Tag Archives: London

On this day in 1535 – King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited Acton Court

In 1535 King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn set out on a royal progress across the country and on 21st August the couple arrived at Acton Court in the West Country for a stay.

Nicholas Poyntz, the owner of Acton Court wanted to impress his King and so commissioned building to commence on a new East Wing onto his moated manor house and even went on to decorate the state apartments to impress his King. This extensive building work took nine months to complete, which shows how far in advance the King’s progress and route were planned. Only one wing of Acton Court exists today and it just so happens to be the East Wing that was built specially for a King.

A royal progress normally took place in the summer months when London was too hot and normally the plague had broken out so the King and his court took a break from life in the capital and travelled around a part of the country. Travelling meant that the King could go out and meet his subjects and in 1535 this was even more important. With the Henry recently becoming Head of the Church of England and marrying his second wife, Anne Boleyn, it was important for Henry to show off his new wife and convince his subjects that the Reformation was the best thing for the country.

The royal progress of 1535 took 14 weeks and Dr Glen Richardson in ‘Henry VIII and travel’ wrote about the progress and the journey they took;

“Starting from Windsor, the royal party moved to Reading and from there through Oxfordshire to Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. They visited another six locations in that county in late August and early September before travelling down through Wiltshire and Hampshire, stopping at Winchester en route. In October, after a stay in Portsmouth, Henry headed back towards London through Hampshire staying at Bishop’s Waltham, Old Arlesford and at The Vyne, the home of Lord Sandys, the sheriff of Hampshire, Constable of Southampton Castle and a long time favourite of the king.”

Despite the aim of the royal progress to promote the Reformation and allow the King’s subjects to see his new wife, the progress would be the only one that Anne Boleyn would attend as less than a year later she was executed.

Acton CourtActon Court

On this day in 1517 – Evil May Day riots

On 1st May 1517 a riot gripped London that would be known as the Evil May Day riots.

Londoners took to the streets of London to protest about foreigners living and working in London in particularly the merchants and bankers that resided in Lombard Street. A fortnight before the riots took hold a speech was given at St Paul’s Cross, a preaching cross in the grounds of the old St Paul’s Cathedral. It was spoken by Dr Bell, at the request of broker John Lincoln. It was highly xenophobic blaming the foreigners for many of the economical problems the country was facing. Bell was reported as calling on all ‘Englishman to cherish and defend themselves, and to hurt and grieve aliens for the common weal’ according to the chronicler Edward Hall.

Over the next two weeks attacks were springing up across London with rumours spreading that on May Day the city would rebel and attack any foreigner. The Mayor of London announced at 8.30pm on 30th April 1517 that a curfew would be enforced at 9pm, giving Londoners 30 minutes to get home.

Instead a few hours after the curfew a group of approximately 1000 male apprentices had gathered in Cheapside where they went on to free many prisoners who had been jailed in the past few weeks for attacking foreigners and they set off towards St Martin le Grand, a place where many foreigners lived. Thomas More greeted the rioters and tried to persuade them to disperse and go home with no further action.

As soon as More had calmed crowd the residents of St Martin le Grand began to rise as they throw rocks, bricks and even boiling water from their windows onto the groups below. With the apprentices now under attack they soon retaliated by looting the homes of the foreigners who were attacking them and across the city. This continued into the early hours of 1st May.

Three hundred rioters were arrested and charged with treason and were swiftly executed on 4th May with John Lincoln the instigator of the original speech executed on 7th May. Hundreds more rioters were arrested but later pardoned by the King after his wife, Katherine of Aragon, begged him to show mercy.

Evil May DayImage courtesey of the British Museum.