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Appleby History > Alan Roberts > Turbulent Times

Turbulent Times

A series of articles about Seventeenth Century Appleby

by Alan Roberts

Part 1: Literacy and the Spread of Ideas
Part 2: Appleby's Puritan Parsons
Part 3: The Gentry, their Libraries and Schools
Part 4: Appleby in the Great Civil War
Part 5: The Religious Challenge in Appleby

In this section we look at seventeenth-century Appleby. These are often seen as ‘turbulent times’. How involved were the villagers in the social, political and religious issues of the day?  Were they aware of these issues and, if so, how did they respond to them?  How did they react to the religious and political controversies, to the call to arms in the confrontation between King and Parliament and to the later growth of religious dissent. 

Answers to these questions are elusive because ordinary villagers left little written evidence of their thoughts, feelings and opinions.  There is certainly some evidence to suggest that rural people took an active interest in religious debate.  William Weston's colourful account of the Cambridgeshire villagers who, ‘sedulously turned the pages and looked up the texts cited by the preachers’ at the Puritan conferences at Wisbech in the 1580s and '90s, is particularly convincing on this point.  It is also significant that publication of printed commentaries, chapbooks and sermons increased dramatically in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  Discussion was not limited to religious matters.  Radical preachers also gave vent to controversial views on a number of matters closer to home, such as enclosure, depopulation and the treatment of the poor.  Although illiterate villagers had indirect access to these ideas through the ‘oral culture’ of the church and the alehouse, literacy was a powerful force in the spread of radical ideas.              

Literacy and the Spread of Ideas

How many of the Appleby inhabitants could read and write and how did they gain access to information and ideas? Answers to these questions might provide some indication of the villagers’ response to national sectarian and political crises, particularly to their alignments and involvement in the Civil War. This might also help to explain the spread of nonconformity in the latter half of the century as access to ideas that challenged the prevailing religious and social establishment was an indispensable prerequisite for change.  It could be argued that an interest in and concern about events outside the parochial world was the first step in the development of an informed ‘public opinion’.  The dissemination of information was crucial to this process since it opened up new possibilities for the villagers. 

We know that the midland gentry had an appetite for 'newes' because of the stream of written communications, printed articles and copies of parliamentary speeches bundled up in newsletters from kinsmen and associates in London. In the years leading up to the Civil War for instance there is evidence that the Warwickshire gentry clubbed together to buy newsheets, reading detailed accounts of the conflict between king and parliament in printed journals such as The Weekly Account, Perfect Occurences and The Scottish Dove.  

To find out about the involvement of ordinary villagers in these events we have to sift through personal diaries and state papers looking for evidence of gossip, common talk and ‘libels’ of a political nature.  The most active peddlers of information were travellers and preachers who found an eager audience for their public utterances.  John Rous, the celebrated diarist, records that the scandals of the Court, disputes over church doctrines, Parliament and taxes were common talk in the provinces in the 1620s and 1630s.  Rous, then incumbent of Santon-Downham in Norfolk, found particularly avid interest in the latest ‘newes’ from the Capital among his parishioners.  Indeed, the popular preoccupation with current affairs was already a recognisable source of amusement.  ‘Every man askes what newes?  Every man's religion is known by his newes’, declares one of Rous’ fellow justices at the Mondeford sessions, in mock parody of a sermon preached before the King at Whitehall, and echoing, presumably, the fashionable greeting. 

The general interest of the public in national events is forcefully shown than by the government’s successive, and largely unsuccessful attempts to suppress ‘lavish and licentious talking in matters of state’. Damaging rumours spread quickly to the great alarm of the authorities who were eager to stamp out any challenge to their position.  In November 1634, for example, the vicar of Abingdon in Berkshire was reported as ‘a great disturber of the peace’ for publishing strange doctrines’.  An informant relates that ‘he has lately presumed in his preaching to venture upon state business and ... has denied the king's supremacy... in a public sermon’. Coachmen were particularly notorious gossipmongers, who played an active part in carrying news to the provinces.  That same year a coachman was accused of relaying  ‘false news, lies and tales about the Archbishop of York’.  A few months later a Cambridge man was reported for speaking against the bishops and the Book of Recreations after drinking sack in the Falcon Tavern.    

Sources and Notes

William Weston, The Autobiography of an Elizabethan, ed.  P. Caraman, (London, 1955), in M. Spufford, Contrasting Communities, 262-3.

F.J. Levy, ‘How Information Spread among the Gentry, 1550-1640’, Journal of British Studies, 21 No. 2 (Spring, 1982), 24-25.

A.L. Hughes, ‘County Community’ thesis, 56-7, 401.

Diary of John Rouse ... from 1625 to 1642, ed.  M.A.E. Green, Camden Society, lxvi London, 1856), 44  (the justice was ‘Mr Taylor’).

CSPD 1634-5, 311. 

Tavern Gossip

Comparative studies suggest that illiterate day-labourers and husbandmen had easy access to news in the village alehouse, which served as a general meeting place and information exchange.  Spufford has found evidence to suggest that ballads and chapbooks were freely handed round, read aloud and discussed by alehouse patrons.  Taverns and gossip were synonymous; as one contemporary writer observes, ‘every man hath his penny to spend at a pinte in the one, and every man his eare open to receive the sound of the other’ The alehouse was also a popular meeting place for itinerant travellers, chapmen and general carriers - the carriers of information - who met with the farming population and exchanged news picked up in their travels.  Strong drink and profane company might easily loosen a man's tongue to sedition.

However, the alehouses were not the ‘nests of Satan’ and hotbeds of conspiracy and impiety that the puritans imagined them to be.  In an illuminating article, Peter Clark suggests that alehouses nurtured rather more conservative and parochial attitudes. Although there were occasionally seditious outbursts, they never became ‘the command centres of popular revolution’.  Their failure to fulfil this role has been ascribed to three factors: the absence of political awareness among their various patrons, the gradual tightening of control over alehouses by the authorities using statuory licencing provisions, and the ambiguous position of the alehouse-keeper who had to keep on the right side of the authorities.

The Appleby villagers were certainly no more isolated from the centre of events than Rous’s parishioners or the inhabitants of East Anglian market towns.  Like their East Anglian counterparts, the midland villagers frequented taverns and alehouses in the village and the local market towns, where they might obtain first hand news from the capital from wayfarers and carriers.  The 1598 Leicestershire archdeaconry court case describes a noisy gathering of local farmers including inhabitants from Swepston and Appleby at an alehouse in Atherstone during the annual fair. Some Appleby inhabitants may have attended radical sermons and discussed them among themselves, like the Cambridgeshire villagers at Wisbech mentioned earlier.  However, the villagers' receptiveness to ideas which challenged the status quo, both here and in Cambridgeshire, was governed to a large extent by familiarity with the written as opposed to the spoken word. The Appleby inhabitants hauled before the archdeaconry court in 1630 for an alehouse dispute in 1640, were charged over scandalous words and gossip rather than politics. The alehouse was the focus for the ignorant and irreligious, rather than a place of serious thought or debate.  Serious opposition, based upon informed opinion, was more likely to take place among those who had already been admitted to the ruling elite: men and women who had access to ideas in print.

Sources and Notes

CSPD 1634-5, 245, 356.

Dedicatory epistle to a contemporary chapbook, ‘Theeves Falling Out &c.’ cited by M. Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histories (London, 1981), 65.

A certain John Lewes of King’s Cliff in Northamptonshire, a petty chapman, allegedly ‘said the king was no better than a beggar (as be heard preachers say out of the Bible)’ was ‘supposed to be very schismatically affected: and to have been deeply soured in the puritan leaven ... crack-brained and somewhat crazed by some factious leaders’: CSPD 1636, 321-2

See particularly, P. Clark, ‘The Alehouse and the Alternative Society’ in Puritans and Revolutionaries: essays in seventeenth-century history presented to Christopher Hill, eds.  D. Pennington, K. Thomas (Oxford, 1978), 67-70, 68-70.

L.R.O. Arcbdeaconry Court Proceedings, Winter v Petcber, 1D 4114/673; 1D 4114/721; ‘An Appleby Adulterer before the Archdeacon’, Leicestershire Historian, 2 No. 11 (1980), 4-10. 

Books and Reading

There was a general improvement in popular literacy over the course of the seventeenth century, but the ability to read and write was closely tied to social status.  John Aubrey, looking back to the early Restoration period, had a ready explanation for this apparent increase in literacy:

Since printing came in fashion, till a little before the Civill-warres, the ordinary sort of people were not taught to reade.  Now-a-dayes Books are common and most of the poor people understand letters.

The common criterion for literacy is the ability to sign or write ones own name, proficiency in writing being assumed to indicate at least an elementary ability to recognise the written word.  Estimates of the literacy of sample populations are frequently derived from analyses of lists of signatories to protestation oaths and covenants, which usually provide a cross-section of inhabitants. Unfortunately the names of those who subscribed to the oath were transcribed, rather than entered directly into the Appleby register, so this technique cannot be used.  An alternative analysis of the signatures and marks of those acting as witnesses or overseers to wills encounters difficulties because witnesses did not always represent the broad cross-section of inhabitants.  Allowance has to be made for the fact that some ‘literate’ testators may have been too old or incapacitated to sign their own names.  Another problem is that witnesses were selected rather than chosen at random. This means that in the case of the wealthier inhabitants witnesses were more frequently chosen from two social extremes: the educated elite who acted as overseers and executors, and ordinary household servants who were closest to hand at the drawing up of the will.

Nevertheless, we could guess from the surviving wills that about a third of the inhabitants in Appleby were literate, which conforms fairly closely to the Cambridge Group’s estimate of around 70 per cent illiteracy among signatories to the Protestation Oath in 1642. All of those identified as gentry or clergy in the wills and title deeds throughout the period of this survey, with the sole exception of Ralph Swinfield’s wife in 1619, were able to sign their names as witnesses.  In the earlier period, from 1600 to 1640, approximately half of the yeomen and a third of the husbandmen and labourers, could sign their names. Although only a handful of the witnesses were craftsmen they were generally more literate than husbandmen or labourers.

Sources and Notes

Aubrey's Brief Lives, ed. and intro. by O.L. Dick (Bungay, 1976), 36.

N.R. Evans, ‘Testators, Literacy, Education and Religious Belief’, LPS, 25 (1980), 42-50; D. Cressy, ‘Vow, Covenant and Protestation: sources for the history of population and literacy in the seventeenth century’, Local Historian, 14 No. 3 (1980), 134-41

D. Cressy, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth Century England: more evidence’, JIH, 8 No. 1 (1977), 144; A Leicestershire survey of literacy rates from the 1590s to the 1640s estimates an increase in the number of literate yeomen from 23% to 45%. husbandmen from 73% to 79% and labourers from 0% to 9%: K. Wrightson, English Society, 190. 

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Appleby’s Puritan Parsons

Among the factors that gave the sons of the gentry and clergy an advantage over their neighbours was their more widespread attendance and placement in grammar schools which gave access to the universities and thus initiated them into the ‘high culture’ of their Age. Of the two, the clergy in each parish appear to have been more educated than their gentry colleagues - all of the incumbents from the late Elizabethan era to the Restoration were Cambridge alumni.  Most of the seventeenth-century rectors attended colleges which were havens of ‘puritan’ influence.  The patronage of powerful men like the third earl of Huntingdon and the influence of radical Protestant divines such as John Brinsley and Artbur Hildersham promoted the Grammar School at Ashby as a training ground for Protestant divines.  Promising scholars could go from here to especially endowed places in Cambridge where they were encouraged to become ‘godly Protestants’.  One of the supporters of this scheme was Thomas Mould, the rector of Appleby until 1642 and himself a fellow of Peterhouse,, who placed two of his sons at Ashby School under the supervision of Robert Orme in the early 1620s. Both, as intended, later entered the church.  Abraham, his eldest son who later succeeded his father as rector of Appleby, was admitted to Emmanuel College where be completed an M.A. in 1639. His brother, James, went to Sidney Sussex where be gained his degree and presentment to the living at Tatenhill in Staffordsbire.

Sources and Notes

For an account of this scheme see Claire Cross, The Puritan Earl, (London, 1966), 124-6; William Lilly, the noted astrologer, relates that most of the scholars in his form at Ashby were destined for the church: William Lilly’s History of His Life and Times from the year 1602 to 1680, ed. E. Ashmole (London, 1915), p. 17; L. Fox, A County Grammar School (Oxford, 1967), 47; J. and J.A. Venn.  The Book of Matriculations and Degrees ... in the University of Cambridge from 1544 to 1659 (Cambridge, 1913), 477.

Jonathon Clay, who supplanted Abraham Mould in 1656 was a graduate of Christs’ College, Cambridge (p.154).

Godly Protestants

The rectors of Appleby took an active part in religious prophesying, maintaining links with radical Puritans at Ashby and exchanging books with kinsmen and neighbours of like mind.  In Elizabethan times the rectors of Appleby had opportunities to commune with radical Protestant groups in London through Anthony Gilby, the puritan divine whose influence reputedly rivalled that of any bishop.  The founding of the Protestant grammar school at Ashby in 1567 was part of his scheme to plant a core of godly Protestants within the Elizabethan church.  It is no accident that one of his first clerical appointments to the school was John Brinsley, the author of a learned treatise on the grammar school. The radical religious tradition was continued and widened through Arthur Hildersham who maintained ‘a Protestant seminary in minature’ at Ashby in the early 1600s.

This wave of Protestant enthusiasm must have infected the Appleby rectors who can be counted among the godly Protestants who combined religious fervour with love of learning.  Drawing up his will in 1608 Hugh Blyth, the late Elizabethan incumbent, refers to several books lent to Thomas Mould, his successor, including ‘foure great volumes of Saint Chrysostome’, a possible reference to A copendius treatise of John Chrysostom dating from 1542.  The intended recipient, a certain Timothy Hildersham (as yet unidentified), may very well have been related to the celebrated Arthur Hildersham of Ashby.

The Puritan clergy were a close-knit group who relied upon each other for religious support and book lending helped to consolidate these connections.  Thomas Walker, the rector of Grendon and Richard Latimer, vicar of Polesworth, were two of Blyth's neighbours who took part in these exchanges as shown, for example, in 1607 by Walker's bequest to Latimer of ‘one booke and my part of a booke which are both in his hands’. In the post-war period the circle widened to include ejected ministers like Richard Dowley at Orton, Richard Southwell, the curate of Wilnecote and Thomas Hill of the Lea Grange, also in Orton parish.  Hill, who drew up wills for some of the householders in Appleby was also a keen scholar, ‘a man of profound learning’ equally proficient in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Sources and Notes

J. Brinsley, Ludus Literarius: or the Grammar Schoole (London, 1612);

C. Cross, Puritan Earl, 133-5, 139-40; Gilby himself published an edition of Calvin's Commentaries in 1570. A.L. Hughes, ‘County community’ thesis, 56-7.

L.R.O. wills, Hugh Blyth, 1608; Arthur Hildersham registered at least three children in Ashby: Mary, 1598, Nathaniel, 1602, and Sarah, 1604.  While there is no mention of Timothy Hildersham in the Asbby register, the claim that Arthur had only one son (DNB, ix, 835) would seem to be inaccurate.

Latimer was drawn into this local clerical network despite being denounced by the puritans in 1586 as a ‘dumbe-dog’: See R. O'Day, The English Clergy, 163-4, 169.  Poverty is put forward as a possible reason why some parsons were prevented from acquiring a good library as evinced, for example, in John Eachard’s ‘study of a few scurvy books’, The Grounds and Occasions of the Contempt of the Clergy and Religion, (1670), 102.; S. Palmer, The Nonconformists Memorial (London, 1803) III, 347-9. 

The Parson’s Library

The books themselves provide a clue to clerical leanings and affiliations.  Thomas Mould's puritan sympathies are revealed by the several volumes of Calvin’s Commentaries among the books be passed on to his successor in 1642.  Entries in the rector’s Commonplace Book which survives among the parish records, provide a brief but informative glimpse of the contents of Thomas’ library. The 35 commentaries in the journal, which was probably compiled in the 1630s or 1640s, testify to an acquaintance with Plutarch and Cicero in English translation, while the inclusion of no less than seventeen citations from Florus’ Roman Histories identify this work as a particular favourite. In addition to these classical authors the rector was also familiar with some more recent works, such as Samuel Daniel’s Collection of the Historie of England, printed in 1618, and Joannes Philippson’s Key of Historie published in 1627 under the pseudonym, ‘Sleidanus’,

Taken together the extracts show a contemplative, scholarly, ‘godly’ man, fully immersed in the Puritan and neo-stoic thought so characteristic of his Age. Further evidence of the rectors' puritan inclinations can be found in a series of annotations in the Appleby register from the 1630s and 1640s, which contain strong hints of caution, equivocation and soul searching.  The Reverend T.F. Falkner, one of the nineteenth-century incumbents of Appleby, suggests that Thomas Mould used the register as ‘a companion during his reveries’, scribbling down scriptural injunctions (‘For the transgressions of the land, many are the Princes thereof’) and homilies (‘My son, meddle not with them that are given to change’) as they came to mind.  The tone and content of some of the expressions - lines like ‘'Lord give thy judgement to the King' (from the 72nd Psalm) can be construed to suggest that the rector was deeply troubled by the political and sectarian conflicts of the times.

Sources and Notes

L.R.O. wills, Thomas Mould, 1642; Commonplace Book, 15D 55/47 [n.d.]; Thomas’ authorship of the Commonplace Book rests upon a comparison of the small, stylised band in which it is written with the Appleby register entries during his incumbency; C. Cross, Puritan Earl, 24.

From the notations, I have assumed that Thomas Mould had access to Plutarch’s Philosophie, Commonlie called the Morals, translated from the original Greek by Philemon Holland c. 1603, Cicero's Treatises on Friendship, Old Age, Paradoxes and Scipio his Dreame (printed in various editions, 1577-1639) and E.M. Bolton's translation of Florus’ Roman Histories (London, 1619).  The other works are: J. Philippson, The Key of Historie: Or, a Most Methodical Abridgement of the Foure Chief Monarchies..., trans. from Latin by A. Darcie (London,, 1627).

For an assessment of the impact of puritan and stoic writers on the Warwickshire gentry, see V.M. Larminie, ‘The Godly Magistrate: the private philosophy and public life of Sir John Newdigate’, 1571-1610 Dugdale Society Occasional Papers, 28 (1982) 12, passim.

T.F. Falkner.  ‘The Parish Registers of Appleby Magna’ Jewitt's Reliquary. xii (1872), 139-40; The single word ‘Heautontimorumenon’ inscribed into the register (from Terence's Comedies), may be an allusion to the ‘self-torment’ of the rector or his king

L.J.R.O. wills and inventories.  John Prior, 1664. 

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The Gentry, their Libraries and Schools

The Libraries of the Appleby Gentry

The gentry's literary interests are less in evidence.  Although it can be safely assumed that most advanced beyond grammar school, their wills and inventories throw only a glimmer of light on their reading habits.  It has already been suggested earlier that the gentry had access to almanacs and newsheets from London, and it seems likely that they maintained contacts through local apprentices in the Stationers' Company and through their own visits to booksellers in the City. The gentry were also well served by local booksellers.  Michael Johnson, the father of the celebrated Samuel Johnson of Lichfield, must have thought it worth his while to cart a load of books to furnish a stall at Ashby on market days. Indeed, it is somewhat surprising in view of these obvious outlets that there are so few references to books in the gentry wills and inventories.  Strange too, that almost all of the books listed are religious works.  For example, the inventory of George Moore (1685), the younger son of Charles Moore of Little Appleby, contains reference to only a single book, a Bible worth £10. His neighbour, Hugh Stanton, who is described as a yeoman in 1682, although his personal goods were valued at more than £200, had two Bibles and a Book of Common Prayer. However, the absence of books in the inventories should not be interpreted to suggest that they did not read or own books; it seems more likely to indicate that their reading was rather more contemporary than scholarly.  Newsheets and chapbooks were more readily disposed of and appear to have been more easily overlooked by the appraisers than more substantial books.  Account must also be taken of possible links with a number of eminent scholars who resided around Polesworth, men like Aston Cockayne of Pooley Hall, an ‘ingenious gentleman’, poet and antiquary, and Walter Chetwin of Grendon, the antiquarian attorney. The foundation of the grammar school in Appleby in 1697 reveals more than a passing interest in education on the part of the Moore family, and the fact that most of the local gentry's sons were enrolled in the school by the early 1700s seems to establish their concern to see their sons proficient in reading, writing and Latin grammar.

Sources and Notes

Among the local apprenticeships were George Thomas, the son of a Grendon husbandman, to Samuell Clerk, London bookseller in 1596; John Heathcote, son of William Heathcote the schoolmaster at Polesworth to George Dawes, 1688. P. Morgan, ‘Warwickshire Apprentices to the Stationers’ Company of London, 1563-1700’, Dugdale Society Occasional Papers, 25 (1978), 26-7.

M. Spufford, Small Books (op.cit.), 75.

L.R.O. Moore, PR I/87/169, O. Stanton, PR I/84/177.

For an account of these scholarly antiquaries, see P. Styles, ‘Sir Simon Archer, “A lover of Antiquity and of the lovers thereof”, in Studies in Seventeenth Century West Midlands History (Kineton, 1978).

The registers for Reading, Writing and Grammar in 1707 in L.R.O. DE 20/1-2

Local Schools

The gentry were favoured with comparatively easy access to schooling and most appeared to have had a healthy regard for education.  Usually their sons were packed off to school at a comparatively early age, at around six or seven years.  William Lilly, the astrologer who started life as the son of a Leicestershire yeoman and later attended the grammar school at Ashby, recalls that be was 'put to learn at such schools and of such masters as the rudeness of the place and country afforded.     Rude as it may have been his schooling nonetheless stood him in good stead.  The late Tudor and early Stuart grammar school were stepping stones to centres of higher learning.  Their success is best measured, perhaps, by a survey by A.L. Hughes of 288 Warwickshire gentry families which shows that ninety-two per cent had sons enrolled in the universities or inns of court by 1640. The increase in schooling was part of a great wave of educational enthusiasm that swept across the midlands in this period.  Diocesan subscription books provide lists of the schoolmasters who complied with an enactment of 1562 that required them to subscribe to the Church of England's thirty nine articles.  The Leicester subscription books reveal, for example, that between 1600 and 1640 at least twelve market towns and 70 villages in Leicestershire were served by licenced schoolmasters. The ecclesiastical subscription books from Licbfield show that at least half the parishes in that diocese, including Austrey, were served by licenced schoolmasters between 1584 and 1642.

The puritan gentry of south-west Leicestershire had the choice of a string of grammar schools founded and endowed by the third earl of Huntingdon (in particular, the schools at Leicester, Hinckley and Ashby), so they could afford to be selective. Charles Wainwright was probably exaggerating when be told Sir John Moore in 1692, ‘we have very few good schools about us: Repton, Atherstone and Nuneaton are insignificant and Ashby of small repute’. Ashby was apparently considered good enough both for Sir John himself, and for Thomas Mould’s two sons in the early 1600s.  Few pre-1700 school registers survive, so it is not possible to determine the most popular choices.  However, it seems reasonable to suppose in view of the fact that Wolstan Dixie had links to the parish that some of the Great Appleby tenants may have sent their sons to Dixie’s school at Market Bosworth.

Schooling was not the exclusive preserve of the gentry.  Puritan clergy took the initiative in setting up vernacular schools for the children of the poorer husbandmen and labourers, regarding literacy as a weapon against the perceived evils of ignorance and idleness.  Judging from the number of licenced schoolmasters in the county in the first half of the seventeenth century, the Leicestershire clergy were particularly active.  Often the vicar or his curate taught elementary grammar to the sons of his parishioners in the village church, as for example at Orton, where in 1638 the vicar had a licence ‘to teach English to children’. The earliest reference to an Appleby schoolmaster is in 1680 when Joseph Mould  gained admission to teach in the parish.

Sources and Notes

Robert Lilly left his son William one half of his law books, dividing the remainder between his three younger children: L.R.O. will and inventory, Robert Lilley, gent, 1685. William was the only boy in his form at Ashby who did not go on to college, his father being as he remarks, ‘a mere yeoman’ Life and Times, 6. 17, 36; School for John Aubrey in 1634 was ‘a mile’s fine walk’ to a neighbouring parish: Brief Lives, 31.

A.L. Hughes, 'County Community', loc. cit., 49.

K. Wrightson, English Society, 186.

Leicester was founded in the 1560s, Ashby in 1575, Hinckley in the early 1600s.  For details see, B. Simon, ‘Leicestershire Schools, 1625-40’, British Journal of Educational Studies, iii (1954), 5-11.

Letter from Charles Wainwright to Sir John Moore, 7 November 1692, L.R.O. 1642/4.

See letter from Samuel Shaw of Ashby to Sir John, (14 March 1693), referring to Ashby as ‘the place of your former education’: ‘Captain Stewart MSS’, HMC Series 13, Tenth Report, Appendix iv, 138.

Wolstan Dixie endowed the school with two scholarships and two fellowships at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1592: Nichols IV, 497; The early history of the school is touched upon in S.J. Hopewell’s, Book of Bosworth School (Leicester, 1950).

The school at Tamworth is reputed to have been one of the oldest in the county.  Founded in the time of Edward III, it was mentioned by Leland in 1541, endowed by Elizabeth I in 1558, and rebuilt in 1667: H. Wood Borough by Prescription: A History of the Municipality of Tamworth, Tamworth, 1958 , 127-30; VCR Warws.  II, 327 ; cf. B. Simon, ‘Leicestershire  Schools’, loc.cit., 46-7, 54.

The subscription book describes Joseph as a schoolmaster and curate of Appleby, 31 July, 1680: L.R.O. 1D 41/34.

Literacy and Piety

The occasional printed book listed in the inventories of those below the gentry provides further evidence of the link between literacy and religious piety.  Although books are more frequently encountered after 1660 they were still a comparative rarity in inventories, despite an impressive array of evidence of an expanding market for religious tracts, little books, ballads and almanacs after the Interregnum. The Bible continues to be the most frequently listed book in the parish and most of the books recorded are religious works A mention of ‘one little and other books’ valued at 2s in John Mould's inventory (1672) provides one of the few tangible indications that chapbooks were available. The bulk of the works mentioned were devotional works with a comparatively wide circulation. It is hardly surprising to find, for example, that one of the husbandmen, Thomas Robinson, had two Bibles and a copy of Lewis Bayly's Practice of Piety (1602) in his possession in 1672. Nicholas Sharpe, variously styled as husbandman or yeoman, had eight books worth 2s 8d out of goods appraised at £22.7.8 in 1682. Finally, John Rainalls (1684), the Austrey village blacksmith, had a collection of what appear to have been chapbooks, judging from their small value (3s). These books undoubtedly represent only a fragment of the printed material kept in the local parishes during this period.  The absence of any further record of such items is explained by the fact that the cheaper printed emphemera were more readily disposed of by a householder during his lifetime, or more easily overlooked by the appraisers after his death. Literacy was highly regarded by gentry and non-gentry alike, but it remained an almost exclusively male preserve (even some gentry widows were illiterate), and it took a long time to reach the labouring poor.

Sources and Notes

P.K. Orphen, ‘The Recruitment Pattern of the Schoolmaster in the seventeenth century’, Warwick History, iv: 3 (Summer, 1979), 98.  For the fees see B. Simon, ‘Leicestershire  Schools’, loc. cit., 56 fn. 3.

Spufford, Small Books, 100, 121.

L.J.R.O. inventory, John Lakin, 1630, John Mould, 1590.

Bayley’s Practice of Piety was reprinted in some 40 editions between 1602-1700.

L.J.R.O. inventories, Nicholas Sharpe, 1682, John Rainalls, 1684.

Catherine Lilley, wife of William Lilley, the attorney could not sign the documents to convey her husband’s estate into probate.  L.J.R.O. adm., William Lilley, widow, 1687.

L.R.O. wills, John Erpe, yeoman, 1679.

Letter from William Wilson to Sir John Moore, 18 July 1698: ‘Captain Stewart’s MSS’, HMC Series 13, Tenth Report, Appendix iv, 139.

The Appleby Grammar School

The foundation of Appleby Grammar School in 1698 met a long felt need for more schooling within the parish.  Earlier attempts to provide basic schooling for the poor appear to have been piecemeal and largely ineffective, as for example in 1679 when John Erpe of Appleby laid aside '10s to be paid for scouling and [an]other 10s to by the poor books who are poverished for ways of such educating’. Previous bequests had apparently made little impact an the level of literacy.  Sir John, by contrast, was asked to provide education

for the ... sons of the neighbourhud… Who are to be here taught Gratis to know the letters, read, write, and to account and soe on till they shall be fit for Trades or the Universities as their parents or friends shall think fitt. [William Wilson to Sir John Moore 1698]

 It was a charter to produce ‘good christians as well as good scholars’. Although there were to be no distinctions of rank or wealth upon entry, the gentlemen boarders and the day-school entrants were segregated.  Sir John clearly envisaged a two-tiered system of education which prepared the sons of local gentry for the universities while helping to put ‘poor children and others’ into apprenticeships, with English, writing and Latin, the core subjects, taught by graduate scboolmasters. In 1698 Mr Wainwright the writing master had over eighty scholars.  Over half of them were the sons of local yeomen and gentlemen - boys with surnames such as Lilley, Ruskisson, Dormer, Moore, Walker and Wathew - although some, admittedly, came from poorer backgrounds, and there were grown men among them.  Attempts to educate the poorer sector of the rural population continued even though the sons of day-labourers and poor husbandmen could not always spare time for schooling. As the governors admit, ‘a writing master is of little use to us in Harvest time for the generality of writers in this country village are gone to harvest work’.

Sources and Notes

For a history of the school see in particular, Richard Dunmore's This Noble Foundation, A History of Sir John Moore School at Appleby Magna in Leicestershire (Ashby, 1992)

School charter in Nichols IV, 441; The School took boys from Appleby, Norton, Austrey, Newton, Stretton, Measham, Snarestone and Chilcote; Cf. reference to 'paupers' from Norton at the school c 1723.  ‘Bishop Wake's survey’, 309; L.R.O. DE 1642/4.

L.R.O. 28D 55/67.

A letter from George Wait to Sir John Moore, 7tb Feb., 1700, refers to ‘some poor men above 20 for reading only’: 'Captain Stewart's MSS' loc.cit., 139.

In 1723 Thomas Charnells of Snarestone started a school for 30 children with particular provision for orphans and the poor among his tenants; Cf. Provisions for a stock of £200 to fund 12-13 apprentices from Shenton, Austrey, Whitwick, Measham (will of Thomas Monk of Shenton); for ‘a schoolmaster to teach the poor children of Newbold Vernon to read and write’ (Nathaniel Lord Crew, 1720); to buy ‘bread and books for the poor’, (William Wightman of Barwell, 1724): Nichols I, 97-9, 107.

L.R.O. Governors to Sir John Moore, DE 1642/45.

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Appleby in the Great Civil War

Increasing literacy was one of a number of factors which helped to promote political change in the parishes.  Besides giving access to ideas which challenged the established order, literacy provided individual villagers with opportunities to formulate their own opinions and thereby play a more active part in sectarian controversy.  The process was accelerated by the political turmoil between 1640 and 1660 which led to the emergence of political and religious divisions in each parish.

The first signs of the inhabitants' involvement in national politics came after the eleven year period in which Charles I attempted to reign without Parliament.  On 3rd and 4th May, 1641 both houses of Parliament endorsed an oath of Protestation, to uphold ‘the true, Reformed, Protestant religion’, which affected to give support both to the king and ‘the power and privileges of Parliament’.  The oath itself was sufficiently ambiguous to embrace many shades of political and religious opinion.  It was, in effect, a test of religious and political orthodoxy, one of a number of solemn declarations. vows and covenants circulated around this time to drum up support for one or other of the parliamentary factions. The lists of those who subscribed to the oath are nevertheless revealing insofar as they give credence to the broad political consensus in each parish.

The enthusiasm with which the inhabitants of each parish went to sign the oath provides a general hint of their political loyalties.  The 144 names copied into the Appleby register in February, 1642 appear to comprise all the adult males in that parish except for two recusants, Daniel and Hugh Foster, who probably refused to sign for religious reasons. An analysis of the signatories appears to support this theory, since they represent a broad cross-section of the inhabitants rather than any particular social strata or interest group.

Historians have in the past offered misleadingly precise explanations for gentry decisions to support one side or the other based upon economic or ‘class’ interest.  The conventional arguments revolve around Lawrence Stone’s theory of a contest between factions within the ruling elite, Peter Zagorin’s idea of ‘the court’ versus ‘the country’ and Brian Manning’s suggestion that the civil war was a struggle for a greater level of participation in government by the common people. Professor Alan Everitt and J.S. Morrill examined the composition of county committees and local power networks in an attempt to discover regional patterns and motivations, finding that the gentry were often preoccupied with issues within their native county. Attempts have also been made to draw the lines between moderates who wished to preserve the traditional order within the counties and extremists seeking to politicise the county community.

J.S. Morrill argued that there was no common consensus on the issues at stake; most country people, torn between conflicting loyalties, wavered in support of one side or another.  As the conflict widened and threatened to engulf them they became increasingly anxious to end the war itself as a first priority. This dilemma is articulated by the rector of Swepstone who favoured the royalists ‘before men could well recollect themselves’, then later shifted his loyalties to Parliament.

Sources and Notes

A.J. Fletcher, ‘Petitioning and the Outbreak of the Civil War in Derbyshire’, DAJ, 93 (1973), 33-44.77.

L.R.O. Appleby register, 15D55/1.

L. Stone, The Causes of the English Revolution, 1529-1642 (London, 1972); P. Zagorin, The Court and the Country (London, 1969), 74-5; B. Manning, The English People and the English Revolution, 1640-1649 (London, 1976).

Everitt, County Community, 15-17; J.5. Morrill, The Revolt of the Provinces (London, 1976). An example of parochial concerns is gentry opposition to Ship Money which had its origin in personal rather than constitutional interest: A. Everitt, The Community of Kent and the Great Rebellion, 63-4.

The inhabitants were torn between ‘two essential elements in their fundamental political cosmology': Morrill, Provinces Revolt, 13.

Cal. Committee for Compounding 109; J.H. Pruett, The Parish Clergy under the Later Stuarts, 11.

Taking sides

The contending explanations have forced further reappraisal of the issues.  After careful sifting of the evidence it is now generally recognised that attitudes and alignments were far more complex than previously assumed.  More attention is being given to the impact of social change at parish level, and in particular to the emergence of conflict between ‘parish elites'’and the common people whose aspirations and behaviour they increasingly sought to control.

In order to assess parochial responses to the crisis in Appleby, it is necessary to consider the immediate threats that confronted the inhabitants.  First and foremost was the royalist garrison at Ashby, bolstered by Prince Rupert’s 800 cavaliers, which argued caution to the most resolute parliamentarians.  Henry Hastings had sought to take advantage of Parliament’s hesitancy in implementing its militia ordinance in Leicestershire by reading the commission of array at Loughborough on June 27th, 1642.  However the announcement by Giovanni Guistinian, the Venetian ambassador, that the county had ‘delivered complete submission to his majesties’ commands’  was precipitous; Hastings’ failure either to mobilise the militia or to capture the county magazine at Newarke (spirited away by Lord Stamford to his seat at Bradgate), severely weakened his grip on the county. For most of the earlier part of the war neither the king nor parliament had effective control over the west Leicestershire border region.  Both parties resorted to marauding and intimidation of the rural population from fortified garrisons.  In 1644 the parliamentarian Sir John Gell, ‘pestered with petty garrisons’ in the vicinity of King’s Mills (13 miles north of Appleby), complained that the local villagers were afraid to assist him because of the threat of reprisals from Ashby. Hastings gave a dramatic display of his ability to carry out punitive raids in March 1644 when he is reported to have rounded up nearly 100 prisoners suspected of Parliamentary leanings, locked them in the church at Hinckley and threatened to hang any that dared to sign the Parliamentary covenant. As Gell himself observed in a letter to Lord Grey on July l0th, 1644, ‘neither the persons nor the goods of the inhabitants well-affected to the Parliament are secure in any part of the country’.

The parish clergy were particularly vulnerable.  Hastings’ men paid scant respect to clerical immunity.  At Loughborough, for example, only the hostility of the town's womenfolk prevented his followers from dragging the preacher from his pulpit during a sermon. The parliamentary troops were little better.  In 1645, for example, when they entered Coleorton near Asbby, they had the younger Thomas Pestell. a royalist minister, ‘hoisted upon a poor jade with an halter... an whipped’.  His father, the vicar of Packington, drew up a petition complaining of the cruel treatment of ‘a minister not in armes, nor offring the least resistance’, begging ‘to intreat we no more be troden on’. The threat of royalist reprisal continued to discourage the more outspoken supporters of Parliament until March 1646 when the Ashby garrison finally surrendered after a long siege, an event heralded as ‘a great mercy and mighty preservation of the peace and tranquility of all adjacent parts’.

Sources and Notes

C. Hill, ‘Parliament and People in seventeenth century England’, Past and Present, 92 (1981), 101-24.

VCH Leics.II, 112; An observer relates that ‘Hastings caused the drums to be beaten, and colours displayed; and marched to the great terror of the people’: Nichols III, Appendix iv, 25-26.

Calendar of State Papers Venetian, xxvii, 65, 84.

Sir John Gell to Earl of Essex, Feb. 1644: Nichols III, 737.

Nichols III, Appendix iv, 33, 36, 893, 737-8

In Nov. 1712 Appleby inhabitants contributed 29 6d to the church and parsonage at Coleorton ‘demolished and ruined in the late Civill War’: L.R.O. Churchwardens’ Brief Book, 15D 55/14.


At the beginning of the war a great many of the midland gentry were cautious and undecided in their loyalties.  Although there were a few hard liners the majority were uncommitted, wavering in their support of one side or the other, or neutral.  The lines were drawn by family and regional loyalties, each county or region having its own distinctive pattern of alignments.  In Derbyshire the parliamentary militants aligned with Sir John Gell, the commissioner for the militia, while the royalists joined the great landholders like Sir John Harpur of Swarkeston, who declared for the king.  In Leicestershire allegiances cut across social rank and religious affiliation to divide between the representatives of two traditional rivals, Henry Hastings of Ashby and Lord Grey of Groby.  In Warwickshire meanwhile parliamentarian sympathisers joined Lord Brook, the lord lieutenant of the country, while the more fragmented royalists attached themselves to local garrisons or went south to join the king's forces at Oxford and Banbury.

The principal sources for determining local allegiances are the county committee lists, sequestration papers drawn up to punish scandalous ministers and delinquent royalists, family papers, and muster rolls.  Often, however, the evidence is contradictory.  The only Appleby landholder who appears to have lent any support to the royalist cause was Wolstan Dixie of Bosworth, one of the Bosworth School trustees, who gave a magnanimous voluntary gift of £1,835 to support the king in 1641, yet who appears later as sequestrator for Leicestershire. Despite Sir John Moore's later elevation to mayoral office by Charles II and the activities of their fiercely parliamentarian kinsman, Colonel John Moore of Bank Hall, the Appleby Moores identify with neither side. This may have been a deliberate attempt on their part to avoid upsetting delicate allegiances and dividing the parish.  It may be more than mere coincidence that Sir John Harpur of Calke, their feudal overlord, was a prominent moderate and an advocate on behalf of those opposed to Sir John Gell in his attempt to bring Derbyshire into the war on the side of Parliament.

Abraham Mould, the rector, also kept aloof from the conflict.  His comparatively late removal from the parsonage by the parliamentary commissioners in 1655 speaks more of religious recalcitrance than political activism.  Mould’s cautious political stance is emphasised by contrast with the activities of his more outspoken colleagues at Orton and Packington who openly preached against Parliament from the pulpit.  Relations between the clergy and their flocks were especially volatile.  Roger Porter's pro-royalist sermons provoked such an uproar in Orton that be was forced to flee to Ashby for safety. Thomas Pestell of Packington also appears to have thrown in his lot with Hastings; his parishioners later accused him of plundering his neighbours and letting the church tithes rot on the ground. These were extreme examples. Moderate Presbyterian attitudes to the conflict are better articulated by Immanuel Bourne, vicar of Ashover in Derbyshire, who recalls that:

In the beginning of the year 1642 when I saw both sydes bent on war and destruction, I made up my mynde to part with neither, but to attend to my two parishes and leave them to fight it out.

The younger Charles Moore’s marriage to the rector’s daughter around 1644 was one of the factors which helped to ensure stability within the parish during difficult times.  If either the Moores or the Moulds did harbour strong political views they avoided any overt attempt to give support to either side.  A few of their gentry neighbours were less circumspect.  Sir John Repington of Amington and William Roberts of Sutton Cheney, for example, attached themselves to the Ashby garrison early in the war. Thomas Leving of Grendon, who owned lands in Austrey, was heavily involved in the political conflict, as pre-war escheator for ship money in 1640, committee muster-master and a petitioner fomenting ‘scandal’ against the county committee in 1643.  Yet, despite being ejected from the garrison at Coventry as ‘a constant stirrer up of strife and Mutinye’, Leving identified with the moderate cause.

Sources and Notes

J. Vicars, Dei Anglican Magnalia (London, 1740), 102; Cal. State Papers Venetian, xxvii, 249.

VCH Leics.  II, 109-10; Warwickshire gentry alignments are discussed in D.F. Mosler, ‘The “Other Civil War”: internecine politics in the Warwickshire county committees, 1642-1659’, Midland History, iv (1981), 58-71.  A.Hughes, ‘County Community’, loc. cit., 63-5.

Dixie had a foot in both camps.  He is said to have had the king’s confidence but at the same time his second wife was a daughter of Sir Thomas Haselrigg and one of his own daughters married Thomas Cromwell, a major in the Parliamentary army.  Cromwell himself petitioned against his misuse of power.  Nichols IV, 497-8; CCC 104.

T. Heywood described John Moore of Bank Hall as an opportunist, ‘a man always acting with the dominant party, Puritan, Presbyterian, or Independent; signing with the majority, protestation, covenant or engagement’: The Moore Rental, Chetham Society, XII (1847), iii, V, xiv-xxii.

A.J. Fletcher, 'Petitioning in Derbyshire', loc.cit., 35-6.

Nichols IV, 850; Porter was three times imprisoned and frequently plundered for his Royalist sympathies: Walker, Sufferings, 241-2; CCC, I, III.

Bourne’s letter cited in A.J. Fletcher, ‘Petitioning in Derbys.’, loc. cit., 41.

Repington, who was in the Commission of Array, compounded Amington manor worth £400 p.a.; Roberts, who pleaded that he went to Ashby merely to see his kindred and to evade his creditors was fined £78 by the committee; CCC II, 962-3, 1290.

Leving was imprisoned by the Commons in June, 1643: (SP 16/510/119), A.L. Hughes, thesis, 372-3; Richard Dudley of Swepstone, ‘marched with his sovereign under the banner of Truth’ before being brought under the ‘Oliverish lash’.  He was Captain of a troop at Ashby but surrendered before lst December, 1645 and quietly resided at his own house until the war ended.  The committee fined him £106 as a delinquent: B.L. Harleian 2043 No. 2, ff. 38, 40; CCC III, 1879.


The staunchly parliamentarian Kendalls in nearby Austrey were more open in their allegiance.  They were undoubtedly aware of the strong support for parliament in north Warwickshire, as revealed during the puritan gentry’s campaign for the Warwickshire county elections in 1640. The process of political polarization can also be observed in recruitments to the musters and militias.  Soldiers who came forward in response to the king's instruction to the train bands to supply 600 men by July 1640 were savagely mistreated by their fellow countrymen.  Parliament, on the other hand, had no difficulty raising 2,000 volunteers from the hundred meetings at Coleshill, Warwick and Coventry, and in furnishing them with armour and weapons produced by the rabidly pro-parliamentarian inhabitants of Birmingham. The Kendalls probably felt more secure after the surrender of the royalist garrison at Tamworth in June, 1643.  Accounts for quartering, and levies for Parliamentary troops in Austrey from June 1644 to November 1646, suggest that the parish was firmly in the Parliamentary camp after the fall of Tamworth.  This was, perhaps, as opportune a time as any for Henry Kendall and his son to be put in charge of a small parliamentary garrison at Maxstoke castle, 12 miles to the south.

Losses from Quartering and Plunder

The accounts of losses from quartering and plunder provide graphic illustration of the costs and hardships imposed by the war upon the rural inhabitants.  Both sides exacted tolls and levies to maintain their garrisons.  The distinction between hostile and friendly forces was sometimes difficult when both levied taxes and went foraging for supplies. A list of claims for 'free quartering' submitted by 38 West Leicestershire villages to the Warwickshire county committee in June, 1646, gives some idea of the extent of Parliamentary impositions on the region. The account reveals that squadrons of cavalry and footsoldiers from the Warwickshire garrisons at Coventry, Astley House, Warwick, Edgbaston and Tamworth engaged forces from Hastings'  East Midlands Army in a series of local skirmishes and raids, drawing support from villages in Sparkenhoe Hundred. In the Summer of 1646 a party of Parliamentary soldiers from Tamworth under the command of Captain Smith and Lieutenant Layfield were charged with taking ten horses from the householders at Appleby Parva including two belonging to Charles Moore, the lord of the manor, and a mare owned by Richard Wathew, the blacksmith.  Losses on this scale were comparatively rare it seems and it is perhaps significant that Appleby Magna does not record any horses taken away on this occasion. Although there are occasional complaints of plundering in surrounding villages, as for example at Sibson where Colonel Purefoy is accused of forcibly taking ‘money lent to the state’s use’ the bulk of the exactions were of agricultural produce.  Typical perhaps is the twenty strikes of ‘provinder’ Captain Flower ordered to be sent from Burbage to Stony Stanton to supply his troop billetted there.

By 1646 parishes in the region were being charged a regular monthly levy 'towards the maintenance of the forces of Sir Thomas Fairfax’ in addition to their levies in support of the garrisons. The monthly levy was based upon a fixed rate which was collected by officers of the parish for forwarding to the county committee. The Sparkenhoe Assessment for llth September, 1647, for example. records receipts of £82.12.0 from 82 townships in the Hundred of which Appleby’s share was 17s 3d representing an annual contribution of around £45.

Sources and Notes

WCR Quarter Sessions Order Book, II, xxxiv; For an account of the election campaign see 'National and local awareness in the county community', in H. Tomlinson (ed.), Before the Civil War (London, 1983), 16 & 17.

VCH Warws. II, 447-8.  Muster rolls and accounts show Henry Kendall and his son had joined the Maxstoke garrison by November 1643, five months after the fall of Tamworth.  P.R.O. Musters SP 28/121A, SP 28/122; Misc. Accounts SP 28/186

P.R.O. 'Account of Free Quarter and Horses'.  SP 28/161 (loose); this list is probably incomplete as the clerk claims 'Much more will be charged so soone as the Country Booke of Accounts come in'.

Assessment for Sparkenhoe Hundred, 11 Sept. 1647; Austrey paid  £6 weekly tax for the support of the garrison at Tamworth.


The resentment of the local inhabitants can be seen in their persistent accusations of parliamentary plundering in Warwickshire, which strained already delicate relations between the army commanders and members of the county committee. Austrey, which came under the control of the notoriously undisciplined troops of Captain Anthony Ottway, was particularly afflicted.  Exchequer accounts of contributions and losses between 3rd April 1641 and June 1644 reveal that the inhabitants paid £77.1.6 in subsidies or forced loans to Parliament. Payments to the committee of the militia and the Treasury amounted to a further £931.8.0 for the period up to 12tb June, 1646.  In addition to the standard levy of £6 a week paid to Captain Ottway and his deputies for maintainance of the garrison at Tamworth, the inhabitants paid over £80 through a 'Proposition tax' on the principal landholders.  The highest assessments were for Mrs. Elizabeth Leving, widow of Thomas Leving the escheator (£14) and John Prior, the vicar (£12).  Austrey also suffered heavy losses from parliamentary quartering and plunder.  The billeting of some 544 men and 352 horses for two days in June 1644 resulted in a claim for losses amounting to £163.15.8, at least half of which was for requisitioned property and pasturage.

Recriminations in the wake of the royalist defeat posed further threats to parochial stability.  Abraham Mould's removal and replacement by an 'intruder minister' in 1655 probably helped to open up or exacerbate divisions within parish, as will be shown later. The only other Appleby landholder to suffer sequestration was Sir Wolstan Dixie whose donation in support of the king caused him to be listed among the Leicestershire gentry forced to compound for their estates. Although no record was found of any Austrey inhabitant compounding for his estate, the ordinances of the Rump Parliament for sale of crown lands and fee farm rents in 1649-50 brought about the sale of several houses and parcels of land in the main street of Austrey which had once belonged to the king.  The dislocations caused by these forced sales was diminished by the fact that the holdings were usually farmed by absentee landlords.  An accidental victim of this policy, however, was John Prior, the vicar, who faced eviction from his tenements and lands leased from the crown, because he had failed to substantiate his claim that the lands had been granted by 'presentation, institucon and induccion' to the vicarage for his lifetime.

Sources and Notes

The inhabitants of Grendon and Wishaw in Hemlingford Hundred claimed to have contributed to the royalist garrisons at Ashby, Dudley and Lichfield as well as to Parliament.  The Dilkes of Maxstoke paid levies to the royalist garrison at Lichfield even while their own home at Maxstoke was a parliamentary garrison: Hughes thesis, 340-1; For other examples of double taxing see R.E. Sherwood, Civil Strife in the Midlands (London, 1974), 60.

See in particular the Warwickshire committee's reply to 'aspersions' raised by county petitioners, HMC 5th Series, Sixth Report, Part 1 (House of Lords), 27.

Parliamentary troops were quartered on 46 Austrey households.  Claims amounted to £85.10.8 (1645) and £128.3.10 (1646): P.R.O. SP28/186.

Walker, Sufferings of the Clergy, 309; Nichols IV, 436; CCC 1643-60, Part 1, 104, 110.

P.R.O. E 121/5/1; E 320/T12; E 317/44; acts were passed for the sale of manors and honours belonging to the king in 1649, and for the sale of fee farm rents in 1650.  The operation was supervised by courts of surveyors set up to inquire into the extent and value of these lands, and to assess claims upon them.  Austrey rectory and fee farm rents appears to have been either purchased by or given to the Marchioness of Hereford.  Calendar of Treasury Books I, 18-26. 274.

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The Religious Challenge in Appleby

The rising tide of religious dissent had a very noticeable impact in Appleby and the surrounding villages.  Before the Civil War religious sectarianism was largely contained within the church.  After the outbreak of the Civil War the activities of the radical sects intensified, becoming more and more identified with demands for social and political change.  Temporarily relaxed censorship after 1640 provided a unique forum for the airing of these millenarian ideas How did the parish clergy and their congregations cope with these religious challenges and how did it affect the villagers? 

Christopher Hill has described the period from 1645 to 1653 as ‘a period of glorious flux and intellectual excitement’. The parish clergy had already seen a series of drastic organisational changes brought in by Parliament in an attempt to suppress Arminianism.  These included the abolition of episcopacy in 1643, the imposition of sanctions against use of the prayer book and the establishment of a directory of worship in 1644.  The righteous clamour of radical sects like the Diggers, Ranters and Levellers for more substantial changes increased religious uncertainty and provoked new challenges to the foundations of the social order.  Although the threatened 'revolt within the revolution' collapsed under the weight of the conservative backlash before 1660, the revolutionary religious ideas which sustained those who wanted to 'turn the world upside down' remained potentially dangerous forces.

Ordinary villagers’ wills

While the attitudes of clergy and gentry may often be inferred from written evidence - commonplace books, diaries, visitations, and the contents of clerical libraries - the religious beliefs and attitudes of ordinary inhabitants are seldom recorded except in preambles to wills.  Unfortunately, religious statements in wills do not always reflect the testator's personal beliefs. Wills drawn up by professional scribes often follow a set formula or reflect the faith of the scrivener rather than that of the testator.  However, less conventional expressions of faith can usually be relied upon to capture the essence of personal belief.  Early wills from the parish reveal a strong and simple piety permeating all ranks of the social order.  Those drawn up before 1560 contain the standard Catholic clauses; a typical example is the will of Thomas Houlden, an Appleby husbandman, who left his soul to 'almygbtye God and lady sant marye and all the holye copany in heven' (1556).  After the mid sixteenth-century Reformation the testators gradually abandon references to Mary and the Saints.  References to personal salvation in approximately a third of the Appleby wills suggest that there was a strong 'Protestant' element, especially among the elites.  The yeoman Richard Mould of Appleby, who prepared for death, 'trustinge by the merits of the pretious deathe and bludshedinge of Jessus Christe to be one of the number of the savede' (1581), expresses an unmistakeably Calvinist concept of salvation. Other colourful visions of the afterlife seem to owe their inspiration to radical sermons and texts.

Sources and Notes

C. Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, 12

The relative influence of clerical scribes upon expressions of faith in wills.

promoted lively debate in the early 1970s.  See, for example, M. Spufford, 'The scribes of villagers' wills in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and their influence', LPS, 7 (Autumn, 1971), 28-43; R.C. Richardson, 'Wills and will-makers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: some Lancashire evidence', LPS, 9 (Autumn, 1972), 33-41

 L.R.O. wills, Thomas Houlden,1556, Richard Mould, 1581.

 Toleration and religious conflict

The variations in religious imagery, unreliable though it may be as a guide to individual belief, suggest a broad spectrum of religious attitudes ranging from orthodox Anglicanism to radical nonconformity but the dominant strand among the gentry could probably be described as 'moderately puritan'. Religious differences did not necessarily cause conflict before the Civil War.  Neighbourly toleration even extended to Catholics, as is suggested, for example, by the presentment of Joseph Mould of Appleby before the Bishop of Lincoln's consistory court at Melton in 1635 on a charge of allowing Mary Foster, the wife of his recusant neighbour, to attend upon his own wife during her confinement. Prosecutions for nonconformity were nonexistent or rare before 1640.  Dissent was probably kept in check by the parish's geographical isolation, the continuing stability of the social order and the comparative illiteracy of the ordinary inhabitants.

However, from the late Tudor period onwards, radical religious ideas gained increasing currency through the sermons and prophesysings of radical preachers in centres like Ashby, Atherstone and Nuneaton.  In the early 1570s the inhabitants of Appleby were probably influenced, to some extent at least, by the puritan clergy at Ashby.  Their spiritual leader, the schoolmaster, Anthony Gilby, vented strong opposition to the established church.  His spiritual successor, Arthur Hildersham, the vicar of Ashby, helped to promote the Puritan millenary petition.  Sir George Hasting's purchase of the living at Measham in 1581 and the presentment of Peter Egleshall as vicar, brought dissent even closer to Appleby's doorstep. Although the Moulds tried to steer a neutral course they were powerless to prevent the proliferation of radical sects in surrounding towns and villages or even to curb the clamour of dissent against the established church within their own parish.

The earliest record of a dissenting voice in Appleby is a dispute between Thomas Mould, the rector, and John Mould, his distant kinsman, in a case brought before the Leicester archdeaconry court in 1636.  In the proceedings John is said to have harboured 'an inveterate malice, hatred and distaste' for his ecclesiastical kinsman which erupted into open conflict one Sunday when Thomas read a brief for the distressed protestants of the Palatinate.  While Thomas exhorted his flock to give generously, John is reported by several witnesses to have quarrelled with him 'in a very reproachful, disdainefull, appbrious and undecent and unseemly manner'.  John was angered by the rector's reference to the churchwardens and overseers, who, be claimed, the rector could not even identify (an open attack on the rector's competence).  John further accused the rector of unnecessarily wasting the town's money, suggesting that there were worthier charities than overseas protestants and that the church roof, for example, urgently needed repairs.  The rector in turn replied by piously reproaching John as 'a base and unworthy fellow'.

While the immediate source of dispute appears to have revolved around seemingly trivial, parochial issues, the depths of passion aroused by this dispute hint of deeper divisions than mere family feuding.  Indeed John's protest can be seen as a direct challenge to the traditional authority.  A close study of the sequence of events that followed reveals that both Thomas Mould and his son Abraham were prime targets for the growing militancy of Appleby's disaffected inhabitants.

The rectors continued to be at the centre of religious controversy after the Restoration.  In 1672 Abrabam Mould, reinstated after his ejection, excommunicated George Kendall and Robert Jackson for their continuing to 'blaspheme' against the church despite warnings. In 1684 the rector was himself brought before the court in a suit with Euseby Dormer, a former captain in the Parliamentary army, who settled in Appleby after the war. Dormer's told the court that be had not received the sacraments because of 'severall differences, variances and contentions' between Mould and himself. Mould admitted that be had neglected his ministerial duties, pleading that he was at seventy years of age 'very infirme and not in a capacity to perform his duty'. This dispute begins to look like an orchestrated campaign against the incumbent, a revival of the more militant religious attitudes of the 1640s and 1650s.  Both Thomas and Abraham Mould aggravated the issue.  Abraham, the reinstated minister, was undoubtedly pious and listened to his conscience, but be appears remarkably insensitive to religious grievances, and obdurate in the face of personal criticism.

Sources and Notes

The wills of George Moore (1684) and Thomas Brown (1701) in Appleby, concentrate upon penitence and the expunging of sin but the clerical wills fail to mention such matters.

P.R.O. Presentments SP 16/535/95.

C. Cross, Puritan Earl, 135.

L.R.O. Archdeaconry Court Proceedings,1D41/4/XVIII/24,ID41/4/XXXVI/123-4,

1D41/4/XL/112-5; Between Oct. 1644 - Sept. 1646, Captain Euseby Dormer was assigned with a troop of horse to collect levies from a group of south Worcestershire townships: R.E. Sherwood, Civil Strife in the Midlands (op.cit.), 97, 105.

L.R.O. ID4114/XLI/69-70; 1D41/XLII/35-6.

Mould avowed Kendall was one of his parishioners whom be 'seldom seeth ... at his parish church...upon a lords day'. 1D41/4/XXXVI/123.

The Quaker Challenge

In the next parish. the religious challenge came in a different guise for here Quakers challenged the established authority.  In Austrey the incumbent played a comparatively minor part.  His office, already weakened by the loss of the tithes was further undermined by sequestration which (temporarily at least) deprived the vicar of his two leases in Hollywell Brook and Leasemoor Field. After the Civil War the Quakers succeeded the Ranters as the chief threat to the established social order, promoting what seemed to many a dangerous and alien ideology.  Their leader, George Fox, a native of the border region between Leicestershire and Warwickshire, carried his interpretation of the Word from here to other parts:

The Truth sprang up first to us so as to be a people of the Lord in Leicestershire in 1644, in Warwickshire in 1645, in Nottinghamshire in 1646, in Derbyshire in 1647 and in the adjacent counties in 1648, 1649 and 1650.

Unlike the presbyterians and others who were accomodated within the established church, the Quakers deliberately set themselves apart from the communal order.  They further emphasised their separateness by a refusal to swear oaths of allegiance and by upholding a claim that scripture could only be interpreted through the 'inner spirit', and not by any outside authority.  This was an especially dangerous idea.  In common with other radical groups, such as Ranters and Diggers, they had particular appeal to the poorer sort of people, especially to cottage craftworkers and labourers, although converts were drawn from all ranks of society in the early years.

By the mid 1600s Quakers were strongly entrenched in  North Warwickshire. Fox records large gatherings of the sect at Shuttington, Tamworth and Baddesley Ensor in north Warwickshire. The earliest sign of Quaker activity in the vicinity of Appleby however was in 1653 when Richard Farmer, a Quaker, is said to have attempted to read a 'Christian exhortation' to the townspeople of Twycross. The nervousness of the local gentry in the face of this challenge is revealed in their haste to arrest and imprison him before he had even finished his speech. By 1660 Leicester gaol is said to have housed as many as twenty-five Quaker 'Fanaticks', most of them poor men imprisoned for failure to pay fines, for attending illegal meetings or for refusing to swear oaths.

Sources and Notes

P.R.O. E 121/5/1; VCR Warws, I, 42.

C. Hill, World Turned Upside Down, 99; although they have been described as ‘the dregs of the common people', they were originally supported by gentry, yeomen and craftsmen: B. Reay, 'The Social Origins of Early Quakerism', JIH, xi No. 1 (Summer, 1980), 55, 62.

George Fox cited in R. Clark, 'Why was the Re-establishment of the Church of England in 1662 Possible? Derbyshire, a provincial perspective', Midland History, 8 (1983), 92.

Presbyterian Conventicles

The earliest evidence of organised dissent within the parish is contained in the episcopal returns connected with the licencing of conventicles in 1669 and 1672.  The emphasis here is on the Presbyterians who remained within the church, disputing only the form of church government.  The Appleby churchwardens certified that there were no conventicles within the parish in the 1669 return to the bishop of Lincoln, however it seems likely that they had either overlooked or chose deliberately to ignore some gatherings, since the parish registered a presbyterian conventicle in 1672. The Appleby presbyterians met in turn in the houses of Abraham Crossland and Thomas Houlden.  Both were men of middling wealth and status: Abraham whose nonconformity led to his ejection from a fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, set himself up as a tailor in Appleby, while Thomas was a fairly prosperous yeoman.

Radical preachers played an important part in fomenting religious and social dissent within the village

Unlicenced preachers

The most active local preachers of the 1660s and 1670s were ejected divines. Indeed, ejections probably encouraged the spread of dissent into neighbouring parishes.  Thomas Hill and Richard Dowley, the vicars of Orton and Stoke Prior, who were both ejected for nonconformity, were perhaps typical.  Following his ejection from the living at Orton in 1672, Hill retired to his house at the Lea Grange (within Orton parish) where he preached to small numbers of his followers.  Palmer relates tbat, when the Five Mile Act came into force be left his family 'and was entertained at a friend's house from whence he went to a gentleman's house about a mile off'. Thomas Dowley, who was ejected from the living at Elford in Staffordshire, used his own house in Newton Regis as a meeting place in 1669.  His son Richard, following in his father's steps, later preached at Orton. When their licences were revoked some preachers resorted to stratagems to gain an audience.  One example from Appleby is that of Tixell Perry who asked the rector whether he might give a sermon in Appleby Church. Abraham Mould, 'not suspecting anything but that... Perry had a licence' assented, only to be later brought to account for this lapse before the archdeaconry court.

The Compton census provides a conservative estimate of the extent of nonconformity within the parish by 1676.  Appleby again records no recusants or nonconformists despite returns of conventicles within the parish in 1672, 1689 and 1692. Adjacent parishes also record dissenting minorities In nearby Austrey the census records nine nonconformists, eight of whom are described as Quakers. In the hamlet of Warton in Poleswortb, 22 nonconformists comprised four per cent of adult males, in Shuttington 12 nonconformists made up fifteen per cent of the total and in the combined townships of Grendon and Whittington, near Tamworth, 18 nonconformists were nine per cent of the adult males. Quakers proved particularly intractable.  Their impulse to martyrdom and spurning of help from their neighbours, encouraged the authorities to persecution and harassment.

While there is no evidence of Quaker meetings in Appleby they were certainly close by. From Easter 1679 to Epithany 1685 a group of Austrey inhabitants were repeatedly brought before the Justices of the Peace at Warwick to answer charges of absence from church.  The Austrey Quakers were noticeably poorer than the Presbyterians, who were comparatively more literate, wealthy and well connected.  Four of the five Quaker householders are described as husbandmen, the remaining one was a weaver.  Attempts at suppression were ineffective.  The long-term influence first of repression and then of Toleration was growing apathy and sectarianism.  By 1708 the parson of Austrey was complaining that many of his parishioners 'neither come to church nor go to any other place of religious worship' . Having successfully challenged the church on this issue many inhabitants appear to have decided to dispense with Sunday attendance altogether.

Religious dissent emerges as a virulent agency of social change within Appleby and the surrounding parishes. The Appleby church feuds exposed a raw nerve of religious and ideological conflict. While dissent was largely contained within the parish it was a greater threat to the traditional order than the Civil War because it aroused deeper and more lasting antagonisms.  Whereas the confrontation between king and parliament posed a sudden threat to life and property which helped to strengthen rather than weaken social ties, religious dissent threatened to divide the inhabitants in irreconcilable postures.  Outside persecution, as in the case of the Austrey Quakers, merely hardened these divisions.  Although complete social disintegration was averted and the dissenters accomodated in the more tolerant religious climate after 1700, the social order suffered shocks from which it did not fully recover, old habits of subservience were undermined.  The subsequent history of the parish reflects attitudes which can no longer be described as either traditional or parochial.

Sources and Notes

Journal of George Fox, cited in Hughes, thesis, 436.

J. Besse, Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers for the Testimony of a Good Conscience (London, 1753) I, 330.

Among the ‘Fanaticks’ was Peter Hinks, who may have been related to the Richard Hinks of Austrey examined as a Quaker in 1679-85;.

Returns of conventicles in R.H. Evans, 'Nonconformists in Leicestershire, 1669', TLAS, xxv (1949), 124-5.

The Austrey Presbyterians met in Henry Kendall's home. Some Kendalls including Henry’s uncle George, later appear to have moved to Appleby G.L. Turner, Original Records of Early Nonconformity under Persecution and Indulgence (London, 1911) II, 756, 788, III, 353.  Hill's gentleman friend was almost certainly Henry Kendall, who appointed him overseer in his will. 

Calamy’s 'Account of the Ministers Ejected and Silenced' in S. Palmer (ed.) Nonconformists' Memorial, III, 347; In 1690 Timothy Fox, ex-rector of Drayton Basset (Staffs.) and Richard Southwell, curate of Wilnecote, preached monthly at Appleby: A.G. Matthews, Calamy Revised (Oxford, 1934), 211, 452.

For Tixell Perry, L.R.O. Archdeaconry Court Proceedings, 1D41/XXXVI/123.

Turner, Persecution and Indulgence, II, 756; Fox, Derbyshire Quarter Sessions, 367.

J.H. Hodson, 'Warwickshire Nonconformist and Quaker Meetings and Meeting Houses, 1660-1750', WCR Sessions Order Book VIII, lxxii, lxxviii; WCR Hearth Tax Returns I, 19, 102, 129.,VII, 125, 141, 158, 180-1, 192; VIII, 49, 121.

L.J.R.O. Note by Thomas Wainwright, vicar of Austrey, B/C/5.

©Alan Roberts

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