In recent posts I’ve written about Thomas Lucke, the former Augustinian canon and precentor of Michelham Priory, Sussex, who was serving as a curate in the parish of Litlington at the time of his death in 1552. Thomas was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Richard Lucke of Mayfield. Richard was the father of Alice Lucke who married Magnus Fowle. Magnus and Alice were my 12 x great grandparents, and it was their Chancery case about Thomas’ disputed will that provided me with vital information about the Lucke family.
In his will, Thomas Lucke made a number of bequests to his niece Alice. One of them was as follows:
I wyll of that monye that ys in Gregorye Martynes hands of Mayghfelde xlv to the povertie there to be dystrybuted by my executor. And the Resydue of the monye in his hands, I wyll halfe to Alice Lucke: the other halffe I wyll equally betwene Thomasyn Lucke and Elizabeth Lucke, by the hands of my executor to theme to be delyvred.
Gregory Martyn (or Marten, or Martin) is the only name that occurs both in Thomas’ will of 1551, and in the will of John Lucke of Mayfield, composed two years earlier in 1549. I’m fairly certain that John was a relative of Thomas’, and may indeed have been another of his brothers.
The witnesses to John Lucke’s will are listed as follows:
Richard lukk John Mone Gregory mtty: John Wenborn wm penkherst with others
I’m almost certain that ‘mtty:’ is an abbreviation for ‘Martyn’ and that this is the same person who would be mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will. However, my searches for Gregory Martyn in the contemporary records have proved frustrating. His name does not appear in the 1524-5 lay subsidy rolls for Mayfield or indeed for anywhere else in Sussex, though the names of Christopher, Laurence and Thomas Marten can be found in the Mayfield listing. Nor can I find a will for a Gregory Marten in the Sussex archives.
However, there is one solitary reference to a Gregory Martin in the records, and it’s an intriguing one. In 1529 Robert Sawyer of Mayfield made his will. The opening paragraph is in Latin and it culminates in a list of witnesses, which includes the name ‘Gregorio Marten’. The word that follows this name is difficult to read, but it could be ‘clico’, which might be an abbreviation for ‘clerico’. Indeed, the transcript by the Sussex Record Society translates the word as ‘clerk’: in other words, priest.
Is this the same person who would appear in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke some twenty years later, and was he really a priest? Unfortunately, I’ve found no trace of a Gregory Martin in the clergy records, but then they only begin in 1540. Could he have been a member of a religious order, rather than a secular priest? Then again, if the person mentioned in those later wills was a priest, why was he not described as such, given that Thomas Lucke doesn’t hesitate to append the word ‘clerke’ to the name of Richard Cressweller, one of the witnesses to his will? Had Gregory Martin ceased to serve as a priest by 1551, or is this a different person altogether?
Interestingly, my search online for traces of Gregory Martin led me to a very different person with the same name: the Catholic priest, scholar and author who was chiefly responsible for the Douai-Rheims translation of the Bible that first appeared in 1582. Although this Gregory Martin’s origins are largely obscure, it’s said that he was born at Maxfield, in the parish of Guestling near Winchelsea – also in Sussex. Indeed, an introductory chapter to Martin’s book Roma Sancta, by George Bruner Parks, includes the following speculation:
There was an older ‘Gregory Martin clerk’ at Maughfield or Mayfield in northeast Sussex in 1529 and again in 1551, and the unusual Christian name makes it almost certain that he (if he was one man) was related to our author. If so, this priest, though he is not listed at either university, must have influenced the younger man’s schooling and vocation.
The references here are to the wills of Robert Sawyer (1529) and Thomas Lucke (1551). One thing is certain: the Gregory Martin mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will can’t be the priest and translator of the Bible, since the latter was probably born some time in 1540s and would have been still a child when Thomas died. We know that this Gregory Martin went up to the newly-founded St John’s College, Oxford, as one of its first students, in 1557, where he befriended and may have influenced the conversion of the future Catholic priest and martyr Edmund Campion. For a time Martin was a tutor in the household of the Duke of Norfolk, before the increasingly hostile atmosphere for Catholics under Elizabeth I prompted him to travel to the continent and join the English College at Douai. After a sojourn in Rome, he returned to the College at its new home in Rheims, where he worked on his translation of the New Testament, before dying of consumption soon after its publication.
As already noted, Father Gregory Martin was said to come from Guestling, near Winchelsea. In the lay subsidy rolls of 1524-5, there was a John Marten living in the parish and two William Martens. As for Maxfield, reputed to be the Marten family home, there is still a house in Guestling known as Great Maxfield. Apparently the property belonged to Battle Abbey until its dissolution in 1538. However, I’ve found no trace in the records of any association between Maxfield and the Martin family. At one stage, this made me doubt the sources that claimed Maxfield as Gregory’s home: I even wondered if somebody had once misread ‘Mayfield’ as ‘Maxfield’ and the misunderstanding had become accepted as fact. The earliest source I’ve found is an 1843 edition of A Defence of the Sincere and True Translations of the Holy Scriptures Into the English Tongue, Against the Cavils of Gregory Martin by the Puritan divine William Fulke, a contemporary of Martin’s.
On the other hand, if we could prove a connection, it might be further proof of the Catholic sympathies of my Lucke ancestors, especially if Gregory Martin of Mayfield turned out to be a (former?) priest. We know that Father Gregory Martin was a lifelong Catholic, rather than a convert, so it’s certain that he was brought up as a Catholic. However, even if he turns out to have been born elsewhere in Sussex, and even if he was actually from Mayfield, we have no evidence to connect him with the Gregory Martin of Mayfield mentioned in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke. The fact that they shared a name, and an unusual one at that (I’ve found very few Gregorys in the contemporary Sussex records) suggests some kind of connection – but what?