Pt. 7: Drurys of Lawshall

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All Saint's Church, Lawshall - view from Lawshall Hall manor, home of Henry Drury

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Ten years after Sir William Drury died in 1557/58, his wife Elizabeth Sotehill moved from Hawstead Place to their property at Lawshall Hall, co. Suffolk, five miles away. Her son, Henry Drury of Lawshall(d.1586), succeeded her there. This was a pivotal time in English history, as the nation had vacillated from Protestantism under Henry VIII, back to Catholicism under Mary, and back again with the reign of Elizabeth. The Drury family, in their prominent roles in Suffolk and Norfolk, were close to the issue at stake. Sir William Drury and Elizabeth Soethill's daughter Dorothy had married Robert Rokewood; their second son Ambrose Rokewood was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot and executed in 1605.

Henry brought fame, but not fortune, to the village of Lawshall when Queen Elizabeth visited his manor during her "Progress", or tour, in 1578. The Lawshall parish register records that "It is to be remembred that the queens highnesse, in her progresse, ....dined at Lawshall Hall, to the great rejoycing of ye said Parish, and the Country thereabouts." The queen was met with an impressive welcoming committee: "There were two hundred young gentlemen, clad all in white velvet, and three hundred of the graver sorte, apparelled in black velvet coates, and fair chaynes, all ready at one instant and place, with fifteen hundred serving men more, on horseback, well and bravely mounted, in good order, ready to receive the queens highness into Suffolk, which was surely a comely troop, and a noble sight to behold." For the small village of Lawshall, this would have indeed been a day to remember. However, the day would not end well for Henry Drury, Lawshall's most distinguished citizen and host to the Queen.
Wax seal of Henry Drury with Tau Cross, mullets, a crescent, and initials HD; his signature is below

Henry entertained and fed her entourage at lunch, after which the queen asked that he pledge his loyalty to the throne, denounce his faith, and acknowledge the crown as the spiritual head of the church. Henry Drury would have certainly pledged his life to defend the queen, but would not renounce his church, and was arrested on the spot. When Elizabeth called next on his nephew Sir William Drury that evening at Hawstead Place, he converted and thus secured his politically correct position with the crown. Sir William's wife Elizabeth Stafford was a Lady of the bedchamber and privy chamber to Queen Elizabeth. Henry was imprisoned for six months, and was in prison off and on for the next three years.

Below: Lawshall Hall Farm, through the years. Color photographs c. 2001, the Hall nearly in ruins. Fortunately, it has a strong roof which has preserved the manor to some extent. Lawshall was purchased for £700 in 1547 by Sir William Drury (d. 1557/58) and the house was built in 1557. It was originally much larger than it is today; the Hearth Tax Return of 1674 lists it with 14 hearths, and there are about six now. It displayed the Drury arms in brick over the door. The house is currently owned by the Waspe family, seeking funding for a major restoration as a historic building. B&W photos courtesy of Elizabeth Clarke, Lawshall archivist.

In 1584, a Catholic priest testified in his own trial that he had been harbored by Elizabeth at Lawshall during that time: "I have been most at Mr. Henery Drury's of Lozell, Suffolk, whose wife, during his imprisonment, was content, as long as I would stay there, to give me meat, drink, and lodging...because I did for three years before teach his two sons." Henry's son, Henry (1565-1593) became a Jesuit Priest himself at Antwerp.

According to The Acts of the Privey Council, February 15, 1579: "To the Bishop of Norwich that wheras their Lordships had committed the last sommer Michael Hart, Roger Martin, Henry Drury, and John Daniel for refusing to come to the church in time of sermons and Common Prayer, into the custody of certain privatt persons of Ipswich and Bury, to thend that conference might bee had with them by some godly and lerned men to reduce them to conformity, thier Lordships pray the Bishop to send some lerned men unto him that, notwith standing the long respite of time given to them, they continew still in ther obstinacy, to charge the parties to whose custody they were committed, in my Lord's names, to deliver them to the Sherife of Norfolk, to be by him committed to close prison in the common gaoles of the said county, &c."

And August 27, 1579: "In consideration of the Plague which ys reported to be in the town of Burye, to committ Henry Drurye and ____ Sulliard, heretofore committed to that place prisoners for matters of Religion, to the charge and custody of some honest gentilman, according to the minute remayning in the Chest." Recusant, meaning "I refuse", meant that the accused would not attend Anglican church services. Queen Elizabeth tolerated Catholics if they attended Anglican church three times a year; some however considered it a matter of conscience and refused. She in\gnored the problem for the most part until 1570 when she began to clamp down on recusants, and dedicated her 1578 Progress to assuring support for her and the Anglican Church.

Above: A kneeler cushion in All Saints Church in Lawshall, with the Drury arms

Henry's son, Henry, S.J. (1595-1593) was convicted of recusancy at least three times from 1581 through 1588. He was described by Lord Burghey as "a young gentleman whose lands, being of the yearly value of £300, are lately come into his possession by the death of his father. He is a most obstinate recusant and receiver of priests and suspected persons, and refuseth to be conversant with any preacher, saying he will stop his ears." Henry's wife Elizabeth was convicted herslf of 8 months recusancy from 14 July 1588 to 2 July 1589, and her lands were seized 12 April, 1591. Her son died three years later, and she in 1617.

Henry and Elizabeth are buried in an unmarked tomb in All Saints Church of Lawshall, "in the highest part of the south aisle as near the corner of the wall as may be". (Special thanks to Suffolk historian Clive Paine and Lawshall archivist Elizabethe Clarke for background information on the Drurys of Lawshall.)

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