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March 2014



in the North
Deprived of the Jee of York liy

Born at Hemsworth in

n Yorkshire.

12/31 Died at the Master of Sempringham's Head House in London,

Nec "1555





HE Council of the British Archäological

Association have done me the honour of allowing me to read a paper on the life of the man whose portrait I have laid upon the table to-night : Robert Holgate, fifty-ninth Archbishop of York.

The engraving I present is taken from the portrait in oils of the Archbishop, still to be seen in the Governor's room of the Hospital which he founded at Hemsworth.

A bundle of MSS. and papers bearing on the life and doings of this man, a person of considerable wealth and eminence, came into my hands during the past summer; and finding them interesting, it occurred to me they might be interesting to others; hence I have made a short summary of their contents. For, I take it, the true object of archæology is to re-construct (in imagination, at any rate) the life and habits of that wonderful enigma man, from the relics of the past : whether the Scarabæus of an Egyptian monarch, the engraved bodies and wings of the great Assyrian figures, the broken hypocausts of a buried Roman villa, or inscrutable Stonehenge itself. It is the men of olden time we want to know, their ways, their thoughts, their speech ; and instead of wandering “in fields and pastures new” with Col. Younghusband or Mrs. Bishop, even so humble an archæologist as I may with care and pleasure pick my way amongst the old “footprints on the sands of He pro


Robert Holgate, Archbishop (fifty-ninth) of York, was born at Hemsworth, near Pontefract, West Riding of Yorks., in 1481, being third son of Thomas Holgate, of Stapleton, by Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Champernowne; he was bred a Gilbertine, and became Master of the Order of Sempringham, in the county of Lincoln, and Prior of Watton, in the county of York (a branch of the Gilbertine house). He was Vicar of Cadney, where was also a branch of the Order, in the county of Lincoln ; and was appointed Preacher to the University of Cambridge in 1524.

Subsequently, he was appointed King's Chaplain ; and on March 29th, 1537, Bishop of Llandaff

. He ceeded D.D. at Cambridge, by special grace, in the same year, 1537; and was nominated by the King (Henry VIII) President of the Council in the North, in July, 1537 (State Papers, vol. v, p. 333). He held the Presidency for twelve years, resigning on account of the displeasure of the Duke of Northumberland, at his not " forbearing the order of Justice, which he might not doo, in causes of divers light parsons offenders,” as stated in his appeal to Queen Mary (Domestic State Papers, vol. vi, p. 84 ; this State paper is backed “Touching the late Archbishop of York). In this appeal to the Queen, Holgate also speaks of his work as President in the following words : “ there was never any man that had cause to complesne for lacke of justice or for corrupc'on in the same, of his behalfe.” The house of the Lord Abbot of St. Mary's, in York, was converted into a palatial residence for the Lord President.

A special grant of Arms was made to him, June 29th, 1541, on his appointment to Llandaff, viz. : Or, a bend between two bulls' head's couped sable, on a chief argent, two bars gules, surmounted of a crutch staff in bend azure, the crutch marking his Gilbertine status; the original Arms of his family being three bulls' heads erased sable. A fair carving of Archbishop Holgate's Arms, now in possession of the Rector of Hemsworth, was formerly over a door of the hospital, but taken down some years ago, viz. : the cross keys and crown of the See of York, impaling three bulls' heads erased—this latter being the coat of Holgate of Stapleton, of which family the Archbishop was a member. The name is also spelt Houlgate, Holdegate and Halgate.

Robert Holgate was translated from Llandaff to the Archbishopric of York, January 10th, 1544. He married, January 15th, 1549, Barbara, daughter of Roger Wentworth, Esq., of Elmsal, after the publication of their banns at Bishopthorp and at Arithwick-in-the-Street, near Doncaster. In his subsequent appeal to Queen Mary, mentioned above, he“ beseeches her excellent grace most humblye, to forgyve him that faulte ; & notwithstanding he was counceled to marrye by the Duke of Somersett & others, & the greate feare of the Duke of Northumberlande as declaryed hereafter, he thinketh himselfe very moche worthye punyshment for that offence, being in the vocac'on that he was in being the secounde prelaite of this realme.” He goes on : “ Whereas he hath thus offended as is aforesaid he doithe promise to Almightie God, and to her highness by the speciall helpe of Almightie God, to keipe God's most blessyd lawes, and her grace's lawes and proceedinges to the uttermost of his power all the daies of his lyffe according to suche vocac'on as he shall bee in, & to use himselfe soo as the same shall be preyned & provyd from tyme to tyme.”

He was committed to the Tower by Queen Mary, because of his marriage, October 4th, 1553, and was deprived of the Archbishopric, March 16th, 1554 ; he was afterwards released from the Tower, January 18th, 1555, through the intercession of Philip. Doubtless the Spanish king's need of money for his soldiers in the Low Countries may have inclined him to mercy : for the astute Prelate, at the end of his appeal to the Queen, prays “the Quene's most excellent & Royall Majestie to graunte me my lybertie & that I may be restored to celebra'con from which I have bene suspended a great tyme to my greate discomforte, and I will offer to her Majestie most lumblye a thousande poundes sterlinge most enterlye beseechinge Her Highness to accept that as a Remembrance as parte of my dewtye with my contynuall praiers and service during my lyffe.”

The Archbishop died at the Master of Sempringham's

Head House in Cow Lane, Smithfield, in the parish of St. Sepulchre (he was himself Master of the Order), November 15th, 1555 ; and was probably buried (wrapped in the white habit of the Gilbertines, they having adopted the customs of St. Benedict) in that church, but the registers do not go back so far; they begin in 1562. There is a tradition that his body was brought to Hemsworth, and there buried by the monks of St. Mary Magdalen's Priory, at Monk Bretton ; and a large marble slab, without inscription, under the altar at Hemsworth, is thought to be his tomb. His will is dated April 27th, 1555, and was proved December 4th, 1556. In

In the Inquisition Post-Mortem, taken at the Guildhall, London, May 11th, 1556, Magistri Roberti Holgate, alias Halgate, clerici nuper Arch. Ebor. def!”. Thomas Holgate is declared his next heir, being his cousin, to wit, son and heir of Henry Holgate, late of Clayton, senior deceased brother of the said Robert, Archbishop, and was at the time of his (R. H.) death aged forty. This clearly proves that the statement put forward by some authorities that the Archbishop left two sons by his wife, Barbara, is incorrect.

The Archbishop, as a true Gilbertine (for St. Gilbert commenced his career as a schoolmaster, although a rich man, and Lord of the Manor of Sempringham), founded and endowed three free schools during his life, viz., York, Old Malton, and Hemsworth, all in the county of York. As one slows now into York station by Great Northern Railway from the south, one may see a notice-board above the city roofs, “ Archbishop Holgate's School.” By his will he left all his lands for the erection and endowment of a hospital at Hemsworth, for a master and twenty brethren and sisters of the age of sixty, or blind or lame, belonging to Hemsworth and three adjacent parishes. This bequest was duly executed by his surviving executors. At an Inquisition Post-Mortem, taken at the Castle of York, September 14th, 1556, by John Kay, Escheator, it was found that three of his seven executors were already dead. The four remaining executors obtained Letters

See Appendix.

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