The dissolution of the monasteries was a brief, but tumultuous, episode in English history that brought an end to four hundred years of French religious influence and resulted, as Richard Hoyle has said in “the Great Plunder becoming the Great Redistribution”.1 This “great redistribution” affected tenants in many ways, most obviously for those who held lands from the monasteries there was a new landlord, many lost their jobs as lay brothers or servants of the monasteries but for some tenants, even those of modest means, the dissolution provided opportunities.
Approximately twenty percent of the tenants of Craven in 1522 had a monastic landlord. The two large monasteries of Fountains Abbey and Bolton Priory had held lands in Craven since the twelfth century, of the two, Fountains dominated in the northern and central areas of Craven whereas Bolton was strong to the south, around the flat-lands of the Skipton gap. In terms of the number of tenants neither religious house could compete with either the Percy fee in the north or the Cliffords to the south. The Cliffords added to their dominance by acting as stewards to twenty townships some in religious and some in lay hands.2 Sawley Abbey to the far west of Craven on the Lancashire border held properties in six townships in the area. The Premonstratensian Abbey of West Dereham in Norfolk had the church of Kirkby (Malham) and had accumulated properties in Kirkby and in other townships in the vicinity. West Dereham provided their own canons as vicars of the church there. Similarly the Premonstratensian Abbey of Coverham, in neighbouring Richmondshire, provided canons to the church of Kettlewell. The little chapel of St Oswalds at Hubberholme in Langstrothdale was founded by William the son of Henry Percy in 1242 and donated to the Abbey of Coverham.3 The Percy family provided an annuity of ten shillings to pay for a priest to sing there.4 Of the remaining churches in North Craven: Long Preston had been granted to Bolton Priory, Gargrave to Sawley Abbey and Giggleswick to Finchale Priory a daughter house of Durham. The Percies had gifted Arncliffe Church to Oxford University in 1443 and the remaining two, Burnsall and Linton, were each divided into two moieties and in lay hands.
The value of the rectories has been subsumed within the accounts of the various monasteries but the vicarages appear to have been poor compared to others, their average value in 1535 was £13 17s 2d, which is less than the average value of Lake District vicarages of £14 5s 2d.5 The two poorest were Kirkby (Malham) and Kettlewell both of which were attached to Premonstratensian abbeys and staffed by their canons. The wealthiest was Giggleswick at £21 3s 2d.6 The Vicars’ salaries were paid from the vicarage income and there was some discontent from the most senior clergy in the land that these salaries were inadequate to attract the best. Sir Thomas Moor (A Dialogue Concerning Heresies) said
And as for me touchynge the choyce of prestys, I coulde not well devyse better provysyons than are by the lawes of the chyrche provyded all redy, if they wereas well kept as they be well made. But for the nomber, I wold surely se suche away therin, that we sholde not have suche a rabell ..7 His complaint centred on the poor education of people entering the priesthood, an observation he made about all England but one that applied equally to North Craven. Between 1500 and 1540 not one of the one hundred and four people who entered the profession and gave northern Craven townships as an address possessed a degree. That is not to say they did not go on to get a degree afterwards. George Ellison of Halton Gill, who entered the church in 1517 obtained an MA from Oxford before returning to Craven as vicar of Arncliffe after the death of his relative Christopher in 1552. No doubt others went on to get a degree but they do not reappear in Craven.
Those who did return include Henry Hill of Gargrave who entered the church in 1517 and became vicar of Kettelwell in 1553, Anthony Holgate of Elslack who returned to Arncliffe church in 1539. Anthony had accepted Protestantism and was married, an act that was to lose him his job during Mary’s reign, although he was re-instated when Elizabeth came to the throne. His temporary replacement was Richard Somerscales of Giggleswick who had entered the priesthood in 1520. Richard Wilson, also from Giggleswick, took to the priesthood in 1515 and may have been the vicar of Bracewell between 1516 and 1542, he was presented to the church there by the Abbey of Kirkstall whose dissolution seemed to have lost him his job.
Thus a possible six of one hundred and four people returned to Craven to practice their calling. The fate of the rest can only be guessed at, some will not have completed their training, some will have entered monasteries but the majority probably sought their livings elsewhere. A second route to the priesthood lay through the monasteries themselves. Furness Abbey, which held lands in Flasby and Winterburn, Giggleswick, Hetton and Bordley, Airton and Long Preston sent six lay brothers to York with local names which included Brothers Richard Carr, John Clapham, James Langcliffe, Edmond Stainforth, Hugh Marton and Michael Hammerton. Of those who remained in the monasteries Christopher Stainforth has been identified as Christopher Carr the son of James Carr of Giggleswick, Christopher was a monk at Sawley at the dissolution. The monks of Bolton at the dissolution include William Mallome8.
The families of fifteen of those entering the priesthood from North Craven cannot be traced to the area through any of the late fifteenth century rentals or the 1522 loan book. The family names of the rest appear in both the rentals and the loan book, some are well known to the area, for example the Carrs of Giggleswick and Ellisons of Arncliffe each sent four sons, the Tennant family of Upper Wharfedale sent three, as did the Stackhouse, Knowles and Taylor families of Giggleswick, the Ratcliffes of Linton and the Hall family of Long Preston and Gargrave. Two sons of ten families, including the Proctors, Wilkinsons and Atkinsons went to train as priests at York. Forty-three other families sent just one son to the priesthood during the first four decades of the sixteenth century.
What is significant is that each of these families had reached a point where they could afford to do without the labour their sons would provide, employing labourers if necessary and, significantly, perceived their social standing to warrant having a priest amongst their numbers. It could be argued that encouraging children to leave the family home would save money but the mortality rate was high and the head of a family would keep labour in reserve to balance the risks, risks that were heightened during epidemics and famine. A family with a priest amongst its ranks was proud of the fact and there is plenty of testamentary evidence to prove this. For example when William Iveson wrote his will in 1544 he left a horse to his son Sir John Iveson, a filly to Sir James Iveson his son and asked that both be executors. If they left the country then two Sir Thomas Ivesons, presumably more distant relatives one of whom taught at Giggleswick school, were to look after his wife. Thomas Foster, 1553, mentions his brother Sir James Foster. John Howson, 1550, bequeathed 13s 4d to his son Sir Thomas, although he did not expect him to accept it and to give the money to the poor instead. There are many more examples, the priests within a family were trusted and respected.
Each man entering the priesthood gave his home town, from which it appears that the parish of Giggleswick produced more candidates than any other and Kettlewell the least. However, eight of the fifteen whose families cannot be identified in other records (not included in this data) gave Giggleswick as their parish, which leads to the suspicion that there may have been some advantage to be obtained by doing this. One of these names (Henry Wigan) appears as a chantry priest at Kirkby in Richard Preston’s will of 1527 and the family re-occur later in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.9
Between 1500 and the mid-1520s about five men every year left North Craven to train as priests, with a peak of twelve in 1517, after the mid 1520s numbers dropped dramatically to less than one a year. The reasons for the drop in numbers lie in a number of areas. Firstly the church itself was seeking better qualified candidates. The church was also implementing the statutory changes designed to stop pluralism (receiving income from a second living), absenteeism without good reason and to remove the clergy from all commercial activities. The opportunities for wealth were thus diminished. Secondly, the local population was beginning to diversify. Two new fulling mills were being built in Giggleswick in 1499, tripling the existing capacity. Thirdly, a growing number of wealthier peasants found they had enough disposable income to pay for their sons to be educated in the professions, such as in law, as scriveners and so forth. Two of Adam Somerscales children were in London when he died in 1569, one training as a scrivener the other, Robert, a lawyer.
During the later fifteenth century John Caterall of Rathmell had been involved in the murder of the Duke of York at Wakefield and in 1461 was hanged with many others including John Clapham of Skipton. John Caterall’s son Alan was restored to the estates by Henry VII in November 1485.10 John Clifford, lord of Skipton was also killed in 1461 and his son Henry was hidden until 1485 when, following the battle of Bosworth and the defeat of the Yorkists, he was restored to his estates as the 10th Baron. Henry Percy had died at the battle of Towton in 1461 and his heir was slain during tax riots at York in 1489. His son and heir, Henry Algernon came of age in 1499 and lived until 1527. Henry Algernon’s daughter Margaret married Henry Clifford (the first earl) who succeeded to the Percy estates in Craven when Margaret’s brother died in 1537.
Crop failure and famine had plagued the middle years of the fifteenth century and further crop failure is suspected during the 1490s. Thus the early Tudor years could be described as a relatively settled period in Craven giving the local population some respite from war, famine and the uncertainty and costs of changing landlords11.
The one major event was the decisive battle of Flodden Field in 1513 (known locally at the time as Scotch field) which involved tenants of the Percy fee led by William Percy the second son of Henry Algernon and the tenants of Skipton led, despite his now great age, by Lord Clifford. Some tenants were rewarded for their bravery in the battle, Henry Taylor was given a valuable lodge in Giggleswick as a reward “and in recompense for his ransom as he had been taken prisoner” by the Scots.12 A tenant of Long Preston in 1579 was the son of “John Kendall of the Flodden” but no further information is known about this individual.13
In common with churches throughout England some church income had been privatised. The tithes of Giggleswick Church, for example, had been sold to Robert of Stainforth (who paid an entry fine of £6 13s 4d in 1383/84) and they remained with him and his heirs the Tempests until the dissolution, by which time they amounted to £44 per annum.14 Bolton Priory had used the church of Long Preston as part of a usurious deal with the Chancellor of York around 1320.15 Stephen Tempest paid the priory £10 annually for the tithes of Long Preston, Henry Clifford paid £10 for the tithes of Hellifield and Wigglesworth. The tithes of wool of Halton (Long Preston) had been sold for 26s 8d. Generally, though Craven appears to have been relatively free from the rampant commercialisation of parishes evident elsewhere in the country, probably on account of its poverty and the consequent lack of opportunity for profit.
There is no doubt that Craven was impoverished, Roger Schofield used the 1334 and 1515 Lay Subsidies to assess the relative wealth of thirty-seven counties, the West Riding came 37th and 36th (to the North Riding) respectively.16 More detailed township studies have shown that, while the whole of the North was poor, Craven, Wensleydale and Swaledale were the poorest areas of all. Furthermore, whereas Cumberland, Westmoreland and Northumberland were traditionally excused taxation on account of their poverty Yorkshire was not. That this concession applied to the three most northern counties and not to Yorkshire suggests a misreading of the situation by those who believed the sole causes of poverty were due to the deprivations of the Scots. However, the favourable customary tenancy of ‘tenant right’ which prevailed in the North from at least the mid-fifteenth century, and is associated with its defence, did extend to many of the tenants of the Percy fee and to some Furness Abbey lands including Stackhouse. The tenants of Fountains had agreed, or been forced to agree, to short-term leases.17 The majority of Bolton Priory’s unfree tenants held their property at will on an annual basis, Christopher Clapham was the exception, in 1539 he held by copyhold a tenement, toft, croft and a bovate of land in Gargrave.18 The plethora of landlords in north Craven worked to the advantage of the tenants and rents did not appear excessive. Where customary tenancies were in operation rents were unchanging but tenants paid a gressum when the tenant or lord died, the sums demanded from the Percy tenants in 1499 amounted to fractions of the annual rent and could not be considered excessive, later in the sixteenth century, under the Cliffords, gressums rose to as much as twenty or thirty years rent.
The relative peace of the early sixteenth century led to a rise in population and consequent pressure on land, simultaneously the landlords sought to increase their income by enclosure and charging their tenants for rights of agistment. This happened throughout Yorkshire, for example on the 4th, 7th and 8th May 1510 and at other times later William Clapham esq; Ralph Heyworth of Clapham; Nicholas Cupman, Richard Foster, James Lounde and Roger Lawson of Clapham with 60 others, “riotously with bows and arrows, bills, great staves, swords, and other weapons of war entered the waste ground of Austwick and broke down and opened the hedges there and allowed their beasts to eat up waste and destroy the land” of Henry the marquis of Dorset.19 In 1531 William Fairfax had made an enclosure on the common waste of Keighley and accused seventeen men from Newsholme of breaking down the hedges and ditches; in 1532 at Barnsby two farmers were at loggerheads with Thomas Dalerever over enclosures on the common waste; in 1534 hedges and ditches built around two closes in the manor of Skewsby were destroyed and a similar event occurred in York in 1534.20
It was not just the commoners who behaved in this way, in 1517 Sir Edward Stanley (lord Mounteagle) had sent Geofrey Starkey, John Bradley, Alexander Parker and 400 others to throw down the pales erected by Edmund Talbot of Bashall, who had begun to enclose his lands there, some of Talbot’s servants were attacked and hurt.21 In 1528 John Norton’s lands in Ryleston were attacked by the Earl of Cumberland’s men and in 1531 William Fairfax’s enclosure at Newsholme was pulled down by Robert Greenhalgh, Robert Hall, John Lupton, William Butterfield, William Sowden and 12 others.
Enclosures were unpopular everywhere but the enclosure riots that occurred in Craven in 1535 seem to have caught the attention of the king and the imagination of modern historians. On the 13th June 1535 Sir Richard Tempest wrote to Thomas Cromwell to remind him about releasing some Yorkshire abbeys from certain charges and, in passing, mentioned that “A riot has been committed by 300 or 400 persons in Craven, who have cast down houses, dykes, and hedges about Gygkylswyke etc”.22 No doubt Cromwell passed this information on to the king because, during the previous year, the king had expressed an interest in obtaining the farm (rent) of the parsonage of Giggleswick, perhaps for Mr Warcop the new Carlisle Herald.23 Or perhaps at the insistence of Arthur Darcy who wanted the church of Giggleswick “like my father had” (of whom more later).
Further riots occurred within days at Airton where John Lambert had enclosed lands he had recently bought from Lord Dacres of the South and others had pulled down the Earl of Cumberland’s enclosures at an unspecified place. On the 21st June the king wrote to Richard Tempest, the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Monteagle and others to take proceedings against the rioters in Craven amongst other places. Cromwell also wrote asking that the chief offenders should be sent up to London. Sir Richard Tempest was surprised by the response and probably regretted mentioning the riots in the first place, he arranged an urgent enquiry with his fellow lawyer Robert Chaloner. He wanted to end the proceedings himself with the minimum of fuss, to this end he sent a note to Henry Percy by foot which would not give him time to get to the enquiry and proceeded as planned. Predictably, Percy was not prepared to travel at such short notice but sent Marmaduke Constable who rode all day and night to get there.
On the 5th July 1535 Richard Tempest, Marmaduke Constable and others wrote to Cromwell and Henry Percy wrote to the king. Their letters are very similar and confirm the events as follows, about eighty people were indicted although more were involved, their intention was to pull down recent enclosures on the moors and wastes. Of those indicted forty were tenants of Clifford (Earl of Cumberland) for pulling down his and Lamberts enclosures, fourteen were tenants of the Percy fee in Giggleswick and of Furness Abbey in Stackhouse who pulled down enclosures made by John Caterall. Nineteen were arrested and imprisoned.
However, the letters from Tempest explain that the rioters were mostly women and children, there was no man of substance among them, that they ‘only’ meant to pull down certain enclosures and they were poor. Both Percy and Tempest suggested there was no point in sending any to London and the situation quietened down. Tempest also wrote to the King to reassure him that the offenders were now meek, acknowledge their offences and are well content with their punishment thinking they deserved it. “Your subjects here are as loyal as any other”. With that, and eye to his expenses claim, he told both the King and Cromwell it had taken six days to deal with the cases. In a note of sarcasm he suggests to Cromwell that the King would be safe to travel to Yorkshire and have the rioters submitted to him personally ‘to be punished at his pleasure’, rather than send them to London and knowing full well that the King would not travel to the North.
There is an undercurrent of collusion, all the letters were written the same day (but from different addresses), the stories are unanimous and everyone agrees with the recommendations, it seems probable that the Northern establishment was seeking to exclude Cromwell from their affairs. Stephen Hammerton of Wigglesworth was ‘commanded’ by Cromwell to join in the commission of the peace held by Tempest and others. He did not and wrote to Cromwell saying he was not in the commission “but by the command of my lord of Northumberland my master I put myself in readiness … to apprehend the malefactors”. In other words he would only obey his master Henry Percy. These are the first signs that when the commons of the North were threatened by Cromwell, the northern gentry would unite behind them.24 Tempest also wrote separately to Cromwell, either through guilt or a genuine desire to help the people, pleading on their behalf.
Meanwhile the clergy were unsettled by the changes Cromwell was initiating in the Church. The King had declared himself head of the church, on the 5th July 1535 Sir Marmaduke Constable reported to Cromwell that the Archbishop of York had sent his archdeacons and officials to every deanery where they instructed the curates “as to the bidding of beads, altering the books by removing the name of the bishop of Rome, called the Pope, and have instructed those who preach how to order their sermons”. Constable said he had himself had preached in his church at York setting forth the King’s authority against the bishop of Rome more plainly than they had ever heard it before. Again, this was as much a political snub to Cromwell as it was news of northern ‘conformity’ because it was a response to letters sent to the justices of the peace, ostensibly by the King, to do what they had already dealt with.
Norah Gurney & Charles Clay, Fasti Parochials Vol 4 Being Notes on the Advowsons and Pre-Reformation Incumbents of the Parishes in the Deanery of Craven,(Leeds, 1971).
Claire Cross, "Realising a Utopian Dream: The Transformation of the Clergy in the Diocese of York, 1500-1630", in Rosemary Horrox and Sarah Rees-Jones, ed., Pragmatic Utopias: Ideals and Communities, 1200- 1630,(New York, 2001).
Surtees Society (Vol CXVII), The Percy Chartulary 1911).
Ben Dodds, "Tithe and Agrarian Output between the Tyne and Tees, 1350- 1450" (Durham, 2002).
S. M. Harrison, The Pilgrimage of Grace in the Lake Counties, 1536-71981).
Richard W. Hoyle, Early Tudor Craven : Subsidies and Assessments, 1510-1547,(Leeds, 1985).
Richard W. Hoyle, "Monastic Leasing before the Dissolution : The Evidence of Bolton Priory and Fountains Abbey", Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 61 (1989).
Richard W. Hoyle and Henry R. T. Summerson, A Handlist of Star Chamber Pleadings before 1558 for Northern England,(Kew, 2003).
Caley & Hunter, Valor Ecclesiaticus Tempore Henrici Octavi Institutus,(London, 1825).
Ian Kershaw, Bolton Priory Rentals and Ministers Accounts 1473-1539,(Leeds, 1970).
Ian Kershaw, Bolton Priory the Economy of a Northern Monastery 1286-1325,(Oxford, 1973).
David Michelmore, The Fountains Abbey Rental 1495-96,(Leeds, 1974).
RS Schofield, "The Geographical Distribution of Wealth in England 1334-1649", English Histoorical Review, NS 18 (1965).
Victoria Spence, "From Late Medieval Piety to Religious Conformity in a Northern Parish: Kirkby Malhamdale, Craven 1454-1603", Northern History, 47 (2010).
T. D. Whitaker, History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven. Ed. A.W. Morant (3rd Edn.),(Leeds, 1878).
1 Richard W. Hoyle, "Monastic Leasing before the Dissolution : The Evidence of Bolton Priory and Fountains Abbey", Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 61 (1989).
2 Data obtained from Richard W. Hoyle, Early Tudor Craven : Subsidies and Assessments, 1510-1547,(Leeds, 1985).
3 Surtees Society (Vol CXVII), The Percy Chartulary 1911, p. 88.
4 Percy accounts 1502 cited in T. D. Whitaker, History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven. Ed. A.W. Morant (3rd Edn.),(Leeds, 1878), p. 586.
5 S. M. Harrison, The Pilgrimage of Grace in the Lake Counties, 1536-71981), p. p15.
6 Caley & Hunter, Valor Ecclesiaticus Tempore Henrici Octavi Institutus,(London, 1825).
7 Quoted in Claire Cross, "Realising a Utopian Dream: The Transformation of the Clergy in the Diocese of York, 1500-1630", in Rosemary Horrox and Sarah Rees-Jones, ed., Pragmatic Utopias: Ideals and Communities, 1200- 1630,(New York, 2001).
8 Norah Gurney & Charles Clay, Fasti Parochials Vol 4 Being Notes on the Advowsons and Pre-Reformation Incumbents of the Parishes in the Deanery of Craven,(Leeds, 1971), Ian Kershaw, Bolton Priory Rentals and Ministers Accounts 1473-1539,(Leeds, 1970).
9 Victoria Spence, "From Late Medieval Piety to Religious Conformity in a Northern Parish: Kirkby Malhamdale, Craven 1454-1603",Northern History, 47 (2010).
10 Parliament Rolls of Medieval England: Henry VII November 1485 Pt 1
11 The customary tenants of Craven paid a gressom on the death of a land-lord
12 DL Inq. 4/8/13
13 YAS archives DD121/32/1
14 Ben Dodds, "Tithe and Agrarian Output between the Tyne and Tees, 1350- 1450" (Durham, 2002), 81-82.
15 Ian Kershaw, Bolton Priory the Economy of a Northern Monastery 1286-1325,(Oxford, 1973), p. 191.
16 RS Schofield, "The Geographical Distribution of Wealth in England 1334-1649", English Histoorical Review, NS 18 (1965).
17 David Michelmore, The Fountains Abbey Rental 1495-96,(Leeds, 1974).
18 Kershaw, Bolton Priory Rentals and Ministers Accounts 1473-1539.
19 STAC 1510 bundle 9 no 62
20 Richard W. Hoyle and Henry R. T. Summerson, A Handlist of Star Chamber Pleadings before 1558 for Northern England,(Kew, 2003).
21 STAC 1517 bundle 26 no 345
22 L&P Henry VIII: vol 8 sec 863
23 L&P Henry VIII vol 7 no. 1079 (the wording is unclear, either the King wanted the farm of the parsonage for himself or he had promised it to Carlisle Herald)