Henry VII and Henry VIII
From the late fourteenth century religious scholars like North Yorkshire’s John Wycliffe (1320-1384) had challenged the rule of the Roman Catholic church, setting in motion changes that resulted in Henry VIII’s break with the pope in Rome. Henry is best known for his six wives, but it was the refusal of the pope to annul his first marriage that led to the establishment of the Protestant Church of England. The systematic dismantling of the old Roman Catholic church would follow. Monasteries were dissolved and looted for their riches; treasures such as the Lindisfarne Gospels were sold off for the acquisition of royal wealth and curious collectors. It brought an end to a way of life that dominated vast tracts of the North. The North rebelled in the Pilgrimage of Grace but was crushed. For better or worse the North’s identity was subsumed by an increasingly powerful, uncompromising and centralised state focused in the south.
Aug 22, 1485 – HENRY VII : First Tudor king
The Wars of the Roses ended following the death of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire. Welshman Henry Twdr (Tudor) is crowned Henry VII, the seventh king of the name Henry to rule England. Although King Richard would be much maligned by later historians and biographers, the late king was, despite his flaws, one of the most northern-focused of the medieval kings.
Jan 18, 1486 – King marries Elizabeth of York
King Henry marries Elizabeth of York, Edward IV’s daughter at Westminster to solidify his status and right to the crown. It is intended to silence his Yorkist opponents.
Aug 14, 1487 – Henry at Newcastle
Henry VII stays in Newcastle from August 14-18, having made his way there via visits to Pontefract, York and Durham. He wished to make his presence known in disaffected areas and no doubt investigated people involved in rebellion against him. York in particular had been a hotbed of Yorkist support, where Henry entered the city in grand style before huge crowds, making a formidable impression. Generally, however, Tudor monarchs will be strangers to the north.
1488 – Scottish king murdered
Scottish king, James III, a Stuart, is murdered following the Battle of Sauchieburn near Stirling by a man seemingly disguised as a priest, the king’s son James IV succeeds him.
April 28, 1489 – Earl Percy killed
Henry Percy, the 4th earl of Northumberland who is an official of the king, is killed by rioters who are protesting against Royal taxes. His place of death is thought to be South Kilvington near Thirsk in North Yorkshire. Percy had commanded a Yorkist reserve at the Battle of Bosworth but had not been engaged in that affray.
1489 – South Shields salt
Lionel Bell of South Shields obtains a lease from the Priors of Durham for making salt near the town’s church.
1490 – St Luke’s Fair at Newcastle
King Henry VII grants a fair called St Luke’s Fair to the town of Newcastle.
Dec 21, 1491 – Truce of Coldstream
A five year truce for peace is signed with the Scots called the Truce of Coldstream, named from the town on the Tweed. Tensions between England and Scotland are constantly on edge. Last year a naval battle was fought between the English and Scots in the Firth of Forth.
1492 – Masters and Mariners
1495 – Stockton mayor
Dec 16, 1495 – Murderer’s sanctuary
A Gateshead labourer called John Bonar arrived at Durham Cathedral seeking the right of sanctuary for a murder he committed fourteen years earlier in Hexhamshire. The victim was Alexander Stevenson who had been stabbed in the chest. The sanctuary knocker on the door of Durham Cathedral symbolised the rights of criminals to seek sanctuary there.
1496 – Twizel Castle destroyed
In September King James IV of Scotland invades England to support the Yorkists who are attempting to overthrow Henry Tudor in the Perkin Warbeck rebellion. The Scottish king destroys Twizel Castle in northern Northumberland along with other small border towers but the rebellion fails and James’ troops are dispersed by the arrival of an English army at Norham. The Perkin Warbeck rebellion has been ongoing since 1491. Perkin Warbeck is a man who claims to be Richard, the son of Edward IV, which would make him claimant to the English throne.
Sep 30, 1497 – Another Border Truce
A border truce ‘The Truce of Ayton’ is signed once again between England and Scotland. It is signed at Ayton in Berwickshire to the north of Berwick and is intended to last seven years.
Apr 4, 1502 – Prince Arthur dead
King Henry VII’s eldest son, Prince Arthur dies aged only fifteen at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire. He leaves a widow, Catherine of Aragon, who will be betrothed to Arthur’s brother, Prince Henry, the following year.
July 1503 – Margaret Tudor at Durham
Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII is due to marry the King of Scotland, James IV, as part of an agreement to quell tensions between the two nations. On her way north she stays at Durham where she is entertained by Bishop Fox in the Great Hall of Durham Castle. During her journey she had also visited Northallerton and Darlington before continuing north to Newcastle, Morpeth and Alnwick. Margaret will marry King James on August 8
1508 – Scottish border warden murdered
Sir Robert Kerr of Cessford Castle (between Jedburgh and Kelso), an unpopular Warden of the Scottish Middle March who was employed to keep peace in the central borderlands is murdered by John ‘The Bastard’ Heron of Ford Castle. Heron was assisted by two other English Border Reivers by the name of Lilburn and Starhead. The murder will serve as a pretext for King James’s invasion of Northumberland in 1513.
1508 – Border Reivers
The Tudor and Elizabethan eras marked the murderous heyday of the Border Reivers when lawless Border Reiving clans clans dominated the border country on both the English and Scottish side. Reiving and raiding was nothing new in the Border Country but although Border wardens were employed to keep the peace, the centralised nature of the Tudor regime and the increasing tensions between England and Scotland left the people of the Border Country to fend for themselves. A culture of raiding and stealing livestock had evolved with loyalty to a family name and feuds between families taking on a greater importance than any allegiance to a particular nation.
1508 – Defensive renovations at Berwick
Henry VII encourages renovations to the fortifications at Berwick. They will be improved and developed in Elizabethan times.
Apr 21, 1509 – KING HENRY VIII
Following the death of his father, King Henry VII, at Richmond in Surrey, King Henry VIII succeeds as King of England. He will be crowned at Westminster on June 24. This new king’s reign will be remembered for centuries to come for his break with Rome and his succession of six wives.
1510 – Fishing town
Redcar is described as a ‘Poore Fishing Toune’.
1512 – Guild of Mercers
The Guild of Mercers is established in Newcastle.
Aug 29, 1513 – King James invades
With King Henry VIII heading a military campaign against Louis XII in France, the French have secretly requested the military assistance of King James IV of Scotland. Although James has been married to Henry’s sister, Margaret Tudor, since 1503 and is supposedly at peace with the English, he invades in support, crossing the Tweed into England on August 29 and seizing Norham Castle. It is the build up to the Battle of Flodden Field.
Aug/Sep 1513 – James base at Ford
The pretext for James’ invasion of England is the murder of Sir Robert Kerr, a Scottish Warden of the Marches by John Heron of Ford, back in 1508. James seizes the castle at Etal in the valley of the Till along with the nearby Ford Castle itself, the stronghold of the Heron family. James makes Ford his pre-battle headquarters as his troops encamp on Flodden Hill. Heron, the owner of Ford is not present, being imprisoned in Scotland. It is said that James engages in a brief affair with Lady Heron while occupying the castle.
Sep 9, 1513 – Scots and English gather
An English army hastily gathered together at Pontefract in Yorkshire, under the command of Sir Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, heads north. On September 9, they gather reinforcements at Newcastle and Alnwick. Reaching the far north, they gather on the eastern flank of the River Till and cross in two sections via two separate bridges. As they do so, observed by James, the Scots create a smoke screen and switch positions from Flodden Hill to nearby Branxton Hill.
Sep 9, 1513 – English cross the marshes
Having crossed the Till the English have to cross a considerable marshy area to reach Branxton Hill. The Scots expect this to hinder the English, however there are people with local knowledge in the ranks of the English army. Unbeknown to James there is a bridge over the bogs at Branxton which the English utilise.
Sep 9, 1513 – Battle of Flodden Field
With the English assembled at the foot of Branxton Hill, both sides open fire with their heavy guns and it’s soon apparent that despite their inferior numbers, the English are more experienced in the accuracy of their gunfire. Both sides are assembled in three units and James orders the Scottish left wing, comprised mostly of Scottish Borderers under Lord Home, to swarm down upon the English right flank who are rapidly cut down. However, an English reserve force – of English Borderers – under the leadership of Lord Dacre come to assistance. James, commanding the centre, then makes a charge down upon the English centre, which is headed by the Earl of Surrey. The charging Scots encounter unexpected ridges and bogs on the hill which slow their movement and bring the English centre crashing upon them at the base of the hill. The English left wing under Lord Stanley then take the initiative and charge uphill against the Scottish right flank which is mostly comprised of Highlanders under the Earls Lennox and Argyle.
Sep 9, 1513 – Disastrous battle for Scots
The Battle of Flodden or ‘Battle of Branxton’ as it was historically known left 10,000 Scots dead, amongst them King James himself. In a moment of impulse and desperation the king had charged towards the English banners that were held high, which were revealing the location of the English army leaders. James was quickly cut down and fell to his death. In addition to the king the Scots lost 12 earls; 15 lords; an archbishop and a number of Highland clan chiefs including the chiefs of the Macleans and Campbells.
See our page featuring the Battle of Flodden Field.
1513 – Infant king of Scotland
The infant James V succeeds his father as King of Scotland. He is a little over one-year old. Scottish politics will descend into a period of anarchy and the nation is severely weakened.
1514 – Wolsey is Archbishop of York
Cardinal Wolsey, one of Henry VIII’s principal churchmen and advisers is appointed Archbishop of York. However, in many respects this historically important northern role is only a secondary one for Wolsey and exemplifies the Tudor king’s disdain for Northern affairs. The archbishopric is of course a rich source of revenue.
1515 – College Gate
The College Gate the entrance to the cathedral close at Durham is constructed about this year.
1523 – Wolsey absent Durham bishop
Henry VIII’s chief adviser Cardinal Thomas Wolsey becomes Bishop of Durham, which is still a political ‘Prince Bishop’ role. Wolsey has been Archbishop of York since 1514 but has yet to visit his diocese there, demonstrating what little regard the Tudors have for the North. Wolsey’s favourite plants, rushes, are planted at Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland ready for his appearance but Wolsey will never visit Durham. As with York, the diocese of Durham is of course a rich source of revenue for Wolsey and the Tudor administration.
1523 – Henry’s men burn border abbeys
In June and September English forces under the leadership of Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, working for the Tudor administration of Henry VIII, burn the Scottish Border abbeys of Kelso and Jedburgh that were established by King David in the twelfth century.
1523 – Percy objects to Boleyn betrothal
Henry Percy, the 5th Earl of Northumberland objects to the betrothal of his son, also called Henry Percy to Anne Boleyn, a daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn. Young Percy is a page to king Henry’s adviser, Wosley, who scolds him for not consulting with the king or the earl. The Earl Percy feels that Anne is not a suitable match or of high enough status for his son and will instead have his son married to Mary Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, the following year.
Nov 1523 – Wark Castle relieved
The English castle of Wark on Tweed, occupied by French and Scottish forces under the leadership of John, the Duke of Albany, is relieved by an English army under Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey.
1525 – Royal Grammar School
Newcastle’s Royal Grammar School is established by the mayor of the town. It is situated near St Nicholas church (now St Nicholas Cathedral). The school will not move to Jesmond until 1906.
Oct 10, 1525 – Peace truce at Berwick
A truce for three years of peace is signed at Berwick by the Commissioners of Henry VIII of England and King James V of Scotland.
1528 – Charlton kidnaps priest
A member of the Charlton reiving family, called Willie of Shotlyngton, (as Shitlington in Northumberland was then seemingly called), raided the Weardale and Wolsingham areas of County Durham and kidnapped the priest of Muggleswick. For his crime Charlton was captured and killed and his body hung in chains at Hexham.
1530 – Newcastle asserts Tyne rights
For centuries the monks of Tynemouth and Durham had respectively developed port activities at North Shields and South Shields. Over the years legal challenges from Newcastle ensued. This year, the law finally came out in favour of Newcastle as the two Shields ports have been restricted in their trading rights. Salt manufacture and the sale of fish and wine will however be permitted at the mouth of the Tyne.
1530 – Wolsey arrested
Cardinal Wolsey is arrested on the orders of Henry VIII on suspicion of treason. He is arrested by Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland at Cawood Castle near Selby in Yorkshire – the Archbishop of York’s castle – and sent south to the king. Wolsey only came north in his capacity as Archbishop of York after he was stripped of the position of Lord Chancellor by Henry. Wolsey later dies at Leicester while being transported to London.
1532 to 1534 – English ravage Scotland
Henry Percy, the 6th Earl of Northumberland ravages the Scottish Borders in 1532 and in 1534. The raiding is ruthless and brutal. In 1534 the English destroy 192 Scottish castles, towers and churches.
Jan 25, 1533 – Henry marries Anne Boleyn
On Jan 25 King Henry secretly marries Anne Boleyn and then on May 23, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury declares Henry’s previous marriage to Catherine of Aragon void.
Jul 11, 1533 – Pope excommunicates king
The pope excommunicates King Henry from the Catholic church. He is no longer recognised as a legitimate ruler by the pope.
Sep 7, 1533 – Elizabeth born
Princess Elizabeth is born to Anne Boleyn.
1534 – Hylton Tynemouth governor
1535 – Hartlepool : Three counties dispute
As the king supresses church-held lands and power, some dispute and confusion arises over Hartlepool‘s county identity. Hartlepool is north of the Tees in Durham but historically was part of the Wapentake of Sadberge which bordered Yorkshire. Strangely, this Wapentake (which did not include Darlington or Stockton) had once formed an outlying part of Northumberland rather than being part of Durham. Sadberge was acquired for Durham by Bishop Pudsey in 1189 but disputes still occasionally arose over the status of the wapentake. This year an act declared Hartlepool’s inhabitants, (some of whom claim it is part of Northumberland), should from now on be considered part of Yorkshire. However, later records suggest that in 1545 it was still considered part of Northumberland. In reality it had been administered as part of the realm of the Prince Bishops of Durham since 1189. Administratively it would remain in County Durham right up until the foundation of the short-lived county of ‘Cleveland’ in 1974 but still ceremonially part of County Durham in the 21st century.
Apr 14, 1536 – Smaller monasteries targeted
King Henry sees the monasteries as a great source of wealth and revenue and introduces an act of parliament to dissolve the numerous smaller monasteries across the country.
May 19, 1536 – Anne Boleyn beheaded
Anne Boleyn is beheaded at the Tower of London after her marriage to King Henry is annulled by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury on May 17. She had been found guilty of High Treason. One of the jury members in her trial had been Henry Percy, the 6th Earl of Northumberland, who had been betrothed to Anne in 1523. He is said to have collapsed upon hearing the verdict.
May 30, 1536 – Henry marries Jane Seymour
King Henry marries Jane Seymour. He had been courting Jane during his marriage to Anne Boleyn. She will be the only one of his six wives to bear him a son.
Oct 13, 1536 – Pilgrimage of Grace
The Pilgrimage of Grace takes place. It is a Northern English rebellion involving an army of around 30,000 Catholics against Henry VIII’s religious reforms with marches and demonstrations centred on Lincolnshire and York. Rebels, including gentry and commoners, march from throughout Yorkshire to York to hear the address of pilgrimage leader Robert Aske. Support also comes from Barnard Castle and Bishop Auckland in the County of Durham and other places further to the north. On December 8, the Duke of Norfolk, on behalf of Henry, promises the rebels a pardon. The Duke’s promises were designed to subdue the rebellion.
July 1537 – 200 northern rebels executed
In January there was a further Catholic rebellion in the North, this time centred on the Lake District counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, led by Sir Frances Bigod of Settrington in North Yorkshire. In July, King Henry sets about the punishment of Northern rebels from both incidents. Over 200 men involved in the rebellions are executed including the Pilgrimage of Grace leader, Robert Aske and the Abbot of Jervaulx (a monastery in Wensleydale).
Oct 12, 1537 – Edward born
Prince Edward, Henry’s VIII’s longed-for son is finally born to Henry’s queen, Jane Seymour.
Oct 15, 1537 – Council of the North
Following the recent rebellions in the North, a ‘new’ Council of the North is created by King Henry to monitor and control the administration of northern affairs. In fact it is already established but its activities are stepped up. Cuthbert Tunstall the Bishop of Durham is its president. He has held the post before (1530-33). Tunstall, of course already holds some political powers as Prince Bishop and will be the Council’s President from 1537 to 1538. He was preceded by Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (1536-37) and Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland (1533-36). Tunstall will be succeeded by Robert Holgate from 1538 to 1549. In Holgate’s time there were four annual sessions held at York, Durham, Newcastle and Hull. The Council of the North was originally created in 1472 and operated until 1485 with Richard Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) its first President succeeded by his nephew John De la Pole in 1483.
Oct 24, 1537 – Jane Seymour dies
King Henry VIII’s favourite queen and third wife, Jane Seymour dies. She recently gave birth to Prince Edward.
1538 – ‘Coals to Newcastle’
The phrase ‘Coals to Newcastle’, to describe a self-explanatory pointless activity is first recorded this year.
1538 – Visitation of larger monasteries
Throughout 1538 an inspection was made of the larger, more powerful monasteries across the country to assess their wealth in preparation for the acquisition and sale of their lands and assets for the profit of the king.
Dec 31, 1538 – Darlington Council of North
The Council of the North is held at Darlington this year.
1538 to 1540 – North monasteries dissolved
Wealthy monasteries like Rievaulx and Whitby and many others in Yorkshire and in Northumberland like Lindisfarne and Tynemouth as well as the great monastery of Durham Priory are to be stripped of their wealth and power by Henry VIII. Monks will be pensioned off and most of the monasteries and their lands will be sold off to private owners. These are some of the biggest landowners in the north that have dominated huge swathes of the landscape and its agriculture and trade for centuries. Henry, who is determined to destroy the established monastic system sees the monasteries as a rich source of revenue.
Jan 12, 1539 – Tynemouth handed over
Tynemouth is one of the many monasteries where the lands and revenues are acquired by the king and its prior and monks pensioned off. The lands of Tynemouthshire which belonged to the monastery are quite scattered and often remote from the monastery itself. They include the village of Benwell to the west of Newcastle.
1539 – Salt pans
A Thomas Bell operates salt pans for the Prior of Durham at Howdon on Tyne, a reminder that the church is heavily involved in industrial concerns, which include coal mining, across the region.
Dec 31, 1539 – Durham Monastery closes
Durham Priory, based at the Cathedral of Durham is the most powerful and wealthy monastery in the region. It ceased to operate as a priory from today with its revenues handed over to the king by the Prior, Hugh Whitehead. Priory lands across Durham will be sold off to private individuals. The Dissolution of the monasteries has the most revolutionary and far-reaching impact on land ownership in the north since the Norman Conquest.
Jan 6, 1540 – Henry marries Anne of Cleves
King Henry marries Anne of Cleves on January 6 in the hope of creating strong ties with German Lutherans. However, Anne is not to the king’s liking and he divorces her on July 9.
Jul 28, 1540 – Henry marries Catherine
King Henry VIII marries Catherine Howard.
May 12, 1541 – Dean and Chapter of Durham
King Henry VIII restructures the government and organisation of Durham Cathedral which is no longer a Priory church, though it remains the seat of the Bishop of Durham, Cuthbert Tunstall, who still holds a role as Count Palatine (or ‘Prince Bishop’). Hugh Whitehead, the last Prior of Durham becomes the first Dean of Durham and is the head of the chapter, or ruling body of the cathedral.
Sep 29, 1541 – Scots king snubs Henry
A meeting between King Henry VIII and the Scottish King James V at York does not take place as James fails to turn up. King Henry and his enormous following have made a huge impression at York, camped outside the city walls but Henry will see James’ absence as a major snub.
Oct 15, 1541 – Margaret Tudor dies
Margaret Tudor (who became a Stuart), the mother of the present Scottish king, James V and sister of Henry VIII has died at her home of Methven Castle in Perthshire.
Feb 13, 1542 – Henry executes Catherine
Queen Catherine Howard is beheaded for adultery on the orders of her husband, Henry VIII.
Feb 13, 1542 – Henry marries Catherine Parr
King Henry VIII marries Catherine Parr, his sixth and final wife, who will ultimately outlive the king.
Nov 24, 1542 – Battle of Solway Moss
During October an English army under the Duke of Norfolk attacked the Scottish Borders and burned the town of Kelso on the Tweed. Today, King James V of Scotland and his army of 10,000 Scots suffer a devastating defeat to a small army of English in Cumbria on the English side of the border near Gretna Green.
Dec 14, 1542 – Queen of Scots 7 days old
King James V retires to Falkland Palace in Fife following his defeat at Solway Moss where he dies a few weeks later on December 14. He is succeeded by his seven days old daughter (born December 7) who becomes Mary, Queen of Scots.
Dec 11, 1543 – Marriage treaty rejected
Following the death of the Scottish King James V, a marriage treaty (the Treaty of Greenwich) proposes the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to King Henry VIII’s son, Edward for a unification of England and Scotland. It was agreed to by the Scottish Earl of Arran in July but in December it is rejected by the Scottish parliament.
May 3, 1544 – Tynemouth army at Edinburgh
On March 21, an army under the command of Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford arrives in Newcastle and embark on a fleet of ships at Tynemouth delivered by the High Admiral, John Dudley. With 10,000 men aboard, they set sail at the end of April destined for the port of Leith from which they sack, burn and occupy Edinburgh on May 3 under Hertford’s command before returning to Berwick on May 18.
1544 – Council of North moves
Feb 27, 1545 – Battle at Ancrum Moor
An English army is scattered by the Scots under Archibald Douglas at the battle of Ancrum Moor near Jedburgh in the Borders.
Jan 28, 1547 – Death of King Henry
Henry VIII passes away after one of the most momentous reigns in the nation’s history. Northern England has seen considerable changes in religion, landscape, industry and political status during Henry’s time as king. More turmoil for the North will follow in the reign of the later Tudors.