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Cuthbert Tunstal and Heresy in Essex and London, 1528

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2017

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Lollardy, the native English heresy vigorously suppressed since the early fifteenth-century, did not die with its suppression in the wake of the rebellion of Sir John Oldcastle in 1414. A century later Lollard beliefs remained current, albeit in varied forms. The most consistent features in this eclectic religious system were the possession and reading of English translations of the Scriptures, a sacramentarian view of the Eucharist, and an often vehement anticlericalism. With few exceptions Lollardy was the preserve of the unlearned; based on the religious fringes of towns and the greater cities, rather than in the learned centers of the universities or the Court.

Research Article
Albion , Volume 35 , Issue 2 , Summer 2003 , pp. 210 - 228
Copyright © North American Conference on British Studies 2003

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1 See Hudson, Anne, The Premature Reformation: Wyclifflte Texts and Lollard History (Oxford, 1988), pp. 446507.Google Scholar For a detailed account of Lollard belief in London, see Brigden, Susan, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989), pp. 86106.Google Scholar The first years of the reign of Henry VIII had seen a substantial rise in Lollard trials, although whether this is evidence of a rise in Lollardy or merely of a more vigilant episcopate is debateable. Archbishop Warham and his commissaries engaged in a full-scale purge of Kent in 1511–12. The records of these trials are reproduced in Kent Heresy Proceedings, 1511–12, ed. Norman Tanner (Maidstone, 1997). Other magna abjúrala took place in Bishop Geoffrey Blyth’s Coventry and Lichfield, detailed in Lichfield Joint Records Office, MS B/A/1/14Í, fos. 98–100r (Reg. Blythe); LJRO, MS B/C/13 (Lichfield Court Book), and examined by Fines, John, “Heresy Trials in the Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, 1511–12,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 14 (1963): 160–74.Google Scholar The apparently large number of trials in Smith’s, Bishop William diocese of Lincoln are known only through their account in The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, ed. Pratt, J., 6 vols. (London, 1877), 4:123, 214Google Scholar (trials that Foxe dates to 1507–08, but which Thomson, John, The Later Lollards, 1414–1520 [Oxford, 1965], p. 87Google Scholar, has shown ought more properly to be assigned to 1511.) Those of various dates between 1507 and 1519 in Edmund Audley’s Salisbury are abstracted in Wiltshire Records Office, MS Reg. Audley, fos. 147–63. For several isolated trials in Richard Fox’s Winchester see Hampshire Records Office, MS 21M65 Al/18, f. 87r (n.d. between 1506–11; HRO, 21M65 Al/19, fos. 68–76 (1512, not 1514, as Thomson suggests in Later Lollards, pp. 88–89.); HRO, 21M65 Al/20, fos. 18–19v (1521). For Richard Nix’s occasional anti-Lollard actions in Norwich, see Thomson, Later Lollards, pp. 135–36; Houlbrooke, Ralph, Church Courts and the People during the English Reformation, 1520–1570 (Oxford, 1979).Google Scholar For John Fisher’s trials in Rochester, see Rochester Reg. iv, fos 24, 41v, 47–47v, 62. For Richard Mayew’s trials in Hereford, see Register of Richard Mayew, Bishop of Hereford, ed. A. T. Bannister (Canterbury and York Society 27, 1921), pp. 109–10. Heresy proceedings in Richard Fitzjames’ London are briefly noticed in London Guildhall Library, MS 9531/9, fos. 4–5, however Trinity College Dublin, MS 775, fos. 122v-124v (Archbishop Usher’s transcripts of selections from a London heresy register no longer extant) demonstrate that they were much more extensive than the register entries suggest. An account of a later, substantial Lollard persecution by Longland, John, Bishop of Lincoln in 1521, is given in Acts and Monuments, 4: 219–46Google Scholar, although no manuscript verification survives. See Thomson, The Later Lollards.

2 See Strype, John, Ecclesiastical Memorials, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1822), 1, pt. 2: 5056.Google Scholar

3 See Fisher’s 1521 sermon at St. Paul’s, reprinted in Mayor, J. E. B., ed, The English Works of John Fisher (London, 1876), pp. 326–31.Google Scholar The original is RSTC 10894.

4 Cf. the Garrett trials detailed in note 6 below, but also that of Robert Barnes in 1526, detailed in his, A Supplicatyon…unto Henry VIII (1534?), reprinted by Da Capo Press/Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Ltd. (Amsterdam & NY, 1973), fos. xxiiv-xxxvv. On Barnes see also Acts and Monuments, 5: 415–19; Hall, Chronicle, pp. 708. Barnes’s story is harmonised by Chester, A. G., “Robert Barnes and the burning of the books,” Huntington Library Quarterly 14 (1950-51): 211–21Google Scholar and Lusardi, J. P., “The Career of Robert Barnes,” The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, vol. 8 (New Haven and London, 1963-1990), pp. 136783.Google Scholar Also the 1527 trial of Thomas Bilney, detailed in Acts and Monuments 4, pp. 619–31, and by More, Thomas in his 1529 dialoge concerning heresies: CWTM 6, pp. 255/7-284/23Google Scholar (Book 3, chs. 2–7).

5 Tunstal was Warham’s chief commissary in the 1511–1512 Kent trials.

6 Garrett’s story, as told by Anthony Dalabar, is given in Acts and Monuments, 5, pp. 421–27. For the copious correspondence detailing the affair, in chronological sequence, see PRO, SP 1/47/10-11 (Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509–1547, ed. Brewer, J. S., Gairdner, J. and Brodie, R. H., 21 vols. (London, 1862-1932) 4: 3962)Google Scholar; PRO, SP 1/47/16-17 (LP, 4: 3968); Epistolae Academicae, 1508–1596, ed. W. T. Mitchell (Oxford Historical Society, n.s. 26, 1980), letter 153; PRO, SP 1/47/42 (LP, 4: 3999); PRO, SP 1/47/67-67 (LP, 4: 4017); PRO, SP 1/47/54-55 (LP, 4: 4004); Ep Acad 1509–96, letter 155; Ep Acad 1509–96, letter 158; BL, MS Cotton Caligula, 171* (old foliation) (LP 3: 1193), reprinted in Original Letters Illustrative of English History…from autographs in the British Museum and…other collections, ed. Henry Ellis, 3rd series, Vol. 1 (London, 1824, 1827, 1846), pp. 239–42; Ep Acad 1509–96, letters 159 and 160; PRO, SP 1/47/107-110 (LP 4: 4073). For the text of articles and his abjuration, see LGL, MS 9531/10, fos. 137–138.

7 Acts and Monuments, 4, pp. 585–87.

8 Strype, Memorials, 1, pt. 2: 54–65. Unfortunately, Strype’s transcriptions of Foxe’s papers and other sources seem no longer to be extant, which obliges scholars to rely on the published version. See Hudson, The Premature Reformation, p. 474, n. 158.

9 Sturge, Charles, Cuthbert Tunstal (London, 1938), p. 140.Google Scholar

10 Brigden, Thus Susan, London and the Reformation, pp. 104–06, 113Google Scholar; Hudson, The Premature Reformation, pp. 474–83; Dickens, A. G., The English Reformation (London, 1964), pp. 2829Google Scholar; Oxley, James E., The Reformation in Essex to the Death of Mary (Manchester, 1965), pp. 716Google Scholar; Ward, Jennifer C., “The Reformation in Colchester, 1528–1558,” Essex Archaeology and History 15 (1983): 85Google Scholar, which makes limited use of the calendared version of the manuscript from the Letters and Papers.

11 Davis, John F., Heresy and Reformation in the South East of England, 1520–1559 (London, 1983), pp. 5765.Google Scholar

12 LP 4: 3267, 3639, 4029, 4175, 4254 (4), 4545, 4850. Folios 1–6 and 35ff. date from Bishop Bonner’s episcopate and are on different paper from the present set. Brigden, Susan, London and the Reformation, p. 103Google Scholar, n.107 describes these folios as Foxe’s own transcription, despite the variations in hand.

13 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 7a-8a (LP 4: 3639; Strype, Memorials, I, pt. 2: 70).

14 Foxe notes Grefton as one of the persecutors of Bainham, James in 1532. Acts and Monuments, 4: 702–04.Google Scholar

15 Note that the abjuration is not itself in Grefton’s hand. His notarization post-dates Ffoster’s examination.

16 MS “Foxford” is now Corporation of London Records Office, MS DL/C/330.

17 There is also the mystery of what happened to other folios detailing material from Essex in 1528 seen by Strype who copied them from the Foxe papers, which are not bound in MS Harleian 421.

18 It is a tantalizing possibility that the thirty folios preceding Ffoster’s case may have contained material from the Bilney and Arthur trials, or other work of the 1527 legatine commission. However, as Tunstal was not the ordinary for Bilney or Arthur it is unlikely.

19 The vicar general Geoffrey Wharton is here listed as the chief official of the Consistory of London. BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 9a, first paragraph.

20 Although in central Essex, Colchester was under the jurisdiction of the bishop of London.

21 BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 9.

22 BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 10.

23 One might compare these articles with the ambiguous abjuration of Thomas Higgins in Hereford in 1511, Register of Mayew, pp.109-10.

24 BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 11.

25 These sectarians and others in BL, MS Harleian 421 have been studied in detail by Andrew Hope, whose as yet unpublished research reveals them to have been largely of the merchant classes, with very few “lower sort” adherents save some servants of the wealthier accused. I am most grateful to Mr Hope for discussion about the fruits of his work on wills and other material in the Essex Records Office.

26 BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 11a–11b, undated, in the same hand as Fibster’s abjuration.

27 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 11b-12b.

28 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 13–14.

29 BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 11a–Christopher Ravyn; f. 12a–Thomas Vincent “was father in law to him which was brent for heresie about xiiii yerys past”; f. 14b–John Houshold.

30 The book-owners of this group, and their books, are discussed in Hudson, The Premature Reformation, pp. 486–88.

31 Neither Darell nor Bousfel (perhaps Boswell?) appear in the standard reference works. Nele is in Emden, A. B., Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500 (Cambridge, 1963), p. 420.Google Scholar

32 BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 15a (Clxx). LP calls Harris “Herris”–a simple and understandable mis-reading of the rather scrappy hand of this document.

33 BL, MS Harliean 421, f. 15b.

34 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 15b–16b. Pykas appeared twice–on 3 and 5 March. The latter examination is not mentioned in the LP calendar entry.

35 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 21–23. Cf. fos. 12–18.

36 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 24–26. Cf. f. 15b.

37 Prebend of Mora 1524–27, collated March 21 1524 (London Guildhall Library, MS 9531/10, f. 5), succeeded by Tunstal’s nephew John. Prebendary of Pancratius 1527–29, collated April 3 1527 (LGL, MS 9531/10, f. 19). Prebendary of Islington (succeeding Wharton) 1529–36, collated 30 Oct 1529 (LGL, MS 9531/10, f. 28b), dec. by 12 June 1536 (LGL, MS. 9531/11, f. 30). See Neve, John Le, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, 1300–1541, 12 vols. (London, 1962-1967) 5: 45, 49, 55.Google Scholar He also held (in absentia) the living of Symonborn, Durham, from Jan (?) 1527/8–LP 4, no. 3743 (3).

38 BL, MS Cotton Cleopatra E.v, f. 392 (f. 362*–old foliation) (LP 4, no. 3960).

39 Fisher suggested that those who found themselves intrigued by the New Learning should “come vnto [him] secretely,” and that either he would persuade them back to rights, or they would make him a Lutheran. Fisher’s offer, and the enactment of the policy it foreshadowed, are discussed at length in this author’s “The suppression of Lutheran Heretics in England, 1526–1529,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 54, 2 (April, 2003): 228–53.

40 Contemporaries of Erasmus ed. Bietenholz, Peter G., 3 vols. (Toronto, 1985-1987) 3: 269Google Scholar–entry by Feingold, Mordechai; Emden, A. B., Biographical Register of the University of Oxford, AD 1501–1540 (Oxford, 1974), p. 530.Google Scholar

41 The details of the Garrett case are spread over a variety of sources. See note 6 above, and this author’s “Suppression of Lutheran Heretics” for a synthesis.

42 PRO, SP 1/47/107-110 (LP 4, no. 4073; Acts and Monuments 4, Appendix VI–unpaginated). This letter details the results of Tunstal’s examinations of Forman, his servant and Gough.

43 John Royston, ThD, was prebendary of Pancratius under Tunstal, through to the reign of Edward 1529–1551. Le Neve Fasti, 5: 55. There is no record of his degrees at either Oxford or Cambridge. He may have had a Continental educational background.

44 John Pykas, BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 18a.

45 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 19a-20b.

46 Strype, Memorials 1, part 2, pp. 63–65 (LP 4, no. 4030). No manuscript version of this text appears to be extant.

47 PRO SP 1/47/79 (LP 4, no. 4038 (1)).

48 PRO SP 1/47/80 (LP 4, no. 4038 (4)).

49 Middleton also figures in the later case of James Bainham–LP 5, no. 771. He was an Oxford graduate with a DCL from Louvain. Emden, Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to 1500, 3: 1279. PRO, SP 1/47/79 (LP 4, no. 4038 (2)).

50 PRO, SP 1/47/107-110 (LP 4, no. 4073; Acts and Monuments 4, appendix VI).

51 Such is suggested by a small number of documents, including an abjuration, with no names attached–PRO, SP 1/47/81-84 (LP 4, no. 4039).

52 For what follows see Strype, Memorials, 1, pt. 2: 50–56 (poorly abstracted in LP 4, no. 4218).

53 Strype, Memorials, 1, pt. 2: 59–62; BL, MS Harleian 421, f. 27 (all this material at LP 4, no. 4254). Although conducted at Nix’s house rather than Tunstal’s palace, it was the bishop of London who was in the chair. Unfortunately none of the extant material notes any judges or officials other than Tunstal himself.

54 Strype, Memorials, 1, pt. 2: 56–58 (LP 4, no. 4242).

55 Note the list at the end of Thomas Hemstede’s confession, ibid., p. 62.

56 Brigden, London and the Reformation, pp. 108–09. Cf. the traditional account in Acts and Monuments 4: 617–19.

57 Ibid., p. 107.

58 Strype, Memorials, 1, pt. 2: 488 (LP 4, no. 4260).

59 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 28–29. Cf. Strype, Memorials, 1, pt. 2: 56.

60 The following is based on BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 30–33 (LP 4, no. 4545 (2)).

61 LP incorrectly dates the last examinations to 21 July. The manuscript is, however, quite clearly “xxii die mensis July.”

62 Hilles is not named in the manuscript, but that it is his case is apparent from the content of the evidence given, specifically the closeness with which it accords with the evidence of John Tyball (who mentions Hilles as his companion when visiting Barnes).

63 BL, MS Harleian 421, fos. 34–35a (LP 4, no. 4850).

64 See Fox, Alistair, Thomas More. History and Providence (Oxford, 1982)Google Scholar, chs. 4–8, also this author’s “Charity or Fire? The argument of Thomas More’s 1529 dyaloge,” Sixteenth Century Journal 33, 1 (Spring 2002): 51–70.

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