Restoration – Part Two

There was another general election in April 1661. Phineas Andrews stood for Hythe again, but faced opposition from no fewer than four other candidates. John Hervey (not to be confused with John Harvey, the by now dead parliamentarian) was the Lord Warden’s nomination; the mayor of Hythe, William Knight was another candidate, and Sir Edward Dering probably a third. The identity of the fourth man is unknown. Andrews, who had expected to spend about £20 on his election campaign, complained that he had to lay out seven times as much. He would have complained more if he had known how short his triumph would be:  he died on 23 September 1661.

The other successful candidate was John Hervey, a courtier with ambitions that went beyond representing a decaying Cinque Port, and his time in parliament was marked by his almost complete inactivity. He was ill at the time of Charles I’s coronation and unable to carry the canopy, so Elias Bassett, landlord of ‘The George’ stepped in. Phineas Andrews also represented the town at the ceremony. According to his tombstone in Denton church, his exertions on the occasion led directly to his illness and death.

At the ensuing by-election, on 26 October, Sir Henry Wood another courtier, was returned unopposed.  The corporation had obviously had enough of these placemen, and ordered that he should be returned ‘after he shall have first made his appearance at Hythe to take the oath of Freeman of this town and not before’.  A struggle of will ensued. Twice the corporation reminded him that they expected him to make the journey; twice he refused. At last, on 8 December, six weeks after the election, three jurats travelled to the capital to swear him in.

The fact was that they also wanted to ask him for money to fund some new boats for the town’s fishermen, but as he only offered £40, the fishermen were not interested.  The corporation could offer nothing: the town chest was empty and they finished the year more than £25 in the red.

Suspicions and accusations were still flying around Hythe. In 1662, William Adcock, a grocer who had already been thrown off the corporation was arrested in connection with the escape of Colonel Edmund Ludlow, against whom an arrest warrant had been issued in September 1660.  Ludlow was a radical parliamentarian, who had been one of the judges who condemned Charles I to death.  Charles II, although he had granted amnesty to most of Cromwell’s supporters, did not extend his clemency to regicides.  Ludlow was a wanted man, but managed to escape to Switzerland in 1660.  The government believed that he had escaped through one of the Cinque Ports, but Adcock’s supposed involvement is unknown. After being interrogated in the Tower of London, he was released and returned to Hythe.

Then on 26 August of the same year, six Commissioners for the Well Governing and Regulating of Corporations, a sort of mini-Inquisition, visited Hythe. Parliament had passed a Corporation Act in 1661 which sought to exclude religious dissenters from the governing bodies of corporate towns. It demanded the taking of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and office holders also had to receive the Sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England.  However, the king and parliament thought it likely that many would do so solely to satisfy the law, so the Act provided for commissioners to examine and purge the corporations, even of those who took their oaths. Charles chose country gentlemen with their local knowledge, not courtiers, as Commissioners.

Twenty-six of the Hythe jurats and freemen swore the oaths. The Commissioners still disenfranchised five of them, together with another twelve who refused to take the oaths. Altogether seventeen freemen and jurats were banned from the corporation or holding office either for political or religious reasons. John Finch and Ferdinando Bassett were also obliged to resign as wardens of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, as this was a corporation office.  It is a wonder the corporation was able to function at all.

Throughout the 1660s the corporation struggled to keep afloat financially. It is not impossible that the loss of so many experienced jurats led to mistakes being made. Their solution to the problem was to sell their capital assets. Land was sold to Elias Bassett and Julius Deedes.  Other land was mortgaged. Penny House and Grayfields were also sold, together with some land know as St Clare’s, again to Elias Bassett. The mayor, who was the same Elias Bassett three times during the decade, refused to accept his traditional salary. It was only £10 a year, and a man of Elias’s evident wealth could easily afford to forego it.

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Politics, Politicians and People – Part Four

The installation of the Lord Warden, however, was small-time when compared to the opportunity to attend the coronation of the monarch. ‘Barons’ of the Cinque Ports had been called upon to carry the canopy over the king or queen at the coronation since time immemorial (the right was called ‘ancient’ at the time of Richard I).

Elizabeth I died in March 1603, and by May, the Lord Warden was writing to his ports that they should take great care in their choice of representative. He must be ‘fit for the service’ although whether this meant physically capable of carrying the canopy or of pleasing appearance was not clear. He was more specific in July: ‘I wish you to be very cautious and wary that they may be men of the meetest and comliest personage amongst you’ and also that they should be fit and well. The coronation was not to be marred by the ugly, the old or the lame.

The Brotherhood and Guestling decreed that every baron returned to the coronation should wear ‘one scarlet gown down to the ankle, citizens fashion, faced with crimson satin, gascaine hose (a sort of loose breeches), crimson silk stockings and crimson silk shoes and black velvet caps’. They would also be responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs for the occasion, so anyone without a healthy disposable income was also excluded.

Elizabeth had reigned for over forty years, and the fact was that no-one now alive remembered how a coronation worked. Francis Raworth, the town clerk of Dover, was despatched to London to consult the Lord High Steward and the livery books to try to find out what should be done. He made some enquiries about the cost of scarlet and crimson satin and silk while he was there, and was horrified to report that ‘scarlet is valued at £3.10s. the yard at least and crimson satin at 15s. the yard’.

The corporation of Hythe chose Thomas Sprott to be their representative. No doubt he was comely, fit and reasonably well-off, but the deciding factor must have been that he was a draper and therefore able to buy cloth wholesale, not retail.

In the event, the coronation was a muted affair, as plague had visited London.  Sprott, though, was proud enough of the part he played to have it recorded on a stone placed over his grave in St Leonard’s church

The memorial stone of Thomas Sprott (or Spratt) which is now on the Vestry wall in St Leonard's Church, Hythe
The memorial stone of Thomas Sprott (or Spratt) which is now on the Vestry wall in St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

‘ Here lieth the bodi of Thomas Sprotte Juratt and Susan his first wife who whilst he lived was thris Mayor and Baylif to Yarmoth and on of those that did cary the cannopye over the King at his Cronation who died 21 January 1619′

The honour of carrying the canopy had some additional perks to make up for the outlay on crimson and scarlet cloth and the expenses of getting to London and overnight accommodation. The Cinque Ports barons were invited to the ceremonial banquet after the coronation and were given part of the cloth of gold of which the canopy was made, together with a share in the silver staves which supported it and the silver bells with which it was decorated. The silver was usually melted down and made into other objects, some of which are in the Victoria and Albert museum today. Perhaps coronation silver was the origin of the silverware seized by the corporation from Thomas Sprott.

Thomas Browning (gentleman) of Hythe was chosen to carry the canopy at the coronation of Charles II in 1626. A Mr Monings of Dover was rejected by the Lord Warden, Buckingham, because he was ‘too low of stature’ and also because he had stopped Buckingham’s parliamentary nomination at Dover from being elected. Buckingham was by this time careless of whether anyone knew of his petty vengefulness or not. He believed he was untouchable.

In 1661, at the Restoration coronation, Elias Bassett, jurat and landlord of the ‘George’ inn was chosen to carry the canopy, an unlikely choice given his previous commitment to parliamentary rule, but the country was full of such ‘reformed’ characters.

The coronation was marred by an unseemly tussle recorded by Samuel Pepys:

but only the King’s Footmen had got hold of the Canopy and would keep it from the barons of the Cinque ports; which they endeavoured to force from them again but could not do it till my Lord Duke of Albermarle caused it to be put into Sir R Pye’s hand till tomorrow to be decided’.

The barons got their silver the next day, but in the melee they had lost their places at the banqueting table. The king had the footmen imprisoned and dismissed.

In 1685, for the coronation of James II, Julius Deedes was chosen by the corporation, but rejected by the Lord High Steward as his behaviour in the recent parliamentary had been questionable, to say the least of it.  Julius responded by getting his son, William, elected as a Hythe freeman, and immediately placed at the top of the ‘reserve list’ for the Cinque Ports in case anyone should be unable to perform the service.  There is no other recorded instance in the seventeenth century of a father and son being freemen in Hythe at the same time. There were obvious implications for the impartiality of the voting system. In the event, Julius’s ploy did not work, and no member of the Deedes family attended the 1685 coronation.

James fled into exile in 1688, and his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange were invited to take the throne as joint monarchs. At last Julius achieved his ambition and carried the canopy at their 1689 coronation. It was not an entirely happy event as the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to participate and the new king himself thought the ceremony was ‘a popish mockery’.

The coronation procession of William and Mary. One of the canopy bearers was Julius Deedes
The coronation procession of William and Mary. One of the canopy bearers was Julius Deedes of Hythe

In Sickness and in Health – Part Three

Death was at the centre of life just as the church was at the centre of the town. It was a normal occurrence in people of all ages, not just the old. The most at risk of death were new born infants. Life expectancy at birth was about forty years, and there were not many over-sixties – possibly only about  4-7% of the population, whereas the percentage of children under sixteen was probably about 35%. The whole country was much younger than it is today.

The exact population of Hythe in the seventeenth century cannot be established. A census was carried out, but not for the purpose of counting total population. The religious Compton Census, of 1676 asked ministers how many Anglicans lived in the town, and how many of other denominations. It showed that Hythe had 274 conformists, 2 Roman Catholics, and 25 Nonconformists. This gives a total population of 301. However, the census did not come with instructions on how it was to be completed. Some ministers counted the whole population, some only those over sixteen, some only those over twenty-one, some only men, some only heads of households. The only thing that can definitely be gathered from the information recorded for Hythe is that it had more Anglicans than others.

It is possible to make a very broad guess at the population. Experts in the field say that the crude birth rate in England was about 32 per 1000 at the beginning of the seventeenth century and about 28 per thousand at the end. ‘Crude birth rate’ means the number of live births in the population as a whole over a year. By counting up the number of baptisms recorded in Hythe and working backwards, it looks like Hythe’s population in the early seventeenth century was about 1100, and by the end of the century only about 650. Of course, this is a very rough estimate and does not take account of the fact that by the end of the century there were Nonconformist baptisms of which we have no record.   However, it is significant that the numbers of marriages and burials were also falling by the end of the century.

If a child survived birth and the first five years of life, he or she had a reasonable prospect of reaching adulthood, although there were many dangers along the way. Quite apart from disease, health and safety concerns seem not to have been at the top of parental worries. The diaries of William Coe (quoted in Ralph Houlbrookes’ English Family Life 1576 – 1716) record that between 1693 and 1703, two of his eight children came close to being choked by pins in their food, two more were bitten by a dog on separate occasions, while  others suffered by having a hat set on fire by a candle, falling into a creek, falling off a horse, being struck in the eye with an oak rail, having boiling fat spilled on his clothes, being accidentally stabbed with an awl, managing to hang himself (not fatally) by the neck from a hall window, falling into scalding water, having his cheek pierced  by a cow’s horn, having his thumb broken by a horse, being thrown from an open coach and narrowly missing death in an overturned wagon.

If a man or woman survived the dangers of childhood, they could expect to marry at about twenty-three to twenty-eight years old (only the daughters of noble families married in their teens). This was relatively late in a short life span, but young people needed to assemble the resources and skills required. Marriage was an assertion of independence from parental ties. It involved setting up a new household with a new household head. There was initial cost of domestic paraphernalia as well as the ability to pay the rent. If a man was setting up a workshop at the home he needed equipment and tools. Skills were needed to be able to run a household. As an apprentice and journeyman, a young man would become master of a set of skills so as to be able to operate on his own with a fair chance of success. His bride needed to know how to bake bread, prepare and cook food, make and mend clothes. In Hythe we see the Bassett brothers, Ferdinando and Elias marrying first at the ages of thirty-four and twenty-six respectively. Thomas Browning, son of the gentleman of the same name married Margaret Huffam of Ash when he was twenty-four. William Gately, the blacksmith, married Ann Dryland of Wye when he was twenty-seven.

If a spouse died, which was often, the incidence of remarriage was high, out of economic necessity for women, and domestic necessity for men.  In England as a whole, about half of widower remarriages took place within a year, but about 15% of widows married within six months.  Ferdinando Bassett, widowed twice, remarried on both occasions within less than a year. His brother Elias, also widowed twice, found new brides again within five months both times.

Death had its own rituals. The body was laid out by local women and might be viewed at home for a couple of days. It was then wrapped in a single linen sheet knotted at top and bottom and carried to the grave either on a pall or in the parish coffin, usually a plank box, which was dispensed with at the graveside. Being buried in your own coffin had great cachet, even if you weren’t there to enjoy it. There was rarely a service in the church: the funeral party went straight to the graveside. Of course, if the deceased was important enough, and rich enough, they may have been buried in the church itself. Thomas Sprott, a jurat  was buried there, as much later were Robinson Beane, a mayor of Hythe, together with his wife and daughter.

 

The memorial to Ann and Elizabeth Beane (St Leonard's Church, Hythe)
The memorial to Ann and Elizabeth Beane (St Leonard’s Church, Hythe)

William Gately, though, another jurat and mayor, was laid to rest in the churchyard, but with rather a splendid tomb as a consolation prize.

The use of linen as a shroud ended in 1678 with the passing of the Buried in Wool Act, which dictated that all bodies should be shrouded in wool, and that a certificate be obtained from a J.P. that this was the case. It was an extraordinary piece of revenue-raising legislation, trading on the one certainty of life – death.

 

The Middling Sort – Part Six

Increased literacy should have meant, for those who could afford it, increased book ownership, and we do see in the probate inventories more books making an appearance. John Gately, the blacksmith had a bible and ‘four small books’ when he died in 1625. John Barnes, a carpenter, and Richard Beane, a yeoman had two bibles apiece when they died in 1668, and Beane had other books besides. Almost at the end of the century, Peter Johnson, a baker, also had a bible and some small books.  Book ownership, on the evidence of probate inventories, was not yet common. Rather worryingly, the physician brothers, Richard and James Arthur, did not own one book between them. Nor did the successful businessmen siblings Elias and Ferdinando Bassett.

The bible is the most frequently mentioned book in inventories, and Protestants made a point of publishing cheap editions so that the scriptures could be available to as many as possible. Before 1640, monopolies kept prices high, but when they collapsed a small bible which would fit in a pocket could be bought for two shillings and fourpence. Despite the exhortations of the church, owning a bible was not the same as reading it, and for some at least it must have had a purely talismanic or display purpose. However, there were some good stories in the bible, and it has been suggested that the painted cloths used to cover walls in the houses of the middling sort and in inns would have had biblical scenes depicted. Since none of them survive, we don’t know for sure, but Shakespeare describes Falstaff’s room in the ‘Garter’ as ‘painted about with a story of the prodigal’ (The Merry Wives of Windsor).

Other books are mentioned in Hythe inventories, but never named. The most widely available to the public were chapbooks, bought from travelling chapmen, or at fairs. These could be the broadly humorous merry-books, instruction manuals on family life or running a household, or Godly books, which tended to be terrifying tracts about the imminent arrival of the Grim Reaper and eternal damnation for the sinner.  No wonder the youthful John Bunyan, preferred the merry-books:

‘ give me a Ballad, a News-book, George  on Horseback or Bevis of Southampton,  give me some book that teaches curious Arts, that tells of old Fables; but for the Holy Scriptures I cared not’.

For many boys of the middling sort, an apprenticeship followed classroom education.  This generally started when a boy was fourteen, and lasted for seven years, although tradesmen in a craft requiring manual labour, such as tanners, bakers, blacksmiths or bricklayers might prefer a lad of fifteen or sixteen. It was usual to send one’s son away to be trained in a trade or profession, even when he was following in his father’s footsteps. John Gately apprenticed his son William to a blacksmith outside Hythe, possibly in Wye, about sixteen miles away, since William eventually married a Wye girl. William himself later took on an  apprentice from Lyminge, about six miles distant..

Some occupations were determined by family tradition, notably medicine and fishing.  James Arthur and his brother Richard both practiced as surgeons and physicians in Hythe in mid-century and James’s sons, also Richard and James, followed suit.  The Hutson and Wallop families produced generations of Hythe fishermen.

The choice of trade or profession was not always that of the father, but could depend on the boy’s aptitude and on the family’s resources. It cost money to set up in a trade. Blacksmiths and tanners needed large premises. Mercers, selling cloth wholesale and retail, needed a large stock to start out. Shoemakers, on the other hand, could work at home, and, though poorly paid, would always be in work. Sometimes a boy was just not cut out for his father’s work and followed another trade entirely.

Some men never stuck to a single trade at all, but seemed to live, and thrive, on their wits. Ferdinando Bassett was one such. Arriving in the town from Sandwich in the 1620s, when his sister Michele married into the Hutson family, Ferdinando turned his hand to anything which would make him a living, and started by making himself useful to the corporation by doing odd jobs.  He then worked consecutively, but not exclusively, as town drummer, town gunner, town sergeant, haberdasher, yeoman and innkeeper. This seemingly erratic career was a success. By 1648 he could afford to buy the ‘White Hart’, the inn favoured by the corporation for post-sessions feasting, would later be able to lend considerable sums to the corporation and eventually became mayor himself.  His probate inventory of 1663 described him as ‘gentleman’. Not bad for the man who had started out by mending a drum for the corporation.

The White Hart in Hythe
The White Hart in Hythe

His younger brother Elias took a more conventional, but equally successful route to wealth. He became a fisherman, got his own boat, then later bought collier ships and ran coal down the coast to Hythe. By 1649, he was landlord of the White Hart’s main rival, the ‘George’, and he, too became mayor and a significant landowner.

Ferdinando and Elias were both married three times.  Elias’s third wife was Joan, the widow of Richard Pashley, which made Elias the step-father of James Pashley, the cousin by marriage of Henry Oxinden of Denton. Both Bassett and Pashley were jurats. James Pashley’s daughter married Edward Rucke, another jurat. He also wrote to Oxinden and addressed him as ‘cousin’. Historians have noted that the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the rise in towns of the oligarchy, government by the few, in which members of the ruling group were interconnected and often interrelated. This was certainly the case in Hythe.

To give just one more example:

Alice March, the daughter of  William March, three times  mayor of Hythe,  married  in 1619 John Knight, by whom she had three daughters and two sons.  John died in 1634 and six years later, Alice married Edmund Bedingfield a widower and the brother of Thomas Bedingfield, twice mayor of Hythe. Edmund’s son by his first marriage, Thomas, became Hythe’s town clerk who on his death was succeeded by his son, another Edmund. Meanwhile, Alice’s daughter by her first husband, Alice Knight, married Michael Lushington, who was, inevitably, also twice mayor of Hythe.

‘Cousin’ was a very useful word to describe such complicated relationships, and indeed the town was run by a cousinship. They married each other, witnessed each others wills, acted as overseers and executors of wills, sold each other land and property and, until the conflict-ridden years of the civil war, generally acted as a united body to run the town as co-operatively as possible.

In the next few posts I will look at how the sea affected the lives of the people of Hythe