4th October 1536 – The Lincolnshire Rising and Trouble at Horncastle

Oct4,2011 #Pilgrimage of Grace

On this day in history, Wednesday 4th October 1536, there was trouble in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, part of what we know as the Lincolnshire Rising which, in turn, was part of the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion.

Dr Raynes, the chancellor of the Bishop of Lincoln, who was staying nearby at Bolingbroke, after having held a session of the commissionary’s court there, was dragged from his sickbed and taken to Horncastle. Francis Aidan Gasquet, the 19th century Benedictine monk and historical scholar, describes what happened next in his book “Henry VIII and the English Monasteries”:-

“As the chancellor rode into the field with his captors the passions of the mob were stirred, and there occurred one of the two acts of violence, which alone in this or the subsequent Yorkshire rising, disgraced the movement! “At his coming into the field,” declares Brian Staines, ” the rebels, whereof were many parsons and vicars, cried out with a loud voice, ‘ Kill him, kill him.’ And upon that one William Hutchinson, of Horncastle, and William Balderstone, by the procurement of the said parsons and vicars, pulled him violently off his horse, kneeling upon his knees, and with their staves they slew him. And being dead, this deponent saith the priests continually crying, ‘ Kill him, kill him,’ he also struck the said chancellor upon the arm with a staff.” “

R.W. Hoyle, in his book “The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Politics of the 1530s writes of how there was also a second murder that day, that of Thomas Wulcey (or Wolsey), one of Cromwell’s men, who was hanged by the mob and M.L.Bush, in “The Pilgrimage of Grace: A Study of the Rebel Armies of October 1536”, writes of how it was also on this day in 1536 that Robert Aske “became a committed rebel”.

Gasquet writes of how the rebels at Horncastle “devised certain articles of grievance which were to be forwarded to the king”. These articles of complaint were drawn up by the gentry, Sheriff Dymmoke and his brother, and then presented to the crowd who held up their hands and said “We like them very well.” The rebels complained about:-

  1. “The dissolution of the religious houses and of the consequent destitution of ‘the poorealty of the realm'”
  2. “The restraints imposed on the distribution of property by the ‘statute of uses'”
  3. “The grant to the king of the tenths and first-fruits of spiritual benefices”
  4. “The payment of the subsidy demanded of them”
  5. “The introduction into the king’s council of Crumwell, Rich, and other ‘such personages as be of low birth and small reputation'”
  6. “The promotion of the archbishops of Canterbury and Dublin, and the bishops of Rochester, St. David’s,
    and others, who, in their opinion, had clearly ‘subverted the faith of Christ’.

These articles were dispatched immediately to the King and on the 11th October the King’s herald arrived at Lincoln with the King’s reply:-

“Concerning choosing of counsellors,” the king wrote, “I never have read, heard nor known, that princes’ counsellors and prelates should be appointed by rude and ignorant common people ; nor that they were persons meet or of ability to discern and choose meet and sufficient counsellors for a prince. How presumptuous then are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm and of least experience, to find fault with your prince for the electing of his counsellors and prelates, and to take upon you, contrary to God’s law and man’s law, to rule your prince whom ye are bound to obey and serve with both your lives, lands, and goods, and for no worldly cause to withstand.

As to the suppression of houses and monasteries, they were granted to us by the parliament and not set forth by any counsellor or counsellors upon their mere will and fantasy, as you, full falsely, would persuade our realm to believe. And where ye alledge that the service of God is much thereby diminished, the truth thereof is contrary ; for there are no houses suppressed where God was well served, but where most vice, mischief, and abomination of living was used : and that doth well appear by their confessions, subscribed with their own hands, in the time of our visitations. And yet were suffered a great many of them, more than we by the act needed, to stand ; wherein if they amend not their living, we fear we have more to answer for than for the suppression of all the rest. And as for their hospitality, for the relief of poor people, we wonder ye be not ashamed to affirm, that they have been a great relief to our people, when a great many, or the most part, hath not past 4 or 5 religious persons in them and divers but one, which spent the substance of the goods of their house in nourishing vice and abominable living. Now, what unkindness and unnaturality may we impute to you and all our subjects that be of that mind that had rather such an unthrifty sort of vicious persons should enjoy such possessions, profits and emoluments as grow of the said houses to the maintenance of their unthrifty life than we, your natural prince, sovereign lord and king, who doth and hath spent more in your defences of his own than six times they be worth.”

The letter went on but I think you get the gist of it. Henry was not giving in to their demands and concluded his message with a warning:-
“We charge you, eftsoon, upon the foresaid bonds and pains, that ye withdraw yourselves to your own houses, every man ; and no more to assemble, contrary to the laws and your allegiances ; and to cause the provokers of you to this mischief to be delivered to our lieutenant’s hands or ours and you yourselves to submit to such condign punishment as we and our nobles shall think you worthy.”

Also on this day in history…

1539 – Signing of the marriage treaty between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
1556 – John Cheke made a public recantation on front of Queen Mary I

Notes and Sources

  • Henry VIII And the English Monasteries by Francis Aidan Gasquet
  • The Pilgrimage of Grace and the politics of the 1530s by R. W. Hoyle
  • The Pilgrimage of Grace: A study of the rebel armies of October 1536 by M. L. Bush

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9 thoughts on “4th October 1536 – The Lincolnshire Rising and Trouble at Horncastle”
  1. I know feelings were riding high and they were passionate about protecting their religious houses, but for parsons, vicars and priests to be baying for blood and encouraging the murder of Dr. Raynes, seems to be contrary to their teachings of the bible….turmoilous times.
    Just to say Claire, oops, I put a post on this day in history 2nd oct, about the beginning of the rising, not realising you had already mentioned it, ever read something 2/3 times and still not registered what is written, well that was me last night, sorry!!! 🙂

  2. I wonder what the north of England is like today–It was such a hotbed of unrest all through the Tudor years and maybe beyond. It is understandble though. Being far from London, and in smaller towns, etc., it is more likely one would be more conservative in religion and less likely to embrace new ideas and ways. What I can’t believe it s that they had the nerve to even organized. And later, Henry was so deceitful to Askew and the others. Really ugly business.

    1. Hi Anne, I used to live close to all these areas 10years ago for a long time, and the places mentioned are like anywhere else really, they still have the beautiful historical charm and customs but have grown in population and are multi- cultural with no real dominance, lovely places to visit. I now live in the north east of scotland, Macbeth and battle of culloden area. We have round us many ransacked religious places effected by the scottish reformation, as before, wonderful places steeped in history.

  3. Hi Dawn, Thanks for the insight. It sounds lovely and oh, I can’t wait to get to England one of these days! I plan to start with Claire’s tour and then move on by myself. I hope it will be sooner rather than later.

  4. They still have the forks and scythes from that day in St Mary’s church here in Horncastle..I always joke they’re really from the last time the council cut the nettles..

  5. i think that the the P.O.G. was in the end quite a waste of time, it just helped speed up the process of the dissolution of the monastries and the gave henry an excuse to kill all the leaders of the second uprising, does anyone else agree?

  6. I agree that this is over the top, baying for blood, but you have to understand that these people had there heritage, their beliefs, their culture, their day to day religion and practices stolen from them. They were also being asked to pay extra taxation and the entire place was in fear and uproar. You would be very surprised what people will do and say when they are riled up. The commissioners had gone there with the intent of stripping the alters of their sacred objects and were supporting the King’s wish to close and destroy the monastic houses our solace for over 1000 years. The crowd have heard all sorts of wild rumours and feel threatened and then those who are involved in that reform that the people hate turn up. This is the same situation as those who cried for blood at the start of the Peasants Revolt in Essex in 1381. It all started over bread and taxation and collection agents. The situation at Horncastle was very tense and the people very angry. They had already seen commissioners and collection agents do damage at other places; this was more than a rallying cry against them; it was a call to arms.

    I was at Horncastle in 2011 and went to the church and the swords and stays are hung upon the wall there to commemorate those who were as a result of all this hung drawn and quartered in the square not long afterwards. We do not know what it is like to be oppressed or how it would make us feel if we were. I may not agree with cries for blood or kill, kill which are obviously over the top but I do understand were these people are coming from. I understand their distress and anger as everything that they love is torn down and taken from them and some alien service is forced upon them. It is true that here in Lincolnshire the risings will be easily put down and break up quickly; Suffolk did not find much resistance after he came there. But they also sparked off here and the meeting was called with that intent. It has gotton out of hand; as so many riots do!
    Marches that set out to peacefully demonstrate all to often turn to violence and the people involved may normally be quite sane minded. However, driven by desperation, by other people, by anger and by passion, well there are worse things than baying for blood: actually spilling it is what I worry about.

    I have in recent years looked more evenly at the risings here in the north as there are some aspects of them that are rather unsavory and contrary to the gospels. But the people involved are human beings with all the failures of a human being and when groups of people get enpassioned and rise in large numbers; things are bound to go to far. The causes of the risings I agree are holy and just and they for the main showed they had peaceful and good intentions but when they saw that they were betrayed by the gentry then they took to more forceful measures and used threats and even violence, holding people hostage and so on. That I find hard to condone; but I have to stand back from it and ask: if I was denied my rights; just how far would I go to see that justice was done?

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