Bishop Matthew Wren's Visitation Articles

STC: 10197

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Is your Church-yard or Chappell-yard enclosed and well fenced, and kept with-out abuse? and if not, whose is the default? Hath any person within your memory, or that you haue credibly heard of, incroached vpon the Church-yard by setting vp any kind of building or fence vpon it, or by opening any doore, gate or stile into it? Hath any vsed that place (consecrated to an holy vse) prophanely or wickedly? Hath any vsed any chiding, brawling or quarrelling words, or strucken any person either in the Church or Church-yard? Hath any person behaued himselfe rudely and disorderly in either; or vsed any filthy or prophane talke, or any other rude and immodest behauiour in them? Is there any ordinary passage vsed through the Church, or any common walking therein, or carrying of burdens, or playing of children? Or haue any other Playes, Feasts, Banquets, Suppers, Church-ales, Drinkings, Temporall Courts, Leets, or Lay-iuries, Musters, exercise of dancing, stoole-ball, foot- ball, or the like, or any Faires, or Markets, boothes, stalls or standings; or any other prophane vsage beene suffered to be kept in your Church, Chappell or Church-yard? Haue any annoyed your Church-yard or the fences thereof, by putting in of cattell, by hanging vp of cloathes, or by laying any dust, dung, or any other filthinesse there? or by making water therein, especially against the Church-wals? When graues are digged, are they made six foot deepe (at the least) and East and West, and are the bones of the dead piously vsed, and decently interred againe, or laid vp in some fit place, as beseemeth Christians? And is the whole consecrate ground kept free from swine and all other nastinesse?


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    • dancing: the i is nearly invisible
  • Endnote

    The surviving answers to the inquiry tend to be brief (see the headnote to and text of the Answers to Bishop Matthew Wren's Inquiry, 1638/9'), and the Puritanism of the county does not appear. The visitation itself was not unusually strict but Wren tried to insist the articles be answered (Palmer, Episcopal Visitation Returns, p 136). The petition against Bishop Wren was signed by more than 500 citizens of, for the most part from the west of the county (Spufford, Contrasting Communites, p 235). After the first article, transcribed here, the complaints are, in short: that Wren sent officers to enforce the visitation and that the churchwardens were forced to take oaths; that Wren put a burden on 'the ministers, churchwardens, sidemen, assistants, midwives and divers others' by insisting on the visitation; that the people were burdened financially and temporally by the visitation during a difficult time; that moving the church furnishings in order to obey the decree was expensive; that there were too many pluralities and non-residences; that the small vicarages under the bishop or cathedral were not cared for and that many people were ignorant; eight, that the popish innovations of the bishop led many to revolt against the church; nine, that many farmers were leaving the county because things were so bad; ten, that being told when to sit and when to stand during divine services was profane and tyrannical; eleven, that probate and wills were costing too much; twelve, that there were too many pictures of the Trinity and the Virgin Mary in the churches; and, thirteen, that the apparitors came and took the keys away and would not let women teach school.

  • Document Description

    Record title: Bishop Matthew Wren's Visitation Articles
    Publication: STC
    Publication number: 10197

    Matthew Wren (1585–1667) was born in London to Francis Wren (1553–1624), painter-stainer of St Peter Westcheap, and Susan, daughter of John Wiggington, merchant and deputy alderman of Cheapside. He was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School, 1595–1601, and was admitted as a Greek scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge in June 1601, where he received his BA in 1605 and MA on 2 July 1608. He was junior and senior treasurer, 1610 and 1611 respectively, and bursar of the college, 1621–4. In 1615 he was household chaplain to Lancelot Andrewes and rector of Teversham, Cambridgeshire. In 1635 he became bishop of Norwich, at which time he started work on reform. In May 1638 he was sent to Ely and immediately sent out his bill of inquiry, with the goal of ridding the county of Puritanism, and the response was strong. On 27 December 1640 Wren was censured by parliament alongside William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, imprisoned in the Tower of London on 30 December 1641, and finally released on 15 March 1660. His final years marked a return to administration in Ely; after his death on 24 April 1667, he was buried in Pembroke College on 11 May 1667 (Nicholas W.S. Cranfield, 'Wren, Matthew (1585–1667),' ODNB, accessed 15 September).

    The printed articles have been collated with CUL: EDR F/5/40, a formulary copy.

    ARTICLES | TO BE | INQUIRED OF | WITHIN THE DIOCES | OF ELY: | In the first visitation of the R. Reverend Father in God | Printed at London, by Richard Badger. | 1638. STC: 10197.

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