Captain Cobbler says Hello

Ummm …HELLO,

I seem to have awakened after a long sleep. My mind and thoughts are still in 1536 but the date on this odd screen in front of me seems to suggest it is really nearly 500 years later… most puzzling, I am sure I will get the hang of it eventually. My great, great …..,great, great nephew Keith is helping me with what he calls “typing” and words seem to appear by magic here in front of me. It is amazing really and sometimes my eyes go a bit squiffy, reading the words as they appear.

I learnt to read at school when I was very young. The Church in Louth has a school, the Holy Trinity School, which has a schoolmaster paid for by the Holy Trinity Gild, who is under the obligation to teach the local boys good manners and polite letters. We have a fine tradition of singing in the Church, too, and although my singing voice these days is not what it was, it is wonderful to hear the boys’ choir on Holy Days through the year.

One of my great friends, Thomas Foster, who was in the choir with me when we were lads is still singing wonderfully and has a deep rich voice, marvellous to hear along with the other fine singers, including his father – Old Tom, who still sings every other Sunday or so – and we all sang together when the new Spire was finished in 1515, just after my 15th birthday.

I can remember the priests blessing the wonderful new golden weathercock before it was raised to the top of the tower. I think the parish priest at the time was old William Ayleby and he and the other priests were all dressed up in their finery waving holy water over this golden cockerel as it was lifted up the spire. The sun was shining and the gold flashed in the sunlight as it spun round on the rope. A wonderful sight….and the new bells were all ringing out, three new bells all the way from Nottingham and the old bell which had been sent to Nottingham to be re-cast.

Tom Foster and I were talking (it only seems like the other day!) about the time when we were boys at school. They were still building the Spire and I am fairly sure it was before we reached our teenage years…and the schoolmaster had told us the day before that we should turn up at school in our Sunday best on this particular day because we were to have a Special Visitor. Looking back, I think he did not tell us who the Special Visitor would be just in case he didn’t turn up but I remember thinking it was all a bit mysterious…

So, there we were, all in itchy “best” Sunday School outfits, trying to concentrate on normal lessons as the morning went by, wondering who was going to visit us that required our discomfort so! By the time this “someone” had arrived we were all getting hungry and wanting to go home to eat some lunch, but we were made to sit there and keep quiet!

All of a sudden we heard a carriage arriving on the cobbles. We could see nothing, of course, as the windows in the schoolroom were all too high to see out of unless you stood on tiptoe on one of the desks. (Actually, my friend Great James did not have to stand on tiptoe, he was so tall – but I will tell you all about him another day….!) We could hear greetings being exchanged between the visitor and the priest but not what was said, so we still had no idea who the visitor was!

Then a swishing of robes and other approaching noises and the door was flung open and, goodness me, Cardinal Wolsey himself swooshed into the room; all a picture of red from head to foot, hands ensconced in silk gloves with several rings on his fingers and a chain with bright jewels round his neck. He really was a Special Visitor! He had been Archbishop in Lincoln before he went on to York and then became a Cardinal, so we had heard a lot about him although we had never met him before.

I cannot really remember now what he said to us all those years ago but he bade us sing for him (he had, of course, heard our reputation as a wonderful Choir!!) so we sang him a piece written by the Music master of Louth Church, himself. We sang a capella, which was a bot wobbly at first because we were so nervous, but we quickly got right into it and the Cardinal clapped his hands together after we finished but that may have been because he was cold!?

Then, because it was so near to time for lunch, he gave us a long homily about the manners we should adopt when eating out in good company. He was very specific about cleanliness and bade us wipe our mouths and hands copiously on our napkins when we wanted to “…take some more wine…” so as not to leave greasy fingerprints or smears of grease from our lips on the goblet “…because fat and grease do no good to silverware!

Well, it was all we could do not to laugh boldly at all of this. The only silverware we had ever seen was in church and apart from the communion wine which made your mouth shrivel none of us was used to indulging in wine at all! As for napkins not one of us lived in a house where such a thing existed! Still, he seemed a nice gentleman for all of that.

My eyes are going squiffy from looking at this ‘screen’ so I shall have to go now and will tell you more another day.

Bless you all,

Nicholas Melton – “Captain Cobbler”

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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’.)

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About Captain Cobbler

“Captain Cobbler” was a successful shoemaker in Louth, Lincolnshire, England who, for reasons which will be explored on this website in due course decided on a course of action in October 1536 which led to an uprising in the County of Lincolnshire against the tyranies of King Henry Vlll who had been closing down Religious Houses (monasteries, convents and abbeys) during the year, including many in Lincolnshire. Although the uprising was short-lived, it led on to the larger Pilgrimage of Grace over the whole of Northern England.

We would like to let Captain Cobbler tell the story in his own way, so he will be posting journal entries from time to time to tell you what it was like living in that fateful year. He wouldn’t know what a Blog is – indeed, we’re pretty sure he wouldn’t actually LIKE the word “blog”, but we are fairly sure his story will be interesting to anyone fascinated by the Tudor period….

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