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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story

 Rebellion Of 1536 

Neil Wright

King Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 and for most of his life was a good Catholic, being given the title of “Defender of the Faith” by the Pope. But when Henry wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, the Pope would not give the necessary approval and the King took upon himself the position of head of the Church in England. Henry was not a Protestant and stayed somewhat traditional in his beliefs, but that did not stop him targeting the monasteries of England, some of which were very wealthy by that time. In the 1530s all monasteries in England were closed, the smaller ones first and the larger ones soon afterwards.

Pilgrimage of Grace

Lincolnshire Rising, Pilgrimage Of Grace (courtesy of Lancaster City Museum)

Open field with the Hussey Tower in the distance

Hussey Tower, Boston (Richard Austin)

No sooner had the Lincolshire Rising been supressed another, larger rebellion broke out in the North. Known as, the Pilgrimage of Grace its banner was similar to the banner Boston vicar and historian AM Cook says was carried by the Lincolnshire Rising

Many people in England still adhered to Catholic beliefs and, while they may not have protested at the King taking the role of Supreme Head of the Church, the closure and plundering of monasteries did cause alarm among some, who feared he would also rob their parish churches and guild chapels. This concern took violent form in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. In Yorkshire it was called the Pilgrimage of Grace whereas in this county it became known as the Lincolnshire Rising.

Trouble started in Louth on 2 October 1536, spread to Caistor and on 3 October two men were killed at Horncastle. A few thousand rebels marched to Lincoln from where they sent a letter to the King setting out six demands. As soon as the King heard of the rebellion he sent troops into the county, some led by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Boston was divided. A large group of protestors headed for Ancaster Heath to rendezvous with the rebels, while Anthony Irby rode out of Boston with around 100 men to join Suffolk.

Portrait of Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex is a distant relative of Lord Hussey.

Illustrative depiction of Lord Hussey

Lord Hussey (AM Cook, 1948)

The uprising only lasted about a week and then many of the rebels dispersed and went home. Some rebel leaders, and a few gentlemen who had supported them, submitted to the Duke of Suffolk at Stamford on 13 October, and later many were executed.

Lord Hussey was the King’s representative in Lincolnshire but instead of raising forces to put down the rebellion he sought to negotiate, but then fled from Sleaford to join some royal forces at Nottingham. For his failure to put down the rebellion, Lord Hussey was executed for treason and his property seized by the crown. This property included his mansion in Boston, approached through a gatehouse off South End, built about 1460 by Richard Benyngton collector of taxes and justice of the peace for Boston. The brick tower of the mansion survives as a ruin that can be approached from Skirbeck Road.

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Lord Hussey

Lord Hussey initially served as Sheriff of Lincolnshire, a member of Parliament and a Knight of the Shire. He later became a judge, Chamberlain to Henry VIII's daughter Mary, and the King's confessor.

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