Linton in Pictures
A History of Linton
in Photographs
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SIR PHILIP PARIS OF LINTON (1492 –1558)

The removal of the Church carpet after the recent floods fully exposed Sir Philip’s memorial in the centre of the nave beneath the chancel arch. It had been covered over since the Restoration of 1870. He was the most important manorial lord in Linton’s history, an active participant in most of the major events and changes in the period we call the Reformation. He died true to the Roman Catholic faith and was a bitter opponent of Protestantism during the reigns of Edward VI and Mary Tudor.

The tomb of Sir Philip Paris in the nave of St Mary's Church in Linton

In Linton Philip Paris resided at his beautiful moated Manor House at Little Linton and the layout of his manor can be seen on the 1600 Paris Map of Linton. The moats measured 200 feet by 150 feet and they were about 50 feet wide. North of the main moat one can still see a pair of concentric rectangular moats, probably his 16th century fish ponds. Philip married Margaret Bowes, the daughter of a London mercer, sometime before 1520 and seemed destined for a quiet country life. Instead, he became a significant player in the enormous changes which swept away the power of the Papacy and brought about the English Reformation.

Henry VIII’s quarrels in Europe led Cardinal Wolsey to arrange a summit meeting between the youthful monarchs of France and England. Such was the splendour of the occasion and so lavish the display of gold , that their meeting place near Calais was called “the Field of the Cloth of Gold.” In the entourage of Queen Catherine of Aragon rode “Master Paris and Mistress Paris of Cambridgeshire.” Their experiences must have provided Lintonians with some wonderful stories on their return… the wrestling match when Francis threw Henry, the black eye sustained by Francis in his joust with the Duke of Suffolk and the fountain in the English camp which flowed with red and white wine. The English women were said to have behaved disgracefully.

Philip Paris is recorded as present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520

During the Break with Rome in the early 1530’s Philip Paris’s fortunes rose with those of his new patron Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. “Wily Winchester” was feared by opponents because of his blunt speaking, his bullying, his stern manner and his intellect. Philip became his close friend and Gardiner left him £4 in his Will. Philip Paris had demonstrated considerable financial expertise during the 1520’s as a dealer in wardships, and in 1533 he was appointed as Treasurer of the Winchester Diocese, the richest in England at that time. He remained in this post until 1537 and probably acquired much of his personal wealth during this period because the Bishop was “exiled” to France as our ambassador. He had lost the power struggle at Court to Thomas Cromwell and the Boleyn faction. Philip Paris was left to conduct Gardiner’s affairs in England and sent his own son to France to serve the Bishop and act as a reliable courier. The State Papers of 1538 refer to young Robert Paris and his friends as “ young blades who were quite rude about the military prowess of the French.” Apparently they knew very little French and did not bother to learn it. Nothing changes!

Philip Paris was shrewd and managed to obtain Gardiner’s permission to enter the Crown’s service under the supervision of Thomas Cromwell, the King’s chief minister. Philip skilfully kept a foothold in both of the rival factional groups at Court, no mean feat in those dangerous times. He faithfully served Cromwell during the period of the Dissolution of the Monasteries which took place between 1536 and 1540. Over 850 Houses were closed and the Crown acquired their income and treasures , about one quarter of the wealth of England. Philip was a prominent Commissioner in this closure process and was rewarded with the gift of lands and property across the eastern region. Locally, he received the Friary at Barham, the Priory at Fordham and the rectories at Gt. and Lt. Abington. He played a leading role in the dissolution of the large abbeys at Ely, Ramsey, Bury St. Edmunds, Peterborough, Thorney and Crowland.

Thomas Cromwell was also Chancellor of Cambridge University and in the Autumn of 1539 he stayed at Little Linton on his return to London. Philip was obviously a man of some importance in Cromwell’s circle but he was careful to maintain his special friendship with Stephen Gardiner, Cromwell’s chief rival.

His caution was justified because Thomas Cromwell suddenly fell from power and was promptly executed in June 1540. The disastrous Anne of Cleves marriage and the intrigues of the conservative faction at Court led to his downfall. Philip Paris survived his patron’s fate because his old friend, Stephen Gardiner, once again returned to power.

Philip was promoted to a lucrative new position , the post of Receiver- General of the re-formed Court of Wards. The lands of widows and minors provided a large income for the administrators of their estates, and the Crown controlled the revenue through this Court. The auditing process was usually years in arrears and it has been estimated that the Crown rarely received more than 25% of the actual revenues! Philip controlled this revenue collection and certainly “ put his hand in the till.” He was rising fast in courtly circles and his importance is confirmed in the King’s itinerary for 1541. On his Progress through Cambridgeshire Mr. Pary’s House at Linton is named as a stopping off point. Did Henry VIII actually come to Linton and dine in Philip’s house?

Philip Paris gave into temptation and embezzled £2,261-1-2 from the Court of Wards. His thefts were discovered in 1543 and he surprisingly survived King Henry’s wrath and escaped the block. He was pardoned in 1546 due to the intervention of Stephen Gardiner and was allowed to return to Linton on condition that the sum was repaid in instalments of £80 per annum. Mary Tudor reduced the yearly payments to £40 but did not cancel the debt. A quiet life as manorial lord in the backwaters of Cambridgeshire seemed to be his only future.

Events in London once again dragged him on to the national scene. Henry VIII had died an English Catholic, but Archbishop Cranmer, the Seymours and young Edward VI converted to the Protestant faith and the country faced another major religious upheaval. Leading Catholics like the Duke of Norfolk and Bishop Gardiner were sent to the Tower and the Protestant Council were determined to bring Gardiner to trial and thereby discredit the English Catholic cause . What better way to achieve this than to persuade the Bishop’s former servants to testify against him at his trial in Lambeth Palace. In September 1547 and again in December 1551 Philip Paris was a star witness at the “Show Trial” and the proceedings were recorded in Foxe’s “ Book of Martyrs.” We gain an insight into the character of Philip Paris because he bravely defended Gardiner as a loyal and just man and refused to allow the Court to attribute “treasonable words” to the Bishop. Gardiner remained in the Tower but his life had been saved .

Edward VI’s sudden and unexpected illness in January 1553 transformed the political and religious situation in England. Mary Tudor’s cause was rekindled. An attempt by the nefarious Duke of Northumberland to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne was stubbornly resisted by Mary. She avoided arrest at Hunsdon (Herts) and rode to Framligham Castle via Sawston. She sought the help of John Huddlestone ,and it is almost certain that she was joined there by Philip Paris. This supposition is based on the fact that the day after her triumphal Coronation in Westminster Abbey on October 1st 1553, she knighted the two men as a reward for their loyalty. Sir Philip had to change the inscription on his memorial by deleting the word “Esquire” for that of “Knight.” This proves that the monument was in place before 1553 since we know that his first wife, Margaret was buried in Linton Church in December 1551.

Mary Tudor now recalled Cardinal Pole from Rome and as Papal Legate he accepted the submission of the Kingdom to the Papacy. England was once again a Roman Catholic nation and Pole became the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Philip Paris welcomed this religious change and his family remained staunch Roman Catholics throughout the savage persecution of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Sir Philip would have been present in Southampton to witness the arrival of Philip of Spain in July 1554 and his marriage to Queen Mary in Winchester Cathedral. His earlier connections with the Diocese would probably have been useful in the organisational arrangements for this complex ceremony. His close friend, John Huddlestone was Vice-Chamberlain of King Philip’s three hundred strong English bodyguard .

Philip Paris had married for a second time, to the widow Agnes Spryng of Lavenham. We do not know the date of this marriage. Her father, Thomas Spryng was the richest clothier in the Kingdom and had financed the construction of Lavenham Church. Mary and Gardiner were determined to restore the old religion and root out their most obstinate Protestant opponents in Eastern England.

Sir Philip Paris and Sir John Huddlestone undertook one final task for their beloved Queen and their Roman Catholic Faith. They both became senior members of the Cambridgeshire Heresy Commission in 1555 and held meetings at their headquarters in King’s College. They were party to the burning of John Hullier of Babraham on Jesus Green in 1556, where a blustery wind blew the flames into the martyr’s face and stopped the gunpowder attached to his neck from exploding. The crowd rushed forward to secure mementoes in the form of pieces of charred bone from his head! As Commissioner for Essex we can link Philip’s name to over seven of the burnings in that County. Around 280 people were burned in the space of three years and the horrific nature of their deaths still has an impact after 450 years. However, it should be borne in mind that these were dangerous and violent times, even Henry VIII burned 81 people and over 100,000 people were slaughtered in the French Religious Wars.

Philip Paris was well into his sixties when his second wife Agnes died in 1557. She was buried close to Philip’s first wife in Linton Church. Sir Philip is mentioned in the Queen’s New Year Gift List in 1557, only people close to the Queen sent and received gifts from the monarch. Sir Philip sent her £5 in money and received a gilt cruise of 12.75 ounces in return. He died on March 4th 1558 but the Will was not proved until January 1559, two months after Mary’s death. Queen Elizabeth never implemented the terms of Mary’s Will, and it appears that Sir Philip’s Will was also largely ignored after his death. His detailed Will stipulated that a dirge and mass of Requiem be kept in Linton Church and six neighbouring Churches on his month’s day (April 4th). The services were not held once the Kingdom returned to the Protestant faith. Even Philip seemed aware of the changing national mood at the end of Mary’s reign since he states in his Will “if the laws of the realm will so long permit it suffer to be done”. The name of his second wife is not inscribed on the tomb although we know that Sir Philip was buried between his two wives. His heir was his grandson, Robert Paris and he appears to have been a minor in 1558. This would have crippled the Estate and prevented the full implementation of the terms of the Will.

John Layer of Shepreth visited the Church in 1639 and recorded all the inscriptions. The present tomb has part of the inscription crudely erased. This mutilation was carried out during the Civil War when William Dowsing visited Linton on January 5th 1644 and destroyed all popish images and inscriptions. The words recorded by Layer, “ I pray God have mercy on the soules of…” were chiselled out because of their Roman Catholic connotations.

It rather pleases me to think of Sir Philip’s remains lying beneath the Chancel arch and hearing our present day Roman Catholic and Protestant services taking place. The vestments, incense and ritual so closely resembling those used during his own life.

Garth Collard – January 2004