Two Devonshire Papists in the Time of Queen Elizabeth

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Two Devonshire Papists in theTime of Queen Elizabeth.


(Communicated by SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE, K.C.I.E, D.L., J.P., M.A.)
(Read at Torquay, July, 1918.)

IN the early days of Queen Elizabeth, most of the families of long standing in the county of Devon were on the conservative side in religion as well as in political sympathies. The suppression of the monasteries appealed to them as an outrage upon religion, and they saw growing up all round them, a new type of wealthy person who had been enriched by the spoils of the monasteries, and were proceeding to create a new and unpopular tradition by enclosing common lands and building for themselves enormous dwellings which dwarfed the humbler style of manor-house which had sufficed for the smaller landowners. As to the religion of the parish church, there were survivals of the old ritual enough in a great many of them especially in the churches of prebendal estates as Bishop Jewel’s Visitation in 1559 informs us. The old Papists did not believe that the new forms and doctrine meant a break with the Church of the past, and in 1562 tried to obtain some measure of sanction from the Pope to the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer. 

Both Anthony Floyer and Henry Carew, the two Papists whose fortunes it is intended to follow, were members of families of old standing in Devon. Domesday book had found Floyer's ancestors occupying the same acres outside Exeter, on which he had himself been brought up, and the claim of the Carews to be of old Devon blood had been well established for some generations by their marriages with the families of Bonville and Courtenay. Floyer and Carew were cousins to each other and also connected with Sir Walter Raleigh. 

Henry Carew had inherited from his father Thomas, who had been governor of Hurst Castle in Hampshire, the manor of Keyhaven in its neighbourhood. Carew claimed jurisdiction on his own coast, and the rights were worth contending for when Spanish prizes might be concerned. Henry Carew and Anthony Floyer are first associated in August, 1580, when Carew and Thomas Floyer, uncle to Anthony, "and divers other persons, weaponed, and in very disorderlie manner resisted, reviled, and abused the Mayor of Southampton when he attempted to hold an Admirall court at Keyhaven." They drove the Mayor away. Of course he complained, and in consequence Anthony Floyer, who appears to have been of the party, had to attend, as head of his family at the Court at Oatlands near Weybridge. They arrived in the following month, and remained until they were dismissed. 

Carew was then occupying a house now known as Taddiford Farm, on the shores of Christchurch Bay, and close to Keyhaven, and had already gained a reputation not only as a champion of his rights, but had been disgraced probably as a supporter of the claims of Mary Queen of Scots to the throne. He is mentioned as having already "gotten the forfeytures of the Queene's majesty" in 1573 in the account of one of those raids made upon those who attended Mass instead of the parish church service. 

There was great alarm at the danger of a Spanish invasion. The Armada was anticipated, and it was suspected that the houses of recusants were harbouring spies and traitors. "What would you do if the Spaniards landed on our shores?" became a test question for those who were brought before the authorities for refusing to attend their parish church. Floyer had been somewhere abroad and was reported to have returned to Dorsetshire about 1587. In that year Francis Kellway advises Lord Burghley that Papists are secretly procuring passages to France, and offers to oppose this if provided with post horses and money. There is also, he reports, a common shipping of geldings into France, which was against the law. He warns Burghley that if Anthony Floyer has returned, to take note of the same as "here is hidden therein some more and greater matter, if it might come to light." He adds that in the Isle of Purbeck was living a brother of Gilbert Wells the recusant, "by whom, or near to his house, it is thought there is passage to and fro of very bad men." 

Carew, in consequence of this warning, was cited to appear before Bishop Cooper for his non-attendance at church. He treated the summons with contempt, where upon the Bishop ordered him to appear before some court in London, by which he was committed to the Marshalsea prison for a month, fined 15, and then released on his entering into bonds to appear before the Bishop of Winchester within twenty days. Floyer was also summoned and examined, and the evidence of one Peter Trehane taken that two of his children had been christened by a seminary priest. Trehane, however, would not keep to his statement, and the case broke down. 

Under the Conventicles Act of 1581, the alternative to a fine was offered to those accused either of recusancy or nonconformity, of banishment, and an opportunity just then offered itself to leave the country, of which both Floyer and Carew took advantage. 

The county of Devon was from the first closely connected with the suppression of the rebellion of the Earl of Desmond in Ireland. A Devonshire man, Sir Peter Carew, was chosen to restore order, because he had already made suit to Queen Elizabeth for the recovery of his lands and Irish titles of Marquess of Cork and Baron of Odron, which had been for some hundreds of years in abeyance. When in Ireland on this business he was commanded to serve against the Butlers, who had been intriguing with Spain. He took with him Hooker, the Exeter chamberlain and historian, to examine the archives in Dublin Castle. Carew enlisted his cousin, Sir Walter Raleigh, and these two at different times raised bands of Devonshire men to serve in Ireand. The lands in parts of Munster had become so devastated by internal wars and afterwards by the suppression of the rebellion that a far-reaching scheme was devised to repopulate the province by introducing English settlers, particularly those who had been active in the war. Raleigh undertook the colonization of Counties Waterford and Cork, and in 1583 had a patent from the Queen to him and Sir Edmund Filton of 22,910 acres. 

Raleigh settled there himself in a house at Youghall, which still exists, and retains a good many ancient features. It was originally thatched and has three small gables, and a projecting porch with a bay window above, and there are handsome rooms wainscotted with dark oak. The principal room preserves the beautiful carved mantelpiece rising up to the ceiling. There are some characteristics which may be traced to Devonshire, and are found in Raleigh’s house at Hayes Barton, and in Carew Raleigh’s house at Downton in Wiltshire. 

At Youghall Sir Walter introduced the cultivation of the potato to Ireland, and conceived the idea of cutting down some of the abundant timber in the county to supply hogsheads for French and Spanish wine. But the colonization scheme was not well taken up. Raleigh was soon occupied with other business and not sufficient settlers were attracted by the terms offered. Fynes Morison, a contemporary writer, tells us that "the undertakers did not people these seigniories granted them and their heirs by Patent (as they were bound), but either sold them to Papists (such as were most turbulent, and so being daily troubled and questioned by the English magistrate were like to give most money for the Irish land), or otherwise disposed them to their best profit, without respect of the publike good; neither did they build castles and doe other things according to their covenants, for the publike good, but onely sought their private ends, and so this her majesties bounty to them turned not to the straightening, but rather to the weakening of the English government in that province of Mounster." 

It does not appear that either Henry Carew or Anthony Floyer were engaged in the war, and they were probably amongst those whom Raleigh persuaded to buy land where they might be free from inquisition as to their faith by the English magistrates. They acquired an estate at Temple Michael and Castle Myles, near Raleigh’s house at Youghall, and made the dissolved abbey of Molana on the coast their headquarters. They were settled on these lands in 1589, and Raleigh had been Mayor of Youghall in the previous year. 

Molana or Molanside Abbey offered a residence where the occupiers ran little risk of being disturbed. It is situated on what was formerly an island, called Dar Inis, and it was not until about a hundred years ago that it was united to the mainland by a causeway. Extensive remains exist today of the church, with its tower, the chapter room, the scriptorium, the refectory and its adjacent kitchen and draw-well, as well as the cloister garth. The architecture belongs to the Early English style, and there are remains of older work. The refectory, which retains some of its ancient mural decoration, commands a most delightful prospect over the broad waters of the Avonmore, and must have formed an ideal retreat not only for the monks but for those two households of Floyer and Carew, who took refuge here from the atmosphere of suspicion and persecution in England. 

Carew had a son Henry, who was a much more turbulent spirit than even his father. About this time he went to France for his education, for it was the exclusion of papists from the English Universities which first drove English students to Louvain and Antwerp in Flanders and to Spain, and afterwards led to the foundation of the English College at Douay. Henry Carew spent four years at Eu, which was under the control of the Guises and after that went to Dunkirk, where he lodged with four English scholars who went with him to Spain. Thence he returned in 1599, his head full of foreign ideas, and was at once arrested and examined before the Mayor of Weymouth for disloyal speeches made on board the ship Tobacco Pipe, on which he had crossed from Bordeaux. He was in consequence imprisoned in 1600, and Sir Walter Raleigh wrote from Sherborne in that year to secure his liberation. Henry’s father offered 1000 in sureties. The letter had its effect, and the young man was released. 

Anthony Floyer had married a daughter of Nicholas Martin, owner of the now celebrated Tudor house of Athelhampton in Dorsetshire, on which estate this family had been settled for many generations. Nicholas Martin was fined as a recusant in 1598, and his daughter followed the father’s faith. Anthony was unwilling to return to his paternal estate at Floyer’s Hayes, near Exeter. Probably he wished to live in greater seclusion than could be obtained in a district which had been the scene of the more stirring incidents of the Devonshire Rebellion, in which his family had taken part on the side of the county against the city, and it would be difficult to find a more retired spot than the house he built at Stanton Gabriel, a quiet nook on the sea coast near Charmouth, of which some remains still exist in a farm house. The Papist party had a strong following in this neighbourhood among the older families. Carew’s house at Hamworthy, near Poole, Chideock Castle, the home of the Arundels, the households of the Welles in the Isle of Purbeck, of the Jessops at East Chickerell, of the Webbs at Canford, the Slades at Marston, and the villages of Corfe and Humfreston had become a formidable group attached to the Papist cause. 

The queen and her ministers soon became alarmed and in 1591 appointed a Special Commission of Enquiry for the county of Dorset. On Easter Day they set a trap for five miles round Chideock Castle, the seat of the Arundels, to intercept those coming and going to Mass. The trap failed in its object, but a Jesuit priest, Cornelius, was dragged from his hiding-place in one of the "priests’ holes," and was executed at Dorchester in 1594. A few years before, Pilchard, a chaplain at Chideock, had been put to death at Dorchester, the execution being carried out by a butcher under the most revolting conditions. Cornelius was hanged, then quartered, and his quarters exposed on four poles, while his head was nailed to the gallows. The historian Dod tells us that a hundred and eighty-seven persons altogether were executed as papists in Elizabeth’s reign, and forty-two others died in prison. The seminary priests still came pouring in from Douay, and had degenerated into an intriguing factious party, amongst whom grave scandals were not unknown, and who were becoming less acceptable to the old Catholic party in England. They came determined to stir up disloyalty, and effect disruption amongst them. 

The decline of intellectual and moral standard of the seminary priests had been deliberately brought about by the Jesuits, who wished to have no rivals to their power. They arranged that obstacles should be put in the way of the higher studies in the Douay College, and then had the staff of professors reduced, so that theology and philosophy were no longer taught there. 

The need to secure suitable priests for their ministrations, and the increasing persecution by the authorities led the old papist party to perfect their organization in England. In 1602, one John Ellis made a remarkable disclosure to Sir John Popham, the Lord Chief Justice. Ellis was a tailor by trade, who had been a papist, and though then living at Broadmayne, near Dorchester, knew the southern part of the county well. He had become a Protestant because as he said he found so much bitterness on the part of the Papists against those who were not of their faith. 

The common report was that there was a plot against them. The plot was called a card or map, and "there is set down who they were who had conspired against the queen and the State, how many priests have come into the realm, what conversions had been made by them, so that those who had done most in that way might be rewarded when the time came." In the card was also set down what well-wishers they had to count upon when the day came. They were then to be divided into eight districts. A copy of the card was in every district where there were any number of recusants. The Dorsetshire card was in the custody of Mr. Harry Carew and of Mr. Floyer. Of this he had been informed by John Lymington, one of Floyer’s retainers at Stanton Gabriel. John Snoke, one of Mr. Carew’s followers, had told him the same thing. He said the King of Spain knew by the priests how strong the Papists were in England, and in case of a rising "the schismatics (by which he means those who were Papists and yet went to Church) would side with them." Ellis also said there were 700 priests in England, and about a year and a half before there had been nine at one time in the house of Mr. Jessop at East Chickerell, of whom he gave the names of four. This house was a solitary one, and had hiding-places in it where the priests could be concealed. The map or card for Dorsetshire contained about four sheets of paper. He hoped to be able to obtain possession of it through Lymington. The general map for all England was said to be in the hands of Lord Montague. The purposes of the Papists were to restore all abbey lands. 

This appears to be the first information Sir John Popham had of a gathering plot, and he promptly reported it to Sir Robert Cecil. He says, "I fear we should soon feel among ourselves what hath of late been attempted in Ireland." He had told Ellis not to let it be known that he had become a Protestant to learn what more he could, and to return in ten day’s time. 

But the informers often said more than they knew, and suspicion naturally attaches to the evidence of a man who wished to betray a cause to which he had once joined himself for reasons which hardly rise higher, according to his own statement, than that of commercial advantage. Nothing more is heard in history of any plot from this source, and the card or map was probably the register of the Papists and their followers. But following this information a warrant was again issued by Lord Bindon for the arrest of Carew the younger. His father wrote to Edward Gordges in 1602, thanking him for a letter he had procured from the Secretary of State on his behalf, but notwithstanding this, the warrant for his arrest was still out, and he had had to remove his son out of the county into Hampshire. Cecil had meanwhile written to Lord Bindon, saying that the queen had private information about Carew and that Her Majesty wished matters to take their course, and Lord Bindon replied by a letter much changed in tone and tuned to the queen’s wishes. He says in this he was not prosecuting Carew for old offences pardoned; but that he is not now to be excused by his tender years. "He continues in so disloyal a mind to the State and lives so dissolutely, as showeth little repentance for his former horrible abuses against her Majesty, and causeth suspicion of his being a most dangerous man. He and his father dwell near Poole, which as well as the adjoining parts of the shire, is much infected with recusancy. The town of Poole is made so weak with this infection that it may easily be taken by the enemy, or by themselves, who daily resort thither, and can easily collect in one day two thousand of their own sort out of Hampshire and the neighbourhood." In a private letter attached, it is made evident that the change of tone is caused by Cecil’s letter. Henry the younger had probably gone to his father’s old home at Taddiford, but was again imprisoned, and writes to Cecil in July of that year, saying he has been in the Fleet for three months, and complaining of cruelty in his treatment. No more is known of Henry the father. He died in 1614, leaving his property at Keyhaven to his son Henry. The son was again convicted for recusancy in 1639, and two-thirds of this manor were forfeited to the King. He died a few months later, and the manor passed to his son George, aged seven. 

Floyer lived in his house at Stanton Gabriel, molested once more in 1608, when he was on his death-bed. The story is told by Walter Yonge, then of Upton Helions, near Crediton, and through his wife a kinsman of the Floyers. "About the 1st of August, 1608," he says, "being Sunday, there was a priest taken at Gabriel’s (at the west side of Golden Cap Hill, within sight of Lyme) at one Mr. Flear's house. His apprehension was on this manner. There were sent from the council two pursuivants into the country, whereof one in former times had been a recusant, and lately revolted. These two pursuivants riding between Axminster and Chideock fell in company with one Austen, then schoolmaster of Chideock; and after diverse conference between the two pursuivants and Austen, he confessed that there was a priest at Flear's house, but did think they could scarce see him if they came thither. Being come to Axminster, the pursuivant committed Austen and one other with him to Hassell, being constable, and rode to Gabriel's, where, after search made, they found the priest hidden in a little room at the top of the house, being thatched, and under the thatch a door to go into the same. At last, having apprehended the priest, Flear's wife offered one of them one hundred angeletts (a sum equal to 25) to let him escape, who received the money and promised her fair. At last his companion being in sight (for he was gone to the next justice when this proffer was made for a warrant to commit the priest, for Flear would not let him depart without some order from a justice of the peace), he told her plainly he could not by any means let him escape without great danger to himself; and so took hold on the priest and carried him away with his hundred angeletts which she could by no means get of him again." 

Anthony Floyer died in the following November. The adventures of these two persons illustrate the disadvantages under which those had to live who held to their principles when suspicion had once lighted upon them for bad citizenship. The country had to wait a long while before there could be toleration for those who resented the compromising and temporizing policy of the queen and court in matters of religion. 


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