The Woodforde Family
The National Picture
There are several indications within the diary of the
involvement of the puritan community in Northampton in attempting to
influence the events taking place in the national arena at this time. It
is clear that the situation on the Scottish border was being discussed and
debated by the inhabitants of the town during the autumn of 1640 and on 9
September a petition to the king was being passed around the town.
In November, news reached Northampton that the Parliament was continuing. On 17 November 1640 a fast was held in London and in some adjacent parishes in response to the King's proclamation regarding `removing judgement'. Robert indicates that the good news of the continuation of the Parliament was met with considerable euphoria by the puritan community in London:‑
Robert Woodforde's belief that the Parliament was a divine implement is clear; but the diarist believed also in the secular authority of the king. The anniversary of the king's coronation is marked each year in the diary on the appropriate day, with the prayer that `Long may he continue to reign for Thee.' The implication is that the king was the rightful head of the nation but that he was lacking of wise and godly counsel. Perhaps the exact stance of the diarist is expressed in the entry for 19 November 1640:‑
Further doubts as to the continuation of the Parliament are recorded in subsequent diary entries on 21 November 1640 and on several later occasions. It is noted that a `popish priest' stabbed Justice Heyward in Westminster with a rusty dagger on 21 November, and that the Lieutenant of Ireland was committed to the Tower of London on 24 November.
Perhaps the most significant entry in the diary in relation to Robertís theological stance and his opportunities to associate with the leaders of the puritan movement is the short and straightforward entry for 4 November 1640/1:
The diary develops into a record of the various successes of the Parliament in the Spring of 1640/1. On 17 February Robert noted that the Lieutenant of Ireland was carried from the Tower of London to the upper house of Parliament and that the diarist `saw him upon the water as he was going'. On the preceding day the King had agreed to the furtherance of the Parliament:‑
The diary of Robert Woodforde offers, through the eyes of a devoted puritan, a very personal account of the dramatic events of the time. During the years preceding the Civil War period many men and women were imprisoned and punished severely on much less evidence than the descriptions and commentaries, names and locations entered in this diary. Many of his friends, relatives and church associates would have stood condemned had the document fallen into the hands of Armenian sympathisers, and his fear and concern recorded on 17 August 1640 is therefore very understandable:‑
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© Stephen Butt 2004 - rev
and the Puritans
On the following evening there is a further report on this incident:‑
He was joined in London by the Mayor of Northampton who had been ordered to appear to answer a charge of refusing or neglecting to collect levies of the population of Northampton. The charge, and the Mayor's defence, was of great concern to Robert Woodforde. In his eyes there was the further implication that it was his responsibility as the Steward of the town to maintain the town's accounts.
On the night of 14 May 1640, the diarist was drawn more directly into the events of the city, as he noted in his diary entry on the morning after a turbulent night:‑
On the following evening Robert noted that the apprentices had released some, if not all, of the prisoners from the White Lyon and that one of them had been found dead. Soon after this event, the diarist returned to Northampton.
The White Lyon was one of a group of four prisons south of the River Thames on the east side of the old road leading south from London Bridge, then called Long Southwark and now known as Borough High Street. It was formerly an inn which was converted into a prison during the reign of Elizabeth and was the nearest of the four prisons to St. Georges Church. Next to the White Lyon was the Queen's Bench. A little further to the north was the Marshalsea Prison and within the grounds of Marshalsea House was the Southwark Compter.
For some weeks thereafter, Robert Woodforde was distracted from the drama of the political arena nationally by the birth of another child which died after just ten days; but he noted the heightened military activity in Northampton with soldiers passing through the town daily, travelling towards the North and the news of impending hostilities which these military forces brought with them. He heard the news that Newcastle had been taken by the Scots on 1 September 1640 and received confirmation of the facts on the following day.
From the very heart of the political drama unravelling in London in the winter of 1640 emerged the three men who had become synonymous with the puritan struggle and had grown almost to become the national `leaders' of the puritan movement, offering inspiration and cohesion. The church authorities had sought to make an example of Prynne, Bastwick and Burton during the summer of 1637; but the cruel punishment and mutilation of these men, designed as an example to others, served only to foster and ensure their martyrdom. At precisely the right time, while the Parliament was in session, whilst London was packed with visiting travellers, and whilst the rate of political change was increasing, and with the consequent increase in the spiritual optimism of the puritans, two of these men re‑appeared in public, not in retreat in the countryside, but in the very centre of political activity, in London, on 28 November 1640. They received a tumultuous welcome:‑
The following day was the Sabbath, and the diarist attended the same church services as Burton and Prynne:‑