The dissolution of the monasteries in Suffolk: by Pip Wright 13th September 2016
Prolific Suffolk author and historian, Pip Wright, was the speaker at the meeting of the Society on 13th September; his subject was the dissolution of the monasteries in Suffolk.
Although this nationwide demolition act is generally seen as the wish of King Henry VIII to distance England from the church of Rome, for various reasons numerous monasteries were falling into disuse much earlier. In the 14th century relations with France were turbulent and England wanted to rid itself of the many French monks who were around and this led to the closure of some orders. Then there was often intense rivalry between the towns and the abbeys- Wymondham being a particular example. The abbots in the large institutions were powerful men many sitting in the House of Lords. The religious belief that death was followed by an uncomfortable (at least) period in purgatory during which the soul was cleansed in readiness for its arrival in heaven caused people to make donations to "good" causes e.g. monasteries, in the hope of easing the purgatory experience. Thus monasteries became very rich and in order to attract more wealth they tended to indulge in lavish entertaining, hunting etc. Endowments would often include large estates which encompassed fairs, markets, mills: in fact they became businesses which were perceived as being against the traditional ethos of piety and sacrifice with which the Benedictine, Augustinian, Franciscan and Cistercian founders were associated.
King Henry's Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey - who was born in Ipswich - wanted make the town a seat of learning by building a college there as good as that of Kings in Cambridge. In order to raise the money for this he closed the monasteries where corruption was rife and built his educational establishment of which only the gateway remains today. On Wolsey's death in 1530 his secretary, Thomas Cromwell was appointed Chief Minister to the King and he raised funds for the exchequer by continuing Wolseys's closures..In 1536 of 80 monasteries in Suffolk 77 were closed . So whilst the wholesale dissolution was initiated primarily for financial reasons, Henry - having declared himself as head of the church in England - no doubt saw the process as an act of revenge on Pope Clement VII for his refusal to annul the King's heirless marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
This was a most interesting talk clearly delivered, based upon detailed research and illustrated with numerous slides of local monasteries, mainly in ruins. On behalf of 15 members present Pip was warmly thanked by Secretary Clare Mathieson.
Next meeting: October 11th 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when Keith Lovell will talk explore local history through North Essex ballads.