Chapter II

Leeds in Tudor Times.


THE DISSOLUTION of the Chantries brings us directly to the subject of this book, for there can be no doubt that William Sheafield, the traditional founder of the School, was the last priest of the Clarell Chantry in Leeds. Let us see if we can form some idea of what Leeds was then like, though it must be largely a matter of inference, for we have no detailed account of the town till the time of Thoresby, and the evidence of an earlier date that is gradually accumulating is still in a fragmentary condition.

FROM THE TWO VIEWS given in Thoresby's“Ducatus” we can form some notion of what Leeds must have been even a century and a half earlier. They depict a small country town, consisting mainly of a single street crossed and flanked by a lane or two. At one end there is the bridge, at the other. S. John's Church—not of course, built till Stuart times. Beyond S. John's is open country. To the west are wooded hills. The Parish Church appears quite on the outskirts, and between it and the river are meadows. On either bank there is scarcely a house, except a tiny cluster near the bridge. That the pictures do not owe too much to imagination is abundantly proved by the text. Even in 1715 Hunslet Lane was“noted . . . for the pleasant Gardens and delicate Seats of many Gentlemen.” In Meadow Lane were“several pleasant Seats of the Magistrates, etc.”“Bore-lane . . . has several Gentlemen's Houses therein.” A“Foot Pathway” ran“from the Church to the Bridge through the Fields by certain Gardens . . . named the Calls.” Between the present City Square and the river there was“a pleasant Meadow . . . yet called the Monks Pits.” Along the river banks“is a most delicate pleasant Walk.” If such was the appearance of Leeds then surely it was no larger and no less rural in Tudor days.

But inference is not all we have to go upon. Leland indeed, who visited the town c.1536, does not tell us much—“Ledis, two miles lower then Christal Abbay on Aire river, is a praty market, having one paroche chirche, reasonably well buildid, and as large as Bradeford, but not so quik as it”—but by a lucky chance we possess a map of Leeds in 1560, drawn to illustrate a lawsuit, about which, as involving persons whose names are linked with the history of the School, a few words may be said. At that period the greater part of the town belonged to the Manor of Leeds, given originally to the Lords of Pontefract and now merged in the Crown, and among the most valuable of the manorial rights were the privileges of grinding corn and baking bread for the tenants. The corn mill—from which Mill Hill gets its name—was at this time leased by Thomas Lindeley and Elizabeth his wife, and the suit was owing to an infringement of their monopoly.

All the district did not belong to the Manor of Leeds. From the map we can see that the Neviles owned a considerable estate on the north of Kirkgate, and a good deal of land to the north and east of the Sheepscar beck belonged to the Manors of Potternewton and North Hall. The Lord of North Hall—a Mr. Falkingham—had erected a corn mill on the beck near his house. Of this the Lindeleys complained, and an enquiry was held by the Deputy Steward of the Honour of Pontefract, assisted by three gentlemen, one of whom was“John Nevell, Knight.” A good deal of interesting evidence was given—we learn, for instance, that the name“Monk Bridge” was even then in existence, that the Bailiff was still called the“Graf” (or reeve), and that the fishing in the beck was of some value, for“Ricardus Booth et Robertus Harryson tenent piscariam de Shipcarbeck et reddunt per annum ii d”—but how the suit ended we do not know. The important thing for us is the survival of the map. It is merely a rough sketch—the Parish Church, for instance, is omitted entirely—but for two things in it we may be grateful, (1) On the right of the beck below Buslinthorpe two considerable plots of ground, labelled“Leede Field,” show probably the old common lands belonging to the owners of the“Borough-Houses” in Briggate. (2) The main streets and inhabited districts are marked by rough pictures of houses, from which we should gather that the former were Briggate, Vicar Lane, Kirkgate, and Upperhead Row, and that there were outlying clusters of houses in the districts of Marsh Lane, Knostrop, Burmantofts, and Mabgate, and this very fairly agrees with the idea conveyed by the views in the“Ducatus.”

THESE WERE NOT HOWEVER the only streets in Leeds, for fortunately we are able to supplement the map with other evidence almost contemporaneous with it. In the Parish Church Registers there lurks a good deal of incidental information. In the case of baptisms, for instance, the addresses of the parents are given, and, although the diversity of forms assumed by the same name might convince even the stubbornest advocate of phonetic spelling of the error of his ways, the historian will find himself well repaid for his trouble in analysing the information thus given. He will notice first that the church served not only for Leeds proper but for the outlying districts—Armley, Woodhouse, etc.—and in Leeds he will find quite a number of names of streets and districts, e.g., Briggate, Market Place, Pawdmire, Bridge End, Shambles, Kirkgate, Timble Bridge, Marsh Lane, Vicar Lane, New Chapel, Town End, The Calls, Callstele, Call Lane, Call Bank, The Head Row, Lydgate, Boar Lane, Mill Hill, Quarry Hill, Hilhousebanks, Kydstacke, Leede Feild, Town Fealde, Ipse Pits, Gallow Hill, Meadow Lane, etc. If an enthusiastic statistician, he might form some estimate as to the density of population in different districts, and might even make a shrewd guess as to the population of Leeds in Tudor times, by comparing the number of baptisms—for baptisms then would be practically synonymous with births— with the ratio of births to population now. Whitaker, for instance, gives the number of baptisms in 1574 as 133.

In Leeds now there are about 23 births to every 1,000 inhabitants. Hence we might infer that in 1574 the population of the town (including the outlying hamlets) was c.6,ooo. One year's record however is not enough to base a general inference upon, and there are further possibilities of error, but from other evidence it seems that this total is not far wrong. In the Certificates of the Charity Commissioners in 1546 there is a mutilated entry as to the chantries in the Parish Church, stating that the curate and minister had“MMM . . . .” and Mr. W. Page would fill up the gap with a word denoting communicants over 14 years of age, and in a Bill of Complaint exhibited in Chancery on 3 Nov. 1617 the town and parish are said to have contained then more than 5,000 communicants. Perhaps something too may be inferred as to the morality of the inhabitants from the fact that in the early baptisms the proportion per cent. of“baseborn” children was about 4 per annum.

AS TO THE CONDITION of the people we have in the numerous wills still extant a mine of information which has never been thoroughly explored. Here we can only notice a few points which seem characteristic of the age.

1. The influence of the Church was obviously still very great. The testator bequeathed his soul to God: his body he often directed to be buried in some special place in the church. Bequests to the clergy are common, and money was often left for pious or charitable purposes—the maintenance of the church, the relief of the poor, the repair of roads, and occasionally education. A cleric was almost always one of the witnesses to a will.

2. The great majority of the testators seem to have been farmers or clothiers. Other handicrafts are rarely mentioned. A few wills are those of gentry and great landowners. Among professional men the clergy alone are represented. Of the wills of peasants and artisans there are but few.

3. Wealth apparently consisted mainly of land, buildings, and stock.

The land is usually described as closes, i.e. enclosures. Of the common land I have found hardly any mention, but the commoners were probably very few and their rights would pass with their houses.

Money was clearly scarce, and the smallness of the sums bequeathed is a sign that its value was high. Of furniture and clothing nothing seems to be too insignificant to be specified. “Sir” Richard Fletcher,“curate of Leedes churche,” left [1544]“to myn ostes Dawson widue viii s, my blewe gowne, one olde lynne shete, the better of towe at here election.” John Reame, clothier of Kirkgate, left [1576/7] 20/- to be divided among his spinners at Leathley, 20/- to each of two of his apprentices, to another apprentice“my best hoise and my secken dublet and 5s. to by him shirttes,” and to a servant“my worsted hat which I wear on the worke days.” Edward Calbecke“of Kirgate in Ledes clothyer,” after directing [1575] that his body should be buried in the Parish Church“near my stall” bequeathed 13/4 to the poor, to Francis Jenkinson“one cow and one cobborde,” to John Burton“the red stole which I gave him,” to his son Edward“my iron chumlitte in my dwelling house with the iron gallowes crokes kylves reckans tonges, etc., and my grate double arke to remain as heirlooms,” to his daughter“one arke,” to his grandchild“my best pare of walker sheares,” to each of his godchildren 4d. Books were rare, and seem only to be mentioned in the wills of clergymen.

It is perhaps rash to estimate the character of a man from the manner in which he directs the disposal of his property after his death, but the impression left after the perusal of a number of these wills is that the burghers of Leeds were thrifty Godfearing folk, with a good deal of natural affection and commonsense, and, though few of them appear to have been men of great wealth, yet a very fair number were at any rate in comfortable circumstances.

ON THE LAST MENTIONED point I had hoped to get much information from the lists of persons assessed for the subsidies of 1545 and 1546, but the Variations are so great that it is hard to draw any definite conclusions from them, except that they appear to bear out what was stated above and to show that the landowners were comparatively few.

Something however may perhaps be learnt from the Musters of the Skyrack Wapentake in 1539. In those days the defence of the realm was an obligation enforced by law, and these Musters are lists of the persons liable to serve—“abill personez”—arranged according to the armour which they possessed. A rich man would be likely to own better arms than a poor man, and thus we might get some idea of the proportion of rich to poor; but arms may have been acquired in different ways, and it will not be safe to lay much stress on the results. The men are divided into“archers” and“bills,” and subdivided into those fully equipped, those partly equipped, and those without equipment. The following table shows the totals for Leeds and a few of the outlying districts.

fully armed. Archers partly armed. not armed. fully armed. Bills partly armed. not armed. Totals.
Leeds 22 11 45 21 26 37 162
Potternewton 1 - - 4 - 12 17
Headingley 4 - 4 1 3 11 23
Kirkstall 3 - 10 - - 4 17

We may note that 3 persons are described as “Gents”; that there was also one man in Headingley armed with a“spere;” that“parcell harness” included a variety of arms—a bow, a“sheffe of aroys,” a“jak” (body armour), a“salett” (headpiece), a“par splentes” (body armour), a“stele cap,” etc.; and that in some cases persons unable to serve provided substitutes or at any rate armour for them.

THE HOUSES IN TUDOR LEEDS were probably made mostly of wood or stone, for Red Hall, erected in 1628, is said to have been the first considerable building made of brick. Some of the ancient edifices noted by Thoresby may possibly have existed in the sixteenth century—Rockley Hall in Lowerhead Row,“a Timber-Building and of the most Antique Form of any I have seen;” the“ancient Borough-Houses in Briggate;” the“old Prison, which being thought a Blemish to the principal Street was pull’d down Anno 1655;” the Talbot inn,“which lately boasted of a Chamber curiously painted in Fresco with the Arms of the Nobility and Gentry of this West-Riding as they were in Queen Elizabeth's Time;” the“Commune Furnum de Leedes Anglice vocat. the Common Bakehouse which John Metcalf farmed of Queen Elizabeth at xii l. per annum;” the old Hospital in Kirk gate,“which being of uncertain Tenure and Foundation is now ruinous;” the“ancient House near the Church” (then belonging to Alderman Dixon, father of the Headmaster), etc.

Of one building however there can be no doubt. The church was in existence long before the Reformation, and, though many changes had been made in its internal arrangements, the description given by Thoresby of its general features would apply equally to the edifice in which William Sheafield once officiated.

“A very spacious and strong Fabrick,” he calls it,“an Emblem of the Church Militant, black but comely^ being of great Antiquity...The plain but venerable; the Walls wholly of Freestone, the Roof entirely cover'd with Lead, except that Part of the Quire only that belongs to the Impropriator: It is built after the Manner of a Cathedral, with a large cross Isle, and the Steeple or Tower in the middle of it. The Dimensions.. are, Length 165 Foot, Breadth 97; Height of the Nave of the Church 51, and of the Steeple 96...this being only a square Tower (without Spire) built rather for Strength than Beauty and to contain 8 large Bells...But what is most surprising to Strangers is the Spaciousness of the Quire or Chancel, which is within the Walls as much above 88 Foot one way as it wants of 60 to the other... The Roof is supported by 3 rows of solid Pillars of the Gothick Order: In the Nave of the Church are four Isles... that run from the cross Isle to the West End where is a stately Font...At the Meeting of the great middle Isle with the large cross Isle the Steeple is founded upon 4 prodigiously large Pillars and Arches; the North cross Isle is called the Queen's, the South seems to have been the Chapel of St. Katherine's...and against one of these Pillars stood the Pulpit in the Days of Yore when there were no Seats in the Nave... [The] spacious Quire was in the Days of Darkness canton'd into many distinct Cells or Chapels by several Walls...At the East-End were three, besides the High Altar; but how many were upon the North and South Sides I cannot distinctly tell...The Acroters or protuberant Stones upon which they placed those 'blind Maummets that seven not nor yheren' are yet to be seen.”

AFTER THE REFORMATION the statues and the chapels with their altars were removed, the church was well“pewed with English Oak,” and“spacious Galleries of Wainscot wrought with Variety of Work” were erected. The religious change seems to have caused no disturbance in the town, unless the statement that the Bailiff of Leeds took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace implies that some of the townsfolk sympathized with him. The vicar at the time,“Sir” Alexander Fawcet,“an old blind man” had been appointed by the Priory of the Holy Trinity at York, to whom the benefice had been given in 1089, but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries the advowson was bought by the parishioners. The great tithes received by the Priory from Leeds amounted to £48 per annum. What the monks paid to the vicar I have not been able to find out, nor yet what staff was attached to the church. It is certain however that there were several chapels and chantries in Leeds, of the services of whose priests the vicar could doubtless avail himself. There was, for instance, the Chapel at the Bridge End. There was, apparently in upper Briggate,“the Chantry of St. Mary Magdalen founded by William Evers, Vicar of Leedes, Anno. 1470.” There was the Chantry of Our Lady, which perhaps gave its name to Lady Lane, and of which we shall hear again as the “New Chapel.” The Chantry Certificates mention a Chantry of our Lady in the Parish Church. Finally there was the one with which our School was so closely connected, the Clarell Chantry or the“Chaunterye of Seynt Katheryne.”

The Clarell Chantry is described in the Certificate as“within the Parysshe Churche of Ledes”—in the south transept, according to Thoresby—and the founder is given as“Thomas Clarell, sumtyme vicare there.” Thomas Clarell probably belonged to the ancient family of Clarel Hall near Tickhill. In 1428 he was vicar of Kelham in Nottinghamshire, and on 8 Nov. 1430 he was instituted to the vicarage of Leeds, which he held till his death in 1469. We have a trace of him left in the church.“Upon a large Marble under the Communion-Table,” says Thoresby,“is a Chalice and Plate of Brass inscribed

'Ecce sub hoc lapide humat. Dns Thomas Clarell quod. hujus Ecclie venerabilis vicarius qui eandem pluribus decoravit ornamet Cancellumq. Ejusdem nova historia fabricavit et I° die mes marcii A° Dm MCCCCLXIX die clausit extremum Cujus aie pitiet. deus ame'.”

This brass still remains, though even in Thoresby's time it had been moved from its original position, for that Clarell was buried in his own Chantry is shown by the directions given by “Sir” Thomas Gibson in his will [20 Jan 1500/1] that his body should be buried“ in the choir of S Katharine Virgin and Martyr between the tomb of the venerable man, Thomas Clarell, late vicar of Leeds, and the wall.” The“ornamenta” and“historia” in the inscription are probably to be explained by Thoresby's remark, that he“according to the Devotion of that Age adorned the Church with new Pictures.”

THE OBJECTS OF THE CHANTRY, according to the Certificate, were“to pray for the soule of Kynge Edwarde the iiijth and Quene Elizabeth, the founder's soule and all Cristen soules, and to do dyvyne service.”

The date of the foundation is given as“the last day of Jnnii, anno Domini MCCCCIIIJ xx IX”— i.e. 1489—but Mr. Leach says that a license in mortmain was granted by Letters Patent of Edward iv on 13 June 1470 to William Marshall of Newton and Richard Clarell, executors of Thomas Clarell late vicar of the church of Ledes-by-Rothwell, to found a chantry at S Katharine's altar, to be called the chantry of Thomas Clarell and acquire lands to the value of seven marks [£4.13.4.] a year.

The difference of 19 years is puzzling. Mr. Edmund Wilson thinks that the figures in the Certificate have perhaps been wrongly read, but Thoresby says—“I find only the Names of two of the Incumbents . . . viz. Sir Thomas Gibson, clerk, 8° July 1489 and Sir William Sheffield, clerk, and both placed by Sir John Nevile of Liversedge Kt., the Trustee.” Possibly in those days of turmoil the lands took some time to acquire, but there is a good deal to be said for a hypothesis which has found favour in recent years, viz, that freehold lands worth £4.13.4. per annum were acquired for the original purposes of the chantry by Clarells executors and put in the hands of the Priory at York; that afterwards the scope of the chantry was extended to include the education of the young, and the endowment was doubled by the gift of copyhold lands to the same value through the generosity of the Neviles, and that of these the Neviles remained trustees and therefore exercised control over the appointment of the priests.

This theory would put back the foundation of the School to a date earlier than that of Sheafield's will, and would make the Neviles primarily responsible for it. It is of course purely inferential, but it would solve a good many difficulties, e.g. Thoresby's cryptic statement that“Sir William Sheffield, clerk, . . . was the happy Instrument if not the Person chiefly concerned in the founding a Free School at Leedes,” and the order in the will [6. March 1496/7] of Sir James Danby of Farnley that if he chanced to die in the parish of Leeds he should be buried in the Parish Church and his funeral expenses should include“rewardes to prestes, clarkes, and scolers,” the mention of the last of whom in such bequests is, according to Mr. Leach, only found where there was a Grammar School in existence. Moreover the very fact that the School was traditionally founded by a Chantry Priest causes one to suspect that he was merely carrying on the old work of the chantry, for to many chantries we know schools were attached.

THAT THERE WAS in any case a close connexion between the Neviles and the chantry is manifest. These Neviles were an offshoot of the great family from one branch of which came the kingmaker and from another the earls of Westmorland. Near Leeds they had a good deal of land. Their chief seat was at Liversedge, but in the fifteenth century Sir Thomas Nevile of Liversedge married the heiress of the Gascoignes of Hunslet, and in the map of 1560 two large plots of ground on the north of Kirkgate are marked as Nevile property. Hence perhaps “Robertus Nevill, armiger” appears first among the trustees to whom the site of the vicarage was transferred by William Scot of Potternewton. Another of the trustees was Thomas Clarell, then vicar, and we find another link between Clarell and the Neviles in an old record which states that certain persons“dicunt super sacramentum suum quod Willielmus Nevell et Thome Clarell vicarius ecclesiae de Ledes acupant piscariam in Shippecar becke sine licentia”—it almost reads as though the “venerable man” was somewhat of a poacher. In Kirkgate too, below the vicarage, there was in Thoresby's time“an ancient Fabrick, the Name wherof discovers the superstitious use it was devoted to before the Reformation, viz. for the Chantor or Chantry-Priest to reside in ... This I suppose was the Chantry of Thomas Clarell”— not of course the chantry itself but the house of the priest. Thoresby also gives a pedigree of the Neviles from which I have extracted the following.

Some day possibly the records of the Manor of Kirkgate will be investigated. Till then, I fear, the facts as to the original foundation of the School must remain a mystery.

AFTER THE DISSOLUTION of the Monasteries the income paid to the chantry through the Priory still remained as a charge on the Priory lands, and the Certificate in 1546 states that

(a) the“fundacion is observed . . . and the revenues therof employed to th' use of the incumbent of the sayd chaunterye:”

(b) the chantry possessed“goodes valued at xxx s. plate xl s.:”

(c) it received“a certen yerly rent payd by Sir Arthur Darcye, knight, of iiij l. xiij s. iiij d. furthe of the landes of the late Trynities in York,” from which had to be deducted 9/4 per annum as tithe to the King,“and so remaneth iiij l. iiij s.”

  • It should be remembered that, as Mr. Leach points out, copyhold lands“are not mentioned in the Chantry Certificates which confine themselves to freeholds:”

(d) the then incumbent was“William Seffeld.”


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