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Religious beliefs in Blore in the 16th and 17th centuries
by DW ©
It is often a matter of discussion whether religious beliefs, as expressed in the words of early wills, are the opinions of the person making the will or the beliefs of the priest or scribe associated with writing the will.
In the 16th century, two wills associated with Waterfall Church (in the Staffs Moorlands) were made during the resurgence of Catholicism in the reign of Queen Mary. They use traditional Catholic tripartite phraseology, ie “to allmyghty god and our lade saynte marie and to all the blessed company in hevon” and “allmyghtie god and to the blessit company in heyven”.
The John Garbyte mentioned in John Smyth’s will 1556 is probably the same as John Garlet, curate and clerk of Waterfall mentioned in Alys Allkoc’s will 1557. John Garbet was mentioned in the Will of William Bott 1549 as curate and priest of Rocester. He may have been one of the Catholic reformists who surfaced in Mary’s reign.
The six wills associated with Blore (near Dovedale in the Staffs Moorlands) are comparatively neutral and do not give any indication of any particular belief. Even the will of Henry Phylyp in 1556, in Mary’s reign, is neutral in its wording.
During the whole of this period, the Bassetts were Lords of the Manor of Blore. Even though they were covertly Catholic themselves, it was not politically correct, or in their interests, to show (unlike their kinsmen, the Fitzherberts of Norbury) specific religious alignment – and their chosen clerics would be foolish to follow anything other than the wishes of their lord.
The next door parish, Calton, had its own separate chapel, and it is doubtful if the parishioners would have normally attended a more distant parish church when there was a place of worship and a curate on the spot. However in order to provide for burial in the appropriate parish church, it would be necessary to consult with the parish priest. The wording of the wills of Calton would therefore appear more likely to portray the beliefs of the priest of the parish (Waterfall and Blore) especially concerning where the villagers were buried. This would account for the differences between the two wills made in Calton and the six wills made in Blore.
The last Calton will in the 16th century list of wills, thirty years after the rest, in fcat shows typical Protestant phraseology “almightie god my maker and redymer”.
Similarly in the seventeenth century, the phraseology tended to be of Protestant dedication, characterised by the testator’s hope of salvation through the merits and grace of Christ.
In Calton wills there is no evidence of the puritanism which occurred elsewhere during the Civil War.
1641 John Harrison “trusting through the merrits of Christ his passion to have remission of all sinnes”
1645 John Smyth “trusting by the merits death and passion of Jesus Christ to have full remission of all my sinnes”
1665 Thos Leake “knowing the uncertainty of this life on earth …. Beleeving that I shall receive full pardon and free remission of all my sins and be saved by the precious death of my blesed saviour and redeemer Christe Jesus”
1684 Robt Phillips nuncupative will (made orally in presence of reliable witnesses)
1681 John Blore “knowing that death is most certayne and the time thereof mot uncertayne I comend my soul into the hands of almightie god my creator and maker hopeing and trusting to be saved by the meritts and passion of Jesus Christ my saviour and redeemer”
1689 Nicholas Wood “knowing not the time of my death”
1698 Ralph Harrison “calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die”
DW has been researching North East Staffordshire and the villages of Swinscoe, Blore and Calton for over forty years. He has written the book “Swinscoe, Blore and the Bassetts” as well as the guides to Blore Church and Blore Hall.