The Tudor period saw great change in the country. Not only was there a new family ruling the kingdom but the period of peace following the Hundred Years War saw a change in buildings. The Nobles and main landowners no longer wanted highly defendable houses and draughty castles. They wanted some comfort and large windows to let in the light. This was a period when they built country houses and put large windowed extensions on their castles. Builders began to use bricks instead of stone for larger buildings. In an area with no local stone, bricks were easier to obtain but they were expensive. They were thinner than modern bricks and usually red in colour. Large Tudor buildings also have tall ornate brick chimneys.  Builders continued to use wooden frames and wattle and daub as well. Windows and arches were now built in a new shape too. They were not rounded as Saxon. Nor were they sharply pointed as Norman. They had a shallow pointed top. We can see this in the picture below.



Tudor brickwork

Tudor brickwork

A good example of a Tudor Hall is Childerley Manor.  After Elizabeth became queen many of the larger houses were built in an ‘E’ shape as a tribute to her name. Unfortunately, like many old houses, Childerley was altered in following centuries so the Elizabethan ground plan has changed. Much was done in the Victorian age.



King Henry V111 was famous for enjoying jousting and had a splendid suit of armour. Below is a picture of a suit of armour for both man and horse. This was designed to commemorate the marriage of Henry to Catherine of Aragon. You can see it at the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London.


However, the development of the gun made the wearing of heavy and expensive armour a thing of the past. A suit of armour cost the equivalent of the cost of a modern house. Unfortunately early guns had a short range and at first had a habit of exploding when used. They were smooth-bored and it was difficult to make the shot perfectly round.  The longbow did have a greater range and reliability. Studies done with the items that were found at the Mary Rose site suggest that a well-trained archer could fire an armour-piecing arrow up to several hundred metres . A musket by comparison was only accurate up to a hundred at most. However it had good penetrating power. Unfortunately it took years for archers to be trained. Anyone though could quickly learn to fire a gun. The new weapons lead to a change in men’s military clothing. Amour was now obsolete. Gentlemen no longer needed to wield heavy swords. They could be lighter. The rapier was born. This lead to a completely new way of using a sword. There was no need to try to pierce any gap in his opponent’s armour or to hack at a weak spot. He now used similar methods to those now seen in the modern sport of fencing. Wrist action rather than the whole arm move the sword more. This makes the action much swifter.  In fact the terms still used in fencing are Old French and would be recognised by a Tudor gentleman. With French still the international language at court, any noble active in politics would understand French.

There was also a change in men’s fashion. His clothing would include lacework, ruffles, tights and breeches. The important male garment was the doublet. This imitated the shape of the breastplate and was padded. For the rich this could be highly ornate. Everyone else including the Caldecote villagers would be wearing woollen clothes and perhaps a leather doublet if they were lucky. In any case they would be restricted from wearing fancy clothing by the clothing laws which were in place.

Daily Life

While we think of the Tudor period as a time of change for the average Caldecote family life carried on very much as it always had. Life was hard. They were still poor. Their clothing was repaired to make it last as long as possible. Then when it was beyond repair there were other uses for it. Usable bits could be used as patches. Patches could be sewn together. This is how patchwork quilts were made. Much clothing was still home-made. While we associate the term ‘homespun’ with American pioneers, the traditions came from Britain and Europe. It was not possible for villagers to pop into town and buy. Even if they had the cash to buy new clothing they did not have the leisure time we have to go shopping. To walk into Cambridge would take over two hours. Many villagers may not have left the local area all of their lives. In any case the roads were not paved. The bridle paths we see around the village were the local roads. Highfields was farmland. The main road through the village was only a track. While the houses of the better off may have improved, those of the average village changed little. They would be thatched and still made of wattle and daub. Cooking was still done on an open fire. Their diet was still as it always had been. Pottage would be the daily meal. This was a cross between a stew and soup made of seasonal vegetables. These would be grown around the cottage in which they lived. This would belong to the farm where they worked. The only meat available would be that of the family pig. This would live among the woodland around the edge of the village and the nearby common land. All of the pig was used. Much would be smoked and turned into bacon or ham.  Any fat available would be used to make tapers. Ideally a piece of reed but it could be a long piece of straw would be dipped into the molten fat and allowed to cool. This would produce a long thin candle. These would burn fairly quickly, were smoky and smelly but would provide the only artificial light available. The only other meat would be the occasional rabbit caught either on any land they farmed or more likely which had been poached. Rabbit had been introduced to England by the Normans. While originally kept in specially built warrens for the nobility to enjoy many had escaped. They bred and had spread across the country. However they belonged to the land owner not the average villager. The other staple food was bread. This would be baked at the main farmhouse which was big enough to house a bread oven. This would be supplied as part of the farm worker’s wages. So too would be the home brewed ale. All villagers of whatever age drank this. The barley used to produce this had to be boiled in water to form a mash. While they didn’t know why everyone realised that it was not a good idea to drink the dirty water in the local stream.

While the introduction of new luxuries such as tobacco, potatoes, chocolate and coffee took place in the Tudor period from the Americas it was a long while before they would have been seen in Caldecote.

Everyone in the Caldecote family worked. The children did not go to school. They helped in the fields. They would be up very early in the morning. If the family possessed a cow then the wife would milk it. This would be around four o’ clock in the morning. It would mean looking for it in the dark in winter months. The cow like the pig would have been kept on common meadowland. This meant that other villager’s animals would share this piece of meadow. Cows were fitted with bells so that they could be found in the dark.

Only the vicar, the landowners and possibly some tenant farmers could read and write. We do not know the names of many Caldecote villagers of the time.

It was not until 1538 that it became compulsory for parishes to keep records of births, marriages and deaths. There was a marked reluctance to do so. Due this an order went across the country in 1558 to force them to do so. The parish Records we do have start in 1604. The record shows the marriage between Raphe Bagleye and Margaritt Bull in January  that year.   However, one if the major land owners of the village was Clare College. In the college archive we find documents dating from the Tudor period. For example we can learn that Mr Hawes paid the rent for Pecks Farm for a year on 13 January 1574. This cost 26 shillings and 8 old pennies. (This was one and a third pounds).  Pecks Farm was one of the farms Clare College owned.


The Reformation


The political need for a male heir caused Henry V111 to divorce his wife against the ruling of the Pope and remarry. To do so he was forced to break the church away from the Pope’s control. This caused major religious turmoil but it gave him the opportunity to seize the monasteries, which had become rich running large commercial enterprises. He seized other religious buildings too. Some were sold, others destroyed. Cambridge University was expanding. Some newly created colleges received monastic land to help support them. Barnwell Priory, which had close links to Caldecote church, was a victim. Its lands were seized and given to the university.


While Henry wanted church services to remain in Latin many wanted services and the bible to be in English so that they could understand them.

The invention of printing enabled a much larger number of people to be able to read books. They could also read to those who could not.

Being able to read the bible caused many to question the current religious practices.  The attempts at reform by Martin Luther and his treatment by Rome caused a religious split between Protestants and Catholics in Europe. Henry’s son was a Protestant. Mary, Henry’s eldest daughter was a devout Catholic. Once queen she imposed a harsh forced return to the Catholic faith. She took her revenge out on those who had supported the divorce of her mother and other Protestants. This led to a hatred of anything seen as connected to Catholicism. This hatred only increased following the failed attempt to kill King James 1st and his parliament by Guy Fawkes. The leaders of this plot were all Catholics and seen by many as dangerous terrorists.  Just like today when religious extremists try to justify their terrorist actions on grounds of faith, these people used Catholicism as their justification.  The result became a mistrust of others. In a period when the population was highly superstitious but ill educated and ill informed, this turned to religious hatred.  This was not just on a personal level either.  Acts were passed banning Catholics from holding official posts. They were banned from attending university.

Many wanted a strict plain church service where the sermon was the important item. This they believed was a purer form of service. We call people who held these views as Puritans. They were against any form of decoration and wore plain clothing.  The most famous East Anglian Puritan was Oliver Cromwell. Caldecote like much of the area became staunchly Puritan. This had a major impact on the village church. Firstly, Thomas Sanders, who was vicar from 1638 tried to bring in practices which some people thought were going back to the old catholic traditions. These include putting a railing around the communion table. Parishioners should bow at the name of Jesus and kneel before taking communion. Those who did not were damned! He also dared to read King Charles 1st ordinances from the pulpit. In 1643, he fled for his life. In 1644, William Dowsing the extremist, travelled across East Anglia destroying religious images. He included Caldecote in his attacks. He destroyed twenty superstitious pictures, a cross and an image of Christ in the church.

Fanatical soldiers think they are doing ‘Gods work’ by destroying religious images in churches on their way through East Anglia on their way north. Today we would call it sheer vandalism. This was drawn at the time.

Fanatical soldiers think they are doing ‘Gods work’ by destroying religious images in churches on their way through East Anglia on their way north. Today we would call it sheer vandalism. This was drawn at the time.

A later vicar, Thomas Smith, published pamphlets against both Catholics and the radical Puritans. These Puritans said that there was no need for learned clergy. He had a famous public row with John Bunyan. He was famous as the author of Pilgrim’s Progress written while in Bedford Jail. He was a tinker by trade and a puritan Baptist. Un- ordained, and a self- appointed preacher he was exactly the type of person Smith was against. In 1659, he caught Bunyan preaching in a barn at Toft. Smith angrily denied the right of laymen to preach.

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