A Pilkington Pickle

Squire’s and Fagan’s List of Rectors show Thomas Pilkington as Rector from 1574 to 1615, an interesting period, being the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who was establishing the Church of England as a separate entity, and the reign of James I.

Pilkington is one of the few priests in the List not to be presented as priest by the Bishop of Durham as patron, being instead presented by the Queen,

itself an oddity, since you might have expected that there would have been a potential family connection in the patronage in this case as in so many others in the list, (eg Bek-Willoughby, Langley-Maltby, Wingfield Bourke). Yet the family/Durham/Cambridge connection may well have played a part. James Pilkington was a Bishop of Durham, who died in January 1576. He and two of his brothers, Leonard and John, were all educated at Cambridge and later very involved with Durham. James and his brother Leonard were successive Masters of St. John’s and Regius Professors of Divinity at Cambridge. They were both exiles during the brief reign of Mary I, and returned to their former positions on the accession of Elizabeth. They were succeeded as Master of St. John’s by Richard Longworth, who presumably held Wold Newton (see the Priest List) in absentia, as he did other parishes (Wikipedia qv for Pilkingtons, Longworth and Whitgift). Notes in the royal/state/archives show that Thomas was presented (when Longworth resigned the rectory), ‘at the request of Dr Whytegift’, presumably John Whitgift, a onetime Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, Bishop of Worcester, Master of various Cambridge colleges, and finally Archbishop of Canterbury during the end of the reign of Elizabeth, who crowned James I, and who was born at Grimsby (hence Whitgift School).

So being obviously a fairly well-connected sort of feller, there’s maybe some hope for a young-ish Pilkington. And presumably he gets an indulgence then to leave his new parish and go off to Cambridge to study, as the family tree recorded in Notes on a Visitation, has him doing his BA in 1578 at St John’s, (where else?) and MA in 1582, only just before his son Nathaniel who got his BA at Magdalen in 1596. But where young Pilkington comes from is not clear. His son Nathaniel makes up a family tree of sorts, which does not appear to be correct. The author of the Visitation notes says Thomas was ‘of Ludborough’. Scope for inquiry.

So then there is a quietish time for 20 years or so, and maybe Tom Pilkington settles into the backwater of Wolds life, and occasionally gets picked on to support whatever the latest scheme is dreamt up by Archbishop Whitgift and the older Queen. In 1590, the clergy were required each to provide some sort of armament for military forces for an invasion of Ireland, this being the list for the Grimsby deanery.

Great Coates and Laceby are the most heavily assessed, but you might have thought WN was punching above its weight.

Regarding Laceby, the lucky Mr Bradley succeeded John Whitgift as the Rector of Laceby, and he held it whilst Dean of Lincoln. A ‘Mu’ is a musket, a ‘Qua’ is a caliver, a form of light musket or harquebus, a Bill is presumably a billhook or equivalent.

Then there was the scheme for the clergy to provide money for horses to support the invasion of Ireland, in 1601. (I like the denoting of the ‘better sort of minister’ – lucky or what!) Master Pilkington is obviously still in some ‘favour’ at that stage. The list below is an extract from the main list – there was a demand on the clergy across the country.

Again, presumably Wold Newton is not the most valuable parish as a living; other parishes are rated more valuable in terms of income, yet it seems to be levied at a higher rate. Perhaps this leads to a level of disenchantment, which can happen when you are shut away in the Wolds awhile. In 1603, the Queen demands a survey of the churches in her lands, as she has heard that many are falling down and in terrible repair. She commands Whitgift, who sends out the query via his Bishops, and Cooper of Lincoln, ensconced in his palace at Buckden sends it on to his Registrar and Archdeacons in the Diocese to get the information back.

Horror of horrors, while many churches get an okay report, Wold Newton gets panned with note being made of the loss of lead off the roof and the bells (“through the fault of the parson and parishioners”)! So what’s a priest to do? Better get his side of the story out, with the support of some loyal parishioners, and blame someone else, hence the record in diocesan papers of them swearing that it was ‘Thomas Goodhand of Grimsby’ wot done it. Seems so easy. But is it right?

A little earlier, we find ‘Thomas Goodhand gent. of Wold Newton’ and a couple of friends purchasing the right to the patronage of the rectory (as we know, correctly called Advowson) at Hatcliffe from the Collegiate church at Southwell,

and presumably exercising the same when the incumbent Oliver Waters is installed in 1581, presented by ‘Thomas of Hatcliff’, who cannot have been so far outside the favour of the diocesan authorities.

(Cooper being Bishop Cooper of Lincoln, and ‘P’ standing for Patron.)

About this time also, the church authorities are concerned to ensure that the parish priests are properly presenting the Word as they wish it to be done, using a proper surplice and behaving in a proper manner, and being properly authorised to preach the Word. Tom Pilkington, perhaps by this stage a bit of a renegade, is picked up a couple of times, once for not having a proper surplice (one of the requirements for being ‘correct’) and also for not displaying his licence to preach as he should. So perhaps it is little surprise that Mistress Goodhand should be sufficiently annoyed at his actions to set about him with a branch for disparaging her husband’s good name. (Document copied at the Lincolnshire County Archives, awaiting full translation/transcription, having been stored in Lincoln Diocesan court papers. In it Tom Pilkington records that as he came out of church after preaching, she had a go at him with a branch. Various villagers have put their mark to it. At least it shows that in spite of the apparently wretched state of the church, services were still continuing.)

Yet old Tom cannot have been so far out of favour, as his son Nathaniel is soon on the merry go round being installed as Rector of North Coates by 1605 (also in the patronage of Southwell) and subsequently Rector of Hawerby (succeeding William Morton, who married a Pilkington daughter? and ended up Rector of Horncastle ?needs checking?) Tom dies, in harness presumably, in 1615; there is record of a will, presumably in the Archives.

Nathaniel may not be entirely straightforward, as he claims an award of a coat of arms citing ancestry from the Pilkingtons of Rivington in Lancashire (including said James, Bishop of Durham) which is subsequently disproved by items in the Pilkington deeds, although he may have been following his father’s tradition. However, his granddaughter Elizabeth (daughter of Richard who leaves money for the poor of Wold Newton in his will) marries a William Welfitt – which leads on to another interesting tale.

John Ollard