Long before the
Reformation, the Lollards, who were followers of John Wycliffe (b.
were demanding religious reforms which were not acceptable to The State
or to Rome. Wycliffe aimed at changing many of the current beliefs, and
he led his 'poor priests
complaining against the wealth of the
church in comparison to the great poverty of the day. There was a
strong feeling in favour of these views in this part of Suffolk, and
between 1428 and 1430 fourteen people were tried at Norwich for their
Skylly, a miller of Flixton, who harboured heretics and was forced
to do penance.
Richard Flecher and Matilda Flecher of Beccles, who
heretics. They were beaten at a
procession at Mass in Beccles and
beaten three times at Beccles Market.
Robert Cavel who was Chaplain at Bungay, who
consorted with heretics and
John Spycer of Bungay, had two beatings, while a
further six from
Beccles did penance.
Their heresies consisted of saying that it was lawful to work on
Sundays and Feast Days, that priests or nuns or clergy could marry,
that pilgrimages were unnecessary, that it is wrong to fight, that no
honour should be paid to the relics of saints, and that no priest can
change bread into Christ's body.
By 1500 there were about 10,000 monks and 2,000 nuns in England, it
sounds a lot, but there were too few in too many religious houses, so a
true appraisal of the situation would mean that a number of monasteries
should be disbanded and more of their resources diverted to the
parishes. Within the cloister it seems that discipline had weakened -
monks took it in turn to attend the services, and few now got up early
in the morning for the vigils.
The move to rationalize the situation came when Cardinal Wolsey set
about suppressing twenty nine assorted religious houses in order to
raise funds to endow a grammar school in Ipswich, and another new
college at Oxford. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was himself an Ipswich man,
his father being a butcher, grazier and cloth merchant. He also owned
an inn, and even although he was a church warden, he was fined as his
inn had become a resort 'of friars
and women of loose character
planned a large building at Black Friar's Street, incorporating the
Ipswich School which already existed.
Among the religious houses he intended to dissolve were Rumburgh Priory
which was closed, and Blythburgh Priory which wasn't. But out of those
which disappeared he raised resources worth £1,800 a year. Wolsey,
however, fell out of favour with Henry VIII, and at his downfall the
school in Ipswich crashed too.
Time was getting short, but the crunch came when the Pope refused
Henry VIII a plea that his marriage to Katharine of Aragon was invalid
legal) as she had formerly been married to his elder brother Arthur,
who died before he could succeed to the throne. So Henry opted for a
complete break with Rome, and The Act of Supremacy of 1534 established
him as 'Head of the Church of England
- to which the heads of nearly
all the religious orders consented.