Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

Buckland’s 1896 Book - The History of Woodborough etc.

Buckland ~ CHAPTER IX


Authorities:  Green's History of the English People. Thoroton's Notts.  Dugdale's Monasticon.
Dickinson's Southwell. Leachs's Southwell. Woodborough Par. Reg. Record Office: M.S.S.

BEFORE the Conquest the Church and Kings of England had always asserted their independence of the Pope or Bishop of Rome and William the Conqueror refused allegiance to the Pope, who then cited the Bishops of England to appear before him, but they all refused. Yet the power of the Pope gradually increased in England. Every quarrel between the King and the Barons, or the King and the Church gave the Pope an opportunity to interfere, and by each interference the Pope gained more power. It would be out of place here to follow the long history of the "protest" of the English Church and Kings and people against the Papal Supremacy which reached its height when King John surrendered his crown, robes, sword and ring to the Papal Legate and received them back as a favour from the Pope. England burned with shame. The Clergy and the Barons rose in arms and forced King John to meet "the army of God and Holy Church" at Runnymede in 1215, and wrung from him the signature of Magna Charta which secured for ever the liberties of the Church and people. But the struggle of the Church and the Barons went on till the time of Edward III, 1327-1377, who was the first King strong enough to throw in his lot with the Church against the Pope. Great were the grievances of the Church; the Pope demanded the first-fruits of every English bishopric and benefice; he intruded foreign clergy who had never set foot in England into the best places in the Church; the various errors of the Church of Rome were forced upon the English people, and "indulgences," by which the Pope professed to grant forgiveness of sins in this world and the next were sold for money. Independence of the Papal Power and Church Reform were the two things craved for by Kings, Clergy and people in England and abroad. About 1395 Wycliffe and his "poor priests" lifted up their voices against the Pope and demanded the Reformation of the Church. The Bible was translated into English. In 1531 the Convocations of York and Canterbury proposed that England should withdraw her allegiance to the See of Rome and pay no more first-fruits to the Pope. In 1534 the Convocation of Canterbury declared that "the Bishop of Rome hath no greater jurisdiction conferred on him by God over this country than any other foreign Bishop." The Reformation was in full and active progress before the accident of his divorce made Henry VIII lend his weight to it. But the King was not satisfied with moderate measures. Freed from the Pope, he resolved to be supreme in England, and as the Church alone had power to oppose him, he resolved to use the Reformation as a means for striking down the Church and to buy over the Barons by plundering the Church and dividing her spoils among them. So the Church emerged reformed indeed but plundered and spoiled of one-third of her possessions.

A Royal Commission, appointed to visit the Abbeys and Monasteries first dissolved the lesser ones and destroyed their buildings and then attacked the greater ones. In order to buy their support Henry VIII squandered their lands and revenues upon his supporters and favourites, one woman receiving the revenues of a convent because of her skill in making the King's puddings. In this immediate neighbourhood Newstead Abbey was given to Sir John Byron, Thurgarton Priory to William Cowper, the King's cook, and Shelford Priory to Michael Stanhope. It has been often noticed that the Laymen who received these estates of the Church were pursued by singular fatalities. Henry VIII died by the same dreadful disease as Herod Antipas. Of his many children only three survived and they all died childless. Newstead Abbey remained in the Byron family till Lord Byron, who had buried his dog on the site of the high altar and used a monk's skull as a drinking cup, was forced to sell it. Michael Stanhope, of Shelford, was beheaded by Edward VI, and the Coopers, of Thurgarton, were reduced to poverty. To come nearer home the tithes of Hertford Priory in Woodborough, Lowdham and Epperstone were given to Anthony Denny, who sold them to Henry Strelley of Woodborough, and the Strelleys are extinct.

Southwell Minster narrowly escaped the fate of these religious Houses, and with it were linked the fortunes of Woodborough Church. In 1540 the Archbishop of York, and the Prebends, Vicars-Choral and Chauntry Priests voluntarily surrendered the Minster and all its belongings to Henry VIII, but things appear to have been allowed to go on as they were till 1543. In 1543 it was legally re-established and all its property restored, as Henry VIII proposed to make it what it is now, the Cathedral Church of a new Bishopric for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Dr. Cocks was the Bishop Designate. But the King's intention was not carried out. In 1547 it came under the Chauntries' Act of Edward VI which swept away the Prebends and Chauntries. It was then placed in the second rank of the greater Ecclesiastical foundations, having a gross revenue of £691 7s. 9d. and a net value of £463 10s. 7½d. which would be worth twelve times as much in our money. The Prebends of Southwell and the people of Woodborough foreseeing that the treasures of the Churches would become the plunder of the King proceeded to appropriate them. The inventory of what remained at Woodborough in 1552 has already been given. The King, suspecting what was going on at Southwell, sent Sir Edward North to anticipate the Prebends. In letters written from Newark and preserved in the Liber Albus the Prebends were summarily ordered to produce the treasures of the Minster, particularly "a chalice and a cross of gold, garnished and sett with dyverse kinds of precious stones," and "the aultar table of silver and gilte," with, "a just and true inventory of all other parcells of plate and other jewelles and goodes." The King probably secured what was left. The estates of the Minster were granted to John Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, in 1548. Beauchamp sold them in 1552 to John Beaumont, Master of the Rolls. But both these plunderers came to a bad end. Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland, was beheaded by Queen Mary in 1553 because he had put forward the Lady Jane Grey as Queen. Beaumont also fell into disgrace, and all his property, including the Southwell Estates, was confiscated by Mary in 1557. Mary, of course, was anxious to restore the Minster to its original state, and the Prebends were allowed to return on the ground that the re-foundation by Henry VIII, in 1543, exempted the Minster from the Chauntries' Act. In 1585, as the Reformation had left things in great disorder, new statutes were issued by Elizabeth under which the Prebends and Vicars Choral were ordered to attend service in the Minster three times a day; each Prebend was ordered to reside three months in the year, so that there should always be four in residence; the Vicars Choral were reduced from sixteen to six in number and were allowed to marry: and each Prebend was ordered to pay £4 a year towards the salaries of the Vicars Choral, who each received about £10 a year. (£120 in our money.)

It is curious that in the documents relating to this nothing is said about the Vicars Parochial of the Prebendal Churches. But there never was any intention of interfering with the Parish Churches, and to this the very existence of the Minster is due. The Minster had not merely been the Collegiate Church of the Prebends but also the Parochial Church of Southwell. Doubtless in 1548, when the estates were given to Beauchamp, the fabric itself was in imminent danger of sharing the fate of Newstead. But the parishioners petitioned King Edward VI that the Minster should remain the Parish Church: this was granted and John Adams, the Sacrist Prebend, was made Parish Vicar with a salary of £20 a year, and Matthew Torte, his Vicar Choral, afterwards Prebend of Woodborough, and Robert Salwyn were made assistants to the cure at £5 a year each. It does not appear what provision was made for the Services of Woodborough Church, but some provision was undoubtedly made, as is proved by the Woodborough Parish Registers which begin in 1547 and 1556, though there is no entry of weddings and burials till 1572.

As regards the fate of the Prebend of Woodborough, George Dudley, there is a great deal of information at the Record Office. He was appointed in 1507, two years before the accession of Henry VIII, and was prebend during the whole of his reign. In 1526 the Prebends of Southwell appear to have been valued for the purpose of a Clerical subsidy to the King. The valuation list is at the Record Office: Exchequer Augmentation Office: Miscellaneous Books, 412. Woodborough is twelfth on a list of 18 prebends valued above £8; viz.:

"Doctor Dudley, prendarius de Woodburgh. Clarus Valor [full value] x(li): Medietas [half] v(li): Quinta pars [fifth part] XX(s)."

The Vicar Choral is thirteenth on a list of fifty entries, viz.:

"Dominus Wilhielmus Scothorne, Vicarius de Wodbowe, Clarus valor, vii Marc: Tertia pars: xxxv(s) vi(d), ob. qa. Quinta pars: vii(s). i(d). ob."

Another document, Augmentation Office Books, Vol. 67, p.82 and 83, shows that part of the property of the Prebend of Woodborough was the Farm of the Manor of Woodborough which was let to John Foster a farmer by an agreement dated Nov. 7th, 1546, and which with all the houses, buildings, barns, stables, orchards, gardens, enclosures, common lands, tithes, pastures, etc., belonging to the Manor was worth 60 shillings a year; and that another part was a new Toft or house built at Southwell worth 8 shillings a year. The former was valued at 22 years' purchase at £174 16s. and the latter at 13 years' purchase at £5 4s. This document probably relates to the Chauntries' Acts of 1547, when the estates were valued for the purpose of sale or grant to Beauchamp.

In another document already quoted, Record Offices Certificates of Chantries, No. 37, "Sir Giervayce Clifton, Sir John Kersey, Sir Antonye Nevile Knightes and William Bolles Esquyre," the Commissioners for Notts under the Chauntries' Acts, 1548, stated that "The Parishe Church of Wodboroughe ys worth in a certaine Rent. going out of a Tofte there in the tenure of Wilhiam Bell graunted for the mayntaining of a lyght ther for ever xviiid." At the same time, as already mentioned, they assessed the gross value of the Prebend at £14 6s. 7d. and the net value to George Dudley at £10 3s. 5d.

The entertainment of these Commissioners seems to have been very oppressive to the Prebends, who thought to save their own pockets by the sale of some of the Church goods which the Commissioners came to secure and so to make the Commissioners pay their own hotel bill, as the following entry in the same document under "Memoranda"— "Goodes" shows: "Solde sins the xxiiith Daie of Novembre Anno regni Regis Henrici viii’(vi), xxxvii(mo). One holywater stocke of silver white waying li onz by the Prebendaries and hedd officers of the saide Colledge and the money thereof comming was employde and bestowed upon thentertaygnement of the Kinges Maiesties Commyssioners and visitours As the said Prebendaries and hedd officers do affirme."

The Prebends were indeed in a very awkward position. They rightly thought that they had as much right to the Church goods as the King and his favourites and began to appropriate them to their own enrichment. Foiled in this by the arrival of Sir E. North at Newark, who required them to produce an inventory, they endeavoured to apply them to the entertainment of their unwelcome visitors. Yet they felt they must be able to account for their disappearance and also retain what was necessary for the Minster; so the same document mentions:

"ii Chalices of sylver gilte with their patens waying xlv onz lefte there in the saide church to serve in the tyme of the communyon untill the Kinges pleasure be further known."

Doubtless the Prebends, as we do still, thought it policy to keep their visitors in good humour by means of good dinners and arranged accordingly. They were wise in their generation. Pensions were assigned to all the outgoing Prebends on June 22, 1548, by Sir Walter Myldemaye, Knight, and Robert Kylwey, Esquire, the Commissioners. With the cool effrontery of armed highwaymen who magnanimously hand back a few coins to the plundered traveller, they stated that “of his own special grace and certain knowledge and own initiative the King, on the advice of his uncle the Duke of Somerset, granted an annuity or annual pension of £6 to George Dudley for life, to be paid at the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and the Passover in equal portions, with the provision that if George Dudley should obtain any preferment of equal value to the annuity, the annuity would be null and void.

Whether George Dudley was already dead, or whether he died soon after, or whether he thought it wisest to keep out of sight is not clear, but anyhow "Sir John Marcham, Knight, William Meringe, Anthone Foster and William Bolles, Esquyres," Commissioners appointed at Newark in 1547 "for the diligent inquisition of pensionerres Stipendarie preestes and others," reported "Pension of George Dudlaye lately prebendary of the prebende of Wodborow at £6 per annum. Of him we can her nothinge." (Record Office. Exchequer Accounts: bundle 76, No. 19.) The estates of the Woodborough prebend, after the assignment of this pension, must have gone with the rest of the Southwell Estates to Beauchamp, Duke of Northumberland, and then to Beaumont, Master of the Rolls, and have been restored to the Minster by Queen Mary in 1558. Dudley was clearly dead in 1558, for Matthew Torte, formerly Vicar Choral to the Sacrist Prebend, and then Assistant to the Parish Vicar, appears as Prebend of Woodborough in the time of Queen Elizabeth.

Note. The original papers are too long to print here, but are as follows: 
Record office. 

1. Exchequer Augmentation Office. Miscellaneous Books, 412. 
2. Augmentation Office Books. Vol. 67, p. 82. 
3. Certificates of Chantries. No. 37 Com : Nott. 
4. Exchequer Accounts. Bundle 75. No. 25. Bundle 76. No. 19. 
5. Augmentation office: Miscellaneous Books. Vol. 451.


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