Website of the Laceby History Group

The Sixteenth Century - Tudor England

The early 16th century was the transition from the Middle Ages in the Tudor era, with momentous national changes under King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

To look at the history of Laceby it is perhaps necessary to understand national events, for without these events it might be fair to say that life stood still. The ways of living and work did not change and Laceby in 1601 to a great extent was much the same as in 1501. This is true on the surface, but dramatic changes were happening that were to split the country in the next century. These momentous changes began in the 1530's when Henry VIII commenced religious changes by appointing himself as Head of the English Church.

It must be remembered that at this time all religion looked to Rome and the King did not change the basic Catholic Doctrines. Henry then controlled the English Church which meant control of the powerful and very wealthy monastic orders. Religious bodies which did not immediately accept the King as the Head of the Church were closed and their wealth and lands were confiscated. Thus began the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Although the Crown gained great wealth it nevertheless was not completely heartless, for a pension was awarded to the displaced clerics according to their previous station and it is here that Laceby has a connection.

After the dissolution of Thornton Abbey, a certain Roger Dalyson, Professor of Theology at the Abbey was awarded a pension of £50 per annum - a very princely pemsion. In addition he returned to the English Church and acquired the benefice of Haxey at £13.6s.8d. per annum, Laceby in a similar sum and Stondon in Bedfordshire at £2 per annum, giving him a total yearly income of £78.13s.4d. The official historic reference is listed under Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, 37 Hen. VIII Roger Dalyson, Clerk, presented by Thomas Grymston (in Kings gift) void by death. Laceby Patent Rolls. 

And so we find that 1562-3 Roger Dalyson, a very learned and wealthy man is listed as incumbent of Laceby Church. Some idea of his wealth can be gained from the knowledge that at this period an annual income of about seven pounds was necessary for reasonable survival.

It is in this period that Church records also give information on a small hunan event that for many years gave cause for much speculation. The entry dated July 2nd, 1546 is reproduced

The wording of the entry conjures up a picture that the villagers of Laceby burnt a witch at the stake or that perhaps they set dogs upon her. The fact that the event is mentioned in the Church Registers suggests that neither of the barbaric suggestions are true. The more likely truth is to be found in the interpretation of the words with their 16th century meanings

A witch Hwas defined in these times as a "contemptuous appelation for a malevolent or repulsive looking old woman". Devoured was defined as "etyn away mainly by common sickness and disease". The entry would now suggest that the villagers of Laceby gave a Christian burial to a stranger, a poor old lady who died within the parish boundaries. 

Poverty in this peri.od was very widespread and Henry VIII passed a Poor Law Act which permitted local taxation on those more wealthy to help sustain those in poverty and starving, although no records of levies in this area are available. In contrast to the poverty a new social order was rising amongst the more wealthy and influential. Up to this period this part of Lincolnshire was too northerly to be an attraction to the nobility of the south and so most farming and land owning was in the Lands of Yeoman. With the dissolution of the monasteries vast areas of land were available and were granted by Royal favour to a new titled landed gentry, thus creating a new social structure.

The Ayscough family of Stallingborough aquuired lands and a century later almost involved Laceby in the Civil War, details of which are recorded later. The immediate effect of this change of land holding also probably changed the course of history for Laceby, for in effect by 1561 Laceby was enclosed and a permanent system of farming was established.

Laceby was thus spared the tribulations of many villages that were not enclosed and many of which were depopulated and deserted, particularly when the advent of sheep farming meant little work and no crops and harvest. In the acquisition of monastic lands, Sir Robert Tyrwhit of Kettleby was prominent and he must have had interests in or near to Laceby for entries of 1603 record - 

"a Tyrwhit baptised at Aylesby, Sir Philip, son of Philip and Anne" 

In the year 1563 the Privy Council ordered a census of families in the country and thus the return of the Deanery of Grimsby gives us an accurate guide to the size of the village - perhaps the first real guide since the :Domesday Book. The Deanery returns numbers of families for some forty five settlements and records Laceby as fifty three. This seems a small number and the real guide is that Laceby was the third largest settlement in the Deanery only exceeded by Grimsby with one hundred ani forty five and Tetney with ninety families. It is, therefore, confirmed that Laceby was still a relatively large and important village and represented 6% of the Deanery population return. The same return also shows that Aylesby was also a relatively large settlement with some forty five families.

A picture of life for the farm worker in Laceby shows that life was very hard, with unemployment and inflation even in those days. Work was wholly involved with agriculture with barley being the main crop involving a thriving export trade through the port of Grimsby. Overland transport was essentially on horseback and trade by pack-horse. 

Industry, except for local needs was non-existant. Household accounts from the records of Lord Willoughby in the south of the County show rice at 6d 1b,  , sugar 1s. 4d. 1b., gray soap 3d lb., currants 4d lb. - items which appear low in price, but when measured against a weekly wage of perhaps 4s/- per week were in fact luxuries beyond the reach of the farm worker. From the same accounts payments to workmen for hedging were 5d per day and cutting oats 1s. 3d per acre.

The dwelling of the villager would be essentially a building constructed of walls of mud or clay mixed with hay or cow dung and roofed with straw thatch and containing eeneral1y a single large room. Towards the end of the century a housing revolution came about with buildings adding a first floor sleeping chamber and an increasing number of rooms, with the size of the house indicating the wealth of the occupant.

It is in this period that Laceby almost acquired a fortified stately home and explains what for many generations was called the mystery of Irby Moat. Although within the parish boundaries of Irby, it is nevertheless close enough to Laceby to be of great interest . The site is described in detail in "Notices of Lincolnshire" written by John George Hall in 1890 -

"The earthwork or fortification is surrounded by a deep fosse, with high embankments on each side , constructed with the greatest regularity, and with a perfect regard to the cardinal points of the compass. Its form is an oblong square, of the following dimensions:Length within the ramparts 440 feet; breadth 186 feet; height of bank 13 feet; breadth of inner bank, 13 feet; breadth of outer one, 15 feet; breadth of ditch, 30 feet . Part of this ditch is yet full of water. "

John Hall concluded that this must have been an ancient fortificationHistorical records show, however, that it was the intended site of a huge manor house to be built by the HolIes family who had acquired the manor of Irby. Gervase HolIes commenced the work and much of the stone from the dismantled St. MAry's Abbey in Grimsby was to be used in the building. Work ceased on his death and the project was abandoned after the family moved to Nottinghamshire .

This period of Laceby history cannot be closed without reference to one of the most powerful figures in the country - John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, and with great influence in the Court of Queen Elizabeth I .

John Whitgift was a brilliant scholar and his rapid rise in authority in shown in the following extracts from Lincoln Episcopal Records -

"ordained priest by the Bishop of Lincoln AD 1560; master of Trinity College, Cambridce, of the donation of the Queen; Dean of the Cathedral Church of Lincoln of the donation of the Queen: prebendary of Nassington (it is taxed in Northampton) of the collation of the Bishop of Lincoln, rector of Lacebye of the patronage of Sir William Skipworth and Thomas Grimstone; aged 44: not married; admitted Doctor of Theology in the University of Cambridge AD 1566; preacher, licensed by the University throughout the whole of England;"

The records show that John Whitgift was presented to the Church of Laceby in September 1571 and in 1577 he was appointed to the bishopric of Worcester thus vacating Laceby, and with it came a further job, that of Vice President of the Marches of Wales, which was the chief government agent for the day to day administration of Wales and surrounding counties. He relinquished his University posts now and for the next six years continued to build on his reputation as an administrator and a dedicated man of religion. At the age of 53 years in 1583 he was nominated by the Queen to be Archbishop of Canterbuty, a position he held for the remaining 21 years of his life.

He never married, and it is sugeested that this was of the reasons he found favour with the Queen who referred to him as "my little black husband". She strusted him above her other advisers. She valued his counsel, and acted upon his advice. He was her constant spiritual counsellor as well as the chief ecclesiastica1 administrator.

He is described as being of middle stature, of grave countenance and brown complexion, black hair and eyes. He was cheerful and affable but had a quick temper. But, the overall impression was of a man whose life was controlled with a depth of single mindedness, and a loyal sense of duty that 'was surrendered entirely to the service of' the church.

It is somewhat of a contrast to this to learn that at his palace at Lambeth he 1ived in considerable splendour. His own attendants numbered more than an hundred. His hospitality was lavish, and he kept

an armoury to equip an hundred foot soldiers and fifty horsemen. He did this in his own words, "for the upholding of the state that belonged unto this place".

But his own special preference was to go and eat with the "poor bretheren" in the Hospital he founded at Croydon in 1596. Not only a hospital but also a school and almshouses which cost £3,OOO to build a very high sum in those days - John Whitgift had two private rooms here, where he could find peace for his meditations away from his public office. He is remembered today for the building of this hospital and is in fact buried near to it.

He was fearless - and to survive 21 years in those turbulent times he must have been. He was very concerned about the training and welfare of the clergy and did much to improve their lot. He was largely responsible for that policy of conformity which was directed against the Puritans and others who desired to frame their own methods of Worship, and during his term of office he did much work in the amending of the Prayer Book which is still in use today.

There are no records of John Whitgift having any active association in the village, but historically Laceby can claim connections with one of the greatest men of our time.

And so as Laceby moved into the seventeenth century, on the surface Little had changed, but beneath the surface attitudes and religious conflicts were to converge to produce great divisions within the country and ultimately to lead to the Civil War.