Friday, 14 March 2014

Thomas Milner of Skutterskelfe: the life & times of a Tudor gentleman

Thomas Milner of Skutterskelfe, a gentleman of about sixty-four years of age, made his will on 28 June 1589, the year after the Spanish Armada.  He had inherited his mother's share of the estate of his grandfather, Thomas Lindley, including one-third of the manor of Skutterskelfe where he lived with his wife Frances Bate and their daughter Mary, aged twenty-one. 

He does not seem to have been suffering from ill health when he made his will – simply describing himself as "whole of mind and remembrance thanks be given to God" – and was possibly prompted to do so because of his extreme irritation at the behaviour of his wife's family over the estate of his father-in-law, who had recently died.  Thomas's will, after careful directions for his burial in All Saints' at Hutton Rudby and legacies to the church (with forthright comments about the current incumbent and his predecessors), proceeds with a bequest to his wife:
"my best breeding mare, my best nag to ride upon, with five of my best kine."
This is immediately followed by a confirmation that she is to have
"all such things as in right she ought in conscience to have and be answered of"
continuing, in a fling against his mother-in-law (for how could he leave his wife his father-in-law's goods?)
"either of mine, or of the goods of her father to whom she was executor, and got nothing thereby of things certainly known to be embezzled at the death of her father by her mother as may appear by a note [in] writing set down whereof she should have had a part, and got nothing through the greedy dealings of her [un]loving brethren, and the witness of some of no great honesty nor yet true feelings therein"
After this, he continues with the disposal of the residue of his estate to his wife and daughter, a legacy to the poor of the parish, and bequests and legacies to family, servants and godchildren.  His will, and the surscription set above his burial place in accordance with its provisions, provide us with valuable details of his family and a picture of gentry life in Cleveland in the sixteenth century.



He begins his will with his name in full – Thomas Sowthwaites alias Milner.  He was the son of Elizabeth Lindley, one of the three daughters and coheiresses of Thomas Lindley and his wife Margery, second daughter of Sir Thomas Newport.  His father was Joseph Sowthwaites alias Milner.

The Lindley family of Skutterskelfe are said to have been a branch of the family of Lindley of Lindley near Otley in Wharfedale; this seems all the more likely given the subsequent marriages between the Lindleys of Skutterskelfe and families in the Otley area.  They acquired the manor and lands in Cleveland through the marriage in the fifteenth century of Nicholas Lindley with Maude Gower, one of the three daughters and coheiresses of John Gower of Sexhow and Skutterskelfe, whose family had held these lands since the thirteenth century.  When Gower's estates were divided, Skutterskelfe fell to the share of Maude while her sister Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Layton, inherited Sexhow.

Three generations later, the manor of Skutterskelfe was itself shared between three sisters, when Thomas Milner's grandfather, Thomas Lindley, died without a son.

Thomas Lindley's marriage to Margery Newport is probably another example of the family link to the Wharfedale area.  Margery is said to have been "a daughter or sister of Sir Thomas Newport, Knight of Rhodes."  Sir Thomas was Preceptor of Newland for the Knights Hospitaller, some twenty-five miles from Otley.

Thomas and Margery Lindley had three daughters: Anne, Elizabeth and Meriella. 

Lindley married Anne to Lawrence Kighley of Newhall (now Newall) near Otley. The families may already have been linked by the marriage of Thomas's brother William Lindley to Joan Kighley of Newhall.  Lawrence (c1483-1540) was evidently a trusted friend of Thomas Lindley of Lindley, being named as supervisor of his will in 1511.

Meriella was married to Thomas Layton, a kinsman of her father's relations at Sexhow.  Thomas Layton is described variously as "of Newsham" (in Dugdale's Visitation), "de Thorneton" in Thomas Lindley's will of 6 February 1529-30, and of "Thornton in le Strete" in the Inquisition taken after Lindley's death on 5 October 1530.  It seems likely that the Newsham in question is the township in the parish of Kirkby Wiske, in the vicinity of Thorneton le Street, which lies south of Northallerton.

Lindley married Elizabeth to Joseph Sorthwaite alias Milner.  Nothing is known of Joseph beyond his name and the fact that he died before his father-in-law.  I can find no explanation for his surname.  Sowthwaites (also spelt Sorthwaites) seems to be unusual both as a place name and as a personal name.  "Alias" may indicate a change of name for inheritance purposes, but it was also commonly used to indicate illegitimacy.  If this was the case, Joseph Sorthwaites alias Milner must have been acknowledged and provided for by his father; Lindley would not otherwise have chosen him as a husband for his daughter.  Unfortunately, the Inquisition post mortem on Thomas's lands is of no assistance here, showing only lands that he inherited from his grandfather.

The Lindleys and the Milners were related: Thomas Lindley left a legacy of £5 to his kinsman Percival Milner in his will.   The Milners also appear to have been a West Riding family.  Sixty years later, "my cousin John Milner" was one of the men that Thomas Milner named to assist his daughter in the execution of his will.  This John Milner "of Whitwell, gentleman" was also a trustee in his daughter's marriage settlement.  He was the son of John Milner of Pudsey and first cousin to Robert Waterhouse of Shibden Hall, Halifax (1544-98).  According to Waterhouse's will, the Whitwell in question lay in Derbyshire; it is a village in the north-east of the county.

When old Thomas Lindley died in 1530 after many years in possession of his estates – he had inherited from his father Richard Lindley in 1481 – he left the manor of Skutterskelfe and other property there, and messuages and lands at Thoralby, Yarm, Carlton-in-Cleveland, Seamer, and Great Broughton.  His daughter Anne Kighley had died, so his heirs were his two surviving daughters, Elizabeth and Meriella, and Anne's fourteen-year-old son Thomas Kighley.  Elizabeth was by then aged forty.  She had at least two children – five-year-old Thomas and his sister Margery – and had been widowed.  By October 1530 she was the wife of Oliver Maneryng.  Meriella was aged thirty-two and the mother of a large family (there would be eight surviving children in all); her son Thomas was aged ten.

So by the time Thomas Milner was five years old, he had lost his father, his mother had remarried and his grandfather Lindley had died.  We do not know where Thomas was born, nor where his mother and stepfather lived, nor in which gentry household he grew up.  It seems probable that his stepfather died within a very few years; certainly on 24 November 1534, his aunt Meriella's husband Thomas Layton was granted the wardship and marriage of nine-year-old Thomas.  Wardship was a profitable business and in return he had to pay the Crown £3 a year from the revenues of Thomas's inheritance.  However, within two years Thomas Layton himself was dead and I do not know whose ward Thomas became.

On 20 May 1536 young Thomas Kighley came of age and took possession of his inheritance from his grandfather Lindley.  The grant of livery of lands shows that Meriella had been widowed and was now married to Robert Layton, a kinsman of her first husband.  Robert is generally described as Robert Layton of Sproxton (near Helmsley), but after his marriage to Meriella he is referred to as "of Skutterskelfe."

The grant also shows that Meriella's mother Margery had remarried not long after being widowed (as was the usual custom) and so had left Skutterskelfe.  Her second husband was Anthony Grey of Littleburn in the parish of Brancepeth, Co Durham, a younger son of George Grey 2nd Earl of Kent.  Her second marriage was not to last long – by May 1536 Margery too was dead.  

Thomas Milner came into his inheritance with the grant of livery of lands on 20 November 1546.  Presumably his share of Thomas Lindley's estate will have been very like that of his elder cousin Thomas Kighley.  Kighley died in 1551, when his son Lawrence was thirteen, and the Inquisition post mortem shows that his Cleveland properties were: his share of the manors of Skutterskelfe and Thoralby; four acres in Faceby; a messuage and two bovates of land in Yarm; three tofts and crofts and seven bovates of land in Carlton-in-Cleveland; a messuage and three acres in Seamer; and a messuage in Great Broughton.  

After 1547, I can find Thomas mentioned only a few times in the printed record in the years before he made his will.  In September 1559 his cousin's husband Cuthbert Conyers of Layton near Sedgefield named him as one of supervisors of his will.  On 13 December 1571 Thomas witnessed the will of his dying nephew George Blakiston.  In 1584 "T. Sorthwaite, alias Milner, de Scoterskelfe" is named as one of the freeholders of Langbaurgh in Glover's Visitation.  In 1588, at the time of the threatened invasion by the Spanish Armada, "Thomas Milner (Scoterscelfe)" leads the list of the gentlemen of Cleveland making a financial contribution to the defence of the country with a donation of £25 on 13 May.  He does not seem to have been keen to acquire more land, unlike the Layton family whose members feature frequently in property transactions.  He seems to have lived all his adult life at Skutterskelfe – possibly at times in a household shared by other family members, such as Robert and Meriella of Skutterskelfe – in the centre of a network of friendship and kinship that extended from his sister in Bishopwearmouth to his cousin in Derbyshire.

Thomas's sister Margery had married George Blakiston of Farnton Hall, which stood a few miles south of the River Wear.  They had four sons and three daughters.  Her husband made his will on 1 December 1571 and died shortly afterwards.  On 13 December, her eldest son George ("weak in body") made his will, witnessed by Thomas and naming him ("my Unkill Thomas sorthwaitts") as one of the supervisors.  George was buried at Bishopwearmouth three days later, having asked for his body to be buried "where it shall please my friends."  Some of the legacies that he left indicate he must have been scarcely twenty-one years old with his childhood memories still very vivid to him:
"… to the maids of Skutterskelfe for their pains taken with me every one a shilling …
And to Elsabethe Hutchinson for keeping of me 12d. …
Also I give to my nurse at Hutton Rudby two shillings in money ..."
From which it may be seen that he had been brought up at Skutterskelfe.  Amongst his bequests, he left to "Aunt in Rounton one cow", but we have no name nor any indication as to her identity.

Years later, Thomas Milner would remember the families of George's siblings in his own will, leaving legacies to Ralph Blakiston's children, to Christopher Fowlethroppe, son of his niece Joan who married Simon Fullthropp (the spellings are various), and to the children of John Fowlethrop, possibly Christopher's brother.

Thomas's family circle was greatly widened by the number of his Layton cousins, many of whom lived very much closer to his home. 

He spent his adult life at Skutterskelfe which, then as now, was a hamlet.  In the Lay Subsidy Roll of 1545, it had three taxpayers, compared to Hutton's thirty-seven and Rudby's twenty.  Braworth was a smaller hamlet a couple of miles from Skutterskelfe on the road to Stokesley; it lies above a ford on the River Leven.  Then it had two taxpayers; now only a farmhouse remains.  The road from Skutterskelfe to East Rounton led through the village of Rudby, which lay to the west of today's houses, behind Rudby Farm.  It crossed the Leven by a wooden bridge, which was probably downstream of the later stone bridge, and entered Hutton.  From Hutton a road led off to Sexhow, home of the Laytons.  The manor lay beside the river Leven as it meanders between Skutterskelfe and Hutton Rudby; the manor hall has been a farmhouse since the seventeenth century.  The great open fields which lay around the villages were already beginning to see some piecemeal enclosure.

One of Thomas's cousins lived close at hand.  Anne Layton was married to John Gresewayte (also spelt Gracewith and Gristhwaite) of the nearby hamlet of Braworth.  Her sister Jane was married to one Thomas Carrow, and Elizabeth lived in County Durham with her husband Anthony Cottsforth.    Three of the Layton sisters made more significant marriages, providing valuable contacts for the family. 

Mary married Cuthbert Conyers of Layton near Sedgefield.  He was the second son of Sir William Conyers, brother of Sir Christopher Conyers of Sockburn, and was High Sheriff of County Durham.  Thomas and his cousin Thomas Layton were supervisors of Cuthbert Conyer's will (dated 28 September 1559); he died leaving seven sons and two daughters.

Eleanor married William Layton of Sproxton.  He was the younger brother of her stepfather, Robert Layton of Sproxton and Skutterskelfe.  They had at least one child, a son Robert.  Widowed, she married (as his second wife) Francis Metham, described as brother to Sir Thomas Metham in the 1575 Visitation.

Alice's first marriage was to Leonard Conyers, younger son of Christopher Lord Conyers of Hornby.  After his death she married (as his second wife) John Ingleby of Lawkland, younger son of Sir William Ingleby of Ripley and his wife Cecilia Talboys. 

The eldest son, Thomas Layton (1520-84), was not content with the life of a country gentleman.  He entered the law, and so gained private wealth and public office.  Through him the family will have had access to the latest news of London and the Court.  He was born in 1520, educated at Gray's Inn, and married (by 1551) to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Metcalfe of Nappa in Wensleydale (c1460-1539), High Sheriff of Yorkshire, a wealthy and influential gentleman. 

His half-brother Robert Layton, on the other hand, took another path entirely.  He was the son of their mother Meriella and her second husband, Robert Layton of Sproxton, and he was hanged at Tyburn, attainted for burglary.

Thomas Layton was evidently swift to act in protection of the family property.  Robert Layton of Sproxton and his brother William Layton (Thomas Layton's brother-in-law) had some years earlier come to an agreement over the manor of East Layton in the parish of Stanwick St John.  William was willing to settle the manor on Robert's son after his own death, but was anxious to tie it up so that the younger Robert could not sell it.  With the prospect of his half-brother's property being claimed by the Crown, Thomas Layton moved promptly to buy it himself.  In due course, William's son Robert Layton of Rivas (Rievaulx) came of age and began a law suit to recover the manor.  This was settled between the parties in 1567 with Thomas Layton paying £400 for the property, but a dispute over ownership came again to court in 1590.  Thomas Layton may have been particularly anxious to protect the position of his half-sisters.  We know the name of one of them: Ann, described as coheiress of Robert Layton of Sproxton and Skutterskelfe, married Henry Killinghall of Middleton St George in 1572.

This was only one of many transactions and purchases made by Thomas Layton over the years for the benefit of himself and his family.  In particular, he began to consolidate once more the manors that had been split up after the death of his ancestor John Gower, buying the manors of Sexhow, Braworth and Hutton from his kinsman Robert Layton of Sexhow in 1568 and together with Thomas Milner buying the Kighley share of Skutterskelfe. 

Thomas Layton was well connected by his own and his sisters' marriages to prominent families across the North.  His brother-in-law Sir Christopher Metcalfe (1513-74) married Elizabeth Clifford, daughter of Henry 1st Earl of Cumberland; in 1537 her brother Henry married Lady Eleanor Brandon, niece of Henry VIII.  Layton's sister-in-law Alice Metcalfe was the wife of Sir Robert Bowes (c1492-1555).  His wife's mother Margaret Pigot (1493-1531) was one of the three daughters and coheiresses of Thomas Pigot Esq of Clotherham near Ripon.  One of his wife's aunts, Elizabeth Pigot, married successively Sir James Strangways of Harlsey Castle, Sir Charles Brandon (natural son of Charles Brandon 1st Duke of Suffolk, friend of Henry VIII), and Francis Neville of Barby.  Her sister Jane Pigot (1501-97) was the wife of Sir Giles Hussey of Cawthorpe, Lincs (second son of John Lord Hussey of Sleaford) and then of Thomas Falkingham of Northall near Leeds.

In addition to this useful kinship circle, Thomas Layton made his own valuable contacts.  When the Protestant divine James Pilkington (1520-76) returned from a prudent exile on the Continent during the reign of Mary I, he came to notice as a preacher in Cambridge, London and at the Court and was made Bishop of Durham by Elizabeth I in April 1561.  He must already have made the acquaintance of Thomas Layton – possibly they were personal friends (Pilkington was to name Layton as one of the supervisors of his will) – and he presumably found in Layton an ideal candidate to help him administer the county while he sought to overturn the conservative Catholicism of the North in favour of his own ardent Protestantism.

He appointed Layton clerk to the justices of assize in Durham, clerk of the peace in Durham and Sedburgh, and clerk of the chancery and attorney general of the county palatine, for an annuity of £14.  A few months later Layton was appointed to keep the hallmote courts, and in 1562 he became temporal chancellor to the bishop.  He was an important official with growing standing and rising income, in addition to his earnings in his private practice.

Layton seems to have been genuinely a Protestant and was commended as such by Bishop Pilkington in 1564.  This matter of faith was one of personal conviction and everybody will have known someone with whose views they did not agree – two of Layton's brothers-in-law were Catholic, for example. Layton's position and beliefs will have placed him in an extremely awkward position in the Northern Rebellion of 1569.  This was the second time the North rose against the Crown's religious reforms; the first was the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536.

In 1536 Thomas Layton was sixteen years old and Thomas Milner was eleven.  Their cousin Thomas Kighley was a young man of twenty-one.  The religious framework of generations had been overturned and the social and economic landscape was beginning to suffer the vast upheaval that would follow Henry VIII's divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon and the dissolution of the monasteries.  The commons of Northern England rose in protest.  They expected – and whenever necessary, compelled – the gentry, their traditional leaders, to play their part and to lead them in their "petition to the King's Highness for the reformation of that which is amiss in this his realm".  A large army – said to be between 20,000 and 40,000 men – confronted the Duke of Norfolk's much smaller force at the River Don, but, persuaded of a proper hearing of their grievances by the King and a general pardon for their activities, they dispersed and went home.  Henry took his revenge in 1537 on a few of the leaders from the gentry and nobility in the teeth of his previous promises; the disastrous and abortive rising of Sir Francis Bigod of Mulgrave Castle, which had reignited the unrest, served as pretext.  It also led to the siege of Carlisle, resulting in deaths in battle, the imprisonment of possibly 700 or 800 men and the execution of seventy-four men under martial law.  In all, however, the general pardon meant that very few of the Yorkshire commons were prosecuted and only a small number of the most notable leaders were executed.

However, the experience must have cast a long shadow.  The state of uproar and unrest lasted for several months across the North, from October 1536 until early 1537: an atmosphere of fear, hope and confusion, disturbed by the movement of armed men, the arrival in towns and villages of messengers from the rebel forces, and the posting of anonymous bills in public places calling for the men to muster.  Very few men can have escaped involvement in some measure.

The gentry were caught between the commons and the King.  Some managed to flee their homes before the commons arrived to demand their cooperation.  Others placed themselves at the head of the men in order to exercise control.  This was not an easy matter.  We glimpse the nervousness in the air when Sir William Bulmer and other gentlemen found themselves dealing in late January 1537 with a gathering of a "great company" on the Hambleton Hills, mustered by a bill that came to Stokesley but with no plan as "none wist what to do."  Sir Ralph Sadler's arrival in Darlington at six o'clock one January evening caused thirty or forty people with clubs and bats to gather in the street under his window.  They had come to hear the news, the innkeeper told him, as they did whenever anybody came out of the south and – in response to Sir Ralph's surprise that this was permitted – "the heads of the town could not rule them, nor durst, for their lives, speak any foul words to them."  The man went out "with his cap in his hand" and asked them to go home.  They questioned him closely about Sir Ralph and when told he was the King's servant and going in embassy to Scotland they objected – correctly – that the King of Scots was then in France.  They were well-informed and suspicious, but the innkeeper managed to placate them.  Fear of reprisals made the atmosphere more inflammable – Sir Ralph reported that in Cleveland it was being said that the Duke of Norfolk would come down with a great army to hang and draw from Doncaster to Berwick, notwithstanding the King's pardon.

A few days earlier, a close member of Thomas Milner's family had been reported unfavourably to Thomas Cromwell.  According to Sir William Fairfax's letter, their uncle Lawrence Kighley, the "ruler of the Archbishop's town and parish of Otley" had said lately to the parishioners,
"Sirs, it is said that word is come into the country for delivery of harness [arms etc], and of like word will come to me to demand yours, but he that delivers any I would, &c." 
Fairfax continued,
"The King should command his lord Deputy to put out the rulers made by spiritual men, for their bailiffs are brought up from childhood with priests, and are malicious in their quarrels." 
Though the report of Kighley's words breaks off mid-sentence, the context clearly suggests that Kighley and Otley were not seen as reliable.
 
Lawrence Kighley, in fact, had a link to Thomas Lord Darcy of Temple Hirst, the most significant nobleman in the Pilgrimage, beheaded on Tower Hill on 30 June 1537.  After the death of his wife Anne Lindley, Lawrence had married Isabel (also described as Elizabeth) Plumpton.  She was the widow of Sir William Plumpton, sister of Ralph 4th Earl Neville and daughter of Ralph Lord Neville and his wife Edith Sands.  Edith, who died in 1529 some months after her daughter's second marriage, was Lord Darcy's second wife.

Thomas Layton would later marry into a family with links to other executed leaders.  John Lord Hussey had been particularly unlucky, accused on a trumped-up charge and executed at Lincoln.  Layton's wife Elizabeth Metcalfe was the niece of his daughter-in-law: her aunt Jane Pigot was married to his son Sir Giles Hussey.  Layton's brother-in-law Sir Christopher Metcalfe was married to the daughter of Henry Clifford 1st Earl of Cumberland.  Robert Aske, the leader of the Pilgrimage who was hanged at Clifford's Tower in York, was the Earl's cousin.  Aske's brother Christopher was the Earl's receiver and like his master remained loyal to the King.

Sir Francis Bigod's rising led to the downfall of several Cleveland neighbours, as well as his own execution.  Amongst those executed at Tyburn were: Sir John Bulmer of Wilton Castle; George Lumley of Kilton (near Skelton), the son of John Lord Lumley of Lumley Castle; and James Cockerill, former Prior of Guisborough Priory (1519-1536) and Rector of Lythe.  Sir John's wife Margaret Cheyne was burned at Smithfield. 

These executions must have been felt in the kinship and friendship networks of the gentry of Cleveland.  The Constables of Dromonby near Great Broughton, for example, were a cadet branch of the Constables of Flamborough.  Sir Robert Constable of Flamborough was hanged in chains at the Beverley Gate of Hull on market day, 6 July.  (Thomas Milner's sister-in-law Agnes Bate would later be the wife of John Constable of Dromonby).

Most gentry had managed to ride it out successfully.  Lord Latimer of Snape Castle – Thomas Layton's uncle John lived nearby at Snape Low Park and was Lord Latimer's auditor – rode into York on Friday 20 October 1536 with the Lords Neville and Lumley at the head of 10,000 men behind the banner of St Cuthbert.  He was one of the leaders who negotiated with the Duke of Norfolk, and his house at Snape was seized by the commons in his absence during the unrest of the Bigod rising, but he escaped punishment.    Sir Robert Bowes (c1492-1555) was a Pilgrim leader who survived to become a trusted servant of the Crown; Thomas Layton would later become his brother-in-law.

What had the young cousins learned from the experiences of 1536 when rebellion broke out again in 1569?  In the case of Thomas Layton, to act swiftly and unambiguously in support of the Queen.  Perhaps he had little choice in any event – he must have been closely identified with Bishop Pilkington and his regime.

The Northern Rebellion of 1569 has traditionally been viewed as an aristocratic rebellion and the last gasp of feudalism: the Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland rose in revolt and the commons responded with an instinctive loyalty to their traditional leaders.  However, as K J Kesselring points out, the Queen responded with unprecedented ferocity against the commons and the records show people deeply engaged in the action: some 6,000 men took to arms and the testimony of women and youths in the towns and villages who took the chance to restore the old religion shows their passion for the cause.  Moreover, the idea that an instinctive northern loyalty ("no prince but a Percy") had lasted until 1569 has long been queried, and 80% of the known rebels had no known tenurial link with the earls.

The revolt was triggered when Elizabeth, hearing rumours of conspiracies, ordered the disaffected Earls to court.  The Earl of Sussex, Lord President of the Council of the North, had advised against it on the grounds that the approaching winter would put an end to any planned mischief.  When the summons came, it provoked the rising that Elizabeth feared: the Earls thought they now had nothing to lose.  Urged on by other discontented Catholic gentlemen and aggrieved at the slights they had suffered at Elizabeth's hands, Thomas Percy 7th Earl of Northumberland and Charles Neville 6th Earl of Westmorland gathered their men on 14 November 1569 and stormed Durham Cathedral, where they overturned the paraphernalia of Protestantism and celebrated a Catholic Mass with the enthusiastic support of those present.  They declared themselves in their first proclamation as her Majesty's "true and faithful subjects" acting in defence of the "true and Catholic religion" against the "crafty and subtle dealing" of the Queen's evil counsellors.  They marched onward to Darlington, Northallerton and Ripon, restoring the old faith as they went; by the time they stopped between Ripon and Boroughbridge on 18 November they had gathered some 6,000 armed men to their cause.

The Protestant reformation had made little progress in the North for a long time, and a strong attachment to the saints, masses and prayers for the dead had continued.  A mixture of pragmatism, a sort of fatalism and fear of the authorities had probably deterred another rising like the Pilgrimage of Grace and the fact that royal policy had changed so frequently must have played a significant part.  Henry VIII died in 1547 when Thomas Milner was twenty-two.  The reign of his son Edward VI, a keen Protestant, lasted six years and the reign of Catholic Mary I lasted five.  At the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, change had been slow and her new religious measures had not been strictly enforced, so for many people the old ways had been left undisturbed.  However, by 1569 the pace of change had increased.  The Privy Council in May that year named suspected papists in the Inns of Court and barred them.  Communities that had quietly held back from destroying their old images, holy water stocks and altars now found themselves obliged to take action. 

In the North, the reformed preaching had hardly been heard in 1536 and by 1569 little had changed in the Diocese of Chester (which included parts of Richmondshire) where there were still parishes using holy water in 1564.  In York in 1567 there were still parishes without the proper Protestant books and accessories.  In Durham, after the appointment of Thomas Layton's friend Bishop Pilkington in 1561, matters were very different.  Pilkington was a committed Protestant and eager to effect reform.  His Dean, William Whittingham, was even more ardent.  Contrary to the Queen's instruction to leave funerary monuments alone, he broke up many tombs that bore images he found repugnant and used the stone for building repairs.  His wife Katherine supervised the public burning of the ancient banner of St Cuthbert, an act which provoked outrage and hatred.  The parishes found themselves under scrutiny, invaded forcibly if they failed to replace their altars with communion tables. 

As the pace of change quickened, in the dioceses of Durham and York there were public burnings of "idolatrous" items accompanied by public humiliations.  Nine men of the parish of Aysgarth were obliged to bring the images to church, bare-legged and wearing only a sheet, and do public penance.  The vicar and one of the churchwardens of Manfield near Richmond were made to do penance in Richmond market place because the parishioners had hidden away their Catholic items instead of destroying them.  In Ripon, on the previous Hallowe'en, the old custom of going from door to door for money and candles for the bellringers led to one man being put in the stocks.

This background of unhappiness lay behind the willingness of men to rise in arms in support of the Earls and the eagerness of people to destroy the Protestant fittings and put back the altars – Protestant books were destroyed in a dozen churches in Durham and seventy-three in Yorkshire.  Not everybody agreed.  Some were committed Protestants; some wanted only a quiet life.  It is unclear how much coercion and persuasion went on.  The rebel leaders sought an effective armed force, turning away great numbers of men who did not meet the requirements, and the majority of the rebels were yeomen – at least seventy-one were village constables.

When the Earls took Durham, Bishop Pilkington and his family escaped, apparently disguised as beggars.  The rebel forces moving swiftly southwards through Cleveland required feeding and seized supplies accordingly: Christopher Neville, uncle of the Earl of Westmorland and one of the foremost rebel leaders, took oxen, sheep etc to the value of £111 6s. 8d. from the pastures in Whorlton owned by Lord Hunsdon, Governor of Berwick, cousin to the Queen and one of her most trusted advisors.

Thomas Layton was by now a man of substance, a lawyer aged forty-nine.  He was a justice of the peace of the wapentake of Langbaurgh as well as an official of Durham and at this point he must have been at home on his manor of Sexhow, which he had recently purchased from his cousin.  He did not delay – on 17 November 1569 he rode through the night to the Earl of Sussex at York, arriving at three o'clock in the morning with the news that Neville with his horsemen was raising the Earl of Westmorland's tenants around Kirkbymoorside.  They had "thrown down the communion board, and done all things as the Earls had done at Durham" and the gentlemen of Langbaurgh had fled their houses. 

While Thomas Milner and other gentlemen evaded the rebels, Layton became part of Sussex's forces.  He was instructed with a "Mr Strangwish" (probably Strangways?) to levy a force of two hundred men in Langbaurgh ("which joins upon the river that goes to Hartlepool" as Sussex explained in a letter to Sir William Cecil) to be ready to march upon the town when directed.  They were then ordered to enter Hartlepool with speed.  Sussex apparently repeated his orders "divers times" – but perhaps they found it impossible to raise the men.  Certainly they failed in their mission, because on 1 December Sussex learned to his dismay that Christopher Neville with a force of three hundred had taken the town, which was the main port of County Durham.  This caused Sussex no little anxiety as he could not afford to have the Queen think poorly of his diligence.  He had acted, he assured Cecil, immediately on receiving the Queen's instructions and
"dispatched Strangwish to Layton, as earnest a Protestant and as diligent as there is in these parts. Their houses are near Hartlepool, and the wapentake the nearest of any place where I could levy men. Their commission was to proceed with all diligence, and if all their men were not together, to enter the town with such as they could get on the sudden, and bring the rest after; I could not use more expedition if my life had lain on it, and yet by some negligence, the matter takes no effect."
Fortunately for Layton, who could have found himself in a difficult position as a scapegoat for his failure, the rebellion collapsed within a couple of weeks.  An immense army had been on its way north since the beginning, and on 13 December a force of at least 12,000 men finally reached Wetherby, with another couple of thousand men to follow.  The next day Sussex and his army were in Northallerton.  On 16 December, hearing that Sussex had reached Darlington and the Queen's ships were at Hartlepool, the Earls abandoned their foot soldiers and with their horsemen fled into Northumberland.  They crossed into Scotland on 20 December.  The commons were left to face the Queen's anger.

Unlike previous rebellions, there were no repeated offers of mercy to curtail the revolt.  This rebellion was almost bloodless, but the army sent north under the Earl of Warwick and Lord Admiral Edward Clinton had instructions to
"invade, resist, repress, subdue, slay, kill, and put to execution of death by all ways and means."  
In the months to come, martial law was enforced and retribution was exacted – even to the church bells, as all the bells but one were removed from each church where they had been rung to raise the countryside.  The property of rebels was seized both by way of punishment and for revenue, to pay for the cost of putting down the revolt, and in addition there was little restraint on looting by the occupying southern army.  Sussex, indeed, complained that some £10,000 worth of rebel property had been lost to the Crown by looting and it was noted that fines could not be fully enforced as the people had already lost so much.  A distinction was made between those rebels with money, and those without; under the laws of forfeiture it was to the Crown's advantage to spare the wealthy.

Lists of the rebels were drawn up and from each place a number of men was "appointed" to be hanged in their own towns and villages and it was ordered that some bodies were to be left hanging for a long while as a warning and a terror.  From Richmondshire, for example, 1,241 men had joined the rebels and 231 were selected for execution.  Heavy snow made it difficult to hunt down the men who fled and Sir George Bowes did not execute as many as originally instructed, but it seems that some 600 men of the 6,000 said to have been in arms were hanged.  They died across Durham and Yorkshire, in Darlington, Richmond, Northallerton, Thirsk, Kirkleatham, Guisborough, Great Ayton, Yarm … one was hanged at Braworth, near Skutterskelfe.  The judicial death toll came nearer to that inflicted in the Irish revolts of the time than to earlier Tudor rebellions.  Pardons were proclaimed for those who submitted to the Queen, including those who had supported the rebels, perhaps financially, but had not taken active part.  Some 11,000 or 12,000 people are said to have come forward; the fines they paid produced a useful revenue for the Crown.  The wealthier rebels were tried under common law and again financial reasons played a significant part as to whether a man lived or died.

On 24 March 1570, four men were "hanged, headed and quartered" at Knavesmire just outside York.  One of them, Robert Pennyman of Stokesley, must have been well known to Thomas Milner and his family.  Another was John Fulthrope of Iselbeck (Islebeck), in the parish of Kirkby Knowle; John Constable of Dromonby's mother was a Fulthorpe of Iselbeck.  Ascolph Cleasby of Ayton was only saved at the last minute.  He was taken out with the others for execution and then returned to the Castle, because Lord Hunsdon had asked him to be spared.  Hunsdon was planning a marriage between his son and one of the daughters (and heirs) of Lord Conyers and intended to use Cleasby's influence with the Conyers sisters to try to achieve this. 

One of Thomas Layton's nephews was another who had a narrow escape.  Ralph Conyers was the son of Mary Layton and Cuthbert Conyers of Layton near Sedgefield.  He was a servant of the Earl of Westmorland and had entered the rebellion with his master.  Condemned to death at York but kept back from the first wave of executions pending instructions from the Queen, he is described by Sussex and his colleagues in a letter to Cecil as being "of honest conversation, and greatly lamented."  He and his fellows were now
"utterly out of hope of life, and desire to die satisfied that the Queen has forgiven them, and trust to be saved only by Christ's death and passion." 
Fortunately for Ralph Conyers, his father's will (of which his uncle Layton and cousin Thomas Milner were both supervisors) had created an entail.  There would be no profit to the Crown in executing him as he was in effect only a life tenant of the estates.  His life was saved by the entail – and who better to draw the authorities' attention to this than his lawyer uncle, who may well have drawn up the will himself?  Ralph died, attainted, in 1603.

This rebellion had been a bitter experience, dividing families.  As Sir Ralph Sadler (again reporting to the Crown from a Northern revolt) wrote to Sir William Cecil,
"if the father be on this side, the son is on the other; and one brother with us and the other with the rebels."  
This could turn out to be fortunate.  Not only was Thomas Layton in a position to do himself good – he took part in proceedings against the rebels and became MP for Beverley, as a useful man for the Crown, and was active on legal committees – but was also able to help his family. 

He will have known the prominent men on both sides of the rebellion, by reputation if not personally.  He will certainly have known Sir George Bowes (1527-80), provost marshal in Durham after the rebellion.  Bowes' sister Bridget was married to Thomas Hussey, Layton's wife's cousin, who was attainted for his part in the rebellion; he escaped execution thanks to Sir George's efforts on his behalf.  (Bowes' sister Margery was the wife of John Knox, leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland).  One of Layton's clients in his private practice was Leonard Dacre of Harlsey Castle, notorious harbourer of Catholic priests and regular correspondent of the captive Mary Queen of Scots.  Dacre played a fickle part in the Earls' rising and brought about the deaths of some 300 to 400 men in his own rebellion at Naworth.  He had been motivated not only by his Catholicism but also by his strong sense of grievance at the loss of family lands that he had tried to reclaim at law.  Dacre was one of a number of the ringleaders, including the Earl of Westmorland, who were never caught but died in exile on the Continent.  Thomas Percy 7th Earl of Northumberland was eventually captured and beheaded in York; he was beatified by the Pope in 1895.

The aftermath of the rebellion must have had a considerable impact on Cleveland, and recovery must have taken time.

At this point, Thomas Milner's daughter Mary was a very young child – she was born in about 1568 when Thomas was forty-three.  She may have been his only child; certainly she was the only one to survive.  It is possible that her mother Frances Bate was Thomas's second wife.  Whoever had his wardship and marriage after the death of Thomas Layton senior is highly likely to have made him a match before he became of age and the 1563-4 Visitation lists the six Bate sisters but shows only the marriages of two of them: Agnes (to John Constable of Dromonby) and Dorothy.

Frances Bate was the daughter of William Bate of West Laithes or West-leys in the parish of Whorlton in Cleveland.  He donated £50 for the defence of the country in 1588, twice as much as the sums given by Thomas Milner and John Constable of Dromonby, so presumably he was well-to-do.  He was buried in the chancel of the old church at Whorlton; his will was proved on 30 June 1589.  Originally from Lancashire, the Bate family bought shares of the manor of Easby after 1570 and was settled there for several generations.  Frances's mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Leonard Warcop of East Tanfield, parish of Kirklington.  She was evidently swift and decisive in her own interests, and her actions following her husband's death led Thomas Milner to accuse her of embezzlement.  Perhaps the families came to some agreement or possibly his anger cooled – at any rate, any grievance he may have had against Frances's family did not last.  She had five sisters and her brothers, William, Thomas and Leonard, together with Thomas Warcop, and her brother-in-law John Constable of Dromonby were all trustees of the settlement on their niece Mary's marriage. 

By the time Thomas Milner made his will, his cousin Thomas Layton was dead and his now considerable estates were in the hands of his elder son Charles, so Thomas was the senior member of the family.  He seems to have enjoyed making his will.  His comments – on his mother-in-law, on the past vicars of Rudby – give it spice and and of course It gave him the opportunity to remember a number of people of whom he was obviously fond. 

As already mentioned, he left legacies to his sister Margery Blakiston's family – forty shillings between John Fowlethrop's children, five marks between Ralph Blakiston's children, and five marks to Christopher Fowlthroppe. 

Several godchildren are remembered.  There is a slightly incoherent legacy to the son of Sir John Mattyson leaving him a young quir [heifer] and the balance of some money he held in trust for the young man. Thomas Eldon was left "one whie stirke [heifer] to make him a cow."  The Eldon family appear in the Rudby parish registers (which begin in 1584) and in the obituary notes made in the church's Breviary.  Evidently one Richard Eldon was a tenant of Thomas's, as he left Eldon the house in which he lived for the remainder of Thomas's lease.  Thomas's godson Alban Richmond was another beneficiary; Richmond is another surname that appears in the parish registers.  Thomas left Alban the remainder of his lease of the Warren House at Seamer together with
"two kye gates [pasturage] in Seamer moor with three loads of hay to be set forth for him of the common balks or Carr." 
In return, Alban Richmond was to be the rabbit-keeper and maintain the house.  Coney farming was of course a lucrative trade, providing meat and fur.

Mary Lay and Jane Farewether were left five marks each.  I cannot identify Mary, but the Farewether family appear in the parish registers, and a Jane Farewether married George Gracewith in 1604, presumably a close relative of Ann Layton and her husband John Gracewith of Braworth.

Thomas remembered his servants.  Those of three years' standing were to have six months' wages, and Alison Stowerfeld was to have
"all such money as she is to be answered of and a cow to give her milk in summer pasture and to have hay for her."
She was to live in the clerk's house if she wished, or as Frances and Mary thought appropriate, in consideration for her service.  It seems the clerk had not been paying his rent.  His wife was to have "one whole year’s rent of his house which is unpaid, and more," so evidently Thomas did not blame her for the default and sought to put her in a better position.  The clerk himself is not mentioned.

He left a number of bequests to friends and family.  To "my cousin George Nicholson" he left
"one great young horse called White Foot, and more I would have been glad if ability would have served for they are my loving kinsfolk." 
Unfortunately I have not been able to identify George Nicholson.  A man of that name was involved in the property dispute in 1590 over the Layton family's dealings with East Layton manor, so he was probably a man of North Yorkshire. 

To "Master Cecil, my landlord" he left the choice of one of his best horses or mares.  The Inquisition after Thomas's death shows that he held land in Seamer of the Lord Roos, so this will have been William Cecil Lord Roos, who succeeded to his mother Elizabeth Lady Roos in 1591.

He left fillies (a "filly stagg") to several relatives: to the wife of his cousin John Milner; to "my cousin Christopher Mountfort;" and to his cousins Thomas Warcop and John Milner, who with his cousin John Constable and Master Waterhouse were to assist Mary Milner in executing the will.  A colt stagg was left to his cousin John Constable. 

I have not been able to identify Christopher Mountfort, apart from noticing that Thomas Layton's grandmother was Margery Mountfort of Hackforth near Catterick and a William Mountford was made vicar of Rudby in 1529.  Cousin Thomas Warcop is almost certainly the Thomas Warcop of East Tanfield who is also one of the parties to Mary Milner's marriage settlements, in which John Constable is described as "of Lazenby" to distinguish him from Thomas's brother-in-law John Constable of Dromonby.  (This is likely to have been the Lazenby near Northallerton, where the Constables were established at the end of the century).  To his brother-in-law Master John Constable esquire of Dromonby, supervisor of his will and trustee in the marriage settlements, he left a legacy of "one old angel."  "Master Waterhouse, clerk, whose pains I require" receives no benefit under the will, but Mary is charged "to see [her assistants'] charges borne."

His wife Frances was to be entitled to remain in his house
"always provided so long as my wife keepeth her unmarried, make no waste about my house and grounds, and be good to my said daughter" 
and to
"have the use of such things as shall be needful towards her necessary provision of meat, and drink, otherwise to have that is due [in] sight of my executors, and supervisors." 
Mary is the main beneficiary.  "My house and grounds" and "my farms and leases" will be hers, provided she does nothing to frustrate the terms of his will – "otherwise, to have nothing, and this I charge her as she will answer before God in another world."  We catch a fragmentary glimpse of the old hall at Skutterskelfe.  He mentions beds, tables, and old furniture in the parlour, and the buttery, hall and kitchen, the milk house, the brewhouse with the brewing leads, and the great sestron (cistern) of lead in the hall. 

Thomas's foremost concern, however, was his burial place and making his mark on his parish church.  He certainly succeeded in the latter – his gift to All Saints' was its pulpit, a "delightful and precious piece" in the words of Nikolaus Pevsner, and one of the chief features of the church today.

Externally, All Saints' has changed only a little since Thomas was a boy. "Picturesquely situated in a deep wooded glen on the north bank of the River Leven" in the words of the Victoria County History, it stands between the townships of Hutton and Rudby.  The original twelfth century building was substantially enlarged and rebuilt during the fourteenth century.  The tower and the chantry chapel on the south side of the nave were added at that time; the columns in the nave date from 1300-10. 

Rudby was a large parish and a valuable living.  The church was built by the Meynell family of Whorlton Castle and possibly intended as a monastic site.  It passed with the manor of Rudby by marriage to the Darcy family of Knaith, and then to the Conyers of Hornby.  When Thomas was born, Rudby and the advowson of the church were held by Christopher Lord Conyers (d1538).

Inside the church we can still find a few traces of the interior that Thomas knew as a boy.  The Conyers arms can be seen on the base of the Norman font and in mediaeval stained glass in a window on the south wall.  The oldest of the church's six bells would have been heard by Thomas; inscribed Ave gracia plena Dominus tecum, it is dated c1490.  The present-day Lady Chapel (its original dedication is unknown) is no longer partioned from the nave but the mediaeval piscina remains in the south wall, as does the grave slab on which is carved a figure of a cleric holding a chalice.  It is set in a niche in the fourteenth century wall, but it is possible that it was old when the rebuilding of the church took place and that it dates from the twelfth or thirteenth century.  The seven-inch thick stone slab of the chancel altar is possibly the mediaeval original.  It was found outside the north wall of the church during building work in 1923 and returned to its place. 

Imagination is needed to recover the rest: the mediaeval glass, the painted walls, the individual chapels, the candle-lit rood loft and the images of the saints.  Parishioners in the early 20th century remembered from the glimpse afforded during the restoration of 1863 that there were angels and cherubim painted between the arches and that a battle-scene was depicted around the south door. 

The altars and images are recorded in various Wills.  In his will dated 18 January 1480-1 Richard Lindley, Thomas Milner's great-grandfather, left a candle before the image of the Blessed Virgin and another before the image of All Saints; it seems that they stood by the chancel screen on either side of the choir.  Christopher Conyers, rector of Rudby, in his will dated 22 June 1483 directed that he was to be buried between the image of All Saints and the high altar.  There was an altar to St Christopher, to which Christopher Conyers bequeathed the linen from the altar he kept in his own home.  There was a side chapel of St Cuthbert; Thomas Burton of Rudby directed that he be buried before the crucifix outside the enclosure of St Cuthbert in his Will proved in 1505.  There was an altar to St Nicholas – Percival Lindley, Thomas Milner's great uncle, directed that he was to be buried in the side chapel in his Will dated 2 November 1488.  Amongst the holy books was a Breviary of York Use, written in England possibly before 1456, in which priests recorded various obits between 1513 and 1553, including the death of Thomas Milner's grandfather Thomas Lindley in 1530.  Possibly this breviary was the "portiferium" left to the church by the will of Percival Lindley.

The church had thus been the focus of the parish's loving attention for many generations, enriched by their hands and with their gifts.  The Layton family meanwhile may still have kept up their chapel at Sexhow, for which John Gower applied for a licence in 1322 and which is mentioned in the will of John Layton in 1466.

By 1589, when Thomas made his will, the candles, images and chapels were gone from All Saints'.  His ancestors had been buried under the chancel floor, but in this newly bare church there must have been space for something a little more elaborate for him.  He planned a tomb built into the stonework of the wall, to match the ancient niche of the cleric on the south wall.  It was to be built at the end of the stall where he usually sat:
"in my own stall in the wall in the end thereof in that sort as one is buried on the other side of the church." 
He gave directions about the stonework:
"and the same stone that lieth at the overdoor [decorative mantel above a door] to be laid of me, and to be raised up with freemason work in the said wall and place that I shall lie in, that there may be room under the said stone for those of my house that shall fortune to be buried there,"
and requested a surscription in copper or brass to be placed above it:
"with my grandfather’s name, my father, and mother, wife and daughter with my own name declaring the day of my death and year, and more as shall be thought good by my executors (whom I do in God’s behalf require to perform this my request)."
Nor was this all.  He felt that the existing pulpit – there were pulpits in pre-Reformation churches, and some survive today – was inadequate, as had been its occupants for most of his lifetime.  He left a legacy to the church
"for the building of a comely new pulpit for the preaching of God’s word which hath been little occupied in this church of Rudby this forty years, pity so good living should be in the hands of those that bringeth forth no better doctrine, and of those that would better supply the place to be preferred thereto for this I give twenty shillings.
God send a faithful p[e]rson and preacher placed in the living that will bestow his time in God’s service, and avoid the greedy parsons and proctors that will keep no hospitality whereby the poor getteth nothing at their doors."
So who were the occupants of Rudby's pulpit, and who had appointed them?  Was Thomas's antipathy based on personal feelings or on doctrine?

In 1527 Christopher Lord Conyers had sold the advowson and rectory to Cardinal Wolsey, who used it to endow his new college at Oxford.  Accordingly, in 1529 it was Christ Church College, Oxford that appointed William Mountford as vicar to the living.  How long he was in post is unknown, as there is a gap in the record until the appointment of William Lawson in 1582.  It is possible that there were several vicars in this time.  The Rev John Graves in his History of Cleveland mentions a George Conyers but gives no date or any information as to who presented him.

It has previously been thought that Lord Conyers failed in his attempt to recover his property apart from paying £40 in 1534 for a half-year's farm (paid to Cromwell for the dean of the College), and that the Rudby church and rectory fell to the Crown and was granted by Elizabeth I to Edward Downing and Roger Rant.  It has been assumed that John Ingleby of Lawkland bought from them at some point between 1591 and 1610.

However, it was John Ingleby who presented William Lawson to the living in 1582 and his involvement in a court case shows that the Conyers family had retained a greater interest than was thought – which would also explain why George Conyers may have been vicar during this time.  The Conyers' interest – a leasehold of the parsonage from Christ Church – passed to John Ingleby as a result of his marriage to Thomas Milner's cousin Alice Layton, widow of Leonard Conyers, younger son of Christopher Lord Conyers of Hornby. 

Ingleby's possession was then challenged by Leonard Conyers' niece.  "Depositions as to a lease of the parsonage, said to have been granted by Leonard Conyers" were made in 1584-5.  This was still ongoing in 1599 when John Atterton Esq and his wife Catherine (daughter and coheir of John late Lord Conyers, son and heir of Christopher Lord Conyers of Hornby) brought a case against John Ingleby and his son Thomas for "possession of a lease of the parsonage of Rudby, Yorks made by Christ Church Oxford to Christopher Lord Conyers and assigned by him to Leonard Conyers for life".  The Inglebys seems to have succeeded, as Rudby was owned by the family until the early 1630's. 

This confusion over the ownership of Rudby may indicate that the 1591 grant by the Queen to Downing and Rant was part of their activities as notorious fishing grantees.  Since the time of Mary I, the Crown had sought to seize lands due on the forfeiture of colleges and chantries, believing that there had been widespread concealment by owners, made easier by obscurities in the title to their properties.  Consequently, people in possession of land found themselves under close scrutiny from the Exchequer and vulnerable to the activities of title-hunters.  These men sought out titles in which they could find the slightest flaw, whereupon a token inquiry was held at which the land was pronounced to belong to the Crown.  The title-hunter then paid for a grant of the land from the Crown with special power to start investigations into the title for the Crown by causing informations and processes to be begun against the occupier.  If successful in proving the land was the Crown's, the title-hunter could negotiate to buy or lease the land – but frequently the title-hunter would obtain his grant and then tell the occupier that if he did not buy back the land then information would be laid against him and his title would be investigated.  Many occupiers succumbed to this blackmail and it was a very lucrative business, with men like Roger Rant, who was a clerk in the Pipe Office (the Exchequer), using their connections to feather their own nests.

Thomas's remarks that "the preaching of God’s word which hath been little occupied in this church of Rudby this forty years" shows a dissatisfaction with all the vicars of his adult life, but must be more particularly aimed at the vicar who was irritating him every week and the man who had appointed him. 

The most likely cause of his irritation lay in the fact that John Ingleby was a recusant.  He and John Gracewith of Braworth (another of Thomas Layton's brothers-in-law) are named in 1604 as "recusants old".  Gracewith by then was "bedridd."  (Braworth – where one of the rebels of 1569 was hanged – seems to have been a small centre of recusancy).  Given his beliefs, John Ingleby would not have appointed a Protestant vicar.  Clearly Thomas, like his cousin Thomas Layton, was a Protestant. 

Whether Thomas's hope that a new parson would "bestow his time in God’s service, and avoid the greedy parsons and proctors that will keep no hospitality whereby the poor getteth nothing at their doors" is a reflection on Lawson in particular or on parsons in general, we will never know.

Thomas's benevolence towards the church and the poor was not finished.  He also left five shillings and eight pence "for the mending of the bellstocks in Rudby Church" and
"to the poor in Rudby parish forty shillings to be distributed at the discretion of my executors, so as no such as lay their money to usury have no part thereof for they [are] but the destroyers of the poor and needy, and very caterpillars in the commonwealth God send this parish to be soon dispatched of them.  And that God’s word may better enter into their hearts to draw them from the maintenance of the devil’s coffers."
It seems one of the parishioners was a moneylender and Thomas heartily disapproved. 

Thomas's will was made on 28 June 1589.  A few years later, on 27 February 1594 Thomas married his daughter Mary to her second cousin Charles Layton.  Charles was the son of lawyer Thomas Layton of Sexhow, who had died in 1584.  He was some years older than Mary, and had probably married his first wife Ann Preston, daughter of Christopher Preston of Holcar, in or about 1578, when Mary was a child of ten.  There had been no children by the marriage, and now he would gain both an heir and the remainder of the manor of Skutterskelfe and the Gower lands that had been divided between the coheiresses long ago. 

In the autumn of that year, on 7 November, Thomas Milner died.  His will was proved some two months later on 17 January.  The Inquisition following the writ of diem clausit extremum had been carried out on 7 January 1595 and shows that he was survived by his wife and his twenty-six year old daughter.  It describes him as being seised of one third of the manor of Skutterskelfe (held of the Queen) and one bovate of land in Seamer (held of Lord Roos in free socage).  He also had a half of another third part of the manor of Skutterskelfe, which was subject to the life interest of Dorothy Plumpton.  This was the Kighleys' third of the manor, which it seems Thomas and Thomas Layton had acquired between them from their cousin's son, whose stepmother was the widow of Sir Robert Plumpton.  It does not mention the lands in Yarm, Carlton and Great Broughton that appear in the estates of his grandfather Lindley and his cousin Thomas Kighley; presumably these had formed part of his daughter's dowry. 

In due course a small square pulpit made of oak and standing on four legs was installed in the church. 
Pulpit of All Saints', Hutton Rudby

It has inlaid marquetry panels, with the name Thomas Milner at the top and a coat of arms below.

Name panel on pulpit of Al Saints', Hutton Rudby

Thomas, unlike his grandfather Thomas Lindley and his cousin Thomas Layton, was not entitled to a coat of arms, so the shield bears the three griffin heads of the Lindleys and the three talbot dogs of the Gowers.

Front panel of pulpit of All Saints', Hutton Rudby


For many years its beauty was forgotten, hidden under layers of paint and only rediscovered during the restoration work of 1860.

Milner surscription, north wall of All Saints', Hutton Rudby

On the north wall above the organ, a stone memorial reads:
"Thomas Lynley esquier married Margery the second daughter of Sr Thomas Newport knight and had issu Elizabeth marryed to Joseph Sorthwait ale Mylner esquier who had issu Thomas Mylner who marryed Frances the daughter of Willyam Baytes esquier who had issu Mary who was marryed to Charles Layton esquier and had issu Sr Thomas Laiton knight Here lyeth the body of Thomas Mylner deceased the 8oe November 1594"
Milner surscription

This is curious – Thomas Milner's grandson Thomas Layton was not knighted until 1614, so it seems it took the family quite some time to install the surscription and evidently the memorial, which is usually described as Elizabethan, is actually Jacobean.  Thomas was in fact buried on 8 November; he died the day before.

Above the memorial a coat of arms is depicted on a small stone slab.  The details are crudely drawn and it is only by comparing it with the identical coat of arms on the pulpit that it can be understood as showing the arms of the Gowers and Lindleys.

Coat of arms from Milner surscription

Thomas's burial place is much harder to find.  It is not even mentioned in the Rev Arthur Eddowes The Church and Parish of Rudby-in-Cleveland (1924).  It seems to have been forgotten for many years and people came to assume that the stone tablet had been erected to explain the pulpit – but beneath the tablet, and now hidden by the organ installed in 1975, is the place where Thomas Milner was buried in the wall at the end of his usual pew.

Interior of church pre-1975; the surscription and burial place can be seen to left of picture


Photographs of the pulpit and surscription are by Adrian Davey.


More information, sources, hyperlinks and a select bibliography will follow in the next post ...

This article and the following notes & bibliography appear in Cleveland History, Issue 106, 2014, the bulletin of the Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society.





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