Religion 1 Thomas Fugall

Religion under King Edward VI

There were only two churches in Hull for a population of between 3.500 and 4,000 and both churches were mere chapelries of neighbouring villages. Hull did not acquire its own parishes until after the restoration of Charles II. The larger church was Holy Trinity, which is one of the largest parish churches in England, and was the civic church, to which the mayor and aldermen processed every Sunday, the civic sword, a gift of King Henry VIII, carried before them. It was a daughter church of the parish of Hessle. The other church, St Mary Lowgate, was a chapelry of North Ferriby, and served a smaller and poorer quarter of the town. There were curates at both of the Hull churches and at Hessle, and there was a vicarage house at Hessle. It is sometime difficult to tell where a vicar is living, but it seems that the vicars had the 16th Century equivalent of a home in Hessle and a flat in Hull. The distance between them is about five miles. Hullshire which was created by a charter of King Henry VI included the township of Hessle.

Hull had had the benefit during the reign of Edward the Sixth of a protestant military governor in Hull Castle, the Duke of Somerset’s brother in law, Michael Stanhope, who the Aldermen of Hull disliked. According to John Foxe they also had a Scottish Protestant preacher as a curate, a friend of John Knox, one John Rough, who may well have been the apostle of protestantism in Hull. Even A G Dickens could not find evidence of his appointment, and was reduced to saying that the lists are very patchy, but I have turned up some corroboration. In the 1560s the then vicar of Hessle and Hull, Melchior Smith gave a sermon on the martyrdom of John Rough. He related that as part of his degradation Rough was made to wear a cap. ‘they put a knaves cap on his head, whether it was a Bishop’s cap or his Chaplain’s cap. For there is no difference betwixt them, not one of them being honest.’ This reference to Rough from Hull has previously been missed, because Cannon Purvis, who published it, gave the name as Bough, and in the manuscript it does look like Bough. It is however undoubtedly Rough and Foxe is once again is shown to be correct.

The Reign of Queen Mary

When Queen Mary became Queen, many Godly preachers, including John Rough, departed quickly for continental Europe, and Rough went to Emden in Germany, where, according to Foxe, he earned his living by knitting stockings. Although there were a number of Hull families, some of them prominent, who were already committed protestants, the rest of the population remained in Hull, with only one or two possible exceptions.

The Hull Aldermen seem, without exception, to have received communion in the Catholic rite and stayed within the law. Thus qualifying them with the vast majority of English protestants for inclusion in Foxe’s Book of Slackers. The Aldermen and potential Aldermen of Hull in this period were merchants and shipowners. It is not impossible that some of the Godly Elizabethan Aldermen of Hull had chosen to spend the Marian years improving their German trade links, but I can find no evidence for this. In fact the reverse; they all seem to have been present in Hull at some point between 1553 and 1558.

There was a strong connection between the officers and staff of the Customs House in Hull and the new religion. The Customer, Thomas Alrede was later described as ‘well travelled in the scriptures’ and had assisted a former religious in evading the authorities by shipping out as a mariner. His deputy Walter Crokehay made a protestant-leaning will in the last year of Queen Mary’s reign. ‘Also I will that my executor or executors within a convenient space after my departing shall and procure one discrete preacher at the appointment of Mr Alrede to declare and make one sermon within the Trinite church for the charitable edyfying of christes congregation, and he to have for his paynes 20s’. Not only was Crokehay tending towards the new religion but he was confident that Alrede, his boss, could procure a suitable preacher. The Elizabethan priest-catcher Anthony Atkinson was a customs searcher at Hull.

In 1554 the sacrement displayed for veneration was stolen from one of the Hull churches, Dickens says that it was from St Mary’s and he is probably correct as the St Mary’s curate was charged with the offence, clearing himself by compurgation. There were only two such offences in the Northern Province, the other being in Halifax. This may well be earliest occassion on which Hull, Hell and Halifax were associated.

Obviously anybody fossicking at the Borthwick starts with A G Dickens, who didn’t miss much, but it is probably worthwhile noting here that he does sometimes present probabilities as facts. The document says that the sacrament was taken from an unnamed church in Hull, and that Utley was accused. We know that Utley was a curate at St Mary’s. It is a fair assumption that the theft was from St Mary’s, but it might have been from Trinity Church.

Into this divided, but fairly quiet town came Thomas Fugall. David Lamburn insists on pronouncing it  Fuggall, but the clerks who took down the oral depositions at his trial obviously did not hear it that way. They wrote Fewgale.

We don’t know where he was born or educated, or when or from whom he received his ordination. According to Dickens his first appearance in the area was as a prosecutor of former religious who had married under Edward VI. As we know, the most innocent of those penalized under the Marian reaction were the wives and children of clergy both secular and religious who had been married quite legally or born quite legitimately under Edward VI. The majority of these women who were forcibly divorced under Queen Mary were married to beneficed clergy (vicars and curates). Only a minority of the former monks and friars who no longer had a job in the church were sought out and forcibly divorced. In the diocese of York, according to Dickens, only thirteen forcible divorces were ordered against unbeneficed former religious. Of these thirteen, eight, a remarkably high proportion, had been brought to the court by Thomas Fugall.

He first appears in the East Riding of Yorkshire when he presented a certificate of the penance-for-having-married performed by Richard Wager, vicar of Kirk Ella, to the court at York on June 13, 1554. His prominence in bringing to court the local married priests in 1554 and 1555 shows that he was active in the Hull area during those years, which makes it unlikely that he was the same Thomas Fugall who matriculated, King’s College Cambridge in Michaelmas 1554, although he was said by the vicar of Brantingham to have been a learned man. The vicar of Brantingham in 1560 was still saying the Latin mass, he said that he did so because Fugall had advised him to.

No one has found a record of  Fugall’s ordination, but before becoming vicar of Hull, he says that he served as a priest in Lambehithe. This raises the possibility that he was one of Cardinal Pole’s retinue, and educated and ordained abroad. He was certainly following Pole’s agenda in Hull, and may have been sent to Hull for that purpose. He does not appear in Pole’s correspondence, but the search for him at Lambeth is still incomplete.

There is no record in the Diocesan Act Book of his induction into the parish, but the general belief, which has also been accepted by Claire Cross, is that he became vicar in 1557, and he proceeded to root out the hidden heretics of Hull.

From the depositions against him, he was a poet, and although nothing of his has survived (except a Latin posy for a ring) he admitted to writing a ballad of a sailor saying farewell to his mistress. He was a bowler, the mayor once had to wait for him to finish a game. When he lodged for a time in an inn on first arriving in the area, he seems to have happily spent much of his free time there. This is all from evidence given against him later, you can feel the waves of puritan disapproval.

He also harried the protestants of Hull. He invaded a private house to reveal an English bible being read by a sailor from Yarmouth, and to show his contempt he cut the bible with a knife. He made enemies and upset a lot of people, partly by his actions and partly by his gloating over the failure of protestantism.

One of the taunts that Fugall was accused of making was that now Saint Nicholas would ride and Saint George would go afoot. Fugall said in his defence that he had only claimed that they would now both ride. If anyone can unravel the meaning of this for me, I would be most obliged. It is obviously part of the debate, but not much use if one can’t understand it.

One Richard Allen died who had ‘favoured the word of God, in his time’. On being applied to by the the women of his family for burial of the body, Fugall refused and advised them to bury the body themselves at low water mark, ‘for that’ he said ‘was a meete place for a beaste’ In the face of this refusal the women decided to open the debate to the whole town.

To open his debate Luther had nailed his theses to the church door, here the women carted Richard Allen’s mortal remains to Trinity Church and left the body outside the door and there it stayed, in the open, for a night and a day. This was indeed a debating proposition: on the entitlement to Christian burial, on who was a Christian, and the rights of a member of the parish. The body lying at the church door, will have been the only topic of conversation in the homes and workplaces, and in the streets and tippling houses of Hull. It was a small place, you can walk across the old town in minutes, and Trinity church is in the centre, with the market place at one end and the grammar school at one side. The bench of Aldermen certainly debated it, because they decided that it was the duty of the vicar to give Christian burial to Allan’s body, and they compelled him to do so. As we will see,  Fugall may have been a man of conviction, but he was not always strong enough in himself for the job he had taken on.

The people of Hull never saw the faggots piled up in the market place and their fellow townsmen burnt. In other east coast ports well known in Hull, in Ipswich and Colchester there were burnings for heresy. Despite the obvious heretical activities and the persecuting zeal of the vicar there had been no burnings at Hull. The Marian burnings only happened where the Archbishop Pole and Bishop Bonner of London had power or strong influence. In the North, Archbishop Nicholas Heath of York was not a natural persecutor. Hull protestants did however have more than a passing interest in one martyr. John Rough, their former preacher, had returned to London from Emden and was caught and burned there in the last months of Queen Mary’s reign.

Then Queen Mary and Cardinal Pole died, both on the same day, and Fugall was on his own, isolated in Hull. His cause was no longer riding a-horseback. He had lost his patron and his leader and faced an uncertain and precarious future.

The Reign of Queen Elizabeth

We have no official record in Hull of the regime change of 1558. As a result of the ‘flu pandemic of 1558-9 Hull lost four aldermen and the Town Clerk, and the town records ceased completely for two years. I passed this, with evidence from other towns, to Professor John Oxford, who is a specialist in ‘flu epidemics and keeps saying on television that there has never been anything as bad as the pandemic of 1918-19. I received a very short reply from one of his graduate students to say that the Professor did not consider that there was any history before 1888. I had mistaken him for a historian, it appears he is a microbiologist.

The Lord President of the Council of the North, the Earl of Shrewsbury was a Catholic by conviction, he was the only temporal peer to vote against Eliabeth’s supremacy, but he was retained in post by Elizabeth until his death. According to Rachael Reid he never came further north than Sheffield anyway. Certainly when the corporation of Hull had any dealings with him it was in London.

In the northern province Nicholas Heath was deprived of his archbishopric in July 1559. and the sees of Durham and Chester were also vacant. The North was left without religious or secular leadership. It is wonderful how long life will go on apparently as normal in the complete absence of the great and the good. (Although in the North there was always Sir Thomas Gargrave, vice-president of the Council under both Queens. A man of whose life seems to have been dedicated to good government). I am told that the Privy Councillors were well aware of the problem in the north, but senior clergymen who were also acceptable to the Queen were in short supply and other matters were more immediately demanding.

The first royal proclamation ordering changes (moving the litany and some other parts of the mass into English from Latin) was brought to Hull, notably by Hull merchants returning from London, and not through government or church channels from York. The Mayor summoned Fugall and ordered him to read the service entirely in English.

Fugall refused on legal rather than confessional grounds. And he had right on his side, the Hull Bench were anticipating the legislation. The mayor then turned to the master of the Hull Charterhouse, a priest very recently appointed by the corporation, which was the patron of the foundation. On the Mayor’s instructions the master read from what was presumably the second prayer book of Edward VI. During this outrage Fugall sat in the choir stalls in Trinity Church with his hat on, ostentatiously turning his back on what was going on. Once again the issues were physically presented to every inhabitant in the town. and this mute contribution to the debate was no less effective for not being in words. Fugall had threatened to bring an action for sacrilege against anyone who read the English service in his church, but it turned out to be an empty threat. I sometimes wonder if he was perhaps a very young man.

After the English service became law at midsummer 1559, Fugall did technically comply, although his contempt for the new forms was always apparent. The Altar was removed, but Fugall was observed using the new Communion Table as a writing desk – for his secular love poetry. The situation was unfortunate but there seemed to be no immediate way out. The new religionists of Hull, were now in the ascendancy, but they could not call on support either from the church or the state in the North.

One would have expected the Royal Visitation of 1559 to have settled the matter, and the Visitors were generally believed in Hull to have admonished Fugall, but nothing was written of it in their report. In Hull the visitors found horoscopes being cast, by people who should have known better, and a couple of scolds. It is very strange that the records of the visitation make no mention at all of the problem of Fugall. C. J. Kitching, who published the Visitation Act Book notes the omission. In my judgement it is the Act Book that is in error. The testimony against Fugall is diverse and occasionally contradictory, as one would expect, but (unless the population of Hull and Hessle were in a well co-ordinated conspiracy to defame him) he was reprimanded by the Royal Visitors, and after the reprimand his behaviour changed and he conformed.

There is another strange thing about Fugall and this visitation. Fugall had another benefice; He once denied it, but he certainly was rector of Lowthorpe. He appears on the visitation list as absent from that parish but, unlike the all other names of absentees, there is no note made of the reason for his absence, either that he had another benefice of that he refused to attend when summoned. There is matter missing from both places and it is matter about Fugall. The conspiracy theorists are welcome to try their hand here. I don’t know what was happening.

Then Thomas Fugall, the apparently immovable obstruction to the creation of a Godly Commonwealth in Hull, made a critical error.

Fugall became the lover of Isabel Legard, wife of Christopher Legard a substantial merchant living in Anlaby who was also lay impropriator of Hessle. Christopher was the head of the Legard family, which had younger sons established as merchants in York, Hull and London. When Christopher himself was in London, the people living between Anlaby and the vicarage in Hessle got used to the sight of the lady trotting over to the vicarage and the vicar returning her call. From the inch thick pile of witness statements taken for the eventual trial it seems to have been one of those affairs that the couple think is a total secret, but which is as clear as day to everybody else. A couple of examples out of many.

One day when Christopher Legard was due to ride to Hull the vicar walked past, and seeing one of the Legard servants he asked casually if the master had yet set off, on being told ‘no’ he walked on. But the servant later saw him lurking behind a hedge watching the house and as soon as Legard left for Hull, the vicar knocked on the door.

A visitor to Hessle wanted a game of bowls and the vicar owed a good set. A local man offered to get them and went to the back door of the vicarage and asked for the vicar, on being told that he was out, he went through a gate into the garden, because he knew where the bowls were kept and was sure the vicar wouldn’t mind lending them. In the garden, to his surprise, he found the vicar, who offered to fetch the bowls for him, and attempted to lead him out of the garden. But he, knowing where the bowls were kept, dodged the vicar and went into a little summer house, where he found both the bowls and Mistress Legard.

The Legard servants gave the most telling evidence. Perhaps the most important was that of Margaret Bell a 24 year old servant of the Legards. She amongst others gave evidence of private meetings and messages and small gifts and kisses and embracings but the key was

‘She saieth that about All Hallowmas last past, Mr Ledgerd, then hir master, beinge at London, she did see when Thomas Fugyle came to the house of Mr Ledgerd. And afterwards being in a chamber, and seing all the servantes in the garden, mistrusted Fugell and her mistress together, and thereupon toke certeyn shetes in her armes and maid hir an errande furthe of the chamber. And comynge downe a payre of stares one of them began to crack whereupon she sodenly pushed open a dore opening into the hall and then and there did see the Mistress Ledgerd and Thomas Fugell together betwixt a cupborde and a board. And she saith that she saw hir mistress’s skirts fall sodenly done frome hir and Thomas Fugall sodenly turned him about . . . and casting his gowne over him [she] did see him there tye upp his coddpiece.’

I don’t think that it is a coincidence that installation of a new Godly Lord President of the North Parts, the Earl of Rutland, at the King’s Manor in York and the enthronement of an Protestant Archbishop of York, Thomas Young, coincided with the case against  Fugall in the church courts at York. Although the case was brought by Christopher Legard and the principal cause was the supposed adultery, as is the way with Elizabethan law suits anything that could possibly blacken Fugall’s name was brought into evidence, which is why we know about his perfectly legal but anti-protestant behaviour under Queen Mary. Fugall put up no defence to the adultery except for brief blanket denial. I have a certain sympathy with Fugall, history was against him. And as Gore Vidal said in defence of President Clinton: when accused of adultery he did what a gentleman should, he looked them straight in the eye, and lied. Fugall may have lied like a gentleman, but he was plainly not believed and was deprived of the living.

It was actually quite a difficult mental trick to look at all these evidences of unsuitable conduct for a clergyman, and then to reinterpret them positively, that he was a lover, a poet and a bowler. He and Shakespeare both.


The case against Fugall is published, in part, by J S Purvis in his 1948 book, Tudor Parish Documents in the Diocese of York. Cannon Purvis, who was the archivist at York Minster, is interesting in what he omits. He omits any parts which would make them unsuitable for decent people to read. I have assumed that today’s readers have sufficient moral strength to cope with them.

The full documents are at the Borthwick Institute at York. When I read them they were called CP G 909 and CP G 1041.

Post Script

I first gave this material an airing at a Historical Association meeting in Hull, which was chaired by Howell Lloyd. After I sat down Professor Lloyd addressed the meeting, very much ex-cathedra, and said that it might be unclear to the audience, (as I had not explicitly said it) that the liason with Mrs Legard had been entirely fabricated in order to get rid of the vicar. I was too startled to respond, but it soon became apparent that the audience knew he was wrong.


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