6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (13) AS 1575: At Rivington Grammar School?

Helen Moorwood 2013

N.B. By clicking on the coloured title you can return to the original articles written in early 2004 and placed by Peter Duxbury on A Duxbury Family Website in March 2004, where it still is, under:

Helen's Story: from Duxbury to Shakespeare. The story of William Shakespeare's Lancashire Ancestry, by Helen Moorwood

10. The Biography of Alexander Standish

N.B. Most of this still stands, but where appropriate the 2004 version is now updated below by interspersed commentary in square brackets and italics. Some reformatting was necessary, and the occasional typo – whether by Peter or myself - has been silently corrected. Asap a shorter narrative version of his biography will appear, based, of course, on all details and documents in this file. Meanwhile, this is part (13) of (1) to (45) AS. [2013 HM]


(13) 1575: at Rivington Grammar School ?

(and a little meander around Grammar Schools and other matters)

1575. AS was perhaps a pupil at Rivington Grammar School and it has been suggested that Myles Standish might also have attended. (The latter left a rather impressive library, which seems to prove that he received an education, either at school or later self-educated.) It was founded in 1566 by James Pilkington, first Protestant Bishop of Durham and one of several from Lancashire who fled into exile during the reign of Catholic Mary, returned to preferment under Protestant Elizabeth and subsequently founded Protestant Grammar Schools in Lancashire.

These included Edwin Sandys, Bishop of Worcester then Archbishop of York (founded Hawkshead Grammar School in the Lake District), Matthew (Nosey) Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury (founded Middleton Grammar School, the home at that time of the senior branch of the Asshetons) and Alexander Nowell, teacher at Westminster School and Dean of St Paul’s (helped with Middleton Grammar School and took an interest in Burnley Grammar School). (Kay gives some details of these and a survey of other Tudor Grammar Schools in Lancashire in Rivington Grammar School. Biographies of Sandys, Parker and Nowell are in the DNB.)

Some of the most important background details in the context of AS’s biography and his links to Myles Standish and Shakespeare seem to be that Sandys was Bishop of Worcester, the diocese in which Stratford lay when John Shakespeare was rising through the civil ranks. It was also here that William Shakespeare obtained his marriage licence to marry Anne Hathaway in 1582, with Sandys meanwhile replaced as Bishop of Worcester by John Whitgift, who went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Sandys, as Archbishop of York, seems to have done a lot of travelling up and down between York and London, often staying in a house at Scrooby on the Great North Road in North Nottinghamshire, an area that was to produce many Separatists, who later fled to the Netherlands and even later took Captain Myles Standish with them on the Mayflower as their Military Commander. The museum in Retford, Notts. is a good starting point for buying booklets and picking up leaflets of various Pilgrim Father trails. I was first alerted to these by Moorwood research in the Sheffield area and the realisation that Joseph Hunter, in the early 19th century, was the dominant figure in research on the history of this area, which led to his discovery of the families of several Pilgrim Fathers and also publications relevant to Shakespeare biography. All his discoveries deserve a thorough re-reading.

What seems to be missing so far in the standard histories of the English end of the story of the Pilgrim Fathers is the potential role and connections between these Protestant Deans, Bishops and Archbishops, with their origins and foundations of Grammar Schools in Lancashire, careers elsewhere, and they and their children popping up in so much literature during Elizabeth’s and James’s reigns in the right places and at the right times to perhaps have been important in influencing the lives of AS, Myles Standish and William Shakespeare (amongst many others). For example, two of Sandys’s sons (George and another Edwin) achieved fame as poets/ travel writers/ diplomats and much else, and some of their books ended up in libraries in Lancashire and Cheshire, including possibly one on Myles Standish’s shelf in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Biographies of all three Sandys mentioned above are in the DNB; Myles Standish’s books appear in the Inventory of his possessions, a facsimile of the original readily available from the Mayflower Society, and one published list given by Porteus (1920), who attempted to identify the titles. He was probably right in most cases, as they were mainly standard works, but might have been wrong in a few cases, and he actually omitted two of them. I put in a considerable effort a few years ago by writing to and visiting James Pilkington’s diocesan library in Durham (when one of my daughters was very conveniently at Durham University). A complete report will appear when I finally get around to writing the latest version of the Lancashire end of Myles’s story. This will be no different in outline from the one in my articles, but will have the support of the biographies of AS’s family and Colonel Richard.

Two other more recent names that kept cropping up during reading about the Pilgrim Fathers were Alexander B. Gros(s)art, Vicar in Blackburn, and W. A. Abram, another eminent citizen and historian in Blackburn, who together published so many articles and books about Blackburn, Preston, the Pilgrim Fathers and many other places and people. They were both living in Blackburn in the mid-late 19th century, seeing the results of the Industrial Revolution all around them, and both realised that historical details were in desperate need to be recorded before any more relevant documents disappeared. Grosart dedicated his research efforts to publishing many texts of poets and others in the Renaissance period, which is why he appears in so many references in the DNB. We can probably thank him as the first person in England who realised that Myles Standish was somehow involved in many important stories. He started to collect all books recently published in New England about the Pilgrim Fathers, and these were placed at the disposal of Abram. Abram subsequently went on to transcribe and publish all documents relating to Lancashire history that he found. Some appeared as articles in the local press, but his main research relevant to A.S. was published in two volumes, The History of Blackburn and The Preston Guild Rolls.

While reading through the Pilgrim Fathers Collection in Chorley Library, I was extremely surprised to read the suggestion that Captain Myles Standish might have been a Catholic. This, of course, had later resonances in all the suggestions that William Shakespeare might have been a Catholic. It seemed rather amazing (to me and not a few others) that anyone interested in Myles Standish might have even dreamt that he might have been a Catholic, given his documented history in New England. On the other hand, the history of Lancashire at this time was one of Catholicism, recusancy, Catholic plots in rural areas on the one hand, and the rise of Puritanism in some towns on the other hand, which were all mixed up together in the English Civil Wars (1642-51) with cousins fighting on opposing sides. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the history of the Standishes, whose family papers finally revealed four Alexander Standishes in the Civil War, three of them Colonels. Their biographies will be presented as soon as possible, with the following a brief summary in advance. The relevance for AS is that it was only after establishing the identity and role of all these Alexanders in the next generation that allowed the conclusion that AS was most probably the one at Rivington Grammar School in 1575.

The Colonel of a Royalist Cavalry regiment, a grandson of Edward Standish of Standish (in AH’s 1581 will as supervisor and dear friend), was very clear. All authorities agree on this. He appears as such on their VP by Sir William Dugdale in 1664/5, with Dugdale himself a Catholic and Royalist, recording all Catholic Royalist details with enthusiasm.

The other three were Standishes of Duxbury, who have so far been lumped together as one person, but were very obviously three. One was AS’s youngest son Alexander (born 1604), who was on the Royalist side with the Earl of Derby and disappeared from Duxbury during the Civil War, perhaps killed, perhaps died a natural death somewhere else, perhaps in exile. His later story is full of ‘perhaps’ because he just disappeared from records, although before his disappearance he left many recorded traces. None of them named him as Colonel, but he inherited his Royalist brother Captain Ralph’s sword, according to Ralph’s will in 1637. He was thus dubbed (by me) ‘Royalist Alexander Standish of Duxbury with the sword’. It appears he also attended Rivington Grammar School.

[Since 2004 further references to this Alexander[11A4] have been detected, which allow a much more complete biography, now on this website in 6.4. Alexander[11A4]. 2013 HM]

Another Alexander[12A2], who definitely was a Colonel, was AS’s grandson, son of Thomas the MP, whose allegiance during the Civil War is uncertain, but he was certainly buried as a Colonel in Chorley in January 1647, and shortly afterwards his widow handed over Duxbury Hall and all dependent estates to Parliamentarian Colonel Richard. This particular event was at the heart of sorting out Myles Standish’s [descendants’] later claims to Duxbury Hall.

The third Alexander Standish of Duxbury was a Lieutenant-Colonel, from Family B, uncle of Colonel Richard, to whom he left all his Duxbury-based estates when he died shortly after the Battle of Preston in August 1648. This resulted in Colonel Richard becoming the owner of the largest number of estates ever owned by a Standish of Duxbury until then and his permanent move from Manchester back to Duxbury until his death. The biographies of all these Alexanders and Colonel Richard are almost complete and will be published as soon as possible.

[In 2013 I am not so sure of the identity of the third Alexander, the Lieutenant-Colonel. He needs to be re-assessed after the recent emergence of all the details about Alexander[11A4]. 2013 HM]

Myles Standish and ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ increasingly came to symbolise (for me, at least) the Puritan and Catholic elements of the Counter-Reformation in Lancashire, not least because Myles ended up in a Separatist/ Puritan community in Massachusetts and Shakespeare “died a papist”, with AS left somewhere in the middle. The history of Elizabethan Grammar Schools in Lancashire provided a similar dichotomy, with most Protestant schools sending their bright pupils to Cambridge and most Catholic schools sending theirs to Oxford. In Cambridge, the main destinations were St John’s and Queens’ Colleges, both Lancastrian foundations and during Elizabeth’s reign hotbeds of Protestant and Puritan activity (including several future Pilgrim Fathers and Shakespeare’s future son-in-law Dr John Hall). In Oxford the main destination was Brasenose College, a partially Lancastrian foundation, and during Elizabeth’s reign a hotbed of Roman Catholic activity (producing several Catholic schoolmasters from Lancashire at Stratford Grammar School and others who became Catholic priests, Jesuits and more than a few of them martyrs).

Rivington Grammar School was firmly tied to St John’s, Cambridge, James Pilkington’s college, which thus allowed many Lancashire lads to meet there. Pilkington’s subordinate and successor as Bishop of Durham was Richard Barnes, of Lancashire or North Cheshire, one of whose sons was Barnabe Barnes the sonneteer and contemporary of Shakespeare. (Biography in the DNB.) Over in Burnley Dean Alexander Nowell’s brother Robert set up a scholarship fund, which benefited many schoolboys from Burnley and elsewhere. One of these was poet Edmund Spenser, who via various other routes is firmly tied to the Spencers of the Burnley area and Countess Alice - and one of his patrons was Sir Philip Sydney, another sonneteer. Several Nowell scholars ended up as eminent English Catholics in exile or martyrs back in England. (Bennett, History of Burnley.)

Finally, back to AS: ‘Alexander Standish’ appears on the first extant list of pupils at Rivington Grammar School (transcription of the full list in Kay, Appendix IV, pp. 194-6), along with a seventeen-year-old cousin James[10D1] (bap. 1558 January 12 at Chorley as son of Christopher Standish, younger brother of AS’s stepfather Thomas(2)). The entry reads, “Alexander Standishe filius et heres apparens Thome Standishe de Ducsberi, Armigeri” (Kay, p. 195). This seems to be pretty definitive, but the problem is that there were two Alexanders. One, of course, is AS, aged 4/5 [or 8] in this year, and a brief glance at the table above [in (6)], which includes all recorded details of his older brothers, reveals that in 1575 his three older brothers had indeed been buried several years earlier, leaving AS as the son and heir of Thomas. But then we have the other Alexander Standish of Duxbury, baptised at Chorley on 8 November 1567 as “Alex:” Standish, son of “Tho: of Dukesburie Esquire”. These two* have been totally confused until now, but there were definitely two.* This Alexander was three years older than AS, aged 8 in 1575. The Visitation Pedigree of this family in 1613 reveals that his father was also Thomas and his mother a daughter of Sir Alexander Radcliffe of Ordsall. This Alexander had an elder brother called Thomas, however, who lived long enough to marry a “dau. of Vaulx”, so in 1575 Thomas Jr would have been the son and heir, not Alexander. With this established, it seems fairly certain that the Alexander at Rivington Grammar School was indeed AS and we are just left wondering why his parents chose this school - for any reason other than it was the closest? Or were they just hedging their bets? Several other pupils there were from Catholic families.

[*These two Alexanders have been referred to previously as having caused much head-scratching. My current interim conclusion is that AS’s age as ‘29 years old’ in 1600, was quite possibly an age carried over from a previous document, and that he was most likely the one baptised in 1567, therefore eight years old in 1575 at Rivington Grammar School. 2013 HM]

1576. Uncle Richard Hoghton of Park Hall visited Thomas Hoghton ‘The Exile’ in Catholic Flanders, with instructions from Queen Elizabeth to try to persuade him to return. (Story and references in Honigmann, 1985.) He didn’t, but stayed on and helped William Allen of Rossall with his school in exile at Douai, to which a steady stream of Lancashire schoolboys had departed for a Catholic education, with some now starting to return as priests. AS must have been fully aware of this and of the returning priests, often hidden in priest-holes specially built for this purpose.


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