First Published: 10 February 2016
Revised (substantive): 18 September 2016
An introductory note for the In Brief topic which follows:
I’ve been having problems with predatory neighbors in the adjacent subdivision since 2011. This Web page is designed to show that legal issues relating to encroachment & trespass & enclosure have been a significant concern for property owners (in cities and suburbs) since at least 1532. As such, I believe such matters ought to be covered by California’s Assembly Bill 1404 (AB-1404), the “Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013.”
I give below an HTML transcription of three passages from John Stow’s A Survay of London (first printed in 1598, rev. 1603) describing Thomas Cromwell’s social interactions c.1532, when he
took out a ninety-nine-year lease of two recently constructed messuages within the precinct of the Austin Friars in London, where he had lived for the past decade. It was undoubtedly now that Cromwell perpetrated the remarkably arbitrary act later recorded by John Stow. Not only did he move the palings of his neighbours’ gardens 22 feet back without permission, warning, or compensation, but he also set Stow’s father’s house upon rollers and moved that as well, before starting to build upon the land thus cleared.
(Howard Leithead, “Cromwell, Thomas, earl of Essex [b. in or before 1485, d. 1540], royal minister,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Oxford University Press, May 2009, n. pag.)
John Stow was a boy of 6 or 7 when Cromwell invaded the garden and grounds of his father, Thomas Stow (d. 1559), a tallow-chandler and London citizen of solid middle-class rank, “good substance and credit.” So he speaks from personal experience about the powerful statesman and divisive figure who served as chief minister to Henry VIII from 1531–40. At that time (1531–2) Cromwell was so influential at court and in the parliament that “everyone wanted to take advantage of his legal skills. Corporate bodies, religious houses, and individuals paid him freely — both off as well as on the books — for his advice and help in securing the passage of measures in their favour.” (H. Leithead, ODNB entry for Cromwell, n. pag.)
Now considered “the most productive historical writer of the sixteenth century,” Stow made a big show of his commitment to historical accuracy in a bid to steal market share away from competing chroniclers such as Richard Grafton, and to improve his standing with the protestant establishment in London. “Over the years he not only extended but made significant revisions to the chronicles with the result that his assessment of a particular individual or event cannot be determined without consulting and comparing different editions.” (Barrett L. Beer, “Stow [Stowe], John [1524/5–1605], historian,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Oxford University Press, 2004, n. pag.)
For this reason, I provide both of Stow’s narratives describing Cromwell’s land grab of c.1532: the original account printed in the 1st edn. of A Survay of London (1598), and the slightly revised account printed in Stow’s subsequently extended and enlarged A Survay of London (1603). The revised narrative adds an important detail: the annual rent (6s. 8d.) paid by Stow’s father for the land he (and later, Cromwell) occupied. And it paints a picture of Cromwell’s ruthlessness with a broader brush than before:
[in 1598] ... and so much of mine owne knowledge have I thought good to note, that the sodaine rising of some men, causeth them in some matters to forget themselves.
[in 1603] Thus much of mine owne knowledge have I thought good to note, that the suddaine rising of some men, causeth them to forget themselves.
Nonetheless, Stow continued to depict Cromwell as a man of contradictions, combining the arrogance of wealth & power with a keen sense of noblesse oblige, as documented in the 3rd passage from Stow’s A Survay of London transcribed below: a contrary account of Cromwell’s generosity towards his less fortunate neighbors, excerpted from the section of Stow’s A Survay entitled “Charitable Almes in Old Times Given” (rev. edn., 1603).
It has been noted that “Until the twentieth century perceptions of Cromwell were largely coloured by religious belief.” (H. Leithead, ODNB entry for Cromwell, n. pag.) But Stow was detached “from religious controversy and had a generally tolerant attitude for the age in which he lived. He recorded the execution of Elizabethan Catholic martyrs with compassion but was also well informed about Elizabethan religious radicals including familists, separatists, and Arians. His strongest prejudices were not religious but were directed against the Irish, whom he portrayed as an obstacle to English domination of the British Isles.” (B. L. Beer, ODNB entry for Stow, n. pag.)
a She-philosopher.com In Brief topic
Thomas Cromwell’s land grab, c.1532, as documented by John Stow in 1598 (rev. 1603)
§ No. 1: As narrated by John Stow in 1598
On the south side and at the West ende of this Church many fayre houses are builded, namely in Throgmorton street, one verie large and spacious, builded in the place of olde and small tenements, by Thomas Cromwel mayster of the kings Jewel house, after that Mayster of the Rolles, then Lorde Cromwell knight Lord privie seale, Vicker Generall, Earle of Essex, high Chamberlaine of England &c. This house being finished, and having some reasonable plot of ground left for a Garden, he caused the pales of the gardens adjoyning to the north part thereof on a sodaine to be taken downe 22. foote to be measured forth right into the north of every mans ground, a line there to be drawne, a trench to be cast, a foundation laid, and a high bricke wall to be builded: my father had a garden there, he had also an house standing close to his wall, this house they loosed from the ground, & carried on rowlers into my fathers garden, 22. foote ere my father heard thereof, no warning was given him, nor other aunswere when he heard thereof, and spake to the surveighers of that wirke, but that their mayster, Sir Thomas commanded them so to doe, no man durst go to argue the matter, but each man lost his land: and so much of mine owne knowledge have I thought good to note, that the sodaine rising of some men, causeth them in some matters to forget themselves. The Company of the Drapers in London bought this house, and now the same is their common hall....
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SOURCE: Stow, John. A survay of London. Contayning the originall, antiquity, increase, moderne estate, and description of that citie, written in the yeare 1598. by John Stow citizen of London. Also an apologie (or defence) against the opinion of some men, concerning that citie, the greatnesse thereof. With an appendix, containing in Latine, Libellum de situ & nobilitate Londini: written by William Fitzstephen, in the raigne of Henry the second. [London]: Imprinted by [John Windet for] John Wolfe, printer to the honorable citie of London: and are to be sold at his shop within the Popes head Alley in Lombard street, 1598. 140–1.
§ No. 2: As narrated by John Stow in 1603
On the south side and at the West end of this Church, many fayre houses are builded, namely in Throgmorton streete, one very large and spacious, builded in the place of olde and small Tenementes by Thomas Cromwell, Maister of the kinges Jewell house, after that Maister of the Rols, then Lord Cromwell knight Lord privie seale, Vicker Generall, Earle of Essex, high Chamberlaine of England, &c. This house being finished, and having some reasonable plot of ground left for a Garden, hee caused the pales of the Gardens adjoyning to the north parte thereof on a sodaine to bee taken downe, 22. foot to bee measured forth right into the north of every mans ground, a line there to bee drawne, a trench to be cast, a foundation laid, and a high bricke Wall to bee builded. My Father had a Garden there, and an house standing close to his south pale, this house they lowsed from the ground, & bare upon Rowlers into my Fathers Garden 22. foot, ere my Father heard thereof, no warning was given him, nor other answere, when he spake to the surveyers of that worke, but that their Mayster sir Thomas commaunded them so to doe, no man durst go to argue the matter, but each man lost his land, and my Father payde his whole rent, which was vi.s. viii.d. the yeare, for that halfe which was left. Thus much of mine owne knowledge have I thought good to note, that the suddaine rising of some men, causeth them to forget themselves.
“ The Company of the Drapers in London bought this house, and now the same is their common Hall....
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SOURCE: Stow, John. A survay of London. Conteyning the originall, antiquity, increase, moderne estate, and description of that city, written in the yeare 1598. by John Stow citizen of London. Since by the same author increased, with divers rare notes of antiquity, and published in the yeare, 1603. Also an apologie (or defence) against the opinion of some men, concerning that citie, the greatnesse thereof. With an appendix, contayning in Latine Libellum de situ & nobilitate Londini: written by William Fitzstephen, in the raigne of Henry the second. [London]: Imprinted by John Windet, printer to the honorable citie of London, . 180–1.
§ No. 3: Stow’s contrary account of Cromwell’s sense of noblesse oblige (1603)
These as all other of their times gave great relief to the poore: I my selfe, in that declining time of charity, have oft seene at the Lord Cromwels gate in London, more then two hundered persons served twise every day with bread, meate and drinke sufficient, for hee observed that auncient and charitable custome as all prelates, noble men, or men of honour and worship his predecessors had done before him: whereof somewhat to note for example, Venerable Bede writeth that Prelates of his time having peradventure but wodden Churches, had notwithstanding on their borde at theyr meales one Almes dish, into the which was carved some good portion of meate out of every other dish broght to their Table, all which was given to the poore, besides the fragments left, in so much as in a hard time, a poore Prelate wanting victuals, hath caused his almes dish, being silver to be divided amongst the poore, therewith to shift as they could, til God should send them better store.
“ Such a Prelate was Ethelwald Bishop of Winchester in the raigne of king Edgar, about the yeare of Christ, 963. hee in a great famine, solde away all the sacred vessels of his Church, for to relieve the almost starved people, saying that there was no reason that the senseles Temples of God should abound in riches, and lively Temples of the holy Ghost to lacke it.
“ Walter de Suffilde, Bishoppe of Norwich was of the like minde about the yeare 1245 in a time of great dearth, he solde all his plate, and distributed it to the poore every pennyworth.
“ Robert Winchelsey Archbishop of Canterbury, about the yeare 1293, besides the dayly fragments of his house, gave every fryday and sunday unto every beggar that came to his gate, a lofe of bread sufficient for that day, and there more usually, everie such Almes day in time of dearth, to the number of 5000. and otherwise 4000. at the least, more hee used every great Festivall day to give 150. pence to so many poore people, to sende daylie meate, bread and drinke, to such as by age, or sicknesse were not able to fetch his almes, and to send meate, money and apparell to such as he thought needed it.
“ I reade in 1171. that Henrie the second after his returne into England, did pennance, for the slaughter of Thomas Becker, of whom (a sore dearth increasing) ten thousand persons, from the first of Aprill, till new corne was inned, were dayly fed & sustained.
“ More, I find recorded that in the yeare 1236. the 20. of Henrie the third, William de Haverhull the kinges Treasurer, was commaunded, that uppon the day of the Circumcision of our Lord, 6000. poore people should be fed at Westminster, for the state of the king, Queene and their children. The like commanndement, the said king Henrie gave to Hugh Gifford, and William Browne, that upon Fryday next after the Epiphanie, they should cause to be fed in the great Hall at Windsore, at a good fire, all the poore and needie children that could be found, and the kings children being weighed and measured, theur weight and measure to be distributed for their good estates. These fewe examples for charitie of kings may suffice.
“ I reade in the raigne of Edward the third, that Richard de Berie Bishop of Durham, did weekely bestow for the reliefe of the poore eight quarters of wheate made into bread, besides his almes dish, fragments of his house, and great summes of money given to the poore when he journeyed. And that these almes dishes were as well used at the Tables of Noble men, as of Prelates, one note may suffice in this place.
“ I read in the year 1452. that Richard Duke of Yorke, then clayming the Crowne, the Lord Rivers should have passed the Sea about the kings businesse, but staying at Plimmouth till his money was spent, and then sending for more, the Duke of Somerset sent him the Image of St. George in silver and golde, to be solde, with the almes dish of the Duke of Glocester, which was also of great price, for coyne had they none.
“ To ende of Orders and Customes in this Citie: also of great families kept by honourable persons thither repayring. And of charitable almes of olde time given, I say for conclusion, that all noble persons, and other of honour and worship, in former times lodging in this Citie, or liberties thereof, did without grudging beare their parts in charges with the Citizens, according to their estimated estates, as I have before said, and could prove by examples, but let men call to minde sir Thomas Cromwel then Lord privie Seale, and Vicker generall, lying in the Citie of London, hee bare his charges to the great muster there, in Anno 1539. he sent his men in great number to the Miles ende, and after them their armour in Carres, with their coates of white cloth, the armes of this Citie. to wit, a red crosse, and a sword on the breast, and backe, which armour and coates they ware amongst the Citizens, without any difference, and marched through the Citie to Westminster.
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SOURCE: Stow, John. A survay of London. Conteyning the originall, antiquity, increase, moderne estate, and description of that city, written in the yeare 1598. by John Stow citizen of London. Since by the same author increased, with divers rare notes of antiquity, and published in the yeare, 1603. Also an apologie (or defence) against the opinion of some men, concerning that citie, the greatnesse thereof. With an appendix, contayning in Latine Libellum de situ & nobilitate Londini: written by William Fitzstephen, in the raigne of Henry the second. [London]: Imprinted by John Windet, printer to the honorable citie of London, . 90–2.
^ Facsimile of the spread (pages 140–1) from the 1st edn. (1598) of John Stow’s A Survay of London, documenting “the remarkably arbitrary act” perpetrated c.1532 by Thomas Cromwell (chief minister to Henry VIII, 1531–40) against his neighbors.
“The book is a topographical survey of the city and its suburbs developed along the lines of earlier works by John Leland, William Lambarde, and William Camden. In its composition Stow drew on a wide range of classical and medieval historical literature, public and civic records, as well as upon his own intimate personal knowledge of the city where he spent his life. The reader of A Survey travels with Stow through each of the city’s wards and the adjoining city of Westminster, learns about the wall, bridges, gates, and parish churches of London, and peruses lists of mayors and sheriffs.... A Survey of London reveals dramatically the pageantry of the sixteenth-century city.... But he also records the negative aspects of urban growth, in the shape of unsightly sprawl, filth, the destruction of ancient monuments, and above all poverty. His book approaches the thoroughness of an encyclopaedia, but there are also striking omissions.... In compiling A Survey, Stow recognized a sense of patriotic duty to what he called his ‘native mother and Countrey’.... It is noteworthy that while Camden’s Britannia was written in Latin for the educated élite, Stow’s Survey was composed in the language of his fellow countrymen.” (Barrett L. Beer, “Stow [Stowe], John [1524/5–1605], historian,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Oxford University Press, 2004, n. pag.)
^ Facsimile of the spread (pages 180–1) from the expanded 2nd edn. (1603) of John Stow’s A Survay of London, documenting “the remarkably arbitrary act” perpetrated c.1532 by Thomas Cromwell (chief minister to Henry VIII, 1531–40) against his neighbors.
Stow died in 1605, but his most famous work was influential “well into the seventeenth century as a result of reprints and enlargements.” A Survay of London was posthumously corrected and extended, using Stow’s latest “best collections” and notes, by Anthony Munday in 1618 and 1633, and has remained continuously in print.
“Stow is traditionally viewed — often with more than a hint of condescension — as an earnest, hard-working antiquarian, who produced highly accurate but old-fashioned works that were superseded by the humanistic scholarship of university-educated intellectuals. A Survey of London is usually acknowledged to be his most enduring work because it offers a classic descriptive account of the capital during the Tudor period. The chronicles came to be regarded as less significant than the second edition of Holinshed because of the latter’s connection with Shakespeare’s history plays. In reality Stow was the most productive historical writer of the sixteenth century. His chronicles were more widely read than those of any other historian of his era and, unlike Holinshed, covered the whole sixteenth century. As an eyewitness to events from the death of Henry VIII to the accession of James I he provides important insights into the political and cultural life of his age from the perspective of a London citizen who never styled himself as a gentleman.” (Barrett L. Beer, “Stow [Stowe], John [1524/5–1605], historian,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Oxford University Press, 2004, n. pag.)
< John Stowe, Historian and Antiquary (1524/5–1605). Stipple & line engraving by the printmaker and topographical draughtsman, John Thomas Smith (1766–1833). Print published 10 May 1792 by John’s father, the printseller and sculptor Nathaniel Smith (bap. 1738, d. 1809), as part of his son’s Antiquities of London series (1791–1800).
Smith took his portrait from Stow’s monument of Derbyshire marble and alabaster, erected by Stow’s widow, in the parish church of St. Andrew Undershaft. The stone monument shows Stow writing in a book on a desk with other books about him, framed by a Latin motto above which translates: “Either to perform deeds to be written about, or to write things to be read.” Below Stow’s marble effigy is a Latin inscription which translates: “Sacred to the memory. John Stow, London citizen, piously awaits resurrection in Christ. Who having employed most careful diligence in bringing to light records of antiquity, deserved well both of his own time and of posterity in writing with distinction the annals of England and the survey of the city of London. Having devoutly run the course of his life, he died in his eightieth year, on 5 April 1605. His wife Elizabeth [erected this monument] lamenting as perpetual witness of her love.”
Rather than copy Elizabeth Stow’s elegant tribute to her dead husband, as recorded “in good Renaissance Latin” on his sepulchral monument, Smith took his résumé of Stow from James Granger’s Biographical History of England from Egbert the Great to the Revolution (1st edn., 1769) and Thomas Pennant’s Some Account of London (1790). Smith’s choice of modern quote with citations added to the bottom of his print of Stow reads in full: “‘John Stowe, who was bred a Taylor, quitted his Occupation, to pursue his beloved study of the History & Antiquities of England, to which he had an invincible propensity. He was not only indefatigable in searching for ancient Authors & MSS of all kinds relating to English History, but was also at the pains of transcribing many things with his own hand. As his studies & Collections engrossed his whole attention, he, in a few years found himself in embarrassed circumstances & was under a necessity of returning to his trade, but was enabled by the generosity of Arch Bishop Parker to resume his studies. His principal [works] are his Survey of London: a Book deservedly esteemed, his additions to Hollinsheds Chronicle, and his Annals. the folio Volume, commonly called Stowe’s Chronicle, was compiled from his papers after his decease, by E Howes. our Author Stowe, had a principal hand in two improved Editions of Chaucers works, published in this reign Ob/ 5 April 1605 AE SO’ see Granger P. 269. & Pennants London”.
Not only did an English-language summary of Stow’s life & character make Smith’s print more appealing for late-18th-century collectors, it positioned his work as part of the new fashion in print collecting, Smith having already been commissioned by John Charles Crowle (1738–1811) “to produce a number of watercolour sketches of some ancient London architecture” for Crowle’s extra-illustrated copies of Pennant’s London. “Sensing the commercial opportunities arising from extra-illustration, in 1791 Smith brought out his first part-work, a series of ninety-six modest etchings and aquatints entitled Antiquities of London (1791–1800), which he innovatively promoted ‘to be bound up with Mr. Pennant’s London’.... Such was the success of this marketing tactic that he employed it again for his Ancient Topography of London (1810–15), a series of lively, deeply bitten etchings recording scenes of urban poverty and architectural decay; these had a romantic quality as, in reality, the sights were being swept away in the current wave of urban improvements.” (Lucy Peltz, “Smith, John Thomas [1766–1833], printmaker and draughtsman,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Oxford University Press, Jan. 2007, n. pag.)
< Thomas Cromwell (1485?–1540), earl of Essex. Oil painting on oak panel, by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8–1543). Created c.1532–1533.
“A public figure with a very private life, Thomas Cromwell remains strangely elusive.... a man of opposites, a pragmatic idealist who could be extremely kind or extraordinarily ruthless, depending on the occasion. Holbein’s portrait reinforces the impression of Cromwell as the stern, hard-working bureaucrat as which he is often characterized, but he was also well known for his wit and generosity. The few glimpses that there are of the minister away from his desk indicate that he combined a love of art, literature, music, and fine objects with a keen interest in gardening and falconry. Late in 1535 Chapuys reported of him: ‘He speaks well in his own language, and tolerably in Latin, French, and Italian; is hospitable, liberal with his property and with gracious words, magnificent in his household and in building’.... As well as telling how Cromwell appropriated his neighbours’ land Stow also emphasized how ‘in that declining time of charity’, he often saw him providing ‘bread, meate and drinke sufficient’ for two hundred poor people twice every day outside his gate.... That this was not some cynical attempt to obtain popularity is shown by Cromwell’s commitment to social reform.” (Howard Leithead, “Cromwell, Thomas, earl of Essex [b. in or before 1485, d. 1540], royal minister,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Oxford University Press, May 2009, n. pag.)
< Thomas Cromwell (1485?–1540), earl of Essex. Etching, by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677), after Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8–1543). Created mid-17th-century.
Although Hollar was a Roman Catholic, his assessment of Cromwell’s life & legacy here is tolerant and in line with mid-17th-century scholarly accounts of Henry VIII’s reign “by writers like Edward, Baron Herbert of Cherbury, and Gilbert Burnet. Burnet, for instance, assessed Cromwell as ‘a man of mean birth but noble qualities’, who was brought down by enemies of reform ‘under the weight of popular odium rather than guilt’.... In the eighteenth century, too, Cromwell continued to be seen in an essentially positive light, alike by the Anglican priest John Strype and by the agnostic David Hume.” (Howard Leithead, “Cromwell, Thomas, earl of Essex [b. in or before 1485, d. 1540], royal minister,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., Oxford University Press, May 2009, n. pag.)
Most likely, the biography appended to Hollar’s print of Cromwell reflects the political & religious beliefs of whichever anonymous printseller commissioned the work from Hollar. Whether it gives voice to Hollar’s true opinion or not, Hollar’s engraved résumé of Cromwell takes the middle road on a controversial figure.
Hollar’s distinctive lettering at the bottom of his print reads in full: “Sir Thomas Cromwell Knight, etc; Hee lived in K: Henry the 8th. time, beeing a Blackshmidths sonne, borne at Puttney; But by the Vertue of his singular excellencie of witt, beeing fit & able to order any weighty affairs, hee attained by degrees to the dignity of Lord Keeper of ye priwy Seale; K:ght of the Garter; then created Earle of Essex, & high Chamberlaine of Engla[n]d; at last the kings Vicegerent in all matters Ecclesiasticall; Wherefore in Parliament hee hadt the precedence of the Bish: of Canter: by means whereof hee supprest all Monasteries & Friars, & defaced all Shrines and Images & suchlike; Lastly hee was attaint by the Parliament & accused of Treason & Heresie as supporter of the Lutherians; then was beheaded on the Towerhill, the 28 of July, 1540.”
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