The Interdict   (1208 – 1213)

It is impossible for us, who live in days of orderly gov­ernment, to picture the confusion that obtained in earlier times. There always has been, and always will be, persons who covet politi­cal power along with the advantages that accompany it.  It is the method by which they strive for power that varies from age to age.

In early days military force was the most favoured method. Thus we read, of the struggles between kings, barons and parliaments, all using the force of arms, but ecclesiastics have also tried their hands at this sort of endeavour, and they have employed methods that are peculiar to their calling. Popes, bishops and abbots have entered the arena, only to succeed in adding to the general confusion.

King John of England  (1199 – 1216) and Pope Innocent the Third (1198 – 1216) quarrelled over the appointment of an Archbishop of Canterbury.       The details of this quarrel do not concern a local history, so they may be omitted.  It is more than likely that the people of Thurlby had little knowledge of the causes of events that were about to affect them so deeply.  King John did not get his own way so, in revenge, he began to persecute the clergy and to extort money from them, and refused the new Archbishop, who was the Pope’s nominee, entry into the realm. The Pope countered, this by placing the entire country under an Interdict.

As yet no record has been traced as to how the Interdict affected Thurlby, but there  is no doubt that it did.  The Church was closed to all parishioners.       No sacraments were administered, except those of Baptism and Extreme Unction.The   statues and pictures in the Church were veiled in black. The Church Bells were silent. The Churchyard was closed, and the dead were buried without any ser­vice in fields and waste places.  

This state of affairs lasted five years and served to make the King more unpopular than before. It was on political grounds that John made his peace with the Pope, and when that was completed the Interdict was lifted. One can picture the consternation of the people of Thurlby, as elsewhere, who found themselves to be the victims of a dispute in which they had no part whatever.

The Ordination Thurlby Vicarage – 1218.

Let us get it clear that in this instance the word ‘vicar­age’ refers, not to the vicarage house, but to the office held by the man who is vicar of a parish, he is appointed to this office by an act of the bishop of the diocese known as Institution, by which the vicar is placed, under the bishop, in solo spiritual charge of that parish.

Before 1218 all English parishes were in the charge of rec­tors, who received all the ecclesiastical income attached to that office. In Saxon times the right, known as an advowson, to nominate to the bishop a priest to be instituted to a rectory usually accom­panied the possession of the manor and the lord of such a manor was known as the patron, but the Normans introduced a practice whereby patrons bestowed the advowson and also the ecclesiastical income of a parish to monastic bodies.  This is what William De Waterville did with Thurlby in favour of the Convent of St. Michael.

A convent was unable to perform the duties of a rector, so it appointed a chaplain who was removable, except by special grant, at the pleasure of the convent, and who was forced to accept whatever payment the convent might choose to allow out of the income of the rectory.  This was found to be unsatisfactory for the bishop, the chaplain and the parishioners alike.

The Convent of St. Michael seems to have accepted its res­ponsibilities towards the people of Thurlby.  In 1179 an agreement was entered into whereby the appointment of the chaplain was made permanent, and a definite income was assigned to him.  This does not seem to have been general elsewhere.

Bishop Hugh De Wells of Lincoln (1209 – 1235) decided that he would correct the situation. In all parishes where the rectory was held by a convent he established vicarages. There were nearly three hundred such vicarages ordained, Thurlby being one. He fixed the average amount of the vicar’s income at about one third of the total income of the rectory, plus a suitable vicarage house. The charges on the benefice were to be met in like proportion.

The first Vicar of Thurlby was Thomas, who vacated the ben­efice for some reason not recorded, in 1220. It is possible that he was the same man as Thomas the chaplain who was appointed as chaplain by the Convent of St. Michael in 1195.

It is sometimes asked, what is the difference between a rector and a vicar?  From the above it will be observed that the only difference is that a rector receives all the original endowment of the benefice the vicar receives a part only

The Aged Clergy in the 13th Century

When a parish priest grew old and unfit for his duties he did not normally resign his living unless he wished to enter a relig­ious house,  instead the Bishop would appoint a Co~adjutor, whose duty it was to look after the priest and to administer the sacraments to the people.

An immense amount of trouble was taken over the unfortunate Hugh of St. Martin, Vicar of All Saints, Stamford.  He suffered some kind of sudden and violent mental breakdown.   He had been quarrelling with his parishioners, and also with the Abbot of Peterborough during 1298.  By the end of that year it was obvious that he was out of his mind.  A Co-adjutor was appointed for him, and sentence of excom­munication was published against those who had ill-used him or had stolen his goods.  On January 28th. 1299, the

Co-adjutor was re­placed because it was found that he had been keeping Hugh in unsuit­able conditions.  The invalid was moved to the Convent of St. Mich­ael, where Bishop Button arranged for the nuns to look after him. After a while he recovered

16th Century Thurlby Church Affairs  

In 1538 it was ordered that all Baptisms, Marriages and Bur­ials should be registered in a book kept for that purpose.  Some par­ishes obeyed, others made entries in paper books which have perished. The existing Thurlby Registers, on parchment, began in 1560.

In 1539 the  smaller convents and monasteries were dissolved and the association of the Parish Church with the Convent of St. Mich­ael, Stamford Baron, was severed for good after having lasted for nearly four hundred years. The patronage of the benefice passed into lay hands, and eventually to Eton College.

In 1541 a copy of The Bible in English  “of the   largest and greatest volume” was ordered to be placed in every church where it might “be read, only without noise and disturbance of any public Ser­vice and without any disputation or exposition.”   Thus Thurlby got its first lectern Bible.   It would have been a copy of the Great Bible of 1539  and it has not survived.

Also in 1541 orders were given to destroy all images, shrines and ornaments of all   sorts.  Commissioners were   appointed to confiscate the valuables of parish churches. Such was the character of these men that little of the spoils ever reached the Crown, as was intended.    A thorough going plunder of Thurlby Church took place twenty-three years later, which suggests that in 1541 the parish was spared for a time  the wholesale destruction of its treasures.

In 1547 the Chantries were  suppressed and their endowments confiscated on the plea that they would “be applied to public and charitable purposes”      Instead, once again, the money found its way into the pockets of the King’s advisers. This caused much distress, for the chantries were used, not only for their original purpose of commemorating the departed benefactors, but also for teaching children to read, assisting the poor and tending the sick.  The chantry en­dowments had sometimes been put into the hands of feoffees (modern equivalent Trustees) that had paid the chaplain a salary, and had used the rest of the funds for public works such as the repair of roads and bridges.  

It may have been that part of the Thurlby Chantry endowments were   successfully retained for the repair of the causeways in the parish. The only evidence for this guess lies in the fact that the Feoffees of today are responsible for the upkeep of the path beside the Cardike and as far as the door of the Church.

Also in 1547 The Litany in English was ordered to be said in procession immediately before High Mass. In the same year Com­munion under both kinds was introduced, hitherto the Cup had been witheId from the laity. This reform was a return to the practice of the Early Church.

In 1549, on Whitsunday, the First English Prayer Book was introduced into   all parish churches.  From the earliest days of the Church of England the services had been in Latin. The reformers now insisted that public worship should be in “a tongue understanded of the people”. The Book was largely the work of Thomas Cranmer, Arch­bishop of Canterbury, to whom we are indebted for the beauty of its language.

In 1553 the young King Edward the Sixth died and Mary his sister ruled in his stead.  She was an ardent adherent of the Pope, so using the uncontested power of the Tudor monarchs, she reversed the gains of the reformers and brought back the old religion.  One thing Parliament would not sanction was the return of the Church lands, now held by the most powerful subjects of the Crown. An appeal was made instead to their consciences, but not one of the forty thousand persons concerned answered the appeal except Mary herself, who gave up the whole of the Church property that had passed into her hands.

Mary began her reign intending to show toleration, but rebellions against her rule made her decide to be severe.  The savage persecution which she urged on has remained as a stain upon her mem­ory, it turned many sober minded people against Papal religion and prepared the ground for the reforms of the next hundred years

In 1558 Queen Elizabeth the First succeeded her sister Mary as Queen of England. The country was in a sorry state of confusion. She set about the task of bringing order whore religious chaos pre­vailed.  Within a year of her accession the Prayer Book of 1559 was introduced and used throughout the country.

The Puritan zeal for destroying everything associated with the old religion reached Thurlby in 1564. We learn from a report sent to the Archdeacon of Lincoln of some of the furnishings that previous generations had provided to grace St. Firmin’s Church, and which now were to disappear for ever. Others may have been looted in King Edward’s reign, but of this there is no record.  William Harebie and William Eldred were churchwardens. They supervised the taking down of the Rood in the Chancel Arch, and had it burned. Some of the timber of the Rood Loft was used to make seats in church. Three albes and three banners were cut to pieces.

 In 1566 Richard Waterfall and John Thekar, churchwardens, supervised the final ransacking of the Church. Service books were cut to pieces. Altar stones were broken and used to make stiles in the churchyard. Two vestments were defaced and sold. The Easter Sepulchre in the north wall of the Sanctuary was defaced.  Eight candlesticks, a cross and a pair of censers were broken up and sold. Two handballs and the holy water stoup were melted down at the cast­ing of two bells.  Altar hangings were cut up and sold.

 “It must not be thought that these reforms, though accepted, were welcomed. None of us ought to withhold sympathy from the unlet­tered poor, the great body of whom remained unchanged. To them the reformed faith could have had few attractions. The Bible and Prayer Book in English, and the Ten Commandments painted on the white-washed walls of their despoiled churches were poor substitutes for the stain­ed glass windows and wall paintings from which they had learned the truths of the Gospel, and the legends that contained at once their history and their religion. The calm beauty of the Book of Common Prayer was to them but a tame and bald substitute for the stately forms of traditional worship, its simple ritual could but ill sat­isfy the craving for each rite and ceremony in which their faith was embodied.  Its infrequent services fell   coldly on the ears and hearts that had listened and responded to the worship of the old days, when the church doors were ever open, and the lamps always burned by night and by day, when people worshipped at her altars, not on Sundays only, but whenever their own hearts or the cares of the world prompted them to seek solace and succor in those never ending prayers and praises which re-echoed within its walls.” (English Church Furniture page 23.)

17th. Century Thurlby Church Affairs

The outcome of the Civil War (1642 – 1649) was that Parlia­ment was triumphant. King Charles the First was beheaded, and even­tually Oliver Cromwell ruled as dictator. The Church of England suffered as well. In 1643 an Act was passed abolishing episcopacy.

In 1645 the Book of Common Prayer was abolished and The Directory, a Parliamentary service book was substituted as the ‘legal’ Prayer Book of the country. Any priest who failed to use The Directory was to pay forty shillings for each offence. Any priest who used the Prayer Book was” to be fined £5. for the first offence, £10. for the second offence, and a year’s imprisonment for a third offence. Bishops were imprisoned, and many parochial clergy driven from their benefices.

The records of this period are confused, but it would appear that William Baker remained Vicar of Thurlby until his death in 1655, and he may have been followed immediately by William Hull who resigned in 1663. If so, both seem to have been able to adapt themselves to the rapidly changing conditions.

Thurlby Church Registers reveal what must have been a mat­ter of great inconvenience after l653. Marriages were no longer solemnised in Church.   Instead the couples and their witnesses had to appear before a Justice of the Peace.  Thurlby couples had to go to Stamford for a civil marriage before Jeremy Cole, J.P. and a record of their marriage was made in the Parish Register.

There is an interesting entry in the Register of Burials for 1653, as follows: 

 “In obedience to an Act of Parliament of the 24th. August 1653, Touching Marriages, Births and Burials of all sorts of people, ye parishioners of Thurlby mett for that service have chosen Robert Bransby of the same to be Their Parish Register, and I have approved of Him and Taken his oath for the true perform­ing the Presmilce.  Witness my hand att Bourne the 22nd. Sept. 1653• Jeremy Cole.”  Thus it seems that the Vicar was not allowed to make, any entries in the Parish Registers while the Commonwealth lasted.

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