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History - Robert Parkyn

Priest - Curate of the Parish Church of Adwick-le-Street 1541-1569

Robert Parkyn was born in the neighbouring parish of Owston of a family wealthy enough to educate their sons at university. Robert may have begun his early education at the Chantry School at Owston, where he gained a knowledge of Latin.

Robert maintained an interest in learning and culture during an era when a many of the clergy were illiterate. He possessed a good library and supplemented his reading with books sent to his home from Cambridge by his brother John, a Fellow of Trinity College.

Amongst his many literary contributions to the learning of his day are included transcripts of the writings of Richard Rolle and "a Narrative of the Reformation".

Of particular value to historians of the Tudor period are the first-hand accounts of a contemporary of Reformation in the English Church. He was almost certainly a chaplain to the nuns of Hampole at the time of its suppression. He vigorously condemned the proposals by the Earl of Essex for the policy and later actions of Henry VIII.

Parkyn wrote: (in) "1539 all was suppressed furiously underfoot and many abbots and other virtuous religious persons shamefully was put to death in diverse places of this realm. And all this ungraciousness came through the counsel of one wretch and heretic, Thomas Crunwell."


He was greatly appalled at the ecclesiastical policies of the Protestant Reformers in the reign of Edward VI. During 1548 he wrote: "Rogacion Days no procession was made about the fields, butt cruell tirannttes dyd cast downe all crosses standynge lu oppen ways dispittefully."

He was occasioned further distress when ornaments and customs associated with church services were abolished, altars of stone removed, and a new Book of Common Prayer in English introduced as the sole legal form of worship by Whit Sunday 9th June 1549.

Parkyn vociferously opposed the marriage of clergy and loudly condemned those of his own Yorkshire contemporaries about 100 of who (out of over 1000) took the opportunity to marry. Parkyn was particularly scandalised at having to become involved in the 'lewd example' set by his own Archbishop.

In 1549, having had to publish in his own church the bishop's banns, he wrote "Consequently then after, was holden, a greatt parliamentt att Westmynster, wherein was enactyde no goodness towards the Churche of Good, butt in Christemesse weake after was publischide the bandes of matrimony both in the parische churches of Bischoppethorpe and Aithwyk by the Streatt in Yorkshire bitwixt Robert Ebor (alias Hollegaithe) Archebischoppe of Yorke of the one parttie and Barbara Wenttworthe, dowghtter of Roger Wenttworthe Esqwyer of the other partie - the said Archebischoppe and Barbara was jonyde together in marriage the 15th day of January."

What was Parkyn's sense of justice when the marriage turned to 'trouble and business' when Archbishop Holgate had to resist the claim of Barbara's child-marriage husband, Anthony Norman, we can but guess at. We might assume that he approved when, under Catholic Mary, Archbishop Holgate was deprived of his see of York and imprisoned in the Tower.

Although Catholic at heart, Robert Parkyn was a survivor who managed to retain his living through the reigns of four Tudor monarchs from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I using both Latin Mass and the English Book of Common Prayer. We are much indebted to his detailed records of the effects of the turbulent years of the Reformation on a small Yorkshire parish seen through the eyes of a priest who spent most of his ministry here in Adwick.