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

Part 2

From all walks of life

York has produced several characters eminent in history, and a still larger number eminent in the ages in which they lived. Amongst the former of these may be mentioned CONSTANTINE THE GREAT, the first Christian Emperor; FLACCUS ALBANUS, the pupil of Bede and the mentor of Charlemagne; and WALTHEOF, Earl of Northumberland, and son of the gallant Siward. Amongst the latter we find the names of ROBERT FLOWER, the hermit of Knaresborough, usually called St. Robert. born in 1190; JOHN LE ROMAINE, the thirty-eighth archbishop of York, and the natural son of John Romaine, a priest and treasurer of the cathedral ; JOHN WALDBY, and ROBERT his brother, two eminent scholars, who flourished about the middle of the fourteenth century, the former of whom was the forty-seventh archbishop of this province; JOHN ERGHOM, a friar Eremite; and JOHN BATE, a friar Carmelite; both profound expositors of the holy scriptures, and authors of celebrity in the fifteenth century; VALENTINE FREES and his WIFE, rendered memorable by having, according to Fox, died for religion at the stake in the year 1531, and of whom Fuller says, that they were, according to his recollection, the only man and his wife ever thus married together in martyrdom; EDWARD FREES, the brother of Valentine, born also at York, who, for having heretically painted some passages of scripture on the borders of several pieces of cloth, was committed to prison by John Stoaksley, Lord Bishop of London, and there, according to Fox, was fed with manchet made of sawdust, and kept in prison till the flesh of his wrists grew over his irons, his reason having in the mean time so far forsaken him that when brought for examination before his persecutor, he said, "My Lord is a good man!" GEORGE TANKERFIELD, another martyr, was born in York; Sir Thomas Widdrington says he was a cook in London, and was, by Bishop Bonner, antichrist's great cook, roasted and burnt to death. THOMAS MORTON, the son of a mercer in York, born in the Pavement, in the year 1564, rose by his merit successively to the bishopricks of Chester, Lichfield, and Coventry, and lastly to Durham when he was a parish priest, and rector of Marston, the plague raged in York with so much fury that a number of infected persons were sent out of the city to Hob-Moor, where tents were erected for their accommodation, on which occasion this intrepid disciple of his divine master visited them daily, and administered alike to their spiritual wants and to their temporal necessities.

(Note: The writer of this prelate's life says, that he was school fellow, at York, with Guy Faux, the famous popish incendiary, who is said to have been born at Bishopthorp, and educated in this city.)

HENRY SWINBURNE, an eminent doctor of civil law, was born at York about the middle of the sixteenth century, and educated at the Free Grammar School in this city. As his contemporary and countryman. Gilpin, was called the apostle of the north, so Swinburne was styled the northern advocate, the one being famous for his learning in divinity, and the other in the civil law. Sir THOMAS HERBERT, son of Mr. Thomas Herbert, merchant and alderman of York, was born in this city in 1606, and educated here till he was admitted a commoner of Jesus College, Oxford, in 1621. Having completed his studies, he travelled for some years through Africa and Asia, under the patronage of William Earl of Pembroke, his kinsman. On his return home he waited on the Earl, and was invited to dine with him the next day, but the Earl dying suddenly that very night his hopes of preferment from that quarter were blasted, and he again left England to visit various parts of Europe. Upon finishing his travels he settled in his native country, and in the time of the civil wars adhered to the cause of the Parliament. By the persuasion of Philip Earl of Pembroke, he became one of the commissioners to treat with the King's officers for the surrender of Oxford to the Parliamentary army. Subsequently he was put upon the King as one of his menial servants, along with others, in the place of several of his own servants; while in this situation he became a convert to the royal cause, and continued with his Majesty till he was brought to the block. Charles II. immediately upon the restoration, rewarded his faithful service to his father in the two last years of his life by creating him a baronet in 1660, which honour he enjoyed for upwards of twenty years, and died at his house in York on the first of March, 1631. CHRISTOPHER CARTWRIGHT, a profound scholar, stiled 'Vir eruditissimus', was born at York, and is known to the learned world for his Annotations on Genesis and Exodus. JOHN EARLE was born at York in 1601, and admitted of Merton College, Oxford, in 1620. His younger years, says Antony Wood, his biographer, were adorned with oratory, poetry, and witty fancies, and his elder with quaint preaching and subtle disputes. He rose successively from the Deanery of Westminster to the Bishoprick of Worcester, and ultimately to that of London; and dying at Oxford, in 1665, was buried near the high altar in Merton College Church, in that city. MARMADUKE FOTHERGILL, born in 1652, in the house called Percy's Inn, in the parish of St. Dyon's, Walmgate, was a divine of great learning and piety, and in ecclesiastical antiquity stood almost unrivalled. By his last will he left a fine collection of books as a library to the parish of Shipwith, of which he had been minister, on condition that the parishioners should build a proper room for them at their own cost; but this charge they parsimoniously refused to incur, and the library was, by his widow, presented to the Dean and Chapter of York, to swell the Minster collection. FRANCIS DRAKE the venerable and learned historian of York, was the son of the Rev. Francis Drake, rector of Hemsworth and vicar of Pontefract. Though not born in this city, he settled here in early life, and practised as a surgeon with considerable reputation.- Having married Mary, the youngest daughter of John Woodyeare, Esq. of Crook-hill, he devoted himself principally to his literary pursuits, and in the year 1736 published his Eboracum, a work which will serve to confer immortality on the history and antiquities of that city, and which will, in its turn, hand down his name to the latest posterity.

In this brief but faithful history of ancient and modern York, the contrast between the imperial city, the residence of Emperors and of Kings, and the decayed capital of a northern county, forces itself strongly upon the mind, and serves to exhibit the vicissitudes to which the affairs of places, as well as of persons, are subject. But York, though shorn of some of its brightest beams, though three times rased to the ground by invaders,(First by the Saxons, second by the Danes and third by the Normans) in remote periods, and though deprived of its commerce by Hull, and of its manufactures by Leeds, in more modern times, is still an interesting and venerable city; of which it may be said, in the lines of Sir Thomas Widdrington:-

York's not so great as Old York was of yore,
Yet York it is though wasted to the core:
It's not that York which Ebrank built of old;
Nor yet that York which was of Roman mould;
York was the third time burnt, and what you see
Are York's small ashes of antiquity.

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