H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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THE DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTERIES.



69



1547]

men in each county to make a survey of the various houses
within the limits of their respective districts ; and on the very
day when the Court of Augmentations was finally organised,
instructions were issued for the guidance of these Commissioners.
As regards the religious, the directions were simple. The
officer was " to send those that will remain in the religion to
other houses with letters to the Governors, and those that
wish to go to the world to my lord of Canterbury and the
Lord Chancellor." To the latter class " some reasonable reward,"
according to the distance of the place appointed, was to be
given. The superior alone was to have any pension promised
to him, and he was to go to the Chancellor
of the Augmentations for it. The rest of
the instructions were chiefly concerned in
the preservation of the property for the
king.

It is somewhat difficult to estimate
with any certainty the number of religious
houses which passed into the king's hands
by the operation of the Act of Dissolution.
The authority of Stow, however, is usually
relied upon for the statement that " the
number of these houses then suppressed
were 376, the value of their lands then
32,000 and more by year." Besides this,
there was the money received for the
spoils of the houses, consisting of money, plate, and jewels sent
by the Commissioners into the king's treasury, and the proceeds
of the sales of lead, bells, cattle, furniture, and even buildings.
These " Robin Hood's pennyworths " are supposed by Lord
Herbert to have brought more than 100,000 into the royal
purse. Judging by the paltry sums realised by the sales of
monastic effects and by the totals acknowledged to have been
received by the Augmentation Office officials, this sum would
appear altogether too high.

The number of persons affected by these first systematic The

, , i TT i i n Number

suppressions was very considerable. Besides the monks and Affected.

nuns who were turned out of their houses, and the servants,
farm labourers, and others to whom they gave employment
and means of subsistence, there must have been a vast




ST. ALBAXS CHALICE.

(Trinity College, Oxford.)



Effect
of the
Popular
Reaction.



70 THE OLD ORDER CHANGED.

[1509-1547

number of men and women whose livelihood more or less
depended upon the inmates of the dissolved religious estab-
lishments. Tutting this latter class altogether on one side,
Stow's estimate of " 10,000 people, masters and servants, (who)
lost their livings by the putting down of these houses at
that time," may be taken as fairly correct. From such of
the particulars given by the Royal Commissioners as are
still extant, it may be roughly calculated that over 2,000
monks and nuns were dispossessed, and that there wnv
between !),<X)0 and 10,000 people directly dependent on the
monasteries dissolved.

It will be readily believed that the work could not have
been accomplished without entailing considerable hardship
upon many of the inmates thus rendered homeless. Thus, a
nun of Arden, Elizabeth Johnson, was allowed a pittance
" because she is helpless and deaf, and is said to be over eighty
years of age," and William Coventry, of Wombridge Priory, had
the sum of 6 Ss. 4d. given him on his dismissal, " because he
is sick and decrepid"; whilst two nuns of Esholt, in Yorkshire,
were said to be disabled by infirmities, and were passed over
to the care of their friends.

The Northern disturbances in the autumn of 1530 and the
spring of the following year (pp. 47-50) somewhat checked the
progress of the dissolutions. But once the insurgents had been
finally crushed and all fear of domestic danger was over,
Henry used the rising as a pretext to effect further suppressions.
Hitherto the attainder of a bishop or abbot for treason had
not been held by English law to affect the property of the
diocese or abbey over which the attainted superior ruled. The
king, however, now determined to include the forfeiture of the
possessions of the corporation in the punishment awarded to
the head for real or supposed treasonable practices, and in this
way several large and important religious establishments passed
into the royal hands. Thus, upon the executions of the Abbots
of ^lialley and Sawley in March, 1537, the king's officials,
acting upon his express orders, took possession of the houses
and property ; and in the same way the abbeys of Barlings,
Jervaulx, Kirksted, and Woburn, with the priory of Bridlington,
were brought into the king's hands under the law of attainder;
whilst by threats and judicious management, the Earl of Sussex






Knksted.



Whalley.





Colcliester. Barlings.

EFIXS OF FOUR FAMOUS ABBEYS.



1-1 THE OLD ORDER CHANGED.

[1509

obtained the surrender of the great abbey of Furncss, in
Lancashire.

The The autumn of 15&S, and the first half of the following

Destroyed. J car > witnessed the destruction of the English friaries. For
some reason or other these houses, although they had but
small incomes, had not been dealt with under the Act of
Parliament dissolving the lesser monasteries. At the time oi
their fall, the friars were reduced to a state of great poverty,
and this may have secured for them a temporary respite. The
total number of their establishments in England was about two
hundred. Of these the Franciscans had sixty, the Dominicans
fifty-three, the Austin friars forty-two, and the Carmelites six-
and-thirty. The rest were held by the Trinitarians and other
less important bodies of friars. At the time of their destruction,
although reduced by various circumstances, the friars numbered
probably about eighteen hundred.

From Michaelmas, 15-37, to the same date in the following
year, the work of dissolving the monastic houses was pushed
011 vigorously. During that time many of the larger establish-
ments either surrendered to the king, or in some other way
passed into his hands. Legally, Henry had a right only to
those monasteries with a yearly income of less than 200 ; but
after the failure of the Pilgrimage of Grace, the work of general
voluntary suppression was actively commenced. It was of course necessary
tnat t '^ ie surrender of those abbeys which did not come within
the operation of the Act of Dissolution should at least appear
to be voluntary, and every pressure was brought upon the
monks and nuns to induce them to resign their possessions.
The secret instructions given to the agents employed were
precise : they were to take " the consent of the head and convent
by way of their fair surrender under their convent seal to the
same. If they shall willingly consent and agree," the Commis-
sioners are directed to promise them pensions and other rewards.
But " if they shall find any of the said heads and convents, so
appointed to be dissolved, so wilful and obstinate that they
will in no wise submit themselves to the King's Majesty," or
" resign at the King's wish," the Commissioners are then to take
possession of everything, and neither give pensions nor any part
of their household goods to " such obstinate and wilful persons,
till they shall know further of the King's pleasure."



THE DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTERIES. 73

1547]

Meantime, however, whilst the secret instructions to the
agents leave no room for doubt as to the royal intentions, by
express direction of the rulers, the idea of any general attack
upon the monastic system was not only kept in the background,
but actually and publicly repudiated by both Henry and his
agents. The monasteries stood alone. Singly they were
approached with proposals for surrender, with a pittance for
their members ; or seizure, should they refuse, with poverty and
possible punishment. Most of the houses made choice of the
former alternative, and in the years 1538 and 1539 surrenders,
which can hardly with truth be called voluntary, were obtained.
In this way, some 150 monasteries of men and perhaps fifty
convents of women passed into the royal possession.

Early in 1539 it became necessary to obtain approval from Appii-
Parliament for what had been done. There is evidence to prove ^^
that Henry at first thought of pledging himself to devote the Endow-
appropriated property to public purposes. A draft of a projected
Act in the king's writing suggests that the wealth of the
religious corporations might with advantage " be turned to
better use (as hereafter shall follow), whereby God's Word might
the better be set forth, children brought up in learning, clerics
nourished in the universities, old servants decayed have livings,
almshouses for poor folk to be sustained in, readers of Greek,
Hebrew, and Latin to have good stipends, daily alms to be
administered, mending of highways, exhibitions for ministers
of the Church," and considerable additions made to the existing
bishoprics (p. 77). Whatever inducements were put before the
Parliament to win its consent to the king's proposals, nothing in
the nature of public benefits is suggested in the Act itself, which
for the second time dealt with the monastic property. It was
introduced to the House on the 13th of May, 1539, and six days
later became law. In no sense can this measure be considered
properly as one dissolving or suppressing any religious houses.
Its object was to secure to the king the property of such
monasteries as had " by any means come into his hands by
supersession, dissolution, or surrender since the 4th of February,"
1536. Unlike the Act of 1536, this one does not allege any
reasons, but simply states that " sundry abbots, priors, abbesses,
prioresses, and other ecclesiastical governors and governesses of
divers monasteries ... of their own free and voluntary minds,



74 THE OLD OJtDER CHANGED.

[1509

good wills and assents, without constraint, co-action, or compul-
sion of any manner of person or persons," have resigned their
possessions into the kind's hands. These, therefore, Henry and
his heirs are to hold for ever, and this permission was to extend
to all houses subsequently surrendered or dissolved.
The By the autumn of 1539 comparatively fe\v religious houses

stages st ^ remained in the possession of the monks. Monastic
buildings in county after county were laid desolate by the royal
agents, and the religious one after another expelled from their
homes. Where resistance was offered, the ready process of
attainder, with its accompanying confiscation, which, as Hallam
says, " against every form of received law," followed the treason,
supposed or real, of the head of the corporation, was at hand to
effect what threats or promises had been unable to accomplish.
Under the working of this mysterious law of attainder, the
abbots of the three great Benedictine houses of Glastonbury,
Colchester, and Reading were executed, and their possessions
seized for the Crown. From notes in Cromwell's own hand it
seems clear that some time between the passing of the Act
regarding the monasteries in April, 1539, and September in the
same year, these abbots must have been sounded, and it had
been found that compliance was not to be expected from them.
Immediate action was taken; on the 19th of this latter month
the royal agents appeared at Glastonbury, and having cross-
examined the abbot, Richard Whiting, and ransacked his
apartments for compromising documents, they sent him up
to prison in the Tower of London. Immediately they proceeded
to " despatch " the monks " with as much celerity " as possible,
and by October 24th, whilst Abbot Whiting remained still
untried in the Tower, the rich plate of the abbe)* was handed
into the royal treasury among the possessions of " attainted
persons and places." Before the abbot left his prison his case
was virtually concluded, and Cromwell could note : " Item :
The Abbot of Glaston to be tried at Glaston and also executed
there." The Church historian Collier is probably correct when
he writes of the three abbots : " To reach them . . . the oath of
supremacy was offered, and upon their refusal they were
condemned for high treason."

The result of the trial at Wells was, upon Cromwell's own
showing' a foreo-one conclusion, and the abbot's execution at

o' O



THE DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTERIES.



75



1547]

Glastonbury, upon Tor Hill, with two of his monks, on Novem-
ber 15th, 1539, finally placed the rich possessions of the abbey
at the king's disposal. On the same day Hugh Cook, the
Abbot of Reading, and two priests suffered death in front of the
abbey gateway ; whilst a fortnight later, on the 1st of December,
1539, Thomas Marshall, or Beche, the last Abbot of Colchester,
was likewise executed. Within six weeks of his death the
monastic buildings of St. John's Abbey had been dismantled,
and workmen were busy stripping the lead from the roof of




THE ABBEY GATE AT READING.
(From a drawing of 1773 % P. Sandby, It. A.)

the church, melting it into pigs with the carved woodwork of
the choir, and breaking up the bells that the metal might be
conveyed away in barrels for sale.

By the beginning of 1540 the work of suppressing the
religious houses in England was practically over. Between
1538 and 1540 probably about 250 of the greater houses of
men and women had passed into the king's possession.
It has been estimated, from an examination of available
sources of information, that the entire number of monks,
canons, friars, and nuns dispossessed from first to last was
probably in excess of eight thousand, whilst there must have



I'lll'J OLD ORDER CHANGED.



|1509



Fate
of the



been at least ten times that number of people more or less
dependent upon them.

Most, but by no means all, of the disbanded religious
inmates, obtained some kind of pension. As regards the smaller houses,
which alone had been dissolved by Act of Parliament, only the
superior received any annuity. The friars, as a rule, obtained
nothing, and as regards the rest of the monks and nuns, only
such as resigned their houses in compliance with the royal
wishes were promised annual pittances. Those who resisted
or objected obtained nothing. Thus no monk at monasteries
like Kirksted, Jervaulx, or Whalley in the north, or Glaston-
bury, Reading, Colchester, or Woburn in the south, obtained
anything. Moreover, even a surrender does not always appear
to have afforded any sure title to such a payment. Thus, to
take an example, Furness Abbey was dissolved, apparently
without the monks having obtained any promise of a pension.
On dismissal from their cloister each received forty shillings,
and to three, " who were sick and impotent," an extra
twenty shillings was given. The following year the late abbot
was provided with the profits of a rectory, which formerly
belonged to his house : but. as far as appears, none oi the
thirty monks who were living at Furness at the surrender
ever obtained anything for their somewhat tardy compliance
with Henry's desires.

It is not easy to determine with anything like accuracy
the value of the property which passed into the royal possession
by the dissolutions. Speed has put the total annual value of
the lands and benefices at 171,312 4s. 3d., and a modern
calculation places it at 200,000 in round numbers. The exist-
ing accounts, however, show that Henry never derived anything
like so large a benefit from the spoliation. Gratuitous grants,
speedy sales of lands, and other such things, quickly reduced
the capital value of the prize, so that in no single year did the
income from the confiscated property exceed 45,000.

The worth of the gold and silver plate received by the
treasurer, and estimated by him at the melting price, was
more than 85,000, or very nearly a million sterling of our
money. Of the other spoils some of the richest were pre-
served and forwarded to London for the king's use : whilst the
greater part were sold for what the things would fetch at the



Financial
Results.



THE SEVERANCE AND TEE REACTION. 77

1547)

small auctions held all over the country in the cloisters or
chapter-houses of the deserted monasteries. In round figures
the money received by the king in this way from 1536 till
his death was some 1,423,500, or between fourteen and
fifteen millions sterling of the present money. Besides this
sum, however, there was the worth of the vestments and
other ecclesiastical furniture reserved for the king's use, and,
what Cromwell evidently prized more than the rich plate
itself, the countless precious stones and jewels from all the
churches and shrines of the English monasteries.



OUT of the vast plunder obtained by the Dissolution there CHARLES
was some attempt made to refit the Church for the new time. BEAZLEY.
First in 1534, twenty-six suffragan sees were indicated; 1 then, Thesev-

GrclIlCG

after the final monastic dissolution of 1539, eighteen new and the
dioceses were promised ; at last six were founded Chester, Reaction.
Peterborough, Gloucester, Oxford, Bristol, and Westminster.
Out of Wolsey's benefactions Cardinal College alone emerged
from the wreck with diminished resources and the glory of a
royal re-creation. To the end of his life, after his first taste
of spoil in 1529, Henry's needs and avarice seemed to grow
together. In 1545, less than six years after the last of the
religious houses had been seized, the endowments of the
universities, of all colleges of priests, and of all the chantries
and guilds were put at the Crown's mercy : commissioners
were appointed to visit them, and only the king's death seems
to have delayed their action til] the new reign. As most of
the landed spoil fell to the nobles and gentry, and most of
the movables soon passed out of Henry's coffers, after meeting
the calls of the moment, every great lay interest was thus
united in the attack on Church property, which continued to
the death of Edward VI.

But it would be a mistake to treat the whole period from
1529 to 1553 as on a level. For the first ten years of the

1 Thetford, Ipswich. Colchester, Dover, G-uildford, Taunton. Southampton,
Shaf tesbury, Melton. Marlboroug'h, Bedford, Leicester, Gloucester. Shre\vsbury.
Bristol, Penrith, Bridgwater, Nottingham. G-raiitham, Hull, Huntingdon. Cam-
bridge, St. Germans (in Cornwall), and the Isle of Wight, with two others in.
place of the Roman Bishops "in partibus." Seven were appointed, but the
movement soon dropped, to be revived in the Victorian era.



78



THE OLD ORDER CHANGED.



11509



The Re-
action.



The

English

Bible.



Anglican
Catholi-
cism.



revolution, as we have seen, the work is mainly destructive ;
for the next ten there is a distinct movement towards recon-
struction, ending in the Prayer- Book of 1540. After the final
statute of 1537 had been passed against the Pope's authority,
embodying and supplementing all former Acts, and after
the Great, or approved, English Bible had been published
in 1539, the movement towards foreign Protestantism is
roughly checked. The German and Lutheran marriage with
Anne of Cleves is annulled ; Cromwell, who had hoped by
this to "bring the king to such a pass that he should not
be able to resist," is thrown as a sop to the conservative or
Catholic party whom he had ridden so hard, and the Act of Six
Articles reaffirms transubstantiation, the celibacy of the clergy,
the obligation of vows of chastity, and auricular confession-
adding, more cautiously, that communion in both kinds was not
necessary, and that private masses were both lawful and useful.

The Howard marriage (July 28, 1540) seemed to bind the
king to the reaction as the Bullen and Seymour marriages of
1533 and 1536 had bound him to the revolution: but even
as early as 1536 Henry's proclamation ordering the English
Bible, " of the largest volume," to be set up in churches, shows
his dislike of doctrinal change and of Protestant agitation.
" The Scriptures are not to be read at the time of the mass, or
for disputation or exposition of mysteries therein contained."
The unauthorised versions, with their controversial prefaces
and notes, are discouraged, and in 1539 superseded by the
State revision of Tyndale's translation of 1525 (p. 283); while,
in 1542, Edmund Bonner, as Bishop of London, is allowed
to forbid " all crowding to read, or commenting on what is read."
The more Henry learned of the Lutheran or of the Zwinglian
system, the less he liked either.

In the same way, the Ten Articles of 1536 are explained in
the " Christian Man's Institution ; ' and "Erudition " of 1537-43,
which states the Catholic doctrine without change upon bap-
tism, penance, the Eucharist, and justification, but explains
the " right use of images, honouring of saints, ceremonies
and purgatory," denounces many abuses, and defines the
" fundamentals of religion," as comprehended in the Bible,
the three creeds, and the decrees of the first four Councils
Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon.



THE SEVERANCE AND THE REACTION. 79

1547]

Again, in 1545, Shaxton, ex-Bishop of Sarum, is forced to
admit all the disputed points in the medieval sense ; in 1540









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PROCLAMATION AGAINST ANABAPTISTS (MS. Cleop. E. v.).

Latimer is sent to the Tower; Cranmer about the same time,
and again in 1545, is accused of heresy, and, from the time
of Cromwell's fall, the party of which he was becoming the



80 '/'///; OLT) ORDER CIL\.\< : I-: H.

[1509

official chief, is clearly in opposition, while the conservatives,
under Gardiner, arc in power and favour at the Council. For,
whatever were the king's personal leanings, doctrinally IK-
sympathises to the end with the highest Churchmanship. Yet
tlir tendency to treat all the Church system as of politlcul
obligation is found even here; tenets are "charitable," "com-
fortable," "godly"; ceremonies are "laudable" or "instructive."
" In all disputes," says the proclamation of 1544, " recourse
must be had to the Catholic Church : . . . therefore all bonks
contrary to the doctrine now and to be set forth are for-
bidden ; . . . but it is to the King, by Scripture, that all
power is given of determining causes, of correcting heresies,
errors, and sins."

The New Whatever the truth may be of Henry's supposed 1 con-

version in his last illness, the doctrinal position of the earlier
time is maintained in all his official acts till the end in 1547,
and the English Prayer-Book of 1549 is only the result of
Henry's reconstructive policy, which aimed at purifying and
popularising the Catholic system, as he finally conceived it.
This policy had already given the English people an English
Litany in 1544, an English Primer in 1545,- with versions
of matins and evensong, and parts of other services 3 and in
1540 had directed Cranmer to "pen a form for the altering of
the mass into a communion," just as in 1535 and 1542 the
name of the Pope and all "apocryphas, feigned legends, and
unscriptural saints," had been " put out of the service-books
and calendars, newly castigated and reformed."

In the same spirit, and with the apparent support of the

1 After his marriage to Catherine Parr, he may have been influenced by her
Protestant sympathies. She procured a translation of Erasmus's ' Paraphrase,"
which was afterwards ordered, by Edward's injunctions of 1547. for use by tlir
clergy.

- Or Layman's Book of Devotions, the authorised edition, following Marshall's
irregular one (1535).

3 On the English Liturgy of 1544. cf. the king's letter to Cranmer. styling
it "The Common Prayer of Procession," and adding "that from henceforth
general processions be had in all cities, towns, churches, and parishes, with
godly prayers and suffrages in our native English tongue." This, with two
chapters for daily lessons from the English Bible one from the New Testa-
ment, one from the Old and with versions of the Lord's Prayer and Ave
Maria (translated in 1543). was all the English service authorised up to 1547,
though in the preface to the Primer more seems promised, and probably much
more was used irregularly in Puritanising parishes.



THE SEVERANCE AND THE REACTION. 81

1547]

Church leaders, Henry had steadily pressed for a reliable
English Bible. Tyndale's original version of 1525, though its
text was largely used in most that followed it, was put out of
court by its " glosses " and controversial turns of sense. The
achievement of this purpose will be traced in detail later (p. 284).



Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 12 of 68)