This thesis is concerned with the effects of the Reformation at popular level. It sets out to examine the impact of change on one small community and to trace the life of its people during a period of considerable turbulence.
The period covered is approximately 100 years, from the end of the fifteenth century to the end of the sixteenth, and the thesis follows the successive movements of the Reformation process beginning with the more static late-mediaeval world just prior to the Reformation, through the years of unrest, to the return of a relative stability in the decades following the Elizabethan settlement. It considers the effect of pre-Reformation heresy on the subsequent history of the town, examines the various threads which constituted the period of upheaval, looks at the inter-relatedness of both spiritual and secular motivation and investigates the attitudes and religious affiliations of certain individuals, families and groups. With the exception of the chapters on the Benedictine Priory and the Grammar School, which, for purposes of clarity, are treated as more or less self-contained units, events are dealt with in a chronological sequence.
While the main focus naturally falls on the religious aspects of change, the thesis is not restricted solely to these as it aims to depict life and events as they were actually experienced by the inhabitants at the time. It is not intended to present an immaculately theoretical work of history but to show with honesty the complexity and contradictions of the evidence, arguing that the picture which emerges, while more confused, is in reality more authentic.