Lincolnshire Rising

The Lincolnshire Rising was a 16th century religious rebellion that ended with the execution of a vicar from Louth.

Thomas Kendall was the Catholic vicar from the market town of Louth and on 1 October, 1536, he delivered a fiery sermon from the pulpit of of St. James Church. Although the actual words of his sermon are lost to history what is known is that he warned his congregation of imminent arrival of Henry VIII’s commissioners and that the locals must take action.

The commissioners were on their way to not only seize remaining Catholic church land, but also signs of Catholicism from within the churches themselves such as plates, jewels, gold crosses, and bells . The seizures were part of the English Reformation that two years earlier, in 1534, had seen Henry VIII split from Catholicism and establish the Protestant Church of England. All signs of the Catholic faith were to be removed from public view.

Word spread among the nearby towns of Horncastle, Market Rasen and Caistor.  Soon an estimated 22,000 people had gathered – led by Nicholas Melton, a shoemaker, who became known as Captain Cobbler. He marched some of the rebels to the nunnery at Legbourne where they took the approaching royal commissioners hostage, burned their official papers and made those present swear an oath to the rebellion.

The protesters next regrouped and marched to Lincoln and by the time they had reached the city their numbers had swelled to around 50,000. They began an occupation of Lincoln Cathedral where the group demanded the freedom to continue worshipping as Catholics and protection for the faith’s treasures held in Lincolnshire churches.

The Most Brute And Beastly Shire

However, the occupation was effectively over in three days when, on 4 October, Henry VIII ordered the protesters to disperse or face the military might of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk whose forces were already mobilizing in the area. By 14 October only a few of the rebels remained in Lincoln, the rest either fled or were captured. 

Following the rising, both Thomas Kendall and Captain Cobbler, the two main leaders, were taken away and hung at Tyburn, London. Many of the other leaders met the same fate over the next twelve days, including a lawyer from Willingham who was hung, drawn and quartered for his involvement. As a result of the rebellion, Henry VIII called Lincolnshire “the most brute and beastly shire in the whole realm.”

Despite the Lincolnshire Uprising being crushed it did pave the way for the more widespread Yorkshire-based Pilgrimage of Grace in – a larger and more broader protest against Henry VIII and his religious reforms that began as soon as the Lincolnshire Uprising was over.

In honour of the uprising, the 1 October is now known as Lincolnshire Day!

St. James church, Louth

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