By the time of Henry VII, Whatton Manor and the Estate were in the hands of the Gascoigne family. No history of Whatton would be complete without mention of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII.

Whilst Thomas was born in the neighbouring village of Aslockton, Aslockton was at that time (and probably technically still is) a Chapelry within the greater ecclesiastical parish of WHATTON cum ASLOCKTON. Thomas and his family would have worshipped in the parish church of St. John of Beverley. In fact, the Arms of the Whatton, Newmarch, Aslacton and Cranmer families were before it’s ‘restoration’ in the late 19 hundreds all in evidence in the Church and a memorial to Thomas’s father can still be seen in the ‘Cranmer Chapel’ of the church.

Thomas Cranmer. was born in Aslockton, on 2nd of July 1489. His father Thomas Cranmer, was the son of the first Cranmer holder of the Manor in Aslockton, Edmund, through his

(Edmund`s) marriage to Isabelle de Aslockton (Aslakston) in 1460.

Thomas spent the first fourteen years of his life in Aslockton, legend has it that he would sit on the prospect mound (Cranmer`s Mound in Aslockton) and listen to the bells of St. John of Beverley in Whatton.

His father died in 1503 when Thomas was 14 years of age and his mother sent him to Jesus College, Cambridge. He became a fellow in about 1511, although his fellowship was suspended when he married Joan, a relation (by many accounts the daughter) of the proprietor of the Dolphin Inn, in Cambridge, a favourite haunt of students. However, Joan died within a year and Thomas resumed his fellowship and sought holy orders.

Thomas may have been destined for quiet scholarship had it not been for the fact that he had been staying with relatives in Waltham, Essex. Whilst there, he met Gardiner and Edward Fox who were both counsellors to Henry VIII. Through this chance meeting Thomas entered the arena of the great events which were to follow.

By 1530 Cranmer was Archdeacon of Taunton. He was consulted as to the validity of Henry`s marriage to Catherine of Arragon and concluded that, as she was considered his sister (having been married to Henry’s late brother) , that they were unlawfully married. He was sent to Germany to consult with Lutheran princes on the subject. It was whilst he was in Germany that he met Margaret, the niece of Andreas Osiander, a prominent Lutheran theologian. Although, as a priest Cranmer had taken a vow of celibacy, his reading of the scripture (especially the fact that the apostles were married) convinced him that marriage was permitted and he and Margaret married in secret. The marriage was kept secret for some years.

In 1533 Henry appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury Cranmer pronounced Henry`s marriage to Catherine void and that to Anne (Boleyn) to be valid. Subsequently, he pronounced the marriage to Anne to be void, allowing Henry to marry Anne of Cleves only then to announce that marriage unlawful.Whilst it would be easy to view Cranmer as self-serving, it must be remembered that he believed, onhis reading of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, that the king was God`s appointed ruler. Despite his continued obedience to Henry, Cranmer pleaded for clemency (albeit in vain) for Thomas More and John Fisher who as loyal Catholics refused to accept Henry as the supreme head of the English Church. By now (1536) ,the English Church was severed from Rome and Cranmer`s theology was largely Lutheran, whilst Henry continued to insist on non-papal Catholicism (Anglo-Catholic). Despite the difference in theology Henry still liked and admired Cranmer and even summoned Cranmer to minister to him on his deathbed.

The Church of England become more Protestant when Edward VI ascended to the Throne.

It was during this freer climate that Cranmer wrote the Book of Homilies, the Forty-two Articles and the most enduring Book of Common Prayer.

When Edward VI was dying, Cranmer was persuaded, much against his will, to sign a document, by the King, designating Lady Jane Grey as his successor. The attempt to place her on the throne failed and Mary Tudor became Queen. Cranmer was charged with treason and sedition and committed to the Tower of London. Pardoned from the charge of treason and sedition he was taken to Oxford charged with heresy. For reasons that are not known he recanted his opinions. However, when called upon to recant openly, he refused and recanted his recantations.

Cranmer was burnt at the stake on the 21st March,1556 at Oxford. The day was said to be overcast and stormy.

Following the ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’ Thomas purchased the patronage of the Church of St. John of Beverley, along with the lands associated with it that had been held by Welbeck Abbey in 1547. On his execution all his holdings including those in Whatton and Aslockton were forfeit to the Crown, so for a time Queen Mary and her successor Edward VI held land in Whatton (and Aslockton) and the patronage of the parish church.

Edward VI eventually passed the ‘holdings’ back to Thomas’s heir his nephew, another Thomas. This Thomas later petitioned Queen Elizabeth to be allowed to sell the patronage of the Church which he subsequently did.

Copyright 2020 – GR Redford all rights reserved

Thomas Cranmer
Tudor Whatton and Thomas Cranmer