Viscountess Galways Scrooby in the 16th Century

Scrooby in the 16th Century

This piece is reproduced from a 15 page booklet produced in the early years of the Twentieth Century. On page one, there is a nice view of the Winz and the old course of the river Ryton, flowing from the Winz, across Otter Pitts, to the Mill. In the foreground of the photograph are two ladies in Edwardian dress. In the middle distance cows graze the meadows and large established trees mark the line of Mill Lane. On the horizon are the buildings of Scrooby, banked up against the course of the Ryton.

Frontispiece from Viscountess Galways Scrooby in the Sixteenth Century

Scrooby in the 16th Century

By Viscountess Galway

C. Butler, Printers and Bookbinders, Retford.

The little hamlet of Scrooby, although boasting little of architectural importance, is possessed of more than usual historical interest. It lies on the Great North Road, which diverged from the present road, when approaching the village from the south, at the Huntsman's Inn. The old road passed along the eastern end of the churchyard, and so through the ford below the mill. Indeed the narrow way close above the mill is comparatively modern, only made after some luckless inhabitant fell off the narrow plant foot-bridge into the mill race and lost his life. The fine old mill, sometimes called 'The Monks Mill' was once a mill of note, and much wheat was brought by water to be ground here. It stands on the river Ryton, which makes its somewhat torturous way from the far off Derbyshire hills, through Worksop and Blyth, just below which it is joined by a stream of equal size coming from Roche Abbey. Some two-hundred yards below the mill, the stream was diverted and part of it was used to fill the moat that surrounded the Palace belonging to their Graces, the Archbishops of York, it having been given by John Earl of Chester in 1170, to Roger, Archbishop of York and to devolve on his successors for ever.

It was to Scrooby came their Graces to take their pleasure in hunting the red deer in Hatfield Chase, of which the wide unremunerative acres stretched away to the river Don on the north, on the north east to the Humber, and on the east to the Isle of Axholme. It is here we are told the good King Alfred was fain to bake cakes. Eight hundred head of red deer are mentioned as inhabiting the chase in 1536, at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace when the Earls of Rutland, Shrewsbury and Huntingdon met at Scrooby to concert means for putting and end to the Rebellion against Thomas Cromwell's iron hand in connection with the suppression of the monasteries. It may be mentioned that the rebels killed thirty of the above mentioned red deer, amongst their other crimes. Hatfield chase covered one hundred and eighty thousand acres and was largely composed of marsh, fen and heather.

The Palace of Scrooby was approached by a road turning at right angles from the north east corner of the churchyard. At this corner stood and now stands what was the ancient Inn. The shoeing forge is still existent as is the ale house, now used as a village reading room, and in it the quaint old oak cupboards may still be seen. A separate stair conducts to what were the guest rooms ' now divided into two ' upstairs. One small and one long one. The end nearest the Church is now used as a cottage. Pursuing the road to the east, the traveller found himself at the drawbridge over the moat, which gave entrance to the fore court of the Palace. Of this poor and maltreated abode but little remains. We may assume the red brick façade faced south where the low garden wall runs east and west. That it was of red brick we are informed by Leland, who was there in the train of King Henry VIII in 1541. Another royal visitor had previously slept there in 1514, when Queen Margaret of Scotland had rested there on her progress to her new kingdom. Leland tells us there were two courts and they were builded of timber, and were most probably made of 'stud and mud' of which many very old Nottinghamshire cottages still exist. The present farm house was no doubt the most eastern part of the building. The main façade and court stood across the present garden, and on the western side joined the banqueting hall, now alas divided into cattle pens and a stable, whilst the minstrels gallery, has been made into a pigeon cote. The splendid massively moulded beams still remain, although mutilated by Vandals from across the Atlantic and one cross beam has been bodily sawn out. The beams are so richly dealt with that one imagines that they are not of an earlier date than Tudor, possibly Henry VII's time, though possibly a little earlier. The Palace consisted of thirty-nine chambers at the time of the visitation of Thomas Cromwell, 1535. The banqueting hall was then we know 'ceiled and dressed with wainscot.' 'In the hall, there were three screens, six tables, nine forms and one cupboard.' In the chapel, 'one lectionary and superalles, a payer of organs, a clock without plometts and ropes.' Of this chapel, nothing is known, although a tiny room in the existing farm house, shows traces of a piscena in the wall, and it is inferred this was the Archbishop's private oratory. The garden lay away to the north and west, bounded by the Ryton, flowing through its pleasant meadows and bearing the grist for the 'Monks Mill'. As there was never a religious fraternity at Scrooby, the mill no doubt belonged to the see of York, and was worked by some lay breathren.

The Church of Scrooby which is described by Leland 'as not big but well builded' is dedicated to St. Wilfred, it is in the early English and decorated styles. The oldest bell has the date 1411 engraved on it. The old and original font which was the same date as the Church was alas sold by the Vicar, the Rev. J. Farmer, to an American. It had stood in the Churchyard since 1862, when a modern one was erected. The old plate was stolen at some time, so Scrooby has certainly not been fortunate from an ecclesiastical point of view. The old stocks which stood by the northern entrance to the Churchyard were also carried off by Americans during the last five years.

The pleasant and easy going days of Scrooby came we believe to an end when Cardinal Wolsey left it for Cawood Castle after Michaelmas 1530. Cavendish writes very pleasantly of the great Archbishop, whom he serves so well, and his account of Wolsey's coming to Scrooby where he stayed 'from grease time to after Michaelmas ministering many deeds of charity. Most commonly on Sunday, (if the weather did serve) he would travel unto some parish Church thereabout and there would lay his divine service and either hear or say mass himself.' It may be noted that Bonner afterwards one of Queen Mary Tudor's most fanatic bishops was with his train. We can well imagine the sumptuous banquets which graced the Cardinal's table, for the Poet Laureate Skelton, a contemporary of his, wrote the following verses about it:

To drynke and for to eate
Swete hypocras and swete meat
To keep his flesh chast
In Lent for a repast
He eateth capon's stew
Fesaunt and Partridge mewed
Hennes, checkynges and pigges

The great Cardinal had it seems expressed a contempt for Skelton's verses, hence the trouble. Wolsey it seems suffered from a delicate digestion, and procured a dispensation from fasting in Lent. Of his taste for pleasant and sweet smells Cavendish says

'The subtle perfumes of Musk and sweet Amber
There wanted none to perfume my chamber.'

So greatly did the Cardinal dislike bad smells, (a terrible concomitant of sixteenth century habits) that he always carried a Pomander, or Vinaigrette, 'in which was part of a sponge, wherein was vinegar and other confections against the pestilent airs.' Amongst the many gifts which came to him was a mulberry tree which he set in his garden at Scrooby, whilst he presented two others to his neighbours, the de Serlebys of Serlby Hall. The old mulberry trees stand there still, bearing prolific fruit, and are supposed to be the oldest in England. In 1530 the Cardinal moved to another of the residences of his Archbishopric of York, and the veil of quiet fell on Scrooby, only disturbed by the troubles anent the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, and the visit of King Henry VIII in 1541, when we must suppose the structure to have been in good order. Certainly in spite of Cromwell's visitations John, Earl of Chester's gift to the Church was respected and Scrooby remained an appanage of the see of York. There were Protestant Archbishops of York, and in Queen Mary Tudor's time a Romanist Ecclesiastic, and in 1576 in the time of Queen Elizabeth, Archbishop Sandys was made Archbishop, and the troubles of Scrooby Palace began. To judge from his fine tomb at Southwell, Sandys was an exceedingly handsome old man, and the same tomb records the fact, that he had a very large family. This was all very well, but unfortunately he considered the Church was meant to provide for the aforesaid family, and in 1582 he 'devised the lease' of four fat livings to his eldest son, Sir Samuel Sandys.Scrooby was not the one at which Sir Samuel took up his abode, but it was inhabited by his younger brother Edwyn, who lived there quietly until 1608, but of whom more anon. Archbishop Sandys is supposed to have appointed William Brewster his receiver and bailiff at Scrooby, in January, 1575-6, but he himself was not made Archbishop till later in the year of 1576. This however brings to our notice the name of one, no doubt a nephew of the William Brewster and his wife Prudence. After much research, it is a fairly well authenticated fact, that the William Brewster of Pilgrim fame, was a son of Henry Brewster, Vicar of Sutton-cum-Scrooby, inducted 1565. William was born 1566-7, probably at Sutton where his father lived. His father wisely desired to give him a good education, and he matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1580. In passing backward or forwards as Secretary of State, Davison it is surmised, became acquainted with young Brewster, and he entered his service going with him to Holland, when he went to receive the cautionary towns Brill and Flushing in 1585. Davison is supposed to have made acquaintance with Brewster on his journeys to and from Scotland, when on state business. Davison (says Hunter) thought so highly of Brewster's zeal and discretion, that on their returns from the low countries he gave him a gold chain to wear at court. The large number of people of the name of Brewster, in and around Scrooby in the sixteenth century, makes it extremely difficult to deal with authority on the subject, but by collating all the information, possibly the most probable solution of the Brewster problem is this:

Henry Brewster (Vicar of Sutton-cum-Scrooby) was presented to the living 1565.
Brother of
William Brewster, married Prudence, Post of Scrooby and Bailiff to Sir S. Sandys.

William Brewster, one of the Pilgrim Fathers and Post of Scrooby 1587 till 1608, born 1566-67.
Brother of
James Brewster, Vicar of Sutton, Scrooby and S Mary Magdelene, Bawtry.

This accounts for much that is difficult to understand. The older William Brewster and his wife Prudence, lived at the little old Vicarage at Scrooby, acting as Post there, a position of considerable emolument, bringing in some £200 to £300 a year, besides the office of bailiff to the Sandys, which was very likely paid in kind. The childless couple thus lived at the old Vicarage, not a stones throw from the old Inn, where they were no doubt often visited by their nephew William, who became a warm friend of Sir Edwyn Sandys who lived at his brother, Sir Samuel's house, once the old Palace, but with its passing into lay hands, came to be called (or what was left of it) the Manor House. This house remained in the possession of the Sandys family till 1676. When in 1587, after Babington's conspiracy, Mary Queen of Scots was brought to the block, Davison was made scapegoat by the astute Lord Burghley, and retired in disgrace into private life. His fall involved William Brewster, who left the court for quiet Scrooby. It may well be that in that loose living age Davison's known Puritanical leanings had made him enemies at court, for he and Brewster seem to have been of one mind in such matters, and on his return home William continued to pursue these Puritan ways, and as Young says, he withstood the tyranny of the Bishops with regard to godly preachers. There was a very considerable amount of dissent in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, and of course William Brewster was a awarm friend of William Bradford of Austerfield. After sharing in Davison's fall William Brewster returned to take up the position of 'Post' at Scrooby, in place of his old uncle who died in 1590. Every 'Post' in those days was to keep and have constantly ready two horses at least, with suitable furniture; he was also to have at least two bags of leather, well lined with baize or cotton, and a horn for the driver to blow 'as oft as he meets company' or four times a mile! After receiving the packet entrusted to him, the driver was to start within fifteen minutes and to 'run' in the summer seven miles an hour, and in winter five! In the back room at the vicarage (till lately the old stable) the old oak rafters can still be seen, where the bags and 'furniture' hung, and in the little present coal house, lived the Vicarage Cow! A large square stone by the back door still remains with an iron staple in it, to which the tired post horses used to be hitched. In 1605, Sir Timothy Hutton, son of the then Archbishop of York, journeying from York to London, paid the Post who was then William Brewster, ten shillings for a conveyance and guide to Tuxford, so we must suppose the 'furniture' sometimes had wheels unless the conveyance also meant riding a horse. Sir Timothy also paid seven shillings and tenpence for a candle, supper and bed, no doubt in the best guest room of the old inn. On his return he paid eight shillings for conveying him to Doncaster to the 'Post', and he also spent two shillings for burnt sack, bread, butter, beer and sugar to wine. Brewster appears to have been on terms of great friendship with Sire Edwyn Sandys who lived on at the now renamed Manor. The house now far too large, had been gradually pulled down. The eastern wing remaining to this day, and also the fine banqueting hall and its minstrel gallery. It is here without a shadow of doubt, that Brewster held his prayer meetings, and where the little body of dissentients met for their services. As we have seen, William Brewster was the son of one vicar, old Henry who died in 1597-8, and who was succeeded in the living of Sutton-cum-Scrooby by his son James, who held the living to his death in 1614. Besides the livings of Sutton and Scrooby, James Brewster also became master of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalene at Bawtry, a little town somewhat over a mile north of Scrooby. This foundation was of great antiquity, and was re-endowed in 1390. It was in 1584 that James Brewster became endowed of the living of St. Mary Magdalene juxta Bawtrie, only succeeding his father in the livings of Sutton and Scrooby at his death in 1597. As far as it can be ascertained eight marks a year were to be paid to the chaplain of the hospital, to pray for the souls of Richard Morton and Joan his wife, who had re-endowed it in 1390. It was in James Brewster's time that trouble arose about the hospital, which had evidently been overlooked in Cromwell's rigorous visitation and was made the subject of a rigorous enquiry, which ended in the foundation being overturned and the property being seized by the crown. They were however granted out again to Brewster and others as a private possession, which seems a rather extraordinary proceeding as one of the complaints alleged against James Brewster, was of permitting the chapel to be used as a stable. We may be permitted to wonder if the spare Post horses belonging to his brother William, were sometimes kept there. It was in 1590 that the warrant with regard to this affair was made out, the charge being that James Brewster had 'profaned and ruinated the house and chapel, converting it into stable and had carried away the ornaments.' Indeed it is said that swine were also kept here. It may seem a little far fetched to introduce these matters into our little history of Scrooby, but they so far affected the fortunes of James Brewster and probably those of his brother William, that they are not unworthy of notice. We cannot suppose that the views of the two brothers were in the least similar. James was the vicar of two parishes, under the Church of England, whilst William held prayer meetings at which he also preached in Cardinal Wolsey's old banqueting hall, by favour of his friend, Sir Edwyn Sandys, who became treasurer of the Virginia Company, and with whom William Brewster kept up a correspondence and friendship which endured when he had gone to his distant home in America.

There are many books telling the story of the Pilgrim Fathers and their adventures, but with the departure of William Brewster in 1608, the historical history of Scrooby may be said to close. I acknowledge with grateful thanks the facts I have gleaned by perusing the works of Cavendish, Leland, Thoroton, Brown, Hunter, and various histories , and I hope this simple story of Scrooby my set at rest many doubts respecting it. As a near resident for many years, it is perhaps easier to see how much the history of Sutton had to do with Scrooby.