John Whitgift’s History

John Whitgift was born in or around 1530 in Grimsby, Lincolnshire to Henry Whitgift and Ann[e] Dynewell, the eldest of nine children; Henry was a local merchant and property owner; an important figure in the town and made an Alderman in 1550. He owned several houses in the market place and also by the town gates. No record exists of the date of John’s birth or baptism, but it is known that it would have been between 1530 and 1534 – parish registers were not introduced until 1538. He had declared in 1590 that he was then aged 60. Sir George Paule was Whitgift’s Steward, later Comptroller of the household, and first biographer* who would contribute much of what we now know about the Founder. *The Life of the most reverend and religious Prelate, John Whitgift, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury’.

John Whitgift Book
John Whitgift Book

John’s uncle, Robert, was Abbot of the Augustinian Monastery of Wellow, near Great Grimsby and an influence on John’s early scholastic life. It was Robert who persuaded Henry to send his son to lodge in London with his aunt Isobel, who was married to the verger of St Paul’s Cathedral, as he could see that John was showing much intellectual promise and thus, he became a scholar of St Anthony’s School half a mile away from St Paul’s, in Bishopsgate – sited very near where the Bank of England now stands. St. Anthony’s was also once a hospital and school; when Whitgift went there, it had already been in existence in some form or other for over 300 years. Very little is known of his time at St. Anthony’s other than owing to a disagreement on religious matters, no doubt Whitgift casting his views on the Pope but also refusing to attend Mass, his aunt being a devout Roman Catholic bid him leave of her – she had ‘perceived him to be a devil’ and he returned for a time to his home in Grimsby. It was again his uncle Robert who advised him to go to Cambridge.

John Whitgift
John Whitgift by Paule 1612

He had a very astute mind, indeed, a forthright one and was not beyond displaying his intellect in all matters. In 1548 he went on to study at Queen’s College, Cambridge, a year later transferring to Pembroke. Master of Pembroke was Ridley, then Bishop of Rochester; Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury was President. By the year 1555 he became Master of Pembroke and then Master of Trinity College. John Whitgift’s tutor was John Bradford who obtained for him a bible-clerkship which gave him at the time, much needed funds – for Whitgift’s father had suffered mercantile losses at sea. Before John had taken his first degree, his father died and, in his will, providing an estate that was to leave the family in quite comfortable circumstances. Sadly, one of John’s younger brothers, Philip, died in the same year as his father, aged 12.

Despite troubling times and the accession of Queen Mary I in 1553, John Whitgift managed to avoid the level of persecution and threats made to those holding Protestant beliefs and had continued at Cambridge. He was ordained in 1560 inducted to the rectory of Teversham, near Cambridge. After taking his BD in 1562, he was elected Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity. His position was becoming ever more important and his skills and a taste for administration were certainly earning him plaudits from his peers.

By the time of Queen Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne [1558] he had entrenched himself on the side of authority and uniformity. Sir William Cecil had been told of the young man who was both ‘learned and honest’ when one of his own men had visited the University, this being made known to the Queen. John Whitgift was to be made Master of Pembroke Hall. In 1564/5 John’s uncle Robert died; it is understood that though a will was not found, it is quite likely that John benefitted – a house in Essex where his eldest brother William went to live after marriage. John Whitgift was generous, and it is quite likely that he would have supported his siblings. He was also of simple tastes but quite astute when it comes to his wealth and his accounts.

Whilst Master of Trinity, he was still in the Queen’s favour and on first hearing him preach declared ‘He hath a white gift indeed’ and made him a Royal Chaplain. Not only this prestigious role but he was also made in the same year, Regius Professor of Divinity, and the following year, held the position of Chaplain to the Bishop of Ely and then shortly after, given a prebend and made a Canon of Ely. His fortunes would have increased appropriately. He was without question making himself known in some powerful circles within the government and outside of it, but also, and more importantly by the Queen. In 1577 he was consecrated Bishop of Worcester where he preached regularly and dealt with all manner of disputes, with a firmness and control that he was known for. Whilst Bishop of Worcester, Whitgift signed the bond [or certificate] for the marriage of playwright William Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway. [This document was lost a number of years ago]. It was known that Whitgift by this time also enjoyed a much-increased income – his enemies even referred to his accumulated wealth but he was known to be frugal in his own manner and yet generous to the deserving and was instrumental in maintaining scholars at his old College with contributions from his own savings.

When Archbishop Grindal died in 1583 having previously been placed under house arrest after his disagreement with Her Majesty over ‘prophesyings’, the Queen nominated Whitgift to succeed him at Canterbury – appointed in August of that year, he was now in a position where his authority on ecclesiastical matters came to the fore, and he was concerned that the church should be in a better position; he wanted to restore power that he rightfully felt was his. He also felt that the Privy Council had taken charge – they required him to justify himself in certain actions – something which he declined. He was to be treated with a greater respect by them, though they had many powerful members including Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Sir Francis Walsingham, Principal Secretary to the Queen and known as her ‘Spymaster’ for his very efficient intelligence gathering. Walsingham had been exiled during the reign of Queen Mary I – they were sympathetically inclined to the Puritans and wished for the Queen to be far harsher towards the Roman Catholics. It was Whitgift who wrote up the many articles issued to the bishops which he required to be firmly adhered to in the conduct of the Church’s affairs and of course a line which he was keen on in terms of discipline and adherence to the rules, rigorously aimed at nonconforming ministers with increased powers for the Court of High Commission. He had by now firmly placed his stamp on the Church and the Reformation.

Wellow Abbey Seal
Wellow Abbey Seal, copyright Rod Collins

The Queen made Whitgift a member of her Privy Council in February of 1585/6 – he was now able to express his own views but also prepared to listen to others on the Council and what they had to contribute. He had made enemies but also some very close friends whom he valued and was able to enjoy their respect. One of his strong supporters was Sir Christopher Hatton, later appointed Lord Chancellor who would have been of much value to Whitgift and they became trusted friends. Others within his close circle included John Puckering and Thomas Egerton, together with Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury [a major political figure in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I], all sympathisers of Whitgift. Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral of the Fleet [at the time of the Spanish Armada], came to Croydon and lived at Haling Manor though no records show that Whitgift ever visited him there. Archbishop John Whitgift was accredited with stabilising the Anglican Church by recent historians but at the time, he had many who were against his principles and the methods he used to enforce church law – he created a lengthy number of Statutes that he expected his clergy to adhere to and not waver from nor abstain. Woe betide those who chose the latter. His actions as a privy councillor gave cause for the Martin Marprelate tracts in which the church, or rather the bishops and clergy were strongly opposed, to be published. Whitgift was soon to discover the printers responsible and they were duly punished – an instance in which he came down heavily on those who wrote scurrilous dialogue and published leaflets and other literature that went against Whitgift and his beliefs – and that of his Queen by association.

John Whitgift Portrait
Painting of John Whitgift in the Audience Chamber of the Almshouses

Whitgift often visited Croydon on his journeys to and from Canterbury or on his return from Lambeth and would stay at Croydon Palace [sometimes referred to as Croydon House] which he often preferred to his London residence of Lambeth Palace or even Canterbury, enjoying the calm away from Privy Council business and the many other trials and tribulations that occupied his weary mind. Whilst at Croydon he would occasionally entertain Elizabeth I at Croydon Palace, along with her large entourage, which he very much enjoyed – the highlight of his social calendar. Elizabeth graced Croydon with her presence; there were several courts and privy council held at the Palace and on one visit to see Whitgift, she stayed for over fifteen days during which time three courts were held there. There is a suggestion that she visited the Almshouses to see Whitgift, but no records are believed to exist if this was the case, however, she may have viewed the Almshouses and the Schoolhouse when she dined with Whitgift at Croydon Palace in August 1600.

Old Palace School
Old Palace towards Banqueting Hall c1920s CH Price photo

Without his own wealth he would have found it incredibly difficult to maintain such visits; similarly, he would also provide for her visits to Lambeth. He also had his own private army [militia], a small force of men capable of protecting both him and if warranted, the Queen as well; it is said by his biographer Paule that he had one hundred foot soldiers and fifty horsemen, some members of his own household, trained in weaponry. They were placed at the Queen’s service against the Spaniards in 1588 and even helped in the suppression of Essex’s rebellion in 1601; both of these offers would have impressed and pleased Her Majesty and been of value to Whitgift, considering her admiration for her favourite preacher – indeed, she was known to overlook his occasional direct remarks made to her when there was a disagreement on ecclesiastical (or other) matters he took exception to. She had made him Vice-President of the Marches of Wales and placed in him the task of appointing Justices of the Peace for the counties of Worcester and Gloucester.

John Whitgift had acquired land, many with properties and because of this had wisely gained from it a steady income, much of which was during his time as Bishop of Worcester. He had also generously helped his brothers including George and William and his nephew, John Whitgift to purchase land or properties. Whitgift was spending more time in Croydon and Lambeth, though Croydon and its environs suited him better and his greatest interest was the foundation of his hospital – or rather the Hospital and School of the Holy Trinity in the town of close to two thousand inhabitants, at the time, still surrounded by country estates and a Parish Church dating back to the 12th century. With his long experience of educational matters and his growing wealth, he felt the latter ought to be put to good use; he was already taking a keen interest in charitable institutions such as schools and hospitals which had already come to his notice during the course of his time as Bishop of Worcester and more recently, as Archbishop of Canterbury. He had new statutes drawn up for Eastbridge Hospital in Canterbury, revising the statutes of two other Hospitals in the area, determined to improve the quality of learning and the quality of the clergy, more than a few out of their depth – considered to be both ignorant and ill-qualified for their roles.

Whitgift took a great interest and genuine concern for those who were in his service and to those of age whose remaining days would tend towards far less comfort than his own. It was Croydon and not Grimsby where he was born, that he decided to found a hospital – the first task was to purchase an old inn, the Chequer [or Checker] at the corner of George Street and North End, for which he paid £200 on 14 February 1594/5. This site was where he intended to build and it was considered to be in a good position, at this point still on the outskirts of town and but a short distance from the Parish Church and Croydon Palace. He also purchased a shop in Butcher Row, just off Crown Hill and thirteen acres of land throughout the parish. One plot of land was known as Hangman’s Acre from the days when highwaymen were hanged [in chains]. Today if you look from the corner of the Hospital down towards Crown Hill and Surrey Street [amongst one of the oldest markets still in existence] you will see how low-lying the land is. Two almshouses already existed in the town – the older, founded by Ellis Davy in 1447, which accommodated only seven elderly people and the second, though little known about but accommodating nine.

With the Chequer were other properties, relatively small, across the parish of Croydon, which were included in the sale. Little more than a fortnight later, Whitgift had bought for £30 a house to one side of the inn, and within a few weeks, he had added the Swan inn for £80 and four acres of land. Having bought his site, he was now able to undertake the important task of applying to the Queen for a licence to build his hospital. The Swan was eventually demolished in 1889 to make way for an extension to Allders department store, though its heavy iron sign with a painting of a swan now resides on the wall of the Audience Chamber in the Almshouses. A Letters Patent from the Queen was granted on 22 November 1595. The Letters Patent cost Whitgift a total of £13,11s [shillings]. This decorative and beautifully scribed document is still in the possession of the Foundation and authorised him to found a hospital or almshouse in Croydon – for the maintenance of certain poor Christians and to be called the Hospital of the Holy Trinity [in Croydon]. It would consist of a warden and poor to a number of forty or fewer, usually around the twenty mark. Whitgift would also allow for men and women to be included, a wish he probably felt quite strongly about. At this point there was no reference to a school being included but for a statement in the first draft of the Founder’s Statutes. It is understood that this was drawn up in 1596 with alterations made in the handwriting of Whitgift and though no school buildings were mentioned, there was provision made for two schoolmasters to teach in Croydon and Lambeth.

Swan
The Swan Inn sign which now hangs in the Audience Chamber of the Almshouses

On 6 October 1596, there was a purchase made of a tenement and one and a half acres of land called Staycross [Stay Cross] which adjoined the Chequers inn in George Street – this provided the site for the construction of school buildings – it is from this year that the School’s foundation is dated. It would take a further three months before work started on the demolition of the old Chequers inn in January 1597 and another month before the foundations of the Hospital of the Holy Trinity would begin so by the February, the foundations had already been filled and bricks were supplied from nearby Dubbers-hill [Duppas Hill], close to Halinge-gate [Haling Gate] which was once the entrance to Haling Park. 22 March 1597 was the original Founder’s Day when the Archbishop laid two corner foundation stones of the Hospital; this had been delayed by poor weather holding up the work being carried out. Samuel Finche, the Vicar of Croydon, would report directly to Whitgift or to his steward at Lambeth, Christopher Wormeall as to progress on the building, Finche would be keeping an exact record of expenditure on materials used and the wages of the workmen. These records are still preserved in Lambeth Palace Library.

Queen Elizabeth I
Letters Patent – detail showing the Queen
John Whitgift Statutes
John Whitgift Statutes from 1600
Audience Chamber
Letters Patent from Queen Elizabeth I

Samuel Finche had an arduous task, quite apart from his own ecclesiastical duties, keeping an eye on the work and having to negotiate prices with the various tradesmen including the freemason for the stonework, the carpenter and his men, the bricklayers and their labourers and others involved in the building. Comparing the workmen’s wages, it is interesting to discover that the bricklayers, of which there were two, were paid 14d [pence] per day which is a little under £8.00 in today’s money – an average daily wage now is between £150-200! Very early on, Finche would have problems with both the men and the materials that they were using – it would seem that the foreman was cheating, subsequently dismissed and his workmen who were considered incompetent! The first batch of bricks were also of poor quality, which were made at Park-hill [Archbishop’s Park where there existed deer at one time, hunted for food and occasionally for pleasure, though there was no evidence that Whitgift ever took part in this ‘sport’] hence the change of supply to Dubbers-hill [Duppas Hill]. At least the bricks were of better quality and acceptable to the brickmaker because of the satisfactory earth that he could work with. According to records ‘the foundations were well laid, four feet deep and packed with greate flinte and small stone, and brickbats, and rubbushe (rubble?), not confusedly, but orderlye layed in, and rammed stronglye, course upon course, stronge and sure’. Over 400 years later, the building is testament to the strength of the foundations when faced with the heavy traffic that passed by a few years ago, the trams and in wartime, the bombing!

The Hospital was built of brick with stonework for the doorways and outer windows which faced on to the main road and arranged around a square inner courtyard and the plinth faced with knapped flints. The outer gate-house was of three storeys and had in its gable, I.C. indicating “John of Canterbury” in a blue brick [similar to engineering brick]. The entrance was designed in classical fashion carrying the inscription “Qui Dat Pauperi Non Indegebit” [Whoso giveth to the poor shall not want] which still exists. Two lesser gables were at either end of the front – the letters I.W. indicating “John Whitgift”. There was an inner gate-house leading to the rear grounds; on this side, three gables with the chapel. Internally, there was the Common Hall with a low ceiling and the rooms for the brethren [and sisters] arranged on two floors round the quadrangle. The quadrangle was planted out as a garden and a bell struck the hour, the clock-face projecting over the street below. There was a short staircase with two stout oak doors, which led from the inner gate-house to the Audience Chamber which John Whitgift would use to meet businessmen and others of importance and was directly over the Common Hall. Within the Audience Chamber, there was a beautiful, finely carved fireplace with a mantle bearing the arms of the Archbishop. Another strong oak door led from this to his private room with a winding stair which led to his bedroom above. Not only was the door incredibly strong but also had two secret bolts that could only be worked from outside using special keys. It would be Whitgift’s personal assistant, whom he entrusted to the locking of the door each night – such were his concerns about the possibility of assault or assassination – his links to the Queen, enemies within and outside of the government and his forthrightness in matters ecclesiastical could attract the wrong kind of attention. It should be borne in mind that on 29 May 1593, John Penry was executed in London at the instigation of Whitgift whose signature was the first to be affixed to the death warrant. Like Whitgift, he was a graduate of Cambridge University; a Puritan, he had greatly criticised the Church of England for ‘failing to preach the gospel to the people of Wales’ by not translating enough bibles into the Welsh language. He was just 29, married with four young daughters.

Almshouse Site
The site of the Almshouses 300 years ago - CH Price photo

As recently as 2008, there was a demand for an apology from the Church of England for this 16th century injustice. A Welshman, Dr. Rowan Williams was Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008 and this motion had come from members of the Welsh Independent Chapels in west Carmarthenshire – Penry came from Powys and been considered a “Welsh Martyr”.

Whitgift Hospital
Whitgift Hospital shown in a Guide from 1909
Whitgift Hospital Audience Chamber
Whitgift Hospital Audience Chamber c1910 CH Price Photo

Building continued and by the 24 September, Finche had reported that the main structural work had been completed although there still remained carpentry and glazing work to be done. Much of the timber came from the Archbishop’s park at Croydon and a great deal from Lingfield in Surrey. The cost of the build came to £1,238.12s7d. By the following January, work then started on the Schoolhouse and the Schoolmaster’s House, both situated in George Street [then known as Pound Street]. Both buildings were quite separate from the Hospital. These were completed in 1600. Whitgift had reconsidered some points from his Statutes and decided on the importance of just one master – at Croydon – thus dispensing with the second at Lambeth. In the course of time, he made further purchases of properties and land in Croydon, which included a field of one acre by the name of Clot Mead – his late brother, Richard had bought the land for £14 – John Whitgift had bought it for the same figure his brother had paid for it originally. There were further purchases including on 13 April 1597, that of Christian Fields and Ryecrofts; seventy-seven acres in all, for £375.

The purchases he made were all intended for the endowment of his Hospital. In 1598, he then included in his portfolio, eighty-seven acres near Stroud Green. On 25 June he signed his Deed of Foundation to establish ‘an hospital and abiding-place for the finding, sustenation, and relief of certen maymed, poore, needie or impotent people… called by the name of the Hospitall of the Holye Trinitie in Croydon of the foundation of John Whitgift Archbishop of Canterbury’. Photo 15 On 10 July 1599 the Chapel was consecrated by Richard Bancroft and on 22 August of that year, in a Deed of Endowment, John Whitgift made over to the Hospital, all the property in Croydon that he had bought Not an inconsiderable sum by any stretch of the imagination. He would again make further purchases at the end of the same month, at a total sum of £1,400.  These included farms at Woodside, Shirley and Addiscombe with a combined total of 194 acres.

Before his death, Whitgift had made further purchases of land including the Manor of Croham, an extensive estate, all properties made over by the Founder to the Hospital in another Deed of Endowment.

Headmasters House
Headmasters House, 1880. Engraving CW Scott

Whitgift had the pleasure of receiving contributions towards the building of the Hospital from associates and his household which paid for items such as lead, solder and brasswork and for sizeable gifts like the large window in the Chapel which came from one of his chaplains, William Thornehill, a Yorkshiremen, and the stained glass for the windows in the Common Hall, paid for by Edward Aylworth, one of the Archbishop’s lawyers. John Boys Steward at Canterbury paid for the windows of the Schoolhouse [the building completed in June 1600]. Other contributions were of a different nature including the ornately bound ‘Treacle’ Bible presented to the Chapel and which is still in the Hospital’s possession – it was restored at one point – rather badly by account of a number of pages removed by the errant bookbinder who took exception to one of the chapters, and now sits under glass in the Audience Chamber. There were other generous gifts which paid for furnishings and other much-needed items including ornate Mazers – drinking bowls – with Whitgift’s coat of arms, now in the keep of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Audience Chamber
John Whitgift’s Deed of Foundation, 1598

The first inmates of the Hospital were admitted in October 1599; including men who were servants of his household at Lambeth Palace. His first Warden was Philip Jenkins. Some of these were named in the Letters Patent and the Deed of the Foundation. Whitgift had the Common Seal of the Hospital based on the story of Dives and Lazarus.

Chapel Window
Chapel window from George Street, 2013
John Whitgift Book
The ‘Treacle’ Bible in the Audience Chamber
Seal of the Hospital of the Hold Trinity
Common Seal of the Hospital based on the story of Dives and Lazarus

It is worth noting that a gift made in the form of a benefaction towards the Hospital was from Edward Barker and his wife Susan – they provided for a rent charge of twenty nobles [a noble was worth 6s.8d – six shillings and eight pence and the first English gold coin produced in quantity, dating from the time of King Edward III] for 1000 years upon the site of Lancaster College in St. Paul’s Churchyard, together with forty nobles to purchase land, in honour of John Whitgift and in expiation of the assassination of Thomas à Becket. One of his murderers was Sir William Tracy – an ancestor of Mrs. Susan Barker. It was considered by the late FHG Percy, who wrote ‘Whitgift School, a History’ published by the Foundation in 1976 and reprinted in 1990 that – the deed making this gift is one of the most historically valuable of the Foundation’s possessions, being richly decorated with coats of arms and with seals that are attached by silk threaded through a gold coin, an ‘angel’, [an English gold coin introduced by Edward IV in 1465].

Archbishop John Whitgift was Queen Elizabeth I’s last – she passed away at 3.00am on 24 March 1603; he had been called by the Queen to attend her bedside where he was to provide comfort as she sought solace in her religion, and to pray for her until she finally slipped into an unconscious state, administering the Holy Sacrament to her. It is stated that she had severe dental sepsis and decay with enlarged glands of the neck. This infection along with bronchopneumonia would have hastened her demise. She was 70 years old. Whitgift and the Queen had for many years enjoyed a special bond, from the first time she heard him preach in 1567 to her death saddening him greatly. She was totally aware of his loyalty towards her and her aims, both political and religious, particularly as there were those who were often ready to betray her – she would trust him and enjoy what she saw as his genuine friendship, far more evident than many of her courtiers who would only tell her what they though she wanted to hear and this she was aware of.

Audience Chamber Deed
Benefaction from Edward Barker and his wife Susan, in the Audience Chamber

He was probably closer to her than some of her known associates, including no doubt, Walsingham. She would refer to Whitgift as her ‘little black husband’ which she found amusing and quite likely, her accepted this reference in the manner with which it was intended for he was relatively short in stature with a black beard and hair, frequently wearing a long, plain black robe. His complexion was also swarthy. He pleased her with his knowledge, to be entertained by him and she approved of members of his household which shows the level of friendship shared. Riders went to King James VI of Scotland to inform him that he was now King James I of England.

Archbishop Whitgift was in the Funeral Procession of Queen Elizabeth I which took place on 28 April 1603; in an etching supposedly drawn by William Camden, a former Master at Westminster, historian and distinguished antiquarian, he was shown walking alongside Sir Tomas Egerton and identified as [Archbishop of Canterbury] Doctor John Whitgift; following behind, the French Ambassador and four Sergeant at Arms, then the Earl of Pembroke assisted by Lord Howard of Effingham carrying ‘The Great Embroidered Banner of England’.

On 25 July 1603, Whitgift crowned James I at his Coronation. He had appeared with the Council of the Nation at the High Cross at Cheapside to proclaim James I, the King of England. Soon after his accession, James had attempted to squeeze money out of the universities which displeased the Archbishop who steadfastly defended the Church’s interest and strongly protested that this wasn’t in the best interest and would, in his words, ‘overthrow learning’. This shows just how much Whitgift would use his powers of persuasion and forthrightness to argue his case. Surely a matter most archbishops might not wish to raise when confronted by their new King!

A year after the death of his beloved Queen Elizabeth, Whitgift, by now in his 70s with much of his archiepiscopal duties passed to his former chaplain and lieutenant, Richard Bancroft – made Bishop of London in 1597 and succeeded him as Archbishop of Canterbury – he continued to take part in matters of the Church and attended the Hampton Court Conference held in January 1604. The Conference was convened by King James I and involved representatives of the Church of England, including leading English Puritans full of high hopes for Royal support. Some of the Puritan complaints were dealt with, particularly about the Catholic terms Absolution and Confirmation. It appeared that the King was broadly happy with how the discussions went even though the Puritans had been treated badly, undoing many of their hopes.

Incidentally, it was anti-Puritan Richard Bancroft, who had argued against the Puritans at Hampton Court; he was a much harder man than Whitgift was ever purported to be. Whitgift, though at this time a sick man – for many years he had suffered from jaundice which may have accounted for his occasional irritability – was labouring a heavy cold, but had continued to attend Whitehall, being rowed across the river each day from Lambeth [Palace]. At the time, the weather had been wintry and the wind from a very cold, icy Thames would have contributed to the conditions he had to endure. It is quite likely that he would also have been chilled before setting off. On Sunday, 26 February after a full morning’s attendance at Whitehall, he was about to go into dinner when he had a stroke; this paralysed one side of his body and impaired his speech. For someone of Whitgift’s nature, this would have been hard to bear. It is described that ‘he lingered until Wednesday the 29th, dying at about 8.00pm at night, when after many vain attempts to speak, he managed to utter three times: ‘Pro Ecclesia Dei’ [For the church of God]. In his last moments, he had been visited by James I. He was 73.

John Whitgift Tomb
Tomb of John Whitgift in the Parish Church photographed in the 1900s

He was buried in Croydon just two days later. In his will which he signed on 27 October 1602, he had requested: ‘in the Chapel there within the parish Church which I have appointed for my poor and Scholars to sit in at the time of Divine Service’. He was buried in the Chapel of St. Nicholas, where later, his memorial was erected, accordingly in a style very similar to that of Whitgift’s predecessor, Archbishop Edmund Grindal. Whitgift’s funeral service was not held until 27 March; the service was well supported by his former pupils, now in positions of nobility and power including Lord Zouche. The sermon was preached by another former pupil, Gervase Babington, Bishop of Worcester.

Sadly, in 1867, much of the Parish Church was destroyed in a conflagration with Whitgift’s tomb badly damaged. Others consumed in the fire. The restoration that took place, with contributions from members of the Court of Governors at the time, is said to be a faithful reproduction.

Whitgift’s legacy continues…

John Whitgift Tomb
Tomb of John Whitgift in (since 2011) Croydon Minster

Notes:

Samuel Finche was Perpetual Vicar of Croydon from May 1581 until his death in September 1616 under the Jurisdiction of John Whitgift, Canterbury. His name was recorded as Fynch, Samuelus when he was listed as Schoolmaster for Croydon Parish Schools, appointed (Licencing) in 1579 under the Jurisdiction of Edmund Grindal, Canterbury. Fynch [Finche] was ordained Deacon and Priest the same day q.v. The details are from Whitgift’s Register and Grindal’s Register [Clergy Church of England Records].

‘Treacle’ Bible’: Presumed to have been one of the ‘chained Bibles’ which were used in the Churches at the time of the Reformation; This Bible is a folio edition of 1575 and popularly known as ‘The Treacle Bible’ from the text in it, “Is there not tryacle at Gylead” (for “Is there no balm in Gilead?”– Jeremiah 8, 22).

The Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, situated at the bottom of Crown Hill, was designated Croydon Minster in 2011.

Sources:

Hayward, W.D. History of the Whitgift Grammar School, Croydon, 1871 to 1892.

Percy, F.H.G. Whitgift School A History. The Whitgift Foundation 1991.

Percy, F.H.G. John Whitgift Chronology, 1991

Barnett, Christopher. John Whitgift, Elizabeth I’s last Archbishop of Canterbury. The Whitgift Foundation 2015.

Kershaw, S. Wayland. Whitgift’s Hospital, Croydon [compressed from The Builder, May 26th, 1883]. The

Whitgift Magazine, July and August 1883.

Fisher, Rev. George Carnac [Vicar of Croydon]. In pious memory of our Founder, The Whitgift Magazine, November 1892

Jones, Joseph. Archbishop Whitgift, The Whitgift Magazine, May 1896.

Contributor. John Whitgift at School, Whitgiftian Magazine, June 1904.

Balley, Ebenezer James. The Whitgift Foundation, 1. The Hospital, Whitgiftian Magazine, February 1905.

Contributor. The Whitgift Foundation. Whitgiftian Magazine, March 1905.

Balley, Ebenezer James. The Whitgift Foundation, The Hospital of the Holy Trinity, Whitgiftian Magazine, June 1905.

Balley, Ebenezer James. The Whitgift Foundation, 2, Whitgiftian Magazine, November 1905.

Contributor. Founder’s Day. Whitgiftian Magazine, March 1906.

Turnbull, Sue. Archbishop John Whitgift and His Legacy to Croydon, Talk notes, 2007.

BBC Online. Archbishop John Whitgift and Welsh Puritan John Penry – Apology urged over 1593 hanging, Posted 15 May 2008.