Notes on the will of Thomas Lucke of Litlington (died 1552)

Thomas Lucke, curate of the parish of Litlington, Sussex, whose will I transcribed in the last post, died in March 1552, five years years after the death of King Henry VIII and the accession of his son, Edward VI. In those first few years of Edward’s reign, English replaced Latin as the language of church services, priests were given permission to marry, the first Book of Common Prayer was sanctioned by Parliament, and the first Act of Uniformity made the Catholic Mass illegal. Against this background, it is worth noting the traditionally Catholic preamble to Thomas Lucke’s will: he commits his soul ‘into the hands of almyghtie god, with the intercessyon of the blessed virgyn marye mother of god and all the holy companye of heaven’. A similar formula can be found in the will of his (probable) relative John Lucke of Mayfield, who had died two years earlier. However, it is perhaps just as interesting that Thomas’ will includes none of the requests for prayers for his soul that we find in John Lucke’s will, or indeed in the will of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle (whose son Magnus married Thomas’ niece Alice), who died four years later, during the brief restoration of traditional religion under Queen Mary.

High and Over and Chalk Horse from above Litlington, Sussex ((via wikimedia)

High and Over and Chalk Horse from above Litlington, Sussex ((via wikimedia)

Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that Thomas was a priest under Edward’s reforming regime and had to conform, at least outwardly, to the new ways. At any rate, I take this preamble as evidence that Thomas was not a wholehearted convert to the new religion, and certainly not one of those priests who, like Thomas Hothe, became evangelists for radical protestantism. As I’ve noted before, the details of Thomas’ clerical career are rather unclear. If we accept the theory that he was formerly praecentor of the Augustinian priory at Michelham, which was suppressed in 1537, then his movements over the next fifteen years leading up to his death remain a mystery. According to the clergy records, he was curate at Litlington on 14th December 1551, three months before his death and two months after he made his will, but there is no other reference to him in the archives. On the same date, Lawrence Woodcock was said to be rector at Litlington, a post he would hold until his resignation in 1555. Woodcock had been a fellow of New College, Oxford, from 1508 to 1520, and held a number of posts in the Chichester diocese before coming to Litlington.

Thomas Lucke’s will makes a number of references to members of his family, though he rarely makes clear their relationship to him, or to each other. A notable absence is the name of Richard Lucke, who we know to have been his brother, and the father of my 12 x great grandmother Alice Fowle née Lucke, though he does refer to another beneficiary as the man who married ‘my brother’s daughter’. From this absence, I make the assumption that Richard probably predeceased his brother Thomas, and from the use of Alice’s maiden name I assume that she was yet to marry Magnus Fowle. Alice is to receive a number of sums of money, which correspond more or less to the ‘severall sumes of monye to the sume of tenne pounds together’ mentioned in the Chancery case, though there is no reference to the ‘two p[ar]cells of Sylver [ ] pounds & too [ ] called tablets of Sylver gylt sett with certen parcells to the value of five pounds’ also referred to in that document.

Tudor coins (via

Tudor coins (via

I’m fairly confident that the Elizabeth Lucke, who is also left a sum of money by Thomas, is the other daughter of Richard Lucke, referred to in the same legal case. It seems likely, too, that Thomasin Lucke, who is to share the sum with Elizabeth, was another sister. The identity of the Thomas Lucke ‘of maydston’ named in the will is unclear: it’s possible this person was either a son of Richard Lucke’s, or a cousin or more distant relative of the testator.

The only other person mentioned in the will who was definitely a relative of Thomas Lucke is ‘Woddye of hartysfelde that maryed my brothers daughter’. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is probably a reference to Hartfield, which is a dozen or so miles north-west of the Lucke family’s home village of Mayfield. A certain John Wodye senior made his will there in 1558. From the context, it’s impossible to be sure whether Wodye’s wife was another of the daughters of Richard Lucke, or of another brother of Thomas’.

We know from the case in Chancery that the Robert Holden named in Thomas Lucke’s will was actually his executor: he was the person with whom Magnus and Alice Fowle were in dispute about the will. Thomas describes him as ‘my hoste’ and his wife Agnes, a witness to the will, as ‘my hostess’: she is to receive many of his household goods. Does this mean that Thomas was living with the Holdens at the time of his death, even though one presumes that the parish provided accommodation for their curate? Or had they taken him in after his expulsion from the suppressed Michelham Priory? So far I’ve failed to find the Holdens in any local records, though a Nicholas Holden, a weaver of Wythyam, would be among the protestants burned at Mayfield in 1556.

Roger Deane and John Fawkener, who are bequeathed equal amounts of money by Thomas Lucke, seem to have been residents of Waldron, about fifteen miles north of Litlington. They had both acted as executors of the will of Thomas Jefferay of Chiddingley in 1550. That will also makes reference to Sir Edward Gage, and I’ve had occasion to mention the Fawkners and the Gages in the same context before, when writing about the will of my 11 x great grandfather John Manser of Wadhurst, who died in 1597. As I noted then, the Fawkners of Waldron were ironmasters and tenants of the Catholic Gage family: indeed, a John Fawkner assisted Sir John Gage in the interrogation of the radical protestant Richard Woodman, who was burned at Lewes in 1557.

Richard Turke, another beneficiary of the will, may also have lived at Waldron, though Richard Turke the elder and younger were named in the lay subsidy roll for Wadhurst in 1524-5. I’ve been unable to find a ‘Brooke of Retherfield’ in the records for Rotherfield, but the ‘Ric. brook the younger’ who witnessed Thomas Lucke’s will may have been the Richard Brooke of Litlington who made his own will in 1556. I’ve been unable to locate the Gregory Martyn (Martyr?) of Mayfield who is mentioned in Thomas’ will. Nor have I had much luck with William Hiberden or Hyberden, another of its witnesses, or with Joan Hyberden, who was perhaps his wife, though there were Hyberdens in Birdham near Chichester at this period, and a Francis Hiberden was parish priest in Heathfield in the 1550s.

St Andrews church, Alfriston (via

St Andrews church, Alfriston (via

There’s a Birdham connection with another of the witnesses to Thomas Lucke’s will. Richard Cresweller would be rector there from 1554 to 1569, but at the time of of Thomas’ death he was vicar of Alfriston, just a couple of miles north of Litlington. The Cresswellers, in fact, seem to have been a wealthy and influential Chichester family. Richard Cressweller was probably the fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, who in the early 1530s had been involved in a dispute, culminating in a violent quarrel, concerning property just across the county border in West Tisted, Hampshire.

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