Sixteenth Century Bristol

By John Latimer

(Originally published under the title of

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013


The following papers on Bristol history during the reigns of Henry VIII. and his three successors are chiefly founded on extracts from the account books of the Corporation, ancient deeds and other documents, and the minutes of the Privy Council. They began to appear in the Bristol Mercury of December 27th, 1902, and were continued at weekly intervals during the following four months.

April, 1903.


The foregoing Preface and some alterations and additions to the original articles, included in a copy presented by Mr. Latimer to the city, have been incorporated in this book by the kindness of the City Librarian, Mr. E. R. Norris Mathews.


Chapter I.1
 Bristol in the early sixteenth century - Description of the town - Surrounded by religious houses - Numerous public holidays - Endowments, chantries and obits - Religious and secular pageants - St. Catherine's Eve - Shooting and wrestling competitions in the Marsh {Queen Square) - Play-actors and bear-keepers - Bear- baiting and bull-baiting - Feast of St. Nicholas; ceremony of the boy-bishop - Public executions - Christmas festivities. 
Chapter II.11
 Corporate revenue in sixteenth century - Position and duties of Sheriffs; an expensive post; reduction of their liabilities - Surrender by Corporation of right to levy toll; enters into possession of considerable estates formerly belonging to religious houses - Friary buildings converted into quarries - Difficulties between Corporation and Temple Fee - Absorption of the latter by Bristol - Rapacity of Thomas Cromwell; appointed Recorder of Bristol - Newly invented office of High Steward conferred upon Duke of Somerset - Suppression of Bristol chantries; spoliation of the churches. 
Chapter III.24
 Population of Bristol in the sixteenth century - Police and sanitary arrangements of the city - Prevalence of menidicants - Use of hops in ale prohibited; thatch-roofing forbidden - Erection of houses by the Corporation on Bristol Bridge. 
Chapter IV.30
 Bristol and feudalism - Interference of Anne Boleyn in Bristol affairs - Visit of Anne and Henry VIII. to Thornbury - Suppression of St. John's Hospital; unsuccessful attempt by Corporation to obtain possession - Trouble with Lord President of Welsh Marches; attempts to levy tribute from Bristol; his pretensions finally put an end to - Seizure of Bristol corn by Mayor of Gloucester - Persecution of Protestants in Bristol - Accession of Elizabeth - Bristol trained bands reorganised and given an independent commission - “Crying down” of the currency - Erection of turnstiles in Bristol - “Certificate for eating of flesh in Lent” granted to Corporation. 
Chapter V.41
 Thorne family and Bristol Grammar School; St. Bartholomew's Hospital acquired; scandalous behaviour of the Corporation - Establishment of separate custom house at Gloucester, to the dismay of Bristolians - Payment to Members of Parliament - Visit to the city of Duke of Norfolk - Reformation of Bristol measures - Dispute between Corporation and Admiralty - Crest bestowed upon city by Clarencieux, King-of-Arms; copy of charter granting this crest - Earl of Leicester appointed Lord High Steward; his indifference to Bristol interests; his visits to the city. 
Chapter VI.55
 Purchase of stone coal by the Corporation - Case of Councillor John Lacie - Struggle between Corporation and Merchant Venturers' Society; ends in the monopoly of the latter being abolished - Establishment of Meal Market - Purchase of Brandon Hill summit - Visit of Queen Elizabeth to Bristol; lavish preparations for her reception and entertainment; Newgate prisoners receive royal pardon - Outbreak of plague in the city - Piracy in the Avon; fate of the malefactors - Visits of travelling players to Bristol - Arrival in the port of three vessels under command of Martin Frobisher - Celebration of twentieth year of Elizabeth's reign - Renovation of quay walls by means of tombstones. 
Chapter VII67
 Bristol Farthing. 
Chapter VIII.73
 The Avon obstructed by a wreck - Soldiers quartered in Bristol en route to Ireland; expense incurred by the Corporation - “Street pitcher” appointed - Difficulties in postal communication - New charter granted to Bristol; heavy expenses involved in obtaining the title “city” - Bristol Parliamentary representative appointed Speaker of the House of Commons. 
Chapter IX.79
 Perambulation of city boundaries - Great dearth of 1585; relief measures of the Corporation - Military enthusiasm; inspection of Bristol trained bands by Earl of Pembroke; his disregard of mayoral precedence - Death of John Carr, founder of Queen Elizabeth's Hospital - News received in Bristol of death of Queen of Scots - Richard Fletcher appointed Bishop of Bristol - Extraordinary feudal claim made by Lord Stafford against Richard Cole; indifference of the Corporation - Alice Cole - Increase in stipend of Town Clerk - Fines for relief from office of Mayor - Present to Lord Leicester - Fatal conflict in Kingroad, due to attempted infringement of Bristol's monopoly of hides and skins trade. 
Chapter X.91
 Dispute between rector of St. Mary-le-port and his parishioners - Spanish Armada; Bristol's contingent to national fleet; jubilation at rout of Spaniards - Trouble with the Dutch; William Colston - Lord Burghley created Lord High Steward - Thrifty expenditure of the Corporation - Purchase of coal for school over Froom Gate - Relation of Corporation to orphans of city the subject of a Parliamentary Bill (1597) - Arrival in Bristol of Bishop Fletcher - Renovations and alterations of St. Mark's Church - Depression of trade in Bristol - Piratical exploits round British coast. 
Chapter XI.102
 Philip Langley fined in lien of serving as Mayor - Further attempt to deprive Bristol of its Admiralty jurisdiction - Poverty of Bristol clergy - “Forlorn Hope” estate of St. Nicholas - Court of the manor of Temple Fee revived - Merchant Seamen's Almshouse founded - Dealings of Corporation with John Whitson concerning purchase of corn - Ship-money revived; ineffectual protest of the Corporation - Repeal of “Redemptioner” ordinances - Piratical outrage of Captain Thomas Webb - Claim of Corporation on Privy Council for financial assistance - Bristol Fair - Visit to city of Lord Essex, who becomes Lord High Steward; succeeded by Lord Treasurer Buckhurst. 
Chapter XII.116
 Temporary policy of consideration by Government towards Bristol - Meat market established; friction between the Corporation and Bristol butchers - Cost of travelling in Elizabethan days - The “Great House” and Red Lodge - Assessment of the citizens - City roads repaired by compulsory co-operation of householders - Same method applied to maintenance of trained bands. 

J.W. Arrowsmith, 11 Quay Street

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in October 2013.

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