Abbot Feckinham Consoles Lady Jane Grey

ABBOT John of Feckinham, Last Abbot of Westminster, and confessor of the Faith; b. in Feckenham Forest, Worcestershire, in 1515(?), of Yeoman parents named Howman; d. at Wisbech Castle, 16 Oct., 1585. He became a Benedictine monk at Evesham, and studied at Gloucester Hall, Oxford (B. D., 11 June, 1539), returned to Evesham to teach junior monks till the dissolution, 27 Jan., 1540, when he received a pension of 15 marks. Rector of Solihull, Worcestershire (1544?-1554), he became known as an orator and controversialist. He was domestic chaplain to Bishop Bell of Worcester till 1543, and then to Bonner of London till 1549.

He was sent to the Tower by Cranmer for defending the Faith, but in 1551 was “borrowed out of prison” to hold public disputations with the new men, e.g. with Jewel and Hooper. Again relegated to the Tower, he was released by Queen Mary, 5 Sept., 1553, and was much employed as a preacher in London; he was advanced to benefices, and in March, 1554, made dean of St. Paul’s. He showed great mildness to the heretics, many of whom he converted, and saved others from the stake. He prepared Lady Jane Grey for death, though he could not convince her of her errors, as he did Sir John Cheke, the king’s tutor. Feckenham interceded for Elizabeth after Wyatt’s rebellion, obtaining her life and subsequent release.

He took the degree of D. D. at Oxford, May, 1556, and on 7 Sept., 1556, was appointed abbot of the royal Abbey of Westminster, restored to the order by the queen. The Benedictines took possession on 21 November (since known as dies memorabilis), and the abbot was installed on 29 November, beginning his rule over a community of about twenty- eight, gathered from the dissolved abbeys. He successfully defended in Parliament, 11 Feb., 1557, the threatened privileges of sanctuary, and restored the shrine of the Confessor in his abbey church.

Elizabeth at her accession offered (November, 1558) to preserve the monastery if he and his monks would accept the new religion, but Feckenham steadily refused, bravely and eloquently defending the old Faith in Parliament and denouncing the sacrilegious innovations of the Anglicans. He gave sanctuary to Bishop Bonner, and quietly went on planting trees while awaiting the expulsion, which took place 12 July, 1559. He generously resigned a large part of the money due him to the dean who succeeded him. Nevertheless, in May, 1560, he was sent to the Tower “for railing against the changes that had been made”. Three years later he was given into the custody of Horne, the intruded Bishop of Winchester, but in 1564 he was sent back to the Tower, his episcopal jailer having failed to pervert him. Feckenham himself said that he preferred the prison to the pseudo-bishop’s palace. In 1571 he prepared his fellow-prisoner, Blessed John Storey, for death, and a little later was sent to the Marshalsea.

In the Tower he and his fellow-confessors had been “haled by the arms to Church in violent measure, against our wills, there to hear a sermon, not of persuading us but of railing upon us.” He was released on bail, 17 July, 1574, after fourteen years’ confinement, and lived in Holborn, where he devoted himself to works of charity. He encouraged boys in manly sports on Sundays, preferring that they should practise archery rather than attend the heretical services. But falling ill, he was permitted to go to Bath, where in 1576 he built a hospice for poor patients and did much good. But his zeal for the Faith excited fresh rancour, and in 1577 he was committed to the custody of Cox, Bishop of Ely, who was requested to bring him to conformity. Feckenham’s so-called “Confession” (British Museum, Lansdowne manuscripts, No. 30, fol. 199) shows how egregiously Cox failed, and in 1580 he petitioned the council to remove the abbot, who was accordingly sent to Wisbech Castle, a dismal prison belonging to the Bishops of Ely, which he shared with Watson, Bishop of Lincoln, and other confessors. Here he died a holy death, fortified by the Sacred Viaticum, and was buried in Wisbech Church. He was worn out by an imprisonment of twenty- three years for conscience’ sake; a striking example of Elizabeth’s ingratitude. Protestant writers unite in praising his virtues, especially his kindness of heart, gentleness, and charity to the poor. Even Burnet calls him “a charitable and generous man”. His best-known work is against Herne, “The Declaration of such Scruples and Stays of Conscience touching the Oath of Supremacy”, etc. He also wrote “Caveat Emptor”, a caution against buying abbey lands, and a commentary on the Psalms, but these are lost.






The Downside Review, Christmas, 1906

BATH, perhaps more than most other cities, has always  been pleased to recognise and do honour to its  worthies. To me, the very streets of the city appear to be  peopled by the ghosts of bygone generations. If I shut my  eyes upon electric tramways and such like evidences of  what is called ‘modern civilisation,’ the beaux and belles of ancient days seem to come trooping from their hiding  places and appear tripping along the streets as of  old ; the footways are at once all alive with the gentry  of the cocked hat and full bottomed wig period, with  their knee breeches and small clothes to match.  Ladies, too, are there, with their hooped and tucked  dresses, their high-heeled shoes, and those wonderful  creations of the wigmaker’s art upon their heads; whilst  sedan chairs of all sorts and kinds are borne quickly  along the roadways, now desecrated by every kind of   modern conveyance.

It was in the eighteenth and early nineteenth  centuries, of course, that the city rose to the zenith A  of its renown, and the crowd of notabilities who then  came to seek for rest, health and pleasure in this queen  of watering-places, has served to make Bath almost  a synonym for a city of gaiety, diversion and life.  Indeed the memories of that period of prosperity and  glory almost seem to have obliterated the thought of  persons and of incidents of earlier days. It is one such  person that I would recall to your memory to-night.  When honoured, by the request of your President,

to read a paper before this learned Society, my thoughts  almost immediately turned to Abbot Feckenham, of  Westminster, who is one of the personages my  imagination has often conjured up whilst passing along  the streets of this city. Most of those who listen to  me probably know very little of this grave and kindly  ecclesiastic, but the name. But in the sixteenth  century, he was a generous and true benefactor to  the poor of this place, and that at a time when he  was himself suffering grievous trials for conscience  sake. At the outset I should like to disclaim any  pretence of originality in my presentment of the facts of  Abbot Feckenham’s life. I have merely taken what  I find set down by others and chiefly by the Revd.  E. Taunton in his history of the English Black Monks.  He has been at great pains to collect every scrap of  information in regard to the last Abbot of Westminster  and I borrow freely from the result of his labours.

Feckenham’ s real name was Howman, his father and  mother being Humphrey and Florence Howman of  the village of Feckenham, in the county of Worcester.  They appear to have been of the yeoman class, and  to have been endowed with a certain amount of worldly  wealth : at any rate they seem to have sent their son  John, who was born somewhere about the first decade  of the sixteenth century, to be trained in the monastery  of Evesham, which was near their home. Here, the  boy, who had probably received an elementary  education from the parish priest of his native village,  would have been taught in the claustral school of  the great abbey. In time he joined the community as a  novice, and in accordance with the very general custom  of those days, became afterwards known by the name of  his birthplace, as John Feckenham.

From Evesham the young monk proceeded to Oxford  to study at “Monk’s College,” or Gloucester Hall, now  known as Worcester College. It is not important here  to determine the actual date when he commenced his  studies at Oxford ; probably he went to college about  1530, when we are told definitely that he was eighteen  years of age. His Prior at the house at Oxford was a  monk of his own abbey of Evesham, named Robert  Joseph, and an accidental survival of a manuscript  letter-book gives us not only the information that it was  this religious who taught the classics, but shows in  some way at least how a professor lectured to his  students in those bygone days. The MS. in question is  a collection of Latin letters and addresses, made by this  Prior Robert Joseph. It was, as you are all aware, the  fashion in those times for scholars to send Latin epistles  to their friends, and then to collect them into a volume.  We have many printed books of Latin epistles of this  kind. Prior Joseph, though his elegant letters were  never destined to see the light in all the glory of a  printed dress, still made his collection, which somehow  or other got bound up with a Welsh MS., — one of  the Peniarth MSS. — and so was preserved to tell us  something more than we knew before about the work of  a professor at Gloucester Hall, when the monks were  students there. Amongst other interesting items of  information afforded in this MS. we have Prior Robert  Joseph’s inaugural lecture on a play of Terence ; and,  by the way, very practical and good it is. There is also  another lecture of a different character, which was  carefully prepared for delivery to the young Benedictine  students at Gloucester Hall. It seems that one of  the monks had been “ pulling his old professor’s leg,”  as we should say, by telling him that many of them  thought that as a teacher he was getting a little past his  prime, and that it might perhaps be a good thing if

he were to give place to a younger man more in touch  with modern scholarship. Prior Robert was deeply  wounded, and his carefully prepared address upbraids  his pupils for their ingratitude, and practically calls  upon those amongst them who considered that he ought  to retire, to come forward boldly and say so : an  invitation which it is hardly likely was accepted. At  any rate, the old professor certainly continued to occupy  his chair for some time longer.

In special regard to the young monk, John  Feckenham, this same collection of letters is of some  interest, since it contains a Latin epistle addressed  to him on the occasion of his ordination to the  priesthood. ** It is a dignity,” the writer says in the  course of a long letter, “ which in our days can never be  despised or held in little regard. . . . From this time  forth your very carriage and countenance must be  changed ; from this time forth you are to live  after a fashion different to what you did before.

“ Now have to be given up the things of youth and  the ways of a child, for now you take up the sword  of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” This would  have been written probably about the year 1536, and in  the following year Feckenham was certainly at Oxford.  *’ I find him,” writes Anthony a Wood, “ there in 1537,  in which year he subscribed, by the name of John  Feckenham, to a certain composition then made between  Robert Joseph, prior of the said college (the writer  of the Latin letters), and twenty-nine students thereof  on one part (of which number Feckenham was one of  the senior) and three of the senior beadles of the  university on the other.”

In 1538 Feckenham supplicated for his degree as  Bachelor of Divinity and took it on 11th June, 1539.  Previously he had, in all probability, been for some time  teaching in the abbey school at Evesham, as he had  himself been taught, and he was there on 27th January,  1540, when the monastery was surrendered to Henry  VIII. In the pension list his name appears as receiving  15 marks (£10) in place of the usual pension (10 marks)  for the younger monks ; probably because of his  university degree. After the dissolution of his religious  home, John Feckenham at first gravitated back to his  old college at Oxford to continue his studies ; he was  soon, however, induced to become chaplain to Bishop  Bell of Worcester. This office he held until the  resignation of that prelate in 1543, when he joined  Bishop Edmund Bonner in London, remaining with him  until that prelate was committed as a prisoner to the  Tower of London in 1549, for his opposition to many  religious changes during the reign of Edward VI.  At this time Feckenham, whilst still in London, received  the living of Solihull in Warwickshire. During the  time of his rectorship his parents — Humphrey and  Florence Howman — left a bequest of 40s. to the poor,  and among the records of the parish is said to be an old  vellum book “containing the charitable alms given  by way of love to the parishioners of Solihull, with  the order of distribution thereof, begun by Master John  Howman alias Fecknam, priest and doctor of divinity —  in the year of our Lord 1548.”

Though moderate and gentle in his disposition, and  ever considerate in his dealings with the convictions  of others, Feckenham was strong in his own religious  views and uncompromising in his attitude to religious  change. He consequently quickly found himself  involved in an atmosphere of controversy, and at this time  probably developed those oratorical powers for which he  afterwards became really famous. It was not long,  however, before he found himself a prisoner in the

Tower, out of which he was, to use his own expression,  “ borrowed “ frequently, for the purpose of sustaining  the “ ancient side “ in the semi-public religious  controversies, which were then in much favour with all  parties. The first of these disputes was held at the  Savoy, in the house of the Earl of Bedford ; the second  was at Sir William Cecil’s at Westminster, and the third  in the house of Sir John Cheke, the great Greek scholar  and King Edward VI/s tutor.

Although held all this time as a prisoner, Feckenham  was somehow or other still possessed of his benefice at  Solihull, of which, for some reason or other, he had not  been deprived. He was consequently taken down from  London and opposed to the bishop of his own diocese,  Bishop Hooper, in four several disputations ; the first  was arranged at Pershore whilst the bishop was on hie  visitation tour, and the last in Worcester Cathedral,  where amongst others who spoke against him was John  Jewel, afterwards bishop of Salisbury.

With Mary Tudor’s advent to the throne Feckenham  of course obtained his liberty. On Tuesday, 5th  September, 1553, he left the Tower, and according to  Machyn’s Diary, on Sunday the 24th of the same month  “master doctor Fecknam did preach at Paul’s Cross,  the Sunday afore the Queen’s coronation.” He again  became chaplain to Bishop Bonner, now also set at  liberty, and was nominated a prebendary of St. Paul’s in  1554. Other preferment came to him very rapidly :  Queen Mary made him one of her chaplains and her  confessor, and before November 25th, 1554, he was  appointed Dean of St. Paul’s. Fuller, the historian, says  of him at this time : “ He was very gracious witli the  Queen and effectually laid out all his interest with her  (sometimes even to ofPend her, but never to injure her)  to procure pardon of the faults, or mitigation of the  punishment of poor Protestants. The Earls of Bedford  and Leicester received great kindness from him ; and  his old friend, Sir John Cheke, owed his life to  Fecknam’s personal interest with the Qneen. He took  up the cause of the unfortunate Lady Jane Dudley, and  remonstrated with the Queen and Gardiner upon the  policy of putting her to death. He visited the poor girl  prison ; and though unsuccessful in removing the  prejudices of her early education, he was able to help  her to accept with resignation the fate that awaited her.  Neither did he forsake the hapless lady until she paid by  death the penalty of her father-in-law’s treason and her  own share therein. When the Princess Elizabeth was  sent to the Tower, in March 1554, for her supposed part  in Wyat’s rebellion, Fecknam, just then elected dean,  interceded so earnestly for her release that Mary, who  was convinced of her sister’s guilt, or at any rate of her  insincerity, showed for some time her displeasure with  him. But Elizabeth’s life was spared ; and she was  released, mainly by his importunity, after two months’  imprisonment.”

On 19th March, 1556, Giovanni Michiel, the Venetian  ambassaador, wrote from London to the Doge about the  restoration of the Benedictines. He says : “ Sixteen  monks have also resumed the habit and returned to the  Order spontaneously, although they were able to live  and had lived out of it much at ease and liberty, there  being included among them the Dean of St. Paul’s  (Feckenham) who has a wealthy revenue of well nigh  2000 (£) ; notwithstanding which they have renounced  all their temporal possessions and conveniences and  press for readmission into one of their monasteries.”  There were obvious difficulties in the way of any large  scheme of monastic restoration : the property of the old  abbeys had long since been granted away mostly to

laymen, and at some of the greater houses, like  Westminster and Gloucester, chapters of secular priests  had been established in place of the dispossessed  monks. At Westminster however, arrangements  were quickly made with the view of restoring the  Benedictines to their old home : promotion was given to  the dean and the interests of the other secular canons  were secured, and on 7th September, 1556, the Queen  appointed Feckenham abbot of restored W^estminster.  The Venetian ambassador says that the monks with  their new abbot were to make their entry at the close of  September, but this they did not do : there was evidently  much more preparation necessary than had been  calculated upon. Dean Stanley, in his Historical  Memorials of Westminster Ahhey, says “ the great  refectory was pulled down “ and ‘* the smaller dormitory  was cleared away “ and other conventual buildings had  either been destroyed or adapted to other uses. So  there was obviously much to be done before the new  community could take up the old life again, and it was  not until 21st November that the monks were able to  begin once again the regular round of conventual duties  in the cloisters and choir of Westminster.

I cannot resist quoting here the account given by the  contemporary writer Machyn, in his quaint style, of this  restoration. “ The same day (21st November) was the  new abbot of Westminister put in, Doctor Fecknam, late  dean of Paul’s, and xiv. more monks sworn in. And the  morrow after, the lord abbot with his convent went a  procession after the old fashion, in their monk’s weeds,  in cowls of black saye, with his vergers carrying his  silver-rod in their hands ; at Evensong time the vergers  went through the cloisters to the abbot and so went into  the church afore the high altar and there my lord  kneeled down and his convent ; and after his prayer  was made he was brought into the choir with the  vergers and so into his place, and presently he began  Evensong xxii. day of the same month that was  St. Clement’s Even last.” “On the 29th day was the  abbot stalled and did wear a mitre. The Lord Cardinal  was there and many bishops and the lord treasurer and  a great company. The Lord Chancellor (Bishop  Gardiner) sang Mass and the abbot made the sermon.”

Feckenham lost no time in setting his house in order  and in gathering round him other monks and novices.  Giovanni Michiel, the ambassador before referred to, tells  us that on St. Thomas’ Eve (December 20th) the Queen  *^ chose to see the Benedictine monks in their habits  at Westminster “ and so going for Vespers was received  by the abbot and twenty-eight other monks all men  of mature age, the youngest being upwards of forty  and all endowed with learning and piety, as proved  by their renunciation of the many conveniences of  life.”

The restoration of Benedictine life at Westminster  was not destined by Providence to continue for very  long. Queen Mary died 17th November, 1558, and her  funeral rites were solemnised at Westminster.  Feckenham preached one sermon at the obsequies,  and White, Bishop of Winchester, the other. Both  gave umbrage to the new Queen, and the bishop’s led to  his confinement in his own house. As for Feckenham :  it is said that Elizabeth greatly desired to win over  to her side one whom she respected, and who was  universally popular. One story has it that she offered  him the Archbishopric of Canterbury if he would assist  in the settlement of the national religion on the lines  she desired. The abbot, however, remained staunch to  his conscientious convictions, and in Parliament  strenuously opposed all the measures by which the  religious settlement was finally effected. During the  time of the debates in the Parliament, Feckenham was  quietly awaiting at Westminster the approaching ruin of  his house, which to him at least could hardly be  doubtful. He went on in all things, as if no storm  clouds were gathering, leading his monastic life with  his brethren. The story goes that he was engaged  in planting some elms in his garden at Westminster  when a message was brought to him that a majority  of the House of Commons had voted the destruction  of all religious houses, and the messenger remarked that  as he and his monks would soon have to go, he was  planting his trees in vain. “ Not in vain,” replied  the abbot. ** Those that come after me may perhaps be  scholars and lovers of retirement, and whilst walking  under the shade of these trees they may sometimes  think of the olden religion of England and of  the last abbot of this place,” and so he went on  planting.

The end of monastic Westminster came on 12th July,  1559. On that date, for refusing the Oath of Supremacy,  Feckenham and his monks were turned out of their  house. What immediately became of them we do  not know and probably never shall, but judging from  the case of the bishops we may suppose that they were  probably assigned places of abode. It was, however,  soon considered injurious to the new order, that the  bishops of the old order and Abbot Feckenham should  be allowed even the semblance of liberty comprised in  the order for a fixed place of abode, from which they  could not depart without permission. So on May 20th,

1560, it was agreed in the Queen’s Council that  Feckenham and some of the bishops should be confined  straightway in prison, and so by order of Archbishop  Parker at night about 8 of the clock was sent to the  Fleet doctor Scory, and Master Feckenham to the  Tower.”

In this confinement the abbot remained until 1563.  In the March of that year Parliament had given  authority to the new bishops to administer the Oath  of Supremacy, with the new penalty of death for those  who refused it. The plague was at that time raging in  the city of London, and the prisoners petitioned *’to  be removed to some other convenient place for their  better safeguard from the present infection.” This  was so far granted that they were committed to the  charge of the bishops. Stowe, the careful historian,  thus relates the fact : *’ anno 1563 in September the  old bishops and divers doctors, (were sent to the  bishop’s houses) there to remain prisoners under their  custody (the plague being then in the city was thought  the cause.”)

Feckenham was brought, first of all, back to his  old home at Westminster to the care of the new dean,  Goodman. But before the winter, at the suggestion  of Bishop Grrindal, he was removed to the house  of Bishop Home, of Winchester. In spite of all he  could do and say and notwithstanding all his arguments,  the Bishop of Winchester was unable to shake the  resolution of the abbot and prevail on him to take  the Oath of Supremacy. Home indeed complains that  Feckenham, at the end of all discussion, used to declare  that it was with him a mere matter of conscience ;  and, pointing to his heart, would say : “ The matter  itself is founded here, and shall never go out.” And so  in the end. Home gave up the task of trying to change  his prisoner’s opinion ; and by January, 1565, Feckenham  was back once more in the Tower. From that time  until 17th of July, 1574, he remained either there  or in the Marshalsea, in more or less strict confinement.

After fourteen years’ confinement he was permitted to  go out on conditions. He was bound not to try and  gain others to his way of thinking ; he was to dwell  in a specified place, “ was not to depart from thence  at any time, without the licence of the lords of the  Council,” and he was not to receive any visitors. As  a prisoner on parole, then, Feckenham came in July,  1574, to live in Holborn ; whereabout, it is not exactly  known. No sooner had he gained his liberty, even with  restrictions, than the abbot’s old passion of doing good  to others reasserted itself, and he at once became  engaged in works of true charity and general usefulness.  “Benevolence was so marked a feature in his character  that,” as Fuller says, “he relieved the poor wheresoever  he came ; so that flies flock not thicker about spilt  honey than the beggars constantly crowded about him.”

We have unfortunately no information about the  source of the money, which he evidently had at his  disposal. But clearly considerable sums must have  been given to him for charitable purposes, as, no  doubt, the donors were assured that they would be  well and faithfully expended by him. Whilst dwelling  in Holborn, Feckenham consequently was able to  build an aqueduct for the use of the people generally.  Every day he is said to have distributed the milk of  twelve cows among the sick and poor of the district,  and took under his special charge the widows and  orphans. He encouraged the youth of the neighbour-  hood in many sports, by giving prizes and by arranging  Sunday games, such as all English lads love.

And now comes the connection of Abbot Feckenham  with this city of Bath. Whilst labouriug for the  good of others in London his constitution, naturally  enfeebled by his long imprisonment, gave way, and  he became seriously ill. On July 18th, 1575, the  Council in reply to his petition, ordered ‘‘the Master  of the Rolls, or in his absence the Recorder of London,  to take bondes of Doctor Feckenham for his good  behaviour and that at Michaelmas next he shall return  to the place where he presently is, and in the meantime  he may repair to the Baths.” “ The baths,” of course —  at any rate in those days —meant this city, which had  been pre-eminently the health resort of Englishmen  for centuries.

Hither then, some time in the summer of 1575, came  Abbot Feckenham, with leave to remain until the  feast of Michaelmas. He, however, certainly remained  longer than that, as we shall see, as it was the common  practice at this time to extend such permissions. Whilst  here the abbot was the guest of a then well-known  physician of the city. Dr. Ruben Sherwood, who, although  a recognised ‘‘popish recusant,” had probably, like so  many other doctors, been allowed to remain unmolested  because of his skill, and the paucity of such men of  talent in medicine in the sixteenth century. I may  perhaps, here, be allowed a brief digression to point out  to you, from an interesting article in The Downside  Review called ‘ ‘ A seventeenth century West Country  Jaunt,” by Father N. Birt, that this Dr. Ruben Sherwood  died in 1599, and that in the seventeenth century there  was certainly a Sherwood tomb and brass in the Abbey,  with the arms of the family and a latin inscription ;  this has of course since disappeared.

It is not improbable that Dr. Ruben Sherwood, at  the time of Abbot Feckenham’s visit, occupied a long  building, parallel to the west end of the abbey church  on the south side, which existed till 1755. This had  probably been the Prior’s quarters and was subsequently  known as Abbey House. Collinson says that the  house was again rendered habitable some time after  the dissolution, and that parts of it, “ obsolete offices  and obscure rooms and lofts,” were left in their former  state and had never been occupied after their desertion  by the monks. The historian of Somerset also speaks of  a find of old vestments and other ecclesiastical garments  in a walled-up apartment in this old house in 1755 ;  but unfortunately the things fell to dust and we have no  description of them. It strikes me, however, as more  than possible that they were vestments for the use  of priests, who were compelled to hide away during  penal times. Be that as it may, it would appear more  than likely that Dr. Ruben Sherwood lived in these  old quarters and that it was here that he received  Abbot Feckenham when he came to take the waters  in 1575. Certainly his son, John Sherwood, also a  physician and a *’ recusant,” had a lease of the house  and premises till his death in 1620, and used to receive  patients who came for the Bath waters.

During his stay at this renowned watering-place,  Abbot Feckenham was not wholly occupied with the  cure of his own ills. It seemed impossible for him not  to think of others, and here in this city he felt himself  moved with compassion to see how the poor, deprived of  their charitable foundations during the religious  upheaval, were excluded from the use and benefit  of the medicinal waters. He therefore built then,  with his own means, a small bath and hospital. In  his Description of Bath, written nearly two centuries  after, a writer thus speaks of it : ** The lepers’ hospital  is a building of 8ft. Gin. in front towards the East  on the ground floor, 14ft. in front above and 13ft. in  depth, but yet it is furnished with seven beds for the  most miserable of objects, who fly to Bath for relief  from the hot waters. This hovel stands at the corner of  Nowhere Lane, and is so near the lepers’ bath that the  poor are under little or no difficulty in stepping from  one place to the other.”

A slight record of the abbot’s work in this matter  is found in the accounts of the City Chamberlain for  1576 : “ Delyvered to Mr. Fekewand, late abbot of  Westminster, three tonnes of Tymber and x foote to  builde the hovvse for the poore by the whote bath,  xxxiiis. iiiid. To hym more iiiic of lathes at xd the c,  iiis. 4d.” Feckenham placed his little foundation under  the direction of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalene, and  it seems that in 1804, when the Corporation pulled  down “ the hovel,” £200 was paid to the hospital in  Holloway in compensation. The old bath itself was  utilised by Wood as an underground tank when he built  the Royal Baths.

Besides this practical act of charity to the poor of  Bath, Abbot Feckenham drew up a book of receipts and  directions to help those who could not afford a physician  to recover their health. This MS. is now in the British  Museum, and at the beginning of the volume the reader  is told that, *’ This book of Sovereign medicines against  the most common and known diseases both of men and  women was by good proofe and long experience  collected of Mr. Doctor Fecknam, late Abbot of  Westminster, and that chiefly for the poore, which  hathe not at alle tymes the learned phisitions at hand.”

In these days a collection of simple remedies such  as those here brought together, is, of course, of small  value or interest. Many of these remedies are old  family receipts and are said to be taken “ from my  cosen’s D. H.’s book “ -or from “Mistress H’s “~no  doubt one of the family of Howman. But what is  of interest in this regard, is a set of rules drawn up  by the Abbot for those who would profit by taking  or bathing in the Bath waters.

When you com to Bathe after your joyrnneing rest and quiet  your bodie for the space of a daie or two and se the faccion of  the Bathe how and after what sort others that are there do use  the same.

If it be not a faire cleare daie to, go not into the open bathe, but  rather use the water in a bathing vessel in yor own chamber  as many men doe.

The best time in the daie to go into the bathes is in the morning  an houre or half an houre after the sunne riseing, or there about, in  the most quiet time. And when you shall feel your stomache well  and quiet and that your meet is well digested and have rested  well the night before. But before you goe into this bath you must  walke an houre at the leaste in your chamber or else where.

You must go into your Bath with an emptie stomake and so  to remayne as long as you are in it except great necessitie require  the contrarie. And then to take some little supping is not  hurtefuU. Let your tarrying be in the Bathe accordinge as  you may well abide it, but tarry not so long in any wyse at  the fyrst allthough you may well abyde it that yor strength att  no tyme may fayl you.

You may tarry in the crosse bathe an houre and a halfe att  a tyme after the firste bathinge. And in the Kynges Bathe you  may tarry after the first batheinges at one time half an houre  or 3 quarters of an houre. But in any wyse tarry at no time untyll  you be faynt, or that yor strength fayld you.

And yf at any time you be faynt in the bath then you may  drjmke some ale warmed with a taste or any other suppinge,  or green ginger, or yf need be aqua composita metheridate the  bignes of a nut kernell at a time either by itself or mixed with  ale or other liquor.

As longe as you are i.i any of the Bathes you must cover your  head very well that you take no colde thereof, for it is very  perilious to take any cold one your head in the bathe or in  any other place during your bathinge tyme.

When you forth of any of the Bathes se that you cover your head  very well and dry of the water of your bodie with warrae clothes  and then put on a warm shert and a mantle or some warm gowns  for taking of cold and so go straight way to warmed bed and sweat  ther yf you can and wype off the sweat diligently and after that you  may sleepe a whyle, but you must not drynke anything until  dinner tyme, except you be very faint and then you may take  a little sugar candie or a few rasons or a little thin broath but  small quantitie to slake your thirste onlie, because it is not good to  eat or drynke by or by after the bathe untill you have slept a little  yf you can.

After that you have sweat and slept enough and be clearly  delivered fro the heat that you had in the bathe and in your bedd  then you may ryse and walk a lytle and so go to your dynner, for by  mesureable walking the evill vapers and wyndines of the stomache  that are take in the Bathe be driven away and utterlie voyded.

After all this then go to your dynner and eate of good meat  but not very much that you may ryse fro the table with some  appetite so that you could eat more yf you wolde and yet you must  not eat too little for decaying of your strength.

Let your bread bee of good sweet wheate and of one dayes  bakeinge or ii at the most and your meat well boylled or rosted.  And specially let these be your meates, mutton, veale, chicken,  rabbet, capon, fesaunt, Patrich or the like.

You may eat also fresh water fish, so it be not muddie as eles and  the like, refraining all salt fish as lyng, haberdyne, &c. Avoyd all  frutes and rare herbs, salletts and the lyke.

Apparell your bodie accordinge to the coldness of the wether and  the temperature of the eyre, but in any wyse take no cold.

And yf you bathe agayne in the after noune or att after Dinner  then take a very lyght dinner as a cople of potched eggs, a caudell  or some thine broath with a chicken and then 4 or 5 hours after  your dynner so taken you may bathe agayne and in any wyse tarrie  not so longe in the bathe as you did in the fore noone.

It is apparently impossible to determine certainly  how long Abbot Feckenham remained at Bath — probably  it was until the spring of 1576. In the middle of 1577  he was certainly back in London, for Aylmer, Bishop of  London, in June of that year, had complained of the  influence of those he called “ active popish dignitaries,”  amongst whom he names the abbot, and begs that they  may be again placed in the custody of some of the  bishops. In consequence of this representation, Wal-  singham wrote to some of their lordships to ask their  advice as to what is meetest to be done with Watson,  Feckenham, Harpefield and others of that ring that  are thought to be leaders and pillars of the consciences  of great numbers of such as be carried with the errors/’

As a result of the episcopal advice, Cox, the bishop  of Ely, in July 1577, was directed to receive Abbot  Feckenham into his house, and a stringent code of  regulations was drawn up for the treatment of the  aged abbot. Dr. Cox did his best to convert his  prisoner to his own religious views, but without success,  and in August 1578 was fain to write to Burghley  that his efforts had failed and that Feckenham “ was  a gentle person, but in popish religion too, too obdurate.”  Nothing was done at that time, and the abbot remained  on until 1580, when in June Bishop Cox wrote to say  that he could put up with him no longer ; so in July,  1580, the late abbot of Westminster was once more  moved, this time to Wisbeach Castle, the disused  and indeed partly ruinous dwelling place of the bishops  of Ely.

Wisbeach was not a cheerful abode. It has been well  described in the following words : “ During the winter  the sea mists drifting landwards almost always hung  over and hid the castle walls. Broad pools and patches  of stagnant waters, green with rank weeds, and wide  marshes and sterile flats lay outspread all around for  miles. The muddy river was constantly overflowing its  broken-down banks, so that the moat of the castle  constantly flooded the adjacent garden and orchard.  Of foliage, save a few stunted willow trees, there was  little or none in sight ; for when summer came round  the sun’s heat soon parched up the rank grass in the  courtyard, and without, the dandelion and snapdragon  which grew upon its massive but dilapidated walls.”

Such was the prison in which Abbot Feckenham was  destined to pass the last few years of his life. Even the  rigours of his detention and the dismal surroundings of  his prison-house were unable to extinguish his benevolent  feelings for others. His last public work was the  repair of the causeway over the fens and the erection of  a market cross in the little town. He died in 1584, and  on 16th of October he was buried in the churchyard  of the parish of Wisbeach.

I have very little more to add. Stevens, the con-  tinuator of Dugdale, describes Abbot Feckenham as  a man of *’ a mean stature, somewhat fat, round-faced,  beautiful and of a pleasant aspect, affable and lively  in conversation.” Camden calls, him “ a man learned  and good, who lived a long time and gained the affection  of his adversaries by publicly deserving well of the  poor.” To the last he never forgot the poor of West-  minster. In the overseer’s accounts of the parish of  St. Margaret’s it is recorded in 1590 : ‘‘ Over and  besides the sum of forty pounds given by John Fecknam,  sometime abbot of Westminster, for a stock to buy  wood for the poor of Westminster, and to sell two  faggots for a penny, and seven billets for a penny,  which sum of forty pounds doth remain in the hands of  the churchwardens.” He also left a bequest to the poor  of his first monastic home of Evesham.

Such is a brief outline of a man, who in his day  delighted in doing good to others. In spite of difficulties  which would have crushed out the energies of most men  he’ persevered in his benefactions. Amongst other  places that benefitted by his love for the poor is this  great city of Bath which may well revere his memory  and inscribe his name upon the illustrious roll of its  worthies.

F. A. Gasquet.


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