The English Home of Mr. Timothy Dalton, B. A. : The Smale Houes at Woolverstone

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Section 19

THE SMALE HOUES AT WOOLVERSTONE

After his suspension Timothy Dalton transferred his family from the parsonage to "a smale house" standing near thereto. Whether he accompanied them we do not retend to decide. Being in these new quarters, his woman servant met with an extraordinary adventure, for an account of which we are indebted to a letter1 from Brampton Gurdon, Esq., to "my muche honerred frend Mr John Wenthrop, Esquer," in the colony.

Mr. Gurdon was one of the ancient family of that name, then and now of Assington Hall, in Assington, Suffolk,2 which is distant not more than seventeen miles from Woolverstone. Among the curiosities of the Hall today are four general pardons for high treason. In 1620 Mr. Gurdon was a member of Parliament from Sudbury; in 1629 he was high sheriff of the county; and from 1624 to 1633 he enter-tained a Puritan lecturer as a part of his establishment. Two members of his family, by birth or marriage, were among the regicides. A daughter married Sir Henry Mildmay, who was a cousin of Governor Winthrop. That latter's sister, Lucy Downing, wrote to him in 1636: "Msr Gourden is questioned for not bowinge and knellinge att burial prayers." One of his children, Muriel, became the wife of Richard Saltonstall, the colonist. Her grandson, Gurdon Saltonstall, was a famous preacher, as well as the gover-nor of Connecticut. The letter from Mr. Gurdon to Winthrop bears the date of "Aprele 11th, 1637." That the mood of the writer was gloomy appears in the opening sentence: "I would I could writ you ani thing licke to geue comfort to eny honest Enhlishe Myend, for good to churche or commonwelthe; hed is scick, & all the members out of frame." Proceeding to details, he charges "3. of our conformetans [conformists] in this dyosses" with the crimes of seduction, assault and battery, and murder. One of these reverend gentlemen was ther successor of Mr. Dalton at Woolverstone; where, in a fit of sudden passion, he beat and sounded the "mayed" of the late rector in such manner that her "lyeff" was endangered. We quite as follows:

"The 3. mongst [us?] haue ben this. Mr Dalton minister at Woluerston being somer won of the 60 reuerent men,3 he & Mr Stansby4 depryved, the other suspended, as you shall hear. Bishop Wren perceued won Cole the curat at St. Mary Kye in Ipswich, vnder Mr Sameuell Ward, & as is knouen he the cheff persceceuter of him in hye commicyon, for recompens of his sceruis he ingeniyously proceuered him into this liueing. Thos Cole bearryeng muche mallis to Mr Dalton & to all his family, whi had built him a smalke house heartofor near his pasonag; Mr Dalton's kow would breacke into the glebe, whear she had formerly had intertayenment, his mayed, seeing her masters cowe in the glebe, ran to feche her ought. Cole sceing her, he rid to her & with a krabtre cogele beat her so, as for a month all though she would noy hau escaped with lyeff. Our tyem plesing clergy grow exscedeng bould, they hau wind & tyod with them, & littele or no gras [grace] to stay thear rage. God in mersy stay thear rage."

A part of this story must be true. "This somer" was the summer of 1636, and Mr. Dalton was certainly one of the sixty ministers who were under "Ecclesiasticall Censure" in that year of tribulation.5 That he had built "a smale house" into which he moved his family when they were likely to be ejected from the parsonage, is not improbable. We see the Puritan "kow" with Anglican tendencies, satarving on the barren roadside of Dissent; the precise little woman who "ran to feche her ought" of the rich fields "whear she had formerly had intertayenment"; and the angry parson with "a krabtre cogele" in his hand, and "muche mallis" in his heart.

The Woolverstone Petition. -- Page 1
The Woolverstone Petition. -- Page 2

But we are not yet persuaded that Mr. Dalton was ever legally "depryved" of his benefice. Nor was his successor "won Cole the curat at St Mary Kye in Ipswich, vander Mr Samuell Ward." There was no Curate Cole in the diocese at that time, nor any rector of vicar by that name in the liberties of Ipswich.6 As for Mr. Ward, he was stationed at the church of St. Mary-le-Tower, not St. Mary Key. His curate in and after 1627 was "John Skinner,"7 whom we believe to have been identical with "Jonathan Skynner," the "conformable & learned Minister within ye Towne" if Ipswich in the spring of 1636; and who was made the rector of Woolverstone in the following autumn.8 Of course John was a strict Puritan in 1627: he must have been acceptable to the parishioners st St. Mary-le-Tower when they appointed him to the vacant curacy. Perhaps he changed his clerical coat after Laud became primate in 1633. Perhaps he assisted in the prosecution of Samuel Ward. If so, we shall understand his zeal in behalf of Bishop Wren's "commissions" during 'the Ipswich riots" of 1636, within a few months after Ward's condem-nation. The municipal Archives show that Jonathan was a witness in the subsequentproceedings against two of the "facious" towns-people upon the following specifications:9

"13th. That about 5o April, 12th Charles [1636], Jonathan Skynner, cler: a conformable & learned Minister within ye Towne, being peaceably in ye Streetes there, Philip Coatnell, by ye abetment of ye sd Confederation [of citizens], in further Execution of the Combination, did then Strike ye sd Mr Slynner with a Cudgell, & did alsoe then and there with his naked knife drawe violently Assault ye sd Mr Skinner, & swore a great Oathe that he would Stabb him, & would haue murthered him if he had not suddenly escaped from him.

"14th. That about the 13th of Jube last [1636], ye same Mr Skynner, meeting ye sd defendant [Thurston] Ashley, in ye sd Towne,10 communed with him of certain revyling Soeeches vsed by ye sd Ashley against his Lordship [Biship Wren], & that ye sd Ashley had publickly wishd his Lordship confusion; whereupon ye sd Ashley, by the abetment aforesaid, calld ye sd Mr Skynner a drunken parson, base knaue, & many other reprochfull Termes, & provokd ye Mr Skyner to Combate."

We obtain a clear idea of the character and habits of Jonathan Skynner. He was not a gentleman; he was engaged in two vulgar brawls in the public highway; he began the dispute with Ashley; he ran from Coatnell when afraid of being "murthered" by him; and he did not defend himself when called by Ashley "a drunken parson, base knaue, & many other reproachfull Termes." We shall infer that he declined the proffered "Combate" with Ashley, just as he had "suddenly escaped" from Coatnell.

The rector had already been reported to the archbishop. If it were Mr. Skynner who led the final attack upon Dalton, we see why he afterward bore "muche mallis ti [him] & and to all his family." Mr. Skynner was a coward among men, but brave enough when he had to deal with unarmed women. At Woolverstone there were two cases of woman-beating charged against him, of which one was the brutal assault upon Dalton's servant. This appears by the petition11 of the inhabitants to the Long Parliament asking for his removal. A copy of the paper has been kept among the Tanner MMS, and we are fortunate in being able to reproduce it in facsimile.

When anew bishop came to the diocese in 1638 the parishioners complained against Skynner, and "by humble peticon sought redresse, . . . but had none." Two years later was their opportunity. Before the opening of the Long parliament the Puritans had agreed to make a grand demonstration of their strenth so soon as the House should be opened. "November 3, 1640, great Numbers of Petitions were presented to the House of Commons (and chiefly I think on the 9th of that Month), both from particular Persons, and some from Multitudes, and brought up by Troops of Horsemen from several Counties, craving Redress of Grievances in Church and State. . . . Within a short space above 2000 Petitions were brought in against the Clergy. . . . Among all the Reasons which were alleg'd for Harrassing and Dispossessing so many of the Clergy, none was more popular than that of their being petition'd against by their several Parishes, by which they intended it should be understood that the Minister was a Nuisance and Burthen to the Parish."12

The Woolverstone petition lacks a date, But it was probably presented at or about the time above mentioned. It is not known what actioin was taken upon it. All that can be said is that many committees were appointed, many reports were made, and hundreds of clergymen were driven from their livings. In 1643 the Earl of Manchester and a soecial committee ejected fifty-one in Norfolk, thirty-seven in Suffolk, and thirty-one in Cambridgeshire,13 who seem to have been forgotten or overlooked in the earlier proceedings. As regards Woolverstone, we find a new man-Bezaleel Carter-settled there as minister, and enrolled as a Presbyterian, in 1645-47.14 The Woolverstone petition reads as follows:

"To the Right Honble the house [ ] together in Parliamt
"The humble peticon of the Inhabitats of ye Towne od Woluerstone in Suff. Humbly sheweth
"That your peticonrs through ye goodness & mercy if god, under your gratious Souraigne, haue from ye beginning of his Maties Reine & a long tyme before, injoyed yy happiness of liuing in the Towne, vnder a godlt quiet & painfull preacher, who was blameless in his life & doctrine; but as soone as Bpp Wren came to Norwich Dioces, at his very first visitacon, he was depriued & his Liuing sequestred, soe he was forced to leaue this kingdome, & one Mr Jonathan Skinner outt in his roome, by Bpp Wren; who is & haue beene very scandalous in his life & very vexatious to all vs his parishioners; & very negligent in his studies, & seldome preach, but himselfe doing husbandry & suffering his servant to boord [board] his cart vpon the Lord's day, & often weareth a charged pistol, & a rapier staffe, & haue beat & struck diu'se as one Clark's wide first he struck her on ye back, & spurn'd her, soe as ye woman fell sick presently & said vpon her death bed, that those blowes were cause of her death.15 And alsoe he beat one Mr Dalton's maid, soe yt shee lay sicke a long tyme soe as noe man thought that eur shee would lieu, but shee did recouer. And alsoe he is a curser, & banner,16 in reuiling his perishionrs calling them hoggs, & dogs; and haue willfully denyed vs ye holy Sacramt att one tyme 15 of vs together, at another tyme 5, & att another tyme one; allwthout any just cause, besides bowing att the Comunion table, crossing ye bread, & wine, & eleuating it, & bowing to it, after it is consecrated, continuall vexing vs wth suits, in ye Chancellors & Comissarys Courts, & putting vs to needlesse charge, in setting vpp seates in ye roome of those himselfe pulled downe, and carried away & made vse of about his ownbe hoiuse, wch seates were judged to be neere worth 4£.

"In these and many other wayes wee are most grieuously oppressed wronged & burthened by him, hauing forst by or humble peticon sought redresse from ye new Bpp of Norwch,17 but haue had none, wherefore wee are constrained to prsent this or great grieuance to this high& honble Court humbly crauing redresse herein, & soe shall wee yor poore peticonrs endeor to be thankfull to god, & shall as our Duty is, daily pray for or gratious Souraigne & yor Honrs safety.

"JOHN FEENEYEARE JONAS DAMSELL JOHN CRANE
ROBT SMYTH JOSEPH BARROW JOHN DRIUER
MICHAELL BENNETT THO: TOULSON EDWARD SMYTH
PHILLIP MOLE ROBERT HIGHTON Wm CRANE
JOHN MARTIN JOHN DADE THO: BILLES
BENJAMIN CLARK ROBERT SMYTH ROBERT MASON
RICH: MAHERS THO: SMYTH THO: TOLSON
    ye yonger."

  1. Mass. Hist Coll., 4th series, Vol. VI, p. 561.
  2. Page's Supplement to his Suffolk Traveller, 918.
  3. See Prynne's Newes from Ipswich, ante, p.90.
  4. Probably Robert Stainsby, afterward a Presbyterian. See Stainabie R. de Westhorp on page 43 of this file.
  5. See Bishop Wren's list, ante, p. 84.
  6. Strangely enough, there was in 1636 a Mr. John Cole, the rector of Tattingstone, only four miles removed fromWoolverstone. He is mentioned in our second Tanner MS. (page 80). He was therein declared to be "non detectus"; but we find nothing else to connect him with the dominant party. It is almost incredible that Brampton Gurdin did not know the name of Mr. Dalton's successor six months after the latter's institution, or the name pf the church in Ipswich where Mr. Ward had preached for thirty years.
  7. Wodderspoon's Memorials of Ipswich, 380.
  8. See, ante, page 82; also Raven's H sistory of Suffolk, 211.
  9. Ipswich Archives.
  10. This interview between Skynner and Ashley in Ipswich during the month of June does not conflict with our theory that Skynner was then in charge of the Woolverstone parish. The two towns are but a few miles apart, and it was easy to go from one to the other.
  11. Tanner Collection, Vol. 89, folios 178, 179.
  12. Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, I, pp. 3, 65.
  13. Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, I, pp. 117, 119.
  14. Browne's Hist. of Cong. In Norf. amd Suff., 608.
  15. From Woolverstone Burial Register in the hamdwriting of Rector Skynner: "Buryalls, 1639.-Mary ye wife of Isaacke Clerke was buryed Arilis 9to 1639."
  16. Banner, one that bans or curses. "Deuylish swerers, banners and curses.)-Crammer's Catechism (A, D. 1548), 23.
  17. This must have been Richard Montagu, who succeeded Bishop Wren in 1638. He was a great scholar, and "earnest for reconciliation with Rome."