 630 burials and 20 christenings, August had an estimated 1,170 burials compared to 58 christenings, whereas September had an estimated 645 burials compared to only 18 christenings.  Further evidence of the severe impact of the plague on the local population is found in the increasing number of records pertaining to widows or widowers of 20 in July, 34 in August and 60 in September.  And, finally, it should be recognized that there were multiple burials from the same household, often on the same date.  This data is not intended to imply anything relative to total parish population, rather to give a sense of the range and relative numbers by occupation.

Taking all these factors into consideration, this data captures the presence of as many as 120 different occupations in St. Giles, in addition to the more generic references to gentlemen and widowers.  Weavers represent by far the single largest occupation group, followed by general laborers, taylors, butchers, glovers, clothworkers, porters, shoemakers, gardeners/yeomen, fletchers/bowyers/ pointmakers, and goldsmiths.  The large number of occupations connected to the clothmaking industry (~30%) suggests that a large part of the community’s working classes were involved in weaving woolen cloth and fabricating that cloth into garments.  Such relatively high concentration of this type of industry in St. Giles is not surprising, considering the fact that the London Wool Exchange, along with its sorting, grading and processing warehouses were located just inside Cripplegate in Bassishaw Ward.  Similarly, the relatively high number of butchers (~4.4%) is very likely due to the fact that Smithfield (about 1/2 mile southwest) was the site of the largest slaughterhouses in all of England.

The relatively large number of porters and carmen (~5.7%) in St. Giles probably existed to support the other main industries of the area, i.e. weaving, clothmaking, garment manufacture, meat processing, forging and smelting, carpentry, baking and brewing. 

As suggested by Denton, Stow and Strype, there is some evidence that a bow-making industry and archery interest still existed in St. Giles by virtue of the numbers of fletchers, bowstring makers, bowyers and pointmakers.  There is also evidence of interdependent industries associated with meat-processing as seen in curriers, leatherdressers, shoemakers, glovers, girdlers, cobblers, pursemakers, buttonmakers, combmakers, and needle and pinmakers, all which were connected with the butchery by-products of hides and bones.

The presence of a relatively large number of gardeners and yeomen (~3.9%) indicates that St. Giles still contained spaces dedicated to agriculture, probably mostly on the moor east of Moor Lane.

Also consistent with the suggestions of Stow and Strype of the trading in stolen goods, clipping and counterfeiting in St. Giles, one cannot overlook the relatively large number of goldsmiths, and general smiths (~3.5%) identified in the tabulation.  The fact that the “smiths” were a non-descript lot suggests persons involved in operating furnaces for melting down a variety of materials, perhaps plate and wares stolen from shops and homes inside the City wall.  “Goldsmith” in Tudor times generally referred to persons involved in money-lending (not in the manufacture of precious metal objects as the name might imply).  Such a relatively large number of “goldsmiths” in St. Giles is further suggestion of counterfeiting, fencing stolen goods and money-laundering.

In addition to identifying several main industries that are discernable within this tabulation, there are also several trades and/or professions that are either missing or under-represented, based on that which might be suggested from other sources.  For example, basket-makers were almost non-existent.  This suggests that William Addersbury was in a very unique trade for the area, with perhaps only one other such craftsman in the parish.  Also in relatively short supply is any evidence of persons associated with the performing arts, writing and publishing.  A theater had been erected in St. Giles in the 1590’s, yet we find only scant hints of associated occupations in the St. Giles records: a fiddler, trumpeter, brewers servants, minstrels, and printers.  Moreover, some of the best known playwrights, actors, poets, pamphleteers, printers, writers, and religious activists of the period are believed to have resided in St. Giles, and especially on Grub Street.  We are led to believe by Stow and Strype that alehouses, bawdyhouses and inns were ever present in St. Giles at that times, but there seems to be but small evidence in the church record.  Perhaps the relatively large number of “laborers” (~8.4%) might have been associated with those activities.  There does seem to be a representative number of “gentlemen” in the record to support the contention of upper-class residents, particularly west of White Cross Street and in Barbican.

Since William Atterbury, porter and obstinate brownist is reported to have resided on Grub Street for the better part of 25 years, it should be helpful to this genealogical investigation to have a better understanding of the key social influences upon this Atterbury family.  However, before entering upon this more refined study of the Grub Street neighborhood in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the author feels compelled to articulate a conjecture regarding William Atterbury, himself.  The earliest record discovered of William Atterbury, porter, dates from the christening of his daughter, Dorothie, at St. Giles on 3Oct1604.  .  One year earlier William Adderbury, basketmaker, had buried his servant, William Wescott, at St. Giles on 23Aug1603, during the peak of the 1603 outbreak of the plague which claimed an estimated 34,000 lives in London, alone.  William Addersbury and William Atterbury continued to be recorded in the records of St. Giles until the death of William, the basketmaker, on 18Mar1629.  These two William’s were the only persons bearing the surname of Atterbury or Adderbury in London at that time, except for the family of Phillip Atterbury of St. Stephen, Coleman Street in the late 16th century, and the family of a Thomas Atterbury in St. Katherine by the Tower in the early 17th century.  No evidence was found of any interaction between the Adderbury/Atterbury families of St. Giles with either of the other two Atterbury families in London at that time.

The facts that William Addersbury (basketmaker) and William Atterbury (porter) resided concurrently in St. Giles Cripplegate parish for almost 25 years, that the dates of their respective records correspond with a possible father-son relationship, that they each bore the same Christian name, and that a probable son of William Atterbury was christened Thomas Adderbury on 19Jun1605, are all strong indications that William Atterbury, porter, was a son of William Addersbury and Alice Lyon.  No birth record could be found for either William Addersbury or William Atterbury.  However, it should be noted that William Addersbury buried a son named William Addersbury on 30 Sep1582, for whom no birth record has been found.  Another son named Robert Addersbury was also buried on 7Dec1582 for whom no birth record was found.  Further, the last birth record for a child born to William Addersbury was that of a daughter named Martha on 26Sep1582.  Following the customary practices of the time, it would have been normal for William Addersbury to christen another son as his namesake, “William”, should he have been blessed with another male child after the death of his son William Addersbury on 30Sep1582.  Given that the birth records for the first son named “William” and the son named Robert were missing from the records, it is not unreasonable to think that the birth record for a second son named “William” might also be missing from the records of St. Giles.  The author is inclined to believe that William and Alice Addersbury did have another son, born about 1583/4, whom they named “William” as namesake for the father.  Further, the author is inclined to believe that that second son named “William” was the same person as William Atterbury, porter and obstinate brownist.

Given the relatively high percentage of porters and carmen present in St. Giles in 1603 (almost 6% of the population) it is reasonable to think that William Addersbury was able to secure an apprenticeship for his son, William, with a master in their neighborhood of St. Giles.  One final conjecture by the author is with regard to the probable location of William Addersbury’s residence and workshop within St. Giles.  Most of the lower classes of craftsmen and tradesmen most likely would have been located in the eastern half of the parish, probably either in Grub Street or Moor Lane.  Consequently, it is reasonable to surmise that William Addersbury may well have resided in Grub Street, the same location later occupied by his presumed son, William Atterbury, porter/carman.  Regardless of the actual location of William Addersbury’s residence within St. Giles, both he and William Atterbury would have been influenced by the lifestyle existing in their parish and particularly on Grub Street at that time.

It is not often that a street, let alone a neighborhood is so distinctive for its reputation as to become immortalized in the minds in future generations, yet Grub Street is just such a street.  Modern generations in western civilization are familiar with such locales as Bedlam (Bethlehem Asylum), Soho, Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury District, perhaps less are familiar with Grub Street.  Yet, anyone studying English Literature will have heard or seen references to Grub Street as a synonym for the place where the under-class, the ne’er-do-well, the aesthete, the radical, the revolutionary, the struggling writer or artist are associated.  One writer asserts that Grub Street entered the mainstream Englishman’s lexicon of place-names in the 17th century:

“”Grub Street” entered the language in the 17th century, became almost a household phrase in Hanoverian England, and survives in modern parlance with a rather diminished identity.  Its metaphorical sense lives on, although the road itself was renamed Milton Street in 1830 and has been swallowed virtually whole in the immense Barbican building scheme.  This loss of physical presence is a shame.  For we can hardly grasp the full force of the metaphor unless we know something of the literal existence of the place.  The geographic environs of Grub Street were noisy, squalid and crowded; moral overtones which the phrase carried in its transferred sense came initially from this fact, and were heightened for contemporaries by the social character which the district continued to bear.  Hack writers actually did live in Cripplegate Ward Without, in and around Grub Street.  This fact… give an added dimension to the many opprobious references to denizens of the place which we find in Augustan literature — satire especially…  More recent students have rarely bothered to note, even in passing, the existence of a real place called Grub Street, even though they use the name as a chapter heading and liberally besprinkle their pages with the phrase in its figurative [metaphorical] application…  Augustan satire is peculiarly occupied by that harsh, fetid, oppressively physical world of pain and pestilence which dominates the landscape of Pope, Swift and Hogarth.”[53]

The noted 17th century scottish satirist, Dr. John Arbuthnot remembered Grub Street thusly:

O Grub Street!  thou fruitful nursery of tow’ring genius’s!  How do I lament thy downfall?  Thy ruin could never be meditated by any who meant well to English Liberty: No modern Lycaeum will ever equal thy glory…”

Another, more adventurous writer offers the following early description of Grub Street:

“The Hack’s (hackneyed writers) milieu, Grub Street, would have had certain connotations for a contemporary.  The street, whose name came from the refuse ditch (grub) which ran alongside it, lay outside the old walls, in Cripplegate, and like other of the areas lying outside the immediate jurisdiction of the city became a haven for wanted men.  Through the 17th century it carried a reputation for harbouring dissenters, who took their printing presses there to escape more active surveillance, and, in fact, both Cromwell and Milton lived there.  All sorts of scurrilous writing, pornographic as well as seditious, was spawned in Cripplegate and along its main street.  It had already passed its peak of prosperity by 1700, and by the time Pope attacked it [its writers], and the Grub Street Journal flourished, and Samuel Johnson [and deFoe] lived there, its population of hacks had dwindled to only a fraction of its former size…”[54]

While Paulson’s description of the habitués of Grub Street may be a trifle flawed (neither Cromwell nor Johnson are known to have actually resided in St. Giles), his description does offer a good general sense of its character in its earlier days.  One further indication of the socio-economic standing of residents present on Grub Street by mid-17th century is evidenced in Table 4-6, an extract from the 1666 Hearth Tax Rolls.  If the number of hearths within a residence was any judge of the affluence of its occupants, then Grub Street would appear to have had more than its share of commodious lodgings with roughly 33% of the households having had four or more hearths.  Moreover, Grub Street, alone, was taxed for 185 separate households, an inordinate number for a street of such small proportions.  This suggests extremely compact multi-level townhouses and small tenements standing cheek-by-jowl with one another.  Unless there had been a sudden surge in urban renewal, these numbers would be typical of the neighborhood in which William Addersbury and William Atterbury would have lived between 1576 and 1630.  Figure 4-16 provides a glimpse into the extent by 1736 that Grub Street had become developed with its maze of courts, alleys and interconnecting streets

Although Grub Street may have been immortalized in literature for its preponderance of hacks in the mid- to late-17th century, there were two, more worthy, citizens who were in residence at the same time as William Addersbury: namely, John Field and John Foxe.

John Field and John Foxe  

Moving forward from William Tyndale approximately 50 years, we find two of the most important and renowned reformation chroniclers and archivists of the age living on the same street [Grub Street] and active in the same parish as William Addersbury, basketmaker, and William Atterbury, porter and obstinate Brownist.  This section will treat with John Foxe and John Field in tandem, as they are both reported to have lived contemporaneously on Grub Street in St. Giles Cripplegate parish during the latter part of their lives (1570-1587/8), a time in which they collaborated and compiled their two separate works for which each has become famous: Foxe’s Acts and Monuments of The Latter and Perillous Dayes [aka Book of Martyrs], and Field’s A Parte of a Register.  While both Foxe and Field left numerous examples of their superior writing skills, the two works for which they receive the greatest recognition are substantially the work of others, for which they acted as compilers and editors. 

However, before launching into a discussion of these two worthy divines, it will be useful to update the reader on major political and ecclesiastical changes that transpired in England in the several decades following the first printing of Tyndale’s Bible.  Henry VIII was on the throne when William Tyndale entered Magdalen College in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree.  During the first half of King Henry’s reign (which lasted almost 38 years) he tolerated the Pope’s rule over the Roman Catholic Church in England.  (To call it the English Church would be somewhat of a misnomer.)  The only thing “English” about this church was the fact that it existed within the territory of England.  In reality, the Pope, from Rome, governed virtually all aspects of the church in England, and possessed and controlled great lands and wealth scattered throughout the countryside, basically, a sovereignty within a sovereignty.  Rome established and directed the governance of the English Church through its Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, prelates and priests.  Rome controlled both the content and the delivery of the message.  To men like Wycliffe and Tyndale, the Pope and all his lackeys were antichrists, their message was corrupted, and the service was fraught with idolatry and false worship – the only true church was the Scriptural church prescribed in the Bible, the Church of God, according to Puritans.

At the age of 17 King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his deceased brother, on 11Jun1509, without the benefit of a papal dispensation, even though Catherine and Henry were devout Catholics.  By about 1525 Catherine had succeeded in producing only one living heir, a daughter named Mary [future Queen Mary, aka Bloody Mary], born in Feb1516.  Henry had engaged in numerous adulterous affairs, one of which produced a potential male successor (albeit illegitimate), Henry Fitzroy, son of Elizabeth Blount in Jun1519.  By 1525 both the King and Parliament began to despair the prospect of Henry having a legitimate male successor; and with Henry and Catherine’s relationship becoming increasingly strained, Henry entertained thoughts of replacing Catherine with a younger, more fertile Queen, and expressed his preference for Anne Boleyn as Catherine’s replacement.  Since the Catholic Church did not recognize the dissolution of a marriage, Henry found biblical support for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine in the Book of Leviticus, text which forbade marrying his brother’s wife.  In 1527 Henry sent his secretary, William Knight, to Rome with a draft papal bull to sanction annulment of his marriage with Catherine, which Pope Clement VII dismissed.  Attempts by Henry over the next two years to elicit the Pope’s endorsement for annulment met with repeated rebuffs.  Cardinal Wolsey, as the King’s Lord Chancellor, accepted the blame for the failure to achieve a rapprochement, and was charged with treason in the Fall of 1530 and died on 29Nov1530 at Leicester, while enroute to London to face the King’s charges.  Sir Thomas More succeeded Wolsey to the chancellorship:

“A year later [1531], Catherine was banished from court, and her rooms were given to Anne. Anne was an unusually educated and intellectual woman for her time, and was keenly absorbed and engaged with the ideas of the Protestant Reformers, though the extent to which she herself was a committed Protestant is much debated. When Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham died, Anne’s influence and the need to find a trustworthy supporter of the annulment had Thomas Cranmer appointed to the vacant position. This was approved by the Pope, unaware of the King’s nascent plans for the Church… Immediately upon returning to Dover in England, Henry, now 41, and Anne, now 32, went through a secret wedding service. She soon became pregnant, and there was a second wedding service in London on 25 January 1533. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer, sitting in judgment at a special court convened at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of the king’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon [sort of after the fact], declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine null and void. Five days later, on 28 May 1533, Cranmer declared the marriage of Henry and Anne to be valid. Catherine was formally stripped of her title as queen, becoming instead “princess dowager” as the widow of Arthur. In her place, Anne was crowned queen consort on 1 June 1533. The queen gave birth to a daughter slightly prematurely [really] on 7 September 1533. The child was christened Elizabeth [future Queen Elizabeth I], in honour of Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York.”[55]

The foregoing events of 1532/3 set in motion changes within the English monarchy which would manifest in an irrevocable schism between the English Monarch and papal authority, culminating in adoption of the Act of Supremacy in 1534, thus establishing the Church of England with its Monarch at its head.  The supreme powers granted the monarchy under this act have remained in effect continuously to the present, except for the approximately fours years under Queen Mary, during which it was suspended.  In spite of his Queen’s [Ann Bolyne] protestant leanings, Henry remained a Catholic in heart and practice, and his Church of England remained essentially Catholic in its orthodoxy and doctrine, a fact that would lend fuel to the growing conflagration of religious dissent spreading throughout the land.  Reform was in the air, and it would not be suppressed.  For the next century the Church of England, under the direction of the monarch, would continue papist practices: church hierarchy, saint worship, the crucifix, transubstantiation in the communion, priestly attire (surplice and cap), multiple benefices, the confessional, original sin and child baptism, ordination, co-mingling of ecclesiastical and secular authority, and, perhaps worst of all, denial of Christ as the head of the church.  It was only after the rise of Puritanism and the English Civil War, that freedom of religious worship began to take root.  During the reigns of Henry VIII’s successors: Edward VI (1547-53), Mary I (1554-58), Elizabeth I (1558-1603), James I (1603-25), and Charles I (1625-49), religious dissent was treated as a challenge to royal authority, an act of treason punishable by death.

It was in this atmosphere of religious constraint and mandatory conformity, that John Foxe and John Field were born and raised.  The Book of Martyrs contains a poignant collection of biographical snippets and anecdotes about religious martyrs dating from the time of Christ, some of which undoubtedly were researched and written by Foxe, himself, but many were the contributions of contemporaries who had either themselves or knew of others, who suffered persecution and/or death for their beliefs.  The text of Martyrs has been extensively edited and supplemented in the numerous reprints over the centuries that followed after the first English edition in 1563.  The author has only had the benefit of an update edited by Harold J. Chadwick in 2001, and cannot attest to the extent of revision and variance from Foxe’s original text.

John Field, on the other hand from a fairly early stage of his life became a gatherer of everything “puritanical”, including correspondence, published tracts, royal, civil and ecclesiastical edicts, court inquisitions, affidavits, literary works, testimonials, lectures, prayers, etc., whether from the pen of a reformer or a papist.  Field’s vision was to chronicle the history of religious persecution in England, particularly against the “new Puritan martyrs”.  The sheer volume of his work rendered it infeasible for a single publication, so he ventured forth with the first volume known as A Parte of a Register, which was printed posthumously at Antwerp in 1593, five years after his death.  The balance of Fields material, known generally as The Second Parte of a Register, remained unpublished for the longest time, probably due to its large volume.  The unpublished manuscript became lost from view until it resurfaced in 1818, buried in Dr. Daniel Williams’ library.  Ecclesiastical historian, Albert Peel, undertook to publish this long-forgotten work of John Field in 1915.

Even though Foxe was almost 30 years older than Field, they were contemporaries and close collaborators in their later years.  John Foxe is believed to have been born about 1517 at Boston, Lincolnshire; whereas John Field’s early history seems to have totally escaped recordation, other than to have been born in about 1545 (based on his age of 21 years at ordination in 1566). 

John Field:

Following is perhaps the most informative biography on John Field found by the author:

“We know very little of his early life, but when he was ordained by Edmund Grindal in 1566 at the age of 21, he was called a bachelor of arts of Christ Church, Oxford. Field’s ordination was irregular, as the canonical age for ordination in the British church was 24 (or 23, if the person shows an unusual gift). In 1568, he became a lecturer, curate, and schoolmaster in London, which was his native city. There he quickly became a leader of the most extreme branch of the Puritan movement. He was so strident in his criticisms of the Church of England that he was debarred from preaching for eight years, from 1571 to 1579. He was insistent on changing the Act of Uniformity to purge what he regarded as Roman Catholic tendencies in British practice…  When he was unable to effect any changes, he wrote A View of Popish Abuses yet remaining in the English Church in 1572. The tract is bitter and harsh in its satire and complaint, and it was published abroad with Thomas Wilcox’s Admonition to Parliament. Both Wilcox and Field were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for the publication [of the Admonition] and [for] breaking the Act of Uniformity…  Field was undeterred. During Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift’s increasing push for conformity, Field proposed to organize the Puritans in England into a hierarchy of presbyterian synods, a decrease in formalism and gesture in public prayer, and a greater emphasis on preaching. He was unable to get the other Puritan communities to cooperate, however. In 1585, he again drew legal sanction and was barred from preaching, but this punishment was less than that which had been sought, as Field had friends on the Queen’s Council surrounding Elizabeth. He is probably the author of some of the Marprelate Tracts.”[56]

The foregoing biographical sketch provides a summary overview of the life of one of the most influential Puritan religious reformers of his day.  There are several points in this biography which warrant further discussion:

  1. Field’s age of 21 years at ordination seems suspect, but may be accurate.  For example, Anthony A. Wood in Volume I of his Athenae Oxonienses (page 535) in 1818 identified Oxford records of several different persons named John Field, one of which seems to match the author of A Parte of a Register, namely: “another [John Field] took the degree of Bachelor of Arts 1564, and that of Master three years later.”  The ordination age of 21 in 1566 does seem to comport with someone earning a Bachelors degree in 1564 at the age of 19 years.  If Wood’s John Field were the same as our subject John Field, then it seems that he would have stayed at Oxford until about 1569, in order to take his Masters.  These dates fit well with other later records believed to relate to our subject.  The author is inclined to accept a birth year for John Field of about 1545.
  2. Whether London was in fact the place of John Field’s birth and youth is undocumented, but it is believed that he went to London shortly after attaining a Masters degree at Oxford, and that he continued to live in London until his death in 1588.
  3. The statement that Thomas Wilcox was the author of the Admonition to Parliament is a step too far.  It would be more accurate to state that the Admonition consisted of at least three main parts, the two most biting and assiduous of which were authored by John Field.
  4. As regards the Marprelate Tracts it has been established with some certainty that John Field may have shared authorship of some parts of these tracts, although which specific tracts is uncertain.  Current thinking is that Job Throckmorton may have been the author of most, if not all of the Martin Marprelate Tracts.

Patrick Collinson states that in Jan1567 [1568 N.S.?] John Field wrote a letter to John Foxe, from Broadgate Hall, Oxford (presumably while still in pursuit of his Master’s degree).  In that letter John Field appears to have been acting as a mediator between John Foxe and Laurence Humphrey.  Collinson further states that by the spring, 1568 Field had returned to London, where he became a lecturer/preacher at Holy Trinity, Minories, followed by an appointment to curate at St. Giles Cripplegate in 1570, when he is reported to have been living ‘at Goodman Swanne’s without Cripplegate’, by which time he was already married.  Collinson further reports that ‘by Nov1571 Field had his own house on Grub Street, where John Foxe came to live at about the same time’. [57] 

The foregoing reports by Collinson seem to indicate that both John Field and John Foxe made their homes on Grub Street, the same street on which William Atterbury, porter and Brownist, was reported living in 1620.  If as hypothesized by the author, William Addersbury and William Atterbury were father and son, then it seems entirely possible that the basketmaker may have lived on Grub Street at the same time as John Field and John Foxe.  Although being from opposite ends of the social spectrum, St. Giles without Cripplegate was such an eclectic and bohemian culture, certainly William Addersbury and his family would have been exposed to and influenced by the form of religious radicalism that permeated and walked the narrow streets and alleyways of this small dissident enclave outside the Wall.  St. Giles Church would have been the most influential and unifying element within this community, and the message of these organizing evangelists (Field, Foxe, Crowley, etal.) must have resonated and spread from the highest to the lowest, even to the “boy behind the plough” or the basketmaker in his workshop.

At the very early age of 26 years John Field had already assumed a leadership role among London Puritans, when in 1572 he and Thomas Wilcox wrote and presented to Parliament the Admonition to Parliament for the Reformation of Church Discipline:

“John Field and Thomas Wilcox, representing the London men [a group of like-minded “Puritan” curates], drew up and themselves presented the famous “Admonition to Parliament for the Reformation of Church Discipline.”  For their hardiwork [sic] the Queen cast them into prison, and issued a proclamation against the Admonition, and forbade the Parliament to discuss such a question.  In spite of the bishop’s resistance, the Admonition found its way into print, and was scattered all over England.”[58] 

Also:

“The eminent Puritan, the companion in suffering of John Field and Thomas Cartwright, Thomas Wilcocks [aka Wilcox], was minister of Bovington for about ten years in the latter part of the 16th century.  He was born in 1549, and educated in St. John’s College, Oxford, in 1564 and following years.  Leaving the University he became a learned, zealous, and useful preacher in [All Hallows] Honey Lane, London.  In 1572 he was active with William Travers and John Field in establishing the first Presbytery at Wandsworth, in Surrey…  Mr. Field and Mr. Wilcocks presented the Admonition to Parliament, for which, 17Jul1572, they were committed to Newgate [Prison], and suffered confinement there in a most loathsome cell for 15 months.  Mr. Cartwright visited them there; and strongly coinciding with all their opinions, published a second Admonition to Parliament [in 1573].”[59]

Thomas Wilcox was reportedly assigned the curacy at All Hallows, Honey Lane, after graduating from Oxford around 1570, whereas John Field is reported by some to have been granted the curacy of St. Mary, Aldermanbury, probably at around the same time as Wilcock’s appointment.  Thomas Nelson suggests that Field may have continued as curate at Aldermanbury for almost four years (including the time of his imprisonment), until he was suspended sometime in 1574. [60]  The churches of All Hallow, Honey Lane and St. Mary, Aldermanbury were situated just off Cheapside Street, within about two blocks of one another.  Wilcocks lived on Coleman Street, about two blocks east of Aldermanbury Street, whereas Field had taken up residence on Grub Street.  For what its worth, the residents of the parish of St. Mary Aldermanbury were almost entirely associated with the cloth-workers trade in one form or another, wherein the church register records for 1571 show 14 baptisms with fathers having occupations as follows: merchant taylors (8), skinners (2), clothmaker (1), shoemaker (1), draper (1), haberdasher (1).  

However, before receiving these benefices, there is evidence suggesting that both men had been “guest” lecturers at Holy Trinity, Minories, outside the old wall and identified as No. 16 in Figure 4-17.  Being newly ordained ministers, fresh from the University, and imbued with the liberal teachings rampant at Oxford and Cambridge, they appear to both have early on become adherents of the Puritan way of thinking.  The Holy Trinity Minories was a Puritan stronghold, so the invitation to lecture at Minories is strong indication of Field and Wilcox having a predilection in that direction.  Anthony Wood would have us believe that John Field and Thomas Wilcox, along with William Travers had collaborated to establish the fledgling presbytery (congregation) at Wandsworth, across the River in Surrey around 1572.  Further exploration of the Wandsworth presbytery is important to understanding the extent to which the Puritan reform movement had spread within London and its environs in the 1570’s:

“In England also, 1572 was a year of crisis in the history of the national church; for that was the year when Parliament was first solemnly summoned by the young giant, Puritanism, to carry out to a more satisfactory issue the great work of reformation… — the year of the two famous “Admonitions” (one by Field and Wilcox and a sequel by Thomas Cartwright), which shook with repeated shocks all the high places in the land…  It was also the year when the first steps were taken to give the Puritanism of the country an organization (the Wandsworth Presbytery) conformable to the Presbyterian type…  this power had a big future with destiny both for the crown and an oppressive church — big with promise both to the civil and to the religious liberties of the realm.”[61]

As often happened during this era of religious repression, the only surviving record of the initial formation of the Wandsworth presbytery was captured in the writings of a staunch reformation antagonist, Dr. Thomas Bancroft, who in an article entitled Dangerous Positions and Proceedings, 1595 included the following passages:

“Whereupon… (Nov1572) there was a Presbytery erected at Wandsworth, in Surrey (as it appeareth by a Bill endorsed with Mr. Field’s hand, thus: The Order of Wandsworth) — in which order of elder’s names, eleven of them, are set down; the manner of their election is declared; the approvers of them (one Smith, of Mitcham, and Crane, of Roehampton) are mentioned; their officers and general rules then given unto them to be observed were likewise agreed upon and described.”

Also, from Neal’s History of the Puritans we have:

“The heads of the association were Mr. [John] Field, lecturer of Wandsworth, Mr. Smith of Mitcham, Mr. Crane of Roehampton, Mssrs. [Thomas] Wilcox, Standen, Jackson, Bonham, Saintloe [aka Seintclere] and Edmunds, to whom afterwards were joined Mssrs. Travers, Charke, Barber, Gardiner, Crook, Egerton, and a number of very considerable laymen.”

Since Bancroft’s reference is the only known written record to survive regarding the formation of the Wandsworth presbytery, it must be assumed that Neal and other later historians inferred the involvement of these added “heads of the association” from the fact that Field’s “Order” provided for the selection of eleven elders.  Bancroft only identified John Field, Mr. Smith of Mitcham, and Mr. [Nicholas] Crane of Roehampton.  Further, no copy of Field’s Order of Wandsworth has ever been found.  In fact, there is no evidence that the Order was the work of John Field, merely that he ‘had endorsed it’.  So we can only surmise that Neal, etal., inferred the involvement of Field, Wilcox, Standen, Jackson, Bonham, Saintloe, Edmonds, Travers, Charke, Barber, Gardiner, Crook, and Egerton, each of whom are known Puritan reformers active in London at that time.  Since Field’s Order only specified eleven elected elders, it is difficult to reconcile with Neal having identified a total of 15 organizing members of the clergy. 

Regardless, it is noteworthy to this investigation that Bancroft asserts John Field was the principal leader in the formation of the Wandsworth “conference”.  Bancroft gives the date of the Order as Nov1572, but it is known that John Field and Thomas Wilcox had been in prison since 17Jul1572 and were not released until Oct1573.  So, it seems probable that the actual Order of Wandsworth was planned and written before Jun1572, or that Field was not actually involved directly in its organization, but simply “endorsed” the Order sometime after the fact.  Reverend A. F. Scott Pearson asserts in his book Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism 1535-1603, his belief that only Nicholas Crane and the unknown “Smith of Mitcham” along with several unidentifiable associates were the organizers of the Wandsworth presbytery.  Moreover, Pearson opines that the Wandsworth meeting was not strictly a presbytery as surmised by Bancroft, but could equally have been a “conventicle” similar to the groups arrested at Plumber’s Hall in 1567 or the Goldsmith’s house in 1568.

Perhaps Dr. Lorimer’s assessment is technically more accurate when he categorizes the Wandsworth conference as a “lesser prebytery” or Presbyterium or eldership of a single congregation, i.e., a single gathering as contrasted to a number of congregations composing a “greater presbytery”.  This distinction is important to understanding Wandsworth in contrast to the Plumber’s Hall and Goldsmith congregations, which Albert Peel opines were actually the earliest forms of a “separatist” conventicle, which preceded Robert Browne’s separatist church by almost 15 years.[62]  To place this issue into a broader context, virtually all of these early religious sects were organized around a corps of Puritan doctrine and discipline.  So, when William Atterbury was characterized as an “obstinate brownist” in 1620, there is a high degree of possibility that his core doctrinal beliefs were not much in variance (if at all) with the beliefs of this corps of godly ministers from the 1570’s.  The main dividing point among these early nonconformists was the issue of separation.  Most Puritan ministers believed that the desired reformation was possible within the structure of the Church of England, whereas a lesser and more radical group, including Richard Fitz and Robert Brown, believed that a true “scriptural church” could not exist within the current church structure.

The decision to establish the equivalent of a presbytery at Wandsworth was truly a bold, even defiant, move on the part of the London Puritans.  Wandsworth was situated on the south bank of the Thames only about five miles upstream from Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Lambeth Palace was the symbolic, if not actual, seat of reformation persecution, the oldest surviving remnant of which became infamously known as “Lollard’s Tower” for its direct involvement in the inquisition, imprisonment, torture and execution of nonconformists [frequently known as heretics].  Choice of the Wandsworth location may have been influenced by the fact that one of its most revered organizers, Nicholas Crane, was the curate at nearby Roehampton, just four miles further upstream from Wandsworth (and next door to Mortlake).  Nicholas Crane and William Bonham had been arrested together on 4Mar1568 as part of a congregation of about 77 worshipers in the home of James Tynne, goldsmith, in the parish of St. Martins in the Field, London.  So, two of the purported Wandsworth organizers had a prior history of involvement with organizing and participating in private [illegal] religious worship [conventicles].  Crane’s final arrest was in the company of John Greenwood [purported Brownist/Barrowist] on 8Oct1587 at a conventicle in the home of Henry Martin in east London.  Crane died the following year while a prisoner in Newgate at the age of 66 years.

Crane’s widow continued to reside on Aldermanbury Street for several years following her husband’s death.  Mrs. Crane also continued her husband’s work in support of Puritan reformation, both financially and through her beneficence.  For example when the home of Robert Waldgrave, the noted Puritan Printer, (at the sign of the Crane near Paul’s Churchyard) was raided on the evening of 16Apr1588, his wife found refuge in the home of Mrs. Crane in nearby Aldermanbury Street.  Waldgrave went into hiding, and is believed to have fairly quickly set up an underground printing press at Kingston Upon Thames and later at another residence owned by Mrs. Crane at nearby East Molesey.  At the East Molesey residence Waldgrave was joined by John Penry, from whence they proceeded over the next couple of years to collaborate on the printing of several important Puritan documents, including the Marprelate Tracts to which John Field is believed to have contributed.  Mrs. Crane’s residence on Aldermanbury Street was just five blocks south of Grub Street.  As has already been shown, Grub Street, and its immediate environs in St. Giles Cripplegate, was a center for Puritan ministers, writers and printers in the latter half of the 16th and early part of the 17th centuries.

While writers have put forward the notion that John Field was the “lecturer of Wandsworth”, the fact is that he appears to have established his residence on Grub Street in St. Giles Cripplegate Parish fairly soon after moving to London around 1570.  Table 4-7 contains the records pertaining to John Fields family taken from the register of St. Giles Church.  These records begin with the christening of a son named John on 4Jan1572 [probably 1573 NS], suggesting that conception had taken place before his imprisonment in Jul1572, and the birth occurring while he was still in prison.  From this record it can be inferred that John Field, or at least his family was resident in St. Giles Cripplegate on or before Jan1573.  Also, from these church records it can be inferred that he continued to reside in St. Giles Cripplegate until his burial on 26Mar1588 at the age of 43 years.

William Addersbury, basketmaker, took up residence in St. Giles Cripplegate sometime between Sep1576 and Aug1577, so he would have been in residence in this relatively small parish for the last 11 to 12 years of John Field’s life.  The nearest connection between William Addersbury and John Field may have been that they resided at the same time on Grub Street, and that their children were christened and/or buried in the same Church.  Their close contemporaneous living proximity aside, John Field is reported to have been awarded the curacy of St. Giles sometime in the 1570’s and, after having been deprived of that benefice, served as a frequent lecturer at St. Giles until his death. 

In addition to John Field’s direct influence on the residents of St. Giles, Robert Crowley served for many years both as curate and lecturer at St. Giles, starting around 1565, when he almost immediately encountered trouble over nonconformity of dress (a vestarian), but later returned to continuous service between 1578 and his death in 1588.  It is possible that John Field may have been awarded that curacy sometime during the period that Robert Crowley was deprived.  In his early career after college Crowley was retained as a tutor in the household of Sir Nicholas Poyntz at Iron Acton, Gloucester.  Sir Nicholas was a nephew of Lady Anne [Poyntz] Walsh, the benefactress of William Tyndale.  Crowley was a notorious Puritan [probably earlier in his life he would have been described as a Lollard], and frequently incurred the displeasure of the Commissioners.  As an indication of his Puritan leanings and alliances we need only look at the list of benefactors to the estate of one Richard Culverwell:

“Barne’s nephew and apprentice was Nicholas Culverwell whose younger brother Richard left at his death in 1586 ₤3 each to Robert Crowley, William Charke [minister to Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn], Richard Greenham [divinity teacher of Robert Browne, Brownist] and Walter Travers [chaplain and tutor for William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Robert Browne’s kinsman], as well as ₤2 each to John Field, Thomas Crooke [minister to Gray’s Inn], Nicholas Crane, Thomas Edmunds, George Cheston and Giles Sinclair [aka Seintclere].”

All ten of these beneficiaries named in Culverwell’s will were known Puritan ministers of which seven had been named by Neal as organizers of the Wandsworth Order.  Many researchers, including the Reverend Peter Lorimer, D.D., dispute whether there is any documentary evidence which identifies the establishment of a coalition of godly ministers of the size and composition described by Neal, etal., at the time of the Wandsworth Order.  Given the continuity between the above listed beneficiaries to Richard Culverwell’s will, and those named by Neal, etal., as having been the organizers of the Wandsworth Order, it does seem probable that the Wandsworth organizers were extrapolated by Neal and others (rightly or wrongly) from later, unconnected documents such as Culverwell’s will.

Another will from nine years earlier records similar connections:

“Thomas Butler of Loughton, Essex, making his will on 23Feb1577…  The will’s most arresting provision, however, is the bequest of 40 schillings each to a clutch of preachers — not only [John] Field and [Thomas] Wilcox but also Nicholas Standon, Thomas Edmunds, Nicholas Crane and Giles Seintclere.”[63]

Brett Usher also alleged that Thomas Crooke, father-in-law of Stephen Egerton, had “joined the conference of ministers in London initiated by Field and Wilcox, which had been meeting since 1570.”[64]  As support for his claim, Usher cited a letter written in 1771 signed by Field, Wilcox, Standon and Seintclere.  The one “fact” that most Puritan documentarians do generally agree upon is that John Field functioned as the leader and secretary of a corps of “godly ministers” centered mainly in London, whose influence spread to many regions of the country, including Warwick, Northampton, Lincoln, East Anglia, Essex and Kent.  Further, that Stephen Egerton, son-in-law of Thomas Crooke, succeeded John Field as the leader of this “godly association”.

In 1578 John Field presided over the marriage of Rev. Barnaby Benison, a curate of London.  On earlier occasions Benison had been summoned before John Aylmer, Bishop of London, to face charges of nonconformity.  After successfully deflecting those earlier charges, Benison was arrested in 1579 on charges leveled by Aylmer that Benison’s marriage had been “irregular”.  Aylmer alleged that the marriage had been performed in the afternoon by a nonconformist minister in the presence of 200 to 300 people.  Apparently the import of these allegations were that John Field had been deprived of his curacy for his nonconformist beliefs and actions (therefore forbidden to perform weddings), that weddings were to be performed in the morning (not the afternoon), and the size of the wedding party exceeded the allowed limits.  Attending the wedding were Benison’s old friend, John Fox (martyrologist) and Dr. Hammond (probably John Hammond, son of John Hammond, LL.D. Chancellor of the Diocese of London), both of whom made statements to Aylmer in defense of Benison.  Aylmer denied all defenses in Benison’s favor and committed him to prison, where he languished for five years (to 1584).

We end this rather lengthy sojourn into the life of John Field by reiterating some of his most important work.  During his rather brief (about 22 years) adult life as a Puritan organizer and minister in London, Field compiled a compendium (dossier) of documents from a variety of sources toward the objective of memorializing the hardships, persecution, resilience and progress of the fledgling Puritan movement in England and on the continent.  Undoubtedly, Field’s goal was to publish this material to fuel the future growth and expansion of the nonconformist movement.  Field died before the first installment of his Register could be published, but followers (perhaps driven along by the zeal of Stephen Egerton) succeeded in getting into print Parte of a Register, printed in Scotland in 1593 and smuggled into England for distribution.  There is some uncertainty as to Field’s actual role in the compilation of this register, but Albert Peel believed there was ample evidence to support that notion.  The first chapter of the Marprelate Tracts entitled The Epistle is believed to have been taken from the works of Master Field, as Henry Sharpe deposed that he had been informed by John Penry that “of the first Martin [aka Marprelate], Penry said, some notes were found in Master Field’s study [after his death].”  Further, in The Epistle the satirical writer [almost tauntingly] wrote:

“see… what a perilous fellow Master Marprelate is.  He understands all your knavery, and it may be, keeps a register of them.  Unless you mend they shall all come into the light one day.”

And further:

“First, I will watch you at every half turn; and whatever you do amiss, I will presently publish it.  You shall not call one honest man before you, but I will get his examination… and publish it…”

So, from the lips of John Penry [albeit second-hand] we have the evidence that it was John Field’s “notes” that framed the basis for The Epistle.  And, from The Epistle itself, we have the pronouncement that a register was being compiled of all the knavish acts of the Church with the intent of publishing the contents of that register.  Albert Peel then printed what is presumed to have been the remainder of Field’s dossier in 1915 entitled Seconde Parte of a Register in two volumes, based on manuscripts discovered in the library of Dr. Williams in London.  This Dr. Williams was Daniel Williams (1643-1716), who during his lifetime had been a presbyterian theologian and collector of old manuscripts.  At his death he bequeathed virtually his entire estate, valued at ₤50,000, to charitable causes from which the Dr. William’s Library was founded.  Included in his estate were an estimated 7600 volumes which found their way into the newly established library.  During his life Dr. Williams had been a close associate of Roger Morrice (1628-1702), who, himself was a noted compiler and collector of nonconformist manuscripts.  In fact, Albert Peel opines that it was Roger Morrice who came into possession of the manuscripts on which A Seconde Parte of a Register was based before they found their way into the stacks of the Williams Library.  It seems probable that Morrice acquired the Second Part through “time, and pains and money”, perhaps while he served as chaplain to Lord Holles.  Further, that he either directly or indirectly passed them along to Daniel Williams.  The close connection between Roger Morrice and Danial Williams is evident from the following extract from Morrice’s will:

“The names in the concluding paragraph of Morrice’s will give some indication of his position. He desires to be buried in Bunhill Fields [Cripplegate Ward], and that the following ministers be requested to act as pall-bearers : Vincent Alsop, Mr Griffith, Mr Hammond, Mr How, John Spateman, and Daniel Williams.”

Though it may never be proven with absolute certainty that John Field was the compiler of the now famous Register in Two Parts, there is ample evidence to strongly support that probability.  In addition to the evidence already presented, it should be noted that the date range of the material contained in that register spans the period from 1570 to 1590, the approximate dates of John Field’s life as a curate, writer, nonconformist leader and organizer, and lecturer from St. Giles Cripplegate.  Further note that both Morrice and Williams were buried in Bunhill Fields, less than one-half mile north of Grub Street.  Thus ends the investigation into the life of John Field.

John Foxe

John Fox was born in about 1517 at Boston, Lincolnshire into a family of middling means.  His father, whose identity is unknown, died while John was still a youth, and his mother remarried to Richard Melton.  Reared in his step-father’s household at Boston, John was an excellent student, who attracted the notice of John Harding [aka Hawarden], a Fellow at Brazenose Hall, Oxford.  With the support of friends, Fox gained admittance to Brazenose in 1532 under Harding’s tutelage.  From Brazenose, Fox matriculated to Magdalen School and College, the same school attended by William Tyndale about 15 years earlier.  Following his graduation, Fox became a probationary fellow at Magdalen in Jul1538, and a full fellow on 25Jul1539 as a lecturer in logic, ultimately proceeding M.A. in Jul1540.  Fox was reportedly an early supporter of extreme forms of Protestantism, as evidenced by his correspondence with Hugh Latimer, William Tyndale, John Cheke, etal., while at Oxford.  Fox’s time at Oxford is marked by failure to not regularly attend chapel and to not proceed to ordination in the prescribed seven years after receiving his fellowship.  Following is an abbreviated timeline for the life of this remarkable divine:

  • Born at Boston, Lincolnshire in 1516 to middling parents, father died when Foxe was very young, mother remarried to Richard Melton.
  • With support from his future father-in-law, Randall, and John Harding [Hawarden] he was enrolled at Brazenose College, Oxford about 1532 at age of 16.
  • His patron, John Hawarden, became Foxe’s tutor for a brief period at Brazenose.
  • Foxe matriculated to Magdalen College where he became a probationer fellow in Jul1538, and full fellow on 25Jul1539, being joint lecturer in logic.
  • While at Oxford Foxe became close friends with Alexander Nowell, Richard Bertie, John Cheke (of Cambridge), Hugh Latimer, and William Tyndale, wherein he “strongly favored extreme forms of protestantism.”
  • Foxe remained a fellow of Magdalen College until Jul1545, at which time he and five of his colleagues resigned their fellowships in a dispute over doctrinal differences (celibacy, attending chapel, ordination, etc.).
  • Upon leaving Oxford, Foxe took a tutorship in the home of William Lucy at Charlecote, Warwickshire, which post he held until Feb1546/7.
  • On 3Feb1546/7 Foxe married Agnes Randall, daughter of his former benefactor of Coventry, at Charlecote Church.
  • In a state of near destitution, Foxe sought in London to establish gainful employment fitting his abilities, perhaps taking work as a lecturer or tutor.  Sometime in 1548 Foxe came to the favorable notice of Mary Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond, and received her beneficial support at Mountjoy House in Knightrider Street, including an appointment as tutor to the orphaned children of the Duchess’s brother, Henry Howard, who had been executed for alleged treason 19Jan1546/7.
  • 1548 to 1553 Foxe served as tutor of the orphaned children of Henry Howard, which included Henry’s eldest son, Thomas Howard, who would become the 4th Duke of Norfolk upon the death of his grandfather, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk in Aug1554.  Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke, himself condemned to death by Henry VIII on 27Jan1547, but escaped the executioner only by King Henry VIII’s own death the day before Norfolk’s execution was scheduled to occur.  When Norfolk was released from prison by Queen Mary I in about Nov1553 and restored to the Kingdom.  Being a religious conservative, Norfolk discharged Foxe from his tutorship at Reigate in Dec1553.
  • While at Reigate Foxe published four of his earliest theological tracts.
  • On 24Jun1550 Foxe was ordained by Bishop Ridley in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, while briefly residing at Barbican [St. Giles Cripplegate] in the home of the Duchess of Suffolk, and subsequently preaching as a volunteer at Reigate.
  • In 1554 published A Fruitful Sermon of the most Evangelical Writer, Martin Luther, made of the Angeles from Stepney.
  • In 1553/4 Foxe, posing as a physician, had secret tutorial sessions with young Thomas Howard (future 4th Duke of Norfolk), who had been sent to Winchester House [Southwark] under the care of Bishop Stephen Gardiner.
  • Mid-1554, being alarmed by growing signs of protestant persecution in London, Foxe gathered his family and set forth for refuge in Strasburg, Germany, where he met up with his friend Edmund Grindal in Jul1554.  In August Foxe published the first edition of his most noted work on the persecution of protestants, later known as The Actes and Monuments or Book of Martyrs.
  • Fall-1554 Foxe had moved on to Frankfort, where he took lodgings with a well-known puritan, Anthony Gilby, and enjoined with an enclave of like-English exiles, mostly protestant clergymen.  At that time a controversy had arisen among these exiles at Frankfort regarding the adoption of the Edward VI prayer book and wearing of the surplice, much the same issues that would later divide Anglican and Puritan clergy during the reign of Elizabeth I.  John Foxe sided with John Knox’s faction, who favored referral of the matter to John Calvin at Geneva for resolution.
  • Nov1555 Foxe removed from Frankfort to Basle, Switzerland.  Suffering from poverty, Foxe wrote to his former student, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, for support.  While at Basle Foxe became employed as a reader for the printer, Johann Herbst, thus establishing a life-long affinity with the trade of printing.  Evidence suggests that Foxe may actually have become enrolled as a member of the Printers Guild about this time.
  • While at Basle and with the support of Herbst [aka Oprinus] Foxe continued to write and publish numerous and varied works, including a greatly updated edition of Acts and Monuments which was printed in Latin at Basle in late-1559.
  • Oct1559 Foxe wrote the Duke of Norfolk to announce his return to England, who in return offered Foxe his lodgings at his house in Christ Church, Aldgate Ward [Duke’s Place].
  • 25Jan1559/60 Foxe was ordained in London by Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London.
  • Sep1560 Foxe was offered a prebend at Norwich by Bishop John Parkhurst, but there is only scant evidence to suggest that Foxe ever went to Norwich.
  • Foxe continued to enjoy the hospitality of the Duke of Norfolk’s residence at Duke’s Place, Aldgate, wherein he continued writing and formed a relationship with John Day, a prominent protestant printer of Aldersgate, with whose assistance an updated edition of the Actes and Monuments was published in English in 1563.  One historian, Pishey Thompson claims that Foxe actually lived at Day’s home in Aldergate Ward at that time, but soon after “he removed to Grub Street, his letters there being directed.”
  • 31Mar1563 Foxe was given the Prebend of Skipton in the Salisbury Cathedral, a benefice which he retained throughout his life and passed on to his heirs.  Such a living afforded Foxe a meager, but sustained income, allowing him the freedom to continue his pursuits as a respected theologian, researcher, counselor and writer.
  • 1572 Foxe is reported to have been on the scaffold when his former pupil and benefactor, 4th Duke of Norfolk was executed for treason against Queen Elizabeth.
  • 1568 to 1582 Foxe is reported to have substituted for his dear friend, Robert Crowley, as vicar at St. Giles Cripplegate during Crowley’s deprivation.
  • 18Apr1587 John Foxe died at age 70 and was buried at St. Giles, Cripplegate Church, where on the south side his son, Samuel had a stone erected to his memory.

From its first publication in 1563 Actes and Monuments came under attack from Catholics as evidenced by the following excerpts from the antagonistic writings of Thomas Harding, exiled Jesuit priest, and John Jewell, Bishop of Salisbury:

“[Thomas] Harding, the Jesuit, in his controversy with Bishop Jewell, called Fox’s Acts and Monuments “the dunghill of your stinking Martyrs.”  To this Jewell replied:

“It pleaseth you, for lack of other evasion, to call the story of the Martyrs a dunghill of lies.  But these lies shall remain on the record forever, to testify and to condemn your bloody doings.  Ye have imprisoned your brethren; ye have stripped them naked; ye have scourged them with rods; ye have famished them; ye have drowned them; ye have summoned them, being dead, to appear before you out of their graves; ye have ripped up their buried carcasses; ye have burned them; ye have thrown them into the dunghill; ye took a poor babe, and in the most cruel and barbarous manner ye threw him into the fire…  Our wantons and flesh worms [maggots], for so it liketh you to call them, have been contented to forsake fathers, mothers, wives, children, goods, and livings, and meekly to submit themselves to all the terror of your cruelties, and to yield their bodies unto death; to be starved with hunger, to be burned with fire, only for the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; so delicate and flesh worms and wantons are they!  Ye will say, that they died stubbornly in willful error.  Yet, I reckon not ye will say they died in great pleasure, or carnal liberty.  It is a strange kind of fleshly wantonness, for a man to take up his Cross and follow Christ.”[65]

Ironically, as this battle for the higher moral ground was being waged, Elizabeth I was creating a whole new breed of martyrs through her persecution of protestant reformers, including the Brownists and Barrowists, martyrs which would find their way into later editions of the Actes and Monuments

There is only limited evidence that John Foxe lived in St. Giles Cripplegate parish, but apparently sufficient for many writers to suggest that his residence there was fairly long-lived.  In fact, many suggest that he took up residence on Grub Street not long after he returned to London from Basle around 1560 to 1562, and that he continuously resided there until his death in 1587.  This may be correct, but his earliest known residence on Grub Street dates from 1571 as evidenced in the following commentary:

“Grub Street and John Foxe (2nd S. IX, p. 163.)  — Among the notes upon the history of Grub Street here given is the following passage: — “It was in Grub Street that John Foxe, the martyrologist, wrote his Actes and Monuments.”  Now, seeing that the Book of Martyrs (as it is more commonly called) was published in 1563, and the 2nd edition in 1570, the statement thus made is directly in contradiction to the following passage of the Life of John Foxe (edit. 1841, p. 194) by Mr. Canon [George] Townsend: — “Many letters in the Harleian collection illustrate the influence of Foxe at this time.  They are addressed to him in Grub Street; and must therefore, though no date appears on them, have been written after 1572.  A letter from Foxe to one of his neighbors, who had so built his house as to darken Foxe’s windows, is curious as a specimen of religious expostulation, for an injury which possibly he could not afford to remedy by law.”  In the next page Mr. Townsend inserts a letter addressed “To the worshipful and his singular good friend, Mr. Foxe, dwelling in Grub Street… from Oxford, 20Nov1571;” thus, on the other hand, disproving Mr. Townsend’s assertion, to which it stands opposite…  As far as I can conjecture, that notion may have been suggested to him by his imagining that Foxe was lodged in the mansion of the Duke of Norfolk until that nobleman’s disgrace and execution in 1572.  But such is not the fact; for, though he was sheltered by the Duke for a time, he seems long before that date to have had a house of his own.  Altogether, it appears very doubtful when Foxe went to Grub Street, and how long he resided there.”[66]

Regardless of just when John Foxe became a resident of Grub Street, and for just how long he may have maintained that residential address, it seems clear from the 20Nov1571 letter that he was in residence on Grub Street at that time.  Further, since it is known that John Foxe appears to have been in reduced financial circumstances throughout most of his adult life, it seems probable that he would have found the living conditions and the artistic society of the Grub Street neighborhood suitable to his meager means and chosen lifestyle.  He would have been a near neighbor of John Field, a fellow minister, religious writer, archivist and publisher, who is known to have resided on Grub Street for almost 20 years from about 1568 until his death in Mar1588.  Foxe was buried in St. Giles Cripplegate, a strong indication that he had maintained his residence in that parish until his own death in Apr1587.  In fact, many writers suggest that Field assisted Foxe with the editing and publication of the 2nd edition of the English version of the Actes and Monuments in 1570.

Given that William Addersbury (basketmaker) and his family resided in St. Giles Cripplegate for almost the entire time that John Field, John Foxe and Robert Crowley were in residence, it seems almost inevitable that William would have known of these men, if not actually had a personal acquaintance.  All three men served as ministers in the parish church of St. Giles and, in that capacity, would have administered to the spiritual needs of the Addersbury family; including presiding over their receipt of communion, christening their children, offering prayers and solace at their burials, greeting them upon entering and exiting church services, and offering counseling in troubled times.  The connection between minister and parishioner was intimate and personal.  The Addersburys were very likely present at the funerals and burials of John Foxe, Robert Crowley (buried in St. Giles 18Jun1588), and John Field.  These men would have had significant and direct impact on the religious beliefs of all members of the Addersbury family, including William Atterbury, porter and obstinate Brownist.

Samuel Eaton – Buttonmaker

Samuel Eaton was arrested and confined at Newgate Prison, when from the Acts of the High Commission it was reported that on or before 5May1636 he was committed by Archbishop Laud “for a Schismattical and dangerous fellowe” and described as “a button-maker of St. Giles without Cripplegate”.  He is reported by Francis Tucker, B.D., to have held “diverse Conventicles in the said Gaole”, at which about 70 or more persons were present with permission of the prison keeper, and to have affirmed in his sermons that “Baptism [probably meaning, as administered to infants in the Church of England] [i.e., Wilkinson-Murton controversy] was the Doctrine of Devils”.  Eaton died in prison just before 31Aug1639, and his body taken by procession to a new church yard near Bethlehem.  At least 200 Brownist and Anabaptist followers were present at Eaton’s procession and burial. 

“They like so many Bedlams cast the corpes into the grave and with their feet covered the body with dirt until almost full…  This is evidently a good illustration of the way in which the separatists were obliged to act under the trying conditions imposed upon them by unsympathetic Church and State officials.”[67] 

Take notice of the fact that Samuel Eaton was a Brownist lay preacher from St. Giles, Cripplegate in the early 1630’s, perhaps even earlier yet.  The foregoing account of the last years of Eaton’s life suggests that he had several hundred followers in attendance at his funeral.  He was buried in the oldest known cemetery in London, which was situated adjacent to Bethlehem Hospital (insane asylum) just outside Bishop’s Gate as illustrated in Figure 4-18.  Also note the writer’s description of the irregular manner of Eaton’s burial and the reference to “Bedlams”, clearly a reference to the inmates of Bethlehem Hospital, which was also called “Bedlam Hospital”, see following excerpt:

“The area of Broadgate in the City of London marks the general vicinity of Bethlehem Churchyard (New Ground), London’s first cemetery.  Established in 1569 on land belonging to the Bethlehem Hospital, it was available to parishes who needed extra burial space, not only for plague victims, and continued to be used until 1720.”

Further,

“Samuel How and dozens of other spiritists fell victim to the antinomian purge in Apr1632.  Laud’s inquisitors burst through the door of a waterfront house near Blackriars Church, where they caught How and his friends assembled in a conventicle, listening to John Lathrop preach.  Most of those apprehended, including How, Lathrop, Susan Eaton (widow of the antinomian preacher John Eaton), and the button-maker, Samuel Eaton…”[68] 

Note that Samuel Eaton was arrested while attending a conventicle in a house near Blackfriars Church in 1631/2, while listening to John Lathrop.  Further yet:

“…John Traske… aligned himself with the [Henry] “Jacob” semi-separatist communion of Southwark in the mid-1630’s?  This informal congregation had been led by the radical puritan button-maker Samuel Eaton and the inveterate nonconformist minister John Lathrop until their arrest in 1631.”[69] 

From the foregoing this writer indicates that Samuel Eaton, button-maker from St. Giles Cripplegate, was the “leader” of the church established by Henry Jacob at Southwark in 1616.

“From Egerton [in Kent], Rev. Lothropp [John Lathrop] moved his family to London, eventually taking residence on the South side of the Thames in Lambeth Marsh, close to Southwark, and, ironically, close to the Archbishop’s Palace, in Lambeth [nearby to Mortlake, home of William Atterbury, waterman].  At least by 1624, Lothropp had joined to the congregation founded by Henry Jacob, who resigned with an intention to move to Virginia [Jacobopolis]. On 5 October, 1622, Jacob made his will in London, which was proved 5 May, 1624, also, in London [Jacob was buried in St. Andrew Hubbard Parish, same parish where William Addersbury married Alice Lyon in 1576]. Rev. Lothropp was elected minister by 1625, in which position he remained until removing to America in 1634. After [Lathrop’s] leaving for America, this church was taken over by Rev. Henry Jessey, probably by 1637. The records of this church, known to later historians as the Jacob/Lothropp/Jessey church, have been discovered among the records of the English Baptists.”

Thusly, we have seen that in the 2nd and 3rd decades of the 17th century there was an active nonconformist church operating in London during the same time period that William Atterbury, porter and obstinate brownist, was being cited for non-attendance of his parish church.  This church was described elsewhere as the re-established “Ancient Church” founded by Henry Jacob near Southwark in about 1615.  One member, and later leader, of that church was the lay preacher, Samuel Eaton, button-maker, from St. Giles, Cripplegate.  Given these associations, it seems highly likely that William Atterbury was a member of that nonconformist church.  Some writers suggest that this church, headed by Jacob/Lothropp/Jessey was a “semi-separatist” church, indicating that its members attempted to walk the middle ground by concurrently attending their parish church all the while attending illegal conventicles.  However, the frequency of arrests and durations of imprisonment suggests that at least some members were committed (full-fledged) separatists, i.e., Brownists/Barrowists.

3. Brownists and the Ancient Church of London

Our research thus far has taken the reader from the earliest inklings of protestant reform in England: from John Wycliffe (the Morning Star) and the first English translation of the Bible, through the spread of the reform message via itinerant Lollard preachers among weavers and cloth-workers, to the imbuement of the Addersbury/ Atterbury family with dissident religious leanings in their “bohemian” neighborhood of St. Giles Cripplegate and particularly along Grub Street.  It is now time to introduce the reader to the birth and growth of the separatist movement.  Although Robert Browne is most frequently credited with launching the separatist or independent church in England, there is strong evidence which suggests that this movement had actually begun in London at least 15 years earlier.

Ancient Church

Most researchers into the origin of the Congregational Church identify Robert Browne as its founder.  It may be more accurate to state that Robert Browne was the founder of a separatist religious sect whose adherents were labeled Brownists, and which held many tenets and practices in common with the modern Congregational Church.  However, there is evidence to suggest that earlier separatist congregations existed in and about London more than a decade before Robert Browne and Robert Harrison began to assemble their small group of followers at Norfolk around 1580/1.  The earlier separated congregations come to our notice through a letter from Bishop Grindal to Heinrich Bullinger on 11Jun1568 in which he states:

“Some London citizens, with four or five ministers, have openly separated from us, and sometimes in private houses, sometimes in fields, and occasionally in ships, they have held meetings and administered the sacraments.  Besides this, they have ordained ministers, elders, and deacons after their own way [according to New Testament scripture].  The number of the sect is about 200, and consisting of more women than men.  The Privy Council has lately committed the heads of this faction to prison, and are now using means to put a timely stop to this sect.”

This separatist sect would have been in existence in London at around the same time that William Adderbury married Alice Lyon.  Whether William Addersbury or any member of his family were members of this early separated sect is not known, but seems possible, considering the probable religious affiliations of the Dutch craftsmen with the Mennonite religious sect of the Low Countries who were settled in abundance in Billingsgate and Aldgate Wards in the 16th Century.  From Bishop Grindal’s description of these early London separatists, they sound eerily similar to the Brownist, Barrowist and Anabaptist groups that would spring up around London in the coming decades.  One distinguishing characteristic of these later sects that is missing from Grindal’s description is the swearing of a covenant by sect members, but election of their own ministers, appointment of elders and deacons, administration of the sacrament and clandestine meetings all comport with Brownist practices.

Insofar as Grindal’s reference to the Privy Council having lately committed heads of this faction to prison, there were known arrests in 1567 in London since there is a record of examinations conducted on 20Jun1567 by the Bishop of London, the Lord Mayor, the Dean of Westminster, etal. of several persons including: John Smith, William Nixon, William White, James Ireland, Robert Hawkins, Thomas Boweland, Richard Morecraft and John Roper.  At that time it is reported that there were 10 or 11 in the Counter, who were charged with absenting themselves from their parish churches, gathering together in prayer, preaching and administering the Sacraments.  These arrests were made the previous day, when as many as 100 participants were gathered at a congregation in Plumber’s Hall.  In addition to the Plumber’s Hall congregation, there is a record of another “conventicle” having been discovered in the house of one James Tynne, goldsmith, in St. Martins in the Field, wherein 38 to 39 persons were arrested on 4Mar1567/8.  Champlin Burrage suggests that there were as many as 77 persons in prison in London in 1567 for non-attendance, etc., probably a combination of those arrested in Plumber’s Hall and at the Goldsmith’s house.  On 22Apr1569 there is a record of 24 men and 7 women being released from Bridewell including the following 10 names: Smith, Ireland, Nixon, Bowland, Waddy, Anderton, White, Leonard, Bolton, and Lydforde.  In a letter written by the Puritan minister, John Browne of Norfolk, there were as many as five separated “churches” existent in England around Mar1568/9. 

Another of these early separated churches was headed by Richard Fitz in London.  The beliefs and practices of Fitz’s congregation are expressed in the following document contained in the Second Parte of a Register compiled by John Field of Grub Street and described by Burrage as “The Separatist Covenant of Richard Fitz’s Congregation”:

“Being thoroughly persuaded in my conscience, by the working and the word of the Almighty, that these relics of Antichrist be abominable before the Lord our God.  And also for that by the power and mercy, strength and goodness of the Lord my God only, I am escaped from the filthiness and pollution of these detestable traditions, through the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ; And last of all, inasmuch as by the working also of the Lord Jesus his holy spirit, I have joined in prayer, and hearing God’s word, with those that have not yielded to this idolatrous trash, notwithstanding the danger for not coming to my parish church; And, therefore I come not back again to the preachings of them that have received these marks of the Romish beast.”

Although the wording varies, the foregoing covenant adopted by Fitz’s congregation is not much different from the covenants adopted by the churches of Browne and Harrison, Barrowes and Greenwood, Smith and Robinson, Thomas Cartwright, Ainsworth and Johnson, Helwys and Murton, Henry Jacob, and other of the most forward Puritans of the day.  So, at least 15 years before Robert Browne began to formulate the rudiments of his separatist doctrine, the roots of separatism were already firmly established in London and elsewhere in the country. 

Many writers fix the beginning of the separatist movement in England to the adoption of Queen Elizabeth’s via media reformation compromise embodied in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion which were integrated into the Book of Common Prayer in 1563.  A large number of ordained protestant ministers and other members of the clergy found various provisions of Elizabeth’s religious compromise repugnant, offensive, and some even intolerable.  Schisms arose almost immediately, at first mainly over the enforced wearing of the surplice and use of the “sign of the cross” during church ceremonies, later over more substantive matters as transubstantiation, graven images, infant baptism, church holidays and festivals, fixed prayer, preaching, ordination, etc.  Most persons expressing objections to Elizabeth’s religious doctrine were labeled “puritans” because of their insistence upon strict adherence to the letter of the scriptures.  From the outset use of labels like puritan, lollard, or brownist was intended to denigrate and ostracize anyone who dared to freely and openly express a belief divergent from the rules of the established church. 

Under the Act of Supremacy in 1534 the Crown was vested with power to visit, investigate, correct and discipline the regular and secular clergy, marking the beginning of a whole new era of religious intolerance and inquisition.  In accordance with the powers granted by this Act, Henry VIII created a vice-regency invested with Royal authority over ecclesiastical matters.  In 1565 Queen Elizabeth was granted parliamentary approval to further strengthen her authority over ecclesiastical affairs, whereby she created a permanent prerogative court known as the High Commission, comprised mainly of canon lawyers, bishops and important laymen, i.e., Lord Mayor of London.  In a crackdown on nonconforming ministers, Archbishop Parker convened an assembly of all the clergy within the London diocese at the Bishop’s palace at Lambeth in Mar1566.  All ministers present were required to sign an oath of conformity: 61 ministers subscribed to the oath, 37 abstained, several others were absent.  The abstainers were immediately deprived of their benefices but were allowed three months of grace in order to alter their position and to subscribe.  A few abstainers did ultimately subscribe, but most refused conformity.  One particular abstainer of note was Robert Crowley:

“One of those who signed nolo and a former Marian exile, Robert Crowley, vicar of St Giles-without-Cripplegate, instigated the first open protest.  Though he was suspended on March 28 [1566] for his nonconformity, he was among many who ignored their suspension.  On April 23, Crowley confronted six laymen (some sources say choristers) of St Giles who had come to the church in surplices for a funeral.  According to John Stow’s Memoranda, Crowley stopped the funeral party at the door.  Stow says Crowley declared “the church was his, and the queen had given it him during his life and made him vicar thereof, wherefore he would rule that place and would not suffer any such superstitious rags of Rome there to enter.”  By another account, Crowley was backed by his Curate and one Sayer who was Deputy of the Ward.  In this version, Crowley ordered the men in surplices “to take off these porter’s coats”, with the Deputy threatening to knock them flat if they broke the peace.  Either way, it seems Crowley succeeded in driving off the men in vestments.”[70]

From the foregoing it seems clear that nonconformity within the clergy at St. Giles Cripplegate was in full bloom when William and Alice Addersbury established residence in that parish in 1576.  The presence of such radical tendencies in their own parish church could not possibly escape the attention of the young basketmaker’s family, but Robert Crowley was just the tip of the radical religious iceberg adrift in St. Giles in the latter part of the 16th century.  John Field, the noted Puritan “secretary”, pamphleteer and archivist and John Fox, the martyrologist, are reported to have lived on Grub Street from about 1668 until their deaths in 1687/8.  Now, these men may not have lived on Grub Street at the same time as William Atterbury, porter and Brownist, but there is good reason to believe that William and Alice Addersbury may have been near neighbors of Field and Fox.  The key point to be taken here is that St. Giles Cripplegate, and particularly Grub Street was a “bohemian” village just outside the Old Wall which attracted poets, artisans, writers, unlicensed printers, religious radicals, theater players, all the elements favorable to the support and prosperity of sectarians.

As already described in his biography, John Field played a central role in this early formation of the “Ancient Church” by virtue of his having been a subscriber of the so-called Wandsworth Presbytery.  While many writers describe the Wandsworth church as having taken the form of a “presbytery”, and having been the earliest record of a presbyterian church in England, there is almost equal rationale for describing Wandsworth as a “separatist conventicle”, and an integral component of the so-called “ancient church” of London.  Perhaps the best connection to be made between the Wandsworth church and an early English presbytery is the affiliation between John Field and Thomas Cartwright, as Cartwright is justifiably linked to the early formation of the presbytery movement within England.  While the presbyterian form of church governance had already been firmly established in Scotland several years prior to 1568, there is virtually no evidence to support the notion that John Field and Thomas Wilcox were advocating the creation of a presbyterian church governance in England when they penned the Admonition to Parliament in 1572.  So that the reader may see and judge for themselves regarding the principal themes and thrust of this admonition, it has been inserted as follows:

“An Admonition to the Parliament. A view of popish abuses yet remaining in the English Church for the which godly ministers have refused to subscribe. Whereas immediately after the last parliament [ 1571 ] the ministers of God’s holy word and sacraments were called before her Majesty`s High Commissioners, and enforced to subscribe unto the articles. if they would keep their places and livings, and some for refusing to subscribe were removed . May it please therefore this honourable and high court of parliament to take a view of such causes as then did withhold and now doth the foresaid ministers from subscribing and consenting unto those foresaid articles, by way of purgation to discharge themselves of all disobedience towards the Church of God and their sovereign, and by way of most humble entreaty for the removing away of all such corruptions and abuses as with­held them Albeit, right honourable and dearly beloved, we have at all times borne with that which we could not amend in this book [ The Book of Common Prayer ] and have used the same in our ministry, so far forth as we might .  . yet now being compelled by subscription to allow the same and to confess it not to he against the word of God in any point, but tolerable, we must needs say as followeth that this book is an unperfect book, culled and picked out of that popish dunghiIl the portuise and mass-book full of all abominations. For some and many of the contents therein be such as are against the word of God… Their pontifical [procedures] whereby they consecrate bishops, make ministers and deacons, is nothing else but a thing word for won drawn out of the Popes pontifical; and as the names of archbishops, archdeacons, lord bishops, chancellors, &c. are drawn out of the Pope’s shop together with their offices, so the government which they use is antichristian and devilish, and contrary to the scriptures. And as safely may we, by the warrant of God`s word, subscribe to allow the dominion of the Pope universally to rule over the word of God, as of an arch­bishop over a whole province, or a lord bishop over a diocese which containeth many shires and parishes. For the dominion that they exercise is unlawful and expressly forbidden by the word of God What should we speak of the archbishop’s court, sith all men know it, and your wisdoms cannot but see what it is. As all other courts are subject to this by the Popes prerogative, yea, and by statute of this realm yet unrepealed, so is it the filthy quake-mire and poisoned plash of all the abominations that do infect the whole realm,.. And as for the commissaries’ court. that is but a petty little stinking catch that floweth out of that former great puddle, robbing Christ’s Church of lawful pastors, of watchful seniors and elders, and careful deacons And as for the apparel, though we have been long borne in hand, and yet are, that it is for order and decency commanded, yet we know and have proved that there is neither order nor comeliness nor obedience in using it.  Neither is the controversy betwixt them and us (as they would bear the world in baud) for a cap, a tippet or a surplice, but for great matters concerning a true ministry and regiment of the church according to the word. If it might please her Majesty, by the advice of your Right Honourable, in this High Court of Parliament, to hear us by writing or otherwise to defend ourselves, then, such is the equity of our cause that we would trust to find favour in her Majesty’s sight … If this cannot be obtained, we will, by God’s grace, address ourselves to defend his truth by suffering and willingly lay our heads to the block, and this shall be our peace, to have quiet consciences with our God, whom we will abide for with all patience until he work our full deliverance.  “

Aside from the reference “to robbing Christ’s Church of lawful pastors, of watchful seniors and elders, and careful deacons”, there seems nothing else in this admonition that would characterize it as expressly advocating a “presbyterian” church structure.  In fact, virtually all of the objections and admonitions contained therein were reminiscent of both presbyterian and congregational platforms.  As will be seen in the following discussion of the Brownist/Barrowist church organization, they too adopted a governing body consisting of “lawful” pastors, elders and deacons.  The principal characteristic separating these two forms of church governance is the creation of a synodical hierarchy within the presbyterian church, a construct which is not implied in the Admonition.  The point to be taken from this is that there was very little, if any, true distinction between the “ancient church” and the early presbyterian church, since they each drew their essential principles of belief from the Puritan creed, which, itself, was born of the continental religious reforms of the 16th century mainly attributed to Luther and Calvin.

Robert Browne and Robert Harrison

We will treat with Robert Browne and Robert Harrison jointly since they were contemporaries and joint founders of the separatist church at Middleburg.  Both Browne, and Harrison may have been influenced by the current neo-Calvinist lectures on the New Testament by a prominent professor, and theologian of Cambridge University, Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603).  Cambridge University during the mid-16th century had a pro-puritan leaning in its philosophy, and a new spirit for Evangelical reforms.  Unfortunately for Dr. Cartwright, and the Cambridge University administration, the Church of England and Queen Elizabeth I decided to clean house of some of the political, and dissident overtones emanating from Cambridge.  It would have been in the throes of this upheaval that Robert Browne and Robert Harrison would have been receiving their infusion of radicalism at Christ Church and Corpus Christi (see Figure 4-19).

Robert Harrison was perhaps five years older than Robert Browne, but both men were in residence at Christ Church, Cambridge between 1570 and 1572.  Harrison is reported to have matriculated as a pensioner to St. John’s College, Cambridge in 1564, and transferred to Corpus Christi College where he proceeded B.A. in 1567, and M.A. in 1572.  He may have been a native of Norfolk, as he sought employment there after leaving Cambridge around 1573.  In July 1573 Harrison applied for the post of master of the grammar school of Aylsham, Norfolk.  He was recommended to Bishop John Parkhurst by the mayor and some of the aldermen of Norwich, with reasons excusing Harrison for having raised an objection to the use of the service of the Book of Common Prayer at his marriage.  Parkhurst made difficulties, including that the liturgical offence had been in the face of warnings; but finally gave way after an appeal from inhabitants of Aylsham.  Within a month of his appointment Harrison requested that changes might be made in the baptismal service on the occasion of his being godfather to an infant, and he was removed by the bishop in January 1574.  Harrison is believed to have returned to Cambridge with a view to taking orders in the Church of England.  Harrison is reported by some writers to have been dissuaded by Robert Browne from actually taking orders.  Subsequently Harrison returned to Norwich about 1576 [1578?] when he became master of a hospital (perhaps the hospital of St. Giles, or the Old Men’s Hospital, which had some connection with Aylsham).  Harrison is believed to have been in Norwich in 1576 when he is reported to have been summoned before Bishop Freke:

“Of his subsequent history we have but few details.  On 13 May 1576 he appeared before Edmund Freake bishop of Norwich.  What was his particular offence we cannot state, but he set the Episcopal authority at defiance, and soon afterwards published an abusive letter to the bishop, whom he in conclusion be sought to have a care for his soul and to renounce the evil office he had usurped.”[71]  

[Note: there was a letter from an R. H. to Freke on that date, but probably not Robert Harrison.  So, the date of Harrison’s ‘returning’ to Norwich in 1576 seems suspect.]

Browne is reported to have visited Harrison at Norwich (perhaps around 1580), and lodged and boarded with him and his wife.  In his autobiographical A True and Short Declaration, Browne placed Harrison first in the list of his helpers and disciples.  According to Browne’s narrative, Harrison came completely over to his views, and the two spent all their energies in preaching and collecting a congregation at Norwich.

Robert Browne

Robert Browne (portrait in Figure 4-20) reportedly was born about 1550 at Tolethorpe Hall in Rutlandshire to a wealthy family of the landed-gentry class.  His family home still stands today as illustrated in Figure 4-21.  He received a classical education at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he is believed to have received his BA degree in 1572.  Clearly, Browne and Harrison were attending Corpus Christi College at the same time (1570-2), and it is likely then and there that their association first began.  Browne was about five years younger than Harrison, and may have been influenced in his ecclesiastical beliefs by his older classmate.  Both men appear to have been set on an apostolic path at this early age that would soon lead them to desire a religion separated from the National Church, one which did not accept either the Pope of Rome or a Monarchy at the Church’s head.  Moreover, they believed that free men had a right to establish their own church and to practice their religion without authoritarian [magisterial] intervention.  These were the early manifestations of what later became known as the separatist, congregational or independent church movement.  Over the next 15 years Browne’s and Harrison’s efforts to create their separatist church would plant seeds of hope and faith that would have widespread impact both throughout England and its colonies. 

Robert Browne’s whereabouts between leaving Cambridge in about 1572 and his joining Robert Harrison at Norwich in about 1580-1 is substantially unknown.  The best record of Robert Browne’s life is that which is provided in his own words in A True and Short Declaration probably written at Middleburg in 1582/3 wherein he asserts the following:

“Some of these applied themselves to teach scholars: to the which labor, Robert Browne also gave himself [in this work he refers to himself in the 3rd person], for the space of three years.  He having a special care to teach religion with other learning, did hereby keep his scholars in such awe and good order, as all the townsmen where he taught gave him witness.  Yet the world being so corrupt as it is, and the times so perilous he greatly disliked the wants and defaults, which he saw everywhere, and marked plainly that without redress, neither the parents could long rejoice in their children, nor the children profit so much in religion, as that their other studies and learning might be blessed thereby.  Hereupon he fell into great care and was sore grieved while he long considered many things amiss, and the cause of all, to be the woeful and lamentable state of the church.  Wherefore, he laboured much to know his duty in such things, and because the church of God is his kingdom, and his name especially is thereby magnified; he wholly bent himself to search and find out the matters in the church: as how it was to be guided and ordered, and what abuses there were in the ecclesiastical government then used.  These things, he had long before debated in himself, and with others, and suffered also some trouble about them at Cambridge, yet now on fresh he set his mind on these things, and night and day did consult with himself and others about them, least he should be ignorant, or mistake any of those matters.  Whatsoever things he found belonging to the church, and to his calling as a member of the church, he did put it in practice.  For even little children are of the church and kingdom of God, yea of such saith Christ, doth his kingdom consist [suffer the children to come unto me]: and therefore both in his school he laboured that the kingdom of God might appear, and also in the town with whom he kept company.  So, by word and practice he tried out all things, that he might be stayed both in judgment and counsel, and also in enterprising matters, as his duty should lead him.  But this his dealing got him much envy of the preacher and some others where he taught, and much trouble also when he broke his mind more plainly unto them.  Presently, after this he was discharged of his school by the grudge of his enemies.  Yet he taught still, with great goodwill and favor of the townsmen, til such time as the plague increased in the town, and he was sent for away by his friends…  Then he gave warning to the town, and departed to come home, as his father had willed him.”[72]

So, in a rather lengthy, nondescript fashion Robert Browne described his experience as a teacher the three years following his having left Cambridge.  Unfortunately, Browne failed to give any hint as to the time, location or name of the facility at which he taught.  However, he seems quite clear on the duration of that experience having been three years in length, and that he was discharged from his official position of teacher at some point due to the “grudge of his enemies”, probably due to his perceived extreme views on the state of the church.  He does elaborate on the process whereby he evolved his religious thinking, and, by his frequent references to the “kingdom of God” and once to the “church of God”, it seems unmistakable that he had already developed an adverse opinion toward the National Church with the monarch at its head, and was leaning toward a more scriptural church as described in the New Testament with Christ at its head, probably with particular reference to the Acts of the Apostles as lectured by Thomas Cartwright.

Most researchers assume that Browne’s career as a teacher commenced in about 1573, based on a further assumption that he left Cambridge in 1572.  Such event would have Browne being discharged from his teaching job sometime in 1576, thus leaving a two-year gap before his next known whereabouts when he entered into an “internship” with Richard Greenham at Dry Drayton in 1578.  The author believes there may be an alternative scenario, which could account for this apparent two-year gap.  In Browne’s closing comments regarding his early teaching assignment he states that he continued teaching until “such time as the plague increased in the town”, at which time he received word that his father required him to return home.  The author has compiled a mortality table (Table 4-8) which tabulates the burials both in Middlesex County, and the area of England outside Middlesex.  This table shows the burials recorded in the summer months (July to November) for a five-year period from 1574 to 1578.  The summer months were chosen since historically the plague episodes have mainly occurred during the summertime.  As evidenced by this data, 1576 had the least number of burials of any of the five years studied.  The worst years appear to have been 1578 with around 6,000 deaths countrywide, followed by 5,255 in 1577.  While this data is not absolutely conclusive, it does suggest that Robert Browne may not have returned to his family at Tolethorpe Manor until the summer of 1578.  That being the case, then it further suggests that Robert Browne may have continued his studies at Cambridge two years after having attained his B.A. in 1572, and that he did not enter his teaching position until sometime in 1574 or 1575.  Such scenario would have allowed Browne to complete a master’s program, generally considered a prerequisite to teaching scholars.

Not long after Browne returned to Tolethorpe (presumably in summer, 1578) he sought out and was accepted into the home of Richard Greenham at Dry Drayton, where he continued a brief period as an assistant pastor described as follows:

“So might he have lived with his father, being a man of some countenance, and have wanted nothing, if he had been so disposed, but his care [was] as always before, so then especially being set on the church of God, he asked leave of his father, and took his journey to Cambridge, from whence a few years (3 to 4 years) before he had departed.  He there had dealing with M. [Richard] Greenham of Dry Drayton, whom of all others he had heard said was most forward, and thought that with him and by him, he should have some stay of his care and hope of his purpose.  Wherefore, as those which in old time (biblical) were called prophets and children of the prophets and lived together, because of the corruptions among others, so came he unto him [Greenham].  He was suffered, as others also in his house, to speak of that part of the scripture, which was used to be read after meals.  And although he said, without leave and special word from the Bishop, he was to suffer none to teach openly in his parish, yet without any such leave, he suffered R. B. [Robert Browne to preach].  Notwithstanding, when R. B. saw, that the Bishop’s feet were too much set in every place, and that spiritual infection too much spread even to the best reformed places, he took that occasion which the Lord did first give him for redress, and when certain in Cambridge had both moved him, and also with consent of the Mayor and Vice-chancellor, called him to preach among then, he dealt in this manner.”[73]

Thus we have read how Robert Browne sought out the support and protection of Richard Greenham in the rector’s home at Dry Drayton, under whose tutelage and special care he was permitted to openly preach in the parish church (even though he was unlicensed).  Not yet having been ordained, Browne soon came to the attention of the Bishop, who apparently put a stop to such violation of ecclesiastical orders.  The reader may recall that this is not the first time we have heard of Richard Greenham in this chapter, for he was one of the “forward” ministers named as a beneficiary in the LWT of Richard Culverwell, along with Robert Crowley, John Field, William Clarke, Walter Travers, Nicholas Crane, etal. in 1586.  Greenham also had been one of 21 supplicants who petitioned Lord Burghley, Chancellor of Cambridge, in 1570 in support of Thomas Cartwright for reinstatement to his position of Lady Margaret’s Chair of Divinity.  Throughout his life, Richard Greenham appears to have been a moderate Puritan reformist.  It seems ironic that he should have been the teacher of two of the most radical reformers of the period: Robert Browne and Robert Harrison.  While in Greenham’s care it would appear that Robert Browne may have intended to complete his divinity training with an eye toward ordination.  However, it further appears that during this period of study and learning Robert Browne began to formulate and solidify his opinions regarding the “rightness” of the scriptural church and the “wickedness” of the presently established church:

“Therefore is the church called the pillar and ground of truth.  The voice of the whole people, guided by the elders and forwardest, is said to be the voice of God…  Therefore the meetings together of many churches, also of every whole church, and of the elders therein, is above the Apostle, above the Prophet, the Evangelist, the Pastor, the Teacher, and every particular Elder.  For the joining and partaking of many churches together, and of the authority which many have, must needs be greater and more weighty, than the authority of any single person…  the Apostle is inferior to the church, and the church is inferior to Christ, and Christ … is inferior to God.  This he judged, not only to be against the wickedness of the Bishops, but also against their whole power and authority.”[74]

Carrying this concept of the “church of God” to its logical conclusion, Robert Browne reasoned that the power of the prelates, as exercised through canonical law, was in error, and therefore without validity.  Bishops had no authority to ordain ministers, only the church through its members could elect their ministers.  This was a precept that was fundamental to virtually all of the sectarian religions that evolved in England over the next several centuries.  It should come as no surprise that, when Robert’s brother obtained a license from the Bishop of Ely permitting Browne to preach, he elected to throw that license upon the fire:

“But to be authorized of them, to be sworn, to subscribe, to be ordained and to receive their licensing, he utterly disliked and kept himself clear of those matters.  How be it the Bishop’s seals were gotten him by his brother, which he both refused before the officers, and being written for him would not pay for them, and also being afterward paid for by his brother, he lost one and burnt another in the fire, and another being sent to him in Cambridge, he kept it by him, until in his trouble [possibly at Norwich when jailed for preaching without license] was delivered to a Justice of the Peace, and so from him, as is supposed, to the Bishop of Norwich (Edmund Freke).”[75]  “In spite of these conclusions on Browne’s part, however, his brother (Philip?) applied to Archbishop Grindall for a license for him, and on 6Jun1579 and 7Jun1579, respectively, Robert was granted Dimissory Letters and a License to preach, written in Latin, sealed with the Archbishop’s seal…”[76]

It appears from the foregoing that Robert Browne had the support of his family, whether he desired it or not.  Although his brother had taken the pains on Robert’s behalf to obtain a license authorizing him to preach, Browne rejected that license.  In his mind, he had his authority to preach from God, and that was all the authority he required.  It further appears that someone in his family attempted to gain his release from prison at Norwich by showing that he in fact had a license issued in his name.

“So he having tried about half a year, both by open preaching, and by daily exhortation in sundry houses, that either by bondage of the Bishop in the diocese, or the Colleges, or of wicked ministers and readers of service, or by the proness of the parishes to like of that bondage, no redress could be waited for (without tarrying for any), he knew that the Lord had appointed him there to be occupied, only to try and prepare him for a further, and more effectual message, and to be a witness of that woeful state of Cambridge, where into those wicked prelates and doctors of divinity have brought it…  So he continued preaching for a while, until he fell sore sick, and in his sickness while he ceased his labor, he was forbidden by a letter showed him from the Counsel.  For indeed he had dealt boldly in his duty, and provoked the enemies.  The Bishop’s officer named [Richard] Bancroft did read the letter before him, but he nothing moved therewith did answer, that if he had taken charge in that place, he would no whit less cease preaching for that…”[77]

If taken literally it would appear that Robert Browne was at Cambridge all of about one-half year.  Whether this included the time spent with Richard Greenham at Dry Drayton is unclear.  It seems possible that Robert Browne may have spent upwards of eighteen months in the vicinity of Cambridge between his leaving his teaching post and his moving on into East Anglia.  It is interesting to note that it was Richard Bancroft who was sent to deliver the Counsel’s letter to Browne, which forbade his further preaching without a license.  This was the same Richard Bancroft, as Chaplain to Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor, who delivered his famous sermon at Paul’s Cross on 12Nov1589 in which he confuted Puritanism in all its various forms, particularly sniping at Robert Browne and his Brownists, and at Barrowists, and John Penry.

Shortly after recovery from his illness (possibly by the summer of 1579) Robert Browne began anew his search for the right way to proceed in his quest for divine guidance in his purpose as a minister and messenger of God.  He had come to realize that the Bishop’s hold over the parish churches in and about Cambridge was too strong and the abominations of the antichrist too firmly planted in the minds of the citizens.  Moreover, he had been forbade in writing by the Bishop from preaching any further in the diocese.  Information had come to Robert Browne that East Anglia, and more particularly, Norfolk might be more receptive to his cause and purpose:

“So while he thought on these things, and was purposed to try also in Norfolk the forwardness of the people, it fell out that Robert Harrison, one whom he was partly acquainted with before, came to Cambridge.  What was his purpose in coming, and how he thought to have entered the ministry, and did use some means to that end, it is needless to rehearse, only this I show, that he seemed to be very careful in that matter, and thought he leaned too much upon men for that matter, as upon Mr. [Richard] Greenham, Mr. Robardes [Thomas Roberts, Archdeacon of Norwich] and others, and was careful amiss for the Bishop’s authorizing, yet his mind and purpose might be judged to be good, and no otherwise but well did Robert Browne judge of him.  When he had talked with Robert Browne and showed him the matter whereabouts he went, he received this answer at his hands, that it was wasteful to use either Mr. Greenham’s help, or any mans else for the Bishop’s authorizing.  So he showed him how before he had dealt concerning the Bishop, and was now so far from seeking license, ordaining or authorizing at his hands, that though he never had them, yet for that he knew of them, he abhorred such trash and pollutions, as the marks and poison of Antichrist.  Notwithstanding, he said that he would do for him what he might, for he had before requested for his help.  But Robert Harrison either changing his mind, or disappointed of his purpose, returned to Norwich, whither also a short time after Robert Browne took his journey.  He came to Robert Harrison’s house, who then was Master of the hospital at Norwich.  He there finding room enough, and Harrison willing enough that he should be with him, agreed for his board, and kept in his house.  At the first they agreed well together, but yet so as that in some things Harrison doubted: notwithstanding he came on more and more, and at last wholly yielded to the truth, when he saw it began to prevail and prosper.”[78]

For anyone seeking to establish specific timelines for the events described in Robert Browne’s biography, they likely will be sorely disappointed.  In this preceding segment of Browne’s biography he has presented a sequence of several important events in the lives of both himself and Robert Harrison, yet we are given absolutely nothing regarding the dates or durations in which these events are supposed to have occurred.  It might be inferred that not long (perhaps a few months) after Robert Browne regained his health, he began to reflect on “greener pastures” wherein he might seek the furtherance of his cause, seemingly settling on the prospect of Norfolk and the “forwardness” of its people.  Almost concurrent with his revelation and leaning towards a move to Norfolk, he makes the serendipitous discovery that his old school chum, Robert Harrison, with whom ‘he was partly acquainted with before’, has suddenly arrived in Cambridge, possibly fresh from his teaching post at Aylsham or more likely as master at St. Giles Hospital, with the objective of becoming an ordained minister.  These events very likely occurred in the latter half of 1579 or early 1580.

As presented by Browne, it would seem that his revelation regarding a possible relocation to Norfolk and the arrival at Cambridge of Robert Harrison from Norfolk were almost concurrent, but totally independent occurrences.  Browne, in his discussion of the time that Harrison sought ordination at Cambridge, made reference to Harrison having been guided by the influence of Richard Greenham and Thomas Roberts (or at least Albert Peel identifies Master Robardes as Thomas Roberts).  It should be noted that Thomas Roberts, Archdeacon of Norwich, was removed from his position as Archdeacon sometime in 1576, probably due to his strong Puritan leanings.  The fact that Harrison appears to have come under the influence of Thomas Roberts suggests that Harrison may have taken up residence in Norwich after being discharged from Aylsham.  It is known that at some point between 1574 and 1581 Harrison received the post of Master over St. Giles Hospital in Norwich.  The date of that appointment is unknown, but it seems likely to have been sometime not long after his discharge from Aylsham.  Since Harrison appears to have had the good opinion of the Mayor of Norwich and several of the town Aldermen, and since the Aylsham School and St. Giles Hospital were organizationally and financially linked, he probably would have come highly recommended for the hospital post.

Browne implies that he and Harrison had prior contact before their reunion at Cambridge in his statement that ‘he had before requested for his help’.  Browne’s frequent use of the pronouns of “he”, “him” and “his” within the same sentence leaves the reader guessing as to which person is being referenced.  As Browne is loathe to provide specific name references in his biography, we are left with uncertainty just which of these two men had previously requested help from the other.  All that can really be deduced with certainty is that there had been some form of contact prior to their reunion at Cambridge in which one of them had requested some form of assistance from the other.  When read in the greater context of the entire paragraph, this statement seems to imply that Harrison and Browne had had previous contact, either in person or through correspondence.  It seems possible to the author that Harrison may have written to Browne sometime prior to 1579 requesting his assistance in obtaining letters of recommendation toward his ordination.  In their earlier associations as contemporaneous students in residence at Cambridge around 1570 to 1572, Harrison probably would have become aware of the prominence of Robert Browne’s family in Lincolnshire.  After all, Robert Browne’s father was well established in that county, even holding the position of Sheriff.  More importantly, Robert’s distant uncle was William Cecil, Baron Burleigh, Chancellor of Cambridge at that time.  So, Harrison may have viewed Browne as being in a position to render political support.  This is conjecture, but how else might Harrison have thought Robert Browne could have been of any assistance?  After all, Browne was almost five years junior to Harrison, and of no significant standing in his own right in the 1570’s.  It seems even less likely that Browne would have felt a need to request Harrison’s assistance, unless perhaps for support in obtaining a position as schoolmaster somewhere in the vicinity of Norwich.  Since the location of Browne’s employment as a schoolmaster after leaving Cambridge around 1576 in not known, it is possible that he may have found employment (with Harrison’s assistance) somewhere near Norwich.  Some writers have suggested such location was at Bury St. Edmunds, as it was to that area that Browne would return around 1581/2.

Harrison probably returned to Norwich sometime around mid-1580, where he may already have had an established residence and where he possibly resumed his position with the Hospital.  According to Browne, he followed Harrison into Norwich within a few months, perhaps around Oct1580.  Once in the Norfolk area, it seems that Robert Browne commenced almost immediately working as an itinerant preacher and lecturer at various venues in East Anglia.  Some writers suggest that he confined the work of building his separatist church to the immediate environs of Norwich.  Some even suggest that he ‘plowed the fertile fields’ of the large population of ‘strangers’ (Dutchmen) resident in relatively large numbers in Norwich at that time (upwards of 6,000).  Many of these Dutchmen would have been infused with the Mennonite beliefs and practices, being refugees from the same church with which John Smith would attempt to associate his separatist congregation almost 30 years later.  Browne intimates that he resided at Norwich in the Harrison household during most of the time he pursued the building of his separatist congregation, and during which time he engaged in an extended and running dialogue with Robert Harrison in an effort to persuade Harrison to his way of thinking.  Clearly, Browne had already arrived at his belief in the need of separation from the National Church while still lecturing and preaching at Cambridge.  Harrison was apparently of the more moderate Puritan view, believing that reform should be sought from within the church, not as a separated body.  If Browne’s account is to be believed, he was the primary instrument through which Robert Harrison began his own gradual movement toward separation.  First, Browne seems to have dissuaded Harrison from completing ordination by the antichrist bishop, then he ultimately convinced Harrison to join his quest to establish a separate church.  Browne suggests that Harrison’s ultimate conviction may have occurred when he saw it (Browne’s preaching) began to prevail and prosper.

Robert Browne does not appear to have been a person prone to boast or arrogance, so it might be assumed that at least Browne was of the belief that his evangelical efforts were attaining some level of success; that his preaching had begun to ‘prevail and prosper’ in East Anglia.  This success in the building of a loyal following of fellow separatists must have been achieved through a combination of factors:

  1. An open and receptive audience among the East Anglian population, perhaps with a predisposition to scriptural guidance.
  2. A palpable message, which was strongly anti-romish and rigorously based in the gospels of the New Testament.
  3. A credible and capable messenger in the form of Robert Browne.

As for the supposed receptiveness of the citizens of Norfolk to the message of Robert Browne, there was an extensive and long-standing history of dissent in East Anglia dating back to the days of John Wycliffe, of which history Robert Browne may have had some knowledge:

“… we also find in the said old monuments within the diocese of Norfolk and Suffolk, especially in the towns of Beccles, Ersham and Ludney (Loddon), a great number of both men and women to have been vexed and cast into prison, and after their adjuration brought to open shame in churches and markets, by the Bishop of the said diocese, called William, and his chancellor William Bernham, John Exter being the Register therein; so that within the space of three or four years, that is, from the year 1428 to the year 1431, about the number of 120 men and women were examined, and sustained great vexation for the profession of the Christian faith; of whom some were only taken upon suspicion, for eating meats prohibited upon vigil days, who, upon their purgation made, escaped more easily away and with less punishment, whose names here follow subscribed.” … “A catalogue of good men and women troubled for suspicion of heresie,” amounting to the number of 110, “some of whom were cruelly handled, and some were put to death and burned,” and others were forced to abjure and do penance*.  Most of these had received their instruction from William White, a priest, who was a scholar and disciple of Wycliffe, and who in September, 1428, was burnt at Norwich.”  * Of these ten resided at Earsham, nine at Beccles, ten were ecclesiastics, one a servant, and one the herd of Sheepmeadow; the rest lived at Harlestone, Halvergate, Setthing, Bedington, Clippesby, Tunstall, Martham, Mundham, Colchester, Bury, Eye, Bungay, etc.”[79]

So, from the foregoing account, mostly from Foxe’s Acts and Monuments we have the record of protestant persecution in Norfolk and Suffolk dating from the beginning of the 15th century, ostensibly resulting from the preaching by one of Wycliffe’s itinerant preachers.  The widespread impact of this preaching is evidenced by the map contained in Figure 4-21, which shows the approximate locations of the towns from which these so-called heretics hailed.  The sites of 1420’s persecutions were arrayed largely in the fens along the Norfolk coastlands, but also stretched inland in a band along the Waveney River Valley from Lowstoft to Bury St. Edmunds, as well as to Colchester in Essex.  Such widespread persecution suggests that the ‘gospellers’ had effectively carried their message of Christ’s Church deep into the farming communities of East Anglia, and that that message was resonating among the agrarian and working classes of the region.

Over the next 150 years the seeds of reformation in East Anglia took firm root and spread on the wind into other areas of the region and into all levels of society.  The extent of puritanical beliefs in Norfolk and Suffolk by the middle of the 16th century is evidenced by the numbers of persons martyred during the reign of Queen Mary I:

“But Mary kept no faith with heretics, and during her reign many martyrs in these two counties sealed their testimony with their blood; first among whom was Dr. Rowland Taylor, who was burnt on Aldham Common, near Hadleigh.  In 1555, Robert Samuel, minister of East Bergholt, was burnt at Ipswich; Nicholas Peke, of Earl Stonham, about the same time.  In the following year, Ann Potter and Joan Trunchfield were burnt at Ipswich; and in 1558, Alexander Gouch and Alice Driver were also burnt in the same town.  In 1556 Thomas Spicer, John Denny, and Edmund Poole, were burnt at Beccles; in the following year Simon Miller, Elizabeth Cooper and Cicely Ormes, were burnt at Norwich; and John Noyes in the same year at Laxfield…  in 1556 William Carman of Hingham was burnt in Lollard’s pit as an obstinate heretic…  Richard Crashfield of Wymondham was also burnt in the same place, in the same year; and shortly afterwards Thomas Carman, William Seaman, and Thomas Hudson; and in 1558, on July 1oth, Richard Yeoman, a devout old minister, was burnt (former curate to Dr. Taylor of Hadleigh).”[80]

During the reign of Edward VI East Anglia was racked with civil unrest and rebellion, with the Norwich region having the most wide spread discontent.  For several decades prior to 1550 manorial lords of the region had embarked on a course to systematically enclose manorial lands (lands that had been historically considered common lands), for the purpose of expanding sheep-grazing.  The woolen trade had become a much more lucrative business than general agriculture.  Such actions tended to move peasants off the common lands, leaving them either destitute or forced into other, less desirable forms of industry.  After repeated subrogation of peasant’s tillage rights, Robert Kett of Wymondham organized the local peasantry to revolt.  Amassing a body of almost 16,000, Kett led his ‘peasant army’ to an encampment on Mousehold Field, just outside the walls of Norwich.  Norwich at that time was the 2nd largest city in England, surpassed only by London in size and industrial importance.  Being denied admittance through the city gates, Kett’s forces breached the wall and took control of Norwich.

Once in control of Norwich, Kett formed a governing council comprised of himself and an elected representative from each of the villages which had joined in the rebellion.  The council drafted a petition containing 29 demands, which was promptly transmitted to King Edward.  Most of the demands contained in the rebel’s petition were designed to restore the use of common lands to the people, and to redress the harms resulting from past enclosures of ‘common’ lands.  While Kett’s rebellion appears to have been driven primarily by a perceived abridgement of feudal land usage claims, six of their demands specifically touched on perceived infringements upon the people’s right of religious freedom:

4. We pray that priests from henceforth shall purchase no lands neither free nor bond, and the lands that they have in possession may be letten to temporal men, as they were in the first year of the reign of King Henry VII.

8. We pray that priests or vicars that be not able to preach and set forth the word of God to his parishioners may be thereby put from his benefice, and the parishioners there to choose another or else patron or lord of the town.

15. We pray that no priest shall hold no other office to any man of honour or worship, but only to be resident upon their benefices, whereby their parishioners may be instructed within the laws of God.

20. We pray that every proprietary parson or vicar having a benefice of 10 or more by year, shall either by themselves, or by some other person teach poor men’s children of their parish the book called the catechism and the primer.

22. We pray that no proprietary parson or vicar, in consideration of avoiding trouble and lawsuit between them and their poor parishioners, which they daily do proceed and attempt, shall from henceforth take for the full contents of all the tenths which now they do receive, but 8.

27. We pray that no lord, knight, or gentleman shall have or take in form any spiritual promotion.

It is noteworthy that, although this rebellion seems driven primarily from such temporal matters as land use, fisheries and wildlife, issues concerning spiritual well being and privilege formed an integral component of the dispute and unrest.  Article 8 is perhaps the most striking and telling of these six church-based complaints, and in Elizabeth’s day would have been perceived as a direct challenge to royal authority.  Queen Elizabeth and her Tudor successors would have considered the election of a priest or minister by the parishioners an infringement of their royal prerogative as head of the Church.  In fact, persons expressing such opinions during Elizabeth’s reign were branded schismatic and heretic, and may have been punished with death. 

The brief outcry and clamor for restoration of feudal land rights and religious freedom was fairly short-lived, as Kett’s rebellion was put down by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick’s forces (12,000 English soldiers and 1,200 German mercenaries) in Aug1549 and its leaders thrown in prison.  In retreat from Norwich more than 3,000 of the peasant hoard were killed by Warwick’s forces.  Robert Kett and his brother, William Kett, along with 47 others were executed later that year.  Some researchers argue that Kett’s Rebellion succeeded in slowing the enclosure of manorial lands in Norfolk and Suffolk, thus retaining the predominantly peasant nature of East Anglia, which became fertile grounds for the real civil war that followed a century later.

The Norwich diocese under Bishop John Parkhurst (1560-1574) offered a haven for non-conforming ‘puritan’ ministers:

“He sympathized with the Puritans, and never entered willingly into any measures of severity against them, in consequence of which he was distrusted by the Queen.  By command of his superiors he was forced sometimes to act in a way contrary to his judgment, but his influence contributed not a little to mitigate the rigour of royal and archiepiscopal rule; yet, notwithstanding his clemency, many faithful ministers in these two counties were silenced.”[81]

In the 3rd year of Elizabeth’s reign she made a ‘progress’ into Essex and Suffolk, during which she made stops at several towns listed as follows:

“She stayed at Ongar Castle, Rookwood Hall (near Leighs), Gosfield Hall, Ipswich, Harwich, St Osyth, Colchester, Layer Marney, Maldon, Moulsham Hall (near Chelmsford), Ingatestone Hall and back to Havering.”

During her sojourn through Suffolk Queen Elizabeth formed a negative opinion regarding the extent to which nonconformity had been permitted to take root in the parishes of the region, which opinion was characterized by Strype as follows:

“Queen Elizabeth was at Ipswich, 17Jul1561.  Her Majesty took a great dislike to the impudent behaviour of the many ministers and readers; there being many weak ones among them, and little or no other observed in the public service, and few or no wearing the surplice.  And the Bishop of Norwick [Parkhurst] was thought remiss, and that he winked [turned a blind eye] at schismatics.”[82]

In the 4th year of Elizabeth I was convened the first protestant convocation in January 1562/3 and adopted the 39 Articles of Faith followed by adoption of reformations to the ceremonies to be used in public liturgy.  At this convocation 33 members of the Lower House signed a petition requesting several alterations to the 39 Articles as follows:

  1. That playing with organs might be removed (from church services),
  2. That none but ministers be allowed to baptise, and may leave off the sign of the cross in baptism,
  3. That kneeling at the communion may be left indifferent to the discretion of the ordinary,
  4. That use of copes and surplices may be taken away, and that ministers use a comely side garment, as they commonly do in preaching,
  5. That ministers be not compelled to wear such gowns and caps as the enemies of Christ’s gospel have chosen to be the  special array of their priesthood,
  6. That in the 33 Article, the clause about traditions and ceremonies may be left out, and
  7. That all saints’ holy days, as tending to suspension, be clearly abrogated.

This petition for amendment of the 39 Articles was signed by six Deans, 12 Archdeacons, 14 Proctors, including Thomas Roberts, Proctor of Norwich and John Walker, Proctor of Suffolk.  The proposed amendment of the 39 Articles failed by a single vote.  The 39 Articles were adopted by Parliament in Mar1563, but adherence to the articles was not mandated by Parliament until 1571.  It was in opposition to mandated adherence that John Field and Thomas Wilcox wrote their Admonition to the Parliament in 1572.

It was the adoption of the 39 Articles in Jan1562/3 which gave rise to the so-called vestiarian revolt.  Although Queen Elizabeth attempted a doctrinal compromise or via media with the objective of placating both the Romish and Anglican parties within her English Church, she was fully aware that her policy was not likely to pacify the Puritans, whose numbers seemed to be increasing daily in the realm.  In an attempt to further purge the Church of dissenters, the Queen and some of her Bishops issued ‘advertisements’ in 1564, which effectively voided all licenses to preach issued prior to 1Mar1564.  Only those preachers found ‘comfortable with the Act of Uniformity’ were deemed ‘meet for the office’ and permitted to return to the parish church.  The test for restoration of ministerial privilege took the form of an oath of ‘subscription’ administered by panels of ecclesiastical commissioners, first at Lambeth Palace for the London Diocese, followed by similar courts in each of the other diocese.  Bishop Parkhurst, against his fundamental beliefs, was forced to submit to the Queen’s edicts and carried out the orders of examination and sequestration.  Many ministers refused to take the oath and were summarily deprived of their benefices, such dismissal resulting in many parishes in Norfolk and Suffolk being left without able stewardship.  Daniel Neal[83] describes the aftermath of the deprivations thusly:

“Among the deprived ministers, some betook themselves to the study of physic, and other secular employments; some went into Scotland, or beyond the sea; others got to be chaplains in gentlemen’s families; but many who had large families were reduced to beggary.  Many churches were shut up, and the people ready to mutiny for want of ministers…  The cries of the people reached the court; the Secretary [Cecil] wrote to the Archbishop [Parker] to supply the churches, and release the prisoners; but his grace was inexorable, and had rather the people should have no sermons or sacraments, than have them without the surplice and cap……the suspended ministers thought it their duty to lay their case before the world; accordingly they published a small treatise this year [1566], in vindication of their conduct, entitled, “a declaration of the doings of those ministers of God’s word and sacrament in the City of London, which have refused to wear the upper apparel, and ministering garments of the Pope’s church.”[84]

Despite Parkhurst’s favorable or indifferent tendencies towards Puritans, he was incapable of protecting the ministers in his diocese, who refused to swear the oath of subscription.  Many able preachers in Norfolk and Suffolk were deprived of their livings and barred from their parish churches.  Communities which had enjoyed the ministering of their able preachers were suddenly deprived of their spiritual leader.  They deeply felt the loss and many came to the aid of their priests through repeated petitioning to their bishop or directly to their prince.  The following petition on behalf of a Mr. Lawrence from the Blythburgh area of Suffolk is an apt illustration of parishioner’s reaction to the loss of their preacher:

“Our humble commendations and duties remembered unto your grace.  Great necessity doth occasion us to write unto you, for one Mr. Lawrence, a late preacher, of whom we have good experience, both in his modesty’s faultless life, and sound doctrine, who hath been well exercised amongst us this five to six years with great diligence; he commonly preached twice every Sunday, and many times on the working days, if there chanced any marriages or funerals, and that he did of his own charge, never taking anything, as his enemies cannot accuse him neither of that nor yet of anything else justly worthy of reproach, and so we testified unto your Grace’s visitors, and desired them he might continue his preaching still, for we knew very well that we should have great need of him, and now we see it more evident, for here is not one preacher in a great circuit, viz., from Blith borough [Blythburgh] to Ipswich, which is 20 miles distance, and 10 miles in breadth along by the sea coast, in the which circuit he was wont to travel…  dated 28Oct1567, signed: Robert Wingfield, William Hopton, Robert Hopton, William Caundish, Thomas Petton, Thomas Colby (of Beccles), and Thomas Playlesse [aka Playters][85]

The deprivation of which this petition speaks clearly came about as a result of the mandatory subscription issued by Archbishop Parker.  Just when the commissioners visited the Suffolk region is not certain, but may have been in the Summer of 1566.  From this lone petition the extent of deprivations in Suffolk and Norfolk can be deduced.  The statement in this petition that the region between Blithburgh and Ipswich was without one “preacher” speaks to the widespread character of non-conformity in East Anglia.  Within that area alone there may have been as many as 15 to 20 ministers deprived of their living.

By 1570 the dearth of good preaching ministers in many dioceses led some Bishops to embark on an in-service training program described as ‘Prophesying’ in an attempt to elevate the competencies of their ministers.  ‘Prophesyings’ were meetings at which short sermons were preached by a designated minister on a pre-selected subject, followed by open question and answer sessions by the other attending clergy, and/or laity.  The object of prophesyings was to inform, educate and train both the clergy and the laity.  In 1574 Archbishop Parker became concerned that prophesyings were being used for the furtherance of Puritan and nonconformist ideas, particularly in Norwich diocese, and informed the Queen of those concerns.  Being alerted to the possible subversive character of these prophesyings, the Queen issued a private order for Parker to suppress prophesyings, beginning with the diocese at Norwich.  Bishop Parkhurst, being of the opinion that the prophesyings were beneficial to the overall ministry within Norwich, appealed to the Privy Council and received a temporary reprieve.  Such action triggered a ‘cease and desist’ order “on pain of Her Majesty’s high displease”.  Parkhurst was forced once again to comply with Royal orders with which he took no comfort, making certain it was known that the ‘distasteful’ directive came from the Archbishop.

It was during this period of prophesying that Elizabeth and her Archbishop moved to further solidify the Act of Uniformity.  Although the 39 Articles had been drafted in 1563, they had failed to receive parliamentary approval.  As already described hereinbefore, the Queen and her Archbishop took stern measures in an attempt to force compliance.  It was not until the Pope excommunicated Queen Elizabeth in Feb1571 that she took steps to obtain Parliamentary approval, which act was passed later that same year.  Emboldened by this new ‘legal authority’, the Queen and her Archbishop proceeded with even more rigor against non-conformists.  The universities, and specifically Thomas Cartwright were made primary targets, thus beginning a long-running conflict between John Whitgift and the Puritan party.  Whitgift succeeded in altering the constitutions of Cambridge in 1571, thereby forcing removal of Thomas Cartwright, first from his college professorship and then from his fellowship as Lady Margaret’s Chair of Divinity.  Cartwright, under threat of imprisonment, was forced to take refuge on the Continent.  While in exile, Cartwright lent his support to the parliamentary debate over church reformation triggered by Field’s and Wilcox’s An Admonition to the Parliament

Dissenters were driven even further underground.  The Archbishop had a network of spies in virtually every parish in the land, charged with observing church practices and reporting any perceived violations to Canterbury.  Members of the clergy and the laity alike were hauled into court on a range of nefarious charges, and violators were compelled to take oaths, responses to which became the principal basis for judgments.  Plaintiffs were assessed severe fines, frequently causing their financial ruin.  16th and 17th century ‘justice’ offered virtually none of the safeguards so familiar to modern civilization, i.e., presumption of innocence, probable cause, self-incrimination, habeas corpus, jury of peers, facing one’s accusers, reasonable doubt. 

Norwich in the 16th century was the 2nd largest city in England after London.  Norwich Cathedral was the seat of the Diocese of Norwich, which encompassed most of the County of Norfolk and a greater part of the County of Suffolk, inclusive of the town of Bury St. Edmunds.  On the death of John Parkhurst on 2Feb1575, Edmund Freke was elevated to Bishop of Norfolk.  Parkhurst, having been a Marian exile was exposed to Calvinist beliefs while in Switzerland.  On the ascension of Elizabeth I, Parkhurst returned to England and was elected Bishop of Norwich in 1560.  During his 15-years at Norwich, Parkhurst was considered somewhat indifferent toward Puritan reformation within his diocese, and often is charged with allowing non-conformity and dissent among parish ministers under his care.  Bishop Freke, on the other hand, was committed to curbing any and all signs of dissent, and almost immediately upon elevation to the See commenced actions against all non-conforming members of his clergy.  In the early 1570’s the practice of “prophesying” had been in full bloom in Norwich, led in large part by Thomas Roberts and John More and with the blessing of Bishop Parkhurst.  However, the death of John Parkhurst in Feb1575 and installation of Edmund Freke as Bishop of Norwich in Jun1575 marked a shift from tolerance and indifference in the diocesan order to one of strict conformity and intolerance.  The death of Archbishop Parker in Jun1575 brought further changes to key positions within the church: Edmund Grindal was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury on 26Jul1575 (confirmed in Feb1575/6), Edwin Sandys was translated from Bishop of London to Archbishop of York in 1576, and John Aylmer was appointed Bishop of London on 13Mar1577.  Whitgift, Freke, Grindal and Aylmer are particularly important to this story of Robert Browne and the rise of Brownism, as they were all sitting in positions of power within the church during Browne’s metamorphosis into the leader of the separatist movement.

In spite of the efforts to suppress prophesying within the church in the early to mid 1570’s, the practice of prophesying in most diocese within the church was still being conducted when Edmund Grindal was confirmed Archbishop of Canterbury.  Throughout his ministerial career Grindal had been a strong advocate for elevating the competencies of clergymen under his charge.  This was particularly noticeable when he was elevated to Archbishop of York in Jun1570 and found the clergy in his new See to be heavily papist in leaning:

“He found the greater part of the gentry in the north opposed to reformation, and the common people sunk in ignorance and superstition.  So great indeed was the contrast between this part of the country and the southern parts, that the archbishop observed to Sir William Cecil, “This seems to be, as it were, another church, rather than a member of the rest.”  To remedy these evils the archbishop, with as little delay as possible, instituted a metropolitical visitation, beginning on 15May1571, prorogued from time to time, until 10Oct1572…  By the prudent management of the archbishop, and especially by his diligence in providing men of piety and learning for the ministry, he succeeded in greatly improving the condition of this province.”[86]

Almost immediately upon his confirmation as Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Grindal found himself in opposition to the edicts of the Queen:

“He had scarcely completed a year from the time of his nomination to the primacy, when he had the misfortune to fall under the Queen’s displeasure, from which, although occasionally afterwards received some tokens of her friendly regard, he never entirely emerged.  The cause of this displeasure can be but briefly state…  It may suffice in this place to observe, that the archbishop looked with favourable eye upon the exercises, called prophesyings, considering that they might, notwithstanding certain incidental inconveniences, be made, in the main, subservient to the same cause of true religion.  “The archbishop believed this mismanagement accidental [incidental] to the meetings: he though the design was serviceable for the improvement of the people and the clergy; and therefore endeavored to make it answer upon experiment, and bring the practice up to the plan…  Thus the archbishop endeavoured to guard against the abuse, and continue the exercise.  But the Queen was of a different sentiment.  She thought these meetings gave encouragement to novelty, and made people ramble in their fancy, and neglect their affairs; that their curacy was too much indulged; and their heads overcharged with notions by these discourses; and that, by raising disputes and forming parties, things might possibly grow up to a public disturbance.  She told the archbishop, the kingdom was over-furnished with instructions of this nature; that she would have the exercise of prophesying suppresses, the preachers reduced to a smaller number, and homilies read instead of sermons.  She conceived that 3 or 4 preachers in a county might be sufficient, and that therefore licenses for the pulpit should be granted with more reserve…  Grindal, to give him his due, was a prelate of more conscience and courage, than to be dazzled with the lustre of a court, to resign against his judgment, and be overruled into insignificancy.”[87]

Edmund Grindal forcibly took his stand in writing to the Queen stating that the continued practice of prophesying was in his view vital to the health and religious cure of the commonwealth.  For his obstinacy the Queen ordered Grindal suspended from his duties and sequestered.  She then proceeded to issue an order directly to the bishops to suppress the practice of prophesying within their diocese.  For whatever reason, the Queen did not take the ultimate step to have Grindal removed from his office as archbishop, but rather left him in limbo until his death in Jul1583.  These circumstances left zealotous bishops like Edmond Freke, Bishop of Norwich and John Aylmer, Bishop of London virtually unchecked in their relentless campaigns against non-conformists, and particularly against those who dared to preach from the gospels.

Not long after his confirmation as Bishop of Norwich [1575], Edmond Freke participated in a visitation of his diocese resulting in the suspension of several non-conforming clergymen.  At a court held 13May1576 at St. George’s Church mssrs. R. H[arvey]., Vincent Goodman and John Mapes were suspended.  The full identity of R. H. is uncertain, but generally believed to have been a minister of the Yarmouth area named Robert Harvey, deprived of his living be Bishop Freke.  At least one writer has suggested that this R.H. was actually Robert Harrison, however, that seems highly unlikely, as Harrison is not known to have been ordained and would not have been “deprived of his living”, unless perhaps he had been serving as a lecturer or otherwise preaching without a license.  These actions against non-conforming ministers triggered a letter of complaint dated 25Sep1576 to the Lords of the Council as follows:

“If the Bishop proceede to urge them [the ceremonies] as he hath begun, surely it will bring a wonderful ruine to this Church here in Norwich and round about.  There be already 19 or 20 godly exercises of preaching and catechizing put down in this city by the displacing of those preachers.  The excellent estate of so happy a city beginneth already hereby to be wonderfully altered from her former comely beauty to teares and mourning when she seeth godly pastors violently pulled from her…  If you can do anything with our Bishop [Freke], move him to be more earnest with the Papists [than with the Puritan],” etc., Signed John More, George Leeds, Richard Cricke, Richard Dowe, Thomas Roberts and William Harte.”[88]

John More was the long-standing minister of St. Andrew’s Church in Norwich, whereas Thomas Roberts held the post of Archdeacon in the Norwich diocese.  Richard Cricke had served as chaplain to Bishop Parkhurst just prior to Parkhurst’s death, but on accession of Bishop Freke, Cricke returned to his benefice at Norwich.  As already presented, Robert Browne had chastised Robert Harrison as having been too closely guided by John More and Thomas Roberts.  Both More and Roberts were themselves suspended by Bishop Freke for their active support of suspended Puritan clergy within the diocese.  On 21Aug1578 John More and several other suspended clergymen of Norwich submitted yet another petition to Bishop Freke requesting that they be allowed to return to their parish churches and resume preaching, such petition included a promise to be more accepting of the prescribed ceremonies.

“The ministers underwritten right humbly crave favour to be restored to preaching upon subscription to all those articles which only concern the confession of the true Christian faith and doctrine of the sacraments, which be the words of the statute.  And as concerning the matter of ceremonies, order, and government, they acknowledge that they are so far tolerable that for the same a man ought to withdraw himself from hearing of the word of God and receipt of the sacraments, neither ought any minister for them to refuse to preach the word of God and to administer the sacrament.”

Signatories to this latest petition included John More, George Leeds, Richard Cricke, Richard Dowe, Thomas Roberts, Vincent Goodman and John Mapes.  Bishop Freke was not persuaded by this latest petition, and did not restore the minister’s licenses, but continued their sequestration.

In 1580 yet another petition was submitted by approximately 125 laity and ministers of Norwich diocese as follows:

“Therefore we, a great number of your matie loving and most true harted subjects, after supplication in time past made to your majestie, do now most bitterlie crie and complaine, and, humbling ourselves at the feete of your ma*, crave that, as your highnes by the favor of God, have bene the author of removing the doctrine of Antichrist, and planting the doctrine of Christ, the one part of the gospell : So it might seeme good to your highnes to fullfill up your happie work, by removing the government of Antichrist allso, with all his archprelates, and all his Court keepers, which keepe not the lordes Courtes, by planting that holie Eldership, the verie senew of Christs Church, which is so plainlie described and so waightilie authorised in Gods word, that it will not faile, but cite all the refusers therof, guiltie before Gods Judgment seat in the last daie : and by removing the dumbe ministrie, that horrible evill, which filleth hell paunch with the soules of the people, and by placing those ministers which have wherwith to feede Christs flocke, such as the word of the Lord shapeth out, which maie not be chosen by corrupt patrones which have nothing to doe therwith, but by the flock whose soules pertaine to the ministers charge, so that the judgement of the saide flocke in their choise be examined by a synode of lawfull ministers.”  Signers: “Richard Baxter, Thomas Carter, John Russell, Robert Feake, John Weld Senr., John Weld Junr., Robert Johnson, Edmund Skinner, John Knight Senr., John Miller, Robert Fulcher, John Blocke, Leonard Morley, John Knight Junr., Thomas Rochester, Anthony Snow, Hugh Brewer, Robart Hall, John Cordy, John Coulman, Thomas Newton, David Liles, John Middleton, Robart Church, Titus Norris, Randolph Smith, John Clarke, Lawrence I -amine, Henry Felbrigg, Thomas Skelton, Thomas Brett, John Frick, Richard Smith, Walter Sharp, Robert Cocket, John Murrell, Thomas Coppen, William Read, Wm Remington, John Browne, Barnaby Downing, Koger Welde, John Allens, John Reinold, John Dawes, William Coulman, Henry Coulman, Robert Coulman, William Dymes, Robert Knight, Richard Moore, William Knight, Nicholas Sayer, John Poole, John Lincon, Robert Butler, Nicholas Woodhouse, Robart Barker, Henry Barker, Gregory Houlton, Robart Elwin, James Wilson, Richard Letwin, John Franey, Thomas Parker, Gregory Glouer, Leonard Fasset, Thomas Cullier, William Roper, John Couper, Thomas Fulser, John Daines, Henry Erle, Walter Assey, Thomas Dove, Thomas Bird, Adam Crosman, Robart Eldred, Thomas Seman, George Paine, Thomas Buxton, Edmund Thurston, Anthony Blomefield, John Chambers, William Badson, John Miles Senr., John Miles Junr., John Cotterell, William Fenne, William Seman, William Purdy, John Deacon, Peter Cullier, John Wix, John Baxter, William Edwards, Thomas Lincon, George Water, Robert Browne, Stephen Wix, Thomas Pett, Robert Pett, Robert Wardin, Wm Sharwin, William Gould, Robt. Harison, Anthony Ayleston, John Vase, Matthew Herman, William Woodes, John Flower, John Skipp, Nicholas Reding, John Miles, John Raye, John Sharp, John Nolles, (or Nobbes) William Atkinson, George Shorten, Robert Miles, John Harne, Michael Brooke, Robert Davy, Richard Cooke”

In the archives this petition bears the date of 1583, yet there is strong evidence to suggest that its date should actually be sometime in 1580.  Just the mere fact that Robert Browne and Robert Harrison were signers of this petition certainly must place its date several years before 1583, as Browne and Harrison had already taken strong measures toward the formation of their separatist church by 1583, and therefore, would have been ill disposed toward supporting any measure of adherence to the established order of the National Church. 

Thus it has been demonstrated that Norwich diocese (which included a large part of Suffolk County) had a long history of non-conformity and dissent prior to Robert Browne’s decision to target that region for the spread of his reformation vision.  Although Browne and Harrison appear to have leant their support in 1580 to the cause of deprived ministers in the region, it must be noted that their ultimate decision to promote separation from the mother church was not supported by those very same Puritan ministers to whose side Browne and Harrison had rallied.  In fact, by 1583-4 many of those deprived ministers had capitulated with Bishop Freke and Archbishop Whitgift in open opposition to Browne’s separatists.  So, while Robert Browne had envisioned Norwich being a ‘fertile field’ in which to sow his separatist ideology, he in fact found only few within the established clergy willing to join in the ultimate act of schism.  From other correspondence of that period it would appear that Browne’s message of separation was rejected by many of the so-called ‘Puritan’ ministers of the region, whose complaints led to Browne’s apprehension:

19Apr1581 – Freke to Burleigh: 

“Being informed of many disorders in the town of Bury [St. Edmunds] and country thereabouts, as well in the clergy as in the laity; whereof, besides the general complaint, the High Commissioners of Bury… advertised me thereof by letters, requiring me to take order therein, I did of late, in person, with others of my associates in Commission Ecclesiastical for these parts, visit the said town.  In the which, finding great divisions amongst the people, some whereof are very desirous in dutiful affection, to have her Majesty’s proceeding observed; others, on the contrary, being given to fantastical innovations; there were, moreover, divers matters of importance exhibited and proved against Mr. Handson, who is, in very deed, the only man there blowing the coals whereof this fire is kindled…  And herewith I send unto your lordship other articles ministered against one Robert Browne, a minister, and his several answers thereto; the said party being lately apprehended in the country, upon complaint made by godly preachers, for delivering unto the people corrupt and contentious doctrine, containing and set down more at large in the same article.  His arrogant spirit of reproving being such as is to be marveled at, the man being also to be feared, lest, if he were at liberty, he would seduce the vulgar sort of the people, who greatly depend on him, assembling themselves, to the number of a hundred at a time, in private houses and conventicles to hear him, not without danger of some thereabouts…”[89]

In the foregoing letter from Bishop Freke to Lord Burghley it is documented that Robert Browne was arrested sometime just prior to April1581, probably at or near Bury St. Edmunds, based on complaints filed by other clergymen of that area that Browne was spreading “corrupt and contentious” doctrine at private conventicles.

21Apr1581 – Burleigh to Freke

“…whereas, I understand, that one Browne, a preacher, is by your lordship and others of the ecclesiastical commission, committed to the custody of the sheriff of Norfolk, where he remains a prisoner, for some matters of offence uttered by him by way of preaching…  Forasmuch as he is my kinsman, if he be the son of whom I take him to be, and that his error seemeth to proceed of zeal, rather than malice, I do therefore wish he were charitably conferred with and reformed…”[90]

In reply to Bishop Freke’s report, Burghley acknowledges Robert Browne to have been his kinsman (a nephew threw marriage) and rises to Browne’s defense, suggesting that he believed Browne would respond favorably to conference and counseling.

25Jul1581 – Sir Robert Jermyn to Burleigh

“Mr. Browne, a minister, coming by chance to Bury [St. Edmunds], and advertisement being given unto me, I sent for him, and moved him with reasons I had to be careful of his proceeding, advising him, first, to consider what affection towards his well-being your lordship had showed in his deliverance; then, how dangerous his course seemed in the opinion of the many godly and honest men, and how ready the adversaries of the truth would be (if the end of this his singular conceit might not be warranted with the word and Christian policy) to slander and discredit the profession and professors of the truth.  His answers, I must needs say, had many things that were godly and reasonable, and, as I think, to be wished and prayed for; but at the same time some other things strange and unsound…”[91]

Apparently acting on Lord Burghley’s request for restraint and reasoning in treating with his ‘kinsman’, Sir Robert Jermyn presided over the court in which Robert Browne’s case was heard.  At that time Robert Jermyn held the office of High Sheriff for Suffolk County, and sat on a commission of justices at the Angel Inn in Bury St. Edmunds.  Jermyn was a reputed ‘Puritan’ supporter, and arch enemy of Bishop Freke.  However even as a staunch supporter of ‘puritanical’ reformation, Jermyn seems to have readily recognized some ‘strange and unsound’ aspects in Robert Browne’s religious doctrine and discipline.

2Aug1581 – Freke to Burleigh

“May it please your lordship to understand, though Mr. Browne’s late coming into my diocese, and teaching strange and dangerous doctrine in all disordered manner, hath greatly troubled the whole country, and brought to great disobedience of all laws and magistrates, yet by the good aid and help of the Lord Chief Justice, and Mr. Justice Anderson, his associate, the chiefest of such factions were so bridled, and the rest of their followers so greatly dismayed, as I verily hope of much good and quietness to have thereof ensued, had not the said Browne now returned, contrary to my expectation, and greatly prejudiced these their good proceedings, who having private meetings in such close and secret manner as that I know not possibly how to suppress the same…  if it would please your lordship to give me your good advice, how to prevent such dangers as, through the strange dealings of some of the gentlemen in Suffolk about Bury [surely a reference to the petitions concerning the discharge of Handson and Gayton], is like to ensue…  — will in time, I fear me, hazard overthrow of all religion, if it be not in due time wisely prevented.”[92]

The quick succession of only about one week elapsing between Jermyn’s letter to Burghley, and this letter from Freke to Burghley, suggests that Robert Browne immediately returned to clandestine preaching about Bury St. Edmunds after his release from jail.

It would appear that Robert Browne was in East Anglia for only about two years, yet during that brief period, part of which was spent as a prisoner at Norwich and Bury, he was able to spread his ‘strange and dangerous doctrine’ in a manner which ‘hath troubled the whole country, and brought great disobedience of all laws and magistrates’ according to Bishop Freke.  Yet evidence exists that ‘disobedience’ in observance of church discipline and doctrine had been rife in East Anglia since before the reign of Queen Mary. 

As of 1Sep1578 John Copping [executed 6Jun1583 for distributing Robert Browne books] already had been in jail at Bury St. Edmunds for two years for his dissenting views.  In spite of repeated attempts by the Commissioners to dissuade him of his radical views, Copping clung to his beliefs, and, moreover even as a prisoner was perceived as a threat within the community around Bury:

“In his conversation with friends who came to see him, he disseminated his views, and many were convinced by his statements.  It was necessary, therefore, in their opinion (his jailers), that steps should immediately be taken to remove him from prison, because of the harm done by his sentiments to the people of Bury.  But if removed to any other place there would be equal danger that the infection of his sentiments would spread.  The officers were directed to watch him closely, and to note down any words that might be spoken by him that would warrant his indictment for a capital offence.”

Ecclesiastically, Bury St. Edmunds was different from the rest of the Norwich diocese, and it may have been this unique character that drew Robert Browne to the area:

“Ecclesiastically, Bury was an anomaly. Although it lay within the deanery of Thingoe, the town formed part of the Liberty of St Edmundsbury which, until 1539, was an ecclesiastical peculiar in the hands of the Abbey. With the dissolution, control had lapsed into the hands of the Bishop of Norwich who was represented in Bury by an Episcopal commissary. In 1575, Freke had appointed Dr John Day to the post, whose complaints to the Bishop concerning the magistrates’ actions served as a prelude to Freke’s attack on the Justices of the Peace. Although the Archdeacon of Sudbury, Dr John Still, also held his court in Bury, he possessed no jurisdiction within the town itself. The two parishes of St James and St Mary were each served by a minister and a preacher, and the parishioners themselves, supported by the magistrates [Jermyn, Higham, etal.], insisted on their right to choose their own ministers, a point of no small contention with Bishop Freke who tried unsuccessfully on two occasions to install his own candidates.  In this loose state of affairs the town preachers were an important but divisive element.”[93]

6Aug1582 – A petition signed by 174 of the inhabitants of Bury St. Edmunds was sent to the Privy Council requesting leniency for John Handson and James Gayton, former ministers of their parish church, who had been deprived of their livings because of false accusations brought against them by a group of citizens in Bury hostile to their manner of preaching sermons.  This was the 2nd of three such petitions between 1578 and 1582 to either Lord Burleigh or the Privy Council at the height of a series of religious controversies known as the “Bury Stirs”.  These so-called “stirs” in and around Bury St. Edmunds involved a variety of persons from Edmund Freke, Bishop of Norwich and the Eastern Assize judges to the neighboring gentry, clergy, townspeople and villagers.  J. S. Craig describes the stirs as follows:

“A servant of Sir Thomas Kitson argued that the hostility between the conservative gentleman Robert Drury of Roughham and the puritan minister Oliver Pigg, lay at the heart of the troubles.  Archbishop Whitgift gave prominence of place to the group of Brownists when he described the controversies of the time ‘when the pretended Reformation was begun there, without staying for the magistrate, as term was then’.  Most historians since Strype have focused upon the wrangling, between the Bishop of Norwich and the group of Suffolk magistrates led by Sir Robert Jermyn and Sir John Higham.  Yet there was considerably more to the Bury stirs than the series of charges and counter-charges between the magistrates and the Bishop.  Largely overlooked in this tale is the part played by the Bury townsmen…  The three peitions (which represented a total of 217 townsmen) on behalf of the town preachers (Handson and Gayton) have already been introduced.  Other inhabitants gathered ‘to the number of an hundred at a time in private houses and conventicles’ to hear the separatist Robert Browne declaim his radical views, ‘not without danger of some ill event’, or so Bishop Freke feared.”[94]

The quotation cited by Craig as attributed to Whitgift, ‘without staying for the magistrate’, is a clear allusion to Robert Browne’s call to separation from the National Church, which was published sometime in 1582, probably at Middleburg, and entitled A Treatise of Reformation without Tarrying for Any.  Although Robert Browne is credited with many important works, his Treatise without Tarrying was perhaps his most singularly important work, for it was within this treatise that he set forth his rationale and argument for separating from the National Church.  Whether Browne coined this phraseology or whether it may have been borrowed from earlier sectaries is uncertain.  It is clear from the record that separatist practices had been present in East Anglia for several decades prior to the arrival of Robert Browne, engaging large parts of Cambridge, Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.  In Browne’s time there were regular meetings of separatist conventicles in Suffolk; not just at Bury, but in neighboring towns and villages:

“There were separatists in the towns of Thetford and Mildenhall as well, so that the controversies can be seen to be affecting much of the region of West Suffolk. William Dennis of Thetford was hanged for his separatist views in the same year as Copping and Thacker, and from 1584 to 1586 a group in Mildenhall was being instructed by Thomas Settle, a fiery preacher who spent much of the 1590s in gaol for his separatist beliefs.”[95]

The above referenced Thomas Settle, minister, is believed by the author to have been the same person who performed the marriage of Christopher Bowman (an elected deacon of the Greenwood-Johnson church of London) at the home of John Penry around 1592.  Thomas Settell, minister of Cow Lane, Smithfield, aged 38 years, was arrested at a conventicle in St. Nicholas Lane in London in Dec1592.  The fact that Thomas Settell was actively ministering at conventicles in West Suffolk in and around Bury St. Edmunds not long after Browne and Harrison moved their separatist “church” to Middleburg, and several years later was actively ministering within the “ancient church” of Barrowes and Greenwood in London, is clear evidence of a connectivity between the separatists of East Anglia and those of the “ancient church” in London.  These facts further suggest that some elements of the separatist activists of East Anglia very likely were closely allied with the so-called Brownists of Middleburg and London:

“After 1583, this was most clearly seen in the support given to the widows of the men who had died for the Brownist cause. When Wyther drew up his will in 1588 he left 6s. 8d. each to the widows of Copping and Thacker, as well as to the widow Tyler whose husband languished in Bury gaol for more than eight years on account of his separatist views, until his death in 1586. Thomas Stasye, who signed both petitions in 1582, was not as wealthy nor as prolix as Wyther, simply bequeathing his soul into the hands of Almighty God, but he may well have been one of the separatists.  When his ‘welbeloved wife Joan’ came to draw up her will in 1589, she did not forget to leave ‘a possnet, a smocke, a nechar chew, a bolster, an apron and two Cushens to Good wife tiller and a hatt and black gowne to goody copen’ [Copping].  William Johnson, who signed all three petitions, was one of those ‘persons thought and comonlye reputed precise and such as observe not order’ who met for times of extemporaneous prayer in an upper chamber in the Barrow Inn in Mildenhall and at Johnson’s home in Bury,’and all their prayers were agaynst the Queen’s majestie’.”

During his almost seven-year imprisonment at Bury Copping underwent frequent inquisition and records of his statements were carefully recorded and are still in existence.  Among other things some of Copping’s most damning views are as follows:

  • Refused to have his children baptized by none but a “faithful Christian” minister, and would not allow godparents.
  • Averred that the Queen had failed to carry out the full purpose of reformation in the National Church as she had promised on accession, and therefore was “perjured”.

May1583 John Copping and Elias Thacker were arraigned, not for treasonable speech, rather for circulation of books written by Robert Browne and Robert Harrison, whereas Thomas Gibson was arraigned at that same time for having painted a biblical inscription on a statue of the Queen at Bury.  Five justices, including Sir Robert Jermyn, appealed on behalf of the prisoners that leniency be shown in their treatment, but to no avail.  On 4Jun1583 Thacker was executed at Bury, and Copping was similarly dispatched two days thereafter.

“The family of the duchess [of Suffolk] was connected with Bury St. Edmunds, in Suffolk, and probably in that town the same facilities were afforded.  It is certain, at least, that it became the center of wide spread Puritan influence.  Unconsciously, to a great extent, the earnest preaching of several ministers in the district, prepared the way for the more advanced principles of the Separatists.  The growing interest felt in the ministration of the gospel we may infer from the following address to the Privy Council, signed by upwards of 170 of the inhabitants,…  “Your honors are not ignorant that our town hath been of long time instructed in the gospel of salvation by many, but in these latter years most plentifully and painfully taught by two godly and faithful ministers, Mr. Handson and Mr. Gayton.  The first whereof hath been about 10 years a preacher among us, the other about 5 years…  from Bury St. Edmunds, 6Aug1582.”…  But there were at the time men in the common prison of Bury St. Edmunds who were prepared to sacrifice their lives that the truth might be maintained in its divine simplicity, and free from all worldly accretions…  The views of the separatists were now earnestly advocated by Robert Browne…  His appeal to the New Testament in a manner that secured conviction in the minds of thoughtful men was anxious, in all things, to act according to the divine standard.  John Copping and Elias Thacker, in conjunction with others, were active in promoting the circulation of his [Browne’s] books.”[96]

And lastly, before leaving Bury St. Edmunds it is well worth noting the case of Oliver Pigg, who reposed in gaol at Bury during the same period that Copping and Thacker were incarcerated.  Although the case of Oliver Pigg involved a man of conscientious objection to the ‘ceremonies’, he must be considered a moderate Puritan, not a separatist.  Oliver Pigg had served as a minister at Rougham, just a few miles southeast of Bury.  His main offense seems to have been an objection to child baptism, at least in the form of the prescribed order of service.  Pigg recognized an incongruence in the established service which required the child to answer the following “wilt thou be baptized in this faith”.  Fully aware of the child’s limited cognitive development at the tender age of only a few weeks, Pigg rather directed the question to the parents; an act which was in clear violation of the Book of Common Prayer.  For his forwardness, Pigg was arrested and charged with non-conformity.  Recognizing that he faced complete financial ruin from the loss of his benefice, he attempted to mitigate his actions, stating that:

“I do nothing maliciously, obstinately, or stubbornly, nor with a contemptuous mind, but only for that I would gladly have my conscience persuaded of the matter, being a thing wherein I hope your honours understand divers godly and greatly learned men, that were never condemned of heresy or schism, have doubted as well as I and never yielded in it.  But I do from my heart, detest these evil proceedings of Browne, Harrison, and their favourers, and I trust your lordships will see that I am careful to conform myself, so much as to the comfort of my conscience I may do…”[97]

From the foregoing it would seem that Oliver Pigg may have been at some point an adherent to the separatist movement in and around Bury, but, when faced with the harsh realities attendant to non-conformity, was quick to moderate his views and to openly express detestation toward the ‘evil proceedings’ of separation from the mother church.  For his seeming betrayal, Pigg was labeled a ‘turncoat’ by Justice Davies.  The fact that Pigg felt compelled to clearly distinguish and set himself apart from ‘brownists’ is further evidence of the foot-hold that Robert Browne and his followers had achieved at Bury St. Edmunds, even though Browne and Harrison had already moved their new church to Middleburg the previous year.

As already stated, very little documentation actually remains of Robert Browne’s early life aside from his own written account contained in A True and Short Declaration.  However, a fuller description of Robert Browne’s life after graduating college may be found online at Ex Libris website, a portion of which has been extracted hereinafter:

 “The term Brownism, or Brownists was not an uncommon generic designation for certain early Separatists after 1600. The designations Brownists, Independents, and Separatists were often used somewhat interchangeably by Church agents for those nonconformists with conventicles, who had broken their ties with the Church of England.

There is some information to suggest that Browne may have sought out a former clergyman turned Separatist, a Thomas Wosley (d. 1612?).  Wosley may have had some early dissident influence on Browne’s and Harrison’s nonconformist thinking before 1582.  Wosley continued his own Separatist activities in the East Anglia area which usually found him in or out jail during the remainder of his life.  Wosley may have some additional distinction of influence on yet another prominent Separatist of the period, Robert Barrow, the future Barrowist divine.  Refer to Figure 4-19 for a map of the East Anglia region and various locations central to this investigation of Brownism.

There is some indication that Browne may have drawn upon the large immigrant community of Dutch wool worker population living in the Norwich area, and especially those with possible Anabaptist leanings.  This may also have been a major draw for Barrow in developing his new theological tenets, and for building a church membership.

1581 was a busy year for Browne, who was now lodging with his old college friend Robert Harrison (at Norwich) (154?-1585?).  Browne and Harrison discussed establishing their own Separatist congregation in early 1581. Norwich at this period was a major city, and with a large foreign community of Dutch workers (almost 30% of the population) in the new local craft industries.  Browne was a good preacher, and many may have come to hear his new spiritual message.  Browne saw Norwich as a good prospect (for converts), and Harrison’s knowledge of the area would also be a major benefit. 

The new congregation was started with Browne being elected as pastor, and Harrison as the Teacher.  The congregation structure was based on a new system which became known as Congregationalism.  An individual independent congregation, voted on, and elected its primary officers designated as Minister, Elders, and Teacher, some congregations might include additional officers, as needed.  The Minister functioned as the chief officer, and pastor.  This biography intimates that Browne’s preaching activities were centered at Norwich at this time period.  However, there is strong evidence found elsewhere to suggest that Browne’s activities at this time may actually have been centered in Suffolk County in the vicinity of Bury St. Edmunds.  The actual location of Browne between the time he graduated from Cambridge around 1572 and the time he and Harrison moved to Middleburg, Netherlands in 1582/3 is not altogether certain.  There is very little actual record of Browne’s existence before about1578.

The new congregation became a sore point for the local clergy of the Church of England, who were losing members to Browne and Harrison.  Recent activity from the local church authorities may have prompted a decision by the congregation to move their Norwich congregation to Middelburgh, Zeeland, Holland.  Browne and Harrison with most of their congregation in tow moved between May and August 1582.  The residue of their original Norwich congregation may have continued to reside in Norwich into the 17th Century.

Browne’s major tracts: “A Book which sheweth the Life and Manners of all true Christians” (1582); “A Treatise upon 23. of Matthew and, Treatise of Reformation Without Tarrying for Anie” (1582) the latter his major theological work was published in Holland.  The books were quickly banned by the authorities (in England).  Browne called for immediate reforms to be enacted within the Church of England.

During 1583, the writings of Browne and Harrison were being sold in England.  By mid-1583 a Proclamation was issued against the buying, selling or possession of the works of Robert Browne, and Robert Harrison.  Two individuals, John Copping (d.1583) and Elias Thacker (d. 1583) were former members of Browne’s Norwich congregation.  They were both arrested, tried, and hanged for selling Browne’s and Harrison’s seditious writings that same year.  Browne, the writer was free at large in Holland while others were being arrested and hung for just selling his books in England.

Harrison came to represent the major religious views within the congregation (at Middleburg).  Browne soon found himself voted out of his own congregation during 1583.

Browne with a small band of faithful followers sailed to Scotland.  He may have hoped to establish himself at Edinburgh in Canongate (Burgh) just outside the city walls near the Holyrood Abbey.  Barrow [Browne?] was soon called before the local city church authorities to explain his religious writings, and his theology views.  Brown soon found himself under local house arrest by the Church authorities, and was jailed.  Being in Scotland, Browne had little access to outside intervention [by his countryman, Lord Burghley], and was looking at an undetermined length of confinement.

Browne would then travel about Scotland with his small entourage looking for new potential converts to his own dissident message for a new congregation.  Calvinist Scotland was not overly receptive to Browne’s new religious message.  Browne graced a few more Scottish jails and prisons during his travels there in search of converts.  Possibly from some feelings of despair or regrets over the lack of response to this message, the periods of jail time, or his poor health considerations Browne may have been drawn back to England, and to his family home (in Rutland).

Browne returned back to England during the summer of 1584, sick in body and spirit.  The Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury wanted to question Browne concerning the distribution of his dissident writings, i.e. the Proclamation of 1583.  He was held, questioned, jailed and then released for lack of adequate evidence against him.  He may still have had some political cover [from Lord Burghley] at the time. As soon as Browne’s health had improved he had started to write and publish again.  He was soon arrested and jailed again possibly for his writings.  He was released again probably by family assistance. 

Unable to confine him, the Church was still anxious to keep a watchful eye on Browne and his movements while he was back in England.  In 1586, Browne was allowed to be transferred to Stamford, the ancestral family seat, where he would slowly recover from his health issues.  By early spring of 1586, he had recovered enough to begin to preach probably without a preaching license again.  He was arrested, and brought up on charges to appear before Bishop Howard of Peterborough for his illegal preaching activities, and his dissident writings.  Browne would ignore the summons, and failed to appear before Bishop Howard as directed.  For these reasons, Bishop Howard would have Browne excommunicated from the Church of England, a very grave action for Browne.

The threat of a pending excommunication had major social and political consequences for Browne, and his family.  Just the threat of excommunication may have been the catalysis for Browne to re-evaluate his current relationship with Bishop Howard, and the Church of England.  After probably some major politics, a compromise was finally proposed to Browne to mend his ways.  Browne had a simple choice to make, compromise or excommunication.  Browne may have preferred his own personal freedom in England, and the honour of the family name which may have been more important to him than just giving some half-hearted recanting to the Church authorities of his own theological principles.  The real reasons behind his actions may never be known.  This decision by Browne to capitulate with the Church of England was viewed by many of his followers as a betrayal of his formerly espoused beliefs.  However, there is some evidence to suggest that Browne had not forsaken his separatist ideologies, but simply suppressed them in order to survive and continue his work, clandestinely.  He may have felt that martyrdom would not serve his purpose.  The fact that the Separatist Church of London was born at the same time that Browne served as headmaster at Southwark Grammar School is more than a faint suggestion that he had a hidden hand in that church’s formation and growth.

Browne was able to facilitate a reconciliation agreement with the Church of England probably through the good offices of his family, his kinsman, and possibly with assistance from Lord Burghley (William Cecil), Queen Elizabeth’s Lord High Treasurer.  The Church probably considered Browne now as a full member of the Church of England and was probably considered good public relations.  Any recanting of his writings might have an impact on his followers.

In return for his fulfilling these requirements Browne was offered the position of Head Master of St. Olaves Grammar School (1586-91) in Southwark.  Browne had returned to his former profession in Southwark.  There are some indications to suggest that Browne may have had some backsliding during this period.

A Brownist conventicle was discovered near Southwark (London) in Oct. 1587, its pastor and members of the congregation were arrested.  Its membership included some former members of Brownes’ Middelburgh (Holland) congregation (1583-85).

This independent congregation was under the leadership of John Greenwood (d.1593), a former puritan clergyman turned Independent.  There is no direct evidence to associate Browne to this particular conventicle.  Greenwood became associated with Henry Barrow (1550?-1593), at the start of the Barrowist movement, a more radical form of Brownist polity.”  The author believes that it was no coincidence that Browne should become headmaster at Southwark in the same years that the London Separatist Church was organized. 

The main body of the foregoing biographical sketch on the life of Robert Browne was extracted from the Ex Libris website.[98]  The author believes that this biography contains generally factual and reliable information about key events related to the life of Robert Browne, intermixed with assumption and speculation.  Some readers may think this information about Robert Browne to be excessive, but the author believes it is necessary in order to understanding the events that followed related to the Atterburys/Arthurburys.  To place these events into a political construct, it should be remembered that King Henry VIII severed ties with the Church of Rome and established himself as the head of the Church of England.  In creating the imperial monarchy, Henry VIII solved one of his immediate dilemmas, dissolution of his marriage to his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, in order to remarry and hopefully produce a male heir.  However, from the perspective of the religious separatist, Henry had simply replaced one overbearing religious authority with another.  Under the Tudors, the popish trappings and practices of the Anglican Church were reinforced.  Immigration of foreign populations and their neo-Calvinist ideologies served to encourage the spread of separatist ideas in England.  Henry VIII’s successor, Edward VI, was a boy-King, dying in his 15th year of age, and led by a Regency:

“During Edward’s reign, the Church of England became more explicitly Protestant – Edward himself was fiercely so.  The Book of Common Prayer was introduced in 1549 [written mainly by Thomas Cranmer], aspects of Roman Catholic practices (including statues and stained glass) were to be eradicated and the marriage of clergy allowed.  The imposition of the Prayer Book (which replaced Latin services with English) led to rebellions in Cornwall and Devon. Despite his military ability, Seymour [Edward’s Chancellor] was too liberal to deal effectively with Kett’s rebellion against land enclosures in Norfolk [Norwich]. Seymour was left isolated in the Council and the Duke of Northumberland subsequently overthrew him in 1551. Seymour was executed in 1552, an event which was only briefly mentioned by Edward in his diary: ‘Today, the Duke of Somerset had his head cut off on Tower Hill.’ Northumberland took greater trouble to charm and influence Edward; his powerful position as Lord President of the Council was based on his personal ascendancy over the King.  However, the young king was ailing.  Northumberland hurriedly married his son Lord Guilford Dudley to Lady Jane Grey, one of Henry VIII’s great-nieces and a claimant to the throne.”

It was Edward VI, who sold Morden Manor to Whitchurch and Ducket in Mar1554, just one week before his death.  Whitchurch, after his expulsion from England by Queen Mary, married the widow of Thomas Cranmer, who had been executed by Mary.  Edward VI had pushed for even more protestant discipline within the Church of England than his father, before him, by the imposition of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, an act which only served to further antagonize and embolden the separatists.  The 1549 Book of Common Prayer was largely the work of Cardinal Cranmer, and printed by William Whitchurch, who later married Cranmer’s widow.  It was also during Edward’s reign that church attendance was made compulsory in the Act of Uniformity:

“In March 1552, a second Act of Uniformity was passed.  This made it an offence for any member of the clergy or laity not to attend a church service.  Offenders could be fined or imprisoned.  Cranmer’s new ‘Book of Common Prayer’ became the official basis for Church of England services.  All semblance of Catholicism was removed.  The Eucharist was confirmed as consubstantiation.  However, the more radical reformers found complaint with this as communicants were expected to kneel, which some deemed to be idolatrous…  To enforce doctrinal uniformity, a new Treason Act was passed which made it an offence to question any of the articles of faith of the Church of England.  It was also an offence to question royal supremacy [over the Church].”[99]

The return of the church to papal domination under Edward’s half-sister, Queen Mary[100], added fuel to the growing conflagration of the separatist movement.  Cambridge University was a breeding ground for liberal religious ideologies, which, in addition to preparing future clergymen for the Church of England, was also planting the seeds of dissention that would later bear fruit in the likes of Robert Browne, Robert Harrison, Henry Barrowes, Francis Johnson and countless others.  When Queen Elizabeth took the throne in 1558, she immediately strove to take a middle ground between Catholicism and Puritanism in hopes of healing wounds in both camps.  Toward this end a revised version of the Book of Common Prayer was issued, and the 39 Articles were drafted by Anglican scholars at Elizabeth’s behest.  The goal of these Articles was to provide answers and direction on the main issues of theology and doctrine which separated these disparate religious factions, described as follows:

“The Thirty-Nine Articles were not intended as a complete statement of the Christian faith, but of the position of the Church of England in relation to the Roman Catholic Church and dissident Protestants.[16]  The Articles argue against some Anabaptist positions such as the holding of goods in common and the necessity of believer’s baptism.[16]  The motivation for their production and enactment was the absence of a general consensus on matters of faith following the separation from Rome.[16]  There was a concern that dissenters who wanted the reforms to go much further (for example, to abolish hierarchies of bishops) would increase in influence.  Wishing to pursue Elizabeth’s agenda of establishing a national church that would maintain the indigenous apostolic faith and incorporate some of the insights of Protestantism, the Articles were intended to incorporate a balance of theology and doctrine.  This allowed them to appeal to the broadest domestic opinion, Catholic and otherwise.[16]  In this sense, the Articles are a revealing window into the ethos and character of Anglicanism, in particular in the way the document works to navigate a via media, or “middle path,” between the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and of the English Puritans, thus lending the Church of England a mainstream Reformed air.  The “via media” was expressed so adroitly in the Articles that some Anglican scholars have labeled their content as an early example of the idea that the doctrine of Anglicanism is one of “Reformed Catholicism”.[17]  The articles, finalized in 1571, were to have a lasting effect on religion in the United Kingdom and elsewhere through their incorporation into and propagation through the Book of Common Prayer.[3]”[101]

As occurs with most compromises, there were elements at the extremities of both camps that remained dissatisfied.  The so-called neo-Calvinists, of which Browne, Barrowes, Johnson and Jacob were off-shoots found major causes for dispute within the Articles.  Since the Articles were incorporated into the Book of Common Prayer, of course dissenters were obliged to abstain from its use.  Such abstention led to the formation of the conventicle, and non-attendance of parish church services.  According to the Articles attendance of parish church services was compulsory, and failure of attendance was a crime.  Charges could be brought and fines levied.  Continued non-attendance could result in imprisonment.  As evidenced in the biographical sketch of Robert Browne, dissention against the “National Church”, particularly the publishing and circulation of articles contrary to established church doctrine was consider seditious and treasonous. 

Prior to The Religion Act of 1592 dissenters were allowed due process, and almost no one was executed for their beliefs, unless they were found to have acted in a treasonous manner or perceived to pose a threat to the Crown. 

 “The Religion Act 1592 (35 Eliz. I, c. 1) was an Act of the Parliament of England.  The Act imprisoned those over the age of sixteen who failed to attend Church; persuaded others to do the same; denied Queen Elizabeth’s authority in religious matters; and who attended unlawful religious meetings without bail.[1][2]  The Act was cognisable in the Court of High Commission.  If, after offending, they did not conform in the next three months, they would be exiled from England forever.  The Act fined those who harboured recusants £10 for every month hidden.  The Act stated that it would continue no longer than the end of the next session of Parliament.[3]  However, the Act was still in effect as late as 1661, when John Bunyan was tried and convicted for disobedience to it.”[102]

There is one final writing by Robert Browne known to exist, that being A “New Years Guift”, an Hitherto Lost Treatise by Robert Browne in the form of a Letter to his Uncle Flower, written on New Year’s eve, 1588.  This letter was penned by Robert Browne while he was serving as headmaster of St. Olave’s Grammar School.  Purportedly, Browne had sworn an oath pledging to never again engage in any seditious or separatist activities, nor to espouse any beliefs contrary to the doctrine and practices of the Church of England:

“Item – the 21st day of November, 1586, was chosen to be our School maister, Robert Browne, upon his good behaviour and observing these articles hereunder written. First – that you shall not intermeddle with the Minister, or disturb the quiet of the Parishioners by keeping any conventicles or conference with any suspected or disorderly persons, Second – that you shall bring your children to sermons and lectures in the Church, and there accompany them for their better government, Third – if any error shall be found in you, and you convincest thereof, that you shall, upon admonition thereof, revoke that and conform yourself to the doctrine of the Church of England, Fourth – you shall read in your school no other Catechism than is authorized by public authority, Fifth – that you shall, at convenient times communicate in this parish according to the laws. Sixth – not being contented to answer and keep these Articles, not longer to keep the School maistership, but to avoid that. Subscribed by me, Robert Browne, according to my Answers before all the Governors, and the distinctions and exceptions before them named.”[103]

In fact, most historians writing about Robert Browne state that he had capitulated with the Church hierarchy and turned his back on his previous belief in the need for separation.  Yet, almost three years after Browne is claimed to have forsaken his followers and his belief in the need to establish a true Christian church, separate and apart from the established church, Robert Browne expressed beliefs in his letter to his “Uncle Flower” which comport closely with his previously held views.  In the author’s mind the New Year’s Gift raises serious doubts about whether Robert Browne ever changed his beliefs regarding the need for ‘reformation without tarrying’, but simply chose to feign submission in order to continue his work ‘underground’ and clandestinely.  Taking the ideologies expressed in the New Years Gift in combination and context with the timing and proximity of Robert Browne, headmaster of St. Olave’s to the erection of the Barrowes/Greenwood Ancient Church, it seems highly possible that Robert Browne continued to plan and organize separatist activities from his base at Southwark.

No direct evidence has been found to support Robert Browne’s continued separatist activities after 1586, but the fact that his name continued to be associated with separatist activities well into the middle of the 17th century belies his complete abandonment of his fledgling separatist church.  The fact that the term ‘brownist’ continued to resonate in English courtrooms up to the time [1613] of William Atterbury, porter, and beyond, seems to suggest that his influence in the separatist movement must have extended well beyond his taking an oath of subscription in 1586.  If Robert Browne had been known among his followers to actually have disavowed and forsaken his separatist beliefs, it seems likely that his name would have fallen into disrepute and oblivion.  Yet the term ‘brownist’ or ‘brownism’ became a common synonym for separatist or independent beliefs.  If Robert Browne had become a pariah among separatists, why then had not Robert Harrison, Henry Ainsworth, Henry Barrow or John Greenwood become the hallmark of the separatist franchise?  Particularly since Barrowe and Greenwood were martyred for their cause. 

Even Richard Bancroft still considered Robert Browne as a serious threat in 1589 when he delivered his now famous sermon at Paul’s Cross [9Feb1589].  Somewhat derisively Bancroft argued his case against the non-conformists, the Puritans, and specifically against Robert Browne, Henry Barrowe, John Greenwood and John Penry.  Although Bancroft never mentioned Browne by name, the discovery of the New Year’s Gift by Champlin Burrage in about 1902 makes it certain that Bancroft did make several specific allusions to Robert Browne and his followers, and, moreover, that Bancroft was actually in possession of the letter written by Robert Browne to his ‘Uncle Flower’.  The manuscript of the New Year’s Gift discovered by Burrage is clearly the original letter written in Robert Browne’s own hand, and there is no reason to believe that it was ever put into print.  Moreover, the manuscript appears to have been annotated with comments in Bancroft’s own hand.  So, if this letter was dated 31Dec1588 [O.S.] and referenced by Bancroft in his sermon at Paul’s Cross on 9Feb1588 [O.S.], one must puzzle at the means by which this very personal letter intended for the uncle of Robert Browne could have made its way into the hands of Browne’s archenemy, Richard Bancroft, within less than 30 days of its issuance.  It is known that the Church of England had a network of spies on constant vigil seeking any evidence of unrest or connivance within its laity and clergy.  It seems highly unlikely that either Robert Browne or his ‘Uncle Flower’ would have given this letter to Bancroft, particularly considering the controversial opinions expressed therein.  It seems far more likely that Robert Browne was still distrusted by the Church authorities, and probably was kept under close surveillance, and that his letter, the New Year’s Gift, was somehow intercepted and turned over to Bancroft for his use in confuting and defaming Robert Browne and his ilk.

The author will not present all the various elements of the New Year’s Gift and its implication on the probable state of Robert Browne’s mind at the time of its writing, but rather recommends its further reading for an independent interpretation of its contents and meaning.  However, the author does believe that Champlin Burrage has made a fair and accurate assessment of key elements as follows:

“But if he [Browne] were living today we could assure him that such a letter surely would not be to his prejudice, but rather to his certain advantage in our estimation and understanding of him…  This treatise makes it clear that Robert Browne’s health had already been undermined, and his spirit crushed, by harsh treatment, so that though still a young man [~30 years old] he could write in one place, “I am pore enough and broken to[o] much with former troubles, and therefore had no need of further affliction”; and in another, that he had already “been in more than 20 prisons.”  What wonder if even thus early his mind had been impaired by such persecution, or that his bouyant courage of earlier years was gone!  This letter gives us a new portraiture of Browne, — one that attracts rather than repels, wherein is revealed in this young man a certain sadness and kindly tenderness not usually ascribed to him by those who have depicted his character.  This treatise has further a most important bearing upon the question as to whether Robert Browne in heart ever really conformed to the Church of England.  It may be said that he certainly seems at this time to have been at least a little more favourable to the established Church than in former years; but he also says in one place, where he has been writing concerning the “state of the Church,” that he has, “concealed some matters, offensive to be dealt in”; so that he may have left unsaid that which we might be glad to know…  and that at the time this letter to Mr. Flower was written, sick at heart and impaired in bodily and mental powers, he seems like a man in the dark, seeking for that which he cannot find — even the elusive golden via media between conformity and nonconformity, where he might enjoy liberty of conscience and freedom from persecution, a road that unfortunately had not been opened to the public in his day!”[104]

Champlin Burrage provides a sensitive and honest assessment of Robert Browne’s state of mind and body when he penned a reply to his Uncle Flower on 31Dec1588.  The tone of Browne’s writing to his uncle has been tempered and perhaps even subdued when compared to his earlier writings which oftentimes were obstinate, haughty and defiant; such transformation as might be expected from someone who had spent the greater part of his relatively short adult life in almost twenty different prisons across England and Scotland.  Given the extent of Browne’s persecution it seems a miracle that his works could have had such a long-lasting impact on his adherents. 

Henry Barrowe and John Greenwood

At this juncture we must depart from our study of Robert Browne and Robert Harrison and turn our attention toward another, equally important duo of dissident religious leaders in and about London: Henry Barrowe (1550?-1593) and John Greenwood (1554?-1593), both of whom had early connections to East Anglia.  Henry Barrowe was born about 1550 at Shipdham, Norfolk, about 15 miles due west of Norwich.  Henry Barrowe, through a maternal aunt’s marriage, was a cousin to the wife of Sir Nicholas Bacon of Redgrave.  Henry is also rumored to have been a nephew of Bishop Aylmer, who is purported to have married a sister of Barrowe’s mother, Mary Bures.  Henry Barrowe was about the same age as Robert Browne, born of a similar family of landed-gentry, and matriculated to Clare Hall, Cambridge in Nov1566, where he received a B.A. in 1569/70.  Although of a different college than Robert Browne [Corpus Christi], it seems likely that they received very similar tutoring, and may have been mutually exposed to the lectures of Thomas Cartwright.  Rather than the clergy, Barrowe elected a career in the legal profession, and became a member of Grey’s Inn in about 1576.  Following a somewhat wayward lifestyle at Grey’s Inn, Barrowe repented his profligate ways and became a devout Puritan around 1580 after being persuaded by a particularly moving sermon.

John Greenwood’s is believed born about 1554 at an unknown location, and matriculated as a sizar to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in about 1577/78.  Following is one researcher’s biography of the early adult life of John Greenwood:

“John Greenwood, b. 1556, entered Corpus Christie (or Benet) College, Cambridge, Mar. 18, 1577-8, a theological student, received his Bachelor’s degree 1580-1, was ordained deacon of the English Established Church by the Bishop of London and priest by the Bishop of Lincoln, and for 5 years labored in the English Church, in Norfolk County.  What led to a change in his religious belief is unknown but he was deprived of his benefice and began holding secret religious services at the home of Lord Robert Rich, of Rockford, Essex County, who was interested in his doctrine.  Soon Lord Rich and a clergyman named Robert Wright, who was associated with John Greenwood, were arrested and thrown into prison. Mr. Greenwood then went to London where he formed a secret congregation at the house of one Henry Martin at St. Andrews. Here, early in October, 1586 [1587], he was arrested and lodged in the Clink prison while conducting a service.”[105]

The author cannot attest to the specific history contained in the foregoing account of John Greenwood’s life by Frederick Greenwood in 1914, but does believe it to be generally accurate as to events and dates.  Many other historians agree that John Greenwood did become an assistant chaplain in the household of Lord Robert Rich at Rochford, Essex around 1581, and that he continued in that service along with a fellow clergyman, Reverend Robert Wright, until Lord Rich and Rev. Wright were arrested by Bishop Aylmer in the fall of 1582.  The means by which John Greenwood avoided a similar fate is unknown, but he appears to have moved to London sometime around 1584/5, at which time he struck an acquaintance with Henry Barrowe that would endure for the remainder of their relatively short lives.  The next known event in John Greenwood’s life is when he was arrested at a conventicle held in the home of one Henry Martin in St. Andrew’s by the Wardrobe parish on about 8Oct1586 described as follows:

“For reading the scriptures to a small company of Christians at the house of Henry Martin, at St. Andrew’s in the Wardrobe, in 1586 [1587?], he was arrested, and warrants were issued for the apprehension of the rest, whose names we find in the papers of the Bishop of London: — Nicholas Crane, Henry White, George Snells, Edward Boyce, Ann Jackson, George Collier, Katherine Unwin, Robert Lacey, Thomas Freeman, Edith Bury, Edward Pryce, Margaret Maynard, Alice Roe, Agnes Wyman, Robert English, John Chandler, Edward Thompson, Robert Redburne, Thomas Russell, Peter Alley, and Widow Barrowe.”

There is some discrepancy as to the actual year of Greenwood’s arrest, wherein many researchers give 1586 as its date, whereas a few others, not without good documentation and cause, suggest 1587 to have been the year of Greenwood’s arrest.  Be that as it may, it is known from the records that Henry Barrowe visited his friend, John Greenwood, at the Clink prison in Southwark in Nov1587, wherein Barrowe was taken into custody without charges having been brought.  Afterward, both Barrowe and Greenwood were transferred from the Clink to Fleet Prison in central London, where they remained incarcerated for the next six years.  Both men were interrogated on several occasions regarding their respective religious beliefs.  Barrow remained imprisoned until his execution in Apr1593.  Prior to his arrest, Barrow and Greenwood had connected in London in 1585 when Barrow was an occasional visitor of John Greenwood’s conventicle known as the “Ancient Church”:

“Greenwood’s illegal conventicle was discovered by church authorities on 8 October 1587.  Greenwood and members of his congregation were arrested and sent to the Clink (Prison) in Southwark (London).  The remainder of the congregation would continue without its pastor for a period of time… Barrow was being charged under Church authorities regarding his dissident religious writings, and doctrines.  Barrow would be held in prison without any warrants until his death.  He was being questioned on a regular basis by the Church authorities while under tight confinement.  From 1587-1593, Barrow, and Greenwood were basically held as an enemy of the Church and State…  Although confined [to] their jail cells, Greenwood and Barrow were not totally silenced during this period.  With some assistance, both Barrow and Greenwood were able to write manuscripts under the eyes of their guards, or were paid to look the other way?  Those confined members of Greenwood’s congregation were able to assist in the preparation of their manuscripts while they were being held in prison.  A small internal publishing house functioned in their prison… From 1587-92, the remainder of Greenwood’s original London conventicle was still without a minister.  In July 1592, Greenwood with a few other members of that congregation was released by the Courts on bail into the custody of a responsible member of the community.  Greenwood was released into the custody of Roger Rippon, a member of his own congregation…  This congregation or conventicle continually moved about the London area, often meeting in private homes, or in private rural areas to elude the ever watchful eyes of the church authorities.  It was still a crime to conduct religious services not sanctioned by the Church of England.  They did not want to repeat the mistake that had happened to Greenwood’s original earlier congregation…  John Greenwood, Francis Johnson and other Barrowist conventicle members were arrested in London, early on 6 December 1592 by the Church authorities.  Barrow was still being held in Fleet Prison (London).  Francis Johnson was held with the other congregation prisoners and questioned by the Church authorities, but not released.  Many of the congregation members were imprisoned throughout London, many of whom were quite elderly and in poor health.  On 16 February 1593 with the other Johnson conventicle members, Roger Rippon, Greenwood’s former benefactor, died while imprisoned in Newgate Prison probably from a lack of proper medical attention.”[106]

The Rippon Incident

It was the death of Roger Rippon which was the catalyst for the “Rippon Incident”, described generally as follows:

Roger Rippon, one of the founding members of the Church and whose house was one of the places of assembly in Southwark, after an extended period of imprisonment, died in Newgate Prison on 15Feb1593.  Several members of the church met that evening and conceived a plan, which involved collecting Rippon’s body at Newgate the next day and parading his coffin through the streets of London to the home of Justice Richard Young in Cheapside.  A sign was hung on the coffin, which contained a libelous indictment against the “unlawful” treatment and persecution of the separatists.  The libel read as follows:

“This is the corpse of Roger Rippon, a servant of Christ, and Her Majesties’s faithful subject, who is the last of 16 or 17 which that great enemy of God, the Archibishop of Canterbury, with the High Commissioners, have murdered in Newgate within these 5 years for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  His soul is now with the Lord and his blood cryeth for speedy vengeance against that great enemy of the saints and against Mr. Richard Younge, who in this and many like points hath abused his power for the upholding of the Romishe Antichriste, prelacy and priesthood.”

This seeming act of sedition led to prompt action by Church authorities, culminating in the raid of an assembly of separatist conventiclers in the woods near Finsbury, Islington, resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of more than 45 members of the “Ancient Church”.  Over the next few months these prisoners were interrogated by the High Commission and depositions were recorded, summarized as follows:

  1. 7Mar1592/3 – Abraham Pulbery, pursemaker, free of the Cowpers, London, age 25 – testified that he was present when Rippon’s coffin was paraded through Cheapside, but refused to concede the publically read label as libel.  Pulbery further stated that he was in a wood near Islington on Sunday last, and that Mr. [George] Johnson had been their preacher that day.  NOTE: All deponents refused to swear an oath.  Note that Abraham Pulbury was a son of William Pulbery.  The Pulbery family lived in St. Stephens Coleman Parish, situated on Coleman Street about two blocks south of Grub Street, the presumed place of residence of William Atterbury, porter and Brownist.  Although clearly a staunch member of the Ancient Church, he and his family members were baptized, married and buried at St. Stephens Coleman Parish church.
  2. 8Mar1592 – John Nicholas, Glover, Smithfield – testified that he was not present at Cheapside when Rippon’s coffin was paraded, had no knowledge of who wrote the label, and that he knew no one named Pendred or Penry, but did know an Abraham Pulbery.
  3. 8Mar1592 – William Clerke, Worker of Capps [hatmaker?], St. Bottolphs – testified that he knew Roger Rippon, but had not been in prison with him, nor had any knowledge of the coffin parade or the so-called libel.  Further stated that he hath bene of the foresaid congregation these fower or five years.  Further, he refused to identify the location of their church.
  4. 8Mar1592 – Richard Hawton, Shoemaker – member of congregation only few months, knew nothing of Rippon coffin parade or of libel, agreed to return to his parish church and forsake the separatist movement.
  5. 8Mar1592 – John Barnes, Tailor – knew Roger Rippon, present at Newgate on morning of coffin parade, but had no knowledge of procession of libel, and that he took no special oath upon joining the movement.
  6. 9Mar1592 – Daniel Bucke, scrivener of Southwark – no knowledge of the coffin parade or libel, but on Sunday, last was in the Constable’s house in Islington in the presence of separatists, including Penrhyn (John Penry), that George Johnson was their reader that day, and that there were about 40 of their members, and diverse other non-members.  Further stated that he had not attended his parish church for more than nine months, that upon joining the society he swore to walke with the rest of the congregation soe longe as they did walke in the waye of the Lord… Further that Francis Johnson was their chosen pastor, Mr. Greenwood (presumably John Greenwood) their doctor [teacher], Bowman and Lee their deacons, this election having been at Fox’s [was this John Foxe?] house on St. Nicholas Lane about one-half year since, or at Mr. Blyson’s house in Crechurche, and that he had witnessed Mr. Johnson delivering baptisms.  Bucke then gave the following names of persons he remembered in attendance at this election: Daniel Studley, William Sheppard, William Marshall, John Beche, Robert Bray, Thomas Lee, Arthur Byllet, Edmund Thompson, Robert Jackson, William Mason, George Marten, Thomas Michell, Robert Abraham, Henry Wythers, Thomas Digson, Peter Farland, William Weber, Davy Bristoe, John Nicholas, John Barnes, George Smell, Christopher Sympkins, Christopher Raper, Christopher Diggins, Roger Rippon, Christopher Boman, Thomas Settell, John Greenwood, Edward Grave, William Collins, Abraham Pulbery, Nicholas Leye, George Manners, George Knyfton, Mrs. Settell, Katherine Onnyon, Mrs. Boyes, Margery Daubin, Ellyn Rowe, Avis Allen, Ann Homes, Jone Pulbery, Nicholas Lee’s wife, Francis Johnes [Johnson?], Ann Boykin, Elizabeth Moore, Barbara Sampford, and others.  Further, that they performed marriages within the congregation, administered Holy Communion, etc.  [No mention of John Wilkinson]  Note that Mrs. Boyes was the wife of Edward Boyes, a Ludgate Hill haberdasher, into whose custody Francis Johnson was released from Clink Prison in Dec1592.  A few months later Edward Boyes died, and in 1594/5 his widow, Thomasine Boyes, married Francis Johnson while Johnson was yet again in Prison in London.
  7. 26Mar1592 – John Penry – refused to give a statement, pending matters presently before Parliament.  John Penry was a graduate of Cambridge University, and a leading supporter of Barrowes and Greenwood, also believe to have been one of the writers of the Marprelate Tracts. 

Other sundry persons arrested and imprisoned in March and April 1593:

  • Henry Broadwater, scrivener in St. Nicholas Lane, aged 29.
  • Edward Grave, fishmonger of St. Bottolphs, Thames Street, aged 25 – persuaded by sermons of Mr. Gardener and Mr. Phillips, confessed to be in possession of a Barrowes book.
  • Christopher Diggins, weaver of St. Olaves, Southwark, aged 24 – admitted to be a bearer of Rippon’s coffin to Mr. Younge’s home in Cheapside, a member of congregation for two years, saw a book by Barrowes in hands of John Wilkinson.  This was the earliest and only reference to John Wilkinson found outside of context with his purported Colchester Separatist Church.  From this statement by Christopher Diggins it might be inferred that John Wilkinson had been in attendance at an assembly of the Ancient Church in London sometime between 1590 and 1592.  Since Wilkinson was in possession of a Barrowes book, it might also be inferred that he was a general supporter of Barrowes’ religious views at that time.  Further, the referenced “Barrowes Book” very likely was one of the works he and Greenwood had had printed while imprisoned at Fleet Prison.
  • John Clerke, husbandman, of Wallsokem, Norfolk, committed three years past at assembly of Henry Barrowes.  John Clerke was imprisoned well before the Rippon Incident, but was being interrogated again contemporaneous with the Islington assembly members.  Note that he was from Norfolk.  Had he traveled to London to join with Henry Barrowe and Greenwood?
  • Roger Waterer, haberdasher and servant to Robert Pavye of St. Martens at Ludgate, committed to Newgate over three years past for non-attendance.  Roger Waterer was committed to prison on account of non-attendance.  Does this suggest that William Atterbury, porter and his fellow Brownists may also have been imprisoned for their non-attendance?
  • William Marshall, shipwright of Wapping, aged 32, taken in woods.  Arrested at Finsbury, Islington.
  • Thomas Hewett, born in Swanton, Leicester, aged 30, lived in St. Martens le Grande with John Sutton, his master, taken in woods with others.  Arrested at Finsbury, Islington.
  • George Knifton [Elder], apothecary, living in Newgate Market, met at assemblies at Barnes’ house and at Blyson’s, at Lee’s, at the woods [in Islington], at Rippon’s house, and at woods in Deptford, he was an elder of the separatist church.
  • William Mason, shipwright of Wapping, aged 24, taken in woods, persuaded by Roger Rippon and Edward Chandler, been to assemblies at Nicholas Lane, Daniel Bucke’s near Aldgate, and at Nicholas Lee’s.  Chandler had Barrowes books.  Vowed to attend Church and was released with Richard Mason and James Tailor.
  • Henry Withers, shipwright, living at Deptford Strande, aged 27, taken in woods.  Assembled every Sabboth at diverse houses.
  • Christopher Bowman [Elder], goldsmith, [Smithfield] aged 32, admitted to participate in coffin parade and libels.  A deacon of the “Confused Church”, and is an elected deacon, chosen September 1592.  Previously served three years for petitioning the Queen.  Attended assemblies at Blysons, Penryns [Penry], Lees, Rippons and Barnes, in St. Nicholas Lane, and in woods.  Was married at Penry’s house, by Settle [Thomas Settell], and Greenwood witness.  Admitted that marriages were performed within the Ancient Church.
  • Thomas Micklefield, joyner, aged 33, living St. Mary Overies, taken in woods.
  • David Bristowe, tailor, aged 30, living St. Martens le Grande, taken in woods.
  • Christopher Simkyn, coppersmith, living in Aldersgate Street, aged 22, taken in woods.
  • William Smithe of Bradford, Wiltshire, minister, aged 30, carried Rippon’s coffin.  Smith was an ordained minister of the Church of England, who had come to London to confer with Johnson and Greenwood.
  • Arthur Billett, born in Flanteclex, Cornwall, aged 25, scholar and soldier, taken with Penry and others at Ratcliffe [Stepney].  Admitted printing books of Barrowes and Greenwood at Dorte.
  • John Parkes, clothworker, aged 50, taken in woods.  Serves the son of Mr. Livery, has food and drink, but no wages of housing.
  • John Penryn, minister, aged 30, from Scotland.  Martyred shortly after Barrowes and Greenwood.
  • Leonard Pidder, shoemaker, aged 30, living in Black Friars, taken in woods.
  • William Curland, shipwright, taken in woods near Islington.
  • William Giles, tailor, aged 22, servant to Mr. Cheryatt of Walbroke, taken in way to woods.  “Walbroke” probably was in reference to St. Stephen Walbrook Parish, which immediately abutted St. Mary Abchurch to the west.
  • Thomas Emery, servant.
  • Edward Gilbarte, aged 24, servant to Isaac Frize, trunkmaker, taken in woods.
  • Francis Johnson, minister, aged 35, elected pastor of congregation, committed 5Dec1592.  Once imprisoned at Cambridge for unorthodox prayer.  Francis Johnson was a graduate of Christ College, Cambridge [1580] and was elected the pastor of the Ancient Church in 1592, with John Greenwood as the Teacher.
  • Edward Boyse, haberdasher, aged 33, living in Fleet Street, three years member of assembly, convinced by Cowper, Egerton and Wiggington.
  • George Collings, haberdasher, aged 38, from St. Martens at Ludgate, taken with Greenwood, Crane [was this Nicholas Crane?] and others.
  • William Denford, schoolmaster, aged 50, living in Mayers house at Foster Lane, taken in woods.
  • Thomas Settell, minister of Cow Lane, Smithfield, aged 38, imprisoned 15 weeks, taken from an assembly at the school house in St. Nicholas Lane.  Received communion at Barnes house in Smithfield.  Thomas Settell was involved in preaching at conventicles near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk in the mid-1580’s.
  • Quintene Smith, feltmaker, servant to his brother in Southwark, aged 30, taken in woods.
  • Katherine Onyon, spinster, living in Aldgate, willing to attend parish church.
  • William Clerke, St. Botophls without Bishopsgate, aged 40, taken in woods at Islington, abstained parish church for over five years, drawn into congregation by Greenwood while in prison, and then later by [Nicholas] Crane, who died in Newgate.
  • John Nicholas, of St. Sepulcher, glover, aged 36, taken in woods, abstained parish church for four years, in prison for three years in gatehouse at Westminster, converted by George Johnson, heard Francis Johnson preach at St. Nicholas Lane, taken in woods.
  • George Johnson [brother of Francis Johnson], schoolmaster in St. Nicholas Lane, prisoner at Fleet for about one month, taken in woods at Islington, convinced by teachings of Egerton.
  • John Dalamore, from City of Bath, broadweaver, aged 25, taken in woods, drawn by Smythe and others at Keynsham, Somerset.
  • 3Apr1593 – Robert Abraham, servant of Thomas Rookes of St. Olaves, Southwark, leatherdresser, aged 36.  Stated that they usually met twice each week between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m. at various locations: a house at Smithfield [Barnes?], near Aldgate beside Christchurch, Moregate, St. Nicholas Lane, Rippon’s house in Southwark, a field in Deptford, and often in fields and woods near Islington.  Abraham was one of very few prisoners to give specifics about times and places of conventicle meetings.
  • Deposed a 2nd time on 3Apr1593 – Abraham Pulburye of Christ Church Parish, pursemaker, free of Cowpers, aged 24, taken in woods near Islington, in possession of sword, assembled at diverse locations, viz., near Smithfield in early morning and continuing thru most of day, sometimes in Christ Church, sometimes near Deptford.  Francis Johnson was their pastor, Greenwood their Doctor, Studley and Knyveton their elders, Nicholas Lee and John [Christopher] Boweman their deacons.  Had seen baptisms performed by Francis Johnson at St. Nicholas Lane on children four to seven years old.  Had been 12 months since committed to prison in Sussex together with William Collins, transferred to Arrundell as suspected brownist, burned on ear for being a vagrant, then pressed into militia.
  • 3Apr1593 – Roger Waterer, late servant of Robert Payve of St. Martens, Ludgate, haberdasher, aged 24.  Imprisoned at Newgate for over 3 years for not attending church.
  • 3Apr1593 – Robert Abraham, leatherdresser, servant to Mr. Rookes of Southwark, not attended parish church for year and half.  Frequent meetings at Roger Rippons in Southwark and elsewhere. 
  • 4Apr1593 – George Kniveton [Knifton], Newgate apothecary, taken with Penryn at house of a Mr. Lewes in Stepney.  Stated that he had had conference with Mr. [Robert] Browne, who persuaded him to leave parish church, and since had conference with Barrowes and Greenwood and Penry.  Attended assemblies Sundays and some week days at St. Nicholas Lane, Nicholas Lee, Mr. Bilson by Christ Church, woods in Islington and Detford, and John Barnes near St. Bartholomews.  Note: Kniveton was the only prisoner to indicate any previous connection to Robert Browne.

These depositions provide valuable insights into the inner workings of the early separatist church.  It should be noted that, aside from the testimony by Christopher Diggins, weaver from St. Olaves, Southwark, there was no other reference by anyone to John Wilkinson.  The few references in literature to John Wilkinson point to this testimony by Diggins as the earliest known to anyone.  As stated earlier, most other references to Wilkinson suggest that he was known mainly (if not singularly) to have been connected with Colchester, Essex.  Yet Christopher Diggins stated that he had seen a book by Henry Barrowes in the hands of John Wilkinson.  Diggins stated further that he had been a bearer of Rippon’s coffin to Judge Richard Yonge’s house, and that he had been a member of “the congregation” for two years.  Diggins, having been a weaver from St. Olaves, and a relatively poor man, could not be expected to have traveled very far from Southwark.  So, where might Diggin’s have been, when he saw Wilkinson in possession of a Barrowes book?  A reasonable conclusion would be that Wilkinson must have been in attendance at the meetings of the “Ancient Church”, probably near Southwark. 

Between 1592 and 1613 virtually nothing is known of John Wilkinson.  In fact, it is reasonable to state that virtually nothing is known of John Wilkinson, except that he is credited with having been a leader of a separatist congregation at Colchester sometime before his arrest and imprisonment, perhaps sometime before 1608.  This approximate date of imprisonment at Colchester is predicated on the preface to his treatise on the Revelation of Christ, which stated:

“…but through the malice of the Prelates who divers times spoyled him of his goods, and kept him many yeres in prison…”

Having been “kept him many years in prison” suggests that John Wilkinson was imprisoned for at least five years or more.  He is known to have been in prison at Colchester when he wrote the Arthurbury tract in 1613, and to have died (possibly in prison at Colchester) some years before 1619, when his Revelations treatise was published posthumously.  From these scant references it might be inferred that John Wilkinson was imprisoned at Colchester between about 1611 and his death, possibly while in prison around 1617.  Prior to his imprisonment it can reasonably be assumed that he had for about five years been the leader of his separatist congregation at Colchester.  Five years of separatist organizing at Colchester is a reasonable period to assume, even within the more receptive political climate of East Anglia.  After all, Harrison and Browne only managed to exercise their separatist activities at Bury St. Edmund and Norwich for a couple of years before being pressured by the local Bishop to seek a more tolerant atmosphere at Middleburg.  Assuming this timeline to be remotely accurate, this leaves an almost 15-year gap between 1592 and 1605 during which we have absolutely no knowledge of John Wilkinson’s whereabouts.

The fact that his presence was noted in 1592 participating in a gathering of the “Ancient Church” near Southwark suggests that he may have had some history with the greater London area.  His having been in possession of a Barrowe’s book would have been in itself a seditious act, but also a singular and distinctive act.  Of those deposed in the wake of the Rippon Incident, only three were identified as having been in possession of a Barrowes book: Edward Grave[s], Edward Chandler, and John Wilkinson.

Christopher Diggins was a 24 year old weaver of Southwark when he entered his deposition before Mr. Deane of Westminster, etal., on 3Apr1593.  According to Burrage, this was the earliest record known of John Wilkinson.  From Diggins deposition it would appear that he had encountered John Wilkinson at a religious gathering near Southwark sometime before April 1593.  Diggins had been in prison [possibly The Clink] for 6 to 7 weeks and refused to take the oath proscribed by the Court, but did make statements summarized as follows:

  • He had not come to any parish church for over two years, during which [time] he had held opposing views, but refused to state from which/whom his beliefs were drawn,
  • He had attended assemblies [of the separatists] for those previous two years, but refused to give the location of those assemblies,
  • He stated that there were diverse children about the age of three years baptized at the assemblies in St. Nicholas Lane,
  • He had seen one of Barrowe and Greenwood’s books brought to him by John Wilkinson,
  • He claimed to never have influenced others to join in his beliefs, and
  • He stated that their numbers had increased, yet they meant only to serve God and were true subjects of the Queen.

Since it is Wilkinson’s writing that links William Arthurbury to the so-called brownist movement, it is important that we have a clear understanding of the activities of the separatists in and around London when Christopher Diggins was arrested in Jan/Feb1592/3.  Court records from this period contain numerous depositions of persons arrested in the wake of Parliament’s passage of the 1592 Act of Conformity, and Act of Treason.  At around the time Robert Browne was serving as the schoolmaster at the St. Olaves Grammar School in Southwark a new conventicle called the London Separatist Church was formed [1584/5].  Whether Robert Browne had a hand in the formation of this church is not known, but the timing, location and leanings of this new church certainly suggest that Browne could have been secretly involved.  Even before the 1592 Act of Conformity, and Act of Treason it would have been illegal to form such a church, to solicit converts, to attend meetings of such a church, to not attend the parish church, or to write, print or circulate any materials contrary to the ideology and doctrine of the Church of England.

Formation of the Separatist Church of London was knowingly a seditious and illegal undertaking.  In order to avoid detection and prosecution, the assemblies were alternately held at several various places in and near London, including private residences in Southwark, Stepney, Crechurch, Smithfield and Aldgate, a school on St. Nicholas Lane in Cheapside, a field in Detford, Southwark, and a field and wood at Finsbury in Islington.  Assemblies were generally scheduled twice each week: one weekday and on the Sabbath.  Location of the next meeting place was only announced at the last preceding assembly.  Assemblies were typically convened from 3:00 a.m. to midday and beyond.  Collections were taken at these services to defray their costs and for charitable contribution to conventiclers in need.  Sermons were preached, biblical lessons were taught, new members swore an oath of secrecy and commitment, Holy communion was administered, children and adults were baptized, marriages were performed.

At an assembly in the woods near Finsbury, Islington in mid-February 1593 government authorities conducted a raid and arrested 35 to 40 of the conventiclers.  This raid appears to have been in retaliation for an incident that occurred on 16Feb1593 known as the Rippon Incident.  These members of the London Separatist Church were imprisoned in various facilities around London and held without charges or offer of bail.  Over the following couple of months the prisoners appeared before Commissioners and questioned about their involvement in the church. 

Although Diggins refused to disclose the location of the assemblies he had been attending for almost two years, he did state that he had seen children baptized at St. Nicholas Lane.  In other depositions there were references to meetings in a schoolhouse in Nicholas Lane, and at Fox’s house in Nicholas Lane.  Presumably such observation had been made while attending one or more of these clandestine assemblies.  It should be noted that St. Nicholas Lane was in east London and extended in a north-south direction between Lombard Street and Great Eastcheap.  It should further be noted that St Andrew Hubbard and St. Mary at Hill Church were situated about six blocks east of St. Nicholas Lane.  So, it would seem that John Wilkinson may have been engaged with the conduct of assemblies of a clandestine church in 1593 within only a few blocks of St. Andrew Hubbard, the home church of the Lyon family.  Further, John Wilkinson was shown to have been in possession of “books” by Barrowes and Greenwood, known organizers of the London Separatist Church [aka Ancient Church].  Earlier, it was reported that Barrowes and Greenwood had been executed on the gallows at Tynurn in 1593.  Does this suggest that the London separatist church was active in the vicinity of St Andrew Hubbard during the latter part of the 16th century?  This certainly seems to be a conclusion that can be drawn from the foregoing.

On 16Feb1592/3 Roger Rippon’s body was carried in a coffin from Newgate Prison through the streets of London to the home of Justice Richard Young in Cheapside.  Roger Rippon of Southwark had been imprisoned for some time at Newgate Prison because of his Separatist beliefs and practices.  Numerous Separatists had been arrested and imprisoned at various sites around London between 1587 and 1593, and more than 15 had died in Newgate due mainly to its “malodorous” living conditions.  The Separatists considered these deaths of their brethren to be equivalent to murder. 

If William Atterbury, porter, was not the printer of the Wilkinson manuscript, then who was William Arthurbury, its printer?  One explanation might be that William Atterbury, porter, may have entrusted the manuscript to his son, who then saw to its printing.  There was no record found anywhere for a son named William, born to William Atterbury, porter.  The earliest known record of William Atterbury, porter, was the birth of his daughter, Dorothie, on 3Oct1604.  William Arthurbury of Morden is believed to have been born about 1599 [possibly 1588/9], a date very close to 1604.  Is it possible that William Arthurbury of Morden was a son of William Atterbury, porter?  Certainly the dates fit, if not the geographic locales.  However, keep in mind that the earliest record that can absolutely be identified for William Arthurbury of Morden is the marriage record from Mitcham Parish in 1638.  Further, there is a gap of almost 11 years between his marriage and his appearance in Morden records in 1649/50.  The Wilkinson manuscript was printed in 1646 during that interval between 1638 and 1650.  The whereabouts and activity of William Arthurbury during that period is unknown to the author.

Under normal circumstances the printing of the Wilkinson tract would have been considered seditious and an act in defiance of royal governance, which up to 1642 had backed the Anglican Church as the only true Church of England.  Henry VIII severed ties with the Church of Rome, and proclaimed himself to be the head of the English Church, thus creating an imperial monarchy.  Henceforth, any challenge to the authority of the English Church was tantamount to a challenge of royal authority.  With the exception of the brief reign of Queen Mary in the 1550’s, the imperial monarchy continued into the mid-17th century.  Civil unrest had been fomenting throughout England for several years prior to 1642.  This dissatisfaction was founded on several levels with religious freedom being one of the most divisive issues between the citizens and their Monarch.  In the 1640’s England was besieged by the Scots, who were seeking the right to practice their preferred congregational or Presbyterian beliefs.  The 1st English Civil War (1642-1646) culminated in the defeat of royalist forces and the imprisonment of Charles I.  Is it coincidence that the Wilkinson tract was published in the very year that the old imperial monarchy was replaced by parliamentary government?  It seems probable that William Arthurbury felt the Wilkinson tract could be printed in 1646 with impunity.  Puritans were in control and would have been indifferent to challenges to the old religious authority.

Is it possible that sometime during this period William Arthurbury conceived a plan to adopt an alias as a precautionary measure?  Note that on the Mitcham Parish register our central character was recorded as William Atterbury in 1638, yet on the Morden Parish register from 1649 onward he was recorded as William Arthurbury.  The Wilkinson tract was printed under the name of William Arthurbury in 1646.  Was this changing in the spelling of his surname a purposeful attempt to separate William Atterbury from his brownist affiliations so as to escape persecution and prosecution?

The author offers the following hypothesis which ties some of these loose ends together:

William Arthurbury of Morden was the eldest son of William Atterbury, porter and brownist.  William Arthurbury was also the same person as William Atterbury, waterman of Mortlake.  Jane Atterbury, wife of William Atterbury, porter and brownist, was the step-mother of William Arthurbury of Morden, and the same person recorded buried at Morden in 1649 and identified as the wife of William Arthurbury.  William Arthurbury of Morden was the same person as William Atterbury, waterman, of Mortlake.  Katherine Atterbury, wife of William Atterbury, buried on 24Nov1607 at Islington, was the mother of William Atterbury, Mortlake waterman and William Arthurbury of Morden.  A likely sub-element of this hypothesis is that William Atterbury, porter, was the son of William Atersbury/Addersbury, basket-maker, who died in St. Giles parish in Mar1629. 

It should be noted that there was no other candidate identified for the parents of William Arthurbury of Morden than William Atterbury, porter.  It should further be recognized that the surviving records from 1600 and earlier are relatively scant, and that by the mid-16th century they are virtually non-existent.  Therefore, it is entirely possible that records of the parents of William Arthurbury of Morden may simply not exist.  However, absent any other proof to the contrary, the author is inclined to accept the foregoing hypothesis that William Atterbury, porter, carman and brownist, was the father of William Arthurbury of Morden.  The names and dates of key elements of this hypothesis fit together.  Stated differently, no records were found which would contravene this hypothesis, except the Thames Waterman muster roll, which age for William Atterbury of Mortlake does not match a birth year of 1599.  Absence of contradictory evidence does not constitute proof of the hypothesis, but it does keep alive the possibility of its being true. 

One final observation is offered for consideration.  Note that William Atterbury of Mortlake, waterman, was recorded with five daughters: Katherine, Anne, Elizabeth, Jane and Alice, and possibly a sixth daughter named Hannah.  Perhaps it is mere coincidence that William Addersbury was married to a woman named Alice Lyon, whose mother appears to have been named Katherine, and that William Atterbury, porter, was married to women named Katherine and Jane.  The name of the wife of William Atterbury, waterman, is unknown, but may have been Anne, the same Anne Atterbury who appeared as a prosecutor in the assault of Francis Finch.  Perhaps her name may have influenced the selection of the name of one of these daughters.  Given names are not definitive in establishing ancestral connections, but they are generally good secondary indicators.  Since there was no birth record found for William Atterbury’s (waterman) daughter, Alice, it might be assumed that she was born before Katherine.  If William of Mortlake was descended from William the Basket-maker, then he likely was naming his first two daughters after his great-grandmother (Katherine) and his grandmother (Alice Lyon).  This is just one further point for the reader to ponder in arriving at any conclusions relative to possible connection between these three families.  The reader must draw their own conclusion.

Further London Separatist Connections

Beyond the possible exposure of William Addersbury, basketmaker, to Calvinism through his affiliation with the Lyon family, there were other non-conformist influences extant in and around London in the late 16th century which warrant our attention.  In fact, it is the author’s opinion that a broader and more in-depth understanding of the religious reformation movement in England at-large is essential to discovering the religious forces that very likely encouraged William and Jane Atterbury to become “obstinate Brownists”.  The following history of religious reformation in England may not pique every reader’s interest, and should be read at their discretion.  The author has good reason to believe that both William Addersbury (basketmaker) and William Atterbury (porter) became involved in the non-conformist movement through influences within their immediate community in St. Giles Cripplegate Parish, perhaps as early as 1578.  It is further believed that the seeds of that movement were planted more than 200 years earlier by a man named John Wycliffe, and that once planted, no amount of persecution or prosecution could stem its spread and growth.

Henry Jacob

Following is a biographical sketch of Henry Jacob:

“Henry Jacob, graduated Oxford, BA 1596.  He was not licensed by the Church of England, probably for his outspoken, non-conformist views.  He was a prolific writer, publishing numerous tracts and petitions to both Queen Elizabeth and King James, frequently critical of the Church of England. One such petition was entitled “To Abolish the Anti-Christian Prelacy” making reference to the Bishops of the Church of England itself. As King James famously remarked about such petitions “ No Bishop, No King”.  Since the King was head of the Church of England, to abolish the Bishops was to deny Royal authority, an act both of Schism and of Treason.  Jacob was imprisoned in 1609, and, on release, fled to Leiden, in Holland, where he took residence with the congregation of Rev. John Robinson, pastor of the Mayflower Pilgrims.  He wrote later that he came to agree with Robinson that “a visible church was constituted by free mutual consent of believers joining and covenanting to live as members of a holy society, and that such a church should elect its ministers, elders, deacons, and the congregation should be governed by it’s officers [virtually identical to Brownist and Barrowist polity].  In short, a true church under the Gospel contains no more congregations but one.”  This made of Jacob and Lothropp to follow, a Separatist, on the Leiden model. In fact, the Jacob/Lothropp part of the church, was the closest sister church to Robinson’s congregation, a plausible reason why John Robinson’s son Isaac, moved from Plymouth to join Lothropp’s congregation in Scituate in November 1636. In 1616, upon his return to London, Jacob formed a church, a covenant relationship, with the following initial members”\ Sabine Staismore [Petitioned the Crown for Mayflower Pilgrims in 1617] [Mentioned by Bradford in his History of the Plymouth Plantation], Richard Brown, David Prior, Andrew, Almey, Wm. Throughton, Jon. Allen, Mr. Gibs, Edw. Farre, Henry Goodall.  Jacob’s congregants [as well as Lothropp’s and Jessey’s] had no church building, as none of them were licensed to preach, so their church meetings, called Conventicles, under the law, were illegal. Conventicles were defined as secret meetings to hear unlicensed preaching, and were a particular target for William Laud, Bishop of London from 1627, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633. They met in the homes of members. When Lothrop’s group was arrested in 1632, the Records of the Court of the High Commission, [Laud presiding], identify some of the locations of their meetings, as “ Blackfriars, Queenhithe, Barnaby Street, and Tower Hill.”

Also, from the same source we have the following record of those who were arrested with John Lathrop and Samuel Eaton at the house in Blackfriars Parish in Apr1632:

“From the Records of the Court of the High Commission, the names of those congregants who were brought up before the Court are as follows [note, comments in brackets are those of the author]: May 3, 1632: John Lothropp, Humphrey Barnard, Henry Dod, [famous translator of Psalms] Samuel Eaton [button-maker], Mr. Granger, Sara Jones, Sara Jacob, [was Sara related to Henry Jacob?] Peninah Howes, [sister-in-law to Rev. Lothropp] Sara Barebone, [wife of Praise God Barebone, later Member of Parliament in the time of Cromwell] Susan Wilson, Wm. Pickering, Mabel Melbourne, William Atwood, Samuel Howes, [brother-in-law to Rev. Lothrop] Joan Ferne, Elizabeth Denne, Elizabeth Sargeant, John Egge, Henry Parker, John Woodwynne, Mabel Melbourne, Elizabeth Melbourne, Thomas Arundel of St. Olaves, William Granger of St. Margerets in Westminster, Robert Reignolds of Isleworth.  May 8, 1632: Mark Lucar of St. Austines, John Ireland of St. Mary Magdelens in Surrey, Tony Talbot.  Also listed in the court record as in prison with them, part of the same group Mr. Sargeant, Mr. Wilson, John Milbourne, Mr. Grafton, Mr. Barebone, Mr. Lemar.” 

Of particular interest to this investigation is the record of a William Atwood having been one of the parties in attendance at the conventicle at Blackfriars in Apr1632.  A research of all the Session Roll records for Middlesex County from 1550 thru 1667 revealed only one record for anyone named Atwood, that being the arrest of a Thomas Atwood of Spittalfield in Dec1662 for attending a conventicle.  Given the date (Apr1632), the similarity of the name of William Atwood to William Atterbury, the association with a conventicle meeting attended by Samuel Eaton, button-maker, and radical Brownist preacher of St. Giles, Cripplegate, and the absence of any other records for anyone named “Atwood” associated with the separatist movement in London for more than 100 years, it seems highly possible that this person was William Atterbury, waterman, from Mortlake.  There was a six-year gap between the burial of Alice Atterbury, daughter of William Atterbury, waterman at Mortlake, and the marriage of William Atterbury to Anne Osmer at Mitcham Parish.  It seems very possible that William Atterbury may have spent several years in prison following the arrests at the conventicle in Blackfriars Parish in Apr1632, which could account for his disappearance from records for six years.

If it were William Atterbury, waterman, who was arrested in Blackfriars Parish, then this fact would place him in direct association with members of Henry Jacob’s semi-separatist church.  Such association would suggest the transference of nonconformist religious connections from one Atterbury generation to the next.  Such transference is predicated on the author’s assumption that William Atterbury, porter and obstinate Brownest, was the father of William Atterbury, waterman, of Mortlake.  If William Atterbury’s (waterman), father was William Atterbury, obstinate Brownist, then it is reasonable that he would have been attracted to the Jacob-Lathrop church, possibly through contact with John Lathrop who resided for a while at Lambeth marsh, just a couple of miles downstream from Mortlake.

SUMMARY

Through this somewhat overly lengthy analysis of the development of the Brownist movement in England and Holland in the 16th and 17th centuries it has been demonstrated that three generations of William Atterburys (Addersburys) very likely were introduced to the separatist movement as early as 1580.  William Addersbury, basketmaker, could have become acquainted with John Wilkinson as early as 1590, when Wilkinson appears to have been an active participant in the Barrowes/Greenwood/Johnson conventicle meetings, some of which were held in homes near Smithfield and in a field at Finsbury, locations nearby to St. Giles, Cripplegate.  After a protracted absence from official notice (possibly in exile in Holland) John Wilkinson reappeared in London around 1605-10 as a “leader” of a group of separatists.  Following Wilkinson’s arrest at Stepney in 1611, it appears that he was exiled to Amsterdam.  In the absence of a key church leader, the London separatists may have turned to other lay persons in their congregation for leadership, possibly elevating William Addersbury to a position of church elder.  As a church elder, it seems probable that William Addersbury would have visited John Wilkinson in prison at Colchester around 1613-4, at which time he may have been entrusted with Wilkinson’s manuscript of The Sealed Fountaine.  At the death of William Addersbury, basketmaker, in Mar1629, he very likely would have entrusted the manuscript to his son, William Atterbury, porter and obstinate Brownist.  It seems probable that William Atterbury, waterman, of Mortlake, was a son of William Atterbury, obstinate Brownist, and the same person as William Atwood, who was arrested at the conventicle in Blackfriars in Apr1632.  Atwood may actually have been William Atterbury, porter and Brownist).  Almost certainly the manuscript would have been passed along to William Atterbury/Arthurbury of Mortlake and Morden, who arranged for its publication under the name of William Arthurbury in 1646.

Recognizing that much of the foregoing analysis is based on fragmentary data and a successive chain of unsubstantiated theories and hypotheses, the Addersbury/Atterbury/Arthurbury ancestral connections posited by the author cannot be “proven” to any degree of certainty.  However, it must be acknowledged that in most instances, names, dates and locations do fit the general model of the underlying hypothesis.  Absent any evidence to contradict or controvert these hypotheses, the author is inclined to accept these family associations as fact.  The reader must draw their own conclusions.

From the histories of the early religious dissenters of England, there are found definite connections to the “Low Countries”, Germany and Switzerland in the first half of the 16th century.  In fact, the beliefs of Robert Browne, the founder of the Brownist movement, have very close associations with the so-called reformed Protestants or Calvinists of Europe.  From the data thus far examined regarding the Arthurburys of Morden, juxtiposed with William Atterbury of Mortlake, William Atterbury (porter and Brownist), William Addersbury the basketmaker, and William Arthurbury the publisher, the author has formulated an hypothesis that all five parties were interconnected by blood.  More to the point, the author is of the opinion that the William Arthurbury, who published the Wilkinson manuscript, was either William Arthurbury of Morden, or his father.  Having made that association, the author then concluded that William Arthurbury, the publisher, was a son of William Atterbury the porter, and a grandson of William Addersbury the basketmaker.  The basis for these blood connections is predicated in large part on geographic proximities, timing, intercultural associations and religious tendencies of these families in comparison to the birth and development of the so-called Brownist sect. 

(4) Life of John Wilkinson:

Heretofore, the earliest known record of John Wilkinson from other biographical sources is the deposition of Cristopher Diggins, weaver of St. Olaves, Southwark in Mar1593 in which Diggins reported that he had witnessed John Wilkinson at a conventicle in possession of a Barrowes book.  Diggins had been arrested along with almost 55 other individuals during a raid of a separatist conventicle meeting in a field near Islington in Jan1593.  The only other published references found by the author that could absolutely be linked to John Wilkinson were in connection with two of his manuscripts: The Sealed Fountaine and An Exposition of the 13th Chapter of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  The Sealed Fountaine manuscript indicates that it was written in 1613 while Wilkinson was incarcerated at Colchester.  The Revelation manuscript was published posthumously in 1619, consequently John Wilkinson can be presumed to have died sometime between 1613 and 1619, perhaps as early as 1615.  Aside from Diggins’ statement that Wilkinson was in the vicinity of London around 1592/3, and that his own writing placed him in Colchester Prison from about 1613 until his death, virtually nothing else of any certainty has been discovered heretofore about this separatist martyr, for martyr he must be considered.

However, the author has found a tantalizing record of a John Wilkinson in the Middlesex Session Rolls as follows:

6Jun1592 (33 Elizabeth I) — True Bill against Elizabeth Chaundeler of Hoggelane in Whitechappel spinster, Anne Drurye of Popler widow, Katherine Inwayne of Whitechappel widow, and William Mompesson of Clarkenwell, gentleman, for not going to church, chapel or any usual place of Common Prayer, from the said 6 June 33 Eliz. to 26 Sept. then next following. — Also, on the same file, similar True Bill against Abraham Pulberrie of St. Leonard’s parish in Shorditche gentleman [pursemaker] and his wife Joan, for not going to any usual place of Common Prayer, from 1 June (1592) 33 Eliz. to 27 Sept. (1592) then next following, — Also, on the same file, similar True Bill against John Wilkinson of St. James’s parish in Clarkenwell yoman, for not going to any usual place of Common Prayer from 20 November (1592) 33 Eliz. to 28 Sept. (1593) (+10 months) then next following. G. D. R., 7 Oct., 33 Eliz. 

From the foregoing arraignments, it would appear that all of the named parties were arrested at about the same time, probably on or about 26 to 28 Sep 1592, since they all reported nonattendance of parish church or chapel to about the same date.  Whether they were all arrested at the same time and place or at separate locations cannot be deduced.  Since they appear to have been arraigned in three separate Bills, it seems probable that they were arrested in three separate groups from various locations around London.  Note that Abraham Pulbury [aka Pulbery] was arraigned within weeks of the arraignment of John Wilkinson, yeoman, of St. James Clerkenwell.  Abraham Pulbery, pursemaker, was among those arrested in a field near Finsbury in Islington on 4Mar1593 along with Christopher Diggins, etal., and testified that he had been present at the parade of Roger Rippon’s coffin along Cheapside.  Given these connections, it seems highly likely that the John Wilkinson identified by Christopher Diggins, weaver, as being in possession of a book by Henry Barrowes, was the same person identified in this session roll record as a “yoman from St. James Clerkenwell”.  The fact that John Wilkinson, yoman, was alleged to have absented himself from church or chapel for upwards of 11 months clearly suggests a connection to the separatist movement, which would comport with Diggins’ testimony of having seem him at a separatist conventicle in possession of one of Henry Barrowes books.  Earlier writers have assumed that the John Wilkinson described by Diggins was the same person as the writer and imprisoned separatist martyr.  If that be true, then it is reasonable to conclude that the Colchester martyr was also the “yoman from St. James Clerkenwell”.  Following on this assumption the author located the following church register record:

“16Jun1589 John Wilkinson married Agnes Feild [sic] at St. James, Clerkenwell.”[107]

Given that John Wilkinson was reported as being “of St. James, Clerkenwell” in the 6Jun1592 arraignment (abstracted above), it seems entirely probable that the above marriage record from St. James Clerkenwell was for the same John Wilkinson.  This was the only record found for an adult John Wilkinson in the Clerkenwell register during this time period.  However, there are several other records for families headed by a Robert Wilkinson and a George Wilkinson, as well as a marriage record for a Joane Wilkinson to John Mutter in 1593.  So, clearly there were Wilkinsons living in St. James Clerkenwell around this time period, who could have been kinsmen of John Wilkinson, perhaps his siblings.  The identity of Agnes Field is not known to the author, but there is evidence in the church register of other Fields living in St. James Clerkenwell at that time.  One possibility to consider is that John Field, minister, author and Puritan archivist, was buried in neighboring St. Giles, Cripplegate parish on 26Mar1588.  The identity of John Field’s wife is also unknown, but it seems possible, given the close geographic proximity, matching dates and surnames, and similarity of religious reformation activism, that John Wilkinson may have married the widow of John Field. 

Before leaving St. James Clerkenwell parish, further notice of the marriage between Joane Wilkinson and John Mutter must be given.  First, it should be recognized that “Mutter” was an extremely rare surname in London in the 16th century.  In fact John Mutter was the only instance of this surname in London in the 16th century.  However, there were instances of the surname of Munter at that time, the earliest being the marriage of Anne Munter to John Higgs at St. Giles Camberwell, Surrey.  Given its rarity, the author believes that John Mutter’s surname may actually have been Munter.  During this same time period a Jan Munter emerged as the owner of a relatively large bake-house in Amsterdam, and a member of the Waterlander Mennonite Church in Amsterdam.  In fact, it was in a chamber at the rear of Munter’s bake-house that John Smith met with his Gainsborough “Brownist” Church.  Is it possible that John Mutter, husband of Joane Wilkinson, may have been a kinsman of Jan Munter, Mennonite and Amsterdam baker?  Some researchers have reported that there was a large settlement (2,000 or more) of Mennonites at Norwich in the 16th century with whom Robert Brown communed around 1580-2, before he and Harrison decided to move their church to Holland.  Did a kinsman of John Wilkinson intermarry with a member of the Mennonite church, and might that association have influenced Wilkinson’s involvement with the Brownist separatist church?

In addition to the above records of a John Wilkinson from St. James, Clerkenwell, the author also discovered the following Middlesex Session Roll records:

“10Jun1611 (8 James I) — True Bill that, at Stepney, County of Middlesex on the said day, John Wilkinson, weaver, John Heynes, yoman, and William Serbye [Searby?], yoman, late of London (who did not go to church, chapel or any usual Place of Common Prayer during the month beginning on 1May1611) voluntarily came together at, and were present in, an unlawful assembly and conventicle under pretent of the exercise of religion.  John Wilkinson was found “Guilty”.  On their arraignment John Heynes and William Serbye said nothing.  All three had judgment according to the form of the statute.  G.D.R., 5Dec1611.”

“4Mar1612 (8 James I) — Memorandum to John Wilkenson, John Heynes and William Serbye, all three “Brownists convicted and having remayned in prison for the space of three monthes after their conviction, not conforminge themselves” have now received from the Courte further judgment “that they are to be banished out of the realme,” and have been assigned “to take shippinge from the Port of London betweene this and one monthe after Easter Daye next comminge for their passage unto Amsterdam.  G.D. Reg.”

John Haynes and William Surbye were sent to the gaol at Hertford as “Brownistes”, and William Atterbury of Grub Street was bound over “for an obstinate browniste”.  These references to members of the sect of separatist puritans founded by Robert Browne are particularly interesting, as it is known that by the end of 1591 Browne, driven by persecution, had accepted episcopal ordination and cure of souls at a parish in Northamptonshire.  The fact that the persons named above were charged before the magistrates show that the followers of this founder of Congregationalism remained steadfast, in spite of their leader adopting more orthodox methods.

Other Miscellaneous Records:

Salmstone rectory: Names of prisoners re-imprisoned at the last Sessions:— Jerome Wigatte. John Edwardes. Joseph Chapman. Thomas Lenton. Delivered by proclamation. Charles Bourne. William Cletherowe. John Haynes. William Surbye.

9 September, 11 James I [A.D. 1613]. John Haynes and William Surbye.  For the gaol at Hertford. Respited without bail for “Brownistes.”

22 April, 11 James I [A.D. 1613]. Jenkin Morres of Westminster, cutler, and Samuel Kinge of St. James’, Clerkenwell, cordwainer, for Thomas Frithe [Frythe] of Southwark, co. Surrey, haberdasher, for cheating John Wilkinson of £5 “about fower yeares sithence.” Sess. Roll 521/124. Sess. Reg. 1/615.

It is noteworthy that all three of these men, having been indicted for not attending church or chapel, were specifically labeled as “Brownists”, almost 20 years after the initial formation of Robert Brown’s church.  Their arrests occurred just three years before William Atterbury, porter, was cited as “an obstinate Brownist”.  Many researchers of the reformation of the English church frequently utilize the term “brownist” to reference adherents and/or followers of the teachings and writings of Robert Brown, yet the foregoing citations in reference to John Wilkinson and William Atterbury are the only two such references to “brownist” or “brownism” to be found in the entire Middlesex Session Rolls spanning from Elizabeth I to Charles II.  In fact, some writers suggest that “brownism” or “brownist” was a derogatory term commonly applied to many dissenters or nonconformists of the pre-civil war era, regardless of their particular political or religious beliefs.  If that were the case, one might expect to find more frequent use of this repugnant invective in the session rolls.  In the Middlesex Session Rolls between 1580 and 1620 there were literally thousands of persons cited and/or arraigned on charges for not attending their parish church or chapel (an act typically associated with the separatist movement, but which might also include Catholics), yet we find only the two instances where the Court has applied the label of “Brownist”.  It is striking to note that those two singular instances just happen to involve William Atterbury, porter, and John Wilkinson, weaver.

Given this remarkable fact, it seems inevitable that the author should draw a link between the John Wilkinson, weaver, who was found “guilty” of violating Royal order by not attending church or chapel for a period of at least one month, confined to prison for a period of three months after which he refused to “confirm himself” (abjure), and was ordered exiled to Amsterdam in Mar1612; and the John Wilkinson who wrote The Sealed Fountaine from his prison cell at Colchester in 1613.  In the preface to The Exposition on the Revelation John Wilkinson’s editors made reference to his having been frequently imprisoned and deprived of his books and personal belongings.  Such experience would certainly comport with John Wilkinson, weaver, who was imprisoned and deported.  Colchester was a popular port of entry for exiles returning from the Low Country, as well as for smuggling seditious material.  It seems probable that John Wilkinson, weaver, was the same person, who later was imprisoned at Colchester, and who wrote the manuscript entitled The Sealed Fountaine which was published by William Arthurbury almost 35 years after Wilkinson’s death.

Assuming that these additional records unearthed by the author of persons named John Wilkinson were all for the same person, it would appear that John Wilkinson lived for some period of time in his earlier life in St. James Clerkenwell parish, immediately abutting the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate and St. Andrews Holborn, places in which William Atterbury, porter and obstinate Brownist resided and worked.  Given that John Wilkinson and William Atterbury were both recorded in the Middlesex Session Rolls within three years of one another for essentially the same offense, i.e., not attending their parish church, and were the only persons known to be labeled as “Brownists” by the Court, it seems highly likely that they would have had a personal acquaintance, if not an actual shared kinship.  If John Wilkinson had married the widow of John Field, the connection between John Wilkinson and William Atterbury may have been made even closer by the fact that both Field and Atterbury resided on Grub Street in St. Giles Cripplegate.

Assuming the author is correct regarding these various records of persons named John Wilkinson having pertained to the same individual, then several further questions emerge: (1) How could a yoman/weaver write such worthy literary examples as The Sealed Fountaine and The Exposition on the Revelation?, (2) Where was John Wilkinson in the approximately 20-year period between 1593 and 1611?, and (3) How did the Sealed Fountaine manuscript come into possession of William Arthurbury?

Question 1:  How could a yoman/weaver write such worthy and learned literary examples as The Sealed Fountaine and The Exposition on the Revelation?:  Anyone who has read either of John Wilkinson’s two known writings cannot escape the impression of an educated and scholarly individual, yet no record was found of his having attended a university, having been ordained a minister, or even having held an official church position as curate, vicar, lecturer, teacher or elder.  So, it seems very likely that John Wilkinson would have been considered a layman, as contrasted to a college-educated clergyman.  If truly a laymen rather than a clergyman, it does not necessarily follow that John Wilkinson would have been an ignorant laymen.  In fact, being a clergyman in the 16th and 17th centuries carried no guarantee of intellect.  There are countless instances during this time period of petitions from noblemen and parishioners addressed to church leaders, to parliament and even to the Crown; protesting of the widespread ignorance of the “dumb minister” in their parish churches, unable to preach, ignorant of the bible, and unable to minister to the spiritual needs of their flock, not to mention claims of wonton behavior including drunkenness and gambling.  Similarly, we have numerous examples of cogent, articulate, and forceful writings and sermons by laymen, laboring to have their message of religious reform heard and disseminated.

For a very relevant example of literary laymen in John Wilkinson’s time, we need only study the target of his Sealed Fountaine manuscript, the so-called Anabaptists, which included John Murton, Thomas Helwys, John Smith and John Robinson.  It is unknown to the author to which specific writing(s) of “Murton and others of his company and followers” John Wilkinson was addressing The Sealed Fountaine, but it may have been letters or printed tracts originating from the Anabaptists either at Amsterdam or London sometime around 1611/2.  When published by William Arthurbury in 1646, the title of Wilkinson’s tract was given as follows: 

“The sealed fountaine opened to the faithfull, and their seed. Or, a short treatise, shewing, that some infants are in the state of grace, and capable of the seales, and others not. Being the chief point, wherein the separatists doe blame the Anabaptists. By John Wilkinson, prisoner at Colchester, against John Morton prisoner at London.”

However, within the preface to the 1646 tract it was stated that the title of the original pamphlet read as follows:

“A reproof of some things written by John Murton and others of his company and followers to prove that Infants are not in the state of condemnation, and therefore they are not to be baptized.  By John Wilkinson, a Prisoner in Colchester for the Patience of Faith of the Saints, 1613.”[108]

Technically, there are important, yet subtle doctrinal distinctions to be drawn between the stated objective of Wilkinson’s manuscript as inferred by these two titles.  The original title appears to be a reproof of the Anabaptist’s position that all infant baptisms were not true baptisms, and therefore invalid.  Whereas the published title comports more directly to the focus of Wilkinson’s text, which classifies some infant baptisms as being in a state of condemnation, and therefore invalid.  Does this difference, albeit subtle, between the stated objective within the two titles suggest that Arthurbury edited the text of the tract to yield a more refined argument?  It seems more likely that the published title was revised from the original by Arthurbury to give a truer essence of the textual theme.

Wilkinson’s original tract stated that it was a reproof of “some things written by Murton, etal.”, undoubtedly intended to refute a basic tenet of the Anabaptist’s belief relative to the concept of “original sin” and infant baptism.  The Anabaptists did not believe in infant baptism, and were of the opinion that only credobaptism, or “believer’s” baptism formed a true sacrament with Christ.  Consequently, Anabaptists believed that baptism was a necessary sacrament for salvation, but to be undertaken only “by those spiritually mature enough to understand its profound, symbolic significance: resurrection to new life in Christ.”  Such belief embraced the necessity of rebaptism of those baptized or christened at infancy.  Puritans and Calvinists, including Wilkinson and his fellow Brownists, believed both in infant baptism and in credobaptism, on the fundamental premise that any baptism constituted a sacrament and was good for the salvation of one’s soul. 

John Smith, John Murton and Thomas Helwys did not consider credobaptism as practiced within their church to constitute “rebaptism”, since their view was that infant baptism, as practiced by mainstream Puritans and the Anglican Church was itself not a true or real baptism, rather simply an outward ceremony that did not bear on the inner soul.  Whereas, John Wilkinson and his fellow Brownists distinguished the baptism of the infant of a true believer or faithful as follows:

“…there is no hope of salvation for any infants, further than they may be reckoned to belong unto Christ as being the first fruit of such branches as are ingrafted in him by Faith, and those which be such are to be baptized, thereby to declare what benefit all have by Christ that are partakers with him, whose holiness is such that he sanctifieth all that have fellowship with him (including the children or “seed” of the faithful).”[109]

So, Wilkinson would have us believe that a child who was the “fruit of such branches as are ingrafted in Him by Faith”, i.e., born of faithful parentage, inherits their parents’ state of grace, are without sin, and may be baptized (hence the title, The sealed fountaine opened to the faithfull, and their seed)  The corollary of this proposition, presumably, would be that an infant born of parentage outside a state of grace, inherits the sin of their parents, and, therefore, should not be baptized.  The issue of how a “state of grace” is attained is not addressed in The Sealed Fountaine, other than by the reference to “all that have fellowship with Him.”; another issue that certainly could become cause for yet further division between Murton and Wilkinson.  Suffice it to say that such matters as transubstantiation, succession, governance, ordination, baptism, prayer, preaching, free will, predestination, scriptural reading, excommunication, persecution, damnation, purgatory, incarnation, contrition, and repentance were all volatile topics that echoed and raged within “the church” during this time of religious reformation on the continent, in England, and reverberating to the colonies.

Now, regarding the question of the qualifications and examples of laymen writers, John Murton from all accounts was not college educated.  He very likely had the benefit of a grammar school education near his hometown of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire before he entered training in the trade of furrier.  Gainsborough was situated on the east bank of the River Trent, a navigable waterway with access to the sea via the Humber River at Hull.  Furriers were also known as pelters or skinners, and dealt in the craft of curing animal hides, with fur intact, for use in the manufacture of a variety of articles of wearing apparel, furniture or personal accessories.  Being in a relatively rural region, but with access to sea trade, a furrier from Gainsborough probably dealt mainly in lambskin, goat and rabbit hides, although there may have been processing of the hides of furred creatures from the region around Gainsborough. 

While living in Gainsborough, Murton appears to have become involved with the Puritan sect lead by John Smyth, and supported by Thomas Helwys, another laymen.  John Smith had been mentored by Francis Johnson while a student in Christ’s College, Cambridge around 1586.  According to Burgess, Christ’s College (and Cambridge in general) was “a nest of Puritanism.  It sent out a constant stream of energetic Puritan preachers and writers.”  Robert Brown and Robert Harrison, purported founders of the Congregational Church, had matriculated through Christ’s College almost 15 years before Smith.  Francis Johnson and his brother, George Johnson, are believed to have matriculated through Christ’s College about a decade after Brown and Harrison.  Upon graduation, Francis Johnson became a Fellow at Christ’s College around 1585, and became John Smith’s tutor the year after.  Johnson ran afoul of ecclesiastical authority in Jan1588/9 when he delivered a sermon at St. Mary’s, Cambridge which echoed the Presbyterian teachings of Thomas Cartwright, who, himself, had been ejected from his Chair of Divinity at Cambridge in 1571.  Like Cartwright, Francis Johnson was deprived of his fellowship, and imprisoned in late 1588.  After petitioning Lord Burghley, Johnson was brought up for re-examination on 19Oct1589, and, failing to satisfy his inquisitors, was ordered to leave the University on 30Oct1589.  After refusing to leave the University, Johnson was again imprisoned on 18Dec1589.  Whether ordered into exile or of his own choosing is unknown, but on his release from prison Francis Johnson went to Middleburg, Netherlands where he took up the post of minister to the English merchants, a post previously held by Thomas Cartwright, and vacated by Dudley Fenner at his death in late 1589. 

It will be recalled that it was also at Middleburg that Robert Brown and Robert Harrison first established their separatist church in 1583.  At this juncture in his life, Francis Johnson still favored reform within the Anglican Church and was opposed to separation from that church.  In fact, Johnson was so zealous against the Separatists that, when Henry Barrowes and John Greenwood attempted to publish a refutation to George Gifford’s book defending “read prayers and devised liturgies”, Johnson actively sought to intercept its printing and to have copies burnt.  Ironically, Johnson kept back a copy of Barrowe’s and Greenwood’s book from burning, which upon closer reading Johnson became persuaded to the Separatists’ point of view.  Such conversion and conviction led Francis Johnson to leave his lucrative post in Middleburg and travel to London, where he met and conferred with Barrowes and Greenwood at Fleet Prison in early 1592.  Greenwood was temporarily released around that time into the care of Roger Rippon, whereupon at a meeting of the London “Ancient Church” in Sep1592, members elected Francis Johnson as their preacher and John Greenwood as their teacher or “doctor”.  It would appear that George Johnson had also joined in communion with this church, as he became its preacher after the arrest of Francis Johnson and John Greenwood on 5Dec1592.  George Johnson was acting as the preacher at the conventicle held in the field near Finsbury on 4Mar1593, when almost 55 persons were arrested, including Abraham Pulbury and Chistopher Diggins.

On attaining his Masters degree John Smith received a fellowship at Christ’s Church which he held between 1594 and 1598, and during which time he, himself, became a tutor of scholars.  Whether he continued as a Fellow at Cambridge beyond 1598 is uncertain, but probable.  He was next noticed when he was selected on an 8 to 7 vote on 7Sep1600 to the position of preacher to the City of Lincoln.  During his two-year tenure as Preacher of the City, John Smith gained in experience and reputation.  He was later described by William Bradford, Governor of the Pilgrim Colony, as a “good preacher”.  Not necessarily a ringing endorsement, but a favorable tribute, considering the lofty character of Bradford.

After leaving the Lincoln post in 1602, there is some evidence to suggest that John Smith may have continued in service as a lecturer to the City of Lincoln until 1605.  During his years at Lincoln John Smith published some of his sermons, one of which, on the usage of The Lord’s Prayer in religious services, drew controversy.  Until that time Smith’s writings and speech had appeared moderate, considering his Cambridge background and influences, but the next few years would see a clear and dramatic transformation in his views on Church governance.  Burgess describes this awakening as follows:

“Even when he himself separated from the Church of England, a few months later, it was more the result of his own thinking than the example of Francis Johnson that led him to take the step.  He was too original to adopt blindly all the conclusions of earlier Separatists.”

From the foregoing we get a clear glimpse into John Smith, the seeker, as a person thoughtfully and cautiously probing the mysteries surrounding all aspects of reformed religious belief, before settling his own mind on the “right” judgment.  So, while tending toward separation from the Church of England, he was not prepared to jump onto the Robert Browne and Francis Johnson Separatist “bandwagon”; he will develop his own brand of separation and discipline.  During this critical period in Smith’s separatist evolution, he conferred with his old fellow collegians: Arthur Hildersham of Ashby de la Zouch and Richard Bernard of Worksop.  This conference took place at Coventry in about 1605, from which Smith marks his determination to separate from the Anglican Church, despite later statements by both Hildersham and Bernard to the contrary.  The Coventry conference resulted in several charges and countercharges between the attendees, but Smith remained steadfast in his assertion that he never wavered from the opinion that it was necessary to withdraw from a church if its ministry was found to be false or corrupt.  While Smith still held that the Anglican Church was a “true” church (in its formation), its doctrine and ministry was false.  Smith was not prepared to join the Brownist position that the Anglican Church was antichristian, and its leaders Antichrists.

Between 1605 and 1609 Smith established a ministry at Gainsborough, and began to collect a following of faithful supporters.  Among his closest associates during this time at Gainsborough were Thomas Helwys of Broxtowe Hall and John Murton, the young furrier.  Burgess claims that the formation of Smith’s separatist church, which subsequently came to be known as the Church of the Pilgrim Fathers, occurred in 1606.  Burgess bases this date on Smith’s presumed continued “fellowship” with the Anglican Church as a lecturer at Lincoln in the spring of 1605, and Smith’s own report of “nine months of doubting”, presumably culminating in the Coventry conference in late 1605.  Shortly after the Coventry conference Smith is reported to have returned to his ministering around the community of Gainsborough in early 1606 when “[the] step of separation was taken and a wholly new Church of ‘saints’ formed irrespective of parochial or diocesan boundaries.”  Again, according to Burgess the new church received its membership “from parts as distant as the Isle of Axholme in Lincolnshire, Retford and Worksop, Broxtowe Hall and Skegby in Nottinghamshire, and Austerfield in Yorkshire…  The villages of Scrooby, Sutton, Mattersey, Sturton le Steeple and North Wheatley, all within touch of Gainsborough, contributed members.” 

The church was constituted through a covenant sworn by its members: “We covenant with God and with one another to walk in all his ways made known or to be made known unto us according to our best endeavours whatsoever it shall cost us.”  Compare this covenant to that of the Separatist Church of Francis Johnson: “I will walk with you so long as you walk in the way of the Lord and as far as may be warranted by the word of God.”  Upon constituting a new church its members decided that geography warranted formation of a sister church at Scrooby to better serve members further northward.  Being a wholly democratic body (as were virtually all of the early separatists churches), the members proceeded to select a minister from among its congregation.  John Smith was elected to minister the Church of Gainsborough, whereas, John Robinson was elected to minister the newly formed church at Scrooby.  Both churches fairly rapidly came to the attention of the local clergy by virtue of their absence from parish communion.  Jervase Neville and Joan Helwys, wife of Thomas Helwys, were arrested and taken to York for inquisition.  Thomas Helwys, John Smith, John Murton and other members narrowly escaped being arrested.  By Jan1608 both the Gainsborough and the Scrooby churches resolved to migrate to the Low Country, an act that Francis Johnson and the London Separatist Church had undertaken almost a decade earlier.

Upon their arrival in Amsterdam, the Gainsborough church sought to form a conference with Johnson’s “Ancient Church”, not for the purpose of uniting, but rather for collaboration on religious principles.  Smith was still in the process of evolving his ideas of discipline and doctrine, and hoped that collaboration with other separatists might bring forth further enlightenment and clarification.  For example, Smith appeared to be troubled by some lingering doubt as to the true legitimacy of the foundation upon which the Gainsborough and Scrooby Churches had been formed.  Some writers suggest that Smith had become better informed of the Mennonite orders both in England and in Amsterdam, which had formed their churches around the purifying act of baptism as contrasted to the open oral expression of faith and commitment embodied in the swearing of a covenant.  In Smith’s words in 1608: “A visible communion of saints is two, three or more saints joined together by covenant with God and themselves…”  Shortly after arrival in Amsterdam Smith set to print a small tract on his vision for the order and organization of his fledgling separatist church entitled Principles and Inferences Concerning the Visible Church.

At this juncture we must regress momentarily for some background on Thomas Helwys, who factors heavily into the formation and transport of the Gainsborough Church to Amsterdam.  But first, let it be stated that John Wilkinson directed his manuscript entitled The Sealed Fountain as much towards Helwys as towards John Murton or any other person of their company.  Wilkinson did not specifically mention Helwys, but was not Helwys still alive in 1613 when Wilkinson penned The Sealed Fountaine?  John Robsinson’s book published in 1614 was entitled “Of Religious Communion: Private and Public.  With the silencing of the Clamours raised by Thomas Helwisse against our retaining the Baptism received in England [Infant Baptism]; and administering of Baptism unto Infants.  As also, a Survey of the Confession of Faith, published in certain Conclusions, by the remainders of Mr. Smyth’s company.”  It is generally accepted among researchers that this book by John Robinson printed in 1614 was first and foremost a refutation of charges levied by Thomas Helwys in his final work published in 1611/12 and entitled “A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity”.  Burgess contends that Robinson’s Religious Communion makes it clear that Helwys was still alive, and very likely in prison in London, at the time of its publication in 1614.  The author concedes that Helwys’ book (Mystery of Iniquity) was the primary target of Robinson’s book, however, can find nothing in Robinson’s book that suggests Helwys was still alive.  Because of the shear volume of Religious Communion it is reasonable to assume that Robinson probably had been working on a rebuttal to Mystery of Iniquity almost from the date of its first publication in 1612.  Because of the former kindred ship between Robinson and Helwys emanating from those heady days at Gainsborough, Robinson must have felt Helwys’ book to have been a serious affront and breach of confidences.  His reputation and pride could not allow Helwys’ personal assault upon his fundamental beliefs to go unchallenged and unanswered. 

Even if news of Helwys’ death had reached John Robsinson before 1614, he would needs must go forward with the printing of Religious Communion, as there were still followers of Helwys, Smith and Murton, not to mention other separatists like Francis Johnson and Henry Ainsworth, that needed to feel his indignation and revulsion towards Helwys’ stinging indictment.  From the title of Robinson’s book, which included the subtext “Thomas Helwisse against our retaining the Baptism received in England [Infant Baptism]; and administering of Baptism unto Infants“, it is clear that the debate over infant baptism carried forward by John Wilkinson in The Sealed Fountaine in 1613 had originated between John Robinson and Thomas Helwys, and not from any particular writings by John Murton or any other member of their company of Anabaptists.  That being the case, then why would Wilkinson not have addressed his remarks toward Thomas Helwys rather than John Murton?  It is the author’s belief that Thomas Helwys was already dead at the time that Wilkinson penned The Sealed Fountaine in 1613, and that Wilkinson had knowledge of that fact.  It is not known exactly when in 1613 Wilkinson wrote his treatise on infant baptism, but it may have been very late in that year.  Perhaps, given the Old Style calendar, The Sealed Fountaine might even have been dated as late as Mar1614 and still receive the date of 1613.  Perhaps Thomas Helwys died in late 1613 or early 1614 and news of his death had not reached John Robinson at Leyden in time for any further amendment to Religious Communion before its being put into print.

Regardless of the date at which Thomas Helwys died, the main point should be that both Helwys and Murton were laymen.  Thomas Helwys was a person of some moderate wealth, and had been educated at Gray’s Inn with an eye toward becoming an attorney.  On his father’s death, Thomas Helwys returned to Broxtowe Hall, married, and, as a staunch Puritan supporter, opened his home to the benefit of other like believers, including John Smith (during a period of Smith’s ill heath).  Helwys is reported to have been the main financial backer behind the removal of the Gainsborough and Scrooby Churches to the Low Country.  Being a close ally of John Smith, Helwys was the first person baptized by John Smith, after Smith had anointed himself (the se-baptist).  This act of credobaptism by John Smith and his elders marked the beginning of the English Anabaptist movement, which Helwys and Murton then later transplanted to London around 1612/3.

Around 1610 John Smith began to have doubts about the legitimacy of his self-baptism, and began a long and protracted negotiation with the Waterlander Mennonite Church at Amsterdam for his church to be admitted into the Mennonite church.  Smith’s belief at that time was that his self-baptism lacked the legitimacy of succession embodied within the Mennonite church, with which he and his followers held many principles and doctrines in common.  Helwys, Murton and several other of Smith followers had been baptized by Smith, and were not prepared to abandon their belief in the legitimacy of those baptisms, thus resulting in a schism between John Smith and Helwys, etal.  Between 1610 and 1612 Thomas Helwys, John Murton, William Piggott, Thomas Seamer, and perhaps 10 to 15 others continued to meet in Amsterdam, all the while corresponding with the Waterlander Church, John Robinson’s Leyden Church, and Francis Johnson’s “Ancient Church”.

John Smith died in Aug1612, leaving his Gainsborough Church still seeking admission by the Waterlander Mennonites, a feat which they achieved a few years after Smith’s death.  Helwys and Murton, on the other hand had concluded that they had erred in seeking exile outside of England.  In his book Mystery of Iniquity Helwys set forth his arguments for determining to return to English soil and to confront the Anglican Church on humane grounds that man had a right to liberty of conscience in matters of religion, and that persecution of man for his choice of beliefs was immoral and unjust.  The exact date of Helwys’s and Murton’s return to London is unknown with certainty, but likely occurred sometime in the summer of 1612.  Helwys was so bold as to inscribe a copy of Mystery in his own hand addressed to King James as follows:

“Hear, O King, and despise not the counsel of the poor, and let their complaints come before thee.  The King is a mortal man and not God, therefore has no power over the immortal souls of his subjects, to make laws and ordinances for them, and to set spiritual lords over them.  If the King has authority to make spiritual lords and laws, then he is an immortal God and not a mortal man.  O King, be not seduced by deceivers to sin against God whom you ought to obey, nor against your poor subjects who ought and will obey you in all things with body, life, and goods, or else their lives be taken from the earth.  God save the King.  Signed Thomas Helwys, Spittalfield near London.”

No date has been attributed to this copy of Mystery addressed to King James, but very likely was sometime in the fall of 1612.  If the ecclesiastical authorities had not already been alerted to the return of Helwys’s separatist group to London, the surfacing of this copy of Mystery addressed to the King would certainly have brought Helwys, Murton and others of their company to royal and ecclesiastical notice.  Circulation of The Mystery in Holland before Helwys’s departure for England would very likely have been brought to the notice of authorities, as Church spies were pervasive throughout the Low countries, and particularly in the port cities, including Amsterdam.  Since Helwys broadcast his intended return to England within the text of Mystery, authorities may have been forewarned and on alert when he and his group arrived and established a presence at Spitalsfield.  Given these circumstances, it was inevitable that Helwys and Murton would shortly have been arrested and imprisoned.  Such bold and reckless behavior by Helwys could tend toward only one outcome, that of his impending martyrdom.  One might conclude that Helwys took his actions full knowing of his likely sacrifice.  Although Helwys pled for tolerance and understanding from the Crown, he could not have been so naive as to imagine he could actually sway King James by sophistic reason where so many others had failed.

For the most part we only know of John Murton’s imprisonment in 1613 through the Wilkinson tract.  It is only in later years that Murton is seen to publish his own writings as a prisoner of Newgate.  Since we only have the earlier writings of Helwys, and none of Murton, prior to 1613, the author is inclined to conclude that Helwys very likely died sometime before the end of 1613, very likely also a prisoner at Newgate.  Most Helwys biographers place the year of his death at around 1616, the year in which his brother, Geoffrey Helwys, named Joan Helwys (Thomas’ widow) as a beneficiary.  This fact in truth only establishes the latest possible time of Thomas Helwys’s death, not the actually date of his death.

Thomas Helwys and John Murton are the only laymen known to the author to have been the founders of a reformed church that has survived to the present time, namely the Baptist Church in all its various forms.  Such an accomplishment speaks volumes for the soundness of their doctrinal reasoning, and their ability to articulate that doctrine through their writings in such a manner and style as to have had lasting impact on their followers and future converts.  In addition to having distinguished the ordinance of believer’s baptism, Thomas Helwys may be looked upon as the father and author of some of the most fundamental elements vital to every free democratic society on the planet, namely the necessary separation of church and state, and the liberty of conscience afforded to all mankind, regardless of their religious beliefs.  So, if such worthy laymen as Thomas Helwys and John Murton can be shown to have possessed exceptional abilities of reason and expression, it is easy to envision how John Wilkinson, as a laymen, had the ability to pen such works as The Sealed Fountaine and Revelations.

(2) Where was John Wilkinson in the approximately 18-year period between 1593 and 1611?

In answering this question it is necessary to engage in assumptions and speculation based on the sketchy pieces of information actually known of John Wilkinson and the separatist movement during this time period.  First, let it be said that the author has conducted a fairly extensive search for information on any person named John Wilkinson in both England and Holland during the 18-year period in question.  Assuming that the data compiled thus far by the author on John Wilkinson correctly pertained to the same individual, it seems highly probable that John Wilkinson was a life-long craftsman, much the same as John Murton.  Following his arrest in 1592, wherein he was described as a yoman from St. James Clerkenwell, nothing further is found of him until his arrest with two other craftsmen in the Stepney District of East London in 1611, wherein he was described as a weaver, the same craft as Abraham Pulbury. 

In the case of his first arrest Wilkinson was reported not to have gone to his parish church or chapel for a period of about 10 months, an action clearly associated with an active participant in the Separatist Church.  Within the same cluster of arraignments with Wilkinson was a Bill brought against Abraham Pulbery on similar charges.  Pulbury was arrested a second time about six months later on another similar charge, this time having been actually caught in attendance at a conventicle meeting at Finsbury.  In Pulbury’s deposition he reported that he had actually participated in the parade of Roger Rippon’s coffin from Newgate Prison along Cheapside.  (Remember from earlier reports, John Greenwood had been released into the custody of Roger Rippon sometime around Sep1592).  It was that seditious and libelous act of parading Roger Rippon’s coffin along Cheapside to Justice Richard Young’s house that prompted the raid on the conventicle at Finsbury.  From the testimony of Christopher Diggins, weaver, of St. Olaves, Southwark, who was also arrested at Finsbury, he had witnessed John Wilkinson in possession of a book written by Henry Barrowes.  So, while there was no direct record evidence linking Wilkinson to the Brownist Church in 1593, Diggins’ testimony would clearly suggest that Wilkinson had continued his association with the Brownists even after his arrest in Sep1592.  In fact, it seems highly likely that John Wilkinson had continued his residence in London between his marriage in Jun1589, and sometime after the arrest of Christopher Diggins in Mar1593.  Following Wilkinson’s initial arrest, he may have been kept in jail in London for upwards of a full year before being released. 

By his continued appearance in connection with the Brownist Church between Oct1591 and Mar1593, it seems clear that John Wilkinson was a committed follower of that separatist movement.  Possession of a Barrowes book is further evidence of Wilkinson’s connection to the separatist movement.  The so-called Barrowes Book identified by Diggins may have been any one of four books penned by Barrowes and in circulation in Sep1592, but very likely was a copy of the book entitled Collection of Certain Slanderous Articles.  This manuscript was written in the spring of 1590 while Barrowes and Greenwood shared quarters in the Fleet Prison.  Prior to the writing of Certain Slanderous Articles Barrows is known to have written at least one other small article that made its way into print entitled A True Description out of the Word of God of the Visible Church.  While this earlier publication may have been instructive as to Barrowes views on the foundations of the Ancient Church, it hardly seems of sufficient import for Wilkinson to be carrying it to a conventicle meeting.  However, at his trial on 20Mar1593 Barrowes admitted to having published four separate manuscripts as follows: (1) “Certain Letters and Conferences”, (2) “A Collection of Slanderous Articles”, (3) “A Brief Discovery of the False Church”, and (4) “A Plain Refutation of Mr. Gifford”.  It is highly probable that the book witnessed by Diggins to have been in the hands of Wilkinson would have one or a compilation of more than one of these four texts.

It seems probable that John Wilkinson was released within a few months of his arrest in Oct1592, as there is evidence that there may have been some leniency shown by the magistrates during 1591/2 where several separatists were released on bail, including John Greenwood and Francis Johnson.  However, Henry Barrowe’s imprisonment continued into its 6th year without reprieve.  Undoubtedly the stinging and belligerent nature of his writings must have been considered so egregious as to make him appear dangerous to the Crown.  Johnson and Greenwood were elected as minister and teacher, respectively, by the London Separatist Church shortly after having been released on bail in the fall of 1592.  While at liberty Johnson and Greenwood continued their ministry to the church until their illegal gatherings once again came to notice.  Francis Johnson and John Greenwood were placed under house arrest at the home of Edward Boys on Ludgate Hill at about 2 a.m. in the morning of 5Dec1592.  All three were arraigned the following day.  Johnson and Boys were sent to the Clink, whereas Greenwood was sent back to the Fleet Prison.  According to a deposition taken from Johnson on 5Apr1593, he had first been taken from a house on St. Nicholas Lane (probably Fox’s house), and then secondly from Edward Boys house on Ludgate Hill.

It seems probable that John Wilkinson, as a young lay follower, would have continued to participate in the meetings of this clandestine church up to and beyond the raid on the conventicle at Finsbury in Mar1592/3.  In fact, he may have been in attendance at the Finsbury meeting and somehow avoided arrest.  No further report is known of John Wilkinson until his arrest in 1611.  It seems unlikely that he could have remained in England as an active separatist follower, and not have come to the attention of authorities.  Such absence from records suggests that he likely followed the remnants of the Ancient Church into exile in Holland. 

On 12Apr1593, just six days after the execution of Barrowes and Greenwood, Parliament enacted a Bill generally known as the “Brownist Obedience Act”.  Among other provisions, this Act mandated exile of all obstinate separatists, forfeiture of property and/or stiff fines.  In the wake of passage of this Act most active members of the Ancient Church still at liberty elected to voluntarily leave their homeland.  John Penry wrote a letter to the congregation in London just prior to his execution on 29May1593 in which he admonished them to prepare for their imminent removal from England.  According to Champlin Burrage “Some of the “distressed congregation left for Holland in the summer or autumn of the year [1593].””

Whether John Wilkinson may have been among these separatist exiles is not known.  He does not appear to have been among the twenty-two persons specifically addressed by Penry’s letter, but for that matter, neither were many of the other persons known to have been arrested in the field at Finsbury.  Given his recent arrest, the passage of the “Obedience Act”, and the execution of the leaders of the Ancient Church, it seems highly likely that John Wilkinson would have chosen voluntary asylum with his fellow separatists rather than face the almost certain retribution of the High Commission.  Aside from Francis Johnson, George Johnson and Daniel Studley, the author was able to trace only a very few other Ancient Church followers from around 1593 into Holland in the latter years, which included Abraham Pulbury as a member of Henry Ainsworth’s breakaway congregation at Amsterdam in 1611.  The fact that there is no further record of John Wilkinson known to exist in England until his further arrest in 1611, there is good reason to believe that he probably lived in Holland for much of the interval between 1593 and 1611.

However, there is one piece of evidence which suggests that John Wilkinson may have been in England for at least a few years during the time interval between 1593 and 1611.  In a letter from Matthew Saunders and Cuthbert Hutten to John Robinson (minister of the Scrooby Church at Leyden) dated 8Jul1611 they stated “John Wilkinson and his disciples will have apostles.”[110]  This letter suggests that John Wilkinson was viewed by other separatists in 1611 as heading his own congregation or group of followers.  Further, John Murton in his book entitled A Description of What God Hath Predestined published in 1620 while Murton remained a prisoner in London made reference to the followers of Wilkinson.

Walter Burgess in his book John Smith the Se-Baptist (1911) stated that “Murton and his friends had lost no time on their arrival in England in letting their views be known to the Separatists in and about Colchester, to whom Wilkinson ministered.”[111]  To this is added a quotation by Burrage from John Murton’s A Description of what God hath Predestined as follows: “…some of the Brownists acknowledging it is lawful for any Disciple, to Preach and convert, but not Baptise: though others of them [from the margin: “John Wilkinson and followers”] holde; that Disciples of Christ though not in office of Pastor or Elder may convert and Baptise also, at which they have bene at deadly jarres these many years.”

From the foregoing intimations by Lawne, Burgess and Burrage it is suggested that John Wilkinson was the leader or minister of a congregation of separatist adherents (even according to Murton, Brownists) in and around Colchester prior to 1611.  If the author’s assumption is correct about the 1611 Middlesex Session Roll records having pertained to John Wilkinson, author of The Sealed Fountaine, then it might appear that John Wilkinson may have initially been arrested at Colchester in 1611, and then transported to London to stand trial.  However, the indictment indicates that all three men were “late of London”, and were arraigned at Stepney, in East London.  Further, it seems likely that John Wilkinson and his two fellow prisoners were exiled to Amsterdam following their convictions under the so-called Obedience Act in Mar1611/2.  Yet, what proof is there that John Wilkinson actually led a “congregation” at Colchester?  The only real evidence that John Wilkinson actually lead a “congregation” is the letter from Matthew Saunders and Cuthbert Hutten which intimates that John Wilkinson has “his disciples”, a fairly strong inference of a sect led by Wilkinson.  But no location for this sect is provided. 

The next and final evidentiary proof of John Wilkinson is from his own hand in the title and introduction to the Sealed Fountaine.  From that document we have the only known factual evidence that John Wilkinson was ever at Colchester.  The fact that he was in prison at Colchester in 1613 cannot be taken as proof of his sect having been located at Colchester.  If he was actually exiled to Amsterdam in the spring of 1612 as ordered by the court, then it seems possible that he may have attempted to rejoin his congregation (wherever it may have been) by way of the Colne River estuary, and to have been detected and arrested at Colchester.  If Wilkinson was merely wending his way through the countryside to rejoin his congregation in London, he may have taken the occasion to commune with the separatists in the Colchester region.  There was a long tradition of dissidents and separatists in the East Anglia region in general and at Colchester, Bury St. Edmunds and Norwich in particular with whom the exiled churches would have been in contact.

Given the few “facts” actually known of John Wilkinson, the author believes it likely that his separatist sect was actually located in East London and not at Colchester, and that Wilkinson just happened to be arrested and imprisoned at Colchester upon his attempt to re-enter his homeland in the spring of 1613.  So, in summary, the author believes that John Wilkinson very likely spent most of the 18 year period between 1593 and 1611 in Holland as an active member of the Henry Ainsworth and Francis Johnson separatist church at Middleburg.  He probably learned his craft of weaver from the Dutch, who were considered some of the finest weavers of woolen fabrics at that time.  Although simply a lay person, Wilkinson would have had an opportunity to expand his  ecclesiastical knowledge and to develop his writing skills under Francis Johnson, Cambridge-educated master lecturer, preacher and tutor.

(3) How did the Sealed Fountaine manuscript come into possession of William Arthurbury?

If, as hypothesized by the author, John Wilkinson’s separatist sect was located in London (and not at Colchester), then it seems highly probably that William Atterbury, porter and obstinate brownist, would have been a member of Wilkinson’s congregation.  It is believed that a few adherents of the Barrowes/Greenwood congregation elected not to take refuge in Holland in 1593, but remained behind and continued to worship clandestinely in London.  It seems likely that sometime in the latter part of the first decade of the 17th century John Wilkinson returned to England and rejoined the fellowship of this remnant of the Barrowes church.  There is no evidence that that remnant of the Ancient Church had as its leader a trained clergyman, so it seems entirely possible that John Wilkinson, as a long-established lay elder within Francis Johnson’s Middleburg Church, may have been chosen as the leader of the London Ancient Church. 

We are within the realm of speculation and conjecture at this juncture, but the Jul1611 letter from Saunders and Hutten would seem to clearly establish John Wilkinson as the leader of a separatist sect at that time.  Further, the Session Roll record of 10Jun1611 clearly suggests John Wilkinson was arraigned at Stepney for separatist behaviour and identified as having been “late of London”.  So, we have two contemporaneous records in the summer of 1611 indicating John Wilkinson as the leader of a separatist sect in London. 

Venturing further along this path of speculation, it is reasonable to assume that, in the absence of their leader after Wilkinson’s initial arrest at Stepney in Jun1611, his sect would turn to other elders within their congregation for leadership and guidance.  It is reasonable to think that William Atterbury, porter, might have been just one such elder.  It is equally reasonable to assume that members of Wilkinson’s London congregation would receive word of his arrest and imprisonment at Colchester, and would endeavor to visit him in prison, wherein they might be entrusted with a copy of his latest manuscript, The Sealed Fountaine, for its safe keeping and future publication.  William Atterbury, himself, was arraigned on 15Apr1613 for being an “obstinate brownist”.  It is reasonable to think that William Atterbury, as an elder within Wilkinson’s congregation received either directly or indirectly his manuscript, The Sealed Fountaine as a result of a visitation with Wilkinson at Colchester Prison.

Following is an iteration of the covenants employed by the various separatist churches discussed in the foregoing text beginning with the London Separatist Church around 1586 and carrying forward to the Jacob/Lathrop/Jessup Semi-separatist Church around 1635.

London Covenant (Francis Johnson’s Church)

“I will walk with you so long as you walk in the way of the Lord and as far as may be warranted by the word of God.”

Johnson’s Description of his Church

“A company of faithful people…  gathered and joined together in all holy covenant and fellowship of the gospel of Christ by voluntary public profession of faith and purpose to live and walk together in the obedience of Christ according to his word to the praise and glory of his name.”

Covenant According to John Robinson

“This we hold and affirm that a company consisting though but of two or three separated from the world…  and gathered into the name of Christ by a covenant made to walk in all the ways of God made known unto them [or to be made known unto them][condition added by Bradford in his description of the Gainsborough Covenant, and supported by Burgess] is a Church, and so hath the whole power of Christ.”

Henry Barrowe Covenant

“Á faithful people gathered unto Christ Jesus, ordered and governed by the rule of his word in all things, so far as shall be revealed unto them.”

Gainsborough Covenant (John Smith’s Separatist Church)

“We covenant with God and with one another to walk in all his ways made known or to be made known unto us according to our best endeavours whatsoever it shall cost us.”

Henry Jacob’s Convenant

“Those who minded this present union…  joined both hands, each with the other brother, and stood in a ringwise (circle).  Their intent being declared, H. Jacob and each of the rest made some confession or profession of their faith and repentance — some were longer, some were briefer — then they covenanted together to walk in all God’s ways as he had revealed or should make known to them.”

John Lathrop’s Covenant

“to walk together in all the ways of God so far as he hath made known to us, or shall make known to us, and to forsake all false ways.”

Summary Conclusions

  1. William Arthurbury of Morden and William Atterbury of Mortlake were one and the same person.  Following is a chronology of events believed associated with William Arthurbury of Morden:
  2. 1588/9 – born to William Atterbury (porter and obstinate Brownest) and Katherine [lnu] in St. Giles Cripplegate Parish,
  3. ~1604 – became an apprentice waterman,
  4. ~1613 – married Anne [lnu, possible Fynch],
  5. ~1615 – settled in St. Mary Parish, Mortlake,
  6. May-Jul1617 – William and Anne Atterbury brought suit for an assault on body of Francis Fynch,
  7. Apr1617 to May1632 – several children of William Atterbury christened or buried at Mortlake,
  8. Feb1628/9 William Atterbury, aged 40, of Mortlake recorded in muster roll of Thames Valley Watermen,
  9. 1638 – William Atterbury married Anne Olliver at Mitchum Parish,
  10. Nov1646 – William Arthurbury printed Sealed Fountaine (Wilkinson manuscript),
  11. 16May1649 – wife of William Arthurburie was buried at Morden Parish (probably mother of William Atterbury/Arthurbury),
  12. 9Jun1650 – William the son of William Arthurbury and Ann, his wife, was baptized at Morden,
  13. 17Oct1652 – Richard, the son of William Arthurbury and Ann, his wife, was baptized at Morden,
  14. 3Nov1696 – William Arterbury of this parish was buried at Morden.
  1. William Atterbury, porter and obstinate brownist and his with Katherine [lnu] were very likely the parents of William Arthurbury of Morden.
  2. William Addersbury and Alice Lyon were very likely the parents of William Atterbury, porter and obstinate brownist.

Partial Bibliography:

The First Congregational Churches, New Light on Separatist Congregations in London, 1567-1581, Albert Peel, M.A., Litt.D., B.Litt., Cambridge Press, 1920.

Historical Papers (First Series): Congregational Martyrs, John Waddington, London: 1861

History of the Prebyterians in England, Their Rise, Decline and Revival, Rev. Alexander Hatton Drysdale, M.A., London, 1889.

The Brownists in Norwich and Norfolk about 1580, Albert Peel, M.A., Litt.D., B.Litt., Cambridge, 1920.

Early English Dissenters in the Light of Recent Research in Two Volumes, Champlin Burrage, Hon. M.A. (Brown University), B. Litt. (Oxford), Cambridge, 1912.

The Presbyterian Movement in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth as Illustrated by the Minute Book of the Dedham Classis, 1582-1589, Roland G. Usher, PhD. (Harvard), London, 1905.

The Progresses, Pageants and Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth I, Jayne Elizabeth Archer, Elizabeth Goldring and Sarah Knight, Oxford, 2007.

History of English Congregationalism, Robert William Dale, D.D., LL.D., London, 1907.

Elizabethan Non-Conformist Texts, Volume II, The Writings of Robert Harrison and Robert Browne, Leland H. Carlson and Albert Peel, Oxford, 1953.

Protestant Non-Conformist Texts, Volume I, 1550-1700, R. Tudur Jones, Arthur Long and Rosemary Moore, Burlington Vermont, 2007.

3Nov1696 – William Arterbury of this parish was buried The East Anglican or Notes and Queries on Subjects Connected with the Counties of Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk, Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., F.G.H.S., Lowestoft and London, 1864.

The Bury Stirs Revisited: An Analysis of the Townsmen, J. S. Craig, M.A., Volume 23, Part 3, 1991.

The True Story of Robert Browne (1550-1633), Father of Congregationalism, Champlin Burrage, M.A. (Brown University), Oxford, 1906.

A “New Years Guift”, an Hitherto Lost Treatise by Robert Browne in the form of a Letter to his Uncle Flower, Champlin Burrage, London, 1904.

The Congregationalism of the Last 300 Years as seen in Literature, Henry Martyn Dexter, New York, 1880.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stane_Street_(Chichester), accessed 15Oct2015.

[2] http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/morden/Saxon, accessed 16Oct2015.

[3] http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/morden/Norman. Accessed 16Oct2015.

[4] Growtes: the home of a Rich man in 1554, David Hounton, Dec2009.

[5] http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/doc_library/WD_172b_173a_MatildaB.pdf, accessed 17Oct2015.

[6] http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/morden/The+17th+century, accessed 17Oct2015.

[7] http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/surrey/vol4/pp235-237, accessed 16Oct2015.  Taken from A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

[8] Ibid., p. 362.

[9] http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/projects/!medmordencourtrolls, accessed 18Oct2015.

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manorial_court, accessed 19Oct2015.

[11] https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/researchguidance/manorial/types.aspx, accessed 19Oct2015.

[12] http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/doc_library/CUL_Kk5_29.pdf, accessed 21Oct2015,

[13] http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/doc_library/CUL_Kk5_29.pdf, accessed 21Oct2015.

[14] The Registers of Morden, Surrey: 1634-1812, F. Clayton, 1901, p. 10.

[15] http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=SurreyEarly&gss=angs-d&new=1&rank=1&gsln=os*m*r&gsln_x=1&MSAV=0&uidh=yq3&pcat=34&fh=12&h=6275672&recoff=11&ml_rpos=13, accessed 6Nov2015.

[16] The Environs of London: Volume 4, County of Herts, Essex and Kent, DanielLysons, 1796, p. 601.

[17] The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey, DanielLysons, 1792, pp. 361-363.

[18] Ibid, p. 11.

[19] Ibid., p. 12.

[20] “Manor of Mordon Ancient Court Rolls, Beginning 1594 to 1685, Garth Lords of Manor” Surrey Historic Center K85/1/1, translated by Merton Historical Society, p. 22.   http://www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/doc_library/K85_1_1.pdf, accessed 28Oct2015.

[21] Ibid., p. 28

[22] Loc. cit.

[23] http://www.hearthtax.org.uk/communities/surrey/surrey_1664L_transcript.pdf, p. 100, accessed 28Oct2015.

[24] Morden Register, op cit. * “This Act of Parliament was passed 30 Chas. II (1Aug1678) for the encouragement of the woolen manufacture of England, and a penalty of £5 was enforced upon the persons responsible for the burial of any one in any other material than woolen…” Ibid., p. 27 Footnote.

[25] Ibid, p. 27.

[26] Ibid., p. 27.

[27] Ibid., p. 28

[28] Ibid., p. 33.

[29] Ibid., p. 34.

[30] http://www.oocities.org/thameswatermen/chapter5.htm, accessed 20Feb2016.

[31] Middlesex County Records: Volume 2, 1603-25, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/middx-county-records/vol2/pp234-238, accessed 4Nov2015.

[32] PROCESS REGISTER BOOK OF INDICTMENTS. VOLUME I, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/middx-sessions/vol4/pp1-41#highlight-first, accessed 4Nov2015.

[33] Middlesex Sessions Rolls: 1619, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/middx-county-records/vol2/pp142-150#highlight-first, accessed 4Nov2015.

[34] The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Families: Who came to Plymouth, Charles Edward Banks, 1929, pp. 13-15.

[35] The Journals of All the Parliaments During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Simons D’ewes, 1682, p. 517.

[36] http://www.basketmakersco.org/page11.html, accessed 10Nov2015.

[37] The Strange Laws of England, Nigel Cawthorne, 2004, p. ?.

[38] London Parishioners in Times of Change: St. Andrew Hubbard, Eastcheap, c. 1450-1570, Clive Burgess, “Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 35, No. 1, January 2002, p. 38.

[39] London Paritioners, p. 41.

[40] The early English dissenters in the light of recent research, 1550-1641, Volume 1, Cambridge University Press, Champlin Burrage, 1912, p. 36.

[41] Lechler, pp.

[42] Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, John Foxe, rewritten and updated by Harold J. Chadwick, 2001, p. 77.

[43] p. 25.

[44] p. 16.

[45] Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1509-58, A. G. Dickens, 1982, p. 8.

[46] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abjuration, accessed 31Dec2015.

[47] Tyndale, p. 36.

[48] Tyndale speaking to an elderly priest at Sodbury, circa 1523.

[49] Martyrs, pp. 98-99.

[50] http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc02/htm/iv.vi.cxlix.htm, accessed 5Mar2016.

[51] The Life and Acts of John Whitgift, D.D., John Strype, Oxford, 1822, pp. 41-43..

[52] Records of St. Giles’ Cripplegate, W. Denton, M.A., 1883, p. 10-18.

[53] Grub Street (Routledge Revivals): Studies in a Subculture, Pat Rogers, 1972, Introduction.

[54] A Tale of a Tub, Ronald Paulson, 1972.

[55] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_VIII_of_England, accessed 5Jan2016.

[56] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Field_(Puritan), accessed 4Jan2016.

[57] Godly People, Essays on English Protestantism and Puritanism, Patrick Collinson, 1983, p. 338.

[58] The English Reformation and Puritanism: With Other Lectures and Addresses, Eri Baker Hulbert, 1908, p. 202.

[59] Nonconformity in Herts: Being Lectures Upon the Nonconforming Worthies of St. Albans, William Urwick, 1884, p. 382-3.

[60] English Puritan Divines in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Thomas Nelson, 1848, pp. 244-5.

[61] The Presbyterian Quaterly and Princeton Review, “The Presbytery of Wandsworth, Erected in 1572″, Dr. Peter Lorimer, 1873, p. 153,

[62] The First Congregational Churches, Albert Peel, 1920, p. 40.

[63] Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England, Kenneth Fincham and Peter Lake, including essays, i.e.,: “The Fortunes of English Puritanism: an Elizabethan Perspective”, Brett Usher,  2006, p. 101

[64] Ibid.

[65] The Life, Times and Writings of Thomas Cranmer, Charles Hastings Collette, 1887 p. 297-8.

[66] Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, Volume 9, January – June 1860, London, p. 251, John Gough Nichols.

[67] Early Dissenters, Burrage, pp. 329-30.

[68] Fire under the Ashes, John Donoghue, 2013, p. 36.

[69] Blown by the Spirit, David R. Como, 2004, p. 432-3.

[70] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestments_controversy, accessed 23Feb2016.

[71] Athenae Cantabrigienses, Volume II, Charles Henry Cooper and Thompson Cooper, 1861, p. 177

[72] The Writings of Robert Harrison and Robert Browne, Albert Peel and Leland H. Carlson, 1953, pp. 397-8.

[73] Ibid., p 398.

[74] Ibid., p. 399.

[75] Ibid., p. 401.

[76] The True Story of Robert Browne, Champlin Burrage, 1906, p. 5.

[77] Ibid., pp. 404-5.

[78] Ibid., pp. 406-7.

[79] History of Congregationalism and Memorials of the Churches of Norfolk and Suffolk, John A. Browne, 1877, pp. 4-5.

[80] Ibid., p. 6.

[81] Ibid., p. 12.

[82] Ibid., p. 12.

[83] History of the Puritans, 2nd Edition, Neal, 1811, p.

[84] Ibid., pp. 124-5.

[85] Ibid., p.

[86] The Remains of Edmund Grindal, edited by The Parker Society by Rev. William Nicholson, A.M., 1843, p. ix.

[87] Ibid., pp. xi-xii.

[88] History of Congregationalism and Memorials of the Churches of Norfolk and Suffolk, p. 24

[89] Historical Papers (first series) Congregational Martyrs, John Waddington, 1861, pp. 38-9.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Ibid., p. 40.

[92] Ibid., p. 41.

[93] [93] The Bury Stirs Revisited: an Analysis of the Townsmen, J. S. Craig, M.A., published in 1991 by Suffolk Institute, Volume 37, Part 3, p. 210.

[94] The Bury Stirs Revisited: an Analysis of the Townsmen, J. S. Craig, M.A., published in 1991 by Suffolk Institute, Volume 37, Part 3, pp. 208-224.

[95] Ibid., p. 215.

[96] Historical Papers (first series) Congregational Martyrs, John Waddington, 1861, pp. 34-7.

[97] Histtorical Papers (First Series), Congregational Martyrs, J. Waddington, 1861,  pp. 55-56.

[98] http://www.exlibris.org/nonconform/engdis/brownists.html, accessed 14Nov2015.

[99] http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/tudor-england/the-english-church-from-1550-to-1553/, accessed 15Nov2015.

[100] Notwithstanding the brief half-fortnight reign of Lady Jane Grey.

[101] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-Nine_Articles, accessed 14Nov2015.

[102] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_Act_1592, accessed 14Nov2014.

[103] The East Anglian; or, Note and Queries on Subjects… Volumes 1 and 2, Samuel Tymms, 1864, p. 180.

[104] A New Years Guift, An Hitherto Lost Treatise by Robert Browne, Champlin Burrage, 1903, pp. 14-18.

[105] http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genepool/grnwd5.htm, accessed 7May2016.

[106] Ex Libris.

[107] http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=LMAearlyparish&gss=angs-d&new=1&rank=1&gsln=w*lk*n*s*n*&gsln_x=1&msypn__ftp=St+James%2c+Clerkenwell%2c+Middlesex&msypn__ftp_x=1&MSAV=0&uidh=yq3&pcat=34&fh=16&h=3085280&recoff=10&ml_rpos=17, accessed 23Jan2016.

[108] John Smith the se-Baptist, Thomas Helwys,.., Walter H. Burgess, 1911, p. 300.

[109] The Sealed Fountaine…, John Wilkinson, 1613.

[110] Reference was extracted from “A Prophane Schisme of the Brownists“, Christopher Lawne, 1612, as reported by Champlin Burrage in “The Early English Dissenters“, p. 193.

[111] John Smith, p. 300.

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