Winchcombe and the Benefactors of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries

Clues exist that suggest Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries came to be of importance to the Gloucestershire families of whom I believe I am descended. I am interested in several family surnames, such as Carter, Tracy, Stratford, Laurence, Saunders, Crump and Ayres (Ayers).

What are some of the historical facts that should be examined to determine if they have relevance to the families from which my Virginia ancestors are descended?

Question One: Is it relevant that Anthony Saunders was one of the last Curates of the Abbey of Winchcombe, having served from 1535 to carry out the policies of Henry VIII?

The following excerpt is from the Victoria County History; Page, William (editor), A History of the County of Gloucester Volume 2, 1907.

“In 1535 Cromwell appointed Anthony Saunders, the curate of Winchcombe, to read to the monks of Winchcombe and preach in the parish. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, No. 747. On 2 November he complained to Cromwell of the abbot of Hayles—

“I have small favour and assistance amongst Pharasaical papists. The Abbot of Hayles has hired a great Golyas, a subtle Dun’s man, yea a great clerk, as he sayeth, a bachelor of divinity of Oxford to catch me in my sermons.

He added that this preacher rather maintained than spoke against the usurped power of the bishop of Rome. However, Abbot Stephen was not openly hostile to Cromwell. On 28 January, 1536, he wrote asking him to dispense with some of the new injunctions which were most galling to the religious. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, No. 747 (p.192). Since Cromwell had visited the house, he wrote—

“The number of my brethren is sore decayed. I have buried three, two are sore sick, one had licence to depart, and I have three in Oxford at divinity. I beg that I may take in more to help the choir.

“On 18 June he told Cromwell that in accordance with his wish he had granted the farm of Longborough to Robert Hopper. (L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 1163)

“In 1538 commissioners were appointed in every county to destroy the shrines. Latimer, bishop of Worcester, reported to Cromwell that the relic of the Holy Blood of Hayles seemed, after examination, to be ‘an unctuous gum and a compound of many things.’ (fn. 56) It was dispatched to London, and on 24 November Hilsey, bishop of Rochester, preached at Paul’s Cross, and there showed the Blood of Hayles, affirming it to be ‘honey clarified and coloured with saffron, as had been evidently proved before the king and his council.’ (fn. 57) Abbot Stephen wrote to Cromwell praying that he might destroy the empty shrine, ‘lest it should minister occasion for stumbling to the weak.’ (fn. 58)

“On 24 December, 1539, the abbot and twenty-one monks surrendered the monastery. (fn. 59) Dr. London and his fellow-commissioners reported to Cromwell that they found— the father and all his brethren very honest and conformable persons, and the house clearly out of debt. . . . The father had his house and grounds so well furnished with jewels, plate, stuff, corn, cattle, and the woods also so well saved, as though he had looked for no alteration of his house. (fn. 60)

“A pension of £100 a year, with the manorhouse of Coscomb, was assigned to the abbot; the prior and one monk got £8; the rest received pensions varying from £7 to £1 6s. 8d. a year, and two monks were given vicarages. (fn. 61) Wages were paid to seventy servants of the household. (fn. 62)

“In 1535 the clear yearly value of the property of Hayles amounted to £357 7s. 8½d. (fn. 63) The possessions of the monastery included the manors of Hayles, Pinnockshire, Nether Swell, Wormington, Coscomb, Longborough; rents in the towns of Gloucester and Winchcombe; lands and rents in Didbrook, Challingworth, and Farmcote, in Gloucestershire; the manor of Rodbourne in Wiltshire; pastures at Heathend in Worcestershire; and the rectories of Hagley in Suffolk, Northley in Oxfordshire, St. Breage and St. Paul in Cornwall, Rodbourne in Wiltshire, Hayles, Didbrook, Longborough, and Toddington in Gloucestershire.”

The clear yearly value of the property of the monastery in 1535 amounted to £759 11s. 9¼d.; (fn. 137) in the hands of the crown bailiff in 1540 it brought in £945 3s. 11¼d. The possessions of the convent in Gloucestershire included the manors of Winchcombe, Twyning, Sherborne, Staunton, Snowshill, Honeybourne, Dry Marston, Adelmington, Bledington, Yanworth, Hazleton, Rowell, Halling, Charlton Abbots, Naunton, Frampton, Coates, Sudeley, the hundreds of Kiftesgate, Holford, and Greston, rents in Winchcombe and Gloucester, the rectories of Winchcombe, Twyning, Staunton, and Bledington, in Oxfordshire the manor and rectory of Enstone, in Warwickshire the manor of Alne.”

Question Two: Is it relevant that Richard Tracy and John Stratford were given royal commissions relating to the dissolution of the Abbey of Hailes in Gloucestershire?

“On 11 November 1541, the gentlmen John Bridges, Richard Tracy and John Stratford received royal letters of commission directing them to investigate serious crimes committed on the site of a recently dissolved abbey in Gloucestershire. In the letters the king announced: ‘We are informed that great spoil hath been made by diverse persons, to us yet unknown, of the church and houses of the late monastery of Hailes, reserved to be defaced and sold or otherwise disposed to our use.’ He gave his commissioners ‘full power and authority’ to ‘search by all ways and means . . . what things of the said church and houses have been taken away, spoled, or stolen, and by whom the same spoil hath been done; and report their findings to the Court of Augmentations.

Shagan, Ethan H., Popular Politics and the English Reformation: Cambridge studies in Early Modern British History, 2003, p. 162.

Question Three: To what extent did the religious controversies with which Richard Tracy (1501-1569) of Stanway and his father William Tracy of Toddington were identified affect their descendents and my ancestral Gloucestershire families?

The relationship of the Gloucestershire Tracy family to King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and Queen Mary are chronicled in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, excerpts of which might be found at Richard Tracy (1501-1569) Stanway, Gloucestershire, U. K.


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