Tag Archives: Henry VIII

The martyrdom of John Houghton, the  Prior of the London Charterhouse (1535)

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On this day in 1535, John Houghton, the Prior of the London Charterhouse, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, for refusing to take an oath acknowledging the King – Henry VIII – as the Supreme Head of the Church in England (*).  His last words are reported to have been as follows:

“I beseech all here present to attest for me on the dreadful day of judgement that being about to die I declare that I have refused to comply with the will of His Majesty the King, not from obstinacy, malice or a rebellious spirit, but solely for fear of offending the Supreme Majesty of God”.

Previously, from the window of his cell in the Tower of London, Thomas More had witnessed Houghton, together with two other Carthusian priors, a Bridgettine monk and a secular priest,  being taken to Tyburn, and remarked to his daughter Meg [Roper]: “These blessed Fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage” (**).

The Charterhouse site is visited on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London” and “Tudor and Stuart London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) A further six  monks from the London Charterhouse were executed during the Reformation, and nine died, or rather were allowed to die, of starvation, in gaol at Newgate.

(**) More himself was executed two months later (see July 6th posting).

Evil May Day (1517)

Nineteenth-century depiction of Evil May Day riot

The so-called “Evil May Day” riots, marked by attacks on foreigners and on their places of residence and of business, took place in the City of London on and around May Day 1517, following an inflammatory speech by a Dr Beal or Bell at St Paul’s Cross,  inciting the crowd “to cherish and defend themselves, and to hurt and grieve aliens for the common weal”.  At the time there was considerable popular resentment towards foreigners in general and foreign merchants in particular, on account of their perceived preferential treatment by City authorities.  The riots were eventually broken up only after thousands of troops were called in and  hundreds of rioters taken prisoner.  The ring-leaders were then more or less immediately hanged, drawn and quartered, and their remains gibbeted.  The remainder, though, despite also facing the death penalty for the treason of “breaking the peace of Christendom”, were eventually pardoned by the king, Henry VIII, probably largely thanks to pleas for mercy made by his queen, Catherine of Aragon, and by Thomas Wolsey. At this, the prisoners “took the halters from their necks and danced and sang”.  In the aftermath of the riots, the annual May Day celebrations that had taken place for hundreds of years were discontinued, and the May Pole that gave Undershaft its name was taken away.

According to a contemporary account, in the  “The Chronicle of the Grey Friars”:

“Thys yere was yell [evil] May Day, that yong men and prentes of London rose in the nyght, and wolde have had James Mottas an owte-landych mane [foreigner] … slayne … , but he hyde hym in hys gotters in hys howse; and from thence they wente un to sent Martyns, and there spoyled the … shoppes; and thane rose the mayer and shreffes and wolde have cessyd them, but they cowed not.  … And iiij or v days after … , … at the last there were dyvers of them hongyd within the citte on gallos  … .  And within shorte space the kynge satte in Westmyster halle, and there was commandyd the … rest of them …  to come with halters abowte their neckes … to ask pardone, and soo a generall pardone was gevyne unto theme alle that came that tyme”.

 

May 1st – May Day Entertainments (1515)

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According to Hall’s “Annals”, on this day in 1515:

“The King [Henry VIII] and the Queen [Catherine of Aragon] accompanied with many lords and ladies rode [from the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich] to the high ground of Shooters Hill to take the open air, and as they passed by the way, they espied a company of tall yeomen, clothed all in green with green hoods and bows and arrows, to the number of two hundred.  Then one of them which called himself Robin Hood came to the King desiring him to see his men shoot, and the King was content.  Then he whistled, and all the 200 archers shot and loosed at once, and then he whistled again, and they likewise shot again; their arrows whistled by craft of the head, so that the noise was strange and great and much pleased the King, the Queen and all the company.

Then Robin Hood desired the King and Queen to come into the greenwood and see how the outlaws lived.  The King demanded of the Queen and her ladies, if they durst adventure to go into the wood with so many outlaws.  Then the Queen said that if it pleased him she was content.  Then the horns blew till they came to the wood under Shooters Hill [Oxleas Wood], and there was an arber made of boughs with a hall and a great chamber and an inner chamber very well made and covered with flowers and sweet herbs, which the King much praised.  Then said Robin Hood: ‘Sir, outlaws’ breakfast is venison, and thereafter you must be content with such fare as we use’.  Then the King and Queen sat down and were served with venison and wine by Robin Hood and his men, to their great contentation”.

The execution of Elizabeth Barton, the “Holy Maid of Kent” (1534)

Elizabeth Barton

On this day in 1534, Elizabeth Barton, otherwise known as the “Holy Maid of Kent”, was hanged and beheaded at Tyburn for treason, for having earlier prophesied that if the king, Henry VIII, were to break from  the Catholic Church and divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn,  he would die, and be sent to Hell (*).  Her head was impaled on a spike on London Bridge, and the rest of her body buried in Greyfriars Church (now Christ Church Greyfriars or Christ Church Newgate Street).

Elizabeth had been born in the parish of Adlington in Kent in 1506, and reportedly begun to experience visions prophesying the future in 1525.  Thousands of ordinary folk came to believe in her prophesies.  Some of the highest in the land also came to believe in her, including Bishop John Fisher, Archbishop William Warham, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the second most powerful man in England after the king, and indeed, if only for a short while, while she spoke for him, the notoriously fickle king himself.  However, as soon as  she started speaking against the king, he turned against her, and his agents, including Thomas Cromwell,  arranged for her to be condemned without trial, by a Bill of Attainder.

(*) Also on this same day in 1534, prominent citizens of London were required to swear the Oath to the  Succession, acknowledging Anne as Henry’s lawful queen, and any children they might have as lawful heirs to the throne.

Havering-atte-Bower

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

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Havering-atte-Bower was first recorded as such, or more accurately as Hauering atte Bower,  in 1272, from the Old English personal name Haefer, and ingas, meaning settlement, and the Middle English bour, meaning bower, or royal residence (Havering was first recorded as Haueringas in the “Domesday Book” of 1086).  It essentially remains to this day an isolated small village on the top of a high hill on the north-eastern edge of London, commanding fine views over  the surrounding countryside and encroaching built-up areas.  Historically part of the county of Essex, the village has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

The village is steeped in royal history.

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In the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor  built a hunting lodge here that over the years evolved into Havering Palace, a royal residence used by a succession of kings and queens in the later Medieval to early post-Medieval periods, before being demolished in the seventeenth century (some materials salvaged from it were used in the construction of Bower House in the early eighteenth).

There was also once another royal residence, called Pyrgo Palace, a little to the east, which had been  bought by  Henry VIII in the post-Medieval period,  as a replacement for the then-declining Havering Palace, and which was eventually demolished in the eighteenth century.

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Pyrgo Park occupies the site today.

Church of St John the Evangelist (Havering Church)

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The present church of St John was built in the nineteenth century, on the site of a previous church that had itself once been one of the chapels in Havering Palace.

The Purbeck Marble font dates back to the early Medieval period.

The death of Henry VIII

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On this day in 1547, Henry VIII “dyed at hys most princely howse at Westminster, comenly called Yorkeplace or Whytehall”  (Stow).

There is an extraordinary at least broadly contemporary anonymous painting of the scene in the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square.  It is entitled “An Allegory of Reformation”, and depicts  on the left Henry on his death-bed handing his kingly power, and with it the responsibility for the defence of the Protestant faith, to the central figure of his young son, the future Edward VI – with a defeated Catholic Pope at his feet!  Standing to Edward’s left is  his  uncle, Edward Seymour, First Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector.  Seated round a table, under a painting of image-breaking, are: in white vestments, Thomas  Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; with a grey beard, John Russell, First Earl of Bedford and Lord Privy Seal; and five further gentlemen whose identities are either disputed or altogether unknown.

The site of Whitehall Palace is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart  London” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

Hanworth

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Hanworth was evidently first settled in Saxon times, and during the reign of Edward the Confessor in the early eleventh century the manor was held by one of the king’s “huscarls”, Ulf.

However, it was first recorded in  Norman Domesday Book of 1086, as Haneworth, from the Old English personal name Hana, and worth, meaning enclosed settlement.  At this time, the manor was owned by Roger de Montgomerie, one of William the Conqueror’s principal counsellors.  By the later Medieval period, it had come to be owned by  Sir Nicholas Brembre, sometime Lord Mayor of London, executed for treason in 1387.

By the post-Medieval period, the manor was Crown property, owned by King Henry VIII and various of his wives, and after the King’s death, by his daughter, the Princess and later Queen Elizabeth.

The Hanworth Farms Estate was built here at the turn of the  nineteenth and twentieth centuries, by William Whiteley, owner of the famous department store in Bayswater.  Hanworth Airport opened here in 1929, and closed in 1946, shortly after Heathrow was built nearby.

Historically part of Middlesex, Hanworth  is now part of the London Borough of Hounslow.

Church of St George

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The church of St George was originally built in the late thirteenth  century, and subsequently rebuilt in 1812, and extended in 1865, when the chancel and spire were added by S.S. Teulon.  The rebuilt church  incorporates some stonework from the  original   (in the west wall).  The church’s first rector was Adam de Brome, who founded Oriel College, Oxford, in 1309.

Manor House

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The post-Medieval and later manor house was substantially destroyed by a fire in 1797, with essentially only the stable block surviving, as a block of flats (“Tudor Court”).

Hanworth Park House

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Hanworth Park House was built as a replacement in 1820, and is currently derelict.