• Nicola

Rebels of Louth: Thomas and Robert Spencer

In honour of Lincolnshire Day on 1 October an examination of two Louth men who were involved in the Rising that began in Louth on 1 October 1536.

The Beginning of the Pilgrimage of Grace Lincoln, 1537 Andrew Benjamin Donaldson (1840–1919) Usher Art Gallery Lincoln

Thomas and Robert Spencer were brothers from Louth and I chose them as examples of ordinary men involved in the Lincolnshire Rising. They were both active in the early days of the rebellion according to the depositions of Edward Maddison and ‘Captain Cobbler’ Nicholas Melton. Maddison mentioned ‘Robert Spencer and his brother’ as being amongst the ringleaders at Caistor.[i] Nicholas Melton said that Robert and Thomas were among those who encouraged the rebels to take the commissioners at Caistor.[ii] John Harrison said that they would not have gone on without the compulsion of the Spencer brothers.[iii] Thomas was also mentioned at the book-burning at Louth.[iv] It was therefore perhaps surprising that they were not executed for their part in the rising, in fact they were not even tried as rebels.


Thomas and Robert Spencer were both drapers.[v] [vi] While a draper was originally one who made woollens, later it became someone who dealt in cloth of all sorts but especially woollens.[vii] In 1538-44, Robert was in court as a plaintiff, against defendant Robert Gaynsburgh, regarding the Farm of the Ulnage.[viii] Ulnage was the payment made by the seller of cloths to an inspector, the ulnager, who confirmed that the cloth conformed to statutory requirements.[ix] Rather than have inspectors travelling from London all over the country, this work was farmed out to men in the counties.[x] It is not clear from the catalogue entry whether it was Robert Spencer or Gaynsburgh who held the ulnage.


Both Thomas and Robert’s wills are available amongst those held by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and available on Ancestry and are the best starting point for collecting information on their families. The probate date for Thomas Spencer’s will was 14 April 1551.300 The family members he mentions are: his wife Jennet, Thomas Crosyer his son in law, John Spencer his son and Robert Spencer his brother. He also refers to “his brother” William Kynge and William’s son John. It is not clear what the connection is between the Kings and the Spencers, perhaps they were half-brothers. William King was a bailiff of Louth and appears in many depositions as being a captain and paymaster amongst the rebels.[xi] In fact, he was so infamous that a memo on 23 October in the State Papers marvels that he has not yet been accused.[xii] Thomas also mentions another brother in his will: Sir John Wheteley, again the connection is not clear. At the time of his death Thomas owned a shop, three houses, one which he lived in and another that John Rede lived in and a little house on the bankside, he had the lease of a garden by the church and a close at Spitlehill. He also had a wood called Elandhill. In his will Thomas left money to found a coal charity. His son, John added the gift of a house.[xiii] The property linked to the charity was on Mercer Row.[xiv]


Louth, St James

Thomas was buried in Louth at the church of St James on 10 March 1550/1.[xv] There were clearly issues with John receiving his inheritance as he took his father’s executors to court, the records of this are in The National Archives and reveal that John was living in East Bergholt in Suffolk.[xvi]


Robert died in 1552, the probate date for his will was 1 August. In his will he lists his son, Robert, daughter-in-law Margaret, Richard and Isabel the children of his son and finally Elizabeth, his daughter who was married to Robert Proctor. He also mentions a Michell Spenser but does not confirm the relationship. In his will he lists the house that he lives in, and the one adjoining it. There is also property in several villages around Louth including Huttoft, Legbourne and Stewton.[xvii] Robert was buried at Louth, St James church, on 22 July 1552.[xviii] Robert’s wife Isabel had died in 1550, the Churchwarden’s accounts confirm payment for her burial and the parish register shows that this took place on 6 September.[xix]


There does not appear to have been any negative outcome of their involvement in the Rising. Thomas and Robert were both churchwardens both before and after the Rising so, like the clerk Richard Curzon mentioned earlier, their involvement did not impact on their suitability for the role. Robert first appears as a churchwarden in 1513. A John Spencer was churchwarden at the same time. [xx] Thomas was first a churchwarden in 1527-8.[xxi]


Discovering the name of Thomas and Robert’s father has not been possible. There are several candidates in the records though, Louth churchwarden’s accounts have references to a William, Richard and a John. John and Richard appear between 1500 and 1540 and William between 1500 and 1511. Richard appears often in the records of the Trinity Gild of Louth, working in various locations around the town: “1517 Ric Spencer 1 day labouring repers on E[a]stgate.”[xxii] Unfortunately, there are no wills available for any of these men. It should not be assumed though that the family have always been in Louth, there is a mentioned in the churchwardens book of Richard Spencer’s wife “of Keylby [Keelby]” which is about 20 miles north of Louth.[xxiii]

The table above is data extracted from the Louth Churchwardens book and parish registers up to the death of Robert in 1552 in order to locate them and their families in the genealogical records. However, this is not straightforward, the basic information provided in these early registers illustrates that the lack of supporting information makes it difficult for the genealogist to confidently build a family tree. There are several children born in Louth in the 1540s and listed as children of Thomas. However for one of them, Michael, his father is recorded as Thomas Spenser Junior which means there were two men called Thomas Spencer in Louth.[xlviii] The genealogist can be confident that the Dorothe Spencer who married Thomas Crozyer on 21 November 1541 was the child of the rebel Thomas as he mentions Crozyer in his will.[xlix] It would be reasonable to theorise that the Thomas who married Maria Brunet on 3 October 1541 was a brother of Dorothe. Michael, son of Thomas Junior, was born following this marriage so would support the theory that this was Thomas Junior with the rebel Thomas being Thomas Senior. If so, why is Thomas Junior not referenced in his father’s will? Were Ales and Agnes both wives of rebel Thomas, with Jennet mentioned in his will being his third wife? If so, which is the mother of the John mentioned in his will? Is George born in 1540 the child of Thomas and Jennet? Why is he not mentioned in the will? These are questions that future research may unravel.


Endnotes

[i] Gairdner, James (1888) Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 11, July-December 1536. London: HMSO., para.568 (p 225) https://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol11. Accessed 22 November 2018. [ii] Ibid. para.968 (p 390) [iii] Ibid. para.972 (p 398) [iv] Ibid. para.828 (p 323) [v] Testamentary Records. England. 14 April 1551. Thomas Spencer. Will. Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 34. Collection: England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 12 May 2019 [vi] Testamentary Records. England. 1 August 1552. Robert Spencer. Will. Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 35. Collection: England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 12 May 2019 [vii] Barley, L B & Barley, M W. (1962) Lincolnshire Shopkeepers in 16th & 17th Centuries. Lincolnshire Historian. 2 (9).: p 16. [viii] National Archives (Great Britain) Spenser v Gaynsburgh. SPENSER, Robert. 1538-44. Catalogue entry only. Collection: Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office. C 1/1071/46. National Archives (Great Britain), Kew. https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7491544 Accessed 25 May 2019. [ix] Gray, H. (1924) The Production and Exportation of English Woollens in the Fourteenth Century. The English Historical Review. 39 (153).: p 14 https://www.jstor.org/stable/552440. Accessed 29 May 2019. [x] Zell, Michael. (2004) Industry society in the sixteenth century: Wealden society in the sixteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., p 156. [xi] Gairdner (1888) op. cit. para.853 (p 341). [xii] Ibid, para.843 (p335) [xiii] Bayley, Robert Slater. (1834) Notitiæ Ludæ, Or Notices of Louth. Louth: William Edwards., p106 https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_GdZUAAAAcAAJ. Accessed 12 May 2019. [xiv] Louth Navigation Trust. Feoffees & the charities of Louth. http://www.louthcanal.org.uk/feoffees.html. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xv] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 10 March 1550/1. SPENCER, Thomas. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xvi] National Archives (Great Britain). Spenser v Talbot. SPENCER, John. 1553-5. Catalogue entry only. Collection: Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office. C 1/1382/39-40. National Archives (Great Britain), Kew. https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7502831. Accessed 29 May 2019. [xvii] Testamentary Records. England. 1 August 1552. Robert Spencer. Will. Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 35. Collection: England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 12 May 2019 [xviii] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 22 July 1552. SPENCER, Robert. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xix] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 6 September 1550. SPENCER, Isabella. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xx] Dudding (1941) op. cit. p 149. [xxi] Louth Churchwardens Accounts 1527-1559. 1527-8. Reference: LOUTH ST JAMES PAR/7/2 Lincolnshire Archives, Lincoln. [xxii] Accounts of the gild of the Holy Trinity of Louth. MON/7/2 Misc. Book 2. Monson Ms. LXXVIII. Gild Ste. Trinitatis de Louth 1489-1523. Lincolnshire Archives, Lincoln; [xxiii] Dudding (1941) op. cit. p 7. [xxiv] Ibid. p 149 [xxv] Ibid. p 165 [xxvi] Ibid. p 212 [xxvii] Louth Churchwardens Accounts 1527-1559. 1527-8. Reference: LOUTH ST JAMES PAR/7/2 Lincolnshire Archives, Lincoln. [xxviii] Louth Churchwardens Accounts 1527-1559. 1534-5. Reference: LOUTH ST JAMES PAR/7/2 Lincolnshire Archives, Lincoln. [xxix] Louth Churchwardens Accounts 1527-1559. 1538-9. Reference: LOUTH ST JAMES PAR/7/2 Lincolnshire Archives, Lincoln. [xxx] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 18 February 1539. SPENC Johus. Collection: Lincolnshire Baptisms www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxi] Baptisms (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 20 April 1540. SPENCER, Georgius. Collection: Lincolnshire Baptisms www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxii] Marriages (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 25 May 1540. SPENCER, Jana and WARDE, Thomas. Collection: Lincolnshire Marriages www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxiii] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 19 August 1540. SPENCER, Willius. Collection: Lincolnshire Baptisms www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxiv] Marriages (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 3 October 1541. SPENCER, Thomas and BRUNET, Maria. Collection: Lincolnshire Marriages www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxv] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 8 November 1541. SPENCER, Richard. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxvi] Marriages (PR) England. Lincolnshire, Louth, St James. 21 November 1541. SPENCER Dorothe and CROZYER Thomas. Collection: Lincolnshire Marriages. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxvii] Baptisms (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 28 September 1542. SPENCER, Michael. Collection: Lincolnshire Baptisms www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxviii] Baptisms (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 15 March 1543. SPENCER, Ricus. Collection: Lincolnshire Baptisms www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xxxix] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 12 March 1545. SPENCER, Elena. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xl] Baptisms (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 20 May 1546. SPENCER, Isabella. Collection: Lincolnshire Baptisms www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xli] Marriages (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 16 January 1547. SPENCER, Rosa and GOSLYNG, Hugh. Collection: Lincolnshire Marriages www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xlii] Marriages (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 30 July 1549. SPENCER, Johanna and PATCHETT, William. Collection: Lincolnshire Marriages www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xliii] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 6 September 1550. SPENCER, Isabella. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xliv] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 10 March 1550/1. SPENCER, Thomas. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xlv] Marriages (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 27 September 1551. SPENCER, Johannes and BRYGAM, Margaret. Collection: Lincolnshire Marriages www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xlvi] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 27 January 1552. SPENCER, John. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xlvii] Burials (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 22 July 1552. SPENCER, Robert. Collection: Lincolnshire Burials. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019 [xlviii] Baptisms (PR) England. Louth St James, Lincolnshire. 28 September 1542. SPENCER, Michael. Collection: Lincolnshire Baptisms www.findmypast.co.uk Accessed 29 May 2019 [xlix] Marriages (PR) England. Lincolnshire, Louth, St James. 21 November 1541. SPENCER Dorothe and CROZYER Thomas. Collection: Lincolnshire Marriages. www.findmypast.co.uk. Accessed 29 May 2019



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