Renovating the sacred: The Re-formations of the English parish church in the Diocese of Norwich, c. 1450-1662

Larking, Irena (2013). Renovating the sacred: The Re-formations of the English parish church in the Diocese of Norwich, c. 1450-1662 PhD Thesis, History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2016.1018

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Author Larking, Irena
Thesis Title Renovating the sacred: The Re-formations of the English parish church in the Diocese of Norwich, c. 1450-1662
School, Centre or Institute History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2016.1018
Publication date 2013-11-25
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Philip Almond
Dolly MacKinnon
Total pages 368
Language eng
Subjects 2103 Historical Studies
2204 Religion and Religious Studies
2199 Other History and Archaeology
Formatted abstract
The English Reformation can perhaps be described as a watershed moment in England’s history – an event that changed not only the theological underpinnings of legislation and doctrine, but also the way in which parish communities experienced religion as a congregation within the context of their parish church. This thesis takes a fresh look at the English Reformation from its beginnings during the early sixteenth century through to the Restoration. How did the English Reformation become a reality within parish or faith communities and what impact did this have on those communities and on their collective faith experience? By using the methodological trajectory of material culture within the context of the Diocese of Norwich, this thesis explores the history of the English Reformation through the detailed analysis of local parish history.

The focus of this thesis traces the history of eight rural parishes in Diocese of Norwich in the counties of Norfolk – North Elmham, Stockton, Redenhall, Tilney All Saints – and Suffolk – Boxford, Metfield, Cratfield, Long Melford – and one urban parish – St Peter Mancroft, Norwich - through the use of multiple sources, both textual and material culture. The primary textual sources that the thesis draws on are the churchwardens’ accounts for these churches. These exist in both manuscript and transcript form, of which significant portions of the manuscripts have been transcribed by the author and some for the first time. In addition to churchwardens accounts the thesis also incorporates detailed analyses of religious legislation, both national and diocesan, as well as the Book of Common Prayer. The material culture that the thesis draws on are the surviving contemporary artefacts within the churches in this study, some of which have not been analysed before. The thesis also draws on liturgical objects and furnishings currently on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum.

The thesis follows a chronological trajectory that begins with the late medieval period (chapter 2). The furnishings and the use of space was, not surprisingly, largely determined by the theology of Roman Catholicism – it was theology made tangible for the faith communities of late medieval England. This enables the subsequent changes to be analysed in light of the shift from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism. It then moves on to a detailed analysis of the liturgical changes and consequent impact on the furnishings and reconfiguration of the parish church under the Tudors during the turbulent changes of the sixteenth century (chapters 3 and 4). This will show that the changes in official legislation did not necessarily equate to dutiful changes in liturgy and furnishings at the parish level. It was not only the furnishings and space that was reordered for Protestant worship, but also the rituals outlined in the new Book of Common Prayer that significantly altered how both priest and people ought to perform these rituals. Drawing on my analysis of the 1597 visitation returns for the Diocese of Norwich, the thesis will show that there were pockets of resistance towards the Prayer Book and how the liturgy ought to be performed (chapter 5). Priests and laypeople alike were prepared to “voice” their disagreement through use or misuse of objects, spaces and rituals within and around the parish church. Finally, the thesis analyses the turbulent changes of the mid seventeenth century, from the implementation of the beauty of holiness, the backlash that resulted in a second wave of iconoclasm and then the publication of a new Prayer Book in 1662 (chapter 6). All of these changes were dependent upon the manifestation of theology through the preferred material culture, or lack thereof, and the readjustment of space within the parish church.

The process of analysing how churches were reconfigured by way of the reallocation of space, the objects that filled those spaces, and how the congregation interacted with these spaces and objects, brings an original contribution to the history of the English Reformation. This thesis will demonstrate the value that local stories can add to a national story, and that the adoption of material culture as a methodology is a key component in the retelling of these stories. These stories are inherently about the faith communities that traversed the difficult and unpredictable journey from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism.
Keyword English Reformation
Material culture
Local history

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Created: Wed, 20 Nov 2013, 12:52:57 EST by Irena Larking on behalf of University of Queensland Graduate School