Friday, 30 September 2011

Tales from the Parish Clerks’ Memoranda No.8: The overworked student and his surprising connections

Today we have both a cautionary tale on the dangers of “Imoderate studye” for all new and returning University students, and a very exciting bit of celebrity spotting 16th century style.
20 Awgust Ano 1587
A colexionn for one Frauncis [W]orlocke a batchelor of arte in oxford who Was becomme blynde and Lame wth Imoderate studye
Memerandum that a colexionn was gathered in ower parishe Churche the xxth Daye of awgust in ano 1587 By vertue of the Queenes Maties letteres pattens and was for one Frauncis Worlocke beinge a Batchelor of arte in Oxford and sonne to the lorde of Hunsdon Lorde Chamberlin his owld Servant Who by Imoderate Studye & other misfortunes Is become blynde ["blynde" inserted with a caret] lame & Impotent & that for want of Habillytye & mayntenance is forced to Seeke the Benevolence of Well disposed people in Consideration Whereof the Sayde frauncis Worlocke Was lysenced by Hemselfe or by his Deputie to aske gather receyve or take thalmes charretye or Devotion ower Lovinge Subiectes Inhabetinge & Dwellinge wthin the Countie of Midlesex and essex withe ower townes of Cowlchester and Mawldon and not els wheare towardes his Sayde reliefe the wch Sayde Letteres pattens weare to [erasure: probably another version of continue] Continewe for the Space of one Whole yeare beinge dated the xiiijth Daye of december in the xxixth yeare of her Maties Raigne & there was gathered for him the 20th daye of awgust aforesayde By Richard bigges beinge Constable the Some of ijs jd ob q
P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/001 fol. 121r

Poor Francis – that was very bad luck indeed. And there is no record of him in the Alumni Oxonienses for this period, so it would appear that in spite of the contributions of the good parishioners he was unable to complete his degree. A very sad Tale.

But why, instead of giving details of Francis’ father in this entry, did the Parish Clerk instead focus on the father’s employer, the Lord of Hunsdon? I suspect, readers, that our Parish Clerk was happy to have an excuse to list such a celebrated person in his Memorandum Book. For the Lord of Hunsdon was none other than Henry Carey: cousin to Elizabeth I, son of Mary Boleyn, nephew of Anne Boleyn, and although publicly acknowledged as the son of the courtier William Carey, widely rumoured to be the biological son of Henry VIII. As if these exciting and rather titillating associations were not interesting enough, Henry Carey also had one more notable connection. Following a distinguished military career, he was appointed Lord Chamberlain in 1585 and was responsible for organising all court functions for his royal cousin. As part of his duties, he became the first patron of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a troupe of professional actors including (drum roll, please) William Shakespeare. Henry Carey was most definitely a notable celebrity.

So who was Francis’ father, described only as the “owld Servant” of Lord Hunsdon? A bit of digging on British History Online revealed that Francis Worlocke’s father was Captain Edward Worlock (spellings were far from consistent in the 16th century), who served as “muster master” for Lord Hunsdon. This wonderfully-named occupation was a fairly senior military post which entailed responsibility for organising the bands of soldiers that had to be supplied by English lords to fight the Crown’s wars. So Captain Worlock was a man of no small importance himself.

At this point I got a bit carried away and spent the princely sum of £3.50 to access the last will and testament of Henry Carey from the National Archives. Carey died in July 1596: would he have left anything for the struggling son of his “owld Servant”? I drew on my ever-helpful colleague Mark Merry’s skills to decipher the will:

What is interesting is that that the Queen promises to look after his old servants. Given this is after the St Botolph collection for Worlocke, this might not have been much help to the blind student, but it does suggest that Carey had a strong concern for his servants (and a close association with Elizabeth)... What an excellent example of some humble little local event feeding into a much bigger picture – and poor old Francis only got a couple of shillings out of the whole thing!

This is one of the particularly exciting aspects of working with the Parish Clerks’ Memoranda. You never know where an apparently “small” story will lead. It just takes a bit of digging.

Many thanks to St Botolph without Aldgate and London Metropolitan Archives for permission to reprint extracts from the Parish Clerks' Memoranda.

The Parish Clerks' Memoranda transcripts were prepared by the Centre for Metropolitan History team as part of their Economic and Social Research Council-funded Life in the Suburbs project (Grant Reference: RES-062-23-1260;

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