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Religion in Tudor Shrewsbury in depth
This was written by Bill Champion, author of "Everyday Life in Tudor Shrewsbury" and is a finely researched look at this theme for those who wish to explore it in great detail.
© W.A. Champion (2006)
III. Religion and culture, 1540-1640.
Shrewsbury's response to the official Reformation, one of reluctant conformism, was typical of a largely conservative community. Although the dissolution of the friaries (1538) and the abbey (1540) passed without undue incident,(1) local anxieties had already surfaced in 1537 when rumours swept St. Julian's parish that the Crown intended to survey church goods and amalgamate parishes, leaving only one chalice to each.(2) Later in 1546 a number of uncontested lawsuits were brought by the wardens of St. Catherine's chantry, probably the parish guild, in a probable attempt to wind up its estate before the arrival of the chantry commissioners later that year.(3) Its lands were to escape appropriation despite evidence of concealment later provided to the Court of Augmentations.(4) The parishioners were also alleged to have removed (1548) the most valuable goods belonging to the church.(5) Only lesser items were left to be confiscated by the Crown in 1553, and similar pre-emptive measures occurred in other parishes of the town.(6)
As in the Abbey Foregate,(7) most of the monastic and chantry estates confiscated by the Crown – some of it, however, of only modest value – sooner or later came into local hands, principally of rich merchants and professional men, or in a few cases of local gentry. Thus in 1544 the three friaries were bought by the draper and alderman Roger Pope,(8) whose grandson, the barrister Roger Pope, had erected a house at the Austin Friars by the early 17th century,(9) and similar conversions to gentlemen's residences occurred at the collegiate churches. St. Chad's College was dissolved in 1548 and its estate (though not the College itself) sold the following year and then bought in 1553 by alderman Roger Lewys, another Shrewsbury draper.(10) The immediate fate of the College buildings, leased with their appurtenances by the dean and chapter to alderman Humphrey Onslow in 1543,(11) is more obscure.(12) By 1582, however, the College had come into the hands of the Edwardes family of Kilhendre (Dudleston), and in that year was sold by Timothy Edwardes to his brother Thomas, both men being the sons of Hugh Edwardes a London and Shrewsbury mercer who had lobbied for the establishment of Shrewsbury School in the early 1550s.(13) The family, later of Shrewsbury and Greet, retained possession of the College until 1752.(14)
Although St. Mary's College may not have had communal buildings,(15) the deanery itself was acquired by the tenant Thomas Kelton in 1555,(16) and sold in 1583 by Richard Kelton to Rowland Barker of Haughmond.(17) Leased in the 1630s,(18) it afterwards passed to the Barker heirs, the Kynastons of Hordley.(19) On the site John Kynaston was to begin in 1701-02 to erect 'Broom Hall', later given (1745-7) by his grandson to house the new Shrewsbury Infirmary.(20) Of the chantry estates, those of the Tailors' and Skinners', Mercers', Weavers' and Shearmen's guilds, together with the lands of St. John's hospital, were all purchased in 1549 by the lawyer Robert Wood of the Inner Temple.(21) Apart from the lands of the Shearmen and of the hospital,(22) a few disposals to local tradesmen,(23) and the Mercers’ Hall (devised with the Sextry tavern to the Shrewsbury draper John Mackworth in 1551),(24) the estate then came to the London brewer Richard Bacon who sold it in 1570 to the Shrewsbury tanner Richard Higgons.(25) Parts of Higgons’s interest (including 20 acres in the Frankwell fields) were then challenged successfully by some of Wood’s descendants who in 1609 and 1621 sold out to the draper Rowland Jenks and the mercer Richard Tayler.(26) Meanwhile fruitless attempts by the Mercers to recover their hall continued through the 1570s until 1606.(27) Wood was a clerk and servant of the judge Sir Thomas Bromley, only recently retired in 1549 as Shrewsbury's recorder, and to an extent may have acted as Bromley's agent.(28) Certainly that appears to be the case with the Shearmen's estate. By 1573-4 the company was paying a fee-farm rent for their hall to Bromley's daughter and heiress Margaret, Lady Newport,(29) and still collecting rents from property in Castle Foregate in which the Newports also had an interest.(30)
The Corvisors' guild estate was sold to speculators in 1550 and 1571,(31) the company hall itself coming by 1610 into the hands of the mercer John Webb (bailiff 1584-5, 1596-7).(32) By contrast, the Drapers appear to have persuaded the chantry commissioners that only the stipend of £4 p.a. paid to their priest had been employed for superstitious purposes.(33) After 1548 this annuity was paid to the Crown,(34) with the company retaining its guild lands, an arrangement threatened by damning evidence provided to a commission for concealed lands in 1575-9.(35) Anticipating confiscation, the Crown prepared grants in 1576 and 1577,(36) but these proved abortive and the company held on to its estates paying only the 'Queen's rent' as before,(37) an exceptional result suggesting high-level intervention.
Of the parochial guild estates, most of that belonging to the double chantry of Holy Cross and the Blessed Virgin Mary in St. Alkmund's church, sold in 1549,(38) was acquired in 1550 by the draper Robert Allen (bailiff 1559-60, 1566-7),(39) and later bought in 1599 by Thomas Edwardes of the College.(40) The remaining property was leased to the wool-staplers George Leigh and John Perche,(41) with parcels being sold in 1590 and 1607 (Perche again being one of the ultimate beneficiaries).(42) In 1563 Leigh also rented much of the estate belonging to the parish guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary in St. Mary's,(43) eventually sold to speculators in 1637 and then on the following year to the draper Adam Webb (mayor 1655-6).(44) The residual lands, which had been concealed, were unearthed in 1571.(45) Despite efforts by the parishioners to retain them at law, all had been lost by 1575.(46) They were sold off to speculators in 1589 and bought the next year, also by John Perche.(47)
Within the pre-1586 borough, however, the most valuable property appropriated by the Crown consisted of the lands belonging to Shrewsbury, Haughmond and Lilleshall abbeys. Much of this estate, including some 26 tenements, messuages and cottages sold by the Crown in 1545,(48) had evidently been purchased by 1547 by the mercer Thomas Ireland (d. 1554).(49) Ireland (bailiff 1538-9, 1543-4, 1550-1) invested in a number of monastic properties in the county,(50) and was one of a small group of committed protestants in Shrewsbury including the draper John Mynton, in both cases religious affiliation probably being influenced by commercial contacts with London.(51) Theirs, however, was a minority position in the town where elements of the old religion and its festive calendar persisted for almost as long as it proved feasible. The Corpus Christi procession was kept until 1547,(52) and although images were later burnt in the market place following the July injunctions,(53) in 1548 civic drinkings were pointedly kept on Trinity Sunday and the Feast of Relics – although the outlays were disallowed by the more cautious civic auditors.(54) Catholic trappings were also rapidly re-introduced under Queen Mary whose accession (1553) was greeted in Shrewsbury with ‘triumphal solemnity’. (55) At St. Mary's, where the accession was also rung in, the high altar of stone, the rood loft, the Easter sepulchre and the paschal candle were all restored within a year, while a Jesus altar was also standing by 1557.(56) At St. Alkmund’s the rood was the object of testamentary bequests in 1555 and 1559,(57) and the town’s Corpus Christi procession was revived in 1554.(58) At St. Chad’s too the curacy of Edward Stephens, appointed in 1550, was quickly terminated after the Queen’s coronation on the grounds of his being a married priest.(59)
Thus protestant inculcation after Elizabeth's accession in 1558 was to depend heavily upon an imported evangelism,(60) supported by progressive gentry in North Shropshire – in particular the Corbets, Leightons and Bromleys of Hallon – and the establishment of a preaching ministry. Central to this process were links forged with reformist circles at St. John's College, Cambridge, and the appointment in 1561 of Thomas Ashton as headmaster of the newly founded Free School, possibly on the recommendation of the Coventry preacher, and former Marian exile, Thomas Lever, a fellow of St. John’s who had preached at Shrewsbury in 1560. Ashton too was a fellow of St. John's and licensed preacher, and he in turn may have been influential in securing the appointment as curate at St. Chad’s of the preacher, and fellow graduate of St. John's, Christopher Hawkshurst (d. 1576). It was Ashton's Ordinances regulating the school and the living of St. Mary's, projected by an indenture between the Crown and the corporation in 1571, and eventually brought to fruition in 1578, that vested the nomination of the minister of St. Mary's in the bailiffs and headmaster.(61) Thereafter Cambridge authorities were to be frequently consulted on the selection of the minister, to whom a public preachership was now conjoined.(62)
By the 1570s a progressive protestant ministry was active within the town, opposed to the wearing of the cross cap and surplices, and resistant to attempts to enforce conformity. Preaching exercises were introduced in 1576 and households put under obligation to attend them, just as later in 1586 they were put under obligation to attend weekly services.(63) In three parishes a rota of morning services was also introduced in 1581 on the advice of the public preacher Edward Bulkeley. The churchyard crosses at St. Mary's and St. Julian's were pulled down (but at night) in 1581 and 1583, and those of St. Chad's, St. Alkmund's and St. Giles' with official approval in 1584-5.(64) Until their suppression by the Crown in 1577 the exercises are known to have been patronized by the Council in the Marches, whose President Sir Henry Sidney was involved with the most potent protestant political nexus in Elizabethan England which included the earls of Leicester and Essex.(65) Summer visits to Shrewsbury by one or other of these notables in 1581, 1584 and 1585 in some measure substituted for the Catholic festivities which had marked midsummer in the past.(66)
Great efforts were also made to secure adequate maintenances for a preaching ministry. At St. Mary's voluntary collections to support a public preacher had begun by 1577,(67) and the sum of £52 p.a., on top of the ministerial stipend of £20 p.a. (out of which an under curate was paid), was agreed by the corporation in 1580 – an ‘enormous’ salary, as Patrick Collinson reminds us.(68) On the resignation in 1582 of Dr. Bulkeley, the first official public preacher, the benevolence system was replaced: £400 was eventually raised from burgess admissions and lent out at interest,(69) a practice later attacked as usurious (and thus ungodly).(70) Proposals were then made to employ the sum, together with burgess fines and £100 left by the mercer John Okell, to secure an endowment, as permitted by the 1586 charter.(71) In 1594 a rent charge of 20 marks was purchased,(72) with the rest of the preacher's salary, by now £46 13s. 4d., being paid out of contributions, loan stock or general revenue.(73) After the encumbered lands were bought back in 1619, an estate was purchased in Coton in 1621, although it too was shortly re-conveyed to obtain a rent-charge to support two scholarships for Shrewsbury School at St. John's College.(74) The preacher's stipend was then paid out of general revenue, together with an additional endowment of £20 p.a. secured in 1626 with money left by the rich draper Richard Wynne.(75) At St. Chad's the corporation had voted a stipend of £5 for the preacher in 1574;(76) but by 1581 a supplement was also envisaged by the purchase, with a bequest, of some of the impropriated tithes of St. Chad's.(77) In the event it acquired the Easter Book, the (great) tithes of the ‘Great Monk Eye’ field in Frankwell, together with some other small tithes, worth in all c. £40 p.a.(78) From that moment, until challenged in 1637, the corporation also assumed the right to present to the living (below).
Schemes for the public preacher's maintenance had coincided with the choice, commended by the recorder Sir George Bromley, of the Bilston preacher John Tomkys – a 'moment' in the town's history.(79) The archetypal 'perfect protestant' (in Shrewsbury use of the term 'puritan' is not met before the 1620s),(80) Tomkys's arrival saw an intensified drive to erect a godly commonwealth. At St. Mary's remnant 'superstitions', including the stone altar and stained glass images, were stripped out, the walls whitewashed and the organs sold off. As ‘ordinary’ of the parish, a royal peculiar, Tomkys sought to use its consistory court to impose a Geneva-style discipline, and assisted the magistrates in the attack, reaching a peak after 1580, on moral offences, bastardy in particular.(81) Notoriously Tomkys was also to denounce the Shearmen's tree – the maypole brought in on the company's festival day, the Sunday after Corpus Christi. The suppression of this custom in 1591 provoked a cause célèbre after four young shearmen had refused to obey the bailiffs' order, resolved only after the recorder Thomas Owen ruled that the custom might continue but 'in lovinge order without contencion'.
Like other public preachers something of a civic mentor, Tomkys typified the greater hostility towards traditional customs of the latter part of Elizabeth's reign. The Whitsun plays which Ashton had appropriated to the reformed doctrine had ceased by 1575;(82) football games on Shrove Tuesday were attacked;(83) street perambulations by the borough council on All Saints' Day were abandoned;(84) and the ritual disorder of election day was also prohibited (1583).(85) Civic sponsorship of a lord of misrule, however, had probably ended earlier: the abbot of Marham had evidently been replaced by a Robin Hood play, last recorded in 1553.(86) By the 1600s Shrewsbury had become a protestant town with godly overtones. Public fasts were held to bewail dearth (1594) and to raise money for the poor (1625-6);(87) collections were taken to relieve afflicted communities, Geneva included (1584);(88) sabbatarianism became more pronounced (at least as an ideal);(89) and elements of the emerging protestant-national calendar were also adopted, including Queen Elizabeth's 'crownation' day and the 5th of November.(90)
Support for a godly ministry among some of Shrewsbury's leaders is clear enough. The Drapers, for example, leased their hall to several public preachers, Tomkys included. In 1618 it was let to the radical puritan Julines Hering, after the corporation had approved his appointment to the lectureship of St. Alkmund's, recently endowed (1614) with an annuity of £20 p.a. by the London merchant Rowland Heylin who was to become involved with the puritan Feoffees of Impropriation.(91) Ultimately, however, godly rule failed to gain hegemony in Shrewsbury.(92) In the case of the Shearmen's tree it is clear that the refractory clothworkers had powerful supporters in the town, and the custom was still in place in 1619. Ritual misrule on election day also persisted until 1638, despite the 1583 ban; the 'dry' quarry was still used for a variety of recreational pastimes; piping and morris dancing endured; and a rich array of entertainers and players continued to visit the town such as John Banks and his dancing horse, welcomed in by bailiff Sherer only weeks after the affair of the Shearmen's tree.(93)
Nor did the old ritual year lose all its resonance. Although the Corpus Christi procession had gone by 1565,(94) and several company ordinances were altered to remove the 'superstitious' items relating to its performance, by the early 17th century the succeeding Monday, safe from Romish associations, appears to have emerged as a new focus for the craft calendar. Later known as Shrewsbury Show it was held on Kingsland, where several of the companies had long possessed summer arbours, although significantly perhaps neither the more prestigious Drapers' and Mercers' companies participated.(95) In the late 1590s the Weavers’ company purchased a banner which may have been used on that occasion, like the flags and arms of Minerva which they had acquired by 1625 and which were certainly used in the procession on Show Day in later years. Significantly the company also moved its election day to that day in 1609, as did the Glovers in 1614. That the iconography of the Show, recorded much later, may have had its origins in the early Stuart period is suggested by the fact that the ‘Iron Man’ (attended by two vulcans) who headed the procession of the Blacksmiths was dressed in a suit of armour of the period 1600 30.(96) It was on Show Day too in 1620 that it was put to the Shearmen’s company that they should go ‘brotherly’ to Kingsland for a dinner. By the 1680s – when evidence for the event becomes richer – some of the company arbours had become substantial structures. Still, in the period under review the cultural war over ‘Merry England’ rumbled on, and in 1638 the corporation again prohibited the playing of football in the town and suburbs, and banned ballad singers (said to do ‘much damage and prejudice’) from coming to town on market days.(97)
Nor in practice were the godly able to assert control in matters of doctrine and religious practice. Even at St. Mary’s, as Collinson has pointed out, the survival – until John Tomkys’s arrival in 1582 – of the stone altar was remarkable, ‘raising questions about the thoroughness of Reformation processes in pre-Tomkys Shrewsbury.’(98) And the fact that in the 1580s the demolition of some of the churchyard crosses had to be done furtively, and that the removal of the font at St. Chad's to the chancel by the minister Thomas Price in 1587-8 was successfully opposed by his parishioners,(99) suggests strong parochial resistance to protestant precisianism. Price himself (d. 1620), like William Bright, Tomkys’s successor at St. Mary's, was perhaps a moderate puritan or 'conformist Calvinist',(100) though there are hints that by 1616 'yong wits' – possibly the generation that was to compose the radical puritan party in the 1630s – were cavilling at this position.(101) At the same time, the short incumbency of Humfrey Leech as vicar of St. Alkmund's (inducted 1598 but later to convert to Rome) had also introduced Shrewsbury to anti-Calvinist ideas, his supporters including Ralph Gittins, third master at the school, who was also later alleged, probably without warrant, to be a papist.(102)
Godly uniformity was also difficult to achieve when the livings of two of Shrewsbury's five parishes (St. Alkmund's and Holy Cross) were then at the disposal of the Crown, while that of St. Julian's was impropriated in lay hands and showed no immediate signs of being developed into a radical preaching ministry.(103) At St. Alkmund's that problem was tackled both by the endowment of a lectureship and by the purchase in 1628, also by Rowland Heylin, of the advowson – soon to return, however, to the Crown after the suppression of the Feoffees of Impropriation in 1633.(104) At Holy Cross, where images and Catholic books had still been in use in 1562,(105) and the long incumbency (1559-1610) of the vicar Edmund Bennet had probably been distinguished by its conformity, no such alteration was attempted. Significantly Bennet's successor Francis Gibbons (vicar 1611-1640) was both chaplain to Charles I and related, by the marriage of his brother Richard (mayor 1641-2), to the recusant Sandford family of Rossall,(106) evidence of the presence, if indeterminate, of religious conservatism in the town.
The existence of deep religious divisions was to be fully exposed in the 1630s when the altered ideological climate of Charles I's personal rule allowed the anti-puritans greater rein. In particular, the celebrated murder in 1633 of his brother and mother by Enoch ap Evan, a yeoman's son from Clun, allegedly over the propriety of kneeling at communion, provided the occasion for a book by Peter Studley, curate of St. Chad's, in which ap Evans's crime was ascribed both to flaws in Calvinist orthodoxy and to the preening delusions of puritan piety.(107) For Studley the divisiveness of such pietism was only too well exhibited by the behaviour of a knot of Shrewsbury puritans grouped around their mentor Julines Hering. They included the lawyers Humphrey Mackworth and Thomas Hunt, and alderman Thomas Nichols, like Hunt a nephew of Rowland Heylin.(108) Another leading member of the godly party was the draper-brewer William Rowley whose bailiffship (1628-9) was marked by evident hostility to ungodly recreations.(109) By the 1630s Shrewsbury had become the centre of a network of puritan ministers and lay-persons stretching from Cheshire through Shropshire, Staffordshire, North Herefordshire and into Warwickshire.(110)
However, the limits of puritan influence over Shrewsbury’s religious make-up had already been suggested by Studley's own appointment (c. 1621) as curate of St. Chad's. Although in his attack on the puritans during the ap Evan affair, Studley’s defence of the ceremonies of the church reflected not so much a Laudian viewpoint as an older Elizabethan conformism (as expressed e.g. during the presbyterian issue),(111) he was quick to adopt Laudian beautification and, as the Cheshire puritan William Brereton observed with disgust, to have St. Chad’s ‘gaudily’ painted with 'pictures, representations and stories'.(112) At St. Mary’s where the altar table usually stood open, but with a temporary rail used for the sacrament, Laudian reforms may have also been met in a spirit of compromise, and at the visitation of 1635 the minister Dr. James Betton, though a future presbyterian, was found to be ‘as conformable as any’.(113) Less controversial were proposals to improve the maintenance of the town's ministers. Petitions to that end concerning both St. Chad's and St. Mary's had been sent to the archbishop, and in 1638 the Privy Council appointed referees to deal with the appropriators in all five parishes to adjust and improve the livings.(114) Not all proved amenable, notably Thomas Lloyd, vicar of St. Alkmund's, who was reluctant to surrender a quarter of the Coton tithes, leased to him by the Crown, to the curate of St. Mary's.(115)
Those tithes, originally purchased to support the lectureship in St. Alkmund's, had come into Crown hands after the Feoffees of Impropriation had been wound up in 1633. The position of the puritan lecturer Julines Hering thus became untenable and by 1635 he had left Shrewsbury. afterwards to minister to the English congregation in Amsterdam, a departure which William Rowley was later to recall as little less than banishment.(116) The godly faction, however, was by no means enervated. It was to engage in disputes over the new charter (1637-8) and the appointment of a new curate of St. Chad's following Studley's resignation in 1636. Led by the aged town clerk, Thomas Owen, the anti-puritans were alleged to have corruptly manipulated compliant burgesses to elect their candidate Richard Poole as curate, the event being accompanied by bell-ringings, drinkings and noisy abuse of the ‘puritans’. But Owen’s party was temporarily forced to give way after bailiff John Nichols, of the godly party, had cunningly appealed to the Caroline régime’s dislike of 'popular' involvement in ecclesiastical appointments.(117) The Crown then intervened to put in the alternative choice George Lawson,(118) whose patron was the puritan Richard More of Linley, an opponent of Peter Studley in the ap Evan affair. Quite probably the Crown had been misled by the godly party over Lawson’s conformability, though his scholarly credential were widely acknowledged.(119) A counter-petition led to Poole's reinstatement after he and Lawson had come to an accommodation, the Crown then also taking back the advowson arrogated by the corporation since the 1580s.(120) Thus did religious divisions act as an under-current in many of the town’s disputes at this time, arguably providing the best marker in Shrewsbury for élite alignments during the Civil War.
The implanting in Shrewsbury and its environs of a protestant identity was also deeply entwined with the early history of Shrewsbury School, ‘a bastion of robust public Protestantism’.(121) Its role in that respect, for example, was well displayed in 1585 when the scholars mounted an anti-papist 'triumph'.(122) Although the school had been founded in 1552 and endowed with tithes of the former colleges of St. Chad's and St. Mary's, its subsequent reputation was largely due to the headmastership (1561-1571) of Thomas Ashton.(123) Despite resigning in 1571 Ashton was to supervise in effect a second foundation, obtaining a grant of the tithes of Chirbury and other revenues (1571), and drawing up the School Ordinances of 1578 which were to remain in force until 1798. By giving the right to appoint the masters to the fellows of St. John's, Cambridge, subject to corporation approval, Ashton ensured that his old college was to retain an important role in the school's subsequent history.
The school proved immensely successful – in 1586 Camden claimed that it was the largest in England – with some 360 scholars in 1581 if the petty or accidence school is included. In 1583 the three upper classes or 'schools' contained 271 scholars, and although complaints of the school's decline were made towards the end of John Meighen's headmastership (1583-1635), admissions in fact saw little significant decline before 1642.(124) The post-1571 school endowments were substantial (the lease of the Chirbury tithes was worth £120 p.a. alone),(125) permitting the rebuilding (1594-1612) and extension (1627-30) of the original premises beside the upper Castle Gate, producing some of the most imposing buildings of their kind in the country.(126) A country house at Grinshill, begun in 1616, was also added to harbour the school in times of epidemic disease. Initially the school's intake saw substantial representation from the town, with half of the 266 pupils in 1562 coming from Shrewsbury; but Ashton's reputation was to attract a much greater proportion of non-Salopians including a significant contingent from Wales – a fact jealously noted by the Dean and Chapter of Hereford.(127) After Ashton's departure the balance between outsiders and oppidani was redressed somewhat, the latter typically comprising about one third of all admissions. Nonetheless, by 1586 the number of scholars tabling in the town had become so great that streeters were complaining of rising rents,(128) and in term time the town's population may have grown by almost five per cent.
The social origin of pupils was typical of more successful grammar schools in England. Although the sons of yeomen, tradesmen and artisans were not excluded, the school was essentially one for the rural and Shrewsbury élite. Of these, to judge from figures given by Thomas Lawrence, headmaster 1571-1583, perhaps 10 per cent went on to university.(129) The school's local resonance, however, was deeper than its social composition might suggest. In the 1560s scholars were employed to witness tradesmen's bonds, and the school's fencing facilities were used by the town’s apprentices. Notable too was the support given to the headmaster John Meighen in a dispute (1607-08) with the bailiffs over the appointment of the second master. When the bailiffs came to the school to install a new master recommended by St. John's College, their entry was barred for four days by some 60 women, mostly wives of Shrewsbury craftsmen, claiming that under the 1578 Ordinances only the son of a burgess could be appointed – events suggesting strong local identification with one of the greatest educational institutions in England.(130) Not surprisingly school affairs, including salaries, the endowment of two scholarships to St. John's College (1623), disputes over school appointments and the endowed tithes, as well as an increase of the Chirbury minister's maintenance,(131) comprised a major part of corporation business. In particular, it was the quarrel with the college over Meighen's successor that was to provoke the Quo Warranto proceedings of 1637 and the subsequent alterations to the borough constitution.(120)120
Although other petty schools teaching the rudiments of grammar are known to have existed, other than that attached to Shrewsbury School, the variable impact of educational provision is suggested by figures for subscriptional literacy. In the 1560s virtually all drapers, mercers and tanners were able to put their signatures to bonds litigated upon in the curia parva, in contrast to barely half of shearmen, corvisors and weavers, and similar proportions were also recorded among recipients of Allen's charity (1578-1606).(132) More representative samples suggest that among the poorer crafts the true proportion was smaller still. No more than a quarter of master weavers could sign their names in 1600, and less than a third of masters paid to take poor children into service from 1626 to 1654.(133) Changes over the century are harder to assess, but among the commercial and farming classes of Shrewsbury and its hinterland literacy rates probably did increase. The percentage of recognizors in the Statute Merchant register who could only put a mark fell from 27 per cent in 1580-9 to 13 per cent in 1600-09, and to 9 per cent in 1670-1709.(134)
Book ownership too was largely confined to merchants, professional men and better-off craftsmen. Most Salopian donations of the early 17th century to the library of Shrewsbury School (completed 1596) were made by ministers, drapers, clothiers and mercers.(135) Common texts such as Foxe's Acts and Monuments and Hall's Chronicle, as well as divinity books, also appear among legacies of the town's lawyers, drapers and innkeepers.(136) Literary interests, however, were not restricted to these topics. In 1585 the Shrewsbury stock (over 500 items) of the bookseller Roger Ward also contained classical and grammar school texts, as well as works of romance, poetry, medicine, music, and popular devotional manuals.(137) The Syrian lexicon left to the school library by the watchmaker John Aspinall in 1623 was perhaps a curiosity, but the vintner Thomas Lewis gave an Italian grammar and a medical book (1624), and donations by the second master John Baker (1609) and by the wool staplers John Perche and Arthur Kynaston included a globe, maps, and works on geography and mathematics. The library’s inaugural gift, by the public preacher Thomas Laughton, comprised Emery Molyneux's first English globe, and Laughton's successor William Bright also left works of music, mathematics and chronology. In 1617-18 the school's own acquisitions included books on philology, law, medicine, anatomy, astronomy and mathematics; while notebooks of the great Welsh scholar John Jones of Gellilyfdy (author of the Peniarth MSS and a Shrewsbury schoolboy 1596 9), also indicate the importance given to arithmetic. Jones was taught from the Arithmetices of ‘Peter Ramus’ by the second master John Baker (d. 1607) who had a particular interest in Mathematics and Cosmography.(138)
Thus, while the town's experience confirms the limits to contemporary educational provision, Shrewsbury School provided at least a chance for talented individuals to acquire more than just the socially respectable veneer of Latin typical of so much contemporary grammar school education. The literary achievements of Sir Philip Sidney and Fulk Greville were no doubt exceptional due to their social background, but other alumni included the mathematical prodigy Arthur Hopton (a friend of John Selden) whose astronomical tables were calculated to Shrewsbury's latitude;(139) the great Grecian scholar Andrew Downes who worked on the Authorized Version of the Bible; and the playwright Thomas Tomkys (son, ironically, of the public preacher).(140) At the same time recognition of the school's regional importance is suggested by the character of external donors to the library who included University fellows as well as merchants and stationers from London, many with Shropshire connections such as Rowland Heylyn, the London alderman and puritan, the stationer Richard Meighen, and (distantly) the stationer Edward Blount, friend of the playwright Christopher Marlowe. By the early 1630s Shropshire men living in London were holding an annual dinnner – one of the earliest references to the county feast societies that were to proliferate after 1650 (141) – and by such means Shrewsbury news was no doubt disseminated among the London emigrés.
By 1600 the metropolitan connection had become of some cultural importance in Shrewsbury. Roger Ward, the bookseller mentioned above, was an important figure in the London printing trade, and William Russell, the first stationer admitted as such to the Mercers' company (1584-5), was also a Londoner.(142) The contemporary town annalist too showed extensive knowledge of serials and ballad texts, hot off the London press.(143) In addition Richard Meighen, admitted to the London Stationer’s company in 1614, was the eldest son of John Meighen, the headmaster of Shrewsbury School, and himself donated books to the library in 1633. Richard may have assisted the school with its own purchases, notably a large number of books bought in 1617-18. They included the great Amsterdam edition of Vesalius’s Anatomy, published in 1617 and placed in the school library before the end of the year.
But Shrewsbury was not simply a passive consumer of metropolitan output. The first English book devoted entirely to vegetable cultivation, written by the Shrewsbury dyer Richard Gardiner, was published in 1599,(144) and in 1616 there also appeared the earliest printed speculations on the town's origins, composed by the mercer Oliver Mathews, with other ruminations on ancient British virtues (largely derived from the Welsh antiquarian Humphrey Llwyd).(145) In the same year Edward Thornes's Encomium Salopiae was also printed by Richard Meighen. Although of gentry stock (but of a cadet branch of a family which had long historical links to Shrewsbury) Thornes's verse showed no condescension to the town's élite, lavishing praise upon its merchant and professional class, and containing perhaps the earliest known reference to the popular local trope of the 'proud Salopian'. Thornes also showed an incipient historical rather than simply annalistic sense, even if that meant, like Mathews, locating Shrewsbury's origins in a fabulous British past. Taken together with the itinerant entertainments vividly described by the town annalist,(146) the picture emerges of a vibrant, self-conscious provincial culture, appropriate to one of the most successful towns in England.
1 For the dissolutions, see Victoria County History (V.C.H.) Shropshire, ii. 36, 90-3, 96-7.
2 Letters and Papers Henry VIII, xii (1), 358, xv (1), 183, 228.
3 Shropshire Archives (SA) 3365/1795 (1545-6, contemp. fo. 32v).
4 National Archives (NA) E321/24/19, m. 138a.
5 Ibid. ms. 137a, 139a.
6 Transactions Shropshire Archaeological Society (T.S.A.S.), x. 401-02, 406-07.
7 See the appendix to this section, below.
8 Letters and Papers Henry VIII, xix (2), 87.
9 NA C21/P19/11; Revs. H. Owen, J.B. Blakeway, A history of Shrewsbury (2 vols. 1825), ii. 459-60.
10 Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward VI. iii. 75-6; SA 864/6.
11 Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 202; SA 3890/2/1/16.
12 The tenurial clues are intriguing, but have no bearing on the argument here.
13 SA 6000/14887; J.B. Oldham, A History of Shrewsbury School (1954), 1; Owen and Blakeway, op.cit. ii. 258, though Hugh Edwardes is confused with Hugh ap Edward, a Shrewsbury draper and a different man.
14 V.C.H. Shropshire, ii. 118; Owen and Blakeway, ib. 258-60.
15 V.C.H. Shropshire, ii. 122.
16 SA 6000/5984.
17 NA CP 25(2)/209/25 Eliz. I. Easter.
18 SA 6000/1459.
19 T.S.A.S. 2nd ser. vi. 216.
20 T.S.A.S. xi. 199; 2nd ser. vi. 219-20; Bodleian Lib. Blakeway 16, p. 31.
21 Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward VI. iii. 93-4.
22 Although the hospital building itself was in the hands of the Coles (Colles) of Cole Hall by 1590: Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 472.
23 SA 6001/2793, p. 509.
24 NA C3/286/22.
25 NA C2/Eliz. I/H21/34; SA 49/195.
26 NA C2/Eliz. I/L8/38; C78/39/1; SA 6000/1199, 1454; NA CP 25(2)/344/19 Jas. I Trin.
27 V.C.H. Shropshire, ii. 110; NA C3/286/22. The Mercers’ hall in ‘Baker rowe’ (part of High Street) had in fact belonged to the Weavers’ company from whom the Mercers once rented it: NA E318/39/2095, m. 5.
28 SA 3365/486, f. 3r.
29 National Library of Wales (N.L.W.) Castle Hill 2641-2.
30 Cf. N.L.W. Castle Hill 2641-2 (accounts 1579); Raby Castle deeds, 2/2/18 (widow Irpe tenant of the Castle Foregate lands).
31 Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward VI. ii. 384; NA C66/1088, ms. 19, 29.
32 T.S.A.S. liii. 222.
33 T.C. Mendenhall, The Shrewsbury Drapers and the Welsh Wool Trade in the XVI and XVII Centuries (1953), 83; T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. x. 305-06, 338-9.
34 NA E301/23/122 (no. 8).
35 V.C.H. Shropshire, ii. 112; NA E134/21 & 22 Eliz. I/ Mich./36.
36 NA E301/23/122 (no. 8).
37 SA 1831/2/1 (Drapers’ accounts).
38 Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward VI. iii. 75-6.
39 Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 269-70; NA Req2/274/10, m. 15.
40 SA 6001/2789, pp. 39-41; SA 6000/14891.
41 NA E311/6/114-5; E310/23/122 (no. 69).
42 NA LR1/135, fo. 234 (incl. tenements in Fish Street which had come to Perche by 1594 when he granted them with other property to the corporation to raise a rent charge for the public preacher’s maintenance: SA 3365/2621/8/-); NA LR1/138, fo. 6v.
43 NA E311/6/114-15.
44 NA E308/4/27; NA LR1/142, fos. 181v-184r.
45 NA E310/23/123 (no. 89).
46 Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. 351-2; NA C66/1088, ms. 19-20; C66/1125, m. 2.
47 SA 840, box 12, no. 21.
48 NA C66/747, m. 50.
49 NA E150/870/1; E368/321, Recorda, Hil. 38 Hen. VIII. rot. 10d. Ireland did not, however, obtain the abbey’s property in Coleham.
50 V.C.H. Shropshire, iv. 131.
51 B. Coulton, The Establishment of Protestantism in a Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the 16th Century’, Sixteenth Century Journal, xxvii. 309-10; J. Craig, C. Litzenberger, ‘Wills as Religious Propaganda: The Testament of William Tracy’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 44 (1993), 430-1.
52 SA 3365/486, fo. 4r.
53 Shrewsbury School Library (Sh. Sch. Lib.), Taylor MS fo. 67.
54 SA 3365/486, fo. 14.
55 Bodleian Lib. Gough Shropshire 15, p. 16.
56 SA P257/B/3/1, fos. 19r, 20v; Lichfield RO, B/C/11 (will of William Whitacres, 14 August 1557). Although the hawser in St. Mary’s, from which in the old religion a painted veil would have been suspended during Lent (E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, 1992, 465), had been sold off in 1549 50, the veil itself was only given away for safe-keeping and was perhaps re-deployed after Mary’s accession: SA P257/B/3/1, fos. 10r, 13v.
57 Lichfield RO, B/C/11 (wills of Meredith ap David and Fulk Harding).
58 J. Alan. B. Somerset (ed.), Records of Early English Drama. Shropshire (Toronto, 1994), i. 204.
59 Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 12; T.S.A.S.. iii. 263.
60 Except where notes, the next two paras. are based on Coulton, ‘Establishment of Protestantism’, and id. ‘Implementing the Reformation in the urban community: Coventry and Shrewsbury 1559-1603’, Midland History, xxv. 43-60.
61 Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 373. The minister’s stipend was paid out of the school revenues.
62 Future ministers of St. Mary’s included Edward Bulkeley (1580-2), John Tomkys (1582-92), Thomas Laughton (1593-6), William Bright (1598-1618), Samuel Brown (1619-32), and James Betton (1632-46).
63 SA 6001/4260, fos. 125r, 149r.
64 For the cross at St. Giles, see T.S.A.S. i. 61.
65 P. Collinson, ‘The Shearmen’s Tree and the Preacher: the Strange Death of Merry England in Shrewsbury and Beyond’, in P. Collinson, J. Craig, The Reformation in English Towns, 1500-1640 (1998), 213.
67 SA 3365/76, fo. 214r.
68 SA 3365/76, fos. 297r, 345v; Collinson, ibid. 213.
69 SA 3365/76, fos. 300v-302r, 303v, 365, 370v, 376v.
70 Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 364 n., 412n.; SA P257/X/2/1.
71 Bodleian Lib. Gough Shropshire 1, fos. 155-156r, 157v-158, 160.
72 Ibid. fo. 158r; NA CP 25(2)/203/36-7 Eliz./Mich.; SA 3365/2621/8/- (draft particulars of sale).
73 Bodleian Lib. Gough Shropshire 1, fos. 156, 158r, 172r, 173r.
774 Bodleian Lib. Gough Shropshire 12, fo. 185v; SA 6001/5238, fo. 83; 840/97; P257/X/2/1; 6001/9, pp. 142-3.
75 Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 413; Bodleian Lib. Gough Shropshire 12, fo. 195r.
76 SA 3365/76, fo. 282r.
77 Ibid. fos. 298v, 348v, 355-6.
78 Probably in 1587: ibid. fo. 393r. Cf. NA SP16/366/48, 16/406/66.
79 Except where noted, the next four paras. are based on Collinson, ‘The Shearmen’s Tree’, and the articles by Barbara Coulton mentioned in notes 51 and 60 above.
80 SA 3365/1203. fo. 7r.
81 SA 3365/1803 (30 Oct. 1584); W.A. Champion, Everyday Life in Tudor Shrewsbury (1994), 107-08 (refs. at SA qD64.5, Acc. 46/1, 257-8, notes 46-8); T. Phillips, The history and antiquities of Shrewsbury (1779), 92-3.
82 Coulton, ‘Establishment’, 316.
83 SA 3365/2617/417.
84 SA 3365/1106 (Doglane presentments, 1588).
85 Sh. Sch. Lib. Taylor MS, fo. 149r.
86 Somerset (ed.), Records of Early English Drama. Shropshire, i. 203; ii. 658.
87 Sh. Sch. Lib. Taylor MS, fo. 199v; SA 3365/76A (unfol.); T.S.A.S. x. 182.
88 Historical Manuscripts Commission, 15th report, appendix, pt. x. 55, 57.
89 W.A. Champion, Everyday Life in Tudor Shrewsbury (1994), 110 (refs. given in SA qD64.5, Acc. 46/1, pp. 21, 37, 249, 257).
90 SA 3365/2621/2/- (petition of parish clerks); P257/B/3/1, fo. 48r. Cf. the ‘solemn day’ held to celebrate the defeat of the Spanish Armada: Sh Sch. Lib. Taylor MS, fo. 173v. For the national context see R. Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year, 1400-1700 (2001).
91 P. Lake, ‘Puritanism, Arminianism and a Shropshire axe-murder’, Midland History, xv. 47. For Heylin’s Shrewsbury connections, see Coulton, ‘Rivalry and Religion’, 31-2, 35-6.
92 Collinson, ibid. 215-219.
93 Sh. Sch. Lib. Taylor MS fos. 188v-189r. Cf. the play put on at the Booth Hall in 1613 during which the Exchequer was robbed: Somerset (ed.), Records of Early English Drama. Shropshire, i. 303-05.
94 SA 6001/4260, fo. 98v.
95 For this para. see Champion, Everyday Life in Tudor Shrewsbury, 110 (refs. given in SA qD64.5, Acc. 46/1, pp. 253-4, 258-9).
96 M. Peele, Old Kingsland Show (1980 edn.), 22.
97 SA 3365/2537, pt. 1 (by-laws of 1638). See generally Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England.
98 Dictionary of National Biography (2004), article on John Tomkys.
99 Sh. Sch. Lib. Taylor MS, fo. 169r. 170v.
100 Except where stated the next five paras. are based on Coulton, Rivalry and Religion which examines Shrewsbury’s religious history in this period in detail.
101 E. Thornes, Encomium Salopiae (1615-16), sig. B. 3.
102 See also Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 278-9.
103 Cf. Lichfield RO B/V/1/48 (1626).
104 Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 270-3.
105 Lichfield RO B/V/1/5.
106 T.S.A.S. xlvii. 195-6; Lichfield RO B/V/1/29, 60.
107 Lake, ‘Puritanism, Arminianism and a Shropshire axe-murder’, 39-44.
108 For the connections among this group, see B. Coulton, ‘Thomas Hunt of Shrewsbury and Boreatton 1599-1669’, Trans. Shropshire Arch. and History Society, lxxiv. 34.
109 Somerset (ed.), Records of Early English Drama. Shropshire, i. 316-17. See also the biography of Rowley on this site.
110 Cf. Lake, ibid. 48.
111 Lake, ibid. 41-2.
112 Chetham Soc. i. 187.
113 Coulton, ‘Rivalry and Religion’, 40; Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 368. Betton was to be summoned to appear before the court of High Commission in 1640, but was to escape any sanction when the court was abolished the following year.
114 NA SP16/406/66-7, 410/130-1.
115 Calendar State Papers Domestic, 1640-1, 342.
116 Brit. Lib. Add. MSS 70106, fo. 93r.
117 NA SP16/366/48.
118 Calendar State Papers Domestic, 1637/8, 58-9.
119 NA SP16/386/86; Lake, ibid. 52, 56-9.
120 NA SP16/406/66; Bodleian Lib. Gough Shropshire 12, fo. 210v; Owen and Blakeway, op. cit. ii. 215. Lawson, a future presbyterian, was then presented to the living of More in the west of the county by Richard More: Coulton, ‘Rivalry and Religion’, 44.
121 Collinson, ‘The Shearmen’s Tree and the Preacher’, 212; Coulton, ‘Establishment’, 311-12.
122 Sh. Sch. Lib. Taylor MS, fos. 166v.
123 Except where noted, the next three paras. are based on J.B. Oldham, A History of Shrewsbury School (1952); R. O’Day, Education and Society 1500-1800 (1982), 27-36; Champion, Everyday Life in Tudor Shrewsbury (1994), 38-41 (refs. at SA qD64.5, Acc. 46/1, pp. 120-1, notes 7-21).
124 Cf. an annual average of 78 admisssions in 1562-83, 100 in 1590-1620, and 91 in 1620-1642 (extant years): E. Calvert, Shrewsbury School Register, 1562-1635 (Shrewsbury n.d.); J.E. Auden, Shrewsbury School Register 1634-1664 (Shrewsbury, 1917).
125 SA 6000/2501.
126 J. Newman, N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Shropshire (2006 edn.), 538; E. Mercer, ‘The Town of Shrewsbury’, in B. Ford (ed.), The Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain, iii (1989), 165-6.
127 G.W. Fisher, Annals of Shrewsbury School (1899), 7-8, 86.
128 SA 3365/1098/50.
129 Fisher, op. cit. 65.
130 See the notes on this site on Shrewsbury Women.
131 Bodleian Lib. Gough Shropshire 1, fo. 189v; ib. 12, fos. 141-210, passim; T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. vi. 263-81.
132 SA 3365/64, 3365/1864.
133 SA 6001/4274, fos. 19v-20r,; 3365/76A (unfol.).
134 SA 3365/65.
135 Sh. Sch. Lib., Benefactors’ Register and ‘Accession Rolls’; T.S.A.S. li. 53-81. For advice on Shrewsbury School library and the benefactors’ register I am endebted to Mr. J.B. Lawson. The few comments made here do not do justice to the richness of this subject.
136 NA Prob 11/62, 15 Arundell (David Lloyd); 11/71, 67 Spencer (James Berker); 11/94, 69 Kidd (William Tench).
137 A. Rodger, ‘Roger Ward’s Shrewsbury Stock: An Inventory of 1585’, The Library, 5th ser. xiii. 247-68.
138 W.P. Griffith, ‘Schooling and society’, in J. Gwynfor Jones (ed.), Class, Community and Culture in Tudor Wales (1989), 100; N. Lloyd, ‘John Jones, Gellilyfdy’, Jnl. Flintshire Hist. Soc. xxiv. 5-6. Baker’s own copy (1586) of Ramus still survives in the library.
139 A. Wood, Athenae Oxoniensis, i. (1721), 395-6 (although Hopton is wrongly identified as ‘Sir’ Arthur Hopton of Somerset); A. Hopton, An Almanack and Prognostication (1607); id. A Concordancy of Yeares (1612). Hopton, ‘sometime scholar’, left some of his works to Shrewsbury School in 1610.
140 Oldham, op. cit. 268-9; Collinson, ‘The Shearmen’s Tree and the Preacher’, 219. See also Dictionary National Biography (2004), article on Thomas Tomkis.
141 J.C.T. Oates, Cambridge University Library. A History (1986), 179; P. Clark, British Clubs and Societies 1580-1800 (2000),
142 T.S.A.S. viii. 322.
143 Collinson, ibid. 291, n. 45.
144 P. Stamper, Historic Parks & Gardens of Shropshire (1996), 20.
145 O. Mathews, The Scituation, Foundation And Ancient Names Of The Famous Towne Of Salop (1616, reprinted, Shrewsbury, 1877).
146 Somerset (ed.), Records of Early English Drama. Shropshire, ii. 383.
Appendix: The fate of the monastic and gild estates in the Abbey Foregate.
The site of Shrewsbury abbey was sold by the Crown in 1545 and purchased in 1546 by the tailor William Langley (Owen and Blakeway, ii. 136; V.C.H. Shropshire, ii. 36). It remained in Langley hands until the 18th century (Owen and Blakeway, ii. 136-8; Nigel Baker, Shrewsbury Abbey, Shropshire Books, n.d., 16-18).
The abbey's estate in the franchise, recorded in a rental of c. 1540 (NA LR 2/184, fos. 193-260), consisted of 71 tenements; 11 messuages and one house; 4 cottages; 15 shops; at least 26 gardens; 3 mills (including Lower Sutton Mill); one weir; 16 'hockmoll' (hocknall) rents and 18 other unspecified rents. In addition the abbey held 20 pastures, 14 crofts and other parcels of land, 9 barns and one sheepcot. Nineteen tenants also held at least 173 separate selions and 'lands' in the arable open fields. Monkmoor grange was leased separately. These figures exclude the St. Winifred's Guild estate, whose initial endowments had been taken out of abbey lands (see below), as well as the abbey's holdings within the borough.
Most of the Abbey Foregate estate was sold in three tranches in 1545, 1560 and 1578:
(i) In 1545 to Richard and Robert Taverner of London (Letters and Papers Henry VIII. xx , 215).
(ii) In 1560 to Thomas Leigh and Francis Bowyer of London (Calendar Patent Rolls, 1558-1560, 274; details of the grant are at NA C66/949, ms. 4-5). The recitations at the end of the entry on the patent roll include a grant of the court leet and view of frankpledge, although these had in fact passed to the borough in the charter of 1542.
(iii) In 1578 to Robert Newdigate of Hawnes, co. Beds. and Arthur Fountayne of Salle, co. Norfolk (Calendar Patent Rolls, 1575-1578, 404-05; details of the grant are in NA C66/1165, ms. 20-1).This grant included the manor, as well as the rents of the free tenants and the 'hognell' (hocknell) rents.
A few odd parcels were also sold by the Crown to William James of London and John Grey of Nettlested of Suffolk in 1571 (Calendar Patent Rolls, 1569-1572, 403; details in NA C66/1088, m. 29). Monkmoor grange, with pastures at Friar's Meadow and Underdale, was also sold to the Shrewsbury merchant Thomas Ireland in 1545 (Letters and Papers Henry VIII. xx (1), 222-3.).
Some of the property sold to the Taverners was evidently sold immediately to sitting tenants or others. Thus two messuages facing the abbey church, with shops on the bridge, were sold to the tenant John Prynce within two weeks of the original grant (Owen and Blakeway, ii. 141 n.), and another tenement and cottage were quickly sold to the tenant Humphrey Colton (SA 6000/5989). Other tenements were sold within a few weeks to alderman Humphrey Onslow of Onslow and Shrewsbury (Catalogue Ancient Deeds, vi. 190). Onslow's descendants were later to sell or lease some of the tenements to local craftsmen (ibid. 518, 550).
In 1561 Humphrey Onslow also purchased a messuage on the Stone Bridge included in the grant to Leigh and Bowyer in 1560 (ibid. vi. 552). The vendors were the merchant stapler George Leigh and the draper Thomas Bowyer, both of Shrewsbury, and it is probable that Thomas Leigh and Francis Bowyer of London, the grantees (and perhaps relatives) had acted as agents for the Shrewsbury men.
The bulk of the property sold by the Crown in 1560, however, must have come to Thomas Hatton and Thomas Rocke, two of the leading residents of the Abbey Foregate, since both men in 1578 obtained an exemplification of the original grant (printed in T.S.A.S. ix. 1886). No inquest post mortem of the Hattons has survived, but that of Richard Rocke Esq. (d. 1628), grandson of Thomas Rocke, shows that at the time of his death his lands in the Abbey Foregate included 27 messuages, 1 toft, 1 barn, 3 annual rents, 1 messuage on the Stone Bridge, 3 water mills and 245 acres of land (some of it though in Coleham) - all held of the king as of his manor of East Greenwich, i.e. ex-monastic property (NA C142/443/66). This estate descended to Thomas Rocke of Shrewsbury who was buried at the abbey church in 1703, leaving two heiresses. Of these Diane (1702-1732) was to marry Robert Pigott of Shrewsbury and Chetwynd Esq. and her moiety of the Rocke estates passed at her death to her husband, who then sold it in 1735 (with lease-back for life) to Sir Richard Corbet of Longnor (father of Thomas Rocke's wife). This moiety included much property in Abbey Foregate including the Dun Cow and the Burnt Mills (SA 567/2F/45)
The manor and the free rents sold in 1578 were bought the next day by Thomas Hatton, Thomas Rocke and Richard Prynce, with Prynce's interest being bought out after a dispute between the parties (Calendar Patent Rolls 1575-1578, 404-05; NA LR1/134, fos. 44-45r; NA C2/Eliz. I/A1/38, P2/59; STAC 5/P29/23). The manor seems then to have descended to Thomas Hatton whose grandson sold if for £12 to Sir Richard Prynce (II) in 1654 (Owen and Blakeway, ii, 139). The manorial profits had excluded court perquisites since 1542, and this no doubt explains the low value of the manor. In 1681 it was said that the Hattons had made no more than £5 p.a. from it, and had been forced to go ‘a begging’ to find a purchaser (SA 6001/12, p. 66). Richard Prynce (I) was son of the John Prynce who had bought property from the Taverners in 1545 and who earlier had also appropriated the hospital of St. Giles (V.C.H. Shropshire, ii. 106). Richard’s inquest post mortem (1598) shows that he was another of the principal beneficiaries of the sale of the abbey estate within the franchise (NA C142/252/41). Of the lands sold to the Taverners, Prynce acquired 4 messuages, 2 cottages, 2 shops, 3 gardens, 1 orchard, 1 dovecote and 2 acres of land (though some if not all of these, as already noted, were bought by his father). Of the lands sold to Leigh and Bowyer, he obtained 7 messuages, 8 cottages, 1 dovecote, 1 orchard, 10 gardens, and 200 acres of land. He also held a capital messuage (i.e. the Whitehall), another cottage, and Hallywell croft (6a.). The reversion of the Whitehall site appears to have been purchased directly from the Crown (see notes on Whitehall on this site). In addition Prynce had also acquired 2 other messuages, 6 cottages, 2 gardens, and 72 acres of land in the Abbey Foregate which had once belonged to Richard Thornes Esq. and William Humfreston. These lands can be identified from the i.p.m. of Prynce's son Francis as free tenancies held under the manor (NA C142/374/79). Francis also held the Almonry Farm (ibid.).
Richard Prynce is also known to have obtained a lease (1561) from the Crown of the moiety of the Holy Cross tithes which had belonged to the abbey (NA C3/259/22). According to a note by Samuel Pearson (d. 1727), vicar of Holy Cross, that moiety must later have passed to Samuel Adderton of Preston. The other half of the great tithes, and all the small tithes, belonged to the vicar (Owen and Blakeway, ii. 143-4). Prynce's executors were also to purchase the St. Winifred's guild estate (below).
The Prynce estate eventually passed to the family’s ultimate descendants the earls of Tankerville. The constituent Whitehall estate was sold in the 1830s - see the account by Joyce Lee, 'Cherry Orchard: The Growth of a Victorian Suburb', in Barry Trinder (ed.) Victorian Shrewsbury (1984). Although it is said there (p. 115) that the Tankerville estate was sold in 1834, that must apply to the Whitehall portion only: the tithe award shows that substantial parts of the Tankerville estate still remained in 1840.
St. Winifred's guild estate.
This guild, consisting of the more important abbey brethren, the vicar, the rector of Battlefield College, and leading members and their wives from the borough and Abbey Foregate franchise, was founded in 1487. Its initial endowments, the Gay and Connynger pastures, were taken out of the abbey lands (Owen and Blakeway, ii. 124-7).
The guild estate, now including not only the two pastures but also five cottages and three gardens in the street of Abbey Foregate, one other cottage, and a yearly rent of 16d. from a tenement in Shrewsbury, was sold by the Crown to the earl of Warwick in 1548 (Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward VI. ii. 31). The particulars of the grant, however, show that the property was rated for Sir George Blount of Kinlet, the true purchaser, and that the two pastures had been leased by the guild in 1545 to Richard Onslow for 60 years at £7 13s. 4d. p.a. (NA E318/38/2045, m. 11).
The estate was then sold by Blount to Thomas Onslow, a grocer of London (SA 1514/454, schedule of deeds, no date given), and Onslow's son, Thomas Onslow of Boreatton esq., afterwards sold it in 1601 to the executors of Richard Prynce of Whitehall, on behalf of Prynce's eldest son Francis Prynce, then a minor (ibid.).
The Gay at least remained in the hands of the Prynce family and the earls of Tankerville until the 19th century. Part of the 'Lower Gay' was then conveyed, by way of exchange, to the Shrewsbury builder and 'architect' John Carline in 1813 (SA 6000/14924-5). And the West part of the 'Upper Gay', with land beside the Severn, was also sold to Carline in 1835 (SA 6000/14938-9 - with schedule of deeds back to 1716). Another part of the Gay, adjacent to the railway, was sold by the Rev. William Gorsuch Rowland (curate of Holy Cross and St. Giles 1793-1823, minister of St. Mary's 1828-1851) to Richard Carline of Lincoln in 1850 - so presumably that part had also been sold beforehand by the earl of Tankerville. (It is shown, belonging to Rowland, on John Wood's map of 1838.) In 1862 Richard Carline sold a house, pleasure grounds, gardens and land (14,920 square yards in all) to Richard Palin of Shrewsbury (SA 6000/14941 - plan attached). The calendar entry states, 'N.B. The house referred to is that built by John Carline on the site of the present Shrewsbury Techncial College, adjacent to the English Bridge, and the lands include the present Abbey Gardens and part of the Lower Gay'.
The borough appears to have acquired the site intended for the Technical College about 1901 (Estates Commitee minutes, SA 3465/xxv/3). The Gay Meadow itself was bought by the borough in 1911 (corporation records). The Gay Meadow was being used for football by 1912, and in 1914 the Shrewsbury Town Football Club applied for and obtained a lease of the ground, although it was to be shared with the Shrewsbury Amateur Football Club. Work on a new grandstand and terracing, originally intended to be completed in 1915, appears to have been held up by the war and was not taken up again until 1921. (But the estate committee minutes indicate that a small stand already existed by 1914). During the war the rent for the football ground was reduced from £50 to £10 p.a., and only charity matches were played.
Another part of the Gay Meadow had been used by at least 1914 by the Belvidere Cricket Club; but this part (lying between the north end of the Football Ground and the railway) was turned over in 1916 for use as a tipping ground for the refuse of the Belle Vue and Abbey Foregate districts. Tipping on this portion was intended to cease by the end of 1918, but plans to extend the tip to the football ground, and to terminate the Football Club's lease, were not carried out. Instead, the lease was renewed and tipping continued on the former cricket ground. The Gay Meadow was occasionally used for other purposes, e.g. in 1920 for a fête for the Abbey Organ Fund, and by the Comrades of the Great War; and in 1925 for a Scout Rally. Although by 1926 S.T.F.C. was keen to purchase the Gay Meadow, the Borough Council proved unwilling to sell. The Football Ground was still shared with the Shrewsbury Amateur Football Club, leading to occasional friction (2 Jan. 1928).
The Gay Meadow was eventually sold by the borough to S.T.F.C. in July 1959 (corporation records).