In the year 1508 Hull was accounted one of the wealthiest and most important towns in England, and was one of the twelve cities and towns which were to be pledged for the marriage portion of 250,000 gold crowns, agreed to be paid by Henry VII. with his daughter Mary, on her proposed marriage with the Emperor Maximillian's grandson - afterwards the celebrated Emperor, Charles V. In this year, by the attainder of Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, all the revenues, manors, lands, and estates, of that nobleman were confiscated and forfeited to the king's use; amongst which was the manor of this town, with Myton and Tupcoates. The stately mansion called "Suffolk Palace," erected by Sir Michael de la Pole about 1387, and which occupied nearly the whole of the west side of Lowgate, covering an area of nine acres, fell into the hands of the king, but his majesty granted the lady of the unfortunate earl the profits arising out of the manor of Kingston-upon-Hull for her life.
Hull took no part in the rebellions during the reign of Henry VII. At the commencement of the following reign, Henry VIII. appointed commissioners to enquire into what wrongs, oppressions, and tyrannies, had been committed in the preceding reign; particularly by the two favourites Empson and Dudley. The commissioners appointed for this purpose (the Earl of Northumberland, and other lords and knights) arrived at Kingston-upon-Hull, and sat in the old Town Hall, at the south end of the Market Place, and there informations were taken accordingly. The result of the commission is national history, but, we may mention, that though those infamous ministers were found guilty of extortion and other crimes, and beheaded on Tower Hill, on 17th August, 1510, the king retained the golden spoil, estimated at about £1,800,000, and made no manner of restitution to those from whom it had been wrongly obtained.
In 1512 when James IV., of Scotland, invaded this country, the Lord High Admiral, Sir Richard Howard, entered the Humber on his voyage northward, where he was joined by numerous volunteers, and liberally supplied with arms and provisions, whence he proceeded to, and was present at the battle of Flodden.
Two years later the king granted the manors of Hull, with Myton and Tupcoates (late the property of the De la Pole's), to Sir William Sydney, Knight, one of the victorious commanders at Flodden Field; but the king subsequently again became lord of these manors, but by what means, whether by seizure, purchase, or exchange, is not recorded.
In 1515 a quarrel arose between the Sheriff of Hull and the Priory of Haltemprise, under the following circumstances : - The Priory stood within the limits of the County of Hull, but, the prior had, for several years previously, refused to admit the sheriff into his liberties which, he asserted, were not in the shire of Hull, but in the lordship of Cottingham, and that the presence of the sheriff was an infringement of the rights of the church. This question had been referred, by the Star Chamber, to the arbitration of the Abbot of Meaux, Sir William Constable, and others, who decided in favour of the priory. Notwithstanding this award, the sheriff (Mr. Edward Mattison), with about 200 of the inhabitants of Hull, proceeded, on the 6th October, to Woolfreton to keep his "turn " - an ancient court incidental to his office - as usual. The prior, being informed of his coming, raised his tenants, armed his monks, and resisted the approach of the sheriff and his attendants, barricading the roads and footpaths. The sheriff and his party not being willing to submit tamely to this opposition, used insulting and abusive language, whereupon a cruel battle ensued. For some time they fought with alternate success, and victory fluctuated from side to side, till at length the monks gave way and fled to the sanctuary of their priory. The sheriff and his party pursued, threatening to level the building to the ground; and this, it is probable, they would have done had it not been for the timely arrival of the sheriff's brother, Mr. George Mattison, the Mayor of Hull, who had been informed of the affray, with a troop of about 60 horsemen.
Both parties were compelled to yield to this superior force, and the sheriff drew off his followers. To obtain satisfaction, the prior filed a bill in the Star Chamber against the sheriff and his party, and indicted them not only for a riot, but as offenders against several statutes. These proceedings dragged along for a period of three years, and at length the whole matter was left to the arbitration of the mayor (John Eland) and George and Edward Maddison, aldermen of Hull, and was so satisfactorily arranged that no further contentions arose between the parties.
In the same year (1515) a dispute arose between the mayor and the prior of the Charter House, and was amicably adjusted. The mayor claimed annually the sum of 6s. of the monks, and fealty for the occupation of a lane called Pole Street, running from the town's moat through the grounds called Trippett, to the Maison Dieu, near the Priory, to which the ground belonged. The matter was settled by the monks granting a lease of the ground to the mayor and burgesses, for the term of 89 years, at an annual rent of £4.
In 1517, the Rev. John Riplingham, D.D., president of the Beverley College, built a fish shambles in Fish Street, solely at his own expense, and he shortly afterwards, according to Tickell, (See His. "Hull," 146.) "founded an hospital in Vicar Lane, for the perpetual support of 20 poor people. He also founded a chantry in Trinity Church, Hull, which, together with the hospital, he endowed with the rent of 18 tenements and four gardens within the town, besides houses, lands, and tenements
lying elsewhere." Tickell tells us that this hospital was standing in the reign of Charles I., but that it was converted to other uses during the Civil War.
Five years afterwards, Henry VIII., being engaged in a war with France and Scotland, sent a letter to the corporation, desiring a loan of £265 11s. 4d. towards the expenses of this war, which amount was willingly advanced. In 1524, we are told by Frost, on the authority of De la Pryme's Index, that the king incorporated by charter a company or guild of merchants here, called after St. George.* Three years later, the tide in the Humber rose to such a height as to overflow, and much damage was done thereby to the town and to the neighbourhood. All the low grounds for miles round were laid under water. In the most elevated part of the town itself the water rose as high as five feet.
* According to the Rev. Dr. Lambert's recently published work, entitled "Two Thousand Years of Guild Life" (1892), this guild was founded on the 23rd of August, 1499. He says the history of this guild is obscure, and that De la Pryme seems to have been unaware of its existence. From the ordinances published in this interesting and valuable work, it appears, on the one hand, that this guild was a "mediæval" one pure and simple, its first ordinance being for the maintenance of a priest to say a mass called the morning mass, "bytwixt V. and VI. of the clokke in the mornyng," at the altar of "Seynt John Baptist and of Seynt George." It was a guild of the craft of merchants, who are seen to be clearly differentiated from the other trades of the times. On the other hand, it occupied a position plainly superior to the other crafts. It continued to exist well into the 16th century. "It is not improbable," says Dr. Lambert, "that though a trade guild, and thus not directly coming under the statute of dissolution, its strongly religious character, the maintenance of the priest, the lights, and masses, rendered its continuance impossible, if they did not cause its suppression."
In 1534, an Act of Parliament was passed by which provision was made for 26 suffragan bishops, whose duty was, in the absence of the bishops, to supply their places in all matters of order, though not of jurisdiction. Of the 26 towns appointed for suffragan sees, Hull was one, and the prelate had a magnificent palace in Bishop Lane, built principally of freestone, and "having lofty towers and spacious gateways." Dr. Marmaduke Bradley, the last abbot of Fountains (who surrendered the abbey in 1540) and one of the king's chaplains, is said to have been the first suffragan bishop of Hull. This institution was, however, of short duration, as Dr. Robert Pursglove, who was consecrated in 1552, was the last of the order, until its revival in the last decade of the 19th century. Before the dissolution of monasteries, he had been prior of Guisborough. He died in 1579, and was buried at Tideswell, in Derbyshire, the place of his birth. How many of these extra-ordinary prelates were consecrated to the see of Hull is not stated, the archives being silent on that head. The dignity of suffragan bishop of Hull was, however, revived under the old Act in 1891; the Rev. Dr. Blunt, vicar of Scarborough, being consecrated to the office on the 1st of May of that year.
The dispute between the people of Hull and Beverley, on account of the former attempting to levy an impost on "shyppys and botts," belonging to the men of Beverley, passing through their haven into the Humber, was again revived in 1534. This dispute was (after much litigation) referred to the arbitration of the Abbot of Meaux, and was settled by his award, by certain "articles of agreem't betweyne Hull and Beverley," whereby it was awarded that the inhabitants of Beverley should pay for every quarter of wheat, one penny, and one halfpenny for every quarter of grain if they anchored, made fast, or laid within the haven at Hull.
The lesser monasteries - those with a revenue under £200 a year - were first suppressed, and all those in the town and county of Hull fell under that description. These were the Carmelite Friary in Whitefriar Gate; St. Austin's Friary in Blackfriar Gate; and the Carthusian Monastery, founded by Michael de la Pole, and the Priories of Haltemprise and Ferriby. The dissatisfaction of the people rose to such a height in the County of York, that a rebellion, known as the "Pilgrimage of Grace," broke out, and made Henry tremble on his throne. Robert Aske, of Aughton, a gentleman highly connected, and gifted with much courage and more (as the sequel shewed too much) prudence, headed the malcontents, who numbered at least 40,000. This enterprise was, as we learn from the oath, of a purely religious character. Priests and monks marched st their head, in the habits of their various orders, carrying crosses and banners, on which were emblazoned the image of Christ crucified, the sacred Chalice and Host, and
"The fyve deare woundes Our Lorde did beare."On their sleeves too were embroidered the device of the five wounds, with the holy name of "JESUS" wrought in the centre.
The first great rendezvous in Yorkshire, was on Market Weighton Common. Here, William Stapleton, with 9,000 men of Holderness and Beverley, joined Aske, who divided his army into separate divisions. Stapleton was ordered to march upon Hull, then the most formidable fortress in the North of England, and which was at that time held by Sir Ralph Ellerker and Sir George Conyers for the king. He accordingly marched to Hull and summoned the governor to surrender, which he refused to do. Stapleton thereupon took up a position on the north side of the town, and commenced its siege. A majority of the townspeople being in favour of the rising, and the harbour being at the mercy of the besiegers, into whose camp reinforcements came daily thronging, the greatest despondency prevailed, and each day the defence of the town became more difficult. Finding it impossible to defend it further, a surrender was agreed upon, on the condition that the king's friends were to be spared taking the common oath, and on Friday, 20th October, 1536, Hull fell into the hands of the "Pilgrims." As soon as they were masters of the town, they walked in solemn procession to Holy Trinity Church, where they sang the Te Deum in thanksgiving. The ejected monks and friars were again put in the possession of the houses they had loved, and in which they had spent such guileless and peaceful years, and the dormitories and refectories of the monastery of St. Michael, and the friaries of St. Augustine, and of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, were once again peopled with their former tenants.
Stapleton strongly garrisoned Hull, and appointed John Hallam, of Cawkell-on-the-Wolds (who held a command as captain in his division), the governor of the town. It was probably this circumstance which led Tickell and other historians - prior to the late talented town clerk of Hull, Mr. C. S. Todd, to whose labours we must express our indebtedness - into the error of stating that it was Hallam who commanded the insurgents when they captured the town. Stapleton, with the remainder of his forces and "divers men of Hull," marched first to Hunsley and thence to Pontefract, to join his chief, Aske. About a fortnight later an armistice was agreed upon between the King's Commissioners and the Pilgrims, many of whom were disbanded. When this became known in Hull the mayor (Mr. William Rogers), Mr. Alderman Eland, with Mr. Knowles, and some of the townspeople boldly seized Hallam, turned him and his followers out of the town, and restored it to the king, for which services his majesty afterwards not only sent them his best thanks, but subsequently knighted both the mayor and the alderman. Hull did not, however, remain long in the possession of the king's party, for about the 9th November it was re-taken by the Pilgrims, who then guarded the harbour with cannon, and held the town by a strong garrison, under Sir Robert Constable, who, after Aske and Lord Darcy, was the third leader in the Pilgrim host. The king, however, having, by specious promises, secured, on the 2nd of December, the total disbandment of the mighty host of Pilgrims, recovered possession of Hull, into which he threw a strong garrison, with stores of cannon, arms, and ammunition, and strengthened the fortification. In less than two months, however, a second rising took place, under Sir Francis Bygot, of Mulgrave Castle and Setterington, in which many of the persons who had been engaged in the first rising were again concerned. Sir Francis unfurled his banner on the 12th January, 1537, at Setterington, where he was joined by John Hallam, and it was arranged that the latter should at once attempt to surprise Hull. The following day, being market day at Hull, Hallam, with twenty followers, all disguised as farmers, entered the town in couples to avoid exciting suspicion. He hoped to induce the townspeople and market folks to make a demonstration in their favour, and assist them in taking possession of the town; but they met with a very cool reception, and, hearing that the authorities were on the alert, hastened to make their escape. Hallam and two or three of his followers got outside the gates when someone cried out "Fie! will you go your ways and leave your men behind you?" "Not so," cried Hallam, turning back to render them assistance. He was met at the gates by Alderman Eland and Mr. Knowles, who asked him his name, a question which he truthfully answered. "Then," said Mr. Knowles, "thou art he that we seek for," and with that he and Mr. Eland set upon him, seized his horse's bridle, and struck at him with their daggers. Hallam drew his sword, and with his friends made defence, but they were quickly overpowered, made prisoners, and lodged in the town's gaol, then at the south end of the market place. Aske, who with other leaders of the first rising had disclaimed and condemned Bygot's proceedings, was appealed to save Hallam, and he, true to his friend, came to Hull in person to entreat the King's Commissioners to spare Hallam, a step which, whilst it compromised himself, did not save his friend. Hallam and some of his followers were tried at Hull, found guilty of high treason, and, in a very summary fashion, hanged, outside the gate, on the spot whence they had turned back to re-enter the town.
Aske, Sir Robert Constable, with other leaders of the Pilgrims, were arrested in April, and on the 16th of the following month were found guilty of high treason, and after some delay, were ordered to be executed in Yorkshire. At the beginning of June they were paraded through the Eastern Counties, under the charge of Sir Thomas Wentworth, who delivered them over to the custody of the Duke of Norfolk, by whom they were brought to Hull, where Sir Robert Constable was hanged. His execution is thus alluded to in a letter from the Duke of Norfolk to Cromwell, the Lord Privy Seal, dated July 8th, 1537 : - " On Frydaye, beyng market daye at Hull, Sir Robert Constable suifred, and dothe hang above the highest gate of the towne, so trymmed in cheynes, as this berer can shewe you, and I think his boones will hang there this hundrethe yere. And on Thursdaye, which shalbe market daie, God willing, I wolbe at the execution of Aske at Yourke, accompayned with such gentlemen as be nere those parties; and that done, shall remayne at Shrifhoton, unto the time I shall here fro you of the king's pleasure concernyng thaffaires of the marches, wich Thomas Hussy shall declare unto youe." In the Cottonian Library there is a curious drawing of Hull, made about this time, with a plan of the new fortifications erected by Henry VIII. A gallows stands outside the town with a body swinging on it, which was probably meant to represent Constable's. So ended one of the most conspicuous events in the history of Hull.
Though certain members of the corporation had been exceedingly prominent in displaying their loyalty to the king, and had given a helping hand to put down the insurrections, the corporation, as a body, do not appear to have been animated with any very great confidence in his majesty's notions of honesty and honour, for we find them in this same year (1537) unanimously agreeing to sell their plate, which was worth several hundred pounds, by auction, lest the king should take it into his head to seize it for his own use, as he had done with the religious houses. They determined to apply the proceeds of the sale - 1st, in defraying the expenses of their representatives in Parliament; 2ndly, in repairing the choir of Holy Trinity church; and 3rdly, in carrying out other public and necessary works in and about the town. One of the results of this determination was that, in 1538, a canal for conveying fresh water into Hull from Anlaby was completed, and opened amidst much rejoicing.
In the summer of 1541, Henry paid his long-deferred progress into Yorkshire. He left London on the 4th July, taking with him his young and beautiful Queen, Catherine Howard. They were accompanied by the élite of the nobility, and with the court came also gentlemen, pages, heralds, and many others in their suite. The ostensible object of his journey was to hold a conference at York with his nephew, James V. of Scotland, but there can be no doubt that his chief aim was to allay the discontent of the disturbed counties, and reconcile the minds of the people to the late changes on church matters, and above all to the dissolution of the monasteries. Henry, fond of pleasure as he was, had a taste for business which he never allowed amusement to interfere with, his Privy Council sat almost every day for the despatch of public business.
The king and his train travelled by easy stages through Herefordshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Lincolnshire, into Yorkshire, and arrived at Leckonfield, near Beverley, in September. On the 10th September the royal party set out from Leckonfield for Hull. The king's visit being expected, great preparations had been made for his reception, the wealth of the town being expended in providing, according to the fashion of the times, monstre pageants in his honour. The king and his magnificent suite were met "at the boarded bridge, near Newland," by the sheriff and a body of gentlemen. The usual formalities over, a procession was formed and marched to the Beverley Gate, where a platform had been erected, covered with scarlet cloth. Here his majesty and train were welcomed by the mayor, Mr. Thureross, and corporation, in their robes of office, then, amidst a flourish of trumpets and a clang of bells - the gables of the houses being decorated with tapestry, and the shipping in the harbour adorned with flags and streamers - the procession wended its way through Whitefriargate to the stately mansion built by the De la Poles, in Lowgate, then the mayor's official residence, and known as the Manor House. Here there would doubtless be a banquet, served with all the barbaric splendour of the period. On the two following days the Privy Council sat for the transaction of public business. The king remained three days in Hull, and was "most magnificently and nobly entertained at the town's expense," and on leaving, his majesty graciously accepted from the town a purse containing £100. The royal party then set out for Risby, the seat of Sir Ralph Ellerker, en route for York.
On the 30th of September, the day appointed by the town's charters for the election of a mayor, the burgesses of Hull were assembled at their common hall for the purpose of proceeding with the election, when a messenger arrived, and announced that the king intended that day to dine in the town. The people were indeed surprised at this unexpected intelligence, and Mr. Alderman James Johnson was suddenly elected to fill the office of mayor. The alderman refused to stand, and with the rest of the corporation, accompanied by crowds of the townspeople, left the hall, and went to meet the king and escort his grace and the royal party into the town. Hadley Tickell and Sheahan, the printed historians of Hull, state that Alderman Thomas Dalton was elected mayor upon this occasion, but De la Pryme, the MS. historian of the town, states that Alderman James Johnson was so chosen, and the late C. S. Todd conclusively proved that De la Pryme is correct.
Mr. Todd in his "Incidents in the history of Kingston-upon-Hull, from the accession of Henry VII. to the death of Henry VIII.," gave, for the first time, from the Minutes of the Privy Council, the true account of this transaction. The facts are these : - On the 1st October, the Privy Council again sat in Hull, the Duke of Norfolk, the Duke of Suffolk, the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Lord Admiral, the Bishop of Durham, the Treasurer of the King's Household, the Comptroller of the Household, the Master of the Horse, the Vice-Chamberlain, Sir M. Wriothesley, the Secretary of State, and the Clerk of the Council, being present, when Mr. James Johnson, "who was chosen mayor the day before with great commotion," came before the council and there shewed certain reasons why it behove him not that year to be mayor, especially for that a great time of the year he should necessarily be absent; whereupon, notwithstanding, the day of charter was past, yet, for that time only, it was decreed that this election should be void, and that the burgesses should again assemble themselves in their common hall and proceed to a new election; which desire, being declared by the Clerk of the Council to the burgesses in such their common hall, the burgesses thereupon proceeded to a new election, and chose for their mayor "one Sir John Eland, Knight," who had filled the office three times before. The king, finding on this occasion that the mayor of his loyal borough of Kingston-upon-Hull had no suitable sword of state, took his own sword from his side and presented it to Sir John Eland, and ordered that it should thenceforth always be carried erect before the mayor. Sir John humbly received the sword upon his knees and kissed it. This sword is still in the possession of the corporation, and is probably the most interesting article preserved amongst its plate and insignia; and the custom is still maintained of carrying it erect before the mayor, who drops his sword point only when in the presence of the sovereign or the heir apparent. The scabbard is of red velvet, and has three silver-gilt rings, and round its extreme end a silver-gilt point. Some doubt has, in recent times, been expressed concerning the identity of this sword, but its workmanship is evidently ancient, and corresponds to that of the time of the fierce Tudor kings; and the point affords conclusive proof of the identity of the weapon, for it has on each side a Tudor rose, impaled with a pomegranate, the emblem of Katherine of Arragon. This device was only used by Henry and his daughter, Queen Mary, and leaves no doubt that, though the blade may have been re-modelled, the town has still the veritable sword hilt and scabbard worn by Henry VIII., and given by him to the Mayor of Hull.* After the presentation of the sword, the meeting of the corporation broke up and the rest of the day was spent in feasting and jollity. (See "The plate and insignia of the Hull Corporation," by Ald. Kelburne King, M.D., 1880.)
The next day, 2nd October, 1541, the Privy Council sat again at Hull, and the mayor and aldermen came before it and there declared the cause of the decay of the town and desired redress therein. The king accordingly took a careful survey of the town and its fortifications, and finding that it required additional strength to defend a place of such importance against foreign invasion, gave orders for the construction of two great blockhouses, and other defences on the east side of the harbour, and for many additions to be made to the existing lower walls arid outworks. The North Blockhouse stood near the present North Bridge, and the South Blockhouse near the mouth of the harbour. From each of these blockhouses a wall or rampart extended to the castle, which stood midway between them, joining all together in one line of fortification. The North Blockhouse was taken down in 1801. The king also directed that a bridge, on the site of the existing North Bridge, be built, a new fresh water canal to be cut, from Newland to Hull, and the Suffolk Manor House to be thoroughly repaired and fortified. (In the Corporation Records of this reign there appears the following entry, "Item: the king's ma'tes house to be made to serve as a sitidell and special kepe of the hole town.")
In the State Paper Office there is the original minute devised by the king for the "advancement of these works." Several corrections in this document are in the handwriting of the king himself, and amongst other directions are the following : -
"The corner tower to be made larger, to answer the brick gate next the haven, and to respond to the gate where Constable hangeth."
"The gate where Constable hangeth to have a barbican made, to defend the gate and flanks."
There is a romantic story told by Tickell of Henry's visit to Hull. it is said that, whilst banqueting in the town, the king heard the singular beauty of Lady Wake, of Baynard Castle, Cottingham, greatly extolled. The lady's praise excited the curiosity of the amorous monarch, who despatched a messenger to inform Lord Wake that he intended to dine with him on the following day. The message, that this licentious king was about to visit him, threw Lord Wake into a terrible state of bewilderment. He saw the snare, and determined to avoid it. It was impossible to refuse the proffered honour, and yet he knew that it would bring trouble and disgrace to his wife, and probably death to himself. As the only way out of the dilemma, he decided to destroy his castle. At dead of night he sallied forth, accompanied by his wife, having first given orders to his faithful steward to fire the castle. So effectually were his commands obeyed that, when morning dawned, nothing remained of the once noble mansion of the Wakes. Next morning the king was informed that the castle he had designed to visit had been accidentally burned down during the night. His visit was therefore rendered impossible, and he at once generously wrote to Lord Wake, and offered him £2,000 towards rebuilding his castle, but the latter contrived to evade the gift, and the castle was not rebuilt.
(This story has been made the subject of a fine poem by Mr. Alderman S. Woodhouse, of Hull, and of an historical romance by the late Miss Agnes Stewart, entitled "The Last Abbot of Thornton," and published by Messrs. Burns & Oates, London, 1887.)
Such is the romantic story related by local historians, but on enquiry it appears to have no solid foundation in truth. Leland visited Cottingham in 1538 (three years before Henry's visit), and he states in his "Itinerary " - " I saw where the Stutville's Castelle dobell diked and moated stode, of the which now nothing remaynith." Besides there was no Lord Wake at the date to which the story refers - the title having become extinct in 1407.
The Privy Council again sat at Hull on the 4th and 5th October, and at the latter meeting the king expressed his high satisfaction at the duty and honour paid him by the town. On the same day he, with the queen and their retinue, embarked on two men of war, crossed the Humber to Barrow Haven, in Lincolnshire, whence they proceeded to Thornton Abbey, where they were met by the abbot and monks, and received with great hospitality. Soon after his arrival in London, the king appointed Sir Richard Long to be fort-governor of Hull, with Michael Stanhope, Esq., as his lieutenant, with power to levy forces whenever occasion required. These appointments were intended for the greater security and defence of the town till the castle and fortifications were finished.
In 1545, the king suppressed the colleges, chapels, chantries, hospitals, and fraternities, and seized their revenues. Amongst the hospitals dissolved at Hull, four of them - namely, Gregg's and Riplingham's hospitals, the Trinity House, and the Charter House - were re-founded in the succeeding reign, and remain to this day. In the same year, Hull was erected into a royal honour during the life of the king, by Act of Parliament. This distinction was, however, lost at the death of Henry in January, 1547.
In 1549, Messrs. Johnson, Jobson, and Thorp, three of the former sheriffs, were fined £6 13s. 4d. each for being deficient in the elegance of their entertainment, in neglecting to wear scarlet gowns, and for not providing the same for their wives during their shrievalties.