While the din of arms was resounding in other counties, the clink of the trowel was rather the prevalent note in Suffolk. The church-building and house-building which went on apace in the middle and the latter part of the fifteenth century have left us some grand later Perpendicular examples, eminently the churches of Lavenham and Long Melford.
No church in the county possesses a nave of finer proportions than Lavenham. It is in six bays; and capitals, spandrels, cornice, and foliated bosses have drawn forth the highest eulogy of many an architect. Long Melford Dave, which is very late, consists of ten bays, but, as at Blythburgh, the judicious arrangement of detail prevents the eye being wearied by excessive length. The peculiar use of flint in conjunction with stone attains its greatest development about this time. The flint forms the panel, and, the stone, which does not project from it, divides panel from panel. Thus the best effects are introduced in an exceedingly durable and economical way. While no part of the building was neglected, the porches received the fullest share of attention; indeed, it would be invidious to single out any for especial praise.
In some parts of the county the traveller may go from parish to parish assured that, if there be little else to see, his eyes will be gratified by the porch, as often as not. Sometimes the stone is worked into an inscription, as at Botesdale Chantry, or into a riddle as at Blythburgh. The naves began to be seated, and that in the best-seasoned oak, carved with great skill. The figures of the saints show admirable treatment of drapery, and there is generally a calm dignity about these little wooden statuettes where they have survived Puritan fanaticism, rustic hack-knives, and Georgian notions of comfort. At Laxfield, Eriswell, and Combs, for instance, the saw and plane have been cruelly busy. Fressingfield is as good an example as can be found of pews standing in the original kerb. One of the best of the bench-ends is figured in Chambers’s New Encyclopaedia, art. Pew, and the back of this seat bears the emblems of the Passion, from the Cock-crowing to the Seamless Coat, and the Dice-box for casting lots whose it should be. Here also we may see a good Sanctus-bell cot, with the spout for the rope passing through the chancel arch, while at Hawstead the bell for this purpose, about the size of an ordinary house-bell, is placed on the top of the roodscreen.
In these ways and the like, the money earned by grain and hay, wool and meat, found employment, and, passing through the hands of carpenters and masons, stimulated further the trade of the country. It was clearly a time of great material progress. The Duke of Suffolk, John de la Pole, who had married the sister of Edward IV., a grasping tyrant, to judge from the Pastons’ estimate of him, was on the side of the successful Yorkists, and no fines diminished the fecundity of his estate, while the temporary downfall of the De Veres only affected the south of the county, and that not extensively. The business of electing knights of the shire lay solely in the hands of little knots of influential men. In 1472 the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk settled the Norfolk election, probably at Framlingham, where the former lived, and where John Pastore discovered that the conclusion was foregone, and that his brother need not trouble the county with his candidature. East Anglia seems to have regarded such events with sublime indifference. Such as could be got at were told to tarry at home, and there were a dozen towns in England which chose no burgess as they were bound to do. In spite of the small store set by political liberty, and the occasional outbreaks of epidemics, the times seem prosperous. Material progress and civic freedom are often dissociated, and under a clever despot mankind is apt to be better off than in the days of unrestrained gabble and disinclination to hard work. Fortunately, we have a picture of domestic life in the MS. of Robert Melton of Stuston, probably steward to Cornwallis, the lord of the neighbouring manor of Brome. The book containing Melton’s memoranda and much else was edited in 1886 by Miss Lucy Toulmin Smith for Lady Caroline Kerrison. It is a strange conglomeration of poetry, sacred and secular, prayers, directions for a trental, a carol for the Annunciation, manorial documents, private accounts, and, to conclude,”A Medyson for the Zelow Jawdys”. The sayings and puzzles at the beginning of the book are not conceived in a spirit of devotion to the ladies, and would have been reprobated by any chivalrous knight, e.g.:
The hart lovyt the wood, the hare lovyt the hyll
The knyth lovyt hys sword, the carll lovyt hys byll
The fowlle (fool) lovyt his folly, the wysseman lovyt hys skyll
The properte of a schrod qwen (shrewd quean) ys to have hyr wyll
The puzzles are worse :
Take iij claterars :
Take iij lowrars:
Take iij schrewys:
Take iij angry :
Ther be iiij thyngs take gret betyng:
Perhaps some of my readers by this time may have read the riddle, which is easier than those tricks by which lovelorn swains and lasses vainly imagine that they secretly correspond in the “agony” column of the Standard. The thing is very simple, merely an abolition of vowel-symbols without extinction of vowel-sounds. Each vowel is represented by the following consonant. Thus, the three clatterers are”a pie, a jay (iai) and a woman”; the three lowerers “a ape, a ovule, and a woman”; the three angry,”a ffrier, a ffox, and a woman”. The roars of laughter with which the right guess would be greeted, with many a sly application to some spinster aunt, mother-in-law, or shrewish wife, had something of the evanescent character of the crackling of thorns under a pot”, as these pleasantries would hardly bear repetition. The mention of the friar among the”iij angry” is on a level with the estimate of the mendicant Orders a century earlier.”Merry and wise” is the character of Melton’s book. These are Caxton’s daily rules, very slightly varied :
Fyrst arysse erly,
Serve thy God deuly,
And the warld besylly.
Goe be the way sadly (gravely),
And awnswer the pepil curtesly.
Goo to thy sopper sadly,
Arysse fro supper soburly”. etc.;
and there are other rules for conduct, apparently not known elsewhere, ending :
Yff thow hest lost thy good,
Loke thow takyt with myld mood,
And sowrow not to sore;
Make joy, suffer and abyd,
For yt may so betide
That thow shall have mych more
The play of “Abraham and Isaac” in “The Boke of Brome”, as Melton’s book is now entitled, is also of a unique character, and the other poems deserve much more notice than can be allotted to them here. The general conclusion is that life in a yeoman’s house at this time was much brightened by the charms of literature, and purified by sentiments of wisdom and kindliness, referred to the Great Example for us all; and that it was not mere talk we have proof in Melton’s spending fifteen shillings-what would be now an appalling sum–at Norwich for “a bonet of welwete” for his mother, with other similar items. The I Boke of Brome” was privately printed, but it deserves a wide circulation.
We come to names better known than Melton’s, and first to the Brandon family, sprung, no doubt, from the town on the Little Ouse, but settled afterwards at Westhorpe. William Brandon is mentioned in a letter of Hugh a Fenne to John Paston, in 1456, as late Eschetour, or county officer for certifying into the Exchequer lands which fell to the King from deaths of tenants-inchief, minorities, etc., an office which he served for Norfolk and Suffolk from November, 1454, to November, 1455. In 1469 the same name appears twice in the intrigues about Sir John Fastolf’s will; but whether it pertains to the Eschetour of 1454 or to his son is uncertain.
Edward IV., with his kingdom honeycombed with plots, and doubtful of the allegiance of those about him, made a progress through East Anglia in the summer of that year. He was at Bury on June 15 and 16,and three days afterwards at Norwich, having probably made his journey by Thetford. Having completed his pilgrimage to Walsingham, he went into the midlands by Lynn and Stamford. Before his departure from Norwich, John Paston (the brother of the Sir John whose correspondence makes the bulk of the well-known”Letters”) used all possible indirect influence with the King to procure his discountenancing the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk in their attempts on the Norfolk and Suffolk property of the deceased Fastolf. He got at Earl Rivers, the Queen’s father, and two of his sons, Thomas Wyngfeld of Letheringham, and others, and had fair words from them. Brandon appears to have gone the other way.”Thomas Wyngfeld told me, and swore on to me, that when Brandon menvyd the Kyng and besowght hym to show my Lord (the Duke of Norfolk) favour in hys maters ayenst yow, that the Kyng seyd on to hym ayen, ” Brandon, thow thou canst begyll the Dewk of Norffolk, and bryng hym above the thombe as thow lyst, I let the wet thow shalt not do me so; for I understand thy fals delyng well enow,”” with more to the encouragement of the Paston interest. But Wingfield was a Mr. Facing-both-Ways; for by September of that year we find him and Brandon, with two other Suffolk knights, Sir John Heveningham and Sir Gilbert Debenham – local magnates conveniently under Mowbray and De la Pole influence – engaged in the siege of Sir John Paston’s castle at Caister.
On the whole, I think that this William Brandon must be the son of the Eschetour, and identical with a knight made in the field after the battle of Tewkesbury by Edward IV., for his name is last in the list, as though Edward did not love him too well, and likewise with the standard-bearer of Henry VII., unhorsed by the personal bravery of Richard III. at Bosworth. These Paston quarrels with the Wingfields and Brandons were composed after the death of the last of the Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk; and, indeed, before that time Sir Thomas Wingfield -had procured a pardon for the younger of the brothers, John Paston, for being on the Lancastrian side at Barnet.
From these early Brandon glimpses we turn to the well-known name of Tyrell. Travellers by the Great Eastern Railway “are aware”, to quote the Robin Hood ballads, of a station called Haughley Road. Indeed, those coming from the west and working nor’-east of an afternoon had better beware of it. The castle in Haughley has already been mentioned. Hard by is a parish called Gipping, at the head of the stream from which Ipswich takes its name, where for many years was settled a family bearing the name Tyrell, to adopt one of numerous spellings, derived possibly from the French tirailler, and thus symbolized by a rebus of three interlaced bows. William Tyrell was Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1446; and his eldest son, James, was knighted by Edward IV. after the battle of Tewkesbury, a”goodly personage”, well endowed with natural gifts bodily and mental. Two years afterwards, when the Countess of Warwick came out of sanctuary at Beaulieu, Sir James Tyrell conveyed her northward, and in 1474 he was among the challengers at a tournament held on the occasion of Edward’s second son, Richard, being created Duke of York. His next appearance is in Scotland, where, in July, 1482, he was made, by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, then in command, a knight-banneret for personal service rendered at the investment of Berwick and the capture of Edinburgh.
Within four months the office of Lord High Constable of England was put in commission, the three viceconstables being Sir William Parr, Sir James Harrington, and Sir James Tyrell. Hitherto his name has been untarnished; but the terrible blot on it, the smothering Edward V. and his brother Richard, Duke of York, aged thirteen years and eleven years respectively, in the Tower of London, abides in the general belief, not much affected by the efforts to clear Richard III. or Sir James. There are not wanting now, as in past generations, those who acquit both; yet the evidence against the King is much stronger than that against Tyrell. Grafton’s continuation of Harding’s Chronicle contains the earliest printed narrative in English which charges Tyrell with the crime. According to this veracious writer, Richard III. committed himself “up to the hilt”. He sent from Gloucester John Grene, “with a letter and credence also”, to Sir Robert Brackenbury, ordering the murder, and on Brackenbury’s refusal, as if his situation lacked peril, “he sayed to a secrete page of his, ” Ah, whome shall a manne trust ? They that I have broughte vp my selfe, they that I went [weened] would have moste surely serued me, euen those fayle me, and at my comaundement wyll doo, nothing for me.” ” Syr,” quoth the page, ” there lyeth one in yt palet chaumbre without, that I dare well saye, to dooe your grace pleasure, the thing were ryght heard [hard] that he would refuse,” meaning by this James Tirell”, etc.
This, like the extravagancies of Rous, may be put down to the Lancastrian sycophancy which flourished under the Tudors. Master and man are charged here, and master only by Rous, but the evidence in each case is tainted. Whatever Richard III. was, he was no fool, and would not have blabbed his evil machinations to man and boy, as in Grafton’s story. Polydore Vergil, in his Latin”History of England”, represents Tyrell as compelled against his will to undertake this horrible office. This is the first mention of Tyrell’s name, but, again, his unsupported evidence is valueles 87 .
The Crowland continuator, John Rastell, and other chroniclers of the time, cited by Mr. Sewell, though most of them charge Richard with the murder, are silent about Tyrell, with the exception of a “History of Richard III.”, usually attributed to Sir Thomas More. William Rastell88, his son-in-law, found it among his papers, and printed it in 1557, more than twenty years after the execution of Sir Thomas. With regard to this History, More could not have written the earlier part, as he would not have spoken of his personal knowledge of the last illness of Edward IV., being at that time barely three years old. . One view of the book is that More, who was brought up in the house of Archbishop Morton, and educated under his direction, noted down what he learned from the Archbishop in conversation89. Another, a great authority90, is inclined to regard the English copy as Morton’s own work, basing his conclusion on the mention of the illness of Edward -IV. In any case it is not evidence that can be put aside, though perhaps in some particulars inaccurate.
The personal bravery of Sir James Tyrell makes his share in the murder of these hapless boys intrinsically improbable, and the verdict in many minds will be “Not proven”.
Against Richard III. the proofs are stronger, but it is beyond our purpose to examine them. The name of the Gipping knight is prominently before the reader of the events of the reign of Henry VIL; and it is impossible that if he had been generally regarded as guilty he would have been placed in the positions of trust in which we find him. He had been made Supervisor of Guisnes on January 13, 1485, Governor of Glamorgan and Morgannoke on the 24th, and Constable of Tintagel in June. It is uncertain where he was on the battle-day at Bosworth, but up to that time there was nothing to recommend him to Henry VII., except a general idea of his ability.
Parliament repealed two Acts, by which land had been granted to him, restoring their old possessions to Sir Thomas Arundell and William Knyvet; while, to gain the services of so useful a man, he received for life the offices which he had held under Richard III. in South Wales.
Honours and riches poured in on him, and there is no putting a limit to the height to which he might have attained, had it not been for the imprudence of Edmund de la Pole, now Earl of Suffolk by the death of his elder brother John, Earl of Lincoln, at the battle of Stoke id 1487, and of his father, Duke John, at Wingfield in 1491. Henry VII, stark usurper as he was, felt constant uneasiness at the movements of any who were in the succession to the crown.
The troublesome betrothal stories affecting Edward IV. unsettled people’s minds about the rights of his daughter Elizabeth, Queen to Henry VII. Failing her, the right lay with Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, the sole surviving child of George, Duke of Clarence. Next came Edmund de la Pole, son of Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of the great Richard, Duke of York. It was a perilous position, and the great show made by him at the marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales, with Katharine of Aragon drew inconvenient attention to him-a condition of things which was not improved by his fleeing with his younger brother Richard to his aunt Margaret, Countess of Burgundy, the inveterate enemy of the Tudor upstarts 91. On their way they looked in at Guisnes, and being, as Mr. Sewell suggests, old friends and neighbours of the Tyrells, for Wingfield and Gipping are only about a dozen miles apart, their reception by Sir James may have been at the outside an act of indiscretion. Henry, though at first hard to be convinced, took measures for the arrest of the De la Pole adherents at Guisnes. Thus Sir James Tyrell, his son Thomas, and others were brought to London and tried before a commission at the Guildhall.
They were all sentenced in the form usual in cases of treason, but young Tyrell and Wellesbourne, the family servant, had their sentence commuted to imprisonment during pleasure. In 1504 the young man was pardoned, and in 1507 restored to his father’s estate at Gipping. The assertion against which Mr. Sewell contends is that Sir James confessed the murder of the princes between his sentence and his execution. It rests on the Morton-More Life of Richard III., referred to above, and will be received, doubted, or rejected, according to the various estimates which may be formed concerning that work.
Sir James Tyrell was buried in the church of the Austin Friars in Old Broad Street, used since the days of Edward VI. as the Dutch Reformed Church. The Tyrell family were owners in that ward.
What may be called the Church life of these times is most impartially illustrated by the contemporaneous documents. From the days of Laban and Jacob, when a heap, called by Laban Yegar-sahadutha, and by Jacob Galeed, each term meaning a heap of witness, was used by those patriarchs as a dining-room, and they “did eat and drink on the heap” in confirmation of their alliance, eating and drinking in common have played an important part in solemnities, sacred as well as secular. Of this character were the potationes ecclesiasticae, or church-ales, of which the earlier of the remaining parish books contain instances. At the remote village of Cratfield these accounts remain in very fair preservation, dating back to 1490, in which year we find five church-ales to have been held, or imbibed, if that be the most proper verb. The days were Passion Sunday (the fifth in Lent), one by the legacy of William Brews 92, Pentecost, All Saints” Day, and one for Geoffrey Baret. The sums collected were 7s. 4d., 9s., 9s. 8d., and 7s. 8d., on the first four days. The last is left blank. The small items of expense in washing of the vestments, etc., only amount to 12s. 4d., but no account of the balance is made in 1491, when the days appear to have undergone change, Plough Monday (‘dies lune cum aratro’) making its appearance. In 1492 “Refreshment” Sunday (the fourth in Lent) comes on appropriately; but in 1493 they went back to Passion Sunday, had a church-ale in harvest, and substituted “hallowesday” (Hallow Mass, All Souls’, November 2) for their previous All Saints’. These variations in so short a time are but typical of the constant change and flux in all externals to which the material element even in things Divine is subject. They had saved up their money for a purpose, having found that their images wanted painting. One Thomas Bollre received the large sum of £2 13s. 4d. for “peyngtyug of ye image of our lady”, and the sum of 8s. for “ye peyngtyng of ye tabernacull of Seynt Edmond”, to whom the chapel of the guild seems to have .been dedicated.
In 1494, having received several legacies and gathered an unusual sum at the church-ale in harvest, they employed Bollre to paint the tabernacle of our Lady, and paid him £7 for his work.
What we may call the private church-ales were not intended to be perpetual, being only part of the Trental or Thirty-day arrangements, into which the will of Geoffrey Baret’s uncle John gives us excellent insight. This John Baret was serving the abbey of Bury St. Edmunds in some capacity as bailiff, and his tomb, with some lines which are not to be despised, stands in St. Mary’s Church :
He that will sadly behold me with his ie
Maye see his own Merowr and lerne to die.
Wrappid in a schete, as a full rewli wretche,
No mor of al my minde to me ward will streche,
From erthe I kam and on to earth I am brought.
This is my natur : for of erthe I was wrought.
Thus erthe on to erthe tendeth to knot,
So endeth ech creature: doeth John Baret.
Wherefore ye pepil in waye of charitie
With your goode prayeres I pray ye help me.
For such as I am : right so shalle ye al bi.
Now God on my sowle : have merci and pitee. Amen.
In his will he makes arrangement for the chimes to “smyth” the tune Requiem Eternam without intermission till his Thirty-day, which is also called the Month’s mind, should be passed. Sometimes bellmen were employed at these times to go about exhorting all to pray for the soul of the deceased. The public feast, as we see, was dear to other testators, but not to all. John Coote of Bury, for instance,”will neyther ryngyn nor belman goynge”, but his almsgivings and dinners on his thirty-day to be “don in secret manner”. I have suggested that the Trental may have sprung from the thirty days’ mourning for Moses and Aaron.
Analogous arrangements were made in wills for the observance of the earth-tide, or year-day, the anniversary of the testator’s death.
The Cratfield folk were apparently well satisfied with Bollre’s work, as they paid him in”1498 £8 6s. 8d.” for ye peyntyng of ye image of Saynt Edmnde and ye tabernacle”, noting also the previous 8s. 4d.
The two lord mayors connected with Suffolk, alluded to in the last chapter, were Sir Ralph Josselyn, K.B., and Sir Henry Kebyll. The former was Lord Mayor in 1464 and :1476. His arms-az., at each corner of a circular wreath entwined –ar. – and –sa., a hawk’s bell –or--are in Long Melford Church, in which parish he owned large property. This branch of the family is extinct, but well-known members of other branches survive at Ipswich.
Sir Henry Keble, citizen and grocer, was. not Lord Mayor till 1510. In many spellings the name was of old standing in the county. John Kybel of Gorliston and others appeared against the claims of Yarmouth before the barons of the Exchequer in 1306. In the next century some were in business in London, John Kebyll, wheelwright, receiving in 1480 £5 6s. 8d. for bell-hanging at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook.
Eleven bells in the county bear one of those ingenious devices by which the quasi-armiger sought to elude the Visiting Herald. The mullets and crescent are upside down; the attenuated chevron and stout line of division for chief are only a sideways K, the first letter of his name. Whether this pulled through we know not, but we do know that Lord Mayor Keble put the mullets right, reduced the chief line, expanded and engrailed the chevron, and abolished the crescent. This shield, used by John Keble, the venerated author of the “Christian Year”, will be familiar to Oxford men and others who may turn over these pages.”There are plenty of Kebles now-in particular, one grand old man in Fressingfield. Exhaustion, rather than repose, was the characteristic of the quarter of a century of Yorkist rule. The “meek usurper” lay in the Tower till 1471, as it is generally thought, but plotting and counterplotting were constantly going on, and an outbreak might come at any time. Yet in the cessation of the din of arms the voices of litigants began to rise in a comparatively childish treble, and a complicated ecclesiastical case came before Master John Salot, Doctor in Canon Law and official of the Consistory Court of Bishop Lyhart in 1467, which is printed by Dr. Gowers in his paper on Mells Chapel, in the” Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History93.
The traveller on the light railway from Halesworth to Southwold may observe, about two miles from the former station, a little ivy-grown ruin which tops a slight northward projection of the right bank of the Blyth valley. This is Mells Chapel. It is crumbling away, and a few pounds may preserve from utter destruction that which alike from position and history is well worthy of preservation. The site has already been mentioned as that of a small fort to protect the ford over the Blyth, where Route IX. in Antonine’s Itinerary crosses that river94. Here is a small Early-Norman chapel, dedicated to St. Margaret, built, as it would seem, by some descendant of Edward Fitz-Hugh, who, like Christopher Sly, though without his error in name, claimed to have come over with”Richard Conqueror”. It is not a Battle Roll name, nor does it occur in the Suffolk part of Domesday Book. However, his descendants were pleased to think this of themselves, and to grace their manor with this proprietary chapel. Wenhaston was, and is, the mother church, and Wenhaston was doubtless the Manor Paramount, and attempts to free Mells from its jurisdiction had been resisted. About the end of the thirteenth century the manor of Mells passed to Sir John de Norwich, ancestor of the Admiral who commanded the English fleet at the battle of Sluys95. From his grandson, another John, it passed through one intermediate stage to Mettingham College, the posthumous foundation of the great Admiral, which seems to have supplied rectors or chaplains to serve the chapel regularly. Then came a collapse, and only in the summer, July ig and 2o, were the services held, those days being the eve and day of St. Margaret.
The Secular College and the Austin Priory were at variance about the tithes, no new subject of dispute. These were the usual three kinds-predial, arising from the soil; personal, arising from a man’s trade; mixed, arising from animals nourished by the soil, including milk, cheese, etc. The official of the Court confirmed to Blythburgh two-thirds of the predial tithe, and to Mettingham the remaining third, with the exception of the wood and underwood, all of which went to Mettingham, with the tithe of the mill which stood on their ground. The allotment of the mixed tithes may well have been the subject of dispute later, as two-thirds were allotted to Blythburgh, and two-thirds to the Vicar of Wenhaston, the Blythburgh nominee. To him also, as representing the mother church, the personal tithes were declared due. This arrangement having been solemnly made “ad mutua pacis oscula” on the 6th day of May, 1467, it might have been hoped that peace hereafter would have reigned. But not even the Consistory Court at Norwich could take the part of the Israelite Abel-beth-Maachah, and make an end of the matter! One John Cowper, as we learn from a paper published by the Rev. T. S. Hill, Rector of Thorington, was resident in Mells at the time of the award. Like the Mettingham Seculars, he loved not Wenhaston and Blythburgh, and generally attended Halesworth Church, but paid tithes to Mettingham. Afterwards, by order of the Master of Mettingham College, he attended Bramfield Church on the four offering-days, the potaciones ecclesiasticae, and paid the vicar of that parish five shillings a year, which the College allowed out of his tithe.
- My friend the Rev. W. H. Sewell, Vicar of Yaxley, whose able paper in the “Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archeology” (1878) received grateful acknowledgment at the time from many who could not adopt all its conclusions, thus quotes and translates an epigram of John Owen’s:
Vergilii duo sunt: alter Maro: tu Polydore
Alter: tu mendax, ille poeta fuit.
Two different Vergils both have writ, as every scholar knows: Maro, the truest poetry; Polydore, untrue prose.
- Son of John Rastell.
- Creasy,”History of England”, ii. 497.
- Sir H. Ellis, “Hardynge”, p. xx.
- See Chapter IX.
- Of Wittingham Hall in Fressingfield.
- Vol. viii., pp. 334-379.
- Page 33.
- Page 103