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Literary Locations #15: Aslockton

John Baird
Thu 7 Feb, 2019

This week, a tale of two churches and possibly the most well-known phrase ever produced by a Notts writer.

Church One, Aslockton St Thomas

Back in 2010 a large extension was added to the church at Aslockton, to house the new Thomas Cranmer Centre, named after the most famous man born in the village.

Thomas Cranmer was born in 1489 and spent his first fourteen years in Aslockton (he may have attended the Collegiate Grammar School at Southwell) before heading to Jesus College, Cambridge. After he married the daughter of an Innkeeper his fellowship was suspended but within a year his wife had died and Thomas had resumed his path becoming ordained in 1520.

Henry VIII appointed Thomas his chaplain and then Archdeacon of Taunton, and in 1532 Thomas was sent to Europe in an attempt to gather support for the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon (whilst in Germany Thomas met the niece of a prominent Lutheran theologian and, despite his vow of celibacy, married her in secret). Now a highly valued advocate to the King in his desire for divorce, Henry appointed Thomas his first Archbishop of Canterbury and his marriage to Catherine was immediately pronounced null and void.

After Henry’s death Thomas wrote the Book of Homilies and the Book of Common Prayer which brought us many significant phrases such as 'love and cherish' and ‘ashes to ashes’, perhaps the most well-known phrase produced by any Notts writer.

The House of Lords then passed The Act of Uniformity, abolishing Latin mass in England and stating that all services must be conducted in English and use the Book of Common Prayer (still used in many churches). Loyal Catholics burned the book. Thomas produced a new and more radical Protestant prayer book in 1552 but with the premature death of the new king, Edward VI, his plans were left in ruin.

When Mary, a committed Catholic, became Queen, Latin mass was back, and Cranmer was tried for treason. Thomas recanted his beliefs, but when called upon to do so in public he refused and withdrew his recantation. He was burnt at the stake in Oxford in 1556. He had held the hand that had signed the recantation in the flames until it was consumed.

After Mary died (in 1558), Elizabeth (a protestant) became Queen. Elizabeth adopted the Act of Uniformity and stated that everybody had to attend the Church of England and use the Book of Common Prayer. Those not doing so were to be punished.

Church Two, St. John of Beverley, Whatton-in-the-Vale

A major restoration was carried out on this church in 1870/71, overseen by Revd T Butler of Langar, father of the author Samuel Butler, but it’s Thomas Cranmer we’re concerned with this week and the church has an incised floor stone commemorating his father, also named Thomas Cranmer. Most importantly, it was here in St. John of Beverley that our Thomas Cranmer, writer of the Book of Common Prayer, worshipped as a boy.


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Thomas Cranmer

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