SIMON OF SUDBURY

 

 

 

The head of Simon in St. Gregory's Church, Sudbury
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The following articles are all reproduced from an exibition held at St. Gregory's Church in June 2007, where to this day the head of Simon is kept.
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Simon as Bishop of London
Simon as a Diplomat
Simon's College
Archbishop Simon of Sudbury
Simon's Building Work at Canterbury
St. Leonard's Hospital
The Peasant's Revolt
Simon the Chancellor
The Suffolk Revolt
The Theobald family

Archbishop Simon of Sudbury

Simon was made Archbishop of Canterbury in the summer of 1375. A prematurely aged King Edward 111 was declining in health and depending a great deal on his son and heir Edward the Black Prince. However, sadly the Prince was also a slowly dying man having been infected by a fatal germ in Spain.

The Prince died on Trinity Sunday, 8 June 1376. His body lay in state at Westminster for nearly four months until his burial at Canterbury on Michaelmas Day at which Simon officiated.

In June the following year the King died and four weeks later, on 16 July 1377 the Black Prince's son, Edward's grandson, was crowned Richard 11 at Westminster Abbey by Simon. The Coronation marked the highpoint of his career as a churchman.

Richard was only nine years old and usually with a minor a Regency would be set up until he reached his majority. In the light of later events it was a tragedy that this did not happen in Richard's case.

The only possible candidate for Regent was Richard's uncle John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, probably the greatest noble in late medieval England. He was deeply unpopular, so much so that his candidature for Regent was ruled out.
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Simon's Building Work at Canterbury

It is doubtful whether Simon ever returned to Sudbury as Archbishop although of course he maintained contactAll that remains of Simon's College with his brother John, now Warden or Custos of the College. He became heavily involved with building work at Canterbury, determined to make the city and Cathedral worthy of their status.

The old Norman nave of the Cathedral, hurriedly built just after The Conquest, was in a state of bad repair and unsafe and had been so for years. The decision to demolish it and rebuild from scratch came at the instigation of Simon though approval had to be sought from Christchurch Priory.

No doubt the fact that he was prepared to subsidise the costs by some 3,000 marks, equivalent to one and a half million pounds in our money today, helped.

He was responsible for the strengthening of the city walls and the rebuilding of the great Westgate. The King's master mason, Henry Yevely, provided the designs for both nave and fortifications. He was no stranger to Simon having worked at St. Paul's when he was Bishop of London.

Canterbury Nave is recognised as one of the greatest works of Perpendicular architecture in the country. Simon never lived to see it through, credit for that goes to Prior Thomas Chillenden who completed what Simon had begun.
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St. Leonard's Hospital (Colney's Hospital)

John Colney, a prosperous merchant of Sudbury, had the misfortune to succumb to Leprosy. In 1372 he asked Simon to draw up certain ordinances for the control and governing of a hospital he was building outside the town in Melford Road.

The Hospital was in the form of three self-contained units one of which Colney himself would occupy as Warden or Governor. Two other lepers would each have a unit. After Colney's death the vacancy would be filled and one would be chosen as Governor to whom the others would obey.

If a leper died, or was expelled, a replacement was to be found within six months, failing which the spiritual father of St. Gregory's would nominate a third.

The annual income was divided into five portions, two to the Governor, two to the Brethren and one for maintenance. This fifth portion to be kept with the writings of the House, in a common chest in a safe place in some church in Sudbury.

If the statutes should not be kept after the Founder's death the revenues were to be divided between the church of St. Gregory and the chapel of St. Anne, annexed to the same, in equal portions for the souls of Colney the Founder, and of Nigel and Sarah Theobald and all the faithful departed.

The Hospital was rebuilt as three almshouses in 1619-20 and continued to work well under Simon's statutes until the last Master died in 1813.

In 1867 the net income was given towards St. Leonard's Cottage Hospital in Newton Road via the Charity Commissioners. The almshouses were demolished in 1858 and replaced by a pair of double tenements which still stand today on the Melford Road near Colney's Close.
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The Peasant's Revolt 13-15th June 1381

It was inevitable that it would happen it was just surprising that it hadn't happened sooner. The causes were many and they started in the aftermath of The Black Death of 1348-9 that wiped out a third of the population that meant a crucial shortage of labour. The surviving labour forces were able to exploit the situation as for the first time competitive wages were offered.

In 1351 the government brought in The Statute of Labourers with a ruling that rents and wages should be fixed in an attempt to curb the situation. Successive governments did the same but with little success. The labourers resented these attempts to peg their wages. They had no intention of giving up their new found bargaining power in many cases, freedom.

Then there were the long drawn out wars with France and the continuous payment of taxes to keep them going. There was a growing animosity towards the Flemings, skilled craftsmen invited in by Edward III to show the English how to make good woollen cloth. They kept to themselves and dressed differently and they sent their money back to Flanders; or so it was said.

There was no single cause for the rebellion but a feeling by the population of being wronged on a number of scores. The nation had lost confidence in its government, its clergy, and itself. Each individual felt they knew who was responsible for their grievance and when the opportunity arose would seek satisfaction.

Marking the Anniversary in 2014
As the anniversary is upon us I just wondered if the following could be added to the website entry upon the town's part in the Great Rising. It's from RB Dobson's The Peasants' revolt of 1381, concerning the time when the rising began to collapse.

"The rebels who had been scattered, reassembled once more and went to Colchester where they began to incite the townsmen by means of urgent entreaties, threats and arguments to yet new disturbances and madness. But after failing to do this, they moved on to Sudbury. For they knew that Lords Fitzwalter and John Harlestone were following their route with an armed force. Suddenly, when the rebels were making their usual proclaimations on behalf of the commons, this force rushed upon them unexpectedly, killing as many as they wished. The remainder were allowed to live or sent to prison".

I've also been 'digging' around the detail of the headless bodies found near the croft. The number 30 mooted is exactly the same figure of skeletons unearthed during the diggings on the site of the Holy Sepulchre church. Are these one and the same I wonder? If so it's disputable whether they were victims of the retribution or just the usual remains to be found near any Medieval chapel.

This Thursday (12th June) a few of us are setting out from Liston Church on a walk past Lyons old Manor and onto Cavendish. Any Sudbury History Society are welcome to join us to mark the occasion, with a quick refreshment planned at the George before the walk back. We shall be at the crossroads in the village at 6pm.

Darren Clarke (Society member)
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Simon the Chancellor

The biggest mistake in his career was when he accepted the post of Chancellor, even though a few years earlier it had been declared by Parliament that " . . .. none but laymen henceforth be made Chancellor, Treasurer, or other great officer of the realm..."

Parliament assembled at Northampton in November 1380 to hear from him the dreadful financial situation the government was in.

The French expeditions had emptied the Treasury. There were three months wages due at the garrisons of Brest, Cherbourg and Calais. The king's jewels were in pawn to the City of London as a surety for a loan of £5,000. The king needed the sum of £160,000 if they were to continue the war with France. There were troubles in Flanders that meant that exports of wool were down.

It was decided that there was no withdrawing from the war and so it was up to them to raise the money. They were given three options, a sales tax on all mercantile transactions, a wealth tax on property, or a poll tax amounting to one shilling and three groats per head on all persons over the age of fifteen.

They settled on a poll tax to raise £100,000 if the Church raised the rest. There was one proviso, the richest would pay up to six groats per man and wife so that the tax would fall less heavily on the others. A groat was the equivalent of four pence.

Parliament may have been in agreement but the Nation was not. The Peasants couldn't and therefore wouldn't pay. They rebelled and the revolt reached its climax with the dreadful events of 13-15th June when an estimated 100,000 peasants and supporters entered London.

On Friday 14th June the boy King Richard rode out from the Tower for a pre-arranged meeting with the mob at Mile End, he was showing amazing courage. After his departure nobody raised the drawbridge.

When the meeting with the rebels was over Richard returned to Baynards Castle near Blackfriars. Wat Tyler, the leader of the rebels went to the Tower with 400 men and met with no resistance. They found Simon and Hales, the Treasurer, at prayer in, St. John's Chapel in the White Tower. They were dragged out of the building and taken to Tower Green where they were clumsily decapitated.

Their heads were fixed on to poles and paraded to Westminster and back to London Bridge where they were fixed above the gatehouse, the traditional place to display the heads of traitors.
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The Suffolk Revolt

On the 12th June a detachment of Essex men led by a priest, John Wrawe, came over Ballingdon Bridge and were met by the Vicar of All Saints, Geofftey Parftey and a group of Sudbury men. They made their way to Liston Hall, about three miles north of Sudbury, which belonged to Richard Lyons a wealthy merchant and notorious moneylender and destroyed it.

They then moved on to Cavendish in search of Chief Justice Cavendish who was responsible for enforcing the Statute of Labourers in East Anglia. He had fled after storing his valuables in the church tower. The rebels demanded entry into the tower and carried of his goods.

They then went on to Melford where they stopped for refreshment and then made their way to St. Edmundsburywhere the Prior, John Cambridge, had been murdered by his own serfs. Eventually they tracked Cavendish down at Lakenheath where they beheaded him and carried his head back to St. Edmundsbury for display.The Head of Simon of Sudbury
It was the Bishop of Norwich who restored order in East Anglia. None of the promises made by the King werehonoured and the leaders of the rebellion were executed. Wat Tyler's head replaced Simon's on London Bridge. Simon's body was taken to Canterbury where his tomb is close to the Black Prince's. His head was rescued and brought back to his beloved St. Gregory's College, where it still is today.




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