I've decided to write something here about my (probable) ancestor Bartholomew Fowle, who was the prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, even though he was not strictly speaking a recusant – a term that would only really come into use during the reign of Elizabeth I. However, like countless other faithful Catholics, Bartholomew’s world was turned upside down by the seismic upheavals of the Reformation. Moreover, telling Bartholomew’s story seems like a natural sequel to the last post about my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle and his recusant connections. As with my that post, I’ll be drawing on my own original genealogical research, some of which I’ve already published on my family history blog Past Lives.
The lives and afterlives of these canons, friars, and monks were completely disrupted by Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, but did receive pensions:
The priory of St Mary Overy was ‘surrendered’ to Thomas Cromwell’s agents on 27th October 1539. Cromwell himself signed the pension list, which granted £8 each per annum to two of the canons and £6 to nine others. There were eleven annuitants in all, besides the prior, with their pensions totalling £70 in all. At least one source claims that Bartholomew Fowle quibbled over his original grant of £80 per annum and managed to have it increased to £100. In addition, Bartholomew was provided with a house ‘within the close where Dr Michell was dwelling’. Robert Michell was the last prior but one before Bartholomew, and had probably resigned due to ill health or old age. (A certain William Michell, almost certainly a relative, had witnessed the will of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst in 1525.)
The blog's author, Martin Robb, notes traces of his probable ancestor's life after the surrender of the Abbey:
There is evidence that Bartholomew Fowle remained in London after his enforced retirement, and also that he continued to serve as a priest. For example, in 1543 Dame Joan Milbourne, the widow of a former lord mayor of London, bequeathed money in herwill to a number of priests to come to her burial at the church of St Edmund, Lombard Street, and to pray for her. She left the sum of £6 13s 6d ‘to my very good friend Bartholomew Linsted some time prior of St Mary Overies, to pray for my soul’. From this, we can conclude two things: firstly, that Bartholomew Fowle was well connected with the gentry of London, and secondly that, despite the religious changes of Henry’s reign, Catholic practices such as prayers for the dead remained popular.
The date of Bartholomew’s death is unknown, and I’ve failed to find any trace of a will, but a number of sources confirm that he was still receiving his pension in 1553. In other words, he lived for at least another fifteen years or so after his expulsion from St Mary Overy. This means that, like my ancestor and his relative Gabriel Fowle, Bartholomew may have lived long enough to have his hopes revived by the brief restoration of Catholicism under Queen Mary.