Louth, Lincolnshire

You can, of course, read about present-day Louth on the internet and Wikipedia is a good start http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louth,_Lincolnshire showing its current population to be over 15,000 souls. In Tudor times it was one of the largest towns in the County, outside Lincoln, and the population would also have numbered in the thousands, though maybe less than 15. Its social life would have centered around the Church which was very rich in silverware, much of which would have been given or bought over the years by members of the community, either rich individuals or poorer people acting in Groups.

It was the threat to this trove of community treasure that sparked the uprising,  on Sunday 1st October 1536, and historians now believe it really was the local community who rose up spontaneously rather than reacting to local gentry or more powerful Lords, who had a wider strategic agenda against King Henry and/or his Counsellors. It is probable that quite a bit of the silverware would have been given by local guilds or “Lights” wanting to protect their own members and their families as they journeyed through Purgatory after death.

For example the “Ploughlight” would represent agricultural workers and collect money or organise “Church Ales” to raise funds. These funds would be used to buy nice silver candlesticks to hold the candles (‘lights’) in one of the chapels in the Church and to help pay for the wages of priests to say masses for the departed on a regular basis to assist their passage through Purgatory.

It therefore did not help Henry and Chancellor Cromwell, his chief adviser at the time, that the ‘new thinking’ of the newly created Church in England, with Henry Vlll at its head, decided that there probably was no such thing as Purgatory and it was simply a ruse designed to enrich the Church of Rome…? The local community would not want to risk the souls of their dear departed by losing their treasures. But Captain Cobbler will, no doubt, tell you more about this as time goes on.

Captain Cobbler’s real name was Nicholas Melton, so he may have been an ancestor of mine but we have yet to establish a definitive link. We can trace our family tree back to the late 1600’s on the Melton side to North Lincolnshire but, as yet, we cannot get back the extra 150 years to prove the connection but we have adopted him into the family, of course. It is probable that one of the consequences of the uprising being squashed was that the leaders would have sent their families to the outlying areas of the County, for example the northern marshlands, to escape retribution from the powers that be. (That may not have been the case, of course, but at least let me dream…OK?!)

The spire of Louth Church was completed in around 1515, just 20 years or so before the Uprising and, as one of the tallest spires around, the local community would have been very proud of the new construction. At this time there were still spires on the three towers of Lincoln Cathedral, too and such spires could be seen from miles around, so would have helped locals find their way around the coutryside. Topping the spire was a golden cockerel which had been made from an old gold punchbowl donated by a local draper Thomas Taylor. He bought the basin in York – it had once belonged to the King of Scotland – and it was “…fashioned into a weathercock to crown the glorious work“. (Anne Ward ‘The Lincolnshire rising 1536’.)


About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
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