The Reformation

The ruins of Roche AbbeyIn 1534 Henry VIII  broke from Rome and established the new Church of England. As head of this Church Henry quickly set in motion the dissolution of institutions which owed allegiance to Rome. In the country some monasteries like Roche have survived as ruins, but the great priories, friaries and chantry colleges in towns disappeared rapidly and completely, redeveloped or demolished by their lay owners. This was the fate of most of the large establishments at which the funeral procession rested overnight. In Pontefract,  the Benedictine Priory of St John, the Dominican Priory, the Carmelite and Augustinian houses no longer exist. In Doncaster both the Franciscan Priory, where the body lay, and the Carmelite Priory have disappeared without trace. Original parts of Blyth Priory remain only where they had become part of the parish church. The Franciscan friaries of Grantham and Stamford no longer survive. Today it is as if these sometimes extensive urban sites never existed and in some cases little is known about them.

At Fotheringhay the College was dissolved and the buildings were gradually lost, whilst the Collegiate church itself fell into temporary disrepair. Chantries and chantry houses like those at Newark and Tuxford were dissolved, as were the powerful religious guilds of towns like Newark. Estimates suggest that at the time of the funeral there was one cleric for every 50 to 100 people to serve these various institutions. As they closed many clergy across the country were pensioned off and overall numbers dropped dramatically.

Even the remaining parish churches were altered significantly, particularly during the reigns of Edward IV and Elizabeth.  They were stripped of decoration: colourful wall paintings were hidden by whitewash; the great rood lofts and altars were taken down; church furniture, draperies, vestments and chalices were sold.  Only screens without roods stayed, as did painted glass, tombs, fonts, and lecterns.

All these changes were accompanied by radical reform to the liturgy, rituals and doctrine of the new national church, not least in the use of the English language. Before the end of the Tudor period the religious framework of the medieval world in which Richard’s funeral took place had been transformed.

The Impact of the English Reformation, 1500-1640, (Arnold Readers in History)
 by Peter Marshall (Author, Editor), published by Bloomsbury Academic, 1997
The English Reformation, by A G. Dickens, published by Pennsylvania State University, 1989
Henry VIII and the English Reformation, by Richard Rex, published by Palgrave Macmillan, 1993
The Reformation of the English Parish Church, by Robert Whiting, Cambridge University Press, 2010

The banner at the top of this page is based on an engraving of Wakefield by Samuel Buck: view original
© 2011 Wakefield Historical Society. All rights reserved. All articles and images are the copyright of the authors and/or Wakefield Historical Society unless otherwise stated and are not to be copied in any medium without explicit written permission..
Every attempt has been made to gain permission from the owner(s) of copyright material.
The Society is not to be held responsible for the accuracy of content, and does not necessarily endorse views held on this site.If you find broken links or other website problems please contact the Website Manager : info@wakefieldhistoricalsociety.org.uk

Wakefield Historical Society © 2020. All rights reserved | Registered charity No. 248363
Website by Wakefield Website Design.co.uk