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Godly Reformers and their Opponents in Early Modern England

Godly Reformers and their Opponents in Early Modern England: Religion in Norwich, c.1560-1643

MATTHEW REYNOLDS
Volume: 10
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 326
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81x7c
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  • Book Info
    Godly Reformers and their Opponents in Early Modern England
    Book Description:

    This book traces the emergence of religious factionalism within an urban community, from Elizabeth's reign until the outbreak of the English Civil War, focusing upon early modern England's second city, Norwich, but placing it in the context of England as a whole. Typically, Tudor and Stuart Norwich has been viewed as a centre of radical puritanism, but through careful study of its rich municipal archive as well as hitherto untapped diocesan and parochial material, the author offers a more rounded account of Norwich's religious life, which considers the appearance of groups at odds with the godly. The first section explores how and why the Reformation flourished in Norwich. Later chapters address the fortunes of the city's puritan movement in relation to successive anti-Calvinist bishops - notably Samuel Harsnett and Matthew Wren - and their local allies [both clerical and lay] during the 1620s and 30s. Reacting to godly complaint, Norwich's anti-puritan tradition evolved into something approaching 'civic Laudianism' in borough affairs under Charles I.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-398-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Matthew Reynolds
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Chapter One THE GODLY, THEIR OPPONENTS AND STUART ENGLAND’S ‘WARS OF RELIGION’
    (pp. 3-19)

    Religion has always been seen as a critical element in the political meltdown of 1640 – 42, which led to the English Civil War. Exactly how and why has generated a great deal of debate, with recent discussion stemming from John Morrill’s now-famous suggestion that ‘the English Civil War was not the first European revolution: it was the last of the Wars of Religion’. But what within the context of seventeenth-century England are we to understand by a religious war?¹ To rephrase the question: What was singularly ‘religious’ about the motivation of the combatants on either side, and to what extent...

  7. Chapter Two NORWICH’S REFORMATION HISTORY REVISITED
    (pp. 20-36)

    We know, or at least think we know, how the Reformation fared in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Norwich. Generally the transition from a Catholic to a Protestant city is seen as having carried on apace under the Tudors, with Norwich swiftly emerging as a noted centre of radical puritanism thereafter. Moreover, the grassroots of religious dissent were somehow deeply enmeshed in the fabric of urban life. Turning to the secondary literature, we find a classic statement of this idea within John Browne’s History of Congregationalism and Memorials of the Churches in Norfolk and Suffolk, published in 1877. Browne was, from 1849,...

  8. Chapter Three IMMIGRATION, CATHOLIC CONSPIRACY AND THE RISE OF A GODLY MORAL ORDER
    (pp. 39-62)

    Denizens of early modern Norwich were keenly aware of the two props upholding an ordered urban society: good governance and religion. The close association between the two was recognised by Joseph Nobbs, a late seventeenth-century clerk and schoolmaster at St Gregory’s parish, as well as a chronicler of his adoptive city, who heaped fulsome praise on the orderliness and industriousness of his fellow citizens. Such traits he attributed to the clear guardianship of Norwich’s famed magistracy. The city’s elite did not shrink from the task of firm government ‘not suffering any debauched or idle persons to be found in the...

  9. Chapter Four URBAN MAGISTRACY AND MINISTRY, 1570–1619
    (pp. 63-85)

    Norwich’s transformation into a Protestant town was further accomplished by a veritable team of committed pastors, who were settled in the city to articulate the moral values enforced in 1570. The fortunes of Elizabethan and Jacobean Norwich’s famed teaching ministry are examined here. Our impression of the city’s religious life in the last decades of the sixteenth century owes much to the panegyric offered by William Burton, a preacher who was forced to leave the city in 1589 after delivering a sermon, for which he was ‘accounted an enemy to Caesar’.¹ Dedicating a translation of Erasmus’s Seven Dialogues to the...

  10. Chapter Five AN UNDERCURRENT OF DISSENT, 1580–c.1620
    (pp. 86-108)

    While the Norwich ministers’ reluctance to comply with contested rites and ceremonies during the 1580s had vexed Edmund Freke, both the bishop and his successors were soon to be alerted to more radical challenges to episcopal authority. At their most extreme, such dissent amounted to instances of heresy. Indeed, between 1579 and 1589, Norwich became the backdrop for proceedings against four individuals who held a variety of heterodox beliefs, with each case ending in a burning. The first concerned Matthew Hamont, a ploughwright of possible Dutch descent from Hethersett. Examined before Bishop Freke for espousing Arian ideas, which denied the...

  11. Chapter Six NEW DIRECTIONS IN EPISCOPAL GOVERNMENT: THE SAMUEL HARSNETT YEARS
    (pp. 111-130)

    During the 1620s, John Yates’s integrity came to be tested by the same episcopal authority he had striven so assiduously to defend. Bishop Samuel Harsnett’s elevation to the see of Norwich in September 1619, a promotion that reflected the diocese’s puritan reputation in the eyes of the crown, held deeper implications for the fortunes of the city’s godly community. Harsnett, a noted anti-Calvinist, arrived in his new see determined to exert greater control over Norwich’s pulpits. Under his government – which lasted for a decade until 1629 – the Jegon administration’s measured evangelical programme was overturned in favour of a disciplinarian agenda,...

  12. Chapter Seven THE 1624 PARLIAMENT, ITS REPERCUSSIONS AND THE CASE OF ST GREGORY’S PARISH
    (pp. 131-156)

    The events surrounding Bishop Harsnett’s pursuit through Parliament in May 1624 marked another turning point in the city of Norwich’s relations with local episcopal administration. Failure on the part of the godly to gain restitution ensured that the bishop’s injunctions on lectureships and Sunday services remained. In the meantime during the 1620s – much to the consternation of the godly – novel programmes of church decoration and beautification were implemented in some city parishes, most conspicuously at St Peter Mancroft and St Gregory’s. But before assessing the significance of these developments in detail, let us turn to the 1624 Parliament itself.

    We...

  13. Chapter Eight GODLY REACTION: THE NORFOLK TRUSTEES AND THE TOMBLAND LECTURESHIP
    (pp. 159-185)

    Samuel Harsnett’s elevation to York in January 1629, prompted renewed agitation by the godly of Norwich’s elite, ever anxious to restore Sunday morning sermons as well as the corporate lectureships axed in 1622. A key campaigner for Reform was the outgoing mayor Thomas Cory. Allied to the activists Thomas Atkin and Robert Craske – Craske would call upon Cory to supervise his will in 1638 – during the final month of his mayoralty in May 1629, Cory moved the Assembly to petition the new bishop, Francis White, for further preaching. The mayor’s request was doubly urgent. Thus in the same session, an...

  14. Chapter Nine ‘SOME JOYFULLY CONFORMED, OTHERS FROWARDLY OPPOSED’: MATTHEW WREN AND THE STIRS OF 1636
    (pp. 186-214)

    Matthew Wren’s brief incumbency of Norwich, which lasted almost two and a half years from December 1635 until April 1638, proved to be bitterly divisive to contemporaries, and continues to invite controversy.¹ On the one hand, Wren remains the viperous figure of ‘Little Pope Regulus’ drawn by William Prynne.² On the other hand, a sympathetic account of the bishop’s work was provided some time after the Restoration by his great-nephew, Christopher – son of his famous namesake, Sir Christopher Wren – who understandably lauded his family’s accomplishments. Christopher junior attested to his great-uncle’s skills as a Hebraist. More than that, Matthew Wren...

  15. Chapter Ten PURITAN DIASPORA, 1636–40
    (pp. 217-235)

    The years between Wren’s visitation in 1636 and the summoning of the Long Parliament in 1640 are seen as a dark time for East Anglian puritanism.¹ From the perspective of later dissent, Wren’s harrowing of Norwich’s celebrated preaching fraternity has been viewed as defining moment in the history of nonconformity, so much so that it proved fertile grounds for a mediocre Victorian pot-boiler – Andrew Reed’s Alice Bridge of Norwich: a Tale of the Time of Charles the First – published in 1879. Reed came from a Congregationalist background. Son of his famous namesake Andrew senior – a hymnodist and energetic philanthropist, as...

  16. Chapter Eleven PURITAN REVOLUTION, 1640–43
    (pp. 236-250)

    To what extent did the confessional rifts of the 1630s determine patterns of Civil War allegiance in Norwich during the ensuing decade? The dramatic events leading to the collapse of Charles I’s Personal Rule provided the godly with an opportunity to present their grievances and begin the task of furthering the Reformation once again. But what of the discernible core of support for Bishop Wren? Admittedly death robbed this faction of its more senior leaders, like Robert Debney, prior to 1640, although the summoning of the Long Parliament saw remnants of the ‘pro-Wren’ contingent under Henry Lane conduct various rearguard...

  17. Chapter Twelve GODLY REFORMERS AND THEIR OPPONENTS IN NORWICH AND BEYOND
    (pp. 253-268)

    It is currently fashionable to take a long-term perspective on the English Reformation. No longer held as a neatly wrapped affair following the Elizabethan settlement of 1559, the narrative framework through which we plot the trajectories of response to the Tudor religious legacy now extends into the seventeenth century and beyond.¹ Returning to Norwich, it is striking how contested the Reformation became within the city. At least, on the basis of this study, it is inadequate to gloss over early modern Norwich as a puritan citadel; for while the borough developed a precocious reputation for civic-sponsored godly learning – helping to...

  18. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 269-292)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 293-310)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-311)