John Saunders was churchwarden in 1547 when the ordinance for the Jesus Mass was drawn up. In that same year, at what Kerry refers to as the 'Reformation sale' when the parish disposed of many of the accoutrements of Catholic worship no longer needed by a parish rapidly embracing the new religion, he bought a seven-branched candlestick, four little candlesticks, six large ones, two each from the Lady Altar, St Thomas' and St Johns', a 'beame with x cansticks and spyndells,' six links, and twenty 'laten' (tin) bowls that were used for the rood light (Municipal Church of St Lawrence, p 53; BRO: D/P 97/5/2, p 250; Dils, St Laurence Churchwardens' Accounts, pt 2, p 67). Saunders was a bell founder and during the rash of sales marking the year of reform (1547) he spent 46s 2d buying up 291 lbs of metal 'taken upp of the graves' and 'of olde candlestycks' (Kerry, Municipal Church of St Lawrence, p 124). His wife died in 1550–1 and was buried in the church. He was a man of some standing in the community, 'who had held responsible peace-keeping offices such as wardman on two occasions in 1540 and 1542, had been elected a burgess of the petty borough in 1545 soon after beginning his churchwardenship of St Laurence's, and had since served in 1547–48 as a guardian constable' (Martin, 'People of Reading,' p 240). In the spring of 1553, as Martin puts it, 'he committed the folly of engaging in rumours that King Edward VI was dead. Speculation and whispered gossip of this kind, embroidered and circulated, could be extremely dangerous, having an in-built tendency to whip up among the populace at large "excitement, disaffection and fear which, once unleashed, would be hard to restrain" and could eventually undermine precious public order. On 27 May 1553, "for reports concerning the King's death", Sawnders was examined and convicted at Greenwich by the Privy Council.' He was sent back to Reading where he was 'to be set on the Pillorie the next market day, with a paper on his hed conteyning in great lettres these wordes: "For Lewde and Sediscious Woordes touching the Kinges Majestie and the State."' After standing there 'the "hole market tyme", his ears were to be cut off before he was returned to prison to await the royal pleasure' (Martin, 'People of Reading,' p 240–1). On September 15, two months into Queen Mary's reign when Saunders might well have expected vindication for his actions, the attitude of the town government was made clear. Their minutes for that day, having recalled his disgrace in the pillory, went on 'and for other sedicious, lewde and sclaunderous wordes by hym at sondry tymes after that spoken, to the greate perturbaunce and disquietnes of his honest neyghbours' he was to be 'expelled, discharged and clerely avoyded ... from the said Hall and company, for ever' (Guilding, Reading Records, vol 1, pp 233–4). He seems to have recovered his fortunes somewhat in the reign of Mary, maintaining his position in the parish. In 1556 he paid for a section of the new churchyard wall (BRO: D/P 97/5/2, p 275; Dils, St Laurence Churchwardens' Accounts, pt 2, p 112). He died in 1558–9 (BRO: D/P 97/5/2, pp 294–5; Dils, St Laurence Churchwardens' Accounts, pt 2, p 128) and was buried in the church.
Record title: St Laurence's Churchwardens' Accounts
Shelfmark: D/P 97/5/2
Repository location: Reading
The churchwardens rendered their accounts on the feast of the Annunciation (25 March) until 1516 when they adopted the Michaelmas–Michaelmas pattern rendering their accounts on 29 September.
1498–1626; English; paper; 250 leaves; 330mm x 225mm; modern pagination; some display capitals; pp 1–2, 490–3 are separated but have been repaired and put separately in a brown paper wrapper; bound in boards covered in parchment, title on front cover: 'The Book of the | Church-Wardens Accounts | of the Parish | of | St Laurence.'