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Robinson's Guide to Richmond (1833)

Part 18


To the east of Rokeby is the parish of Wycliffe, which for a long series of years was owned by a family of the same name. They are first noticed in a record of the time of Edward I. and continued to hold the estate until the early part of the seventeenth century, when the eldest branch ended in female co-heiresses. There is strong reason to believe that the venerable Wycliffe, the translator of the bible, and "morning star of the reformation," was a younger brother of this family:- and in the rectory at Wycliffe, is preserved a portrait of the Reformer, painted by Sir Antony More. this, however, could not be an original painting, as that Artist was a contemporary of Edward VI. and Queen Mary; and Dr. Whitaker conjectures that it has probably been copied from an "illumination" in one of the manuscripts of Wycliffe's Bible.

The chief argument against the reformer's connection with this family, is the fact that his name is not found in their recorded pedigrees. It appears, however, from their religious benefactions, and their connections in the Hierarchy, that they were warmly attached to the Romish Religion; and as Vaughan, in his life of the Reformer, justly observes, "it is in the highest degree probable, that the difficulty of placing Wycliffe's consanguinity with the patrons of Wycliffe beyond all possible suspicion, has arisen purely from the efforts of his kinsmen to save their descendants from bearing the reproach of his enormous heresy." In fact, Wycliffe himself seems to allude to this circumstance in one of his tracts where, speaking of the difficulties which surround the pious children of worldly minded parents, he says, "For by so doing, the child getteth many enemies to his elders, and they say that he slandereth all their noble kindred who were ever held to be true men and worshipful."

It should also be stated, that Leland, in his description of Richmond, mentions a place which he calls Spreswell, "a good mile from Richmond, the birth place of John Wicliffe." No village or hamlet of that name is to be found in Richmondshire; and on this vague memorandum, which is not supported by any record or other authority, Dr. Whitaker has ventured to build a theory which fixes Hipswell as the Reformer's native village. But Leland himself, in his Collectanea, supplies evidence to the contrary. After describing the parish of Wycliffe, he adds "unde Wigclif haereticus originem duxit." It seems, however, to be admitted on all hands that Richmondshire may boast the honour of his origin.

Although the estate has passed, as above mentioned, into other families, the lineage of the Wycliffe's can be traced in undoubted succession, through a younger branch, to the late Mr. Wycliffe of Richmond, who died childless, about ten or twelve years ago.

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