A History of York
from Baine's Gazetteer (1823)

Part 4

Suppression of the monasteries

From this period the annals of York contain scarcely any important transaction, till the year 1536, the 27th of Henry VIII. when the suppression of the monasteries and the progress of the reformation excited a great sensation in the northern counties. The suppression of the religious houses inflicted a terrible blow on the grandeur of York. In the reign of Henry V. this city contained, besides the cathedral, 41 parish churches, 17 chapels, 16 hospitals, and 9 religious houses, including the noble abbey of St. Mary, without Bootham Bar. No sooner, says Drake, was the word given, than down fell the monasteries, priories, chapels, and hospitals in this city, and with them, for company, I suppose, 18 parish churches, the materials and revenues of all being converted to secular uses. The lazars, sick and old people were turned out of hospitals, and priests and nuns out of religious houses, to starve or beg their bread. The natural consequence of such sweeping and indiscriminate reforms was to excite a spirit of rebellion, and in Yorkshire a formidable insurrection was raised by Robert Aske, a gentleman of considerable fortune, who possessed great influence in the country. The other chief persons concerned were Sir Robert Constable, Sir John Bulmer, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Stephen Hamilton, Nicholas Tempest, and William Lumley, Esqrs. Their enterprize they called "the pilgrimage of grace," and they swore that they were moved by no other motive than their love to God, their care of the king's person and issue, their desire to purify the nobility, to drive base-born persons from about the king, to restore the church, and to suppress heresy. Allured by these fair pretensions, about 40,000 men, from the counties of York, Durham, and Lancaster, flocked to their standard, and their zeal, no less than their numbers inspired the court with apprehensions. When the army was put in motion, a number of priests marched at their head, in the habits of their order, carrying crosses in their hands; in their banners was woven a crucifix, with the representation of a chalice, and the five wounds of Christ ; (Ref: Fox, vol. ii. page 992.) and they wore on their sleeve an emblem of the five wounds with the name of Jesus wrought in the middle. The rebels succeeded in taking both Hull and York, and laid siege to Pontefract Castle, in which the Archbishop and Lord Darcy, at the head of a body of the king's troops had thrown themselves. The castle speedily surrendered, and the prelate and nobleman joined the insurrection. The Duke of Norfolk, at the head of a small army of 5000 men, was sent against the rebels, and the king issued a proclamation, in which he told them that they ought no more to pretend to give a judgment with regard to government, than a blind man with regard to colours: "and we," he added, "with our whole council, think it right strange that ye who are but brutes and inexpert folks, do take upon you to appoint us, who be meet or not for our council." The Duke of Norfolk encamped near Doncaster, where he entered into a negociation with the rebels, which was protracted till the Pilgrims of Grace, reduced almost to a state of famine, and dispirited by the sudden rising of the Don, at two different times, when they meditated an attack, began to disperse, and suffered their leaders to be taken prisoners. Some of them, with the abbots of Fountains, Jervaux, and Rivalx, were executed at Tyburn, Sir Robert Constable was hanged in chains over Beverley gate, at Hull; Lord Darcy was beheaded on Tower Hill; and Aske, the leader of the insurrection, was suspended from a tower, probably Clifford's Tower, at York. In August, 1541, Henry VIII. in order to tranquilize the minds of his subjects, made a tour into the north: On his arrival at Barnsdale, in the West Riding of this county, he was met by two hundred gentlemen in velvet coats and suitable accoutrements, with four thousand tall yeomen and three hundred clergymen, who, on their knees, made submission to his Majesty, and presented him with £600. From thence the king repaired to York, where he spent 12 days, and returned to London by way of Hull, crossing the Humber, into Lincolnshire. Five years after this visit Henry died, leaving behind him the terrible character that throughout his reign he neither spared man in his anger nor woman in his lust. The first printing press was erected in York in his reign by Hugo Goes, the son of an ingenious printer at Antwerp. The site of this infant establishment was in the Minster yard, near St. William's college, where the royal printing press was afterwards placed in 1642. while Charles I. was at York.

In the reign of Edward VI., on the 15th of April, 1551, began that terrible distemper, called, the Sweating Sickness. This disease, which first manifested itself in sudden chillness, was succeeded by a violent sweat, which brought on sleep, and terminated in death, spread throughout the kingdom, and produced a great mortality in York.

Yorkshire, during the reign of Mary, surnamed the bloody, enjoyed repose, and it does not appear, that this ancient city was the scene of any of her persecutions.

The long and splendid reign of Elizabeth affords few materials for the historian of York. In her reign, a rebellion broke out in the North, headed by Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and Charles Nevil, Earl of Westmoreland, the object of which was to restore the Roman Catholic religion. The failure of this enterprize involved many of the conspirators in ruin; and on Good Friday, the 27th of March, l570, Simon Digby, of Askew, and John Fulthorpe, of Isebbeck, Esqrs. with Robert Pennyman, of Stokesley, and Thomas Bishop, of Pocklington, gentlemen, were drawn from the Castle of York, to Knavesmire, and there "hanged, headed, and quartered." To strike terror into the inhabitants, their heads with four of their quarters, were placed on the four principal gates of the city, and the other quarters were set up in different other parts of the country. The Earl of Westmoreland found means to escape out of the country, but Northumberland was taken, and being attainted by Parliament, was beheaded, August 22, 1572, on a scaffold, erected in the pavement, at York, and his head set on a high pole on Micklegate bar. This was the last open attempt made to restore the Roman Catholic Religion in this kingdom.

James I and Charles I visit York

James I. visited York, in the year 1603, on his way from Scotland to London, and was received by the Lord Mayor, and citizens, with great magnificence and splendid demonstrations of loyalty. In the year 1617, this monarch, with his nobles and knights, both English and Scotch, again passed through York, on his way to Scotland, and met with a reception equally cordial. During his residence, this sagacious prince, the Solomon of the North, touched about 70 persons afflicted with the King's Evil. In the second year of his reign, York was once more visited by a plague, of which 3512 persons died. To prevent the spread of the contagion, stone crosses were erected in various parts of the vicinity of York, where the country people, without coming into the city, met the citizens, and sold them provisions. Several of these memorials of the last plague; which ever prevailed here, remain to this day. In 1607, there was a frost of such severity and continuance, that the Ouse became almost a solid body of ice, and a horse race was run on the river, from the Tower, at the end of Marygate, under the great arch of the bridge, to the crane, at Skeldergate postern. Seven years afterwards, there was so heavy a fall of snow, during a frost of about seven weeks, that when it was dissolved by a thaw, the waters of the Ouse so much inundated North-street and Skeldergate, that the inhabitants were obliged to quit their habitations, and to seek safety in more elevated situations.

The contests between the prerogatives of the Crown, and the privileges of Parliament, in the reign of Charles I. shook York to its centre; and it is a little remarkable, that the same county which afforded the scene of action for the battle which decided the fate of the house of Lancaster, on the field of Towton, should have witnessed the overthrow of the house of Stuart, on the field of Marston. Eight years after Charles had mounted the British throne, and before evil advisers had embroiled him with his Parliament and people, he visited the city of York, on his way from Scotland to London, and received a loyal and cordial welcome. Six years afterwards, on the 30th of March, 1639, the Scots having broken out into open rebellion, the King came down to York, on an expedition against the insurgents. During the King's residence in York, he kept the festival, called "Maunday Thursday," in the Cathedral; when the Bishop of Ely washed the feet of thirty-nine poor aged men, in warm water, and dried them with a linen cloth. Afterwards, the Bishop of Winchester washed them over again in white wine, and dried, and kissed them. This part of the ceremony being over, the King gave to each of them several articles of apparel, a purse of money, and a quantity of wine and provisions. To add to the royal condescension, his Majesty on the day following, being Good Friday, touched two hundred persons, in the Minster, for the King's Evil; but with what success, the historian very discreetly chooses not to disclose. Having spent a month in York, his Majesty and his nobles, at the head of the army marched towards Scotland. On his approach the Scots laid down their arms, and swore allegiance; but the very next year, when the King had disbanded his army, Lesley, Earl of Leven, and the Marquis of Montrose, entered England, at the head of a Scotch army. To arrest the progress of the invaders, the King left London, and came to York, where he convened a great council of all the Peers of England, to meet and attend his Majesty there. This proceeding naturally spread an alarm through the country that the king intended to lay aside one of the three estates of Parliament, and to govern the nation without a House of Commons. Petitions poured in upon his Majesty, beseeching him to call a parliament, and the gentry of Yorkshire pressed this measure upon him with much earnestness. On the 24th of September, 1640, the great assembly of Peers met in the Deanery, at York, the hall of which was richly hung with tapestry, and the king's chair of state was placed upon the half pace of the stairs, at the upper end of the hall, from whence his Majesty delivered a speech, in which he announced his intention to call a parliament in the course of the present year; his majesty asked council, at the same time, of the Peers in what way to treat a petition for a redress of grievances which he had received from the Scotch invaders, and how his army should be kept on foot and maintained until the supplies from Parliament might be had for that purpose. While the sitting of the Peers continued, which was from the 24th, of September, till the 18th of October, commissioners were employed in negociating a peace with the Scotch, at Ripon; but these negociations produced merely a cessation of hostilities, till the meeting of Parliament. The accumulated evils of thirty years of mis-government, had now brought the kingdom to the verge of a great revolution. The long Parliament assembled on the 3rd, of November, 1640; and their two first acts were to vote down the council court of York, and to impeach Strafford and Laud, the King's chief advisers. The government, which in the hands of Charles had assumed the character of an absolute monarchy, soon became democratical, to a degree incompatible with the spirit of the constitution. Lieutenants, and deputy lieutenants of counties, who had exercised powers for the national defence, not authorized by statute, were declared delinquents. Sheriffs, who had been employed to assess ship money, and the Jurors and Officers of the Customs, who had been employed in levying tonnage and poundage, as well as the holders of monopolies by patents, were brought under the same vague charge, and the latter were expelled from the House of Commons. The Judges, who had given their votes against Hampden, in the trial of ship-money, were accused before the Peers, and in a few weeks, such a revolution was produced in the government, by the House of Commons, seconded by the Peers, that the kingly power which had been almost omnipotent, was in danger of being reduced to insignificance. These measures naturally placed the Parliament at issue with the King, and the differences between the conflicting authorities continued to increase, during the years 1640 and 1641, till an open rupture became unavoidable. In the early. part of 1642, the King with his son Charles, Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, and several noblemen left London; and on the 18th of March arrived at York, where he was received by the nobility and gentry of the North, with suitable demonstrations of loyalty. His Majesty's first care, on his arrival in Yorkshire, was to secure the vast magazines in the fortress of Hull, consisting of all the arms and ammunition of the forces levied against the Scots; with this view he repaired to that port in person, and required Sir John Hotham, the governor, who had received his commission from the Parliament to deliver up the possession. Sir John, perceiving that matters were drawing to a crisis, shut the gates, and refused to admit the King, though he requested leave to enter with twelve persons only. Charles, being thus repulsed, slept that night at Beverley, and the next day returned to York, having previously declared Hotham a traitor. Civil war seemed now inevitable. The armies which had been raised for the service of Ireland, were openly enlisted by the Parliament for their own purposes, and the command of them was given to the Earl of Essex. The Queen, on the other hand, departed the kingdom, and sold the crown jewels, in Holland, to purchase a cargo of arms and ammunition. The King still remained at York, where he employed himself with great activity in rousing his adherents to arms. His unhappy prediliction for arbitrary power, had raised him a host of enemies, while his moral virtues, which adorned his station, had procured him a great body of zealous supporters. Negociations still proceeded, and Parliament presented for his acceptance, nineteen propositions, in which the privileges of Parliament so far out-weighed the prerogatives of the crown, that they were deemed wholly inadmissible: "Should I grant these demands," said the King in reply, "I may be waited on bare-headed; I may have my hand kissed; the title of Majesty may be continued to me; and the King's authority signified by both Houses, may still be the style of your commands; I may have swords and maces carried before me; and please myself with the signs of a crown and a sceptre; but as to true and real power, I should remain but the outside, but the picture, but the sign of a King." Charles, accordingly resolved to support his authority by arms. His towns, he said, were taken from him ; his ships, his arms, his money; but there still remained to him a good cause, and the hearts of his loyal subjects, which, with God's blessing, he doubted not, would recover all the rest. Having constituted the Earl of Cumberland, supreme commander of his forces, and appointed Sir Thomas Glemham, governor of York; his Majesty, after a residence of five months in this city, took his departure for the South, and erected his royal standard at Nottingham, on the 25th of August.

Civil War and York

Sir Thomas Fairfax, of Denton, and Captain Hotham, son of the governor of Hull, at the head of a body of forces in the service of Parliament, advanced from the West, so far towards York, as to fortify Tadcaster and Wetherby, and twice repulsed Sir Thomas Glemham, in two vigorous assaults which he made on their forces, in the latter of these places. The success of the parliamentarians induced the loyal party, in Yorkshire, to solicit succour from the Earl of Newcastle, who had raised a considerable force in the North. The Earl immediately marched to their assistance, and on the 30th of November, arrived at York, with 6000 men, and 10 pieces of artillery. The Earl of Cumberland then resigned his commission to the Earl of Newcastle, who, after having staid only three days in York, to refresh his troops, marched out with 4000 men, and 7 pieces of cannon, to attack the enemy at Tadcaster. At the same time, the Earl sent his Lieutenant-general, the Earl of Newport, with 2000 men to attack Wetherby. In both these expeditions, the loyalists were successful, and the King's affairs in this quarter began to wear a more promising aspect. At the beginning of the year, 1643, Leeds, Wakefield, Skipton, and Knaresbro', were all in the hands of the loyalists, and Bradford, which had stood a siege, surrendered to them, after the battle of Adwalton. On the 22d, of February, the Queen landed at Bridlington Quay, with 38 pieces of cannon, and 10,000 stand of small arms. The Lord-general, as the Earl of Newcastle was called, on receiving intelligence of her arrival, set out from York, and conveyed her Majesty, with the military stores to this city, where she remained three months. For this service he was created a Marquis. Early in the following year, Sir Thomas Fairfax, having gained a considerable victory over the royalist force, near Selby, was joined by the Scotch general, the Earl of Leven; and these two commanders, with their united forces, commenced the blockade of York, on the 19th of April. The parliamentary army not being sufficiently numerous to invest the city, the Northern side remained open; and the Earl of Newcastle having between four and five thousand cavalry in the place, could by means of a bridge over the Ouse, transport them to either side of the river, and attack any corps that he might see divided from the rest. The Earl of Manchester, however, soon after arrived with his troops, consisting of 6000 foot, and 3000 horse, provided with 12 field pieces, took a position near Bootham bar, towards Clifton, and thus completely invested the city. The siege of York was now vigorously prosecuted by the three parliamentary generals, Fairfax, Levens, and Manchester, with an army of from twenty to thirty thousand men; several batteries were opened against the place, and particularly one on a hill, near Walmgate bar, from whence four pieces of cannon played incessantly on the tower, castle, and city, while the garrison, and armed inhabitants, from their different platforms, kept up a heavy fire on the works of the besiegers, The siege was pressed forward with great spirit, and with various success, till the 30th of June, in the evening of which day, the besiegers, to their surprise and consternation, received information, that Prince Rupert, with an army of twenty thousand men was advancing to the relief of the city, and would that night take up his quarters at Knaresbro', and Boroughbridge. The parliamentary General, having called a council of war, resolved to raise the siege. Accordingly, on the 1st of July, they drew off from their entrenchments before the city, and marched to Hesseymoor, 6 miles West of York. His Royal Highness aware of this movement, caused only a body of horse to face the enemy, at Skipbridge, and interposing the Ouse between him and the adverse army, safely joined his forces to those of the Marquis of Newcastle. His arrival in York produced the most unfeigned demonstrations of joy, and a council of war was immediately called, in which the Marquis of Newcastle, having received intelligence, that dissensions prevailed amongst the parliamentarian generals, who were about to separate, and expecting at the same time, a further reinforcement of 5000 men, under Colonel Clavering, gave it as his decided opinion, that it was unnecessary and inexpedient, at the present moment to hazard an engagement. To this reasoning, Prince Rupert, whose marshal ardour was not sufficiently tempered with prudence, insisted upon the propriety of an immediate attack, and strengthened his reasons, by asserting, that he had positive orders from the King to bring the enemy to action. Fairfax, and the other Generals of the parliamentary army, were divided in their opinions. "The English," says Fairfax, in his Memoirs, "were for fighting; the Scots for retreating, to gain as they alleged, both time and place of more advantage. This being resolved on, we marched away for Tadcaster, which made the royalists advance the faster. Lieutenant-general Cromwell, Lesly, and myself, were appointed to bring up the rear. We sent word to the Generals, that it was necessary to make a stand, or else, the enemy having this advantage, might put us in some disorder; but by the advantage of the ground we were on, we hoped to make it good, till they came back to us, which they did. The place was Marston fields, (Note: Marston Moor, the scene of this memorable battle is near the highway, between Wetherby and York, from each of which places it is about 7 miles distant.) which afterwards gave name to this battle." "This action," says Hume, fought on the 2nd, of July, 1644, "was obstinately disputed between the most numerous armies that were ever engaged during the course of these wars; nor were the forces on each side much different in number. Fifty thousand British troops were led to mutual slaughter; and the victory seemed long undecided between them. Prince Rupert, who commanded the right-wing of the royalists, was opposed to Cromwell, who conducted the choice troops of the parliament, inured to danger under that determined leader, animated by zeal, and confirmed by the most rigid discipline. After a short combat, the cavalry of the royalists gave way; and such of the infantry as stood near them were likewise borne down, and put to flight. Newcastle's regiment alone, resolute to conquer or to perish, obstinately kept their ground, and maintained by their dead bodies the same order in which they had at first been ranged. In the other wing, Sir Thomas Fairfax, and Colonel Lambert, with some troops, broke through the royalists; and transported by the ardour of pursuit, soon reached their victorious friends, engaged also in the pursuit of the enemy. But after that tempest was passed, Lucas, who commanded the royalists in this wing, restoring order to his broken forces, made a furious attack on the parliamentary cavalry, threw them into disorder, pushed them upon their own infantry, and put the whole wing to route. When ready to seize on their carriages and baggage, he perceived Cromwell, who was now returned from the pursuit of the other wing. Both sides were not a little surprised to perceive that they must renew the combat, for that victory which each of them thought they had already obtained. The front of the battle was now exactly counter-changed; and each army occupied the ground which had been possessed by the enemy at the beginning of the day. This second battle was equally furious and desperate with the first; but after the utmost efforts of courage by both parties, victory wholly turned to the side of the parliament. The Prince's train of artillery was taken, and the whole royalist army pushed off the field of battle." This battle sealed the fate of the royal cause. The day after the battle, the brave Marquis of Newcastle resolved to quit the kingdom; and Prince Rupert drew his army from the city of York and marched into Lancashire.

In this state of desertion, Sir Thomas Glemham, the governor, was reduced to the painful necessity of surrendering the city, which he did, thirteen days after the battle of Marston Moor, on the most honourable terms. The siege of York had continued nearly thirteen weeks, during which time, the city had sustained twenty-two assaults, and between four and five thousand of the enemy had perished before its walls. On its surrender, the parliamentary generals entered the city in solemn procession, and went directly to the Cathedral, where a psalm was sung, and the following day was observed as a day of general thanksgiving. York, being thus subjected to the parliament, Lord Ferdinando Fairfax was made its governor; and he, and his son, the General, surnamed the hero of the commonwealth, received commissions to reduce all the garrisons in this county, that still held out for the King -- a commission, which in a short time they effected. After the whole kingdom was brought under subjection to the parliament, York was dismantled of its garrison, with the exception of Clifford's tower, of which the Lord Mayor was appointed governor, and continued to hold that commission for several years.

Henry Jenkins at the York assizes

York has little share in the annals of the Protectorate. Cromwell does not appear to have been ever in this city, except at the time of its capture after the battle of Marston Moor; and another time on his way into Scotland, when the royal arms were displaced to substitute those of the existing government; when he partook of the Lord Mayor's hospitality at a public dinner, and the day following he pursued his journey northward. One of the assizes at York during the Commonwealth, was rendered remarkable by the attendance of that extraordinary instance of human longevity, Henry Jenkins. The cause was heard in the year 1667, and was between the vicar of Catterick, and William and Peter Mawbank, wherein the witness deposed that the tithes of wool, lamb, &c. had been paid to his knowledge one hundred and twenty years or more! Jenkins had appeared at York two years before, to prove the existence of an ancient road to a mill for one hundred and twenty years. He remembered the dissolution of the monasteries, and said that great lamentation was made on that occasion. In early life he was butler to Lord Conyers, of Hornby castle, and was often at Fountain's Abbey, during the residence of the last abbot, who, he said, frequently visited his lord, and drank a hearty glass with him. He was born at Ellerton-upon-Swale, in this county, before parish registers were in use; but Bishop Lyttleton communicated to the Society of Antiquarians, on the 11th of December, 1766, a paper copied from an old household book of Sir Richard Graham, Bart. of Norton Conyers, the writing of which says, that upon his going to live at Bolton, Jenkins was said to be about one hundred and fifty years old, that he had often examined him in his sister's kitchen, where he came to beg alms, and found facts and chronicles agree in his account. He was then one hundred and sixty-two or one hundred and sixty-three years of age; and said that he went to Northallerton, with a horse load of arrows for the battle of Flodden field, with which a bigger boy went forward to the army, under the Earl of Surrey, King Henry being at that time at Tournay, and he believed himself then eleven or twelve years old. This was in 1513, and four or five people of the same parish, said to be one hundred years old or near it, declared Jenkins to have been an old man ever since they knew him. He died in December, 1670, at the place of his birth, aged one hundred and sixty-nine years, where a monument is erected to his memory, the epitaph of which was composed by Dr. Thomas Chapman, master of Magdalen College, Cambridge. (Note: See Ellerton-upon-Swale.) Jenkins, was co-temporary with Thomas Parr, the patriarchal Shropshireman, of whom it is recorded that he was born in 1483, and lived in the reign of ten kings and queens; that the general habits of his life were temperate and frugal, that he was able, even at the age of one hundred and thirty to do husbandry work; and that at the age of one hundred and five, he did penance in Alderbury church, for lying with Katharine Milton, and getting her with child, (Ref: Oldys's MS. notes on Fuller's Worthies.) that he died in 1635, aged one hundred and fifty-two years and nine months; and that his remains rest among the eminent dead in Westminster Abbey.

Restoration of the Crown

The county of York was well disposed to promote the restoration, and General Monk, on his arrival here in 1659, found the public disposition so favourable to the royal cause, that he was for some time in a state of suspense, whether he should not proclaim the king in this city. A secret correspondence had for some time been maintained between the General and Lord Fairfax, who had imbibed the same principles, and on the 11th of May, 1660, Charles II. was proclaimed with great solemnity at York. On the 5th of August, 1666, the Duke and Duchess of York, visited this city, and were received with every demonstration of loyalty and affection; but in the year 1679, when the bill of exclusion was brought forward in parliament, the Duke in passing through York on his way to Edinburgh, was received here with much less cordiality. This defect of ceremony, drew on the magistrates the resentment of the court; they received a severe reprimand from the secretary of state, and the city being afterwards considered disaffected, its charter was in the year 1684, suspended. This year the notorious Jefferys attended at York, as one of the Judges of Assize.

On the death of Charles II. his brother James, Duke of York, succeeded to the throne; and on the petition of the citizens restored their charter, which was received with the greatest solemnity, and nothing was omitted to display their joy on the occasion. The inhabitants of York, continued to show their gratitude and loyalty to this infatuated monarch, till the moment of his abdication, after which, this city followed the example of the rest of the kingdom, by recognizing the Prince of Orange, as sovereign of the kingdom, under the title of William III.

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Data transcribed from:
Baines Gazetteer 1823
Scan, OCR and html software by Colin Hinson.
Checking and correction by Richard Tetley.